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Budget Commander: Eloise Clue Aristocrats | $60 And Beyond

We Finally Got Sherlock Holmes!

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I've been a huge Clues fan ever since the mechanic first appeared back in Shadows over Innistrad block. I love the design of Clues, since not only are they a cool source of card draw but they also open the doors for token synergies (e.g. Parallel Lives) and artifact synergies (e.g. Clock of Omens), giving you a lot to work with when it comes to designing decks around them. But I absolutely adore the flavor of Clues, investigating to find clues, then "cracking" the clue to gain knowledge via card draw! It's a beautiful design in both mechanics and flavor and I absolutely love it.

I've been pining for a proper Clue commander for many years now. Then, earlier this year, we got one: Lonis, Cryptozoologist, a Simic Clue commander. And while Lonis is sweet in terms of mechanics, flavor-wise it ... wasn't what I was hoping for. I didn't want some Simic scientist to lead my Clue deck: I wanted an investigator! Someone who literally investigates for a living! I wanted a Sherlock Holmes character, silly hat and all, and I wanted them to be from Innistrad. So while I happily accepted Lonis, I still hoped for another option when we visited Innistrad once more with Midnight Hunt.

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Thankfully for me, Midnight Hunt immediately delivered: I got exactly what I wanted with Eloise, Nephalia Sleuth! She's a sleuth like Sherlock Holmes, she's from Innistrad, and by the gods does she have an excellent hat! I'm sold! And even better, Eloise is strong, perhaps even stronger than Lonis, while still playing out quite differently, which I love. So with this excellent new Clue leader printed, it's time to brew!

Murder, She Wrote

Looking at Eloise, Nephalia Sleuth, it's clear what type of deck we want to build around her: this is an Aristocrats decks. Her first ability investigates any time a creature we control dies, including tokens. And her second ability surveils any time we sacrifice any type of token, not just clues. These two abilities are absurdly powerful and easily abused. For example, if we sacrifice treasure tokens from Pitiless Plunderer for mana, we're also getting to surveil 1 each time as well. Or even better, if we're sacrificing eldrazi spawn from Pawn of Ulamog for mana, we're investigating and surveiling as well! That's insane value!

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But Eloise isn't just your standard Dimir Aristocrats deck, no no. The fact that she effortlessly generates a pile of Clue tokens -- artifacts -- opens up a ton of Artifact synergies you don't normally see in a Dimir deck! Not only are these delicious card draw on their own, but they open up tons of Artifact synergy potential: tap them for mana with Inspiring Statuary, take extra turns with Time Sieve, repeatedly tutor any card with Tamiyo's Journal, and more!

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Eloise is also a surveil machine, essentially a super-scry mechanic that not only helps you draw the cards you need, but also efficiently fills your graveyard to set up reanimation! Surveil creatures into your graveyard to set up spells like Victimize (also triggering Eloise to investigate and maybe surveil again) or dump flashback spells like Dread Return.

Also there are some payoff cards to the surveil mechanic specifically. Most aren't worth it, but a few are quite powerful, my favorite being Disinformation Campaign which can grind out your opponents by repeatedly drawing cards and making them discard. 

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So to recap, Eloise supports:

  • Aristocrats
  • Tokens
  • Artifacts
  • Reanimation / Flashback
  • Surveil

That's a lot of sweet synergies to explore in a deck, making her a very interesting commander!

How We Win

Every deck's gotta win somehow. In the case of Eloise, Nephalia Sleuth, I'm going to focus on two primary win conditions that are totally unique to our commander.

The first is Eloise, Nephalia Sleuth + March of the Machines + a death trigger drain like Blood Artist. March turns our artifacts into creatures with a P/T equal to their mana value. Since our clues have 0 mana value, they become 0/0 creatures and instantly die. Eloise triggers when they die, making another clue token, which will also immediately die and trigger Eloise, causing an infinite loop. With a death trigger drain like Blood Artist, this becomes infinite drain to win the game. Do keep in mind though that Eloise's investigate trigger isn't a "may" effect, you must do it, so if you don't have a way to stop this infinite loop -- either by killing your opponents or by removing Eloise / March -- then the game will end in a draw instead, so make sure to have your death trigger win condition on the battlefield before casting March and Eloise!

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The next combo is the one I'm personally the most hyped for: it's the Cat Oven Combo from last year's standard! It's Eloise, Nephalia SleuthCauldron Familiar + Witch's Oven + Clock of Omens. Tap and activate the Oven to sacrifice the Familiar, making a food token and triggering Eloise to make clue token. Tap both the food token and the clue token with the Clock to untap the Oven. Sacrifice the food token to return the Familiar to the battlefield, draining your opponents. Then repeat the process infinite times for infinite drain. You can also replace Eloise with Academy Manufactor. It's a 4-card combo but the Familiar can start in the graveyard so it's not too hard to assemble, plus it's a goofy combo that I love so there's that.

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So those are going to be the main win conditions in the sample deck lists. If you hate combos then you can simply replace them with big beefy reanimation targets instead, like Archon of Cruelty and Kokusho, the Evening Star; just reanimate them a bunch of times and you'll win the game easy! But personally I've been jones'ing to jam Cat Oven Combo in Commander and I'm jumping at the chance to finally do it here!

At this point I'd start breaking down each part of the deckbuilding process and show you all my favorite card options for Lands, Ramp, Card Draw, Tutors, Interaction, etc. But feedback from past articles have suggested to me that not only do the vast majority of folk ignore that stuff and scroll down the sample lists, but it actually puts people off as they confuse the card options as actual deck lists or lose interest before seeing the sample lists. So we're cutting the options out and going straight to the good stuff from now on. On to the sample lists!

$60 List

While my budget brews usually start at $50, I felt like I was doing a disservice to the deck if I wasn't including Inspiring Statuary, Academy Manufactor, and Pawn of Ulamog, which cost a few bucks each but are all ridiculous in the deck. 

Even at just $60 this deck is a powerhouse. Our plan is to control the board with cards like Plaguecrafter and Junk Winder while grinding out insane card advantage with all of our draw engines like Grim Haruspex and Disinformation Campaign. Eventually we win by assembling either our March Combo or Cat Oven Combo, with the help of tutors like Tamiyo's Journal and Dimir House Guard which transmutes to find either March of the Machines or Clock of Omens plus doubles as a sac outlet.

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$100 List

The $100 list picks up one of the most busted draw engines in the deck, Skullclamp, and the second most busted mana source, Pitiless Plunderer. At this point the deck is oozing with draw, mana, and consistency. By turn 4 you should have your engine online, and by turn 5-6 you'll be popping off unless your opponents manage to stop you, but even if they do you still have plenty of ways to bounce back.

This price is the sweet spot for Eloise in my opinion. From here on we're just going to speed up the deck's game plan with faster mana and cheaper protection.

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$200 List

The $200 list just picks up 4 cards: Blood Artist as a cheaper drain finisher, Cyclonic Rift as the best wipe, and Demonic Tutor and Diabolic Intent as more efficient tutors. Top format staples are expensive so $100 simply doesn't transform the deck as radically as before.

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$1000 List

People always ask me for blinged out versions, so here's one just over $1000. It's a dedicated combo deck with hyper efficient mana and tutors to get the job done. You can still go way further than this, cutting even more of the Aristocrats and Clue theme for even more hyper efficient mana + tutors, adding a bit of stax and more protection / interaction, then focusing on an even more efficient combo finisher aka Thoracle and oops why are we Eloise anymore?

My point is that optimizing with an unlimited budget starts feeling silly since all roads lead to Thoracle CEDH but hey this is what people want:

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That's All, Folks!

Thanks for reading my take on Eloise Clue Aristocrats. This commander was a blast to brew and brings a fresh spin to some classic archetypes that I love. I'll be back soon with more Midnight Hunt goodness, so check in again soon!

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