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Mixing It Up

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A long time ago in a movie rental place probably far away from where you live, I stood wondering why all the horror movies were grouped with the science fiction ones. Back then we did not have a plethora of super hero movies to enjoy like we do today, nor did we have the magnitude of space-related flicks that you can find in the theater almost any time of the year. At that time, we had to deal with various low-budget movies like Wing Commander, The Fifth Element, and Gattica. Now don’t get me wrong, all of those movies are sweet, but there just weren't tons of titles in the genre.

Even with such a small selection, I was curious why they were shelved together. Certainly some movies fit both categories, like the original Alien movie for example. That classic Sci-Fi movie is definitely a horror movie as well.

This is just one example of someone mixing two ideas into one. While I may never know why they were made into one category, it’s likely that someone just thought it was a good idea. There have been many people over the years to employ this technique of putting two things together. Take the classic vanilla chocolate swirl ice cream cone. I’m sure at one time, there was only vanilla and only chocolate. They were completely separate. Now, it would be strange to see them as always separate and usually we have three choices instead of just two.

As Pertains to Magic...

I too have done just that. I have mixed two amazing things into a wonderful combination of magical goodness. This sometimes perfect, sometimes disastrous hybridization of ideas comes up in the realm of Magic as much as it does in the real world. Today, I mixed a little bit of midrange combo and resilient aggro to bring you a totally new creation. Without further delay, I bring you…

Zombie-crats!

[Deck]
[Creatures]
4 Gravecrawler
4 Diregraf Ghoul
4 Cartel Aristocrat
4 Blood Artist
4 Boros Reckoner
4 Falkenrath Aristocrat
1 Zealous Conscripts
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
3 Tragic Slip
1 Electrickery
3 Lingering Souls
1 Mark of Mutiny
3 Blasphemous Act
[/Spells]
[Lands]
4 Blood Crypt
4 Godless Shrine
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Dragonskull Summit
4 Isolated Chapel
1 Clifftop Retreat
1 Vault of the Archangel
2 Swamp
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
2 Paraselene
1 Purify the Grave
1 Blasphemous Act
3 Pillar of Flame
3 Obzedat, Ghost Council
3 Duress
1 Mark of Mutiny
1 Zealous Conscripts
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

How did this amalgamation come about?

Last week I was playing and writing about a Jund deck based around Varolz, the Scar-Striped. That deck provides early aggression along with a solid midrange plan for the times when you don’t win on turn four. Maybe it was because of the deck supporting sacrifice outlets or because of the way I played it, but the more I played Varolz Jund, the more it seemed like a clunkier, version 2.0 of The Aristocrats.

Although Varolz was a ton of fun, I decided not to play it at my local PTQ because playing a weak version of an existing deck is never a good idea. The part I liked best about Jund were the aggressive zombies. They provided early aggression and forced my opponent to react to them or die. Since I was already looking for something to replace Skirsdag High Priest, adding some early aggression seemed like a good thing to try.

With The Aristocrats, you need a plan for when you don’t draw your combo. Most builds plan to grind the opponent out with Lingering Souls, but they rely heavily on the power level of Falkenrath Aristocrat to close out games. The problem with this plan is that you are not aggressive enough to be successful unless you also draw Blasphemous Act + Boros Reckoner or an aristocrat + Blood Artist. By adding Gravecrawler and Diregraf Ghoul, you should get in enough damage early to make closing games easier.

The first issue I need to address is the manabase. When it comes to manabases, I tend to err on the side of consistency every time I build a deck. I would rather be able to cast my spells than sit with them stranded in my hand unable to affect the game.

This is one of the only times I was willing to play subpar mana. Because the deck combines one-drop black creatures with a triple-white/red creature, obviously you will have some issues. The way I built it, most of the time you won’t have any more problems than you would with the original Aristocrats deck. Sometimes though, you have to be willing to cast your one-cost on turn two or your Reckoner on turn four. Neither of those is usually game ending but it does lead to some clunky hands. With only three lands that can't cast the best minotaur ever printed, you won’t find yourself facing these issues often. The same can be said about your cheap zombies as well. There are ten sources of black mana which is reasonable to cast eight one-mana creatures.

There are additional benefits to combining two decks together as well. Confusing your opponent is likely when you decide to use this strategy because you throw them off when you start the game one way and finish it with another.

For example, consider this game from the PTQ. I lead with Unglued Swamp and full art Diregraf Ghoul (cause that’s how I roll) and second turn another of the same swamp as well as Gravecrawler. Imagine the surprise on the face of your opponent if you followed up that sequence with Blood Artist and Sacred Foundry tapped. My opponent took a minute to recollect himself as would yours. That game ended up being one of the best draws I had all day because I followed it up the next turn with a second Sacred Foundry and Falkenrath Aristocrat. This may be an extreme case but it is an example from an actual game and similar ones will come up.

Maindeck thievery was one of the best decisions I made for the weekend. Both Threaten effects were crucial to some of my game one wins. Virtually zero opponents will try to play around either Mark of Mutiny or Zealous Conscripts in game one and this leads to game wins because they will always be unexpected. Playing Cartel Aristocrat on turn two and Mark of Mutiny on turn three can occasionally leave your opponent too far behind to recover especially if you have a strong follow-up play. Both cards were great and if you are going to play any version of Aristocrats, I would suggest keeping both of these cards maindeck.

The Sideboard

The sideboard was one of the more powerful aspects of the deck. All of the cards were great and worked well in the metagame. Paraselene was a last-minute addition but I am glad I thought of it, even if it was twenty minutes before the event was about to start. Auras are becoming a mainstay in Constructed these days. Bant Auras is the most common iteration of the idea but some players are running UWR or other combinations.

In the future, making them sacrifice a creature with something like Barter in Blood may prove helpful as well because that effect might come up in other matchups. Paraselene helped me win one of the two aura-based matches I played over the weekend and served its purpose well. Make sure you don’t sideboard out all of your removal though because you will be open to losing to cards like Fencing Ace. Not all of their creatures have hexproof.

The aggro package:

Although I didn’t have to face much aggro, this selection of cards sets up the deck to beat aggro quite well. Sorin, Lord of Innistrad is decent against aggro decks but they usually have a way to break through and kill him. The reigning Ghost Council is not so easily defeated. By starting the game off with more removal, you will be under less stress and that will give you enough time to cast the five-drop. Once Obzedat is in play, I’m sure you know how easily the game will be to finish. He impressed me every time I cast him.

The rest of the cards need little explanation. The threaten effects get sided in against any midrange deck. They can either be used as the nail to seal your opponent’s coffin or as removal. Best case scenario, you get to steal Thragtusk, Voice of Resurgence, or another creature with a leaves play ability. Worst case scenario, you have to use it as a burn spell that hopefully puts you in a position to win the game if you draw other cards.

Personally I still like Duress over Sin Collector but I’m not sure if that is correct. The ability to make them discard a planeswalker is huge in my opinion, but getting a 2/1 might be more relevant. There is the possibility of Appetite for Brains as well. It just depends on what you want to sideboard for and your preference of cards. For now, I like Duress because the main match I sideboard it against is Esper Control and Duress hits the majority of their deck.

This may seem like a clunky, unimpressive deck but I did fight through seven, yes exaggerated seven, Thragtusks in one game this past weekend. The game did not end in my favor but the five lands I drew in a row didn't help me finish off my opponent who gained thirty five life throughout the course of the game.

Zombie-crats is exactly the type of strategy I want to employ right now because it attacks the format from a vulnerable angle. It's also a deck that can beat any deck in the format. Give it a shot and you may find yourself casting Gravecrawlers and Boros Reckoners in the same deck.

Until Next Time,

May you always have first turn black mana and third turn triple red/white.

Mike Lanigan
MtgJedi on Twitter
Jedicouncilman23@gmail.com

P.S. If you have any questions about the deck, please post in the comments and I'll be sure to provide answers.

2 thoughts on “Mixing It Up

  1. I always like main deck threaten effects, virtually every deck in the meta has a creature worth the card and they aren’t played around very well.

    A few minor points regarding the intro

    The Fifth Element was a $90 Million movie, very much not low budget (in fact it was about double the average at the time)

    Wing Commander had a budget of $30 Million and Gattaca was $36 Million. Both of which were a bit below the average at the time (Average in 1997 was $40-50 Million).

    I also like Duress over Sin collector in the sideboard. When you want the discard effect post side, I feel like you may want to hit other troublesome cards like Assemble the Legion, Deadbridge Chant and Planeswalkers. Whereas if you were putting the discard effect in the main, the body would be relevant in matchups where the discard effect might not be as strong, and worth the inability to hit everything.

    1. Yeah, I suppose low budget was not the best choice of words. Low quality? I dont know if I agree with that either beause all three movies are very cool. Anyway, you got the gist though.

      Any suggested changes to the list?

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