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By: Gardevi, Lee McLeod
Nov 09 2011 1:42pm
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Perhaps some of you remember triple Zendikar limited; it wasn't that long ago. The format was extremely fast, dominated mostly by evasive or very-hard-to-block two drops like Surrakar Marauder and Plated Geopede. Red and black had the highest density of these fast, aggressive two drops, backed up by copious amounts of removal that didn't cost too much mana (Disfigure, Burst Lightning). Previously, it had been a common saying that "If you're blocking, you're probably losing". Well, in Zendikar, you couldn't block. You could only race. And if you manage to find a creature you can block - perhaps a Goblin Shortcutter or a Plated Geopede - your creatures are similarly suited to playing beatdown and not blocking (iike Welkin Tern or Timbermaw Larva), so you wouldn't block in the first place.

 
Triple Zendikar draft was not the most fun of formats.
 
So, obviously, we want to draft it in Innistrad.
 
Wait, what?

Goblin Shortcutter
 

Zendikar-style Aggro in Triple Innistrad - Strengths and Weaknesses

Innistrad is a completely different animal from Zendikar. Thankfully, there is no one overarching strategy that is clearly better than the others as in Zendikar. You can draft various flavors of control, aggro, and even stranger decks based around the graveyard like Mill decks or U/R flashback-based decks.
 
So what does R/b Aggro look like in INN-INN-INN? Like in the average Zendikar draft, your game plan is to draft a bunch of two drops and three drops, then use Nightbird's Clutches and (Crossway Vampires) (aka Goblin Shortcutter) to push through the damage. Unlike Zendikar, your creatures will probably have much lower frequency of natural evasion - you have pretty much just Vampire Interloper. So, if you only have one or two low-drop creatures with evasion, why bother drafting the deck?
 
Enter Rakish Heir. If you look at the creatures I've mentioned so far - Vampire Interloper and Crossway Vampires, you'll notice that have something in common: they're vampires. That means each time you push through damage with your creatures, your creatures get bigger. This means that after a hit or two, you won't even need your Nightbird's Clutches or Crossway Vampires to get in the red zone - your creatures will be big enough to attack without fear of dying. Even creatures like Bloodcrazed Neonate, which are fairly unimpressive in the average deck, are actively wanted in this deck. It's still an awful topdeck, don't get me wrong, but getting in once with a Neonate is much easier when your deck revolves around getting in for damage. The deck doesn't necessarily need Rakish Heir, but it catapaults the deck into a harder force to deal with.
 
Unfortunately, you're a big of a dog to the humans deck. Travel Preparations is insane. It's Rakish Heir on steroids - providing four +1/+1 counters at any time you want without the drawback of needing to get in for damage and being a creature. As well, things like Slayer of the Wicked and Bonds of Faith are just so brutal to your mono-Vampires deck. Midnight Haunting even gets around your sorcery speed Panic Attack effects and can kill your Rakish Heir or Falkenrath Noble out of nowhere. Silent Departure can also wreck your day, bouncing all of your +1/+1 counters off your biggest creatures. The Zendikar aggro deck is very momentum based - it starts out a little weaker than the average deck, then gets stronger and stronger as more and more hits get in until the deck is very difficult to stop. So any card like a well-placed Silent Departure can set you back quite a bit.
 
 
Card Choices

There are a few specific components to this deck: Creatures and Falter effects (including Traitorous Blood).
 
Creatures

Rakish Heir is the centerpiece for this deck. But wait, it's an uncommon! What if it doens't show up? Well, actually, it generally does. Rakish Heir is a very specialized card - the average drafter does not want what is essentially a Grey Ogre in their draft deck. Therefore, Rakish Heir tends to go around the table a lot. So what you do if you find yourself drafting cards slanted more towards aggro, be aware of how many Rakish Heirs there are at the table. I never take one highly, I always expect them to wheel. If your deck needs a Rakish Heir, by all means take it so no one else can get them. But you can generally rely on getting them pretty late, so I wouldn't worry too much about it.
 
And if you're in the spot where you can't find a Heir, the R/B deck can function just fine without one - Just jam your deck full of small but effective weenies like Reckless Waif, Vampire Interloper, or Diregraf Ghoul, and back up everything with creatures that have on-board morbid triggers like all-stars Galvanic Juggernaut and Falkenrath Noble. The morbid creatures have super synergy with the deck - they give you some sort of lategame you wouldn't otherwise have if your opponent lands a Murder of Crows and you've been unable to let your Vampires feed. Just plopping down a Rage Thrower and then sending in the team usually gets the job down.
 
One card in particular to value highly is Screeching Bat. The R/B deck doesn't have a ton of evasion other than Interlopers, nor does it have many huge creatures. Screeching Bat gives you both in one card. One thing to note, though, is that Screeching Bat is not a vampire on its Day side. That means that if you hit them with your Bat while you have a Heir out, you won't get any counters.
 
Falter Effects

Sometimes your opponent actually plays creatures to stop you, though! What do you do? Well, enter Crossway Vampire, Nightbird's Clutches, and Traitorous Blood. These cards temporarily remove an opponent's ability to block with one of their creatures. Usually this wouldn't be too special, but with Rakish Heir out, that turn of attacking could make all the difference. Each of these cards have different stats; Crossway Vampires is a 3/2 creature for 3, and allows you to keep playing creatures while you keep attacking, so this one is obviously the best of the three. Nightbird's clutches and Traitorous Blood vie for the second spot depending on what type of deck you've been able to draft. Traitorous Blood is significantly better if you have some sacrifice outlets like Disciple of Griselbrand or Skirsdag Cultist, letting your Traitorous Bloods turn into huge game-changing cards. If you don't have these cards, however, Traitorous Blood is not something you want to pursue. Instead, try to go for Nightbird's Clutches. Unlike the other two cards, it has no impact on the board. It makes up for this by allowing you to target two of their creatures, and you can do it in back to back turns for even more damage.
 
 
Removal

Obviously, every deck needs removal, and this deck is no different. Luckily, red and black has tons of removal, with Brimstone Volley being head and shoulders better than the rest. However, something to keep in mind when drafting the R/B deck is that you need creature for the deck to function. By all means, go ahead and take removal early and wheel the somewhat mediocre creatures. But if you find yourself with too few creatures while drafting, pass on the Harvest Pyres and such and pick up more things that will let you win the game. R/B control is a completely different archetype, after all - you don't want to be too wishy-washy on which you are or you'll end up with a noneffective hybrid.
 
 
Sample:
 
Here's a deck I drafted a few days ago to an undefeated finish:
 
 
 
Good luck beating down in Innistrad!
 
Lee McLeod
Gardevi on MTGO
@Gardevi on twitter

 

2 Comments

No offense, but that deck is by char49d at Wed, 11/09/2011 - 15:17
char49d's picture

No offense, but that deck is somewhat unrealistic. Not just because you got the absolute best BR card, Olivia Voldaren, but because your deck is basically half uncommons (Diregraf Ghoul, 2 Waif, 3 Rakish Heir, Abbatoir Ghoul, Galvanic juggernaut, Falkenrath Noble, Rage Thrower.) Well over half of your creature are Uncommon/Rare/Mythic.

I'm not posting this to say BR aggro isn't a deck, or you drafted poorly (your deck looks very good, clearly BR aggro was open) but fundamentally you draft around commons - except that deck has very few good BR common creatures (Markov Patrician, Vampire Interloper, Ghoulraiser, Pitchburn Devils, and to a lesser extent Village Ironsmith/Tormented Pariah.)

Yeah, it was probably wrong by Gardevi at Wed, 11/09/2011 - 16:07
Gardevi's picture

Yeah, it was probably wrong to use that deck as an example. But I actually haven't drafted much B/R aggro online, and that was the only deck of the archetype I had available, saved and ready. I've had much more practice with the archetype at FNMs and such, but no record of them.