For the past two weeks I've been testing decks that have potentially been my options for the upcoming TCGplayer Diamond 5k in Orlando on March 16th. Last week I covered Jund Midrange and I've provided links to the other options that I've already tested below as well. I've chosen to go with a well-established deck for this event, and my articles leading up to the event will be an attempt to narrow down my options as I playtest a specific list of established archetypes.
The following decks are my frontrunners for the event and they've been changing pretty much by the week - or rather by the article - as I get a better feel for the format and what is or isn't doing well.
I changed two decks in the gauntlet because quite frankly, I wouldn't feel comfortable playing them. American Midrange is a deck that has never really suited my play style and I've never enjoyed playing “all in” decks like Naya Humans. Furthermore Naya Humans actually seems to be on the decline (yes, I realize it won the Open; I'm speaking in terms of popularity), and Prime Speaker Bant seems like a much better options in terms of both the type of deck I enjoy as well as the type of deck I pilot well. Also, it plays Prime Speaker Zegana, Loxodon Smiter, Thragtusk, Angel of Serenity, and Restoration Angel. How can you go wrong?
Anyway, back to the topic at hand! The next stop on the Road to Orlando places us in the driver seat of none other than the latest Pro Tour Winning decklist: The Aristocrats. The deck features eight of its namesake cards in the form of Cartel Aristocrat and Falkenrath Aristocrat, and was designed by Sam Black. Tom Martell took the deck and smashed his way through the Top 8 on his way to becoming $40,000 richer.
I wasn't sure about the deck's current legitimacy since, after the Pro Tour, it simply wasn't showing up as often. Sure, I would see it show up every three or four events, but that definitely wasn't the same stats as say Jund or Esper Control was putting up. Nevertheless, you guys talked me into the deck last week and told me that it was still powerful and still a definite contender. I didn't make any changes to the deck, because basically, the lists that were going around on Magic Online were still exactly the same.
The list was actually tight as could be. Heck, he could only fit one Restoration Angel in there, and she's actually amazing with things like Champion of the Parish and Zealous Conscripts. (I'll clarify in that by “amazing with Champion of the Parish,” I mean able to blink out another human to provide an additional +1/+1 counter at instant speed.) The only thing I really had a problem with was the deck only having four removal spells, but clearly Tom Martell had no problem with it. Let's take a look at how the deck played.
The Aristocrats vs. Human Reanimator
The Aristocrats vs. Bant Aggro
The Aristocrats vs. Naya Midrange
The Aristocrats vs. Jund Midrange
Now I'm not sure if this is representative of the real life metagame as well, but Human Reanimator shows up every single week! Luckily this time I was able to smash it, but I think it definitely comes down to simply being able to race the deck. Things like Boros Reckoner, that are very difficult to block profitably, and Falkenrath Aristocrat really aid in this endeavor. An early Champion of the Parish will also provide the kind of pressure you need so long as he's backed up with other human buddies.
My one loss came at the hands of - you guessed it - Jund Midrange. The deck performed flawlessly up until I ended up facing the black, green, and red menace, and to be honest, despite all my unfounded criticism of the deck, I was really impressed with both its speed and power. I think Jund might just have it beat though. Maybe.
One thing I do love about the deck is all the haste creatures. Falkenrath Aristocrat has the potential to take the wind out of so many sails, it's crazy! Zealous Conscripts is a similar card in that you not only have his haste, but the haste of your newly stolen friend as well. While none of the other humans have haste, Champion of the Parish might as well when you consider he has the potential to be a 3/3 on the second turn. Knight of Infamy in the maindeck is also an amazing addition and does a ton of work in this metagame, allowing you to walk right past Restoration Angels, or pump your Falkenrath Aristocrats when they're the lone attacker.
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While I lamented the limitations on the removal, there were truthfully very few times where this was an issue. You're often putting so much pressure on the opponent that the creatures they do have in play are forced to chump block or trade with your guys, which is actually just fine..
Unlike Jund, this deck doesn't really even want Slaughter Games in the sideboard. Basically Jund plans for a mid-to-late game, and those are the times that Sphinx's Revelation shines. The Aristocrats, however, hopes to have you dead very quickly and the sheer amount of pressure you're putting on the opponent means that if they choose to play a big Revelation, than they didn't do anything else that turn and often ended up taking a ton of damage. The dynamics of the two decks are completely different and as such, I think Slaughter Games is fine to go absent from the sideboard.
Honestly, it's going to sound weird, but I have no idea what changes could or should possibly be made to the deck. It's not only strong, but it won a Pro Tour for God's sake. We have a little bit of everything in there, including cards that help our aggro, our control, and our combo matchups. Really, I think the deck is solid as it is, and to be honest, everything in the entire deck has a place. The deck almost seems like a work of art, and I really tip my hat to Sam Black
That's about all I have for today. Make sure to check back on Thursday as we conclude our journey through the competitive Standard metagame, and most likely try on Prime Speaker Bant to see how it fits as we go down the last of our options for the Orlando 5k. Thanks for reading, guys, and I'll see you in a few days!
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