L’eggo my Aggroby Bruce Gray -Casual Encounters
I like to sit down and try my hand at brewing all sorts of formats. Pauper, sure…I love it. Modern…of course (although I don’t think I’m all that good at it!). Casual Tribal. You bet! Standard. Yes, sometimes I like to try and brew Standard, but with a budget twist. Today I have a “budget” deck list that isn’t as budget as usual. Flipping through my boxes of Standard goodies I came across a number of spicy cards that will make the deck a little pricier than normal…but I’ll suggest some alternatives to try and make some substitutions if you are playing on a tighter budget than this deck would normally allow.
I’ve been keen to see how the format has changed with the influx of Journey into Nyx cards and I’ll be honest…I’m a little disappointed. Journey into Nyx has afforded a few new tricks into some of the meaner and leaner decks, but most of the decks running around are the same old archetypes that have been dominant for months now. Mono-Black. Esper Control. Boros Burn. All of these decks are everywhere in Standard and they all have something in common. Can you see the common thread?
The common thread between all the decks is that are all packed with a gross amount of removal. Mono-Black and Esper can draw on Hero’s Downfall, Bile Blight, Ultimate Price, Doom Blade and on and on and on. Basically these two archetypes are packed with all the best removal and if they see a creature, they kill it on sight. To make matters worse, if Esper really gets in a jam, out comes a Supreme Verdict to clean up the mess. No, these decks are for sure the two main boogeymen on the scene. Boros Burn or R/W Burn, whatever you prefer to call it this week, is also jammed full of removal but of a different sort. Anger of the Gods, Magma Jet, Magma Spray, Lightning Strike, Warleader’s Helix are all viable in the Burn Deck and can burn out creatures with alarming speed and then turn their sights on you. Essentially the removal package of all three decks is what makes them so viable in the format. It’s tough to lose a game when your opponent can’t keep his or her creatures on the table. Now, there are a few decks that are capable of fighting through this barrage of death, namely the Monsters variants and sometimes Mono-Blue, but it’s a tough uphill battle for these deck on most nights. So, how can you top decks that can turn so many creatures into flaming ash? Hmmm…
One option is to play no creatures. This is why Burn decks are experiencing a relative degree of success right now. They have little to no creatures to target with removal and so Mono-Black and Esper both have a number of dead cards in game 1 before side-boarding. You could go the route of playing Planeswalkers…notably Elsbeth because she alone can produce more creatures than most decks can handle. Ashiok is another viable alternative to completely mill out your opponent and deny them the chance to play their spells by having them land in the poubelle . These strategies work…but they aren’t everyone’s style.
The other alternative is to try and out aggro them by just giving them SO many aggressive targets that they are overloaded and can’t cope. This strategy is dicey at best because the format is so removal heavy from our top three contenders, so the aggro decks need to have a really strong way to punish these decks (and fast) if they hope to succeed…thus why Monsters is able to pull it all together because leaving one Polukranos or Strombreath unchecked will basically cost you the game. However, I feel like the deck I have here could sneak in and surprise a few of the big boys by overwhelming their removal suite and then making blocking near impossible. Let’s see what I’ve got.
Gruul Aggro Budget:
There’s nothing earth shattering in this list. We have a number of aggressive 1 drops in Dryad Militant and Slitherhead and some ramp with the Elvish Mystic. At 2 we have Brushstrider, Kalonian Tusker, and Burning-Tree Emissary. At three we have Fanatic of Xenagos. All of these creatures are designed to put significant early pressure on your opponent and can then turn the table and smack them if they can’t deal with them quickly. Going up we have 1 Rubblebelt Raiders. This guy is actually a fun little treat that can get pretty nasty if you can get him to attack with some buddies, or give him haste with Ogre Battledriver. Ghor-Clan Rampager is a solid 4 drop, but it can also be used to pile through and give you extra reach with the trample. Finally, Savageborn Hydra is that mythic rare that everyone has forgotten about. His double strike ability is off the charts powerful and the ability to sink extra mana into him to do extra damage is key. To think, you can put 2 mana into him and up his damage by 2 points every time! Load him up with some evasion and you have a winning formula. Finally, Xenagos, God of Revels, is in here because his ability to grant something haste and boost the damage done is ridiculous.
Some would argue, why no Experiment one? I opted to replace the Expriments with Slitherhead for the simple reason that they would be a useful resource to me even if they got killed. An experiment one with 1 counter on it is still a dead experiment one, where a Slitherhead in my graveyard means something else can be bigger next turn. Also, Fanatic of Xenagos is a terrific little addition at the three slot because it comes with trample and can either be a 4/4 or a 3/3 with haste and +1/+1 until end of turn. In either scenario, I’m just fine with this card and am happy to run it.
The spells are also pretty straight forward. 4 Madcap skills make blocking an early threat near impossible and can really take a bite out of your opponent. Turn 1 Dryad Militant into Turn 2 Madcap skills and swing for 5 is stiff. They’ll need to burn early removal spells or risk ending up in big trouble. Giant Growth is in here to add some extra reach if they opt not to block thinking they are safe for a turn. Armed // Dangerous can be devastating at the right time to lure your opponent to block a patsy while the rest of your team slices and dices. Finally, as a concession to the fact that we want to be attacking lots and other aggro decks may be looking to take advantage, a single copy of Fog could very well spell the end for them.
The strategy for this deck is simple: Attack. Attack all the time because you don’t have the spell suite to sit and posture. You are banking that if you get out early and apply a bunch of early pressure that they will need to expend a lot of removal resources on your game plan instead of establishing their own…and in the process give you the chance to top deck into one of your monstrous threats to close out the game. Now, that’s the game, but let’s be real, many of these top decks have seen this game plan before and I fully prepared for it. So, don’t be surprised if you find yourself down and out to these top tier decks. However, if they draw below average, or you play a deck that DOESN’T pack as much removal you might be in good shape. We can talk about the psychology of losing, but to keep it simple, this is deck premised on an old tried and true strategy that the top tier decks in the format come prepared to deal with. You might lose out, but if you surprise them or they draw poorly you’ll make them pay…and really with a budget deck isn’t that the best part? Smashing apart a finely tuned deck with a budget deck brings great joy to my life…how about you?
Now, as I said, you may not call this a true budget deck, but most of the value is in the mana base. Stomping grounds are steep. Temple of Abandon also cost a pretty penny. However, you can sub out the mana for Gruul Guildgates and basic lands if you need to without much difficulty. The other high priced item on this list is Xenagos, God of Revels as he could run you somewhere near the $6 range depending on where you are looking. This is usually more than I want to spend on a single creature in a deck, so I could replace him with Gruul War Chant to make blocking totally ridiculous and near impossible if I wanted to give this more of a true budget feel. Otherwise everything else on the list is somewhere shy of $2 a piece meaning the deck is generally pretty affordable and packs a pretty mean bite.
So, before you head off to your next FNM and want to give something a little different a try…something that seems like it’s missing from the Standard Meta as the big boys all eye up each other, you might want to give this Gruul Aggro Budget a try and see if you can surprise a few of them. I know that I can hardly wait to try it out.
Thanks for reading and until next time keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.
Bruce Gray @bgray8791