Aristocrats decks are known to be very tricky, in part due to how flexible they are in how they can win. They can swarm you with small creatures that are resistant to sweepers. They can sit back and grind value, blocking as appropriate. Or they can go full-on combo with multiple copies of Blood Artist (or Zulaport Cutthroat) and a sacrifice outlet.
However, when you look at today's Abzan Aristocrats deck, the cards all break down into pretty simple categories. There's your sacrifice fodder in Blisterpod, Doomed Traveler, Voice of Resurgence, and Satyr Wayfinder. The last of these pulls double duty as an enabler for Return to the Ranks, but really, these creatures live to turn into Scry 1s.
Then you have your sacrifice outlets, here in the form of Viscera Seer, Cartel Aristocrat, and the spicy Teysa, Orzhov Scion. Seer is the bread and butter because the card selection is so valuable in longer games, but the other two pull their weight as singletons. Cartel Aristocrat is great at attacking through stalled battlefields, and Teysa gives the deck some much-needed interaction against other creature decks.
Next you have your Blood Artists. This list doesn't include any Zulaport Cutthroats for additional drain value, in part because it's great at attacking in the air and it has Collected Company and Return to the Ranks to find enough drain effects with just the four. If your metagame is very aggressive, you can consider more, though.
Last, the spells. These cards help you grind through opposing disruption and they are fantastic at that. Abzan Ascendancy lets you get aggressive while making removal worse. Return to the Ranks either wins the game or effectively wins the game on the spot a fair portion of the time, and Collected Company needs no explanation. The power of these cards with small creatures lets this deck compete with the likes of Thoughtseize, Snapcaster Mage, and Faithless Looting.
Of course, I'm forgetting one card. And that's Tidehollow Sculler, the little hatebear that could. It lets you not die to the Turn 3-4 combo decks of the format. It's a critical role-player here for a deck that doesn't have that kind of a clock, so don't think of cutting it for being off-theme. Also, keep in mind that you can sacrifice it with the first trigger on the stack to permanently exile a card, since it has the old Oblivion Ring templating and not the new Banishing Light one.
It's all pretty simple on paper, but in practice it's anything but. When to sacrifice a Voice of Resurgence to get aggressive, when to cast Abzan Ascendancy, and how to best leverage Collected Company and Return to the Ranks are important questions in every game that will have ever-changing answers. But put in the work and you'll have a deck that keeps your opponent guessing, which is always a great place to be.
- 3 Tidehollow Sculler
- 3 Blisterpod
- 4 Blood Artist
- 1 Cartel Aristocrat
- 4 Doomed Traveler
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 4 Satyr Wayfinder
- 4 Viscera Seer
- 4 Voice of Resurgence
- 1 Teysa, Orzhov Scion
- 1 Dryad Arbor