30 September 2014 - 23:35

Introduction to Aggro Decks: What You Need to Know

Ever wonder what exactly makes a deck 'aggro' or what is 'face aggro'? It'll all be explained here! Also learn about vulnerabilities of aggro decks!
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Introduction

Hey guys! Modded here with part one of my new series on Aggro decks!

I hope that you learn the following things from this article:

  • The Difference between Face Aggro and Aggressive Control
  • What a Face Aggro deck needs to be competitively viable
  • What Face Aggro decks are most vulnerable to
  • Why certain classes don't have strong competitive decks

Let's start, shall we?

Face Aggro ? Agressive Control

These deck types have two very philosophies:

Face Aggro - Throw damage at your opponent's face until they die, ignoring all but the most dangerous threats. Doing this allows you to win before your opponent can draw and play their answers.

Aggressive Control - Keep your opponent's board clear for as long as possible, using the most efficient trades possible. Attack your opponent with any left over damage. If your opponent draws answers, you take less of a loss due to the fact that they have no board presence.

The former is faster leaving your opponent less time to save themselves. The latter is slower, but more resilient against your opponent's answers.

Knife Juggler
Face Aggro ignores your opponent's minions, only stopping to remove minions like Knife Jugglerand Wild Pyromancer, which are exceedingly dangerous if left alive. The idea is that due to a superior number of early threats, despite your opponent's efficiency advantage you'll simply overwhelm them fast enough that they can't recover. Often times you get so far ahead that you can afford to sputter for the entire midgame because you get their life down low enough that a small amount of damage every other turn still wins you the game.

Aggressive Control, on the other hand, prioritizes removal of your opponent's threats and then being the aggressor. This allows you to make the most efficient trades possible, preventing your opponent from being able to stop you dead in your tracks with a single card. The most famous of this type of deck is ZooLock, though Tempo Rogue and Tempo Warrior also fall into this category (albeit they're slower than ZooLock).

This series is dedicated to Face Aggro, and will not cover decks that go for board control.

What Makes Face Aggro Work?

Not every class can have a strong Aggro deck, here's what a class has to offer in order to have a competitively viable deck:

  • Strong Cheap Minions
  • Cheap Damage Spells/Pumps
  • Cheap Removal
  • Immense Card Draw

All competitive Face Aggro decks have most or all of these components, and decks that can't supply these simply don't succeed.

Strong Cheap Minions

Whether it is Flame Imp, Defias Ringleaderor Animal Companion, strong early game minions are the bread and butter of these decks. They allow you to ramp up the pressure on your opponent immediately, making it difficult for your to protect their life total. There are currently not enough neutral minions to fill up a Face Aggro deck completely, meaning that classes without cheap aggressive minions is at a disadvantage.

Cheap minions are what allow you to fill the board with threats at a significantly faster rate than your opponent, while mana is the primary constraint, and not yet the lack of cards.

Cheap Damage Spells and Pumps

Sometimes you need something your opponent can't stop, and this is what fits the bill. Expensive spells that deal less damage than their mana cost (like Starfire) are usually not used due to their secondary effect not being appreciated and it delays their use and costs you tempo. Spells like Soulfire, Eviscerateand Kill Commandlet you keep chipping at your opponent's life total, ignoring taunts. Whilst they leave nothing behind for your opponent to deal with, it's more cost-effective than a Charge minion that dies for free to an AoE spell. Pumps have the advantage of usually being cheaper, but they are useless without minions that can attack. Their cheapness make them indispensable tempo boosts (ie Power Overwhelming, Cold Bloodand Blessing of Might).

Cheap Removal

Execute
Since Face Aggro throws damage spells at the face, it needs a different way to get rid of pesky Taunt minions. Some make them much easier to remove like Hunter's Markand Equality, whilst others stall them like Sapor Ironbeak Owl. A silence forces your opponent to remove your minions on their own turn, by simply removing the Taunt keyword. This is especially important since Face Aggro can't afford to run something as expensive as The Black Knight.

Immense Card Draw

These decks burn through cards extremely fast, requiring cards that draw a ton of cards. Commonly used are cantrips like Loot Hoarder, multi-draws like Coldlight Oracleand other combos. Pre-nerf, Hunter refilled with Starving Buzzard+ Unleash the Hounds, Warlock uses its hero power, and Shockadin uses Divine Favor. Without a way to draw cards, Aggro decks cannot not succeed as they will burn out (enter topdeck mode) too quickly. Due to the cheapness of Face Aggro's minions, they can't afford to enter topdeck mode as they'll end up with more than fifty percent of their mana untapped, allowing the opponent to come surging back since the Aggro deck has run out of steam.

Vulnerabilities of Face Aggro

Sludge Belcher
Taunts are one of the biggest threats to Face Aggro, as it forces them to stop hitting the face, and waste damage removing a taunt in the way. Whilst Face Aggro works by putting their opponent on a tight clock, Face Aggro itself is on a tight clock as after a few turns they will run out of steam. Every turn in which lethal is stalled is another turn for the opponent to recover and another turn closer to burn out.

AoE Spells are another big weakness of Face Aggro. Since many minions used in Face Aggro have only one health, they can be removed quite efficiently with AoE, shifting the Tempo advantage to the defender and away from the aggressor. Additionally, since Face Aggro tries to ignore enemy minions, AoE doesn't consume the entire turn as there are still minions that can pick off the next wave of minions, as well as beat down the aggressor's face.

Healing Spells are also quite devastating for Face Aggro. These spells are very cheap, and effectively stall out the game for yet another turn. Since Aggro decks themselves are on a clock, the ability to both stall and build your board in the same turn in especially hard on them.

Why Certain Classes Don't Do Aggro

Only a few classes seem to dominate the Aggro scene, despite attempts by many to make other Aggro decks work. The problem is that a few classes are missing some key constituents of a viable Face Aggro deck.

Keeper of the Grove
Druid is lacking cheap minions, its first minion costs four mana. It's also lacking in cheap damage spells, as Wrathcan't hit the face, leaving just Swipewhich costs four mana, but the one damage AoE isn't really helpful to a Face Aggro deck. It also lacks quality aggressive single-minion pumps (Mark of Natureis unusable), though it does have strong multi-minion  pumps.

Shaman is also lacking in cheap minions, it's only good cheap aggressive minion being Flametongue Totem, which is useless by itself. Feral Spiritis more defensive than offensive (and it's not cheap once you factor in Overload), and Dust Devilis just terrible. With the one health and massive overload (if it were a 2/2 and not a 3/1 it would be considerably better). Card draw is problematic, with the only multi-draw being Mana Tide Totemwhich is not aggressive and is only guaranteed to be a cantrip.

Warrior is lacking in card draw mostly, Battle Ragedoesn't work well as all the minions have too little health to reliably take damage and still be alive.  The lack of cheap aggressive minions is also limiting, it only has Cruel Taskmasterand Kor'kron Elite. Additionally, Warrior is lacking good damage spells, its only option being the mediocre Mortal Strike. Whilst Warrior does have access to weapons which are incredibly effective in Face Aggro, it's not enough to overcome its other weaknesses.

Priest Aggro is a laughable concept, as it is a class terribly lacking in aggression. The only decent aggressive card it has is Mind Blast. The lack of ability to draw a lot from your own deck without heals (heals aren't aggressive by their very nature), no aggressive minions/pumps, no mana efficient damage spells (Holy Fireis way too late, the heal is irrelevant in Face Aggro) aside from Mind Blast make any attempt at a Face Aggro deck with this class doomed from the very start.

Conclusion

I hope you learned a lot about Face Aggro today, stay tuned for part two where I will specifically go over Warlock, Hunter, and Rogue Aggro! I will be giving decklists and detailed explanations of how those decks work, card choices and how they would respond to different scenarios.

If you have and questions or comments, please leave a comment below, I love to hear your feedback!

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