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Budget Magic: $94 (59 tix) Standard Mardu Aristocrats

Bonjour Budget Magic lovers, it's that time of the week once again. This time, we are heading back to standard for a deck I'm really excited about, not so much because the deck is format breaking or anything like that, but because I've been trying to build this deck ever since Fate Reforged spoilers started back in January. I've finally put together a version that is not only playable, but actually pretty powerful.

A couple of years ago team SCG (while that was still a thing) built a deck called the Aristocrats named after two of the key cards in the deck: Falkenrath Aristocrat and Cartel Aristocrat, which lead to Tom Martell winning the Pro Tour (and endless Lingering Souls jokes). Instead of being built around blunt power, the Aristocrats was a Mardu-colored synergy deck built around sacrifice effects. Our version plays much the same way, although we don't have any actual aristocrats in our deck. Instead we use the synergy of Butcher of the Horde, Tymaret, the Murder King and Outpost Siege (on dragons) to grind out our opponents with a bunch of seemingly underpowered but very synergistic enablers. Anyway, let's get to the videos and then we'll break down the deck a bit more. But first a quick reminder — if you enjoy the Budget Magic series and the other video content here on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish Youtube Channel for all the latest and greatest.

Mardu Aristocrats Deck Tech

Mardu Aristocrats vs Abzan Midrange

Mardu Aristocrats vs UB Control

Mardu Aristocrats vs Atarka Red

Mardu Aristocrats vs Mono-Black Warriors


There's quite a bit to explain about this deck since unlike some of other Budget Magic decks built around powerful or specific combos, Mardu Aristocrats is based around synergy and has a lot of card choices that look a little bit strange on paper. 

The Foundation

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These three cards are not only the foundation of the deck, but the main reason to play the strategy. The basic idea is to get an Outpost Siege set on dragons and use the sacrifice abilities from Butcher of the Horde and Tymaret, the Murder King to grind out our opponent one life at a time (or three in the case of Tymaret, the Murder King).

[[Outpost Siege is the Blood Artist of our deck; while it is obviously more expensive and doesn't allow us to gain life, it makes up for these deficiencies by being much more difficult to kill and being able to ping creatures as well as players. While the dragons mode is the big payoff, I will admit that the first Outpost Siege is generally set on khans (the Chandra, Pyromaster +0 mode) to help us generate some card advantage. Then Outpost Siege two through four are set on dragons to allows us to combo off with our sacrifice outlets.

Butcher of the Horde is our Falkenrath Aristocrat. While it gives up the ability to become indestructible, it has an additional point of power and the ability to gain lifelink is extremely relevant in winning a race. Typically it can come down with haste (which makes it is very good at taking down an Elspeth, Sun's Champion) and often lifelink as well. Most importantly it is a sac outlet that doesn't require any mana to activate which is a surprisingly rare quality in our current standard. 

Tymaret, the Murder King is our Cartel Aristocrat. Yes, it is legendary and pretty expensive to activate, but it is also extremely hard to deal with permanently and it provides a huge amount of value in the late game where dealing 9 or more damage in one turn isn't out of the question. I could see an argument for adding a third copy, but I wouldn't go any higher because having multiples in our opening seven is pretty miserable. It is worth noting that in the late game (meaning once you have an Outpost Siege on dragons), drawing a second copy isn't the worst since we can use the legend rule to start a slow-sacrifice loop from our graveyard. 

The Synergy

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Bloodsoaked Champion is the Champion of the Parish of our deck; what it gives up in raw power, it gains back in combo potential. One of the great things about the card is that it can pretty much take down a control deck all by itself (assuming you don't get hit by Perilous Vault) by providing a significant and recursive clock. As far as the combo, the idea here is that with an Outpost Siege on dragons and a sac outlet, you can attack with any creature and than pay 1B any number of times to deal one damage to a creature or player. 

Sultai Emissary is our Doomed Traveler. Sure it costs on more mana up front, but a manafest is generally better (and when you hit an actual creature, far better) than a 1/1 flying token. I have been thoroughly impressed by the little zombie. Against aggro decks it can usually block and trade with two creatures. Against control it provides insurance against various wraths and Drown in Sorrows (which is especially important with Bloodsoaked Champion, since it leaves behind a body that can attack the following turn and trigger raid). Against everyone, Sultai Emissary provides fuel for our Butcher of the Hordes and Tymaret, the Murder Kings. It does pretty much everything we could want for only two mana.

Humble Defector is — by far — my favorite addition to the deck. If they had printed the human with only the first three words in the text box (Tap: Draw two cards) it would be the most broken two-drop ever printed. Unfortunately, R&D felt it was necessary (and rightly so) to include a bunch more words which basically amount to a pesky Donate clause. Our deck gets to play Humble Defector like it only has three words. With a Butcher of the Horde on the battlefield or a Tymaret, the Muder King on the battlefield or in the graveyard, we can tap Humble Defector to draw two cards, maintain priority, and sacrifice Humble Defector with the trigger on the stack which makes it a two-mana red Divination that can also beat down.

Don't jeer please, but Jeering Instigator is actually a real card in this deck. It basically fills the Zealous Conscript role from the old Aristocrats build. We can play it face down, unmorph it to gain control of an opponent's Siege Rhino or dragonlord, attack with the creature, and then sacrifice it to a Butcher or Murder King. The real beauty of it is that no one expects the Instigator. Seriously, no one ever expects the Instigator. As a result, it does a good job of picking up free wins against opponents playing around Ashcloud Phoenix, Ire Shaman or Den Protector.

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Flamewake Phoenix is, more or less, an on-curve two-card combo with Butcher of the Horde. We get to play Flamewake Phoenix, sac it to Butcher of the Horde, pay one mana to return Phoenix to the battlefield (with haste, of course) and attack for seven in the air. We then get to do it all over again the next turn, hopefully while generating additional damage from Outpost Siege. Plus, it fits in well with the aggro Plan B. A surprising number of decks have a hard time dealing with a curve of recursive threats like Bloodsoaked Champion and Flamewake Pheonix

Alesha, Who Smiles at Death fills in a rotating slot in the deck and honestly isn't very good — I plan on cutting her before the next match. I started out with another Jeering Instigator before realizing it was too lacking against aggro, so in my infinite wisdom I replaced one Jeering Instigator with a Corpseweft which is obviously even worse against aggro. Before long I cut the Corpseweft and ended up at Alesha, Who Smiles at Death, which seemed like a good blocker that could have some synergy with all our little creatures and sac outlets. Unfortunately it didn't work out in practice and Alesah, Who Smiles at Death ended up being the first card sided out every match. My next stop for this slot is either a fourth copy of Mardu Charm or a main deck copy of Crackling Doom.

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Mardu Charm is never bad. Its primary purpose is Flame Slashing a Courser of Kruphix on turn three, but the other two modes are chosen more often than you might think. Having an instant speed way to generate creatures is actually very strong. We can play it at the end of our opponent's turn, untap, attack and buy back our Bloodsoaked Champion. We can play it during combat on our opponent's turn to ambush an unsuspecting two-toughness attacker, or we can sac it for value with Tymaret, the Murder King or Butcher of the Horde. In other cases, having an instant speed Duress to take away a problematic non-creature permanent like Ugin, the Spirit Dragon or Perilous Vault can be a game winning play.

Murderous Cut is an unconditional removal spell for those times when you really need to kill a dragonlord or some annoying blocker. Since we manage to fill our graveyard fairly quickly, we can often cast it for only one black mana using delve. Hero's Downfall might be better, but I'm not completely sure since Butcher of the Horde is such a good planeswalker assassin, and as far as killing creatures, Murderous Cut is usually the more efficient of the two options.

Sorin, Solemn Visitor is here for value. Most often it comes down, gains us a bunch of life, and dies in a couple turns. There are the rare situations where we need to make a token, either for sacrifice fodder or for triggering raid the next turn. I'm not sure I would consider him essential to the deck, but the life gain from his +1 does steal some games we would otherwise have no business winning.

The Manabase

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The manabase is actually less influenced by budgetary constraints than many of our Budget Magic decks. This said, I'm far from an expert on building the perfect manabase, so playing around with the number of fetches and scrylands is probably a good idea. I will say that when I first started playing the deck I didn't have any scrylands, but they have proven to be extremely valuable, especially in conjunction with Sultai Emissary since they help us make a good decision on when to sac the zombie for the manifest. While getting a random 2/2 is fine, getting a face down Butcher of the Horde or a recursive combo-piece like Bloodsoaked Champion or Flamewake Phoenix is even better. If you are looking to cut some more money from the deck, Bloodstained Mire is a good place to start. Like I said earlier, my goal was to make the best deck possible for under $100, not to make the cheapest deck possible, and while having a couple copies of Bloodstined Mire is good, they are certainly not necessary for the deck to function. 

The Future

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There are three cards from Magic Origins that I am excited to try in this build. First, and most obviously, is Liliana, Heretical Healer, which is basically built for our deck considering it transforms into a planeswalker when we sacrifice another creature and leaves behind a zombie token which provides even more sacrifice fodder. Once she is transformed, Bloodsoaked Champion and Flamewake Phoenix are both great discard options for the symmetrical +2 ability, and Sultai Emissary isn't the worst option for the -X since it provides two blockers for the price of one activation. 

Priest of the Blood Rite seems like another natural fit, although I'm not sure this deck wants a five-drop or what we would cut to fit it in. This said, getting free sacrifice fodder and a 5/5 flying token does seem pretty sweet, so I think it is worth testing at the very least. 

Nantuko Husk is another free sac outlet which is something the deck could definitely use. Unfortunately it isn't a very good card and it occupies the three-drop slot (soon to be filled by Liliana, Heretical Healer). The potential here is for post-rotation when we get to keep basically our entire deck, but lose Tymaret, the Murder King. Assuming we don't get another better sacrifice outlet printed in Battle for Zendikar, Nantuko Husk might take on the roll by default. 


Anyway, that's all for today. Leave your thoughts, experiences and suggestion in the comments, or you can reach me on Twitter (and MTGO) @SaffronOlive.

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