Happy Halloween! October 31st is one of my favorite days of the year as I take today, the spookiest of holidays, incredibly seriously.
As a result, I didn’t get much Magic-ing done since my last piece. I was too busy perfecting my Ekundu Cyclops costume along with some scream-filled weekend plans. I know what you’re thinking. “Charles, you work so hard and your writing is so brilliant, you deserve a day off. You last article is basically worth two of anyone else’s articles.” While that may be true, I still feel compelled to whip something up for you guys, my loyal fan base.
This week, I want to highlight a deck that I absolutely loved from Grand Prix Providence: 4-Color Aggro.
4-Color Aggro by Julian Wildes
My first reaction to seeing this list was, surprisingly, jealousy. You see, in one of our late-night brainstorming sessions prior to the Pro Tour, we had batted around the idea of a Woodland Wanderer deck. The card just had to be good in a world where Grasp of Darkness, Fiery Temper and Harnessed Lightning were some of the premier removal spells of the format.
Unfortunately, our brewing never got very far. While we knew the deck would certainly revolve around a core of 4 Servant of the Conduit and 4 Wanderer, our work on the deck never really progressed beyond that. At one point I think we jotted down a list just to see what one might look like, but the deck we quickly whipped up ended up basically just being a midrange Bant list. Looking at the mostly green deck made us question why we were trying to shoehorn in Woodland Wanderer in the first place.
The problem was, funnily enough, that the possibilities were too open. Often in deckbuilding I’ll find myself sort of pushed to explore avenue A or option B as a result of the various directions we’ve gone already. Here though, we were literally starting with a shell that could reasonably support 4 different colors and could arguably be anything from a midrange list to an aggro deck to a more control-focused one that used Woodland Wanderer as this huge, cheap 6/6 to stall the ground. Ultimately, like with other decks I’ve discussed, there just wasn’t enough time and so we abandoned Mr. Wanderer without looking back and without giving him his due. Sigh.
After I got over the initial emotional rollercoaster of seeing a high-placing Woodland Wanderer deck, I found myself super excited about the prospects of this list. It’s doing a ton of cool things in addition to just playing a turn 3 6/6 with vigilance and trample. The energy theme, for example, is the exact type of angle that really helps drive deckbuilding focus.
On that note, I think this approach to energy is exactly what Wizards was hoping to accomplish with the resource in terms of deckbuilding. You get all this energy and can use it all sorts of different ways depending on the matchup. Against Spirits for instance, you can save it all up to pump into making 1/1 Thopter tokens to trump all the various X/1 flyers coming at you.
At this point, others have already analyzed how this deck operates and succeeds. Instead of going on and on about why the deck is good, I wanted to explore potential cards that might slot really nicely into the archetype moving forward. Keep in mind that a lot of this is spit-balling. It’s easy to scoff at card suggestions before they prove themselves, but at the end of the day that’s how brewers end up breaking new ground: trying the untried and seeing what works.
Here we go!
I was initially pretty surprised not to see any Exert Influences in Julian’s 75. After all, up until this point it was the only spell with Converge that had seen any amount of Constructed play.
Then I realized that in many respects the Zendikar rare was almost always strictly worse than the Kaladesh option. I mean, aside from the double blue in the casting cost of Confiscation Coup—which, admittedly, might be difficult to reach in a four-color deck—when is Exert Influence ever a better option? What creature is going to have 4 or less (5 or less if you’re lucky) power but cost more than 4 mana? Even then, you would have to have precisely zero energy “floating” in order for this scenario to make a difference. Coup also nabs artifacts which, unsurprisingly, in this artifact-infused Standard is incredibly relevant.
In any case, the ability to steal an opposing creature (or artifact) seems very much in line with the tempo game plan of the deck. You’re already playing out huge threats, stunning opposing troops with Tamiyo, countering spells with Spell Queller and bouncing guys with Reflector Mage. It only makes sense to add another layer onto that tempo parfait. Heck, if the mirror ever becomes a thing, I can think of very few ways to slam the door shut on an opponent than stealing their 6/6 Woodland Wanderer.
Majorly overhyped, Arlinn Kord hasn’t really seen much Constructed play. This deck seems like the place where that could change.
Imagine playing out Arlinn on turn 3 with a Servant. Then look at the creatures this deck is running. With an Arlinn on the board, suddenly your Verdurous Gearhulks and Woodland Wanderer’s become even more frightening if that were even possible. An ideal curve has you attacking with a vigilant, trampling 10/10 on turn 4. Follow that up with a hasty 4/5 Reflector Mage and it’s hard to envision how you lose. In the end, the sheer tempo game of this deck coupled with the already large trampling creatures it plays could make for a very potent 4-mana planeswalker.
I did a double take when I didn’t seen any Copters in this list. Didn’t the deck designer get the memo? Ever good deck plays the best card in Standard!
Kidding aside, I wonder if the ubiquitous 3/3 might be a good fit. It adds a bit of evasion to an otherwise ground-pounding army along with a bit of card selection that the deck otherwise sorely lacks outside of Tamiyo. I wouldn’t be surprised if, after some testing, it seemed like Copter was too clunky in the list, but it definitely seems worth testing.
But what about Cultivator’s Caravan? After the Pro Tour where Saito & Co. piloted a list featuring it to good results, people finally saw the rare vehicle as viable option, especially in a 4-color list which, by the way, this deck is. I could definitely see Cultivator’s Caravan finding its way in here. It has utility when it goes down by adding mana to cast an additional spell and from then on acts as a way to give freshly cast creatures pseudo-haste by crewing it.
In the world of Smuggler’s Copters, a 4/4 flyer is king. Limited all-star (at least for me, who drafted 5-color throughout the entirety of Zendikar block), Skyrider Elf seems like a great way to keep opposing flyers at bay. It scales beautifully, and with the Aether Hubs and Servants in the list it’s entirely possible to cast this guy as a 5/5 especially if we start adding some number of Cultivator Caravans to the list. This uncommon probably won’t cut it, but I’ve seen weirder cards become Standard mainstays before so I won’t count him out just yet.
With the rise of U/W Flash as a major Standard player, I wonder if it’s not prime time for Werewolves to make a resurgence. After all, if your opponent is going to insist on playing cards on your turn, I want to punish that behavior and Duskwatch Recruiter has a well earned reputation as the best Werewolf of the bunch. The deck is also chock full of creatures, so it seems unlikely that you would miss very often. Its flipped form also goes hand-in-hand with the tempo plan of the deck as it lets you cast your creatures more efficiently even if that does make it an occasional nonbo with Woodland Wanderer.
I wouldn’t even be surprised if other Werewolves slowly started to creep into Standard. In particular, I wouldn’t be opposed to testing as yet unplayed Ulrich in this deck. His +4/+4 boost compliments the tempo plan of the deck, especially with the various tramplers and occasional flyer or two the deck can produce. His flipped form also seems potent if you’re able to kill an opposing something or other. I’m not betting the farm on him just yet though as his 5-mana cost is a bit high, but I think he’s worth a second look.
What cards do you want to see in the new 4-Color Aggro list? Think any of my suggestions are too kooky to work? Sound off in the comments!