This week I would like to discuss some updates to the premier white aggro decks of the format. Where appropriate I will suggest improvements to winning decks. I will also offer some of my own builds that are in need of some fine tuning but that potentially represent something even stronger than the decks that are currently winning. So whether you're looking for the best existing aggro deck or a brew with a big payoff to Tinker with, today I'll be covering nine total lists across three guilds.Selesnya Aggro
This version made Top 8 of an SCG Open in Nashville:
There isn't anything especially significant about this list. It curves out with under-costed dudes and casts the typical Selesnya spells you would expect to force damage through. Experiment One grows bigger and bigger, all the way up to 5/5 with Advent of the Wurm. Loxodon Smiter vs. Brimaz, King of Oreskos is a question I'm not sure the answer to yet. He doesn't have Spear of Heliod or any way to really take advantage of the token generation though, so I suspect the Elephant may actually be better in this build than the cat. Other than that, this is a pretty stock version of Selesnya.
This version 4-0'd an MTGO Daily Event:
This one is a bit more prepared for the Monoblue matchup with multiple Skylashers and Mistcutter Hydras in the main deck. Brimaz again looks a bit out of place in this build given the lack of ways to take advantage of the token(s). It can be nice blowing someone out with bestowing Boon Satyr on the token after they block it, thinking they are simply valuing you by doing so. Other than that trick, Loxodon Smiter is probably better.
This version finished second place in an appreciation weekend event:
This version is based around Brave the Elements. It has 62 cards, which should likely not be the case, but if you cut a pair of lands (Mutavault or Guildgate?), this is my favorite of the three Selesnya builds. Brave the Elements is a reason to run Brimaz, and so is Spear of Heliod. Each works very well in conjunction with all the white creatures in the deck. The downside is that you lose Advent of the Wurm and Experiment One, but the upside of these two spells will improve your Monoblack and Monoblue matchups. I'm pretty excited about this deck. In my opinion it's the best way to build Selesnya right now.
There is one other version of Selesnya worth discussing, a version that has not put up results yet but is worth testing and has a lot of things going for it:
The numbers aren't quite right with this build and Hero of Iroas is not as good as it should be here. It's probably better to either cut down to two Heroes or to increase the aura count to better utilize his abilities. Either way, I think that Boon Satyr and Eidolon of Countless Battles add some big game to Selesnya. Ajani and Gods Willing allow your bestowed beast to resist removal and/or attack past any potential blockers. I decided to cut all the one-drops from this list in favor of more late game spells. I would not run this list in the dark at a Grand Prix, but it is worth testing to try and find the right balance for Hero of Iroas. I'm pretty sure there is a good Hero Selesnya deck somewhere.
The sideboard points to perhaps the more promising Selesnya deck. You can transform into a hexproof aura deck, siding in the appropriate threats for the matchup, along with Unflinching Courage. Playing most of the cards main would also allow you more sideboard flexibility. I haven't figured out the optimal hexproof build yet, but it's likely the more promising direction for Hero of Iroas, at least as far as Selesnya is concerned.Orzhov Aggro
This version is from the Sunday Super Series:
There are a lot of things going on in this list. It's reminiscent of the deck Paul Rietzl and Patrick Chapin had success with at Pro Tour Theros. The curve starts at Soldier of the Pantheon and ends at Obzedat, Ghost Council and Blood Baron of Vizkopa.
Pain Seer doesn't really seem to fit in this deck. With all your big mana spells, you're more likely to take a lot damage from it when it works. And you don't have a lot of removal spells, so keeping it alive in combat is not easy either. Given the colored mana requires of this deck and its synergy with Pain Seer, I would consider running a couple Springleaf Drums. Or the likely better direction would be to simply cut the Pain Seers.
This version got second place in a MaxPoint event:
This one is a little bit more focused and in my opinion a stronger choice. It runs eight removal spells in addition to the four Thoughtseize. It also has Spear of Heliod to bolster the tokens produced by Brimaz. Out of the board it gets yet more removal spells in the form of Doom Blade and Dark Betrayal. This is a build I would pick up and bring to a tournament. It looks tuned enough to win.
This version got second place in an appreciation weekend event:
This looks like the better Pain Seer deck. The curve is lower and you have Xathrid Necromancer to gain value out of him if he dies in combat. You also have Spear of Heliod to pump him in order to make blocking him less of an option. I think this deck is close, but I would want more disruptive spells. I would replace three Dryad Militant with three copies of Thoughtseize. I realize Boros Elite gets worse if you do this, but it still seems fine and you have more ways to fight through cards like Polukranos, World Eater and Blood Baron of Vizkopa. Overall this looks like a very good Orzhov deck and one I would not hesitate to bring to a tournament.
I discussed an alternate direction for Orzhov a couple weeks ago, one that takes advantage of Hero of Iroas. The deck was perhaps a bit too linear in its initial form. By adding some more interactive elements to the deck, it becomes much more well-rounded and tournament ready. This is my current list, which is ready for FNM but still needs more work to bring to a Grand Prix:
This deck is more of monster-building deck rather than a swarm deck, so there is no reason to have as many one-drops as I had before. Six should be plenty since we don't even necessarily need a first turn creature with this deck.
We also gain more ways to interact with the opponent between Thoughtseize, Xathrid Necromancer, and Orzhov Charm. Thoughtseize can take their removal spell before we start putting a bunch of auras on our guy. The Necromancer can give us even more recovery against board Supreme Verdicts. And Orzhov Charm has multiple relevant modes in this deck. Its primary purpose, as always, is to kill a creature. But in this deck its secondary use of bouncing our guy and all the auras on it can be very useful when an opponent tries to get rid of our big monster. This will allow us to put all the auras right back on instead of having them turn into creatures. And then for the third mode we can get back a dude to start bestowing. This will most frequently come up during an opponent's end step when we have no creatures on the battlefield and are ready to start bestowing. It's also a nice option for times when we draw too much disruption and just need a threat.
The other additions to the deck are Spear of Heliod and Whip of Erebos. Spear works especially well with Xathrid Necromancer, and it also gives all your enchantment creatures a bonus after the fall off a dying creature. Whip has a small amount of anti-synergy with Nighthowler, but if you have both active, this tension is very small. Whip helps to gain life, which is more relevant now that Charm and Thoughtseize are part of the equation. It also provides a lot more reach against the controlling decks of the format. It's certainly possible that one copy of each is too few, but given that they are legendary, I'll start with one of each and go from there.
I'm going to continue working on this deck as I think it has the potential to be the best aggro deck in the format.Boros Aggro
One last deck I'd like to discuss is Boros Aggro. This deck pushes in two slightly different yet complimentary directions. On the one hand it is a heroic deck, using Coordinated Assault, Madcap Skills, Boros Charm, and a bestowed Eidolon of Countless Battles to trigger heroic on Favored Hoplite, Vanguard of Brimaz, Phalanx Leader, and Anax and Cymede. On the other hand it is a token-generating swarm deck, using Brimaz and his vanguard to produce Cat Tokens. These Cat Tokens, along with all the other creatures, get pumped by Spear of Heliod and help to trigger battalion for Tajic, Blade of the Legion.
It is likely that this deck is trying to do a little too much and that it will prove better to turn some of the 2x slots into 4x and 0x slots. I'm not yet sure which directions are more promising though, so for the time being this is where we are. It's possible that Brave the Elements is worth more slots despite its inability to trigger heroic. It's also possible that Coordinated Assault and/or Madcap Skills prove too powerful to run less than four copies. Further testing is required to figure out the answers to these questions.
Some cards I considered but ultimately cut were Boros Elite, Akroan Crusader, and Gods Willing. Gods Willing seems less important in this deck than it is in Selesnya because we're not going all-in on a bestowed creature. Instead we would rather just let our threat die and replay a new threat. Boros Elite may prove good enough, but my thinking is that his upside is not important enough in this deck to compensate for the times when we cannot trigger battalion and he just sits there doing nothing. Akroan Crusader is the most promising of the three, given our ability to make good use of the token. I suspect if he makes it in, Brave the Elements will not. If it weren't for the hindrance Crusader would place on our mana, he would be in the deck. The fact that he is red is his biggest downside.
The sideboard options are pretty strong for Boros. Purphoros, God of the Forge is a way to add value to our token production. Play it and attack with Brimaz and suddenly the opponent starts taking two damage every time a cat enters the battlefield. This is good against slower decks but terrible against fast decks. Glare of Heresy kills any white create (except Blood Blaron) as well as Detention Sphere and Boros Reckoner. Mizzium Mortars can kill the Blood Baron and also most other creatures we want to kill. It will be rare that we can Overload this, but it will happen some small percentage of the time. Chained to the Rocks and Banisher Priest help us to fight against other creature decks while Boros Charm and Brave the Elements help to protect our team from removal spells. Brave is especially good against Monoblue decks.
These are some of the potential sideboard cards that barely didn't make it:
0 Skullcrack (Sphinx's Revelation, Gray Merchant, Whip of Erebos)0 Boros Reckoner (other creature decks)0 Fiendslayer Paladin (anything red or black)0 Stormbreath Dragon (white decks)0 Revoke ExistenceConclusions
As you can see, there are multiple different directions white aggro can go in Standard currently. Selesnya can go big, go brave, or even go hexproof. Orzhov can go big, go brave, or go disruptive. And Boros can go token or it can go heroic. It's unclear at this point which of these nine builds is the most promising, but these are the directions I would pursue right now. I'm probably most excited about Orzhov and Boros, but only because they allow me to play a strategy unlike anything Standard was capable of before Born of the Gods. Then again, that Selesnya deck with Brimaz, Spear of Heliod, and Brave the Elements looks pretty sweet!
Craig Wescoe@Nacatls4Life on twitter