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Against the Odds: Assault Formation

Hello everyone and welcome to episode seventeen of Against the Odds. This week things have returned to normal after the surprising upset by Stasis over the holidays. Assault Formation in Standard came in first in our poll, winning by three percent of the vote. Our Modern options, Shadowborn Apostle and Eater of Days, came in second and third, while Coalition Victory in Legacy and Goblin Piledriver (who got his time to shine on this week's Budget Magic) brought up the rear. As such, this week we are playing Assault Formation in Standard, and as the frantic intro video explains, we ended up going way deeper than I expected, which is a good thing on Against the Odds!

We'll talk more about Assault Formation in a minute. First let's get to the videos. A quick reminder. If you enjoy Against the Odds and other video content here on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish Youtube Channel to keep up with the latest and greatest.

Against the Odds: Assault Formation Intro

Against the Odds: Assault Formation Games

The Deck

As I mentioned in the intro, we ended up going pretty deep on our Assault Formation deck. All in all I'm happy with how it turned out. My first draft of the list was a straight forward aggro build of Assault Formation, with a ton of low-powered, high-toughness creatures, a bit of removal, and the four Assault Formations. The problem was, in games where we didn't draw an Assault Formation, we just played a bunch of pseudo-walls, did nothing for several turns, and died. So I went back to the drawing board to fix the problem, and here's how the current build came to be. 

1. Assault Formation

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Obviously, the deck started with Assault Formation. To make Assault Formation work, we need creatures with toughness significantly higher than their power. However, the "target creature with defender can attack this turn" ability felt like a trap. While getting a 4/4 for one mana is great, it becomes less exciting when you have to Mana Tithe yourself every turn if you want to attack, so I made a decision to avoid creatures with defender if at all possible. 

2. The Aggro Package

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While the final build trended away from the all-in-aggro version of Assault Formation, these creatures are just too good to pass up. Assuming we have an Assault Formation on the battlefield, Disowned Ancestor and Sidisi's Faithful are 4/4's for one mana and Dragon's Eye Savants is a 6/6 for two mana. Basically, they are just so far above the curve that they had to be in the deck. There's so much free win potential in going Sidisi's Faithful on turn one, Dragon's Eye Savants on turn two, Assault Formation attack for 10 on turn three. Of course, when we don't have an Assault Formation these creatures are basically just good blockers, which isn't the worst thing, because they can buy us time until we find our missing piece. 

3. Break Through the Line

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After deciding that we were going to play a bunch of creatures with zero power but can attack for four or six damage and remembering that the mana in Standard is so good we can go four-color without a problem, Break Through the Line was an easy addition to the deck. It basically turns all of our creatures into Ball Lightnings and puts our opponents in a position where they never feel safe because we are always a top deck away from smashing face. One note, in several games I felt like I was one Red source short of winning by making multiple creatures unblockable. If you decide to build the deck, consider adding a second copy of Cinder Glade.

4. Graveblade Marauder

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Next, I went on a quest for the best creature to Ball Lightning with Break Through the Line and I ended up with Graveblade Marauder. While it takes a bit of work to set up, he can hit for 20 damage in one shot with enough creatures in our graveyard. Plus, it's fine with Assault Formation as a 4/4 deathtouch for just three mana. 

5. Graveyard Fillers

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Assuming we have an Assault Formation on the battlefield (so our Graveblade Marauder can hit for four damage) we need 16 creatures in our graveyard to one-shot our opponent with a hasty and unblockable Graveblade Marauder. As such, this package helps make sure our graveyard is stocked, while also providing additional value. Gurmag Drowner is actually really strong with Assault Formation as a 4/4 that fills our graveyard and gives us another card if we exploit, and with an Assault Formation on the battlefield our Tasigur, the Golden Fang can stonewall opposing Tasigurs and Siege Rhinos. Sultai Skullkeeper and Gather the Pack are purely in the deck to fill the graveyard, although Gather the Pack can also help us find a threat like Dragon's Eye Savants or Graveblade Marauder

6. Use the Graveyard as a Resource

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And here's where the deck comes full circle. Since we are stocking our graveyard to power-up Graveblade Marauder, which we are playing because it's good with Break Though the Line, which is in the deck because we are playing a bunch of zero powered creatures that can attack for four or six damage, which, in turn, are in the deck because they are good with Assault Formation, we can play Den Protector and Dig Through Time. Remember when I told you that one of the biggest problems with the aggro build of Assault Formation is that the deck was horrible without the namesake card? Well, these cards fix the problem. Now we can mill an Assault Formation and get it back with Den Protector or simply fill our graveyard to Dig Through Time to find the enchantment. 

The Matchups

First off, our deck is very, very good at blocking, and eventually, once we draw an Assault Formation, it becomes good at attacking as well. Because of this, we have a pretty good shot against creature-based decks, which includes most decks in Standard. As a result, our good draws can beat just about anyone. We also have the sweet instant win combo with Graveblade Marauder and Break Though the Line, which is strangely similar to Become Immense and Temur Battle Rage. It puts our opponent in a position where they must have instant speed removal or die on the spot.

On the other hand, because we don't have any real removal in the main deck, there are two things we struggle with. The first is planeswalkers. We lost two matches to Gideon, Ally of Zendikar because we didn't have a realistic way of getting him off the battlefield. Our best bet was to make a creature unblockable with Break Through the Line and attack Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Secondly, if our opponent plays a creature that doesn't care about our blockers, like a big, flying dragon or a Monastery Mentor that can go wide, we are in trouble. As such, if I had to build this deck again I would try to fit in at least a few answer cards, probably some combination of Ruinous Path and Murderous Cut

The Odds

All in all, the odds really weren't that bad. While we only won a single match, we did win enough games that our overall game win percentage was a solid (for Against the Odds) 38.46%. We managed to go 1-2 against every tier one deck we played, and we came incredibly close to beating those decks. We either lost to one card we couldn't beat (mostly Gideon, Ally of Zendikar) or ran into mana trouble. As such, I think that with a few tweaks and a bit more luck we could have ended up with at least a 50/50 record. While I can't imagine Assault Formation being tier one, if you throw in some removal I think the deck is at least FNM worthy. Plus it's super fun to play, has a "free win" nut draw, and we are never out of a game because we are almost always one top decked Graveblade Marauder away from winning. 

Vote for Next Week's Deck

No poll this week. Instead for our next episode we'll be playing a deck that someone suggested in the comments of a previous Against the Odds. If all goes well, it will be incredibly awesome. You won't want to miss it!


That's all for today. Leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestion in the comments. You can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive. 

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