Last week I posted the following list:
- 4 Cartel Aristocrat
- 4 Champion of the Parish
- 4 Doomed Traveler
- 2 Restoration Angel
- 2 Sin Collector
- 3 Skirsdag High Priest
- 4 Xathrid Necromancer
Since then, I've tuned it into the following:
Blood Artist is back in the maindeck. While this is more of a Champion of the Parish deck than an Aristocrats sacrifice trigger deck, Blood Artist is still pretty good. If you have a Cartel Aristocrat, you have the option of Drain Lifeing them for as many creatures as you have; if you don't, Blood Artist is still a perfectly reasonable Magic card.
Against sweepers, Blood Artist performs well, although I would still sideboard it out against those decks. If they're in the market for mass removal, they probably have plenty of other removal as well. If that's the case, you really don't want to draw Blood Artist in a game where you mulligan or a post-board game where they are likely to kill all of your creatures. Unless you have a lot of other things going on, Blood Artist doesn't do much.
The main appeal of Blood Artist is in mirror-esque matches. It provides reach and gives you a ton of value on crowded board states, which happen frequently. The most important thing about Blood Artist is that it effectively counters their Blood Artist.
I removed Restoration Angel, mostly because a third Sorin, Lord of Innistrad seemed much better and I wanted to lower the curve a bit. In order to do that, I fit in a pair of Brave the Elements, a card that I considered for the sideboard but that several people convinced me is good enough for the maindeck. Obviously, Brave the Elements is good against Bonfire of the Damned, but it also does some nice things on those clogged board states I was talking about earlier.
The one downside of Brave the Elements is that it doesn't affect your non-white creatures. However, your only non-white creatures are Xathrid Necromancer, Blood Artist, Sorin's Vampires, and Mutavault. The Vampires are mostly inconsequential, I have no idea how not being able to protect your Mutavault with Brave might be relevant (although obviously allowing it to swing through blockers would be nice but not exactly game breaking), and then there's Blood Artist and Xathrid Necromancer.
One of the few downsides I can see in this W/B deck is that your creatures don't die enough. I am not about to play Bloodthrone Vampire without ways to gain value from it, such as Mark of Mutiny. If your guys are being killed when you have Blood Artist or Xathrid Necromancer in play, say with a Bonfire of the Damned, you are probably doing alright.
Using Brave as a Stave Off is certainly fine, but the card is typically destined for greater things. That said, drawing multiples is typically bad, hence why there's only two copies in the deck. I could see playing a third in the sideboard, but again, you don't want to draw multiples. Having a cheap answer to Bonfire of the Damned is nice but not necessary every single time.
Intangible Virtue is a perfectly reasonable maindeck card. I'm a little worried about drawing multiple situational cards like Brave the Elements, Blood Artist, and Intangible Virtue all at once though. My initial revision was to play one Brave and one Virtue, but I was very impressed with Brave, so I added the second copy.
At the very least, Virtue is a sideboard option you can explore to make cards like Gather the Townsfolk and Sorin, Lord of Innistrad even more impressive against control. Virtue makes playing against sweepers easier since you don't need to overcommit to the board, which is very important against Supreme Verdict, Bonfire of the Damned, and Ratchet Bomb. Virtue is also convenient against hate cards like Profit // Loss, Izzet Staticaster, Curse of Death's Hold, and Electrickery.
Aside from that, I cut the Cavern of Souls and retooled the sideboard. Cavern is a great mana fixer, especially in a solid Human deck. As is, there are Tragic Slips, Sorins, and Blood Artists that I'd like to be casting, so losing one source of mana that can cast turn 1 Champion of the Parish is probably worth it. The uncounterable aspect is nice but not necessary and not something that will come up often.
In the sideboard, I want a few specific things. First of all, I want disruption against sweepers. Sin Collector is probably the best for this even though I did end up cutting Restoration Angel. Intangible Virtue, as I just noted, would help as well. One or two copies may find their way into my 75.
Past that, I want a heavy hitter against control, and the obvious one for an Orzhov deck is Obzedat, Ghost Council. In my article on Aristocrats, I mentioned how Obzedat overperformed for me, and I don't see a reason why that would be any different here. Whether you need a difficult-to-remove threat against control or constant life gain against aggressive decks, Obzedat is your man.
Junk Reanimator's place in the metagame is uncertain at the moment. Between Lifebane Zombie, Scavenging Ooze, and Rest in Peace, it seems like there is a lot of incidental hate to make people want to shy away from using the graveyard. I know that some people will play Junk Reanimator because it was the de facto best deck from last season, but I'm not sure how much hate I want and what that hate should be.
Obviously, Lifebane Zombie is quite good against Junk Reanimator, but I'm not entirely sure if that's the battle I want to be fighting. Angel of Serenity is weak to Brave the Elements, but Angel targeting some of your black creatures is one of the few times Brave can actually let you down. I'm far more worried about a quick Unburial Rites than shutting off their ability to recur something like Thragtusk, so a card like Beckon Apparition is more appealing to me. Lifebane Zombie is quite good and has applications in other matchups, so for now I'm trying a mix.
The oddest-looking card in my sideboard is Pithing Needle. On the surface, it looks like it solves a bevy of problems, including Olivia Voldaren, Ratchet Bomb, and Izzet Staticaster. In reality, it's only truly effective against Olivia. Most decks that play Ratchet Bomb and Izzet Staticaster don't play the full four or even three.
Most Olivia decks have multiple Olivias, though, so when you draw a Needle and want to preemptively name her, it will usually be fine. Against decks with the other cards, you could end up having a dead Needle when you draw it and they don't draw the cards you brought it in for or you draw it after they've already wrecked you with said cards.
I'm not going to lie; I'm worried about my Bant Hexproof matchup. There's a weird tension right now with everyone knowing that Bant Hexproof gets a lot of upgrades from M14. Will people play it, will people preemptively hate it out, or will those few brave enough to play it clean up on the unsuspecting like myself?
I could play something like Paraselene or Glaring Spotlight, but both of those are bad options considering how my deck is constructed. At least with Paraselene, I can hopefully lock up the ground, but what happens if they were sandbagging another Unflinching Courage or Spectral Flight? It's probably just delaying the inevitable.
As for Glaring Spotlight, I don't have enough spot removal to even consider that option, although for something like Jund it could be perfectly reasonable. Then again, if I were playing Jund, I'd rather have Liliana of the Veil and Barter in Blood.
Each week, my list gets better and better, and I wouldn't be surprised if I play it at the StarCityGames.com Invitational in Somerset, New Jersey.
What else am I looking at? Well, obviously a Glacial Fortress deck. This is what I just played against Brad Nelson in a Versus video:
I would make some changes but nothing drastic. For those who can't wait for the video, I defeated Brad's Naya Blitz deck 3-2, but whoever was on the play won every game. There were games I could have broken serve with a turn 4 Supreme Verdict, but I never had that luxury.
If I were to play Flash at the Invitational, I would likely play only two colors. Burning Earth is one of the biggest beatings imaginable, so I'm trying to avoid that if at all possible. Red gives you some better spot removal in the form of Pillar of Flame, but that isn't entirely necessary for Flash's success. Against decks like Junk Aristocrats, you can win by mainly ignoring their Voice of Resurgences—Augur of Bolas is a helluva card.
Ratchet Bomb was fantastic, as was Supreme Verdict. Terminus is so good in theory but doesn't often pan out that way. I would probably go with a third Supreme Verdict, third Ratchet Bomb, and third Renounce the Guilds instead.
The lack of Runechanter's Pike has yet to cost me, but if you need to grind through control decks, you will need a Pike or two in addition to a second Moorland Haunt. Mutavault has been very solid, though, as an early blocker and late-game attacker. It is conveniently good against Imposing Sovereign and Firefist Striker.
Syncopate is probably too bad to play. With more and more cards being released into the format, the curves of various decks have gotten tighter, and the cards are more high impact. If you have a Syncopate on the draw, you might lose because you never have time to keep mana open and counter something relevant. At least with Essence Scatter and Dissipate, you can afford to play a two-drop and counter something in the midgame.
Azorius Guildgate can create similar problems. The upside is probably not worth the disastrous downside.
Would I consider playing a Flash variant at the Invitational? Of course. It's been a long while since I've not played a blue deck during the Standard portion of an Invitational. However, I am very confident that my W/B deck is good.
If I were going to play a Flash variant, I would stick to straight U/W, mostly due to Burning Earth but also because if you don't absolutely need a third color, you probably shouldn't play one. If you don't want to do that, at least play the Augur of Bolas / Restoration Angel package in as high of numbers as you possibly can. With the curves tightening up, something like Augur of Bolas to hold off the plethora of 2/2s is more important than ever.
Honestly, with a heavier reliance on Supreme Verdict, I wouldn't be surprised if Quicken makes an appearance. I wouldn't try to live the dream of Quicken into Supreme Verdict, but Flash is certainly in the market for another cheap cantrip and Quicken is a fine card if that interaction does come up.
The last thing I want to note is a couple of situations that came up during playtesting. The first is that you cannot Restoration Angel your Mutavault. Despite it having no wings, it is certainly an Angel. The second is that casting Sorin, Lord of Innistrad when facing two Lingering Souls tokens is a risky proposition, as their Sorin creating an emblem kills the other Sorin and leaves theirs in play.
I like the new legend rule!
@G3RRYT on Twitter