So you’ve built an aggro deck… you’re on the right track! This article will give you some solid insights on how to get more value out of your attack steps.
Baseline Threat Assessment
Threat assessment is what makes EDH go-round. As an aggro deck you should be prioritizing to kill the following deck archetypes while also taking into consideration how much they have ramped, how many cards they have drawn, and how many tutor effects they have deployed:
- Midrange/Control Decks: While many decks run Wrath of God effects in EDH these decks are probably more likely to do so because they benefit when games last longer. If only one player at your table is going to consistently wrath each game prioritizing damage on them might make sense because if you can eliminate them you can possibly preserve your creatures.
- Combo Decks: Combo decks are constantly trying to balance survival and getting the tools they need to combo off and kill the table. You usually don’t want to wait to kill the combo player last because when they combo-off they usually kill the entire table. If the combo player has been denied their combo a couple of times it might be safe to let them live a turn or two as you finish off other players.
- Prison/PillowFort Decks: These decks can sometimes be really good against you and other times have 0 game against your archetype. It usually comes down to your color options for your deck and how you construct your deck. If you are mono red and they cast Propaganda you might have a difficult time getting your attacks in. You want to kill the Prison/PillowFort before they assemble their hyper efficient defenses. If you are in green you have tons of mass artifact/enchantment destruction spells that can single handedly wreck their defenses and clear the way for your attackers.
Early in the game you might have utility creatures or enter-the-battlefield mana creatures. Assertively attack your opponents with these creatures. As long as they are not also playing aggro decks you usually are not punished by taking small amounts of damage if they attack you. Your win condition is damage; theirs isn’t. Don’t ever feel political pressure to not attack because that is how you win the game.
Getting Value From Your Minor Attacks
Your opponents might deploy early game utility creatures. As long as those creatures don’t efficiently block your creatures you should be clear for an attack – often times people will not block anyway and they will take the damage. They value their utility creatures.
“When is the last time your aggro deck won a EDH game by blocking?”
Attacking with your low-profile creatures into a team of opponents creatures can give you critical information that you can use during your second main phase. If your opponent snap-blocks with creatures you think they would normally highly value, it might signal they are going to wrath on their turn. Getting information like this can inform you that you don’t want to invest heavily into deploying creatures during your second main. Note: unless you are casting stuff that is directly relevant to your combat phase you should be casting all your sorcery speed effects during the second main on each of your turns.
Why You Should Always Consider Attacking
It pains me when I see people cast Avenger of Zendikar with a haste enabler and not attack with their swarm of tokens. Here are some common reasons why you should be constantly attacking:
- Any Wrath of God effect punishes you for not attacking.
- As said before: if you are the only aggro deck at the table you probably won’t die by being dealt lethal combat damage. Holding back gives your opponents more time to find what they need.
- You probably don’t desire to block with your value/utility creatures such as Oracle of Mul Daya. Why not attack? You’re not blocking anyway.
- Constantly attacking taxes your opponents life total and gives you more ways to kill them later on in the game.
- Even when your opponent has creatures such as Academy Rector on defense don’t be afraid to attack into them. Normally it is much more beneficial for your opponents to sac their value creatures like Academy during their turn. If Academy Rector’s death trigger resolves on your turn after damage it might leave the enchantment they seek to cheat into play more exposed. The same rule is similarly applied to token swarms and mana sac outlets like Ashnod’s Altar. It might feel like you are loosing if you trade out with a ton of tokens but if you can deny your opponent from creating a huge value chain by sacing for value (or getting a big fat CraterhoofBehemoth trigger) it can be the difference between life and death.
- Does your opponent have a Maze of Ith? Don’t let that stop you from attacking! The Maze can only target one of your creatures and if a creature of yours does get targeted it untaps and it does not take combat damage. Also if you force your opponent to maze one of your creatures it can open the way for another creature owned by another player to get in for damage.
- Aggressive decks are not built for defense: when is the last time your aggro deck won a EDH game by blocking? You want to control the battle. Playing aggressive and picking your fights gives your boardstate the maximum outs to trading with other creatures or dealing damage. If you try to play defense you will trade your creatures for less value overall.
- If you try to build your aggro deck to be defensive you are probably diluting your deck. Build your deck to deal damage and deny combos.
Mid/Late Game Executions
An execution turn is where you try to set up your resources to kill a player or force them to trade enough resources that they can’t kill you on the crack-back. This process is often played off over 2 turns because you use 1 turn to set up and the second turn to actually commit to the execution. An example: lets say you are playing a goblin deck. You cast Siege-Gang Commander. If you can untap with the Siege-gang in play you can cast Goblin Pyromancer and Goblin Bushwhacker and possibly kill a player. Here are the base steps to setting up and deploying an execution:
- Have clearly defined goals: Know what you want from your execution. Do you want to maximize damage? Do you want to illicit a block from a certain creature? If you have goals for your attack you can synchronize all your actions in an effort to try to get the results you want.
- Know when you are fully committed: You’re playing an aggro deck, not a value deck. If you start worrying about removal spells and other possible tricks your opponents might have it might make you hesitate and dilute your focus on making the plays you need to make to get the damage output you desire.
- Know your sequencing ahead of time: A turn or two before you unleash your huge attack understand how you need to sequence your plays so you can spend more of your mental energy dealing with any tricks/traps that might be thrown your way. Goblin Bushwhacker gives all your creatures haste if it was kicked when it enters the battlefield. When you are setting up a big attack this usually means that Bushwhacker is the last creature to be played before you move to attack step.
- Have an attack script: What I mean by this is you should have a clear understanding of what phases and steps you need to announce to your opponents before showing your opponents what you are casting or who you are attacking. The most important example is announcing attackers. Your opponents might react differently based on if they are getting attacked or not (because they want to deny any benefits you may receive from attacking like annihilator triggers from Eldrazi Titans). When you want to attack say “Declare attack phase?”. Pause for about 3 seconds or try to get a clear OK from your opponents before attacking. If they let you attack they can’t mess up your attack by using cards like Cryptic Command or other tap down effects that could normally prevent you from attacking – these effects need to be cast before attackers are actually declared in order to be effective.
- Carry out the Execution: see what happens, and deal damage!
- Reflect and learn: Reflect on what happened and how you can improve you future attack steps.
What are your tips on attacking? What has worked for you? I hope you enjoyed this resource!