A Map of Ravnica Part 1: Two-Colour Aggro – Know Your Limits by Sean Davey
Hello everyone! Today I have put together for you a fairly extensive guide to drafting full bock Return to Ravnica. This was originally one big article, but the word count was getting out of control, so I have split it up into three mini-articles.
I have identified three major umbrella archetypes that have been appearing and I am going to focus my discussion around them. Note that I am not going to delve heavily into specific colour combinations, rather the big picture strategy behind them. I will however provide a real example decklist that has performed with success for each archetype.
All these thoughts are formed from many Magic Online and paper drafts as well as my observations from Pro Tour Dragon’s Maze. It really is one of the most enjoyable environments I have played in a while, so I am excited to get many more drafts completed before the format goes away.
This is part one of the series and will be focussed on…
Two Colour Aggression
I didn’t think this would be possible at the beginning of the format. It looked like with only one pack worth of cards focussed on your guild and so many juicy gold options you would be giving up too much value by sticking to two colours.
However, it seems that the strength of many of the mono coloured cards has been pivotal in enabling this strategy, allowing you to fill out your deck with mostly solid playables. To be clear, I also include decks with a tiny splash of one or two cards in a third colour under this archetype.
The core tenet of this strategy is that while your opponent is setting up with Gates, Cluestones etc. You are simply playing guys on curve and attacking with them. You can force your opponent to make sub-optimal plays just to stay alive such as playing out a Gatekeeper before they can get the full value from it and then hopefully pushing through enough damage to end the game before they can fully execute their plan.
This archetype reminds me greatly of Shards of Alara draft where everyone wanted to Landcycle on turn two into an Obelisk on turn 3 and you could wreck them with a straightforward curve like Wild Nacatl into Knight of Skyward Eye and so on.
It is important to note that the complexion of the aggressive decks actually takes on a different form than you are used to from drafting the earlier Ravnica sets. You are not simply looking to flood with two-drops like in Gatecrash draft. It is possible to win very early on, but you will need to have a plan should the game go long.
Instead of pure damage output, what you are really looking for are creatures that are difficult to block or provide an alternative source of reach. In an aggressive rakdos deck Thill-Kill Assasain was already better than Gore-House Chainwalker despite having less damage output, but in full block it is light years ahead, because of how much harder it is to block.
Hazda Snare Squad is a card that I undervalued at first, because I did not realise how important it would be to ignore a key blocker, even at the cost of a mana and having to include a creature with highly defensive stats. In reality this is exactly the type of card you are actively looking to add into your deck.
Pay close attention to how your creatures match up in combat against a 3/3 or a 2/4. There are many three and four drops with these particular stats seeing a lot of play. If both creatures of this size provide a serious problem to a potential pick it’s safe to value that card a little lower than you would normally.
Bears (as in two mana 2/2’s) obviously fail the above test. They are not strictly bad, but you have to ask a little more from them. Something like Gutter Skulk is honestly pretty underwhelming despite how solid it was in Gatecrash draft. A perfect example of something that gives you a little more is Kraul Warrior who looks great on turn two and is still relevant on turn 7. The key thing to remember is to try and ensure your late game topdecks don’t look terrible, because in this slower format you will see more topdecks than you have previously been used to and you need to maximise their utility.
Pure tempo plays like Inaction Injunction and the new Lyev Decree are not very exciting in full block. Big stall breakers like Teleportal have become even more awesome, because with all the excellent defensive cards such as Crocanura and the Gatekeeper cycle (Ubal Sar Gatekeepers/Sunspire Gatekeepers) there is a good chance that at some point in the game your team will get brick walled and you need a way around the opponent’s defences.
Just remember all the time ‘how can I make blocking difficult?’ Pack your deck full of creatures that either win or avoid fights and back them up with great ways to take blockers out of the equation with cards like Act of Treason or Armed//Dangerous.
How does this deck win?
Deals a bunch of early damage while the opponent is still setting up their mana and game plan. Then it uses various forms of reach and/or evasive creatures to finish off the game before the game really begins. Swingy momentum based cards like Traitorous Instinct can be used to break up well defended boards, even if the opponent has managed to stabilise.
What are you looking to pick?
Efficient hard to block creatures and premium removal are the highest priorities. Then you are looking for efficient tricks to push through defences and create tempo swings. After that take solid, but unimpressive creatures. Finally you are happy to pick up mediocre creatures and expensive tricks/removal to round out the deck.
Make sure to keep your creature count very high by prioritising them over non-creature spells of a similar power level and make sure every other card in the deck contributes to getting them through for damage and/or killing your opponent directly.
How highly do you pick gates?
Very low indeed. Even if I had access to an unlimited amount of on colour gates I would only play a maximum of two usually, because you are going to be focussing on curving out and can’t afford to play too many comes into play tapped lands.
There is actually much to be said for hate drafting gates if there is truly nothing in the pack for you, which can easily be the case if you are in only two colours. Anything you can do to cause mana troubles is going to play into your strategy quite well.
As an aside I have found Batterhorn to be quite serviceable despite his unimpressive size to cost ratio, because of his ability to disrupt the various Keyrunes, Cluestones and Prisms. I would recommend looking out for opportunities like this to prey on greedy mana bases.
How do you beat it?
Move into the mid-game on a comfortable life total by casting a reasonable amount of early plays and not being over ambitious with your mana base. Take trades whenever you can and set back your opponents plans by a turn while advancing your board with cards like Centaur Healer and Saruli Gatekeepers. It is sometimes wise to prioritise your life total over your resources to play around Act of Treason effects.
I actually believe managing your manabase is one of the most skill intensive part of this format and playing against these decks will expose any weaknesses in this area. The presence of this strategy is the reason why you can’t just play all the colours all the time. If your mana comes together quickly you should be favoured as your spells are in theory stronger, so ensure that happens above all else.
Creatures – 16
1 x Gore-House Chainwalker
1 x Riot Piker
1 x Syndic of Tithes
1 x Sunhome Guildmage
2 x Wojek Halberdiers
1 x Cryptborn Horror
1 x Splatter Thug
2 x Viashino Firstblade
1 x Court Street Denizen
2 x Haazda Snare Squad
1 x Assault Griffin
1 x Rubblebelt Maaka
1 x Batterhorn
1 x Scion of Vitu-Ghazi
Non-Creatures – 6
Land – 17
Join me again very soon when I go over three colour midrange decks. As always please subscribe to my twitter @seanplaysdraft to get extra little titbits of draft wisdom and to give me feedback. I like receiving your questions and they will be for sure answered or will even trigger future articles!
Thanks for reading and thanks for sharing,