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Mtg Archetypes: Aggro

I've been playing Magic: The Gathering for some time, and today I want to share my tricks.

Aggro (short for Aggressive) is the archetype that tries to close the game in the shortest time possible by using the most mana-efficient threats to reduce the opponent's life total to zero.

Aggro (Aggressive)

Aggro decks are usually the easiest Archetype to understand (even for newcomers) but are one of the trickiest to master properly especially against experienced opponents.

Aggro decks are built specifically to have straightforward gameplay, so much so that they are often mocked by opponents (especially if they lose to you) as "stupid" decks.
Yes, they may seem "stupid" at first glance but in reality, they are simply the best of the efficiency available at low mana costs.

The greatest advantage of playing aggro is that of being able to catch opponents who are unprepared or who made the wrong mulligan decision. They also punish decks that are too greedy for mana (and play too many "Enter The Battlefield Tapped" lands or take too much damage from fetch + shock lands) and slow formats like Standard.

Aggro decks specialize in what is called "virtual card advantage" in the sense that if the opponent fails to reach the necessary land threshold to play their spells, all the cards in their hand are essentially useless and it is as if they had nothing in their hands. Why do I have to worry about your best card if I don't even give you time to play it?

To achieve this goal it is necessary to put pressure on the opponent right away and maybe even lead him to make mistakes.

Since aggressive decks generally have a very low mana curve they don't need a lot of lands (some play as little as 18 in 60-card decks), so you can free up slots for whatever you need.
This greatly increases the efficiency because it reduces the possible land draws. In some cases, the Fetchlands are also played in single-colour decks to further reduce the land/non-land ratio for future Draw phases.

Another advantage of aggro decks is that they usually tend to have a lower economic cost on average than more "structured" decks and this makes them excellent in terms of budget (depending on the formats).

Over the years there have been many variations to the basic strategy but we can define a couple of sub-genres:



Damage done primarily by creatures, direct damage spells are aimed at blocking creatures.


Damage done mainly by direct damage spells, the few creatures played can deal direct damage, avoiding the combat phase to avoid blockers.

In the current era of Magic, the burn subgenre has nearly died out but was very common during the early years of Magic because creatures were much weaker and much more expensive in terms of mana. Another point in favour of the burn strategy is to make the opponent's removals and creatures ineffective or completely useless. This limited possibility of interaction has led to consider the burn typology as "unfair" and therefore not to be supported.

In the modern era of Magic, the slight version has become predominant due to the improvement of the power/toughness characteristics of low-cost creatures and the fact that a creature can do much more damage over time.

Nowadays we can see different approaches in the different formats of magic ranging from colourless to tricolour, from those that have a maximum CMC of 2 to those that reach up to 5 as a top of the curve, from tribal to suicidal ones.

Throughout history we have had decks like RDW (Red Deck Wins, low Mana Value Cards), Big Red (red deck with 4 or 5 cost cards as the top of the curve), Naya zoo (White-Red-Green tricolour deck with the best low-cost threats), affinity (with colourless artifact creatures), Infect (based on the Infect mechanic), white weenie (white deck with small creatures) or Death's Shadow (red and black suicidal deck).

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Never underestimate little creatures...

Never underestimate little creatures...

Ok, aggro decks are good but where's the catch?

The easiest problem to understand is that by favouring fast play, the longer the game lasts, the lower the chances of our victory will be as often the opponent will have the time to play his best cards and recover the initial disadvantage. This problem can be approached with the correct mindset. Cards, mana, and life are all resources that can be used to achieve your goal - winning with 20 life or winning with a single life counts, in the same way, so we know we can safely lose 19 life and still win.
The best example of this is what's called the "Topdeck of the Century" where a player could have used a direct damage spell on a creature but preferred to play it against an opponent (and even damaging himself with his spell!). If he had drawn a direct damage spell he would have won otherwise he would have lost on the opponent's turn.

Only 1 life left.

Did I mention it was a Pro Tour game?

The rest is history...

One of the other problems with aggro decks is that they are particularly strong in G1 but suffer more in G2-G3. This is because the opponents now know our strategy (the surprise effect is over) and will know how to hinder it, also thanks to the addition of specific cards from the Sideboard.
Of course, we will also have access to our sideboard but we will have to be more careful because we risk "diluting" our main plan too much if we add too many "support" cards.
Usually, our sideboard is done to neutralize the opponent's sideboard/reinforce the main strategy or to prevent it from gaining life points and lengthening the duration of the game.

As I have already mentioned, we have to be very careful against experienced players because they will try in every way to set traps if we are not careful.

For example, some control decks will punish us with global removals or targeted removals if we bring too many creatures into play or if we play boosts on our creatures at the wrong times.
Combo decks, on the other hand, can point to different options depending on which combo they play. Can they reach the combo and win first? Can they play specific hate?

As always, I remember that you shouldn't use the side for the deck you saw in G1 but you should be well equipped for what they are preparing for G2-G3. This will allow you to have a greater chance of success.



The aggro archetype lends itself very well as an entry-level for new players and to teach them the main concepts of the game without requiring them to know all the facts and knowledge necessary to play decks such as controls or combo decks.
Moreover, they are generally cheap and therefore can also for this reason help the entry into Magic the Gathering or they can also be secondary decks to alternate with our favourites to change our gameplay or if we see that the meta is moving to another direction.

I know people who have been playing aggro for a lifetime and therefore there is nothing wrong with playing aggro sometimes it is even healthy for the metagame.

Probably the Aggro archetype was the first archetype to be discovered as natural and organic for the game and certainly for good reasons it is an archetype that we will find in the future in Magic: the Gathering

© 2020 Christian Allasia

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