I handle potential duplicate content issues on the front page of Wordpress by simply creating unique excerpts for each article. (See here.) Most themes support them - and if they don't, it is just a matter of adding one line of code to make sure they do. This method is much simpler than creating a static front page, in my opinion.
You can also help stop duplicate content by not allowing search engines to index your category pages. I recommend these SEO-related plugins:
All in One SEO Pack, Google XML Sitemaps, Redirection, Robots Meta, SEO Slugs