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Budget Magic: $90 (53 tix) WB Aristocrats (Standard)


Mālō e leleiBudget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! This week, we're heading to Standard to play one of my favorite archetypes: Aristocrats! The basic idea of our deck is simple: we use Elenda, the Dusk Rose to double up our sacrifice triggers, and then win the game by sacrificing our own creatures for value! The tricky part is actually finding a way to finish the game. Traditionally, Aristocrats decks have relied on creatures like Blood Artist and Zulaport Cutthroat to close out the game, but we don't have a Blood Artist effect in Rivals of Ixalan Standard. This means we need to go through an extra step—converting our creatures into Treasure tokens—so that we can use Marionette Master as a super-Blood Artist-esque finisher. Can we make WB Aristocrats work in Rivals of Ixalan Standard with the help of Elenda, the Dusk Rose? Let's get to the videos and find out!

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WB Aristocrats (Deck Tech)

WB Aristocrats vs. Abzan Tokens (Match 1)

WB Aristocrats vs. UW Cycling (Match 2)

WB Aristocrats vs. UW Auras (Match 3)

WB Aristocrats vs. GB Panharmonicon (Match 4)

WB Aristocrats vs. GB Constrictor (Match 5)

The Deck

WB Aristocrats is basically a creature-based combo deck. While we can theoretically win by beating down with random underpowered creatures, our primary plan is to assemble the right combination of creatures to sacrifice away our entire board and win on the spot. Because of this, the easiest way to understand what the deck is trying to do is to walk step-by-step through the process.

Step 1: Sacrifice Fodder

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Elenda, the Dusk Rose is a strange card. As a beatdown creature, she is pretty underpowered as a 1/1 for four mana, even including the fact that she can grow as creatures die. As a result, playing Elenda, the Dusk Rose and trying to attack the opponent isn't a great plan. On the other hand, Elenda, the Dusk Rose is insane as a combo piece, where she basically doubles up the number of creatures we can sacrifice. In our deck, the primary plan is to get a bunch of creatures on the battlefield, along with a sacrifice outlet. Then, we cast Elenda, the Dusk Rose and sacrifice all of our creatures, which puts a bunch of counters on Elenda, the Dusk Rose. Then, we can sacrifice Elenda herself, and we essentially get back all of the creatures we sacrificed in the form of 1/1 Vampire tokens. Finally, we can sacrifice all of the Vampires, which—combined with some other card in our deck that we'll talk about in a minute—should be enough to win us the game.

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Martyr of Dusk and Doomed Dissenter are basically the same card in our deck, giving us another way to double up the number of creatures we sacrifice. With just a single Martyr of Dusk or Doomed Dissenter on the battlefield along with an Elenda, the Dusk Rose, we have the ability to sacrifice six creatures (the Martyr of Dusk / Doomed Dissenter, the token we get when the Martyr or Dissenter dies, Elenda, the Dusk Rose, and the three Vampires we get from Elenda). Apart from supporting our sacrifice combo, both Martyr of Dusk and Doomed Dissenter give us multiple chump blockers to help us stay alive while we are building toward finishing the game with one big turn.

Step 2: Sacrifice Outlets

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Our two main sacrifice outlets are Yahenni, Undying Partisan and Defiant Salvager. While there are some slight differences between the two cards, they are actually quite similar, with both offering us a mana-free way to sacrifice our board when we are ready to combo off. Discounting the fact that Yahenni, Undying Partisan is legendary, it's the better of the two, since it has a form of protection and can sacrifice things at instant speed (although our combo is primarily sorcery speed, so this isn't a huge upside). Meanwhile, Defiant Salvager is a bit riskier, since our opponent can kill it in response to our first sacrifice, and we lose the ability to sacrifice anything else, since we can only activate the sacrifice ability at sorcery speed, but it's better than losing games to drawing three or four copies of Yahenni, Undying Partisan and not being able to cast them because they are legendary. Together, Yahenni, Undying Partisan and Defiant Salvager give us six free sacrifice outlets, which means odds are in our favor that we'll find at least one every game.

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Ruthless Knave and Bontu the Glorified are our backup sacrifice outlets. While both offer some upside, the big problem is that unlike Yahenni, Undying Partisan and Defiant Salvager, both cost mana to activate, which makes it difficult to sacrifice our entire board in one turn, especially if we have a big board full of creatures. The upside of Ruthless Knave is that our deck makes a lot of Treasure tokens, and Ruthless Knave allows us to turn our extra Treasures into cards, which helps us find more combo pieces and eventually win the game. Meanwhile, Bontu the Glorified is actually a very fast clock, so if we can't win with the combo, we can try to win by attacking with a menacing, indestructible 4/6 every turn while also slowly draining away our opponent's life one at a time by sacrificing our random creatures.

Step 3: Treasure Conversion

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One of the challenges of building Aristocrats in our current format is that we don't have traditional drain-based finishers like Blood Artist or Zulaport Cutthroat. Because of this, we need to go through an extra step to actually win the game by sacrificing away our board. Instead of just killing our opponent directly as we sacrifice creatures, we instead need to use Pitiless Plunderer to convert our sacrificed creatures into Treasure tokens, which in turn allow us to win the game.

The good news is that Pitiless Plunderer is really, really good at making Treasures. Remember how we talked about how just a single Martyr of Dusk or Doomed Dissenter along with an Elenda, the Dusk Rose gives us the ability to sacrifice six creatures? If we add Pitiless Plunderer to the mix, we end up with six Treasure tokens, which is a pretty great deal, considering we typically only need five Treasure tokens to win the game. While it only takes five Treasures to win the game, our deck can never really have too much Treasure, because if we have extras, we can turn them into new cards with the help of Ruthless Knave or our other Treasure token producer...

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Treasure Map is insane in our deck. In the early game, it gives us a bit of filtering to smooth out our draws, make sure we hit our land drop, and find our combo pieces. Then, after a few turns, it flips around into Treasure Cove, which both ramps us and gives us the ability to draw an extra card each turn by sacrificing a Treasure. While the three Treasures it makes when it flips are nice, with the help of Pitiless Plunderer, once we flip a Treasure Map, we pretty much have our own personal Howling Mine, allowing us to draw two cards each turn, which is super helpful in finding more creatures to sacrifice (to make even more Treasure and draw more cards) and eventually our finisher to win the game.

Step 4: Winning the Game

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Marionette Master is our Blood Artist, giving us a way to close out the game by sacrificing away our entire board. Once we make a ton of Treasure tokens by sacrificing creatures with a Pitiless Plunderer on the battlefield, all we need to do is play Marionette Master, put the +1/+1 counters on it with fabricate, and then sacrifice five Treasure tokens to drain our opponent for 20. 

Part of the power of Marionette Master in WB Aristocrats is that, even though it costs six mana, we can often cast it even when we are tapped out thanks to our Treasure tokens. It's not that hard to make 10 or 15 Treasures with the help of Pitiless Plunderer and Elenda, the Dusk Rose, which give us enough that we can sacrifice six to cast Marionette Master and still have enough left over to win the game on the spot.

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Our backup plan for winning the game is Shefet Dunes. One of the risks of planning to win with Marionette Master is that our opponent can potentially ruin everything with something like Lost Legacy. If this happens, we simply sacrifice all of our creatures, make a ton of 1/1 lifelink Vampire tokens with Elenda, the Dusk Rose and a bunch of Treasure tokens with Pitiless Plunderer, and then activate Shefet Dunes two or even three times in the same turn to make all of our 1/1s into 3/3s or 4/4s and kill our opponent the old-fashioned way with combat damage. 

Removal

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While we don't have a ton of removal in our deck, instead trusting that we can keep our opponent's creatures at bay with chump blockers, we do have a bit. Cast Out is important because it can hit anything, giving us a way to deal with annoying artifacts and planeswalkers. Meanwhile, Baffling End is basically a more budget-friendly version of Fatal Push, giving us a way to deal with powerful early-game creatures, especially those that can have a big impact on the game without attacking, like Winding Constrictor

Wrap-Up

WB Aristocrats was pretty awesome. We finished our matches 4-1, and our one loss was pretty unfortunate (so unfortunate that our opponent almost scooped because they didn't think there was any chance they could come back, only to draw a few really good cards in a row, including a Golden Demise, to steal the win). We also played a bunch of tier decks along the way, with Abzan Tokens, UW Cycling, and GB Constrictor being among the most heavily played decks in the format and UW Auras being one of the hottest new decks thanks to a strong tournament finish last weekend, so it's not like we only beat up on rogue decks. 

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This being said, WB Aristocrats is far from being a finished product. Dusk // Dawn specifically seems insane in the deck, getting back nearly all of our stuff while potentially wiping away our opponent's board in the process, I just couldn't figure out a way to squeeze it into the list. We can probably cut the one Bontu the Glorified, but beyond that, it's really hard to eliminate anything from the list because everything is serving a purpose. If you're looking for another easy upgrade, Fatal Push is way better than Baffling End in the deck, since we can trigger revolt really easily, so if you have some copies sitting around, you should definitely toss them in.

As far as playing the deck, don't make the mistake of thinking you're the aggro deck. While it's tempting to focus on chipping in for damage with our cheap creatures, it's usually better to play defensively and look to manipulate the game to a state where we can win with Marionette Master. One of the weird aspects of the deck is that getting in for random early-game damage doesn't really help us much because once we combo off, we should be able to kill our opponent from 20 life anyway, so getting in a few points of damage here and there doesn't really do anything most of the time. 

So, should you play WB Aristocrats? I think the deck is certainly good enough to compete at the FNM level and maybe even more, with some tuning. If you like puzzle-esque, creature-based combo decks or sacrificing your own creatures for value, WB Aristocrats just might be your perfect budget option for Rivals of Ixalan Standard!

To get WB Aristocrats down near $50, we need to make two big changes. First, we trade out Concealed Courtyard for Evolving Wilds, which honestly isn't that big of a deal for the deck. While the first three turns of the game will be a bit clunkier since we're adding a land that enters the battlefield tapped, this isn't too punishing, since WB Aristocrats is pretty slow. The other big change is dropping Yahenni, Undying Partisan and Bontu the Glorified for more copies of Ruthless Knave and Defiant Salvager. While I'm a little worried about cutting our best sacrifice outlet, there just isn't another way to get the deck down near $50. Ruthless Knave does offer some upside, turning Treasures into cards, but it's also a bit more expensive, making it more difficult to sacrifice our entire board in one turn. Hopefully it's good enough, but I'd try to keep Yahenni, Undying Partisan in the deck if possible (especially since it isn't that expensive, at about $2 a copy). Basically, this build of the deck is a slightly clunkier version of the one we played in videos, but it still should be good enough for the kitchen table if you want to mess around with it while you are waiting to make some upgrades.

No big changes to the non-budget build of the deck, with the only real upgrades being the removal, where we get Fatal Push over Baffling End and Vraska's Contempt over Cast Out. Otherwise, the deck is pretty much where I want it to be for playing competitively. If you are looking to go more outside the box, it could be interesting to incorporate the Oathsworn Vampire / Bontu's Monument combo, or to move toward a Hidden Stockpile / Anointed Procession shell, but doing either would basically make a new deck, rather than being an upgrade of WB Aristocrats. Still, if you decide to pick up the deck, it's worth keeping in mind that these options are available and that the WB Aristocrats shell still has a lot of brewing potential.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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