Saturday, December 4, 2010

Gotta Catch Em All (SoM Deck Archetypes) # 6 - "W/B Aggro"

Hello everyone and welcome back to another edition of The Cardboard Witch.  Today we're going to continue our ongoing look at deck archetypes in triple SoM booster drafts by taking a look at one of *my* personal favorite archetypes in the format; W/B Aggro.  While not as popular as some of the archetypes we've looked at previously I can say from personal experience that W/B aggro is by no means less powerful.  Combining excellent removal, cheap flyers and multiple life gain effects into a single deck has always been a successful recipe in Limited formats and even the Infect mechanic can't change that here in Scars.  Despite these advantages this archetype is often difficult to draft simply because all of it's best cards are also highly sought after by players drafting other, more popular archetypes.  This makes the deck something of a "rogue"; appearing roughly once every other draft or so locally.

Description:  Probably one of the greediest archetypes in the format W/B aggro decks are all about having *the best*; the best flyers, the best removal and the best game winning bombs in the format.  Of course many of these cards have WW or BB mana symbols in their casting costs but that's a small price to pay for casting Grasp of Darkness and Sunblast Angel in the same game.  Rarely will someone set out to force this archetype; the only reason to play it is because you've drafted a pile of good white and black cards.  In my experience most versions of this deck will essentially be a "Skies" deck; built around good flyers and removal.  Typically however most W/B aggro decks will also be running just enough artifacts to activate key cards and trigger Metalcraft status in the late game.  Usually this means between 10-13 artifacts against 11-14 colored cards but obviously it depends on the deck .

Key Cards:  As usual the name of the game is removal and bombs; things which this color combination can provide in quantity at the right draft table.   You'll also want to value flying creatures and power boosting equipment fairly highly while still finding enough artifacts to trigger late game Metalcraft effects.  As previously mentioned this is not an easy deck to draft and this archetype should almost *never* be forced.  Let your early picks be your guide and only shift into W/B aggro when you have the cards to make it worthwhile.

In terms of commons it's pretty hard to ignore this archetype's excellent removal options; Arrest, Grasp of Darkness and Revoke Existence are all incredibly powerful cards.  Even mid-pack cards like Instill Infection and Fumespitter can be very strong in this format when played properly and in moderation.  You'll also want to grab any copies of Perilous Myr and Tumble Magnet that come your way; they're both decent control cards while still helping you achieve Metalcraft and trigger cards that interact with artifacts.  As far as creatures or cards that become creatures go I tend to value Glint Hawk Idol very highly with Origin Spellbomb lagging only slightly behind.  Assuming you have enough cheap artifacts Glint Hawk is also strong but he's an absolute albatross if you don't; draft accordingly.  Both on-color Mana Myr should rate highly for 3 major reasons; W/B's mana base is atrocious, both colors are littered with 5 and 6 cc "bombs" and finally you simply need the relevant cards that say "artifact" to make this archetype work.  Other strong common artifacts in this build include equipment cards like Sylvok Lifestaff, Accorder's Shield and even Strider Harness; although don't draft the latter card too highly.  Assuming you actually have some equipment Sunspear Shikari works fine here as well.  Finally while I'm not a huge fan of either Replica in this color combination you'll probably have to draft/play a couple of them simply to meet the deck's requirement for artifacts; just don't draft them early because they *will* be available later in the draft.

Access to both White and Black's incredible selection of uncommons is probably the single best reason to draft this archetype; it's hard to argue that there's no synergy between cards like Glimmerpoint Stag and Skinrender on the basis of mana symbols for example.  Alternately Razor Hippogriff combines pretty well with Flesh Allergy if you sacrifice an artifact creature along the way; say a Necropede for maximum value?  While Dispense Justice isn't as strong here as it is in a pure Metalcraft deck it's still usually worth drafting early; not only can it be used to kill the first giant monster your opponent rams into you but it can take out two creatures in the late game once you do have 3+ artifacts in play.  Depending on your number of artifacts both of the on-color XSmiths are ridiculous in this archetype; Painsmith in particular works VERY well with flying attackers for example.  Speaking of flyers, don't forget about the criminally undervalued Necrogen Scudder.  You certainly don't want 3 copies of it in your deck but a 3/3 on-color flyer for only 3 mana is a major pain to deal with in the early/mid game and more than worth the initial 3 life investment.  Finally like most aggro decks in the format this build will benefit from generic strong uncommon artifacts like Rust Tick, Trigon of Rage, Darksteel Axe, Golem Artisan, Contagion Clasp (even without Glint Hawks), Barbed Battlegear, Palladium Myr and Trigon of Corruption.  If you drafted a Myrsmith or enough Origin Spellbombs/Myr creatures to make it worthwhile the Myr Galvanizer can also be very strong in this archetype.

While it gets a little tedious repeating it each time the simple truth is that Scars of Mirrodin rares are for the most part *VERY* good in Limited.  Given this fact I think it's actually simpler just to focus on which on theme rares work best in this decktype and which rares you should probably avoid.  By now I don't think anyone needs me to tell them that Contagion and Wurmcoil Engine are both good in virtually every deck in the format.  In terms of White cards I think the strongest rares in this build are the the two flying Angels, Elspeth and True Conviction.  Assuming you have 2-4 decent equipment cards Kemba, Khar Regent is also pretty broken.  I'd tend to shy away from Tempered Steel without a significant number of artifact creatures or ways to make them; say 11 and a Myrsmith minimum.  Leonin Arbiter is essentially the worst Sunspear Shikari/Carapace Battleforger in the format; if you're playing him it's because you desperately need bodies.  Alternately Black offers this archetype two of the format's best mythic rares in Geth and Skithryx; who you should draft and play even if you have no other cards to support an Infect strategy.  In the regular rare slot Carnifex Demon is no slouch; dominating entire boards and typically demanding an immediate answer upon being cast.  Necrotic Ooze isn't particularly effective here but it's playable; the same can not be said for Memoricide and Painful Quandry.  Hand of the Praetors is also a complete waste of time in this archetype, although it's obviously very good in an actual Infect deck.  As for artifacts my two favorite cards in this build are probably Mimic Vat and Precursor Golem.  The Vat obviously works well with Black removal but it also combines incredibly well with the various 187 creatures in both colors; putting a Skinrender, Razor Hippogriff, Glimmerpoint Stag or even just a Fumespitter under the Vat demands a near-immediate answer in my experience.  Precursor Golem on the other hand is pretty much the ideal rare for a "fake" Metalcraft deck like this one; instantly providing 3 artifacts at the cost of 1 card.  In terms of artifact rares to avoid I'd say Grindclock; Myr Propagator, Lux Cannon, Mind Slaver, Platinum Emperion, Semblance Anvil and Venser's Journal are just as terrible here as they are in most other archetypes.  Additionally your average W/B aggro deck will struggle to take maximum advantage of cards like Darksteel Juggernaut, Tower of Calamities, Prototype Portal, Mox Opal and Koldotha Forgemaster.  Otherwise quite literally anything else that says artifact and has a gold set symbol is playable in this archetype.
Over-rated Options:  Thankfully there are actually very few *trap* cards in this archetype; pretty much everything that's bad is fairly obviously bad.  Auriok Sunchaser and Edgewright for example are barely playable in actually Metalcraft decks; they have almost no value in a deck that might take 5-6 turns to put 3 artifacts into play.  Chrome Steed and Rusted Relic are also pretty bad in this build for essentially the same reason.  I also see people playing the Abuna Acolyte main-deck which I think is a mistake; it's pretty much best used as an anti-Infect sideboard card.  On that note it's probably wise to completely avoid creatures that say "Infect" outside of the previously mentioned Necropede/Skithithiryx; running two separate paths to victory simultaneously is a great way to reach neither goal at once.  Moriok Reaver and Blistergrub are both fine sideboard cards but shouldn't see your maindeck unless you are very short on adequate playables.  I personally won't maindeck Nihil Spellbomb either although I may bring it in against recursion effects like Corpse Cur, Razor Hippogriff or Nim Deathmantle.  I have never drafted an Exsanguinate but I've also never lost to someone who has either; I don't think it's a very effective card in this build personally.

How Does it Win?:  As previously mentioned pretty much the only reason to go into W/B aggro as an archetype is because you've drafted a bunch of very good White and Black cards.  Whether it be undercosted flyers, great removal or ridiculous bombs this deck will have an obvious advantage and a plan to exploit it.  Usually this means spilling out a bunch of cheap flyers while knocking out your opponent's best threats with numerous strong removal cards.  Once the deck hits 6 mana it's often just a question of which over-powered Angel/Dragon/Demon is going to apply the finishing touch.  There is very little artistry involved here; W/B aggro is a frontrunner's deck full of powerful cards.  If you don't have the cards to dominate the game you shouldn't be playing this archetype.

Back-Half All Stars:  Unfortunately when you're playing a deck archetype that revolves around jamming a bunch of powerful cards into a single deck it's often pretty hard to find value.  As we noted earlier you can usually find Auriok and Moriok Replicas sometime between picks 8-11 but that's mostly because they aren't very good overall.  In a pinch I've been known to use a lone Vector Asp as "the worst removal effect ever" while fueling a Painsmith/Myrsmith or two; you can obviously get Vector Asps very late as even the Infect player won't want it.  Kemba's Skyguard can be an above average card in this archetype; providing both a cheap flyer and a way to offset the cost of a Necrogen Scudder for example.  The absolute best example of value in W/B aggro however is probably the Bleak Coven Vampires.  This card has almost no value in an Infect deck whatsoever and Black is probably the single hardest color to build a pure Metalcraft deck around so these guys will consistently table even in a draft with multiple other on-color drafters.  In a W/B aggro with 11-13 artifacts however this card can be downright brilliant; bringing a beefy 4 power body onto the table while consistently creating an 8 point life swing in the mid-late game.  Typically this massive change in Life totals will be game wrecking; throwing off your opponent's combat math and essentially allowing the BK Vampires to serve as a pseudo finisher.  I probably don't have to tell you that it's somewhat unusual to consistently win games with a card you picked between 9th and 12th; "have it your way" indeed!

Overall Rating:  Simply because this deck is almost impossible to force/build entirely from commons it's actually very rare to see a *bad* W/B aggro deck.  Both colors are fairly deep and interact at least reasonably well with the set's artifact based themes.  The fact that they both have some of the best removal in the format certainly doesn't hurt either.  Additionally as archetypes go this deck is fairly easy to draft; simply take the most powerful Black or White spell available and make sure you also end up with 11-13 playable artifacts.  On the downside attempting to force this archetype when the cards aren't there will produce a deck so laughably bad it would barely qualify as a legitimate draft deck.  Despite this high variance it's impossible to deny the raw power of W/B aggro and I feel comfortable rating it as a 7 out of 10; although again a failed version would probably rank someplace between 3 and 4 on the same scale.
Well folks that concludes our 1 page primer on B/W Aggro.  At first I thought this was actually two decks; a "Skies" variant and a more Metalcraft orientated build but further drafting revealed the archetype actually required elements of both styles to be effective.  Hopefully this has helped you further develop your own picture of the Scars of Mirrodin draft environment in some small way and until next time thanks for reading!


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