Many of you know that I played Mardu Midrange at the TCGplayer MaxPoint Championship a few weeks ago. The deck has been great for me and it plays some of the most powerful spells in Standard. However lately I have not been very successful with it. It seems that everyone is prepared for Mardu Midrange and knows how to play against it. The main problem with the deck is that it's sometimes just painfully slow. There are so few two drops that sometimes you don't even start playing Magic until turn three, and if you're on the draw that's just unacceptable. I was a little torn: I really wanted to play Mardu in Standard, but the midrange strategy just wasn't working for me.
Last weekend at the SCG Open I came across a deck that looked exactly like what I wanted to be doing in Standard. The deck was a more aggressive shell of Mardu with even more disruption than Mardu Midrange. In the hands of Andy Ferguson, this Mardu Aggro deck managed to put up an impressive second place finish in Columbus last weekend. Here's the list:
What I liked about this list was that the deck played one-drop creatures. Having access to one-drops is very important right now because it speeds up your deck, balances out all of the lands that come into play tapped, and it punishes opponents for playing those same lands. When you're on the play and lead with a turn one Bloodsoaked Champion and your opponent plays enters-the-battlefield tapped lands for the first two turns of the game, your creature can deal six damage before your opponent can even interact with it. When Bloodsoaked Champion is combined with Thoughtseize and Brain Maggot, he is capable of dealing even more damage.
This deck's low curve allows you to play your Nomad Outposts and scry lands without missing a beat. You can play Thoughtseize on turn two and Brain Maggot on turn three which will enable you to disrupt your opponent's hand to the point where it doesn't matter that you're casting your three, four, and five- drops a little later. The deck's burn package is also pretty sweet. Magma Jet, Lightning Strike and Stoke the Flames give you the reach you need to deal those final points once your opponent has dealt with your smaller creatures. If they're still not dead, you have hasty Butcher of the Hordes and Stormbreath Dragons to finish them off.
This deck really shines against the slower decks of the format but has a problem with the decks that are more aggressive than this one. This Mardu Aggro deck isn't very good at playing control, especially with creatures that only want to attack. Rabblemaster is terrible on defense and Bloodsoaked Champion can't even block. Additionally, when your opponents are playing at a speed faster than us, Thoughtseize and Brain Maggot become terrible. You'll see what I mean in the videos.
Match 1 vs. UB Control
Match 2 vs. Jeskai Tempo
Match 3 vs. 4c Midrange
Match 4 vs. Monored
As you can see, it's pretty clear that Mardu Aggro really shines against midrange and control but we had no solid plan against the Monored deck. We wanted to cut about sixteen cards from the deck after sideboard which is actually impossible considering that sideboards can't even be that big! We really can't have a sideboard dedicated to beating aggro because our other matchups will suffer. Additionally, Mana Confluence is pretty much unusable and we are playing three of them. Luckily, it seems that the most played decks in the format are the midrange and control decks. Monored shows up at times but if I sit down for a match at a tournament, odds are good that I'm playing against a green Courser/Caryatid deck over anything else.
Sometimes when you have matchups like this you have a choice of playing tons of sideboard cards to try to beat it games two and three or just call the matchup a loss and dedicate nothing to it. When I'm faced with this decision, I think it's better to not mess with the sideboard and just be willing to lose the matchup. At Pro Tour Gatecrash two years ago, the deck I played (Wolf Run Bant) was excellent against every deck in the format except Esper. I was happy to just lose to Esper if I played against it just based on how good all of the other matchups were. As it turned out, I only played against Esper once in the entire tournament and the deck performed very well.
I think that Mardu Aggro is another one of those decks. It has excellent matchups in the format but it really can't beat Standard's most aggressive deck, Monored. To beat Monored, we'd have to make huge sacrifices that will make the deck worse overall. We'd have to play less Thoughtseizes and more burn spells. We'd have to cut Mana Confluence which will surely make the manabase worse, and you really can't afford to do that with a three color deck.
Overall I was really impressed with this deck. It looked great at the SCG Open last weekend and I have had great results in testing it so far. I have not tested it enough to propose changes to the deck as of yet, but I think the maindeck is very close to where it wants to be.
Thanks for reading and watching and be sure to check out my regularly scheduled article on tcgplayer.com tomorrow.
Melissa DeTora@Melissa DeTora on twitterwww.facebook.com/melissa.detora on Facebook