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With the move of Sandman and Killmonger from Pool 3 to Pool 2 in Patch 3.0.1, many people have been looking for new decks to try. With both of these cards having very control-oriented designs, and the recent nerfs to aggro decks across the board, you may feel that aggro is gone without access to Pool 3 cards that you just don’t have. But what if I told you that Sandman can actually still be played in an aggro deck? Welcome to the desert kingdom of Sand Aggro!
If you’re looking for other Pool 2 decks to play, check out this post by Den with several of the most competitive Pool 2 only decks in the meta today.
The Deck List
A Sandman aggro deck that uses only pool 2 cards! The basic idea is to get ahead as possible on board turns 1-3 with Angela and Ebony Maw, then play Sandman on turn 4 to stop your opponent from catching up. A guide on this deck will be coming soon, so keep an eye out! Feel free to hit me up on Twitter @StellaTetris or DM me on Discord @Stella#1148 if you have any questions.
Here’s our current build. The basic idea behind the Sandman Aggro deck is to get ahead on board as much as possible, as early as possible with cards like Angela and Ebony Maw. Once you’ve established a single dominant early lane, you play Sandman on turn 4 so your opponent can’t catch up. Turns 5 and 6 you have Iron Man, Vision and America Chavez to close out the game. Pretty simple, right? Let’s go over the main players in the deck card by card.
Sandman: Sandman is the most core piece of this deck, and everything else is built around him. An on-curve Sandman can be absolutely devastating for any opponent who was confident enough to pass a few turns in the first half of the game, or was so scared of your early commit they avoided it entirely. However, you don’t just have to Retreat if you don’t draw Sandman. Ka-Zar, Vision and America Chavez are still coming in to help you finish off the game!
Ebony Maw: The best 1-drop in the deck, bar none. The recent buff pushed Ebony Maw’s already intimidating 6 power to an astonishing 7! This card will almost always be played on turn 3, ideally after a turn 2 Angela and along with 2 other 1-drops for up to 22 power on just turn 3! If you don’t fill up the whole lane though, don’t worry – Nightcrawler and Vision are here to fill in the gaps later on.
Ka-Zar: Despite the recent nerf, Ka-Zar still gives incredible value for the cost. In a deck that relies almost entirely on playing 1-drops early game, you want to squeeze all the value you can out of them. Ka-Zar fills this role perfectly, and has a respectable 4 power himself to boot. His buff also gets double value when your 1-drops are paired with Iron Man, helping get that tiny bit of an edge you need to win sometimes.
The Usual Suspects
I won’t go into too much detail on this suite of 1-drops, as they are all pretty much solidified as aggro staples.
Lastly we have the utility specialist himself, Nightcrawler. By far my favorite 1-drop in the game, Nightcrawler’s utility is simply unmatched. He can move into an Ebony Maw lane to squeeze in some extra power, can cover bad locations like Death's Domain or Sanctum Sanctorum, and can even be adjusted to any lane necessary on turns 5 and 6.
Iron Man: Iron Man is the most powerful play you can make on turn 5 after dropping Sandman. Knowing that you will draw America Chavez on 6, he will give you a lane of at minimum 18 power with only 2 cards. This pattern will be the most common way you close out games with this deck.
Vision: Vision fills probably the most available flex slot in the deck. Realistically any high-powered 4 or 5 drop can be played here, as a second card to play if you don’t draw Iron Man. Warpath can work, or even Jessica Jones. But where Vision excels over those other cards is his movement ability. If you have to lock down an Ebony Maw lane early before fully stocking it, or even if you want to swap Nightcrawler out and steal the lane back from your opponent, Vision is the perfect fit.
America Chavez: The reasoning here is pretty straightforward. You want a big power play on 6 that will consolidate all your mana efficiently under Sandman, and America Chavez is absolutely perfect for this. She also gives you a nice consistency boost on drawing your early cards early, when you need them.
This deck may look deceptively simple on the surface, but there are a few areas where you can fall prey to pitfalls and misplays that will get a won game stolen right out from under you. First and foremost, snapping too early is a huge mistake. Even if you get Angela with Ebony Maw in a lane early, there are decks that can push over that lane with the right hand, and if you Snap too early you will be forced to Retreat.
Additionally, it is absolutely essential to keep in mind that you are basically passing turn 4. The effect is definitely worth it, don’t get me wrong, but in the board presence sense, you are putting a single power down while your opponent could be putting down a whole lot more. Make sure you are confident that you can close the game out if you want to consider a Snap before seeing what your opponent plays on 4.
Lastly, try to stay consolidated into just two lanes as much as possible. Since you’re committing almost everything early into a lane with Ebony Maw and playing Sandman on 4, you usually only have 2 cards split between turns 5 and 6 to dedicate to the rest of the board. Make sure they work together! That being said, the opposite also applies. If you don’t draw Sandman for turn 4, you have all the benefits of your full mana pool and the ability to play multiple cards per turn. Make use of those attributes wisely.
As far as Pool 2 tech options go for this deck, there isn’t a whole lot of room for flex slots. As I mentioned earlier, Vision is the card that can most easily be replaced, and if you so desire I would recommend the biggest 4-cost or 5-cost card you have; usually Warpath or Jessica Jones would be a safe bet.
If you’re looking to spice up this list with some of your Pool 3 collection, then you can start off with using Captain Marvel over Vision. This deck has some amount of trouble with deciding which lane to play in on turns 5 and 6, and with Captain Marvel you can sacrifice 1 power to have her decide for you! Another Pool 3 tech option is Zero, to provide both a consistent 1|3 body as well as remove Ebony Maw‘s Ongoing effect. He still needs to be played by turn 3, but without the restriction against playing cards in the same lane you can continue to build power on later turns.
The widespread nerfs to aggro in the most recent patch have caused a sort of meta duality. The majority of the playerbase now has access to Killmonger, so aggro decks’ popularity decreased severely. But as a result, people have stopped running Killmonger nearly as often. Keep in mind that this deck’s viability will always fluctuate with Killmonger’s popularity in the meta, and can be hedged against in extreme cases with cards like Armor.
That being said, let’s go over some matchups you might see on the ladder today:
- Against Death Wave, you are exceptionally favored if they don’t draw Killmonger, which is quite something considering the strength of the deck. Unless they have an exceptionally strong early game, Sandman stops Death from coming down on the same turn as another huge card on 6 so you can close out games quickly and efficiently. That being said, Killmonger is a massive threat that you have to be hedging against constantly.
- Against Swarm Aggro, you also have a very favorable matchup. In this case, you will be playing much more quickly early game, not needing to save up hand size for Nakia, and you completely shut down their turn 6 Swarm plays so all you need to do is deal with America Chavez on 6.
- One of the most difficult matchups for this deck without question unfortunately is Ghost Rider Ramp. The fact that they can play Lady Sif early and then Ghost Rider on a later turn to drop 23 power in one card is almost unbeatable. Your only hope against this deck is that they either don’t draw the combo, or you guess right and play in the lane they don’t use Ghost Rider in. Tread very carefully.
For a deck that is a bit more off the beaten path than most, Sandman Aggro performs very well on ladder. If you’re looking for a cheap and fun deck to make use of your new Pool 2 cards, I highly recommend giving it a try! Don’t forget your limitations playing this deck though, remember you are getting ahead on tempo early in order to sacrifice a ton back on turn 4.
Special shoutout to Eternal Eclipse for helping me theorize on this list! If you enjoyed this article, have any questions on why I made certain decisions, or other feedback, feel free to comment below, join our Discord server, or check out my Twitter @StellaTetris. Congratulations on your new Pool 2 cards, and good luck disintegrating your opponents with Sandman!