Ensnaring Bridge Aggro...No, Seriously
I’m sure some of you got mad just reading those words. And really, for good reason. The card cuts out a crucial part of Magic: the combat step. Not to mention that for many people, it brings up thoughts of Lantern Control, the now Pro Tour-winning deck that is generally hated almost as much as Tron. Lantern leverages the card’s symmetrical effect to slow the game down so that it can set up a prison, and win from there. This week’s deck also uses Bridge, but unlike Lantern Control, isn’t a full prison deck. Let’s take a look at the list before I go too much further.
As I said before, Lantern leverages Ensnaring Bridge’s symmetrical effect to slow the game down, and turn it in the deck’s favor. Lantern Control does this by breaking the symmetry. The opponent can’t attack, and the Lantern pilot doesn’t need to attack. This deck does something very similar, breaking the symmetry of the Bridge by allowing us to attack, but halting our opponent. We do this by only having creatures with zero or one power. We can keep our draw for the turn in our hand, swing with our creatures, and then play the card, allowing us to keep chipping away while our opponent sits back helpless. Normally, having creatures with zero power wouldn’t matter (for obvious reasons), but thankfully we have ways to pump them up after swinging.
Hope of Ghirapur and Vault Skirge give us one-mana flying threats that have their own utility, with Skirge gaining us life, and Hope being able to shut down opposing removal spells or board wipes if we suspect our opponent is waiting to blow us out. Memnite and Ornithopter give us some zero-mana creatures to help us dump our hand, with ornithopter often being better in this deck, thanks to the all-star that is Signal Pest. You want to see as many of these guys as you can, since they are one of the best ways to speed up your clock. It’s important to note that Signal Pest essentially has “As long as Signal Pest is attacking, it has flying,” making it, as well as most of your other fliers, generally unblockable. The last creature in our suite is Spellskite, who can draw away removal spells from more important creatures like Hope and Signal Pest, while also protecting our Ensnaring Bridge.
To support and speed up our gameplan, we have Mox Opal and Springleaf Drum, both of which accelerate our mana and color fix, allowing us to comfortably play nearly any sideboard card we could want. We also have Welding Jar to empty our hands quickly, and protect our pieces. Ancient Stirrings helps us with consistency, since it can find threats, bridges, and even lands, while Galvanic Blast gives us access to an upgraded Lightning Bolt, extending our reach and acting as removal in a pinch.
The land base in this deck has some great pieces to it as well. A couple of basics, with Spire of Industry and Glimmervoid to give us a grand total of 15 sources of any color of mana, which admittedly seems a bit high, but allows our sideboard to be extremely flexible. We have four Blinkmoth Nexus to give us extra attackers later on, and they can even pump each other in multiples. Not having any copies of Inkmoth Nexus feels weird, and I could easily see going to some sort of 3/1 or 2/2 split between Blinkmoths and Inkmoths, since infect seems great here as an alternate win condition, but it admittedly doesn’t help kill the opponent, but instead does its own thing. Aside from Nexus, we also have Pendelhaven, which allows us to pump our 1/1 creatures after swinging, often in response to a Signal Pest trigger. Finally, the spiciest addition is Contested War Zone. This can act as a Signal Pest strapped to a land, and while the downside can be a severe one, we can mitigate it thanks to Ensnaring Bridge. The downside, combined with the fact that it only produces colorless mana, does leave it as only a two-of in the deck however.
Lastly, we have the sideboard. I used a relatively stock affinity sideboard to start, and then made some modifications. We have Rest in Peace for any graveyard shenanigans, Ancient Grudge to deal with Affinity, Lantern Control, or even the mirror (what? It could happen)! Collective Brutality acts as a bit of an all-purpose sideboard card, emptying our hand and giving us extra reach, lifegain, being able to kill utility creatures, and ripping sideboard cards out of our opponent’s hand. Thoughtseize also takes care of sideboard cards, but unlike Brutality it can hit things like Stony Silence. Bitterblossom gives us extra tokens, and Ghirapur Aether Grid can give us a little bit of extra reach or removal. Surgical Extraction can be a cheap out against graveyard decks that come online quickly, Wear // Tear helps us deal with artifacts and problematic enchantments, and Whipflare can clear away an enemy’s board while leaving us untouched. My favorite card in the sideboard, however, is Throne of the God-Pharaoh. This card can speed up our clock, and synergizes extremely well with Springleaf Drum, as well as Bitterblossom and Ghirapur Aether Grid out of the sideboard. It might seem like an odd addition, but in my experience it has pulled its weight whenever I’ve brought it in.
- Generally, don’t be afraid to overextend, especially in game one where your opponent won’t have sideboard cards. Ensnaring Bridge gives you plenty of time to rebuild, and Blinkmoth Nexus is a threat even after a board wipe.
- Mox Opal can be used as a Lotus Petal if you have multiples. Tap one on board for mana, then play the next one and sacrifice the old to the legendary rule.
- It’s worth noting that Contested War Zone does not untap itself when the opponent gains control of it, so if you can regain control the next turn, your opponent doesn’t ramp off of it.
- Make sure to activate Pendelhaven before letting your Signal Pest or War Zone abilities resolve, otherwise your creatures will no longer be 1/1, and Pendelhaven’s ability will be useless.
- I’ve considered putting a couple copies of Throne of the God-Pharaoh, and although I haven’t tested it, it seems like a lot of fun.
- Legion Loyalist was originally in this deck, and although it conflicts with the artifact synergies, first strike, trample, and can’t be blocked by tokens are very nice abilities to staple to all of your creatures. Could at least be a sideboard card in a meta heavy with Lingering Souls.
- Bomat Courier is a bit of a weird option, but definitely has its utility here. It can refill your hand for just a single mana, but turns off bridge in the process, and lacks any sort of evasion.
- Boros Elite can pull its weight on the offensive, staying small enough to swing under a bridge, then growing to beat down. Unfortunately, this one doesn’t synergize with the artifact gameplan or have evasion, making it a slightly riskier include.
- Noble Hierarch can accelerate us, swings under a bridge, and can even attack solo if needed. Plus, it has nice synergy with Throne since it can tap itself without needing to attack.
- Kuldotha Rebirth can put out a lot of early power, at the cost of losing one of your artifacts. This can give you three power turn one, but with no evasion. Being spread over multiple bodies makes this a definite contender though, since it makes War Zone and Signal Pest even more potent.
- Cranial Plating is definitely on the weird side because of Bridge, but given the concentration of artifacts we have, combined with the fact that plating can be equipped at instant-speed to get under Bridge, makes it an enticing choice. If you run this, I would definitely go onto the Inkmoth plan, since a single Inkmoth swing with plating is lights out for your opponent.
- Slaughter the Strong, from Rivals of Ixalan, makes another fine option. Although a bit more expensive than most cards we run, it can act as a one-sided boardwipe if you don’t have a bridge, or have trouble emptying your hand. Our creatures are small enough to avoid the condition, meaning we can keep our creatures while our opponent sacrifices all or most of theirs.
Ensnaring Aggro has a lot of appeal, and with people turning to Lantern Control after watching it win a Pro Tour, I thought now would be a good time to share this awesome brew with you all. This deck certainly has its weaknesses, but fun is not one of them. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as watching your opponent squirm while you beat them down with tiny creatures one turn after the other, and the synergy in the deck makes it a ton of fun as well. If you’ve already picked up Bridges for Lantern, this deck doesn’t take too much more to make work, and the payoff is well worth it.
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