Not Quite Vanilla

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By the time you read this, the Return to Ravnica Prerelease will have come and gone. The fresh new cards will be in your hands, begging to be put into decks. While looking through the full spoiler, something caught my attention. In green and white, you have access to a trio of creatures that are 1 power and toughness larger than their mana costs. Deadbridge Goliath is a 5/5 for 4 mana, Loxodon Smiter is a 4/4 for 3 mana, and Call of the Conclave gives you a 3/3 for just 2 mana. Although these creatures may not have many exciting abilities, they will almost always be the biggest things on the board when you cast them, and often, that's enough to let you take over the flow of the game. Here's the deck I built to put this curve of creatures to good use:

The Creatures

Avacyn's Pilgrim
Arbor Elf and Avacyn's Pilgrim aren't as necessary in this deck as they were in decks like Naya Pod and R/G aggro due to the number of 2-drops, but they still serve a powerful role. Slamming down a Loxodon Smiter on turn two is going to make any deck start backpedaling, and a turn-three Deadbridge Goliath is similarly effective. Later in the game, these creatures can help you activate Gavony Township, allowing them to become reasonably threatening attackers.

Strangleroot Geist has cemented its place in aggressive green decks due to its speed and resiliency. Rakdos Shred-Freak was good enough to include in the mono-red deck I wrote about last week, and undying gives the Geist a massive upside. Not only can it trade with two opposing creatures, survive Supreme Verdict, and make most removal spells seem terrible, but it becomes a 3/2 after it dies, allowing it to bring the beats even harder.

Call of the Conclave is slightly less powerful than Watchwolf in this deck because of the lack of populate and the extra vulnerability of the token creature to bounce spells and other temporary removal. However, it's still an amazing 2-drop, creating a threat that will often go unmatched for a few turns, and it will usually at least trade with a larger creature. Against decks such as Zombies that have many aggressive 2-power creatures, a 3/3 provides for a very sturdy defense. Often, your opponent will be backed into the corner of using a removal spell on your token to push through some extra damage, at which point he'll have an even more difficult time dealing with the larger threats you'll be dropping onto the battlefield later.

Loxodon Smiter
Loxodon Smiter is one of the more powerful 3-mana creatures in recent memory. It not only provides a giant 4/4 body, but it is immune to counterspells and discard. If the pre-rotation format is any indication, there won't be many creatures floating around that are big enough to kill a 4/4. Restoration Angel can't handle the pressure, and Huntmaster of the Fells has to team up with its Wolf friend to get the job done. The only creature sure to see play that can profitably block a 4/4 is Thragtusk, and even that will die in the attempt.

Wolfir Avenger doesn't quite have the raw power of Loxodon Smiter, but it's still a solid threat that can create a world of hurt for your opponents. Since the card has fallen off the map somewhat as of late, you'll often be able to surprise opponent with a 3/3 blocker he isn’t expecting. Regeneration is looking to be more valuable in the coming months, allowing your creature to survive Supreme Verdict and Bonfire of the Damned as well as take down both halves of a Thragtusk and live to tell the tale.

Deadbridge Goliath is the top of our curve of fatties. If a 4/4 is difficult to kill, a 5/5 is even more deadly. Restoration Angel and Huntmaster of the Fells, the current top choices for 4-drops, will both die a horrible death if they try to tangle with the Goliath. Even if your opponent does kill this massive Insect, the scavenge ability can give you a lot of extra value. Even a tiny Arbor Elf will become a 6/6 when wearing the discarding carapace of its fallen friend, big enough to take down any potential threat in the format.

The Support

Selesnya Charm
Selesnya Charm can be a threat in a pinch, but that will often be the least-used ability on the card in this deck. Making a 2/2 at the end of your opponent's turn is useful if you need to put some power on the board, but it's not as game-breaking as exiling your opponent's biggest creature. The pump ability is also extremely useful in this deck. It can allow any of your creatures to take out a larger threat and push through some damage as well. Using it as just an extra 2 damage will sometimes be enough to end the game, but more often than not, your opponent will be forced into chump-blocking, at which point you can pull the trigger on this to trample over for some major damage.

Rancor is the key that turns this deck into a powerhouse. A 5/5 can be easily chump-blocked for a few turns even if your opponent is losing card advantage in the deal. A 7/5 with trample, however, is much more deadly. In addition, a single Rancor will often last you the entire game, continually giving +2/+0 and trample to one of your oversized creatures.

Oblivion Ring is your basic catch-all removal spell. Whatever permanent this deck might end up having trouble with, Oblivion Ring will get rid of it for you. In a pinch, it can also be used to clear away a blocker to push through the last few points of damage. It seems like a corner case, but you'd be surprised by how many times I've ended up casting Oblivion Ring on a Birds of Paradise over the course of the last year.

Playtesting

Last week's Guttersnipe Red deck should provide a decent challenge for this deck, and it should end up being fairly representative of the aggressive decks that are sure to see extensive play in the unexplored new environment.

Guttersnipe Red – Game 1

Rakdos Cackler
I won the roll and kept a hand of Forest, Plains, Sunpetal Grove, Gavony Township, Avacyn's Pilgrim, Wolfir Avenger, and Selesnya Charm. I started off with a Forest and an Avacyn's Pilgrim, and my opponent led with a Rakdos Cackler.

I drew Wolfir Avenger, played Sunpetal Grove, and passed the turn. My opponent played a Mountain and attacked with Rakdos Cackler. I cast Wolfir Avenger, but he killed it with Searing Spear before I could block. I took 2, and he passed the turn.

I drew Arbor Elf, played a Plains, and ended my turn. My opponent swung with the Cackler again, I flashed in another Wolfir Avenger, and he killed it with another Searing Spear. I dropped to 16, and he played a land and cast a Nivmagus Elemental before passing the turn.

Guttersnipe
I drew Strangleroot Geist and played Gavony Township. I cast the Geist and ended my turn. My opponent cast Guttersnipe, then played a land killed the Geist with Pillar of Flame, dealing 2 damage to me. He attacked with Nivmagus Elemental and Rakdos Cackler, and I dropped to 11.

I drew Loxodon Smiter, cast it, and passed the turn. My opponent played a Mountain and ended his turn.

I drew another Loxodon Smiter, cast it, and passed the turn. My opponent cast Searing Spear at the end of my turn, dealing 5 damage to me between the Spear and the Guttersnipe trigger. On his turn, he cast Nivmagus Elemental and passed back.

I drew another Arbor Elf, cast both of them, and ended my turn. My opponent cast Geistflame and flashed it back to hit me for exactly my life total.

Guttersnipe Red – Game 2

Selesnya Guildgate
I took a mulligan and kept a hand of Selesnya Guildgate, Forest, Strangleroot Geist, two Wolfir Avengers, and Oblivion Ring. I led with the Guildgate, and my opponent played a Mountain and passed the turn.

I drew Wolfir Avenger, played my Forest, and cast Strangleroot Geist. I attacked for 2 and passed the turn. My opponent played a Mountain, cast Rakdos Shred-Freak, and attacked me back. He then ended his turn.

I drew Selesnya Charm and ended my turn. My opponent cast a Gore-House Chainwalker and passed the turn.

I drew a Forest, played it, and passed back. My opponent cast Pillar of Flame on my Strangleroot Geist, then cast Rakdos Shred-Freak and attacked with all three creatures. I cast Wolfir Avenger and blocked the Shred-Freak, taking 5. He ended his turn.

Wolfir Avenger
I drew Deadbridge Goliath and passed the turn. My opponent cast Searing Spear on my Wolfir Avenger, which I regenerated. He then hit me for 5 while the Avenger was tapped.

I drew Avacyn's Pilgrim, cast it, and passed the turn. My opponent cast Ash Zealot and attacked with all three creatures. I cast Selesnya Charm to make a 2/2 Knight, which I used to block Gore-House Chainwalker. Wolfir Avenger blocked Ash Zealot, and Avacyn's Pilgrim blocked Rakdos Shred-Freak. When all was said and done, only the Avenger remained. My opponent dropped me to 3 with a Brimstone Volley and ended his turn.

I drew Oblivion Ring and attacked for 3 with my Avenger. I then passed the turn. My opponent ended his turn with no play, and I cast a second Avenger during his end step.

I drew Selesnya Charm for my turn and swung with both Avengers. My opponent played Ash Zealot and attacked, but I had the third Avenger to swallow it up. My opponent conceded to the lethal damage I had on board.

Guttersnipe Red – Game 3

Strangleroot Geist
My opponent and I each took a mulligan, and I kept a hand of two Forest, two Strangleroot Geist, Loxodon Smiter, and Deadbridge Goliath. My opponent opened up with a Mountain and an unleashed Rakdos Cackler, and I drew an Arbor Elf. I played a Forest, cast the Elf, and passed the turn.

My opponent played a Mountain, cast Geistflame on the Arbor Elf, and attacked for 2. He then ended his turn. I drew Selesnya Charm, played a Forest, and cast Strangleroot Geist. I attacked for 2 and ended my turn.

My opponent dropped me to 16, then cast Pillar of Flame on my Strangleroot Geist and passed the turn. I drew Call of the Conclave, cast another Strangleroot Geist, and returned the favor. I passed the turn.

Gore-House Chainwalker
My opponent hit me for 2 again, then cast an unleashed Gore-House Chainwalker and ended his turn. I drew Deadbridge Goliath and passed the turn.

My opponent cast Rakdos Shred-Freak and attacked with everything. I traded off my Geist for the Chainwalker and dropped to 10. He ended his turn. I drew a Forest, played it, and passed the turn.

My opponent attacked with his creatures, and I traded the Geist again, this time taking out Rakdos Cackler. I dropped to 8, and my opponent ended his turn. I drew Call of the Conclave and passed the turn.

My opponent dropped me to 6 and cast another Gore-House Chainwalker. He passed back. I drew Loxodon Smiter and ended my turn.

My opponent dropped me to 3 on the attack, and he ended his turn. I drew a Selesnya Charm and conceded.

Wrapping Up

Despite losing the match, partially due to an unfortunate draw in the last game, I believe this deck could be quite effective in the new format. Its large creatures make for a terrifying board presence, and decks without the incredible reach of Guttersnipe Red would have significant trouble closing out the game. If you like the idea of always having the biggest creature, be sure to give this deck a try.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, you can find me on the forums under Twinblaze, on Twitter under @Twinblaze2, or simply leave a comment below.

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