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Budget Magic: $96 (40 tix) WB Aristocrats (Modern)


Fâla, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time again! This week, I really tried my best to come up with a budget Standard deck, and I just couldn't get anything to work the way I wanted it to, so instead of bashing my head into Copy Cat and Mardu Vehicles, I decided we should head to Modern, and I'm super glad we did because this week's deck is awesome. If you look at the top of the Modern format, there are a lot of fair decks at the moment like Abzan, Jund, and Death's Shadow. One card that these decks hate to see across the table is Lingering Souls. When your game plan is to one-for-one your opponent to death with discard and targeted removal, having one card that makes four threats and works from the graveyard is a nightmare. 

Realizing that Lingering Souls is even more awesome than normal right now led me toward one of my favorite archetypes: Aristocrats! While we can sometimes win by beating down with tokens, more often we are happy to use our Spirits to chump Thought-Knot Seers, Death's Shadows, and Tarmogoyfs; sacrifice them for value; and then drain our opponent to death little by little with Zulaport Cutthroat and Blood Artist. Even better, we get to take advantage of some really powerful cards that were previously off-limits to budget decks like Inquisition of Kozilek and Fatal Push. The end result is a deck that's not only a ton of fun to play but quite competitive: WB Aristocrats! Let's get to the videos, and then we can talk some more about the deck.

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WB Aristocrats Deck Tech

WB Aristocrats vs. Titan Shift

WB Aristocrats vs. Skred Red

WB Aristocrats vs. Living End

WB Aristocrats vs. Goryo's Vengeance

WB Aristocrats vs. Goblins

The Deck

WB Aristocrats is actually really easy to break down because everything fits into one of four packages. First, we have our finishers; second, we have sacrifice outlets; third is sacrifice fodder; and last is other stuff, which includes removal, discard, and other spells. Let's start with our finishers, and then we'll move on to the rest.

Finishers

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Blood Artist and Zulaport Cutthroat are pretty close to the same card. While there are some slight differences (for example, Blood Artist triggers when any creature dies, while Zulaport Cutthroat only triggers when our creatures die), for the most part, they do the same thing in our deck: drain our opponent to death as we sacrifice creatures. These cards are weirdly powerful. Not only do they work as our finishers, but they are also great at helping us stabilize against aggressive decks, since we incidentally gain a bunch of life. 

Sac Outlets

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Cartel Aristocrat is the most aggressive of our sacrifice outlets. Since it gains protection from a color whenever we sacrifice a creature, it's easy to get in some incidental damage here and there by giving it protection from whatever color of blockers our opponent happens to have, and since our plan is to drain our opponent's life total away one point at a time, every point of damage counts with this deck. This ability to gain protection from a color also makes it great on defense, blocking pretty much anything as long as we have something to sacrifice. 

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Viscera Seer is basically our combo sacrifice outlet. While the Vampire Wizard isn't very good at attacking, the ability to sacrifice a creature to scry one allows us dig through our deck to find our Blood Artists and Lingering Souls. It's also worth noting that, unlike Cartel Aristocrat, Viscera Seer can be sacrificed to its own ability if we are desperate for a scry or to get in one last point of damage. 

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Teysa, Orzhov Scion isn't a great sacrifice outlet because it can only sacrifice white creatures, and we need to have at least three of them to sacrifice them. On the other hand, it's sort of a self-sustaining engine and has a ton of upside. We have 16 other black creatures, and we get a 1/1 Spirit when we sacrifice them, which allows us to double up on our Blood Artist / Zulaport Cutthroat triggers. When things go well, we can potentially exile our opponent's most problematic creature by sacrificing the Spirits it generates. As such, Teysa, Orzhov Scion is both a bad sacrifice outlet and a sacrifice fodder generator, so even though it isn't great at either job, this flexibility makes it playable and even powerful as a one-of in our deck.

Sacrifice Fodder

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Lingering Souls is an absurd Magic card, and as I mentioned in the intro, it's even better than normal in Modern at the moment thanks to a lot of fair midrange decks being near the top of the format. While we occasionally win games simply by casting it, flashing it back, and beating down with a bunch of 1/1 flying Spirits, the real power of the card comes from being a combo piece. Imagine a board state where we have two Blood Artists and / or Zulaport Cutthroats along with a sacrifice outlet. In this common scenario, even without attacking, Lingering Souls represents eight points of drain, which not only goes a long way toward killing our opponent but helps us stabilize by gaining a ton of life. Even better, it's really hard to die once we resolve a Lingering Souls; just resolving a single copy often buys us several turns of blocking, sacing, draining, and scrying, which helps us find another copy to do it all over again and eventually leads to us winning the game.

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Sram's Expertise is basically a backup Lingering Souls. While it makes fewer tokens and they don't have flying, it still represents three bodies to sacrifice for value from just a single card. The ability to cast something for free also allows for some powerful tricks. Every other card in our deck costs three or less, so we will usually have something to cast for free. More importantly, when we have a sacrifice outlet on the battlefield, Sram's Expertise allows us to make a bunch of tokens and also cast a Blood Artist / Zulaport Cutthroat in the same turn to start comboing off. 

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Doomed Traveler might look strange in our deck as a 1/1 for one, but since it makes a Spirit when it dies, it basically represents two creatures to sacrifice for only one mana, working like half of a Lingering Souls. It helps us start gumming up the board from the first turn of the game and keeps our life total high by chump blocking while we look to find our Blood Artists and Lingering Souls to close out the game.

Other Stuff

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Fatal Push is insane in our deck, even though we don't have fetch lands, because we are constantly sacrificing things, which means that we can kill most creatures in Modern at instant speed for just a single mana. While a non-budget build would likely contain some Path to Exiles as well, I really think that Fatal Push is better than Path to Exile in our deck. Meanwhile, Dismember is a backup Fatal Push. It hits most of the same creatures while occasionally killing a Reality Smasher that Fatal Push can't hit. 

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Having yet another reprinting of Inquisition of Kozilek in Modern Masters 2017 means the discard spell is finally cheap enough for budget decks, and this is a huge boost of power for decks like our WB Aristocrat list. It gives us the ability to remove things like Anger of the Gods (one of the best spells against our deck, since we don't get Blood Artist triggers when our creatures die thanks to the replacement effect that puts everything into exile) or sideboard cards like Rest in Peace from our opponent's hand on Turn 1 before they get a chance to cast them and ruin our plans. 

Wrap-Up

Heading into the matches, I was thinking that the deck would be really good against creature-based aggro and removal decks but would likely struggle against combo. However, after playing the games (where we went 5-0 on video), I was surprised to find that we actually beat multiple combo decks. While this was probably partly based on luck, it was still really encouraging to know that we weren't drawing dead against Titan Shift and Goryo's Vengeance. Meanwhile, we did crush creature-based decks, as expected. 

Maybe my favorite part of the deck is just how "real" it feels. Sometimes with budget decks, you can really tell the deck is influenced by budget, but with this one, we have a fairly "real" modern mana base, we have "real" spells in Inquisition of Kozilek and Fatal Push, and all of our creatures and token makers are the best at what they do. While our sideboard could use some upgrades, the power level of the list felt really high, and it ran very smoothly. 

Making WB Aristocrats into an ultra-budget deck is actually really simple. We simply swap out three of our most expensive cards for less expensive substitutes. First, we drop Fatal Push for Doom Blade. Second, we trade in Inquisition of Kozilek for Duress. Third, we lose Concealed Courtyard and gain Evolving Wilds. Altogether, these changes do decrease the power level of the deck, making it a little less efficient here and a little less powerful there, which in the end means that it will lose more often than the build from the videos. The good news is that I expect this isn't a huge difference, so if you are looking to play on the kitchen table, the ultra-budget builds should be fine. If you are playing to play at FNM, I'd look to upgrade to Inquisition of Kozilek as soon as possible, followed by Concealed Courtyard and then Fatal Push (if you have Path to Exile, it would also be way better than Doom Blade in the removal slot). 

I'm actually very happy with the main deck of the build of WB Aristocrats we played on video, so the changes there are relatively small. We upgrade the mana base slightly with Marsh Flats and Godless Shrine, while we also up the Inquisition of Kozilek count to four and add Path to Exile over Dismember. The big changes come in the sideboard, where we get a ton of good white and black cards, including Leyline of Sanctity (to help against combo), Leyline of the Void (to fight graveyard strategies while not disrupting our own graveyard synergies), Stony Silence (for Affinity and Tron), and Fulminator Mage (which works well with our deck, since it can sacrifice itself, while also helping to fight Tron). 

All things told, these changes represent a pretty big upgrade, but you'll only feel the power of these upgrades in specific matchups. Most of the time, the deck will be very similar to the one in the videos, but we'll have a slightly better shot of keeping up with the opponent when we run into specific problem matchups (mostly various combo decks).

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. We finished our video matches 5-0, and I'm 5-1 in total with the deck, including one test match I lost against Jeskai Control. The deck felt super competitive and seemed to have a chance against a lot of different archetypes. It's also really fun to play. Sometimes we are an aggro deck, beating down with Lingering Souls tokens; other times we are a combo deck, looking to sacrifice away our board to kill our opponent. Give it a shot; I don't think you'll be disappointed. 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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