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Aristocrats?

Written by John Cuvelier on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Standard

Where have all the Aristocrats gone? Two weeks into our new standard format and not a single top 16 from an archetype that can span across four colors if necessary. What’s up with that? Admittedly even my own iterations have been unsuccessful in testing in that they haven’t been dominating. That is until now.

I got together with a buddy of mine to grind some matches with this new build I’ve been working on against the popular GW Megamorph and Jeskai Black decks from the last two opens. It didn’t go well for him. Let’s take a look at the deck and why that’s the case.

Before I go over everything in the deck I wanted to note the omissions. A good reason why there hasn’t been a high performing list yet is because there are so many different options and directions you can take this deck. The first card that’s a personal favorite is Liliana, Heretical Healer. It’s not like Lilly is bad here, but it suffers from the same problem Drana, Liberator of Malakir has in that double black turn three is very hard in Abzan. If I’m not consistently casting my three drops on turn three it’s not for me. Collected Company looked sweet before adding Siege Rhino. The problem with Collected Company is that the majority of the creatures in this deck are low impact and it’s the synergies that make it high impact. It just doesn’t make any sense to potentially find two small creatures when you can just jam a Rhino. Another card that wasn’t quite good enough for me was Abzan Ascendancy. This card is very powerful and I believe if given another set or two of cards we can see how truly busted this can get. Currently however the slots simply don’t permit it. Merciless Executioner simply isn’t as good when the majority of the format is playing Hangarback Walker. It’s definitely something I’d like to revisit if that card dies down a bit. Grim Haruspex was the last of my favorites to go. He’s really good when you’re about to go off or actually are going off. The problem is when that is the case you’ve already won. It’s also not very good on defense or offense. This made me realize it had to go. With all that being said, let’s have a quick breakdown of the card choices.

Blisterpod – The new Doomed Traveler is at its best here. Getting two bodies for one mana is very appealing in this deck. It also helps you curve out and stop aggressive decks from getting ahead on board. Getting that extra mana from the scion token helps make sure you get enough mana for the Rally to be fully utilized.

Zulaport Cutthroat – The new Blood Artist is the reason this deck exists. You need this guy to win the games where you are aiming to combo off. The games where you draw multiple it’s very hard to ever lose even if you don’t find a Rally. The life gain is also very handy against the aggressive decks.

Elvish Visionary – Since this deck does rely on certain pieces to fully utilize all the moving parts it’s important to have a card that can dig towards them. It’s also important to have a card that comes back post Rally and digs towards the next one. Make sure to stack your triggers correctly when you Rally with this guy. You can always make sure to hit a good card with it if you have a Catacomb Sifter and a Nantuko Husk.

Hangarback Walker – It’s like Blisterpod… Except it’s in every deck in the format!

Catacomb Sifter – I’m not sure if this or Zulaport Cutthroat is the most important piece in this deck but it’s very close. A common problem Rally decks have is the inability to find a Rally. Having Catacomb Sifter helps solve that problem. It also helps you find the next Rally once you start going off. Catacomb Sifter presenting two bodies and an additional mana if needed is very useful.

Nantuko Husk – Every Aristocrat deck needs a sacrifice outlet. The only one available in Abzan colors without a mana cost is Nantuko Husk. The Husk offers a brick wall on defense and an Abyss on offense.

Siege Rhino – Originally not in my list I was having trouble pressuring my opponents’ and relying too heavily on the combo. This not only helps solve that problem but helps improve aggressive matchups as well. Plus I mean come on its Siege Rhino.

Rally the Ancestors – Because I like to play unfair magic when everyone else is playing fair magic.

Gather the Pack – This helps dig for whatever piece of the creature puzzle we’re missing. It also randomly just hits a ton of creatures for future Rallys. Be aware of what lands this puts into your graveyard. Sometimes it can hit all the targets of certain fetch lands and you don’t ever want to fail to find a land.

Sideboard:

Arashin Cleric – Because I hate Red.

Duress – Because I hate blue.

Minister of Pain – Because I still hate Red.

Den Protector – A solid anti-control card and offers some redundancy against counter magic.

Evolutionary Leap – Another sacrifice outlet that gets some major card advantage against the control decks.

Felidar CubSilkwrap is starting to become annoying. This eats a Silkwrap. Then eats future Silkwraps thanks to Rally.

Valorous Stance – This is a good way to kill an Anafenza, the Foremost that is also flexible enough to protect your creatures if on the offense.

In every successful combo deck the majority of the time they lack interaction. The reasoning is simple in that those cards dilute your ability to “combo off” and those cards are maintained in the sideboard to fight the hate your opponent can have. Originally I had tried to use cards like Bone Splinters and Murderous Cut to fight the fair fight. Then I realized I just don’t care what my opponent is doing. If I focus solely on my strategy you can combo off fast enough that it doesn’t matter what they do.

Megamorph and Jeskai Black don’t have a fast clock. Sure, there are draws. The majority of them though aren’t pressuring you fast enough. The interactive spells they have don’t do much as you don’t care about the creatures you lose since they all come back anyways. The only card that can actually pressure you well between the two decks is Mantis Rider. Even then however it can’t rack up enough damage before you start draining them out with Zulaport and Rhinos.

Aristocrats is a very unique deck. With most creature heavy decks you try to play around sweepers. In this deck you couldn’t care less about if they have one or not since they’re all coming back to play anyways. Not to mention a lot of your creatures gain you value when they die. This makes it very hard for control decks to manage your board. Without Thoughtseize they have no recourse for Rally and don’t have much of a chance when you do cast it.

Aggressive decks don’t have much to look forward to either. Jamming aggressive dudes into almost any creature in this deck is just bad news for them. The only aggressive thing this deck can have problems with is Become Immense + Temur Battle Rage. Even then it does require circumstances that most of the time can be overcome. Post board it doesn’t look any better for these decks either. By adding Arashin Cleric, Minister of Pain and Valorous Stance if necessary just kind of puts the icing on the cake so to speak.

The major threat this deck can face is a deck full of counter magic. Thankfully that weakness isn’t currently being exploited in the meta game and why I have dedicated sideboard slots to make sure if I do run into such a deck I’m prepared to fight. You can imagine how playing something like Esper Control would be a difficult match pre board since the only relevant spell to them is Rally the Ancestors. Everything else is manageable. There are also some specific cards that can give this deck some trouble. The worst of which was already mentioned is Anafenza, the Foremost. In addition, any exile effect can hurt you when everything has a graveyard clause. Cards like Complete Disregard, Silkwrap and to a lesser extent Abzan Charm all have to be on your radar when playing this deck.

Anafenza, the Foremost isn’t being played anymore because Abzan Aggro is dead. Thoughtseize is gone thanks to rotation. It’s a great time to be playing Rally. So why aren’t you?

John Cuvelier
@JCuvelier on Twitter
Gosu. on MTGO

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