Full Force drafting is a series dedicated to forcing archetypes in draft formats. Join me every Thursday as we learn the ins and outs of the most recent Magic draft formats.
When I started the early look at Eldritch Moon as a format, Red-White aggro was the number one deck people wanted me to play with a lot of people advocating it’s quality. Originally I wasn’t really sold. Sure Brazen Wolves, Choking Restraints, and Galvanic Bombardment looked great as a core group of commons, but I remembered Shadows, where one Solitary Hunter, Inquisitor’s Ox, or Silent Observer can shut you down. What I didn’t really see at the time was the shift in the format from those defensive creatures. Shadows doesn’t hold as much sway in the format, being limited to only one pack and the reduction in common creatures with four toughness or more really let the aggro deck open up. That doesn’t mean that I think the aggro deck is the best in the format, but it definitely has it’s merits and it impressed me more than I thought it would again this week.
In the last article, I created a ranking of the commons that signaled to me the most that this deck was open. My rankings from the first look at the format were fairly close to the mark, but I feel I did miss in some key places. Here was my original list:
1. Choking Restraints
2. Sigardian Priest
3. Galvanic Bombardment
4. Brazen Wolves
5. Borrowed Hostility
Let’s break it down from top to bottom:
2. Galvanic Bombardment
Bombardment is much like Restraints. It doesn’t feel as powerful as Brazen Wolves because it doesn’t directly kill your opponent, but cheap removal that gets better in multiples is nothing to scoff it. If you already have one, the second is probably better than Restraints, and the third is better by miles.
3. Brazen Wolves
The first creature on the list, and one that I liked the first time and yet still underrated. I focus on the commons because they will be the cards you’re going to play with the most often (Sure Savage Alliance is great, but when do you actually get 2-3?) and being able to build your deck with a core of Brazen Wolves feels like cheating. It sounds hyperbolic, but every time I’ve played with or against it it has gone up in my estimation. I can’t remember a game where it was irrelevant. It hits so hard and costs so little, it warps any game where it comes down early. This is the exact card you want to be building your deck around when playing this archetype. Bombardment and Restraints are better, but without aggressive cards like Brazen Wolves you aren’t truly in the archetype.
Speaking about underrating cards, I have the dubious distinction of not even including Thermo-Alchemist last time. I mentioned it was a card worth paying attention to, but I thought there might not be enough instants and sorceries in the aggro deck to really care a lot about it. I wasn’t wrong that the aggro deck doesn’t play a lot of instants or sorceries, but I was very wrong about how much it still wants a card that just pings for one or two every turn. Thermo-Alchemist is your insurance. When you can’t curve out and run your opponent over you need a way to fight in the late game and Thermo-Alchemist is the card for the job. It gets so much extra value for looking unassuming. It’s just a 0/3. It’s often just one damage a turn. I have found many people, including myself loathe to “waste” a removal spell on it, knowing that your opponent has bigger threats. So it just sits there and deals 4-5 unblockable damage before you ever realize it and locks up a lot of games where you would have stalled out with no attacks.
5. Sigardian Priest
Sigardian Priest is a better card than where I have it placed on this list. It’s often underrated even now and is easily in the argument with Choking Restraints for best White common overall. It’s placement here highlights that this list isn’t about which cards are the most powerful in the format, but what you’re looking for as a signal that the aggro deck is open and Sigardian Priest just isn’t it. I rated it very high last time just because of it’s raw power level and the tendency in Shadows for the aggro decks to hit brick walls in cards like Silent Observer, Inquisitor’s Ox, Moldgraf Scavenger, etc. and be forced to have some way to punch through or go to the late game, both situations where Sigardian Priest shines. That same problem isn’t as pronounced in Eldritch Moon and as good as Sigardian Priest is it isn’t the card you want to see when you’re trying to curve out on the play.
Where does this leave the aggro deck? I think the archetype is good. I was very unimpressed with it in Shadows, where the large toughness commons and lower quality aggro creatures (Did I mention that Brazen Wolves is good?) really hampered it. It got upgrades to it’s power (Brazen Wolves) and it’s reach later in the game (Thermo-Alchemist) and other decks don’t have as many tools to stop it. That said, I think that next week’s UG Emerge archetype blows it away. Check it out next Thursday as we keep digging through Eldritch Moon draft!