Little Bit Beatdown, Little Bit True Control

Building On A Budget - Aggro-Control

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First off, I'd like to say something about last week's Control deck -- it included four copies of both Fact or Fiction and Circular Logic. While these aren't rares, they can still be pricey. While I believe last week's deck can still be built with 30 tickets, if you want to have a cheaper version of the deck, use Compulsion and Mana Leak instead.

With that said, let's take a look at one of the more interesting Magic deck archetypes: Aggro-Control. Even if you don't realize it, you are probably an Aggro-Control player. Most players don't like the absolutes of Beatdown and Control; they want flexibility in their decks. They want style. That's where Aggro-Control comes in -- it's not quite Beatdown and not quite Control, but is something in between.

Most Aggro-Control decks have mid-range creatures. These are creatures with higher mana costs and better staying power. Troll Ascetic, from the Mirrodin set, is probably the best Aggro-Control creature in years. Some creatures can double as Beatdown and Aggro-Control (Wild Mongrel comes to mind). Other, larger creatures like Spiritmonger are almost never seen outside of an Aggro-Control deck.

The basic plan of Aggro-Control is to have enough stuff to clog up the ground and destroy any Beatdown deck, yet have some tools to keep it in the game against a Control deck. One of the greatest Aggro-Control decks of all time, The Rock, uses creatures like Yavimaya Elder and Ravenous Baloth to stop the assault of a Beatdown deck, clearing the board with Pernicious Deed. The Rock also has a heavy arsenal of disruption, such as Duress and Cabal Therapy, to put a kink in the Control player's plan. Control decks will often then succumb to silly things such as Yavimaya Elder beatdown.

Aggro-Control also tends to be the easiest of decks to build on a budget. As long as you can find some meat to throw in front of a Goblin Piledriver, you should be fine. Creatures that regenerate are especially useful. (Yes, even Horned Troll can be a superstar in the Aggro-Control deck.)

Another useful trick is to pack some sort of sweeper effect like Pyroclasm and then play creatures that will live through it. For example, using a deck with Orcish Artillery, Thieving Magpie, Cephalid Retainer, Thoughtbound Primoc, and Pyroclasm might be a good mix to thwart a Beatdown deck. The Artilleries, Primocs, and Magpies aren't half bad versus Control, either.

In general, the faster you make your Aggro-Control deck, the more success it will have against Beatdown. Your goal in building the deck should be to have just enough cards to crush Beatdown while still being able to dedicate some slots to anti-Control cards. Sometimes you get the best of both worlds, such as Yavimaya Elder, which is good against Beatdown (because it gets in the way while accelerating your mana) and Control (because it's a threat that will get you cards when it goes to the graveyard).

A more recent example of a card that is great against both Beatdown and Control is Wild Mongrel. It's difficult for Beatdown to attack into the Mongrel and, as a 2-drop, Control may find itself at 12 life before a decent answer appears, since blockers are generally not a problem for the Mongrel.

Here is an example of a budget Aggro-Control deck. Circular Logic would be great in here but, as I mentioned in the first paragraph, I left them out due to cost. This deck is similar to a deck I played at States two years ago (the first deck I used Millikin in). That's yet another bonus to playing Aggro-Control -- enjoying how good (or bad) the cards you use are.

Building on a Budget - Budget Aggro-Control

Main Deck

60 cards

12  Forest
11  Island

23 lands

Basking Rootwalla
Merfolk Looter
Vine Trellis
Wild Mongrel

22 creatures

Beast Attack
Grizzly Fate
Mana Leak
Roar of the Wurm

15 other spells

This deck uses cards like Vine Trellis, Wild Mongrel, and Basking Rootwalla to help slow Beatdown. It follows up with Roar of the Wurm or Beast Attack -- stalling the ground battle. Eventually it can break through with the fatties or go into the air by discarding a Wonder to Wild Mongrel or Merfolk Looter -- taking out your opponent in one swift strike.

Against Control, the battle turns into a war of attrition. Try not to commit many things to the board if possible, minimizing the advantage your opponent could gain from Wrath of God effects. You can gain card advantage by getting lucky with Millikin -- putting Roar of the Wurm, Grizzly Fate, or Beast Attack into the graveyard. It may even be worth mana burning just to hope that you get lucky.

Quiet Speculation would be a great card to add to this deck against Control. Your other Control tools are Mana Leak and Merfolk Looter -- use them well. Often a Merfolk Looter and keep you stocked with a hearty supply of threats while the Mana Leak stops your opponent's answers.

Aggro-Control can be built in many ways. You can change the blue to black and add disruption, or you can go with a more focused threshold theme using Quiet Speculation, Nimble Mongoose, and Careful Study. You could put in more powerful rare creatures such as Ravenous Baloth and Birds of Paradise. Even Forgotten Ancient could have a place in here! The creature that is missing most from this deck is Call of the Herd, since it goes along with the flashback theme and acts as a powerful 3-mana foil to Beatdown.

Overall, have fun with Aggro-Control. Don't be afraid to try out new things and to use terrible cards. Sometimes the worst cards -- cards that no one would even dream of playing -- work the best in Aggro-Control decks. This is where cards like Wood Sage and Questing Pheldagriff have found homes.

Until next time, may your Spikes cast Fog.

Nate Heiss
Team CMU
NateHeiss on Magic Online

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