It’s good to have a philosophical approach to things. Knowing the driving philosophy behind your decisions is helpful, as it allows you to answer both the “what” and the “why” questions.
I like to attack every turn.
As I may have mentioned in the past, I’m a big believer in the philosophy of “advancing the board state.” Doing things to move the game towards its conclusion seem more positive that doing things that slow the game down, and the best way to put pressure on people is to start beating on them.
I know the most common argument against attacking every turn is that then you have nothing with which to block. I’ve found that early in the game this is often irrelevant, because usually other players are less enthusiastic about attacking back, which means that they will keep their guys back while you’re swinging for the fences. Obviously, once it gets to the later game one has to be a bit more judicious, but I’m amazed how often people fail to attack early, thereby leaving all opponents at 5-10 life more than they could be.
Wait! Did that sound competitive? Curses! See, here’s the thing: the problem with playing Aggro decks in EDH is that you have to attack with them, and this leads to what I think of as The Problem with Attacking.
The Problem with Attacking is that it shifts the tone of the game. Consider your average game of EDH: everyone sits down and shuffles up, usually joking about the terrible rare in the pack they just opened or how they were able to ship a foil Lingering Souls for $11(!). Dranks are opened. People are having fun.
And then you go and mess it up by hitting someone for 4. All of a sudden, you have gone and made yourself a target, and all you’ve done was turn your Stomphowler sideways. Everyone suddenly is reminded that this is a (semi-)competitive game, and now you have to watch your back.
I’ve often stated in person (and now I’m doing it online) that the best way to win an EDH game is to be the third most threatening deck at the table. The decks that usually do best are the ones that can sit in the background and quietly set up while the most threatening deck gets beaten on by the second most threatening deck, and then take control once both decks are expended.
The problem with playing straight aggro is that you can never really be hidden like that, because on order to play true aggro decks you need to begin putting pressure on early and often. (Side note: when I say “true aggro” decks I mean decks that are focused on consistently applying Red Zone pressure, as opposed to those decks that go “do nothing, do nothing, do nothing, do nothing, Tooth and Nail entwined for Kiki-Jiki combo, win.” Those are combo decks that happen to win by attacking. Combo players can eat a bag of dick.) Also, attacking every turn requires dropping a steady stream of threats, which is part of the reason that aggro decks tend to get blown out by wraths. The end result of this is often that you get in for some early damage, and then your board gets blown up and suddenly you are receiving hate from all angles even though your threats are now in the bin. I’ve seen plenty of aggro decks get viciously targeted two turns after they stopped having any threats in play. People tend to assess threat based on what has happened in the game so far, but sometimes they neglect to also assess what is currently happening when making decisions about who to target, meaning they ignore the player who is about to go off in favor of annihilating the player who has already expended their resources.
This means that if you want to create a successful aggro deck it has to be:
1) Filled with lots of threats
2) Equipped with some answers
3) Able to be resilient to board sweepers
4) Able to ramp into threats quickly
5) Able to gain Haste
These last two points are key, which is why aggro decks in colors that aren’t Red (for haste) or Green (for ramps and Trample) tend to suck. Red and green are also good for points 1, 2 and 3; Green has big dumbos, both colors are decent at getting rid of stuff, and green gives you access to recursion.
This all brings us to today’s deck. Stonebrow is the third successful deck that I built, and I still think of it as my favorite deck. It has exactly one game plan; it wants to attack with big dudes. In order to avoid overextending, it wants to make each of its threats as scary as possible, which means it runs a fairly substantial equipment suite. It also wants a large selection of dumbos that natively have haste or trample, and it has additional ways of granting both.
This deck has a very subtle game plan. Let me see if I can capture it.
Step 1: ramp to about 5.
Step 2: play Super Haste.
Step 3: attack every turn.
(If you were going to build this…)
As with most of my decks, I have tried to “optimize” this to be the most fun for everyone, which means there are certain cards that I have intentionally omitted. The most obvious of these is Survival of the Fittest. Clearly this deck will be better if you can chain random dude into Brawn into Anger, but I’ve found that Survival tends to bore people (because of the endless library searching, usually at end of turn) and makes games less random (because once you have Survival, out, you’re almost always going for the same chain of creatures.)
Another good card I cut for similar reasons is Erratic Portal. Portal allows you to reuse your CITP effect guys, and offers some protection; I ended up cutting it because once it came out, I was always just endlessly replaying the same creature over and over again. I realize Eternal Witness recursion is really good, but it also makes the game boring and predictable.
Another theoretical inclusion is Triumph of the Hordes, which I have omitted because of my deep dislike of the Infect mechanic. Triumph is probably less good here than in a token deck, although most games if it resolves it will probably take out at least one player.
Finally, you’ll notice that as usual there is not a lot of land destruction here. I have considered Deus of Calamity, as he is on-theme and seems pretty reasonable. Obviously, this deck (like any deck) could support Sundering Titan, although I hate that card more than anything short of possibly Mindslaver and the Eldrazis.
Here is the current deck list, sorted by function.
Finding the Dumbos!
Making the Dumbos more Dumb!
Draw and Recursion!
Hey look, Good Cards!
Forest x 6
Mountain x 5
BONUS: the GenCon story.
So I played in the EDH “tournament” at Gencon last year. It sucked. To be fair, I knew it was going to suck going in, and I almost showed up with a mono-red, “hate the haters” joke deck out of spite. The idea was that since everyone was going to be playing blue-based douchbag decks anyways, I might as well show up with something that ran maindeck Scald and try to cause problems.
ANYWAY, at the last moment I decided to run this deck instead because who the f cares, right? Round One I get paired against a relatively new player playing The Mimeoplasm (mostly a modified precon), a more experienced player playing a Sygg, River Guide General Damage deck, and another more experienced player playing a Nicol Bolas GoodStuff deck. All three guys were extremely nice and fun, and we actually had a really pleasant game, until I went and screwed it up by doing this:
(Mr. P counts his lands)
Use Garruk +1 to untap some lands.
Bolas activated a Mishra’s Factory to chump one of the Omnivores, taking 16 in the process. Then everyone else took 16. This put both Bolas and Sygg at very low life totals, and The Mimeoplasm proceeded to kill them both on his turn.
My next turn went like this:
Play Pelakka Wurm.
Activate Sarkhan Vol +1, giving the team +1 and haste
Attack for [(7+3+1+2) + (7+3+1+2) + (4+3+1+2) + (8+3+1+2)] x2
That was awesome.
Next time: Run more Graveyard hate! and Savra, Queen of Nothing Stays Dead for Long.