If you don’t know the reference, I will spare you the joke. This week on Compulsive Research, I was joined by Eastern Canada mainstay Justin Richardson, fresh off back-to-back 9th place finishes at the recent WMCQ in Toronto and PTQ in Montreal. Justin has been a long-time advocate of his take on The Aristocrats in Standard. With this deck consistently being touted as the most complicated deck to play in Standard today, I knew that I needed an expert to help me with the learning curve. Justin, as I said, has his own take on the list (which is very tight).
The Aristocrats by Justin Richardson
It wasn’t until I looked at the deck list by converted mana cost that I really began to appreciate how clean this deck is.
Now THAT’s a mana curve!
Understanding The Deck
I had always thought that The Aristocrats was supposed to be a synergistic, grindy deck that inevitably crushed the opponent with complex play lines, allowing you to effectively outplay your opponent with every card. Who knew that it was secretly an aggro deck?
This list in particular has been reworked to allow for a more aggressive set of play lines, eschewing Boros Reckoner for the now-overlooked Knight of Infamy. This little 2/1 was extremely underwhelming in initial concept, but in execution, turned out to be one of the most powerful cards that we had. The protection from white allows you to cruise past many of the relevant ground-pounders in Standard, such as Loxodon Smiter, Centaur Healer, and Boros Reckoner. It even makes Restoration Angel look silly. Add to this the Exalted, and this guy suddenly invalidates Augur of Bolas too.
I didn’t miss Boros Reckoner one little bit, nor did I really fear it from my opponent. The fact is this is an aggro deck that basically ignores all blockers. Cartel Aristocrat swings in without fear as long as she isn’t alone, and Knight of Infamy has protection built in. Turn 1 Champion, Turn 2 Knight, and Turn 3 Silverblade Paladin is a big chunk of life. Assume your attacker dies, and Paladin lives, and a Turn 4 Falkenrath Aristocrat with double strike will leave your opponent in a pile of their own mess.
What I really learned to appreciate about this deck was the ability to halt all aggression and turn into a midrange control deck post-board for the Blitz and RG Aggro matchups. I actually feel that after playing it here, Obzedat, Ghost Council is at its best in this deck. The deck is able to generate quick chunks of damage in the early game, making the inevitability of “Ghost Dad 2.0” that much more relevant.
There is certainly some discussion worth having about the viability of Blood Baron of Vizkopa in this archetype, as it is a wonderful way to get even with the bigger Selesnya decks, cripple Jund’s removal, and even crush the mirror. Justin’s initial suggestion is to perhaps look at one over a Rhox Faithmender in the sideboard, but further testing should certainly be done. If you are looking for a sweet Dragon’s Maze addition, that guy is totally it.
The Real Deal
If you are looking for an aggressive strategy that doesn’t simply fold to its own mana, I would heartily recommend this deck. It does a great job of slicing a hole through your opponent’s defenses and almost ignoring them altogether. Thankfully, this power does not sacrifice the ability to prevent your opponent from killing you first. One of the finer things to become familiar with while playing this list is understanding when you should attack, which creatures to do it with, and when it is appropriate to lull your opponent into bad attacks. The strength of this deck is such that is allows you to force the opponent into bad blocks with your protection capacities, and bad attacks with your ability to sacrifice creatures before damage to protect the others.
Combine all of this with the fact that you can put a very short clock on your opponent’s life total, and we are in the presence of something special. It is often joked about around here that it is only a matter of time before Justin returns to the Pro Tour with this deck. After being able to spend a few hours with him playing it and discussing the strengths of it, I’m not laughing anymore. This is the real deal. See you in Dublin, Justin.
(In)famous Last Words
Special mention goes to the winner of the LegitMTG credit this week: Scott Smith. Thanks for the quality comment. Glad that you enjoyed watching the show. Hope you enjoyed the Orzhov Charms this week! Make sure that you create an account at store.legitmtg.com and then email firstname.lastname@example.org to collect!
Next week, we bring in one of the Legit MTG team members fresh off some screen time at SCG Somerset to show off the new tech going into the new Standard metagame. I can’t wait. It’s going to be awesome.
See you Monday!!
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