There is a viable aggressive non-companion deck in Standard. You don't have to play Wilderness Reclamation to be competitive while starting on seven cards.
I am as surprised as you are. Perhaps more. And yet, it is clear that this is true.
You can play Green. You can play Stompy.
What you cannot do is use half measures. You can't hedge your bets and play value cards like Vivien. You need to go for the throat.
Which makes sense. About half your opponents will utterly bury you in card advantage and value if you let the game go long. One does not grind out a Yorion or Keruga, or for that matter a Wilderness Reclamation. If your opponent starts with eight cards, the best way to counteract that is to not give them enough time to play those cards.
That does not mean that some of the other half of your opponents can't be ground out. If your opponent is also trying to go under the Yorion decks, getting into a slugfest is absolutely an option. As with all such ludicrous things, the current state of Standard has forced polarization on us, and in polarized situations you want to be positioned to win civil wars.
Enough general talk. Let's introduce the deck.
Senor Stompy | IKO Standard | Zvi Mowshowitz
- Creatures (32)
- 4 Barkhide Troll
- 4 Gemrazer
- 4 Gingerbrute
- 4 Lovestruck Beast
- 4 Pelt Collector
- 4 Stonecoil Serpent
- 4 Syr Faren, the Hengehammer
- 4 Questing Beast
- Lands (21)
- 21 Forest
This is a turn four kill deck. If you are left alone, your opponent usually dies then. If you draw Syr Faren and a 1-drop, it's easy, as that's a minimum of 1+5+5+5 = 16 damage already. If your second turn is worse, it's a little tougher, but even with Barkhide Troll and Lovestruck Beast plus three Forests we're still already at 14 damage. You will often kill on turn four through a removal spell or a blocker or two.
Occasionally it's a turn three deck, if you have multiple Growths for Syr Faren. In my climb from Gold to Mythic, it happened twice.
(Thanks to Sam Black for reminding me Gemrazer existed. His exact phrase was 'shocked not to see it in the 75' and once I played games with it, he was right, it fits right in and is much better than the Rosethorn Halberds it replaced.)
Your goal against non-aggressive decks is to hit them fast and hit them hard, while playing around the few cards that matter to the extent that you can beat them, and ignoring those cards if you can't beat them.
There are some principles worth keeping in mind.
However, if you have a turn two play and a Lovestruck Beast and a Pelt Collector, and also a 2-drop and land three, but don't have another 'free' source of a 1/1, you then usually want to lead Heart's Desire.
On turn one, you generally play Stonecoil Serpent if you have no other 1-drops but do have either 2-drop. The exception is if you have exactly Barkhide Troll, Stonecoil Serpent, at least three Forests and no other creatures that aren't Questing Beast.
On turn two, you play Syr Faren over Barkhide Troll unless you are playing into an open Stomp or have reason to believe Syr Faren can't usefully attack, or you have reason to be planning a third turn mutation into Gemrazer.
On turn three, playing Lovestruck Beast is almost always correct unless you can kill something with Gemrazer, put Gemrazer onto a Stonecoil Serpent creating an attack, or put the opponent in a kill box where they don't have outs, like putting them to 4 with a Questing Beast and a fourth land in hand against a potential Shatter the Sky, or other similar situations.
Do not get greedy with Stonecoil Serpent. Leaving multiple lands untapped in search of bigger Serpents is almost always a mistake until relatively late in the game. A 1/1 is perfectly fine on turn one if you have a Gemrazer or Syr Faren and no other turn one play. A 1/1 is definitely fine if it lets Lovestruck Beast attack.
If you have to choose between using pump spells to win a combat and developing your board, generally choose the more mana efficient path. So if you can, for example, use turn three to kill a 3-drop in combat and play a 2-drop, that's almost always better than playing a 3-drop. But winning a combat and then passing or playing a 1-drop, rather than playing Lovestruck Beast, is almost always wrong unless it creates a kill box.
Your goal on turns three and four, against non-aggressive decks or when things are going well, is to put your opponent into that kill box, where you can turn everything sideways or replace the fallen, and they don't have a good way out.
Opponents will often notice you are representing Giant Growth if you make what otherwise looks like a crazy attack. They often even believe you. Once you notice this, you can start representing Giant Growth by conspicuously saving a Forest. On Arena, Gingerbrute and Barkhide Troll both disguise whether you have a real thing to do. However, if your attack looks non-insane without a combat trick, they'll usually block without giving the tricks much thought.
Similarly, many opponents will not consider that they might be dead to pump spells, especially Titanic Growth and especially before you show them Titanic Growth. Unless you are sideboarding it out, if you can avoid showing them Titanic Growth, it's worth thinking about how to do that. If you are sideboarding it out, of course, you want to flaunt that you have it, unless you think they don't realize you have Giant Growth either.
Most opponents will have very predictable builds, especially in terms of removal, but Yorion decks can surprise you. Think about whether you should play around Omen of the Forge or Aether Gust even in Game 1, even when they really shouldn't have one, if you're sufficiently far ahead to do that. There will be times when you can use your artifacts to embarrass Aether Gust, and it's often pretty likely they have it. Take advantage.
The sideboard can mostly be described as "4 Ram Throughs and 11 flex slots." Ram Through is awesome enough that you use Thrash as a much, much worse copies five through eight. Soul-Guide Lantern counters Zenith Flare or in a pinch can shut down Lurrus - it's a really tight squeeze where you want it, but you literally never want anything else as far as I can tell, and if you do run into serious reanimation somehow you'll be glad you have it. Kraul Harpooner is around for when opponents play actual flyers, again because the slots are free. If you have better ideas that actually improve matchups, you should keep 4 Ram Through and at least 2 Thrash // Threat, but feel free to replace the rest to taste.
Note that on Arena your opponent will often know whether or not you have a Stonecoil Serpent. Can't be helped. Don't assume they noticed. I consider this a de facto low level bug.
Matchups in Detail
They can't accelerate mana. They also can't do anything meaningful beyond sweep the board, use tokens and removal to stall for time, or deploy their main game plan of stealing your best permanents. Their one dimension is very strong, but they're very one dimensional.
You can use that. Only a few of their cards actually matter, so choose which ones you can beat or play around, and which ones you can't. The numbers matter too. They have an 80-card deck. They have 3-4 Shatter the Sky (4 after board) and 4 Teferi and 4 Lukka and 4 Omen of the Sun, but even after board usually only 2 Deafening Clarion and 2 Omen of the Forge.
If you go first, they must have a useful turn two play or they're all but dead. Even if they have a good turn three play, you should be able to plan around those, so you still have it. If they go first, their turn two can miss and they can recover, but then you have the initiative.
If you have an opportunity to get double damage from a Giant Growth or Titanic Growth, it's often worth taking it to avoid missing out later/avoid walking too deeply into a Shatter the Sky or Clarion. Also note that sometimes you can do this to force a block. If they have only one creature and four lands in play without a Fires of Invention, if you force a block then they can't play Lukka. Often this means they die.
Gemrazer on Stonecoil Serpent opens you up to Aether Gust if they have it, but mostly they do not, and otherwise you are forcing a quick Shatter the Sky. Stonecoil Serpent on turn two is vulnerable to Omen of the Forge but very strong in protecting against Clarion, which is the bigger threat, and in giving you a way to force through damage with pump spells later.
Playing Questing Beast too soon when they can respond with Lukka is often not worth it, even if your mana doesn't do much else impressive. If they can't steal a useful untapped creature, or often even if they can, you can then play Questing Beast next turn for the kill.
Sideboarding: NONE. Stand pat.
Everything you could do with your sideboard, no matter what is in it, will make your deck worse. So don't do that. Your deck is already set up the way you want.
You have a big edge. This is the classic fight. You are the beatdown, they try to ramp into powerful things fast enough to matter. Always be asking what you want to do about a potential Shatter the Sky, and whether they can plausibly have one.
There's a series of coin flips. The actual coin flip, Growth Spiral, Teferi, and Shatter the Sky. They only have a few cards fast enough to let their other cards start to matter. Even then, it takes a while. Think hard about Teferi and Shatter the Sky, because those getting a lot of value is how your good draws ever lose. It still can't always be helped, so don't play too scared, but notice when you are so far ahead you can play around them.
Note that Narset and Tamiyo often are safe to ignore in favor of creating a kill box.
Sideboarding: NONE. Stand pat.
They are in hell. None of their incremental plays are going to do much to stop you. They either go big or they rapidly go home. Usually they don't have Storm's Wrath in quantity and I don't generally play around it, but there will be times when it is the only card in the format that lets them not die, so it's worth thinking about. Steam Vents is similar, no reason to let it ruin your day if it doesn't have to.
Deploy power to the board, dare them to do something about it, and they usually fall apart. Gemrazer killing Wilderness Reclamation is a nice bonus, since they can't compete with you without it, but they also often are dead faster than a Wilderness Reclamation would matter. If you can create a kill box you don't have to hold it back, and often holding it back gets it countered anyway, so don't worry about that too much.
Sideboarding: NONE. Stand pat.
Again, it's not that I picked a bad sideboard, it's that I built the right main deck. These are the cards I want.
Another very, very good matchup. They're full of incremental advantage, so you want to move fast, but the games usually end before any of it matters. Your pump spells winning combats is very hard for them to deal with. Keep in mind when they are representing Brazen Borrower or Bonecrusher Giant. You can afford to play around them.
Here we start sideboarding, making some of the transformation to anti-creature deck, because there's enough blockers that make Syr Faren bad that there's no need to risk him, and removal is good, but Titanic Growth and Gingerbrute are actually good so we stop short of the full semi-transform.
This is the tough matchup, especially in Game 1, where you don't have removal and they have yet to make their deck worse. Valiant Rescuer, Flourishing Fox, and Zenith Flare are not reasonable Magic cards. If you lose the coin flip and they start generating multiple 1/1s plus other stuff, it's going to be very hard to win.
The good news is that they have actual no answer to a Gemrazer on a Stonecoil Serpent, and on a Gingerbrute they have to use Zenith Flare, so it's very strong even though they have zero targets to kill. The other good news is that they have no way other than Flourishing Fox to fight against large creatures, except chump blocking for days, although they're good at that.
You want to mulligan aggressively, deploy aggressively, and put them to the test as quickly as possible. Make sure that if they miss land drops or don't have their top quality cycling engines, they get quickly punished. Pushing through a bunch of damage early can often force a premature Zenith Flare, since you can Gingerbrute or Stonecoil Serpent through everything else. Still, it's rough out there.
Sideboarding helps, since I'm not convinced they improve by changing their cards, whereas you improve quite a bit.
Still working on exactly what comes out to get Lantern. The basic swap is easy, you put in a lot of removal so you can kill an early Valiant Rescuer or if possible Flourishing Fox, and kill Lurrus of the Dream Den. You get some free wins off of pumping up a Stonecoil Serpent and then doing double damage with it via Ram Through, as well. Still, they cycle a lot and always have Lurrus, so it's still rough out there and you're mostly at their deck's mercy.
Red Obosh, Black Obosh, and Black Lurrus
Red versus Green. It's mostly the same as it ever was. If they pass on turn two play around the Stomp if you can. When they spend turn three casting Heraldic Banner or Anax, Hardened in the Forge and you kill it with Gemrazer, that feels very good. Without Heraldic Banner, their deck can look very low powered on many draws.
Remember that Gingerbrute can be blocked, which is why it comes out.
They get to bring in Act of Treason or Claim the Firstborn. In Game 1 roles were split, in Game 2 they're more of the beatdown and you're the control. Even starting down a card, the long game is yours. You have a lot of power, and you can use your removal spells to take out their cards that matter most.
The matchup is fine, I think you're advantaged but I'd rather be them if they win the coin flip.
Note that a Black version also exists but it seems to be a worse version of some combination of this and Black Lurrus. Sideboard the same as against Red Obosh. You keep a few Syr Faren mostly as a 2/2 over more Gingerbrutes because they have a bunch of 1/1s, and also to ensure the 2 power for an early Priest of Forgotten Gods. You'll have an easier time.
Black Lurrus is counting on a few key creatures and cards to beat you. They generally want to abuse Claim the Firstborn, Priest of Forgotten Gods and Lurrus of the Dream-Den. If they can't, their deck is full of cards that do actual nothing, and they lose hard. Once again, sideboard mostly as you see above. Don't be tempted by Soul-Guide Lantern.
Old School Jeskai Fires
This is a lot like playing against Lukka Fires. They have some ways to stall which you should sculpt your plan around stifling, then they try and bury you and you have to get there first. This is easier, however, because unlike Lukka they need Fires in play. If you kill it on site or they don't have it, your pump spells make it very difficult for them to catch up.
Assume old school Jeskai Fires packs the full set of Deafening Clarion and Bonecrusher Giant, and deploy accordingly. It's not that bad to preemptively deploy Gemrazer to avoid being vulnerable, if you can finish the game fast enough to not be that scared of Fires of Invention itself, or if the sweeper would otherwise be really bad. Note that putting Gemrazer on Stonecoil Serpent is very, very good here and practically forces Shatter the Sky, which may not even be available to them anywhere.
Sideboarding: NONE. Stand pat, of course.
Other decks follow similar patterns. If they are not aggressive and don't have any creatures that must die, don't sideboard. If they do have creatures that must die, put in Ram Through, and consider Thrash // Threat. When you do put in Thrash // Threat, usually cut Titanic Growth to ensure you have enough creatures.
I do trim one 2-drop against cycling, because to get Lantern you have to cut something, but that's the exception that proves the rule.
Cut Syr Faren if he can't attack without dying and he's not a useful blocker, especially on the draw. Cut copies of Gingerbrute when its advantages aren't relevant - you don't care about haste or unblockable.
Kraul Harpooner goes in if you see flyers it kills, you trim other creatures as appropriate to fit it in.
Gemrazer is so good that I can't think of where you take it out, but trimming in places where you never kill anything can be considered.
Modifications and Conclusion
The deck changed a bunch during my climb with it from Gold to Mythic. I am confident that the main deck is close to optimal.
For completeness, I took one last look at potential cards you might add, and cards you might cut.
Land count should definitely be between 20 and 22. I'd do 22 before 20 at this point.
One Forest might want to be a Castle Garenbrig.
Titanic Growth needs to be trimmed or cut entirely if you put in multiple other tricks in its place. I'd be sad to see it go, I'm pretty sure at least the first two copies belong, but it's possible that other things matter more.
After that, cutting cards gets tough. Gingerbrute looks weird but has performed very well. At most you might cut one on the theory that the second copy is bad. The fourth Gemrazer could be moved to the sideboard on a similar theory, but again I don't think so.
I don't see how you touch anything else.
The sideboard, on the other hand, is free to be changed dramatically. Cut whatever you want other than Ram Through and a few copies of Thrash // Threat, if you think you can get real progress in an important matchup.
If you cut all seven pump spells you could play Umori, the Collector. But what good is a 4/5 creature for ? I don't think you win many games you would otherwise lose, even if you never draw the cards you've added back in. If you did this, your sideboard would probably be 4 Ram Through, 4 Thrash // Threat, 4 Giant Growth, 1 Umori, the Collector, and 2 other cards, and you'd accept that in many places you lose your companion. Seems very bad, but worth mentioning for completeness.
The fourth Titanic Growth was in the deck for a while, but got trimmed when we added Gemrazer. It could potentially come back in. You hurt your elephant, but there's zero strain on the elephant so that's fine.
Might of the Masses is only one mana, and potentially does a better Giant Growth imitation in some ways than Titanic Growth, but in most ways it does a worse one. Fully Grown is great on Questing Beast or Lovestruck Beast, in theory, but at three mana makes it just such a bad card and so expensive for us.
Wildwood Tracker is the best 1-drop we are not currently running. If you want more, that's where you find more. Previous versions ran up to four copies. It suffers both from not pumping Pelt Collector and not being pumped by Syr Faren, the Hengehammer on turn two. It does offer a reasonable mutation target, since it will effectively be a 5/5. It's not high impact, but running one is fine if you want another 1-drop.
Moss Viper or Sedge Scorpion is a reasonable sideboard card if you know matchups where that is what you want. Getting deathtouch on the board on turn one enables your removal spells to kill anything on turn two, and deathtouch is a nice ability for a Gemrazer, but you're also burning a card on this.
Destiny Spinner would be interesting if someone was meaningfully countering your creatures. They're not.
Wildborn Preserver looks like it does things but mostly does not do relevant things and is too slow to matter much. It was in the deck and got cut.
Oakhame Adversary is a sideboard card you might want for mirrors, if that becomes a thing, but doesn't do anything anywhere right now.
The First Iroan Games is not the game we want to be playing.
Vivien, Champion of the Wilds taps three mana to do nothing. Unacceptable.
We don't want more 4-drops. We only took Questing Beast because the card is bonkers and fits right in.
Mantle of the Wolf is out of our price range, and we've maxed out on tricks, and if we can afford this we can just run Vivien, Arkbow Ranger, but it's potentially cute. Good to put on our tramplers or Gingerbrutes.
Vivien, Arkbow Ranger is too much mana for not enough damage impact. We're too fast for this and don't have enough lands. But, if we decided we weren't, the card is pretty good and does useful things for us. We could easily spare a few sideboard slots for creatures to find.
Sorcerous Spyglass is not the business we want to be in, as tempting as it might be to name Lukka. Maybe I'm wrong about that? Not like they can protect a Teferi.
Crystalline Giant is hilarious but I don't think it does anything.
Ugin's Construct is a potential second Stonecoil Serpent. It presumably is a great mutation target, since it means the first damage source is outright shrugged off. But that also means chumps can trim you down, and it's really much, much worse than Stonecoil Serpent.