Sunday, July 29, 2012

"Going aggro"

Whenever I sit down to build an EDH deck I find I’m faced with a common deliberation: do I want to ramp or not?The default for the format is to spend the first 3-4 turns ramping, and then get down to business with some 7+CMC bombs. Its effective, but predictable. Going off the beaten path then requires dropping those ramp spells and instead finding cards at 4 CMC and below that can be effective in a 40 life multiplayer format. This is a challenge, but it can work. I’ve put together a number of decks that bypass ramp spells and go with aggressive alternatives.

My most extreme example of a low CMC aggro build was my Edric deck. It was almost entirely 1 and 2 CMC creatures with evasion (scryb sprites, marsh boa, silhana ledgewalker) and cheap removal/counterspells (pongify, utopia vow, envelop). A few 3 costs made the cut like lorescale coatl and descendant of masumaro, but I think I only had one spell costing more than 3 (overrun).

What I loved about the edric deck was the fact that none of my creatures were worth stealing, and other than edric none of them were really worth killing. What I hated about the deck was how a monkey could pilot it, and how my wins were almost entirely based on whether or not edric was killed. Its a cute deck for going off the beaten path of ramp-into-bomb but wasn’t ultimately all that fun to play (and is thus dismantled).

Looking for something more interesting than vomiting green and blue weenies onto the table, I recently started dabbling with monoblack suicide aggro, under the command of Mikaeus the Unhallowed. The curve is a bit higher than Edric but most of the deck is 2 -4 CMC and most importantly - no mana rocks. This is a deck that’s pretty much committed to failure, but if you can’t smile at playing Hasran Ogress and Flesh Reaver in a 40 life multiplayer format, there’s probably something wrong with you. I snuck in a few tutors and repay in kind as a possible win condition, but mostly this deck is about the absurdity of doing 10 damage to yourself in order to do 16 to an opponent.

My most successful aggro build is also my longest standing deck - Sygg, River Cutthroat. The deck is mostly 2 and 3 CMC with a few 4-6’s; the creatures are evasive/unblockable, the removal cheap, and the equipment cheap and effective (go bonesplitter!). The deck charges up when Sygg is drawing more than 1 card per turn, but can still make a dent without the extra cards. The deck being full of spot removal is also a nice change from relying on the efficiency of sweepers

Which isn’t to say there’s no place for ramp-into-bombs.dec. Aggro is less common and more challenging to do, but EDH was originally conceived as the home of the 7CMC crap-rare so there’s nothing wrong with paying homage to it. My guilty pleasure is my Maelstrom Wanderer deck - which is the epitome of ramp-into-bomb. Every spell under 5 CMC is a ramp spell/artifact, and virtually the rest of the deck is 6 and 7 CMC bombs. Its resilient, potent, and cascade is a pretty fun effect as these things go. RUG is also by far my favourite colour combination - I just really don’t enjoy playing animar or riku, and intet’s ability almost never goes off or it goes off but you get a land. Wanderer is an insane card and even more insane general, but he’s one of two viable generals in the wedge and by far the superior of the two. 

Macaroni or Cheese?
I think every aggro card/deck in EDH deserves a nod from chef boyardee. You know giant solifuge isn’t very good in the format but you run him anyways because its cooler to solifuge than to ranger’s path on turn 4. The big crazy spells will always be the heart of EDH, but the hunt for obscure cards eventually has to lead you below 4 CMC and into aggro territory. It’s not necessarily effective, but its definitely amusing.