Single(ton) Card Strategies: Relentless Assault

I’m fascinated with Red’s ability to attack multiple times. To my eyes, extra combat phases look a lot like extra turns in a creature-heavy deck, and I know that extra turns are good. Yet history shows us that Relentless Assault doesn’t make the cut in competitive decks. Does this seem like an effect that can be broken? That’s what I was asking myself, so I took a hard look at the following group of cards:

We’re looking at six cards that do essentially the same thing, and that’s a level of redundancy that we can build around. How to best abuse the cards? You can approach that problem in a variety of ways, some of which are more effective than others. Accordingly, this article is split into several sections, each detailing one of the deck styles that I tried.

Big Creatures with Attack Bonuses

My first pass at the deck ran a bunch of creatures that get bonuses each time they attack, like Bramble Creeper. It also has some creatures like Seasoned Marshal that make it hard to block your attackers. If you can summon a suitable combination of those creatures and then attack twice in a row, you should be able to swoop in for the win in one devastating turn. That’s the theory, at least. My early experiments looked something like this:

Naya Assault Big Style

Creatures (41)
Other Spells (20)
Lands (39)
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Big Naya Relentless Assault Click the arrow to download the above deck in .txt format

(To load a .txt deck into Magic: Online’s Deck Editor, click “Load”, select “Local Text Deck”, find the location of the downloaded deck file and double-click the deck.)

The deck has some pretty fun ideas bouncing around. I encourage you to take a close look at the entire creature list to see the various double bonuses they can get for attacking twice. The first group of creatures is just a bunch of dudes that do bad things to the opponent when they attack multiple times. Most of them pump themselves or the whole team when they attack.

Agrus Kos, Wojek Veteran
Bramble Creeper
Fangren Firstborn
Hungry Spriggan
Marton Stromgald
Nacatl War-Pride
Pianna, Nomad Captain
Renegade Warlord
Soltari Champion
Soltari Trooper
Spectral Force
Stonebrow, Krosan Hero
Sun Titan

The attack bonus guys are really fun. Quick, how much damage can you do with Pianna, Nomad Captain and two Grizzly Bears? If you also have Relentless Assault, those little guys can deal a cool 21 damage.

No Blockers, Please

The second group of guys makes it tough for your opponent to block. Some of them tap blockers, others kill them, but they all make it easier to connect twice with the whole attacking team.

Cyclops Gladiator
Frenzied Goblin
Galepowder Mage
Grotag Thrasher
Gustcloak Cavalier
Inferno Titan
Kinsbaile Baloonist
Ronin Cliffrider
Seasoned Marshal
Sidar Jabari

Equipment

Have you ever played against a double striking creature with Sword of Fire and Ice? This deck’s creatures get to strike twice, so the swords can be quite strong. Here’s our equipment suite:

Lightning Greaves
Sword of Body and Mind
Sword of Fire and Ice
Sword of Light and Shadow
Godo, Bandit Warlord
Stoneforge Mystic
Stonehewer Giant

Notice that your Stonehewer Giant can fetch two equipment cards in one turn if you give yourself an extra attack.

Support Spells

Apart from the Relentless Assault family of spells, we have a few other non-creature cards that are pretty big fans of attacking. Just think of some of the synergies these cards have with your bloodthirsty creatures. They play well with each other, too — how would you like to have Beastmaster Ascension and Dolmen Gate at the same time?

Anthem of Rakdos
Beastmaster Ascension
Dolmen Gate
Fervent Charge
Garruk Wildspeaker

Other Stuff, Etc.

The rest of the deck’s spells consist of a modest amount of utility and mana acceleration. The lands are mostly nothing surprising, but I did dust off one family of cards that comes in pretty handy in this deck: the treasure lands!

Mosswort Bridge
Spinerock Knoll
Windbrisk Heights

These lands are really fun in this deck, especially if you can use them to cast your Relentless Assault spells. When that happens, it usually means you’ve just pulled off a splashy victory. Windbrisk Heights is the easiest one to trigger, but any of them should give you a boost if you can just put together one nice, big attack.

Having discussed the nuts and bolts of the list, let’s take a look at a few interesting board positions that I encountered with this deck.

Arms Race with a Mono-Green Opponent

My opponent might have killed me in the following game simply by attacking aggressively. Depending on how and when he attacked, I might still have been able to sneak in and win with the double alpha strike. Regardless, here’s where the game ended up. I have Fury of the Horde in my hand.


I didn’t realize how handy Loxodon Hierarch could be with extra attack phases until I played out this game. His regeneration ability allows you to send everything in for the alpha strike, regenerate, and do it all again without losing any other creatures. Dauntless Escort does the same thing, only cheaper.

Here’s the combat math on this one. My opponent needed to block Spectral Force with Plated Slagwurm in order to survive, but he didn’t, so he went to -3 life after the first attack phase. But let’s say he did block properly. Here’s what would have happened on the second attack phase:

1) All of my creatures get an additional +1/+1 from Pianna, Nomad Captain including the elves, which will be attacking this time around.

2) I tap another blocker with Sidar Jabari (Jedit, probably).

3) All of his creatures keep their damage, while my creatures’ damage is erased by regeneration.

4) Bramble Creeper gets another +5/+0 to become a 12/5 elemental.

All told, I send 41 damage into the red zone. The opponent has only four blockers to deal with it, all of which are only 1 or 2 damage away from dying. Because Spectral Force has trample, the minimum damage he will take is 17. Pretty sweet!

Losing the race against Bant

This next board position looks bad until you see my hand.


That top-decked Scrubland (my only Black source of the game) allowed me to play Fervent Charge and attack. Then, I tapped Steward of Valeron to help pay for Relentless Assault, which untapped the Steward for the next attack! That’s a pretty nice interaction. During the second combat phase, Fervent Charge gave me a 5/5 Recruiter and a 6/6 Steward to go along with my soon-to-be-blocked 5/6 double-striker.

If you look at my graveyard, you’ll notice that I tried unsuccessfully to cast Radha, Heir to Keld on the previous turn. She would have enabled an entwined Savage Beating AND a Relentless Assault on the same turn, which is a pretty sick play! Radha’s Red mana ability only interacts with two of this deck’s cards, but that’s okay, because they happen to be Savage Beating and Aggravated Assault. That mana is much appreciated for two of the deck’s mana-hungry signature spells.

Staying Alive versus Red-Green

I felt pretty vindicated in the following game after a rough start during which two of my of my lands were blown up and my opponent beat me down to single digits life. I had to let attackers through rather than sacrifice my chance at a lethal dual attack.

Ripping that Relentless Assault was cool, because it allowed me to use the Frenzied Goblin to take him down to a single, lonely miner on blocking duty. The Savage Beating would have also guaranteed the win, if you work out the combat math. That group of creatures might not look like much, but they work extremely well as a team, especially when you get to attack twice!

Facing Down a Beast Army

This next game might be my favorite of the lot. If you look at this board state, who’s about to attack for lethal damage? (Hint: it’s the author of this article.)

Here’s the lesson of this game: if your opponent casts Garruk Wildspeaker, uses his +1 ability, then doesn’t cast anything else, he’s going to alpha strike next turn. Fortunately for me, my opponent didn’t realize he was in trouble (and that he devastates me if he attacks), so he developed his board some more and passed the turn back to me. That led to the following situation:

That’s already not a fun attack to face down, since my creatures are all bigger than his. Add a surprise Savage Beating (double strike option), and that’s game!

The Verdict

So how does the deck fare overall? Well… it loses pretty often. True, I’ve given you a selection of its shining moments, but usually it just loses. By the time I get to Turn 4 or 5, one of two things is usually happening: 1) I’m getting beaten to death by an Aggro opponent, or 2) my Control opponent has begun killing and/or countering my creatures one by one while gradually generating overwhelming card advantage. I played and lost a lot of games with this deck; clearly, it needed a new direction.

The Speed Solution

Despite all of the fun synergies I built into the first list, it was just too slow. You need to get pretty lucky to survive long enough to get a big enough attack squad together. Like I said, either the opponent is going to kill you first or kill most of the creatures. So I switched gears and went with cheaper, faster attackers.

Fast Naya Assault

Creatures (43)
Other Spells (19)
Lands (38)
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Fast Naya Relentless Assault Click the arrow to download the above deck in .txt format

(To load a .txt deck into Magic: Online’s Deck Editor, click “Load”, select “Local Text Deck”, find the location of the downloaded deck file and double-click the deck.)

To get a visual feel for how this deck is fundamentally different, let’s take a look at how the mana costs of the creatures curve out. As you can see, it’s a much lower curve with lots of one-drops and nothing above a four-drop. Note the added evasive two-drops.


Rounding out the Deck

The rest of the deck still features Relentless Assault effects, of course, but I removed Fury of the Horde. It’s too hard to cast. For the hell of it, I replaced it with Final Fortune. It seems to fit the fast and furious, all-in style of the deck.

The Planeswalker suite in this build grows to include Sarkhan Vol and Ajani Goldmane, because they like having a bunch of little creatures to interact with. Those, along with your attack-pump creatures, can make your little guys look a lot scarier.

The Verdict

I don’t have screenshots for this deck, because the games aren’t as exciting to show. When it wins, it usually just swarms with aggressive creatures and you win without using an extra combat phase. And it does win more often than the version with the big creatures. Once in a while you get to use Relentless Assault as a finisher, which is pretty fun. On balance, though, this deck doesn’t inspire me as much as my earlier, less competitive version, because it’s too similar to a typical fast Naya deck.

Please note that you can build a deck that’s sort of half way between these two versions. I’ve played around with some stuff in the middle, and throwing a few mid-sized creatures in the deck seems to be good. That’s actually what I spent most of my time doing, because those in-between decks were a fun balance between consistency and coolness. I wanted the two lists in the article to be quite a bit different from each other to show you a nice, broad range of cards that work with Relentless Assault.

But now let’s take this thing in an entirely different direction.

Exalted Assault

When you looked at my initial list of extra combat phase effects, did you notice which card was missing? The only non-Red card that grants an extra combat phase (without granting a full turn) is Finest Hour. That’s obviously a synergistic combination of effects, because the creature gets double exalted bonuses the second time around. This seems pretty straightforward, right? Let’s throw together some cards with the exalted keyword and add a few Red effects that grant extra combat phases.

Exalted Assault

Creatures (39)
Other Spells (22)
Lands (39)
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Exalted Relentless Assault Click the arrow to download the above deck in .txt format

(To load a .txt deck into Magic: Online’s Deck Editor, click “Load”, select “Local Text Deck”, find the location of the downloaded deck file and double-click the deck.)

The awkward thing about this idea is that it’s pretty tough to fit some double Red spells into a Bant deck. Nevertheless, we can do it. Note that Waves of Aggression is a White card, so that’s a freebie. Seize the Day is a single Red spell that we can easily splash for, and its flashback ability makes it better in this deck than some of its cousins that untap the entire army. And let us not forget Godo, Bandit Warlord, the single Red dude who can grant himself an extra combat phase and fetch a sword besides. He’s a shoe-in for the deck.

That gives us four cards with additional attack effects, and that’s exactly where we’d stop if I was being rational. Since I’m not, and this is an article about Relentless Assault cards, I decided to also include Relentless Assault itself and World at War to round things out. To help us with those double Red costs, I included several mana sources that are capable of producing two Red mana:

Cascade Bluffs
Coalition Relic
Dwarven Ruins
Fire-Lit Thicket
Fungal Reaches
Rugged Prairie

Exalted Creatures

If you count up all of the cards with the exalted keyword, you’ll find 20 creatures and a few non-creatures among them. I included all of them in this deck except Sigiled Behemoth and Rhox Bodyguard. I found their casting costs and levels of crappiness to be too high. Beyond those 18 creatures, I also threw a Clone into the list as an extra exalted guy.

Creature Pumps

I’m running the good equipment cards in this deck as in the previous lists. Those cards make even more sense in this deck than they did in the others. In this list, though, I also included Loxodon Warhammer and Behemoth Sledge. The trample ability is super important if the opponent has chump blockers. I tried out O-Naginata and Sword of Vengeance as well, but I was less impressed with those. As cool as Sword of Vengeance is, six mana is a lot to spend for +2/+0 and no explicit card advantage.

In addition to the equipment, the deck needed at least one enchant creature aura to work with Sovereigns of Lost Alara. I didn’t want to run anything with a really high casting cost, so I chose two auras that give trample: Armadillo Cloak and Gaea’s Embrace.

Finally, I added Elspeth, Knight-Errant. I know she’s good in pretty much any deck, but I included her in this one primarily for her Angelic Blessing ability.

Champion Creatures

Now the deck needs some solid creatures that can act as the champion that represents the team. The characteristics we want for these guys are as follows: evasive or trampling, and double strike would be nice. With that in mind, here is what I came up with:

Baneslayer Angel
Boros Swiftblade
Exalted Angel
Godo, Bandit Warlord
Knotvine Paladin
Jenara, Asura of War
Silhana Ledgewalker
Skyhunter Skirmisher
Soltari Champion
Soltari Crusader
Soltari Priest
Soltari Trooper
Stonehewer Giant
Troll Ascetic
Trygon Predator

All of those can do a great job of carrying the flag. But I really enjoy handing the reins to Gideon Jura. Check out my favorite Gideon attack below. I had to chump block quite a few times to keep Gideon alive long enough to win a glorious, decisive victory. But the good guys ultimately won.


That adds up to a 14/11 Gideon Jura with flying, trample, and lifelink, and two attacks. Not bad, eh?

The Verdict

This version is pretty fun, so I’m going to say the exalted deck was worth the time I invested. Sometimes it’ll just win because the creatures are strong and not because of the deck’s theme, but other times you get to pile synergies together in entertaining ways. For example, in one game, I had Boros Swiftblade with four exalted creatures. That’s entertainment, folks. Or maybe I’m just a nerd?

Budget Versions

I like to mention budget builds in my articles, because I know this is an expensive format and that a lot of people don’t have the expensive staple cards. In this case, I think you could make a pretty cool version of this deck for cheap by sticking with Red and White. That reduces the cost and complexity of the mana base, and those two colors have everything you need to drop evasive creatures and pile up some attacking bonuses. All of the Relentless Assault effects are dirt cheap. Most of the creatures with attack triggers are also pretty inexpensive. You’ll end up substituting some less pricey equipment like Sword of Vengeance (0.25 tickets) and Bonesplitter in place of Sword of Fire and Ice and company. I haven’t put together the entire list, but I’ve toyed with it a bit, and I’m certain that a fun version can be had for 30 tickets.

The Moral of the Story

Well, I can’t really tell you that Relentless Assault is the next big thing in the Weekend Challenge scene. But I wasn’t really expecting to find that anyway. I just wanted to see if it can work. And it can! The catch is that you have to be willing to lose some games in order to play out the fun games where your evil plan really clicks. Sometimes that’s just the way it goes when you want to win in a particular nerdy way.

I hope you got a chance to look at a few cards that you haven’t considered playing before, and please leave me a comment if you have any questions, praise, or gripes.

-Zimbardo

 
  1. Nice article, getting a look at the development of an outside the box deck idea was fun. Exploring unique synergies and redundancies in Magic’s card pool is one of the most interesting aspects of 100CS to me.

  2. Great idea and walkthrough. I enjoy to see some “wacky” decktypes explored – often they are very fun to play.

  3. A short reminder for anyone that is looking to gather cards to build decks – our bot “mtgocardtraderbot” in game has most of the cards in stock for good prices. We are open 24/7. Every purchase supports our contributors and webmasters.

    Enjoy!

  4. I really enjoy your articles … I am not a tourney 100 singleton player … but I love cool theme decks in 100 singleton .. great job.

  5. nice work brah

    I wanted to point out that you could do the bant multiple attack idea with timewalks if you wanted to remove red. Although you wouldn’t get the multiple exalted triggers that way, but you would draw an extra card.

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