MindlessMarty's picture
By: MindlessMarty, Filipe Rodrigues
Feb 26 2014 1:00pm
Login or register to post comments

Hi again! Recently I read an article that caught my attention to a new approach on how to build aggressive decks. The article is called “21” and it was written by the amazing Tom Ross (you can find him here, and I strongly encourage to keep an eye on him for future articles if you need new ideas or something new to play with). In this article, the author explains how he accomplished his hyper-aggressive Mono-Red build that contains more one-drops than lands. Ross “grabbed” Standard, actually made just by the Return To Ravnica block (RTR – Gatecrash – Dragon’s Maze) and a single core set (M14) and took it to the ropes, applying the “1-2 punch” by identifying, what he considered, the key-cards of the format (Thoughtseize, Hero's Downfall and Elspeth, Sun's Champion) and also a way to make them irrelevant, seeking for power and synergy between the cards with a converted mana costa extremely low and pairing them with an incredibly simplified mana base, without any land that enters tapped or produces colorless mana, in order to create the quickest deck possible. This one:

by Tom Ross
4 Akroan Crusader
4 Ash Zealot
4 Firedrinker Satyr
4 Foundry Street Denizen
4 Legion Loyalist
4 Rakdos Cackler
24 cards

Other Spells
3 Arena Athelete
4 Dragon Mantle
4 Madcap Skills
4 Lightning Strike
4 Titan's Strength
16 cards
17 Mountain
17 cards


Red was the natural choice, not only by the high number of one and two-drops available but also due to being classically associated with the haste ability and also to more recent abilities such as heroic and battalion. The fact of having access to pump and burn spells to end the game is just the cherry on the top of the cake!

But what happens if we apply the “1-2 punch” to the other colors?


The current white weenie archetype shares a lot of the elements in Tom Ross’s philosophy, with multiple of aggressive 1 and 2-drops and a curve that tops at Banisher Priest and Ajani, Caller of the Pride. In the meanwhile, these last cards compromise us to go over the 20 land mark and running for Mutavault, which helps in flood situations and also triggering battalion but don’t produce colored mana. Boros and Orzhov can even make it more difficult since it forces the player to use tapped lands in order to use Boros Charm and Xathrid Necromancer. If we were to apply the “1-2 punch” to this archetype, the result would be something like the following:


Mono-White Aggro
4 Dryad Militant
4 Favored Hoplite
4 Hopeful Eidolon
4 Phalanx Leader
4 Precinct Captain
4 Soldier of the Pantheon
24 cards

Other Spells
2 Dauntless Onslaught
4 Ethereal Armor
4 Gods Willing
4 Pacifism
4 Swift Justice
18 cards
18 Plains
18 cards



The synergy between spells and cheap enchantments and creatures with the heroic ability allow us to turn Favored Hoplite into a considerable threat and Phalanx Leader an (glorious) anthem with legs. The fact that the Hopeful Eidolon is a threat that increases the power of Ethereal Armor and Pacifism, a removal that does the same (increases the armor) are also good interactions that compensate the fact of having less than 20 lands, no splash or spells with a converted mana cost superior to 2, with the exception of 2 copies of Dauntless Onslaught in the main deck and Arrest in the Sideboard.


The Sideboard is one of the elements that suffer the most when we apply this strategy to a single color, but it still has Arrest, that pairs up with Pacifism as removal spells 5 to 8, increasing the efficiency of Ethereal Armor and allows dealing with several creatures with tough abilities such as Pack Rat or Polukranos, World EaterKeening Apparition is a proactive answer to Detention Sphere, Domestication, Underworld Connections and Chained to the Rocks. Judge's Familiar can also be a great card against opponent’s Sphinx's Revelation and Divination, making them harder to cast. Now, as far as Renounce The Guilds.

-        A quick side note on Renounce the Guilds

What is the reason for this card no to be present in any sideboard of any aggressive deck that uses white as its primary color? It deals with Nightveil Specter, Boros Reckoner, Domri Rade, Burning-Tree Emissary and above all, Blood Baron of Vizkopa! There is no need to sideboard virtually dead cards such as Mizzium Mortars in the Boros versus Esper match-up, when we have a card that also deals with Detention Sphere! Without mentioning that you don’t need to concede or splash a second color when we are running Mono-White or even a third one when we are using an Orzhov deck! Just remember to sideboard the Dryad Militants out of there!


-        End of the quick side note on Renounce the Guilds


Mono-Blue probably shares the title of “best deck in the format” with Mono-Black Devotion and is probably, the best aggro deck the color can brew. It does not respect the principle of the “1-2 Punch”, however it has the best 1 and 2-drops the color has access, as well as fine cards such as Nightveil Specter, Thassa, the god with lesser converted mana cost and Master of Waves, practically the only reason to consider an aggressive strategy with the color blue at this moment. Jace, Architect of Thought and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx are the cards that most disrespect the laws of the “Rossian Philosophy”, by which, if you wish to add a more aggressive touch to your Mono-Blue Devotion, I recommend this version:




Mono-Green Aggro is an archetype that achieved some success before the rotation of the Innistrad block, but since then, few are those who have been investing in the deck, perhaps because of the interaction between Voyaging Satyr and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is too much to miss out and ignore Mono-Green Devotion and opt for a more aggressive way, without Polukranos, World Eater or Arbor Colossus at turn three. Nonetheless, cards such as Experiment One, Dryad Militant and Kalonian Tusker make me believe that there is a viable hyper-aggressive green deck out there to battle with:



First of all, let’s talk about Brushstrider. Please don’t laugh, (make an effort, seriously.) It’s a creature with 3 power that only costs 2 mana and can be played with the mana from the Burning-Tree Emissary, placing an evolve counter on Experiment One. The black splash does not affect the mana curve and makes way for Deathrite Shaman’s second ability. With only 18 lands, Elvish Mystic makes possible to play Witchstalker and Reverent Hunter, the last being a true threat in this deck and almost a certainty to placing yet another counter on Experiment One. Not to mention Skylasher, which is extraordinaire against Nightveil Specter in control matchups and against Mono-Blue Devotion.  Giant Growth is still Giant Growth. A solid card in 1994, still solid in 2014.


The sideboard contains one additional Forest to guarantee the possibility to play Nylea's Disciple and Time to Feed against aggressive and midrange matchups. Plummet also gets rid of solid flying threats such as Nightveil Specter, Desecration Demon and Stormbreath Dragon. Hunt the Hunter shines against Mono-green and GR Devotion and Fade into Antiquity exiles Detention Sphere, Underworld Connections, Domestication and pretty much every single god of the format.



Mono- Black Aggro was already approached by some recognized deck builders, unhappy with the slow speed and terrain density of Mono-Black Devotion and in the search for a more aggressive build, which could make more use and value of Thoughtseize and Pack Rat’s power, the one that obtained the most success until today was this list:


Mono-Black Aggro
4 Desecration Demon
4 Lifebane Zombie
4 Pack Rat
4 Rakdos Cackler
4 Thrill-Kill Assassin
4 Tormented Hero
24 cards

Other Spells
4 Hero's Downfall
4 Thoughtseize
4 Ultimate Price
12 cards
4 Mutavault
20 Swamp
24 cards

Desecration Demon

This list is a great starting point, but it is possible to turn it into an even more aggressive decklist. How? Desecration Demon and Hero's Downfall are the most rule-breaker cards of the “1-2 Punch” Philosophy, such as the M14 land, Mutavault. However, due to their favorable interaction with Pack Rat the land from the core set has place in this list:

Mono-Black Aggro
4 Deathrite Shaman
4 Pack Rat
4 Rakdos Cackler
4 Rakdos Shred-Freak
4 Slitherhead
4 Thrill-Kill Assassin
4 Tormented hero
28 cards

Other Spells
2 Dark Betrayal
2 Doom Blade
4 Thoughtseize
4 Ultimate Price
8 cards
4 Mutavault
4 Overgrown Tomb
12 Swamp
20 cards


The green splash comes from the same principle mentioned a few paragraphs above. It doesn’t affect the mana curve and gives access to one more ability from Deathrite Shaman. Slitherhead pairs up with the elf, Rakdos Cackler and Tormented Hero as one-drops, having synergy with Pack Rat. Rakdos Shred-Freak and Thrill-Kill Assassin are the most aggressive two-drops of the color and Dark Betrayal is maindeckable in a world divided between Mono-Black and Mono-Blue Devotion, where Nightveil Specters plague the metagame, while Doom Blade and Ultimate Price are the most versatile removal spells the deck has without ever reaching the converted mana cost of 2 to a card purely reactive. 

The sideboard is filled with removal spells: additional Dark Betrayals for matchups against Mono-Black Devotion, one more Doom Blade against a variety of matchups and Pharika's Cure against all the more aggressive decks. Duress and Blood Scrivener are also good choices for control matchups. 

Are these decks competitive? Maybe yes, maybe not…they definitely need to be worked and polished but there isn’t a single doubt they have potential. The thing to learn from this article is this extraordinary simple approach yet extremely effective. It is another weapon in the arsenal of the deckbuilder, useful, either for constructing a brew destined to win the local FNM or to catch the metagame unprepared at a PTQ. Plus, it is a good tool to use for building new decks with new cards from Born of the Gods. Are you ready to rumble? 

Thanks for Reading.