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We’ve mentioned before that there’s more to playing Aggro decks then just turning creatures sideways and “smashing face” every turn. There are times when even the most aggressive strategies will need to stop and consider a particular nuance in the game, or decide on a slightly more subtle tactic. In today’s session, we’ll be taking a look at how to play Aggro at a higher level, examining the common pitfalls many players make and how to avoid them. We’ll look at how to evaluate board states and cards for this archetype, as well as how to play against the other big deck types: Combo and Control.
As tempting as the mantra “Always Be Attacking” may be, there are times when holding back for a turn or two, or only partially attacking might actually benefit your goal of dealing the most damage. Let’s go to an example:
Let’s say that you’re in the middle of a game, and your opponent currently has two 3/3’s on board. You have three 2/2’s, and two more 2/2’s in your hand. You know you have the mana to play both of them on this turn if you want. But for now, do you choose to attack with all of your creatures?
First of all, let’s look at the best blocks our opponent might have in this scenario. If we attack with all of our 2/2’s, our opponent will block two of them with their 3/3’s, killing two of our creatures. Two damage will go through. If we cast our two 2/2’s on our second main phase and our opponent does nothing on their turn, then we’ve set ourselves up for the same scenario again, effectively trading four creatures for four damage. This isn’t a very efficient line of play, so let’s reset and see how we could maximize damage given this situation.
Instead of attacking, let’s assume we play our pair of 2/2’s, having a total of five 2/2’s on the battlefield under our control. On our next turn, we attack with all of our creatures. While our opponent’s two blockers are able to kill two of our creatures, we’re still able to get six damage through. Then assuming they don’t play anything on their turn again, we can get in for another two damage if we attack with all of our creatures again. In the same two turns, we’ve doubled the amount of damage we’ve inflicted on our opponent to 8, for the same cost of four creatures.
Even though we’ve waited a turn to build up our board, we’ve actually come out ahead against our opponent. As basic as it might sound, analyzing the board state is key in understanding when to play your cards.
When we play Aggro wantS to be able to hit our very early, low curve immediately and often, which means we will most likely be playing at most two colors. More than that, and we’ll run into problems if we miss a color or a land drop. For example, Mono Red Burn decks have almost always been a competitive staple in Modern and Legacy and have remained, thanks to its simple, one color land base. While more colors can give us more options, the focused nature of Aggro makes the possible risks less than ideal.