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Week One: Green/White Aggro

I heard Dragons of Tarkir is about to be released and there’s supposed to be dragons in that set. Well, I don’t care for dragons at all, but there’s some other goodies for us non-scale-aficionados. As you might know I am rather committed to the colours of the Abzan clan (or at least two of them in the same deck), and there’s some presents to collect and enjoy in good company with a nice dinner, a tasty brew etc. etc.

Anyways, this card has had me really excited since it was spoiled a fair while ago.

collectedcompany

It reminds me strongly of former Standard powerhouse Advent of the Wurm: an undercosted flexible instant-speed threat that discourages attacking weenies and disrupts control decks’ plans of well-timed counter magic and sweepers. Whereas the wurm was just a giant beatstick, albeit an incredibly efficient one, our new toy is significantly more complex as the effect is only as potent as the number of impactful creatures with converted mana cost equal to or lower than three in our 60-card pile. That means some clever deckbuilding is called for, i.e. we try to jam all the good cards that Company searches for.

Advent of the Wurm fuelled an efficient, slick and powerful G/W Aggro deck that nearly won a Pro Tour but was dispatched by Aven Flock and his life-gaining sheep in the finals. On the other hand, me and some others just threw the instant into Junk midrange shells, hoping to accelerate into it with Sylvan Caryatid. If we want to brew with Collected Company for the upcoming Standard season, we need to figure out what shell is suited best for this effect first. And even though it pains me to say so, it’s very likely not a Junk one as the plan of searching up copies of Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit and Anafenza, the Foremost and having them fight side by side is ruined by none other than multi-format staple Siege Rhino. Playing Abzan colours means starting with a playset of the Rhino, and unfortunately combining that with Collected Company and the necessary number of creatures it hits doesn’t sound like a winning plan, neither in terms of our manacurve, nor if we think about how efficient our Companies could be in such a shell.

Fortunately, Collected Company is not the only card from DTK that makes me think a GW Aggro deck similar to that of last season is going to make a resurgence (no voice to go along with that, but that would be overpowered) and this time around we don’t even have to fear getting our creatures permanently locked down by Tidebinder Mage. The new cards that excite me most apart from the four-mana instant are (in that order) Dromoka’s Command, Avatar of the Resolute and Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit with honourable mentions to the green and white entries in the new hate-enemy-colours sideboarding cycle.

Week one is about to start and this is where I am at at the moment. As I don’t know how the meta is going to shape up over the first weeks of Standard with DTK, my plan is having a powerful proactive deck that has a variety of tools to solve some of the problems that could be common occurrences.

G/W Beats

Creatures (26)
Sunblade Elf
Warden of the First Tree
Fleecemane Lion
Avatar of the Resolute
Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
Brimaz, King of Oreskos
Boon Satyr

Spells (10)
Collected Company
Dromoka’s Command
Valorous Stance
Lands (24)
Mana Confluence
Windswept Heath
Temple of Plenty
Evolving Wilds
Forest
Plains

Sideboard (15)
Surge of Righteousness
Hunt the Hunter
Display of Dominance
Glare of Heresy
Dromoka’s Command

Before I’ll talk about some of the card choices and numbers a bit more, here’s some BASIC (just based on a 60-card deck, not including any other considerations) maths on our chances of hitting/whiffing with Collected Company:

Number of creaturesChance
Whiff2.7%
Hit 1+ creatures97.3%
Hit 2+ creatures82.9%
Hit 3+ creatures52.8%
Hit 4+ creatures21.7%
Hit 5+ creatures4.9%
Hit 6+ creatures0.5%

These are stats I am happy with, and they show the deckbuilding constraints we are facing. Apart from Company itself, my list has six interactive spells and 26 creatures, none of which cannot be put into play with our marquee card. While I’ll also get into that later, it is really important that we don’t tinker with these numbers too much when sideboarding; otherwise there’s a risk of making Company significantly worse.

The creatures:

4 Sunblade Elf
4 Warden of the First Tree

Our one-drops. As an aggressive deck our best starts involve one of these and then curving out, using tricks and removal when necessary. In this list we have a 82% chance of having a ‘Plains’ on T2, which again ignores facts such as that we can’t be always fetching Plains with our [Windswept Heath[/c] and Evolving Wilds. Nonetheless, Sunblade Elf is insane when it works and okay if it ‘turns on’ a few turns later. Don’t forget that it pumps your team for five mana. It is generally correct to lead on Elf if you can curve it into Fleecemane Lion or Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit (the latter needs a Mana Confluence on T1) and to lead on Warden if you have no castable two-drop in hand. If you only have Warden and a two-drop, play a land, attack for one and cast the two-drop. Generally, we always want to look for ways to maximise damage output and mana efficiency even if that leads to strange and unintuitive plays. We are not playing any of the 2/1s for W as they are still miserable against tokens, but feel free to do otherwise if you don’t expect any Hordeling Outburst and friends to ruin your day.

4 Fleecemane Lion
4 Avatar of the Resolute
3 Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit

The bread and butter of this deck. We want to start applying pressure as early as possible while still having a shot when the game goes longer and all of these two-drops accomplish this goal. Overall we are 94% to have a play by T2 in our opening hands and in most match-ups (especially unknown ones) we want to mulligan nearly every hand that doesn’t have an early threat. Fleecemane Lion is still the best and has the least restrictive casting cost while his monstrosity counter also synergises with late-game Avatar of the Resolutes. The Avatar is one of the best cards in this set for me and this is a great shell for it. While it’s perfectly fine as a 3/2 trample that can block fliers when necessary on T2, between Anafenza, Lion and Command it is not unlikely to have these get huge in the mid to late game. Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit rounds out our two-drop suite and should be played first whenever possible. She also synergises excellently with Collected Company and I highly recommend bringing a big bag of dice when playing this deck. Sometimes it is also the right play to cast a second Anafenza that is stranded in hand as a spell that puts a counter on target X/2. While the double-colour casting costs make the deck less consistent, I believe the significant boost in power level is worth running these over alternatives such as Heir of the Wilds who rarely gets turned on in this shell as opposed to shining alongside Frost Walkers and Savage Knuckleblades.

3 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
4 Boon Satyr

Brimaz is still a strong card even though his value fluctuates according to how the meta shapes up. Most of the time the cat king is what we’d like to hit most off Company and he’s the purrfect tool against aggressive red-based strategies. Boon Satyr is an okay 3-drop but an insane five-drop and is mostly used to push through larger blockers. While he’s generally stellar against control, we’ll need to wait and see whether Crux of Fate or End Hostilities ends up being the number one sweeper in DTK Standard as the white sorcery is the exact opposite to a boon for this card.

4 Collected Company

I think I’ve said everything about this already. Instant speed’s great. Selection’s great. 2-for-1s are great. Just a great card and the main reason why I believe GW Aggro will be back in Standard (even if I’m the only pilot).

The tricks:

3 Dromoka’s Command
3 Valorous Stance

As a week one list I am going with a 3/3 split between these two flexible spells, but not playing 4 of either might seem weird in a few weeks. Stance is still Stance; it is excellent against Courser of Kruphix, Siege Rhino, Whisperwood Elemental and other big-butted creatures while offering a reasonable protection effect that makes it a live card in control match-ups. It is weak against decks like mono red and RW where the removal mode doesn’t have any targets and the timing on the indestructible side is very awkward. Command does everything though. Maindeck Enchantment removal, a reliable way to get rid of smaller creatures and built-in protection against Anger of the Gods for a deck that is very weak to that card. Yes it just gives us a counter against UB control and it’s mediocre against decks with big creatures that don’t run enchantments or burn spells, but when it’s an efficient two-mana 2-for-1 it’s straight up busted. At the moment I’m more comfortable running the fourth copy in the sideboard but I wouldn’t fault anybody for jamming it main.

The mana:

4 Mana Confluence
4 Windswept Heath
4 Temple of Plenty
2 Evolving Wilds
5 Forest
5 Plains

Ouch. I left it to the end, but here we are. This deck’s main weakness is its manabase and most of the mulligans we take will be based on not having access to GG or WW. Like the GW Aggro deck last season we HAVE to run the full set of Confluence, which is a way worse Brushland here. It’s pretty straightforward honestly. We’d like more coloured sources but there’s no way we’re running eight taplands in an aggro deck. 24 lands is the tried-and-tested number for a deck with a curve like this and I don’t see any reason to change that. The only actual choice we have is that of Evolving Wilds versus Blossoming Sands. Sands is so much better as we’d love more actual duals and gaining a life is an added bonus, but Wilds fetches a Plains for Sunblade Elf and that is huge. I haven’t tested it yet but I can see a 1/1 split of these two and will try that out soon (after making sure that this article hits 2000 words and makes a minimum amount of sense).

The sideboard:

4 Surge of Righteousness
4 Hunt the Hunter
3 Display of Dominance
3 Glare of Heresy
1 Dromoka’s Command

“You’re just lazy. This is a pile of colour-haters, not a sideboard. Get out of here!”

Damn, you looked right through me there. This IS a pile of colour-haters and I think that it is close to the best week one sideboard we can have with this list. As I said earlier oversideboarding is a real issue for a Collected Company deck and we need good reasons to change anything other than our six removal/trick slots. Due to the expected popularity of both mono red aggro (which also got a lots of new toys to play with) and Gx devotion (which was the ‘best’ deck at the end of FRF Standard) in the first week(s) of this format I am set on starting with playsets of Surge of Righteousness and 4 Hunt the Hunter. Surge offers additional removal and much-needed lifegain against Zurgo Bellstriker and friends, while if you haven’t seen Hunt in action you’re missing out and if you have there’s no explanation needed. Okay, it kills their dorks for one mana while pushing more damage through.

Other than that the other slots are simply upgrades in the flex slots for particular match-ups. Display of Dominance is a potent anti-control card that kills Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver and other planeswalkers while being a more flexible Valorous Stance against UB Control where we star the two together, taking out Dromoka’s Command. Glare of Heresy is for Abzan Midrange/Control, UW Heroic and anything else that plays white stuff we’d like to get rid of and the fourth Command comes in versus anything heavy on enchantments and likely to run Anger of the Gods alongside other annoying burn spells.

While I am confident battling with this sideboard at the start of the ‘new’ Standard, another option is a semi-transformative board that allows us to shave some smaller creatures and go bigger with cards like Wingmate Roc, Whisperwood Elemental, Mastery of the Unseen and even Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. Such a package would probably need to go hand in hand with a 25th land (presumably a ) and is a solid plan for matches where we expect our aggro plan to be quite poor against what our opponent has planned for games two and three.

That’s it. Give this a shot. It’s got power and it’s fun to play too.

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