While I still intend to battle with my trusty RUG Monsters deck for the foreseeable future, that has not put a halt to my desire for a good brew. With that in mind, let’s talk about a spicy number that I have been thinking about since the Journey into Nyx prerelease.
The Divine Aristocrats by Ken Crocker
Our Gods Are Awesome Gods
As always, it may be useful to go over some card choices:
- Obviously, for an Aristocrats-style deck, we need to have some sacrifice outlets. Varolz, the Scar-Striped and Cartel Aristocrat fill that role nicely, but I felt we needed more. Thus, the two Scourge of Skola Vale.
- Another key component of an Aristocrats deck is its difficult-to-answer threats. Cartel Aristocrat, Varolz, the Scar-Striped, Lotleth Troll, and both Gods fit that criteria rather nicely, each requiring different answers. Furthermore, our deck is also fairly Supreme Verdict proof, given Lotleth Troll’s and Varolz’s regeneration, Voice of Resurgence’s ability, and the gods being indestructible.
- Value is the whole point of an Aristocrats deck. There is obvious value in Varolz’s ability (remember, a god is still a creature in the graveyard), but the added value of Lotleth Troll pitching a God, and then scavenging it onto a Cartel Aristocrat is something that cannot be ignored. Plus, both gods are gods of valuetown as it is!
- Speaking of value, the one-of Dark Prophecy was just too juicy to not consider. It is triple black, helping turn on both gods, and it adds to the overall theme of value in our deck.
- Topping out our curve at Desecration Demon, Polukranos, World Eater, and Ajani, Mentor of Heroes is to make sure we still have threats that our opponent has to deal with, if they get past all the Aristocrat action. This might be one of the better Ajani decks, given that there are 30 targets in the deck for him to hit with his second +1 ability (29 if you count himself).
- Abrupt Decay handles Detention Sphere, one of the few ways that your creatures or gods can be dealt with permanently. It also has the added bonus of killing whatever might be in your way early on. It basically slices, dices, and makes Julian fries.
- The mana base is skewed more toward black. Notice that you only have six comes-into-play-untapped lands. The rest are either scry lands or shock lands. This is not by mistake. You do not have any turn-one plays, so we do not need to pay life on turn one. However, there are more shock lands than scry lands because we want to curve out from turn two and onward.
But What Does It All Mean?
Undoubtedly, many of you have seen either B/W Athreos decks or B/G Dredge decks. Both are solid deck choices that other pros have written about extensively. Assuredly, they have tested them to a certain extent and nobody else that I have seen has written about a Junk Aristocrats deck. So what are the advantages of playing this deck over either one of those?
Divine Aristocrats vs. B/W Athreos
- Divine Aristocrats gets more value out of the cards you are playing even if you opponent lets your creature cards go to the graveyard. Yes, Athreos, God of Passage has a sweet ability, but remember, it is an ability that gives your opponent a choice. In a straight B/W Athreos deck, your opponent gets a chance to mitigate the damage of this choice by making the worst choice for you. In our Divine Aristocrats deck, even if our opponent chooses to take the damage, we get extra value vis-à-vis Pharika, God of Affliction and Varolz, the Scar-Striped.
- We get access to Abrupt Decay, Varolz, Voice of Resurgence, Ajani, Mentor of Heroes, and Lotleth Troll. While B/W gets the sweet synergy of Xathrid Necromancer, our overall card quality is higher, all things being equal.
- We do not get as blown-out by Anger of the Gods. Yes, as of right now, nobody plays that card. But some of us diligent Magicians have placed it in our sideboards, just in case. While both decks suffer from Anger of the Gods, ours has plenty of cards that play around it, including Desecration Demon, Polukranos, World Eater, Varolz, the Scar-Striped, and Lotleth Troll.
Divine Aristocrats vs. B/G Dredge
- Our deck does not rely as heavily on the graveyard. I have played from the B/G Dredge side of things. Cards like Scavenging Ooze, Agent of Erebos, Crypt Incursion, and Tormod’s Crypt do exist. While only one of them sees any competitive play, if the B/G Dredge deck picks up any steam because of the addition of Nyx Weaver, then we could see an uptick in graveyard hate. Bad for us, worse for the Dredge player.
- We get access to Athreos, Voice of Resurgence, and Ajani, Mentor of Heroes. Once again, our card quality, on the face of it, seems higher than theirs, especially since their cards are much more reliant on synergy than ours.
- Sometimes the B/G Dredge deck just misses. While it has been constantly upgraded with the release of every new set, the B/G Dredge deck does not actually play like a Legacy Dredge deck. It can be inconsistent and it can miss. If that happens, there is not much of a Plan B for the deck. The Divine Aristocrats has several plans, including backup plans to our backup plans. This is just another way of saying we are more consistent than the B/G Dredge deck.
There are two areas that these other decks have ours beat: they have been more thoroughly tuned and, as a result, their mana bases are better. My response to those who make these claims is: nobody has tested the Divine Aristocrats. So of course it will not be as tuned and, as a result, the mana base is probably not optimal. That’s where you lovely readers get to get your hands dirty.
Cards Not Included
Here are some cards that did not make the cut, and the reasons why:
Xathrid Necromancer: Just not enough humans to take advantage of his ability. Would have to be a whole different deck in order to want to include him.
Brain Maggot: Why did they have to change the templating!? If this would have stayed a Mesmeric Fiend, it would have been an easy four-of in the maindeck. As it stands, a 1/1 for two mana that does not get any value when dead does me no good.
Nighthowler: This may actually work. As of right now, I feel like this card is too inconsistent in power level to include it. However, I would be willing to be shown I am incorrect.
Herald of Torment: See Nighthowler above. The only difference is that this is less inconsistent. If I were to start tweaking and playtesting today, this would be the first card I would look to add. Probably in the Dark Prophecy / Scourge of Soka Vale spot.
Build a Better Sideboard
Some of you may have noticed that the decklist at the start of the article did not have a sideboard. There is good reason for that. Some people say that you should build a 75-card deck, figure out the best possible configuration, and make that your main, moving the other 15 cards to the sideboard. Others, like myself, think that you build your 60 card main deck, then look for places to shore up certain matchups with your sideboard. However, when I am theory-crafting, I tend to leave the sideboard out of the equation, in order to determine if the main deck is viable. But I won’t leave you completely stranded.
Mono-Blue is still going to be a deck. Better pack some hate. While Mistcutter Hydra might be great here, I think I would rather have Skylasher. Skylasher is capable of flashing in, is more mana efficient, and actually has a power/toughness for Varolz to scavenge later, if needed.
Deicide is both good against us, and a powerful card to have access to for our sideboard.
Since we are very much aware of the B/G Dredge deck, packing some hate seems like a good idea. Scavenging Ooze seems to be one of the best answers, and it has the added bonus of getting big enough to fight some of the creatures.
With all this (and more) in mind, here is my first complete decklist:
The Divine Aristocrats by Ken Crocker
Feel free to leave any comments about the deck. May the gods be forever in your favor!
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