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Budget Magic: Standard GB Aristocrats (Event Deck Upgrade)

Greetings Budget Magic lovers! Today we have something a little different. Instead of building a deck from scratch, we'll be playing GB Aristocrats, an upgraded version of the Battle for Zendikar Event Deck! The good news is, thanks to the great job Wizards R&D did designing the product, the Battle for Zendikar Event Deck is close to being a real, competitive deck. All in all, the deck featured in the videos costs $13 more than the out-of-the-box Event Deck. As we'll discuss more after the videos, you should be able to upgrade the deck for free (or close to it) with a bit of savvy trading. 

Anyway, let's get to the videos, and I'll break down the upgrades I made.  A quick reminder: if you enjoy the Budget Magic series and the other video content on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish Youtube Channel to keep up on all the latest and greatest.

Battle for Zendikar Event Deck Upgrades - GB Aristocrats Intro

GB Aristocrats vs UB Aristocrats

GB Aristocrats vs RB Eldrazi

GB Aristocrats vs Jeskai Black

GB Aristocrats vs GB Landfall

As you can see, by upgrading the Battle for Zendikar Event Deck with just $13, we can turn the "new player" supplemental product into a competitive deck. This minor overhaul is extremely impressive since this usually isn't the case with Event Decks and Clash Packs. Typically, you can spend $10 to have a deck be fringe FNM worthy, but being able to compete with tier one decks makes the Battle for Zendikar Event Deck stand out among similar products Wizards has printed recently. 

The Out-of-the-Box Event Deck

So this was our starting point. A fresh, out-of-the-box Battle for Zendikar Event Deck. Looking over the list, it's fairly obvious that the right way to upgrade the deck is to head towards a GB Aristocrats build. That direction not only utilizes many of the uncommons and commons in the deck, but it also takes advantage of the deck's most powerful cards including: Smothering Abomination, Zulaport Cutthroat, Grim Haruspex, and Llanowar Wastes

The Upgrades

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You really can't play Aristocrats without four copies of Blood Artist. The first thing we did was add two more copies of Zulaport Cutthroat, or $0.98 to the cost of the deck. This card is the engine that makes the "sacrifice things for value" plan work and is the finisher that lets us combo our opponents off. In short, it's the most important card in our deck and playing less than four would be wrong. To make room for two more Zulaport Cutthroats, I cut the Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Whisperwood Elemental. While it might seem strange to cut two of the most objectively powerful cards in the Battle for Zendikar Event Deck, GB Aristocrats is a synergy based deck. It needs all of its cards to work together to be effective. Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Whisperwood Elemental, while powerful, don't fit the deck's game plan. 

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For GB Aristocrats to work, we need a critical mass of one and two drop creatures to be sacrificed. While adding more Hangarback Walkers is an idea, Carrier Thrall does a pretty good imitation and four copies only adds $0.68 to the cost of the deck (Hangarback Walker is nearly $60 a play set). To make room for Carrier Thrall we cut the four copies of Rot Shambler. While the Shambler has the potential to get huge, it's not resilient enough for Standard. 

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To complete our early game sacrifice fodder package, we add one more copy of Sultai Emissary, bumping the total to three and adding $0.11 to the cost of the deck. To make room we cut another rare, Brood Butcher, which is too slow and clunky. 

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One of the problems with the Event Deck is that it's lacking engine cards that really make GB Aristocrats scary. It has plenty of things to sacrifice and a few sac outlets, but is missing the big payoff. We've add two more copies of Grim Haruspex ($0.90), bringing the total to three, and three more copies of Smothering Abomination (setting us back $2.81), upping the total to four. These are the cards that allow our deck to "go off." We get to draw a ton of cards and trigger Zulaport Cutthroat by sacrificing things. Therefore, we need to maximize our odds of having Grim Haurspex or Somethering Abomination by turn four. Plus, Smothering Abomination is an evasive flyer and getting one or two hits in often puts our opponent's life total within range of Zulaport Cutthroat

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Nantuko Husk is both the best sacrifice outlet in Standard and a finisher for our deck, especially in conjunction with Rogue's Passage. The Event Deck comes with two, but we need the full four. Thankfully they are pretty cheap, adding $0.26 to the cost of the deck. 

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Finally, we spent $4.56 on our manabase, purchasing an addition three copies of Llanowar Wastes. We now have eight dual lands (counting Jungle Hollow), which is important because we need green mana on turn one (Blisterpod) and black mana on turn two. While it is possible to play the deck without this upgrade, there really isn't anything else we need to improve our main deck without torpedoing our budget (Liliana, Heretical Healer or Hangarback Walker). Improving the consistency of our mana is a good investment. 

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Finally, we spent $3 to upgrade our sideboard. We bought an additional Evolutionary Leap and Duress to help in control matchups. Feed the Clan and Ultimate Price gives us some game against Atarka Red, GR Landfall, and other aggro decks. We also added a few copies of Plummet as an instant speed answer to Dragonlord Ojutai and other problematic fliers. 

All together we added seventeen cards to the main deck and another nine to the sideboard for a grand total of $12.86. Here's the finished product:

BFZ Event Deck: $12.86 Upgrades

Here's only the additional cards needed to create the above decklist.

While the upgraded Event Deck isn't a tier one deck by any means, it is actually pretty competitive. We get a ton of chump blockers, a hard to interact with combo, and the ability to win out of nowhere (Nantuko Husk plus Rogue's Passage). We can also overwhelm our opponent with card advantage. Imagine sacrificing a Blisterpod to an Evolutionary Leap with a Grim Haruspex and Smothering Abomination on the battle field ... it's basically a build-your-own Ancestral Recall. Just be warned, the deck is fairly complex to play. It will take you a few matches of getting used to before you can pilot it to full efficiency. 

More importantly the deck is fun! There's nothing better than winning with a bunch of ragtag creatures thanks to the synergies they create. I would certainly play the deck at an FNM. With a few additional upgrades the deck can compete on the Grand Prix, or even the Pro Tour. 

In the beginning of the article I mentioned that you could probably make these upgrades to the Battle for Zendikar Event Deck for free. But how? Well, the three most expensive cards in the event deck are Tasigur, the Golden Fang, Whisperwood Elemental, and Warden of the First Tree. Combined they retail for $11.72. Since we don't need these cards for GB Aristocrats, you should be able to trade away these cards to friends or players at your local game store. Now you can get all of the cards to upgrade to GB Aristocrats. If you want to go even more budget, you can trade away Hangarback Walker (retails for $15) and replace it with a fourth Sultai Emissary. This small change would drive the cost of the deck down to the $15 range, a great deal for a fun and fairly competitive deck. 

What if you want to go the other direction and upgrade the deck even more? In this case follow the lead of Hall of Famer Gabriel Nassif, who played what amounted to an upgraded Battle for Zendikar Event Deck. He finished 6-4 (in constructed) at Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar. 

Non-Budget GB Aristocrats


Anyway, that's all for today. Go out and get yourself a copy of the Battle for Zendikar Event Deck. You really can't go wrong. They're available on for $25. Not only does the deck contain enough value to justify the purchase financially, it's super fun to play as well. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, and opinions in the comments. You can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive. 

Purchase the Battle for Zendikar Event Deck on for $25.

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