Because I hadn’t played enough Magic the last two days, I also went to Game Day. I’d had quite enough of Bant Auras and wanted to go in a different direction. What I really wanted to play was the 4C Progenitor Mimic Reanimator deck because that looks like a blast, but I only have two Mimics and I knew my FLGS didn’t have any in stock so I didn’t want to show up with an incomplete deck, and it just wouldn’t be as fun to play with only two of them in the deck. I also didn’t have the time or inclination to brew, as I’m not much of a brewer to start with and even when the urge strikes me, it takes me forever to work out the deck, and I didn’t have time for that.
So instead, I went hunting for a fun rogue deck. And, courtesy of Jake Van Lunen’s very nice survey of the current Standard, I found a deck. I know it’s called “Junk Ghost Hulk” there but I like the name “Aristokens” better, as it’s really more of Junk Tokens plus Aristocrats Act 2 fusion. It’s a riot:
The deck has all kinds of cool synergies in it—very fun. Anyway, as mentioned in my last post, there was an SCG open in Dallas this weekend so attendance was down a little. 5 rounds of Swiss cutting to top 8.
Round 1: Alan playing Rakdos Aggro
Game 1 was all about Lingering Souls—I think I drew three of them and flashed them all back, and they carried the day. Would have been blown out if he had a Thundermaw, but he didn’t draw one. Game 2 I drew two Advent of the Wurm and he swung into the first one, and the second one was just more than he could handle.
1-0 matches, 2-0 games
Round 2: Josh playing Dark Bant… something. Elves, kind of
Josh is a good player (a couple PTQ top 8s) who had something of a wacky, but very powerful deck. Lots of elves including Archdruid and Gyre Sage, plus Master Biomancer and a few other goodies. Game 1 a couple Sorins did some heavy lifting, generating multiple tokens and emblems between them, and once the Blood Artist got involved it got silly, despite his Biomancer making a few very large guys on his side. It helped that he never drew a white source. I sided in the Putrefys, the Garruk, the Charms, and 2 of the Appeties (enough cards, I think). He dropped an Arbor Elf and passed, I came back with Appetite. He had two targets, an Increasing Savagery and a Master Biomancer. I had an inkling how bad the Biomancer might be from Game 1 and so I took that, which was a mistake. He dropped a Gyre Sage on turn 2 and then on turn 3 put 5 counters on it, allowing Thragtusk the next turn and flashback of Savagery the following turn. I had no removal in hand and just died to big guys—you know it’s bad when you have Advent of the Wurm in hand and it’s useless because it’s too small to really be relevant. Game 3 wasn’t very interesting—he kept a hand with an Arbor Elf and two Sunpetal Groves, and didn’t draw out of it quickly enough to answer my early pressure and then Sorin. I had him down to 2 and had a Cartel Aristocrat on board, and he realized that was game.
2-0 matches, 4-1 games
Round 3: Matt, playing Jund
Matt is a regular at my FLGS that I haven’t played in a while. I won the roll and went Doomed Traveler into Voice into Lingering Souls into High Priest and he was mostly dinking around with Farseeks. When it was clear he wasn’t going to be able to stop me from making a demon with the High Priest, he just scooped. I’m not sure exactly what I sided in; I think it was the Charms, the Putrefys, and Obzedat, but I could be remembering that wrong. Game 2 went completely the other way. I drew a slow hand and he ramped into turn 4 Thragtusk, turn 5 Thragtusk, turn 6 Thragtusk and I just couldn’t do very much with that. Game 3 was even worse. I kept a two-lander (all three colors, though), missed two land drops, and then drew… Township. Not really a good color solution. All I was doing was casting Lingering Souls and flashing it back, and he was developing a real board presence. I missed my next two land drops, finally drew a fourth land, but it was just way too late. Ugh.
2-1 matches, 5-3 games
Round 4: Audra, playing Big Naya
This was a beefy version of Naya Midrange with ramp, Aurelia, Advent, Trostani, Call of the Conclave, Sigarda; the red was mostly a splash for a couple burn spells and Aurelia. Oh, and I got rounded up for this one. Audra is not the fastest player around—every draw step is a slow roll, like she’s looking for a Bonfire and then decides to put it in her hand. Game 1 we traded a couple early blows but she just got bigger stuff out than I could deal with, and she got Sigarda out and Trostani going and she just ground me out. I sideboarded the Appetites, the Charms, and the Putrefys (again). Game 2 was an epic battle. I cast Appetite turn 1 and took Sigarda over Trostani. Turn 2 was an Aristocrat, turn 3 was Lingering Souls, and turn 4 was Sorin. Sorin stayed around for a long time, alternately making emblems and tokens, and the lifelink on those tokens kept me alive, though she gained a ton of life from Trostani before I finally drew a kill spell. I did manage to have a Tragic Slip in my hand for Aurelia and sacrificed a spirit to Aristocrat to power up morbid, so that was good, but I didn’t draw much else in the way of removal, so we were grinding out Wurm tokens against each other. I was at 6 and she was at 20 when she finally drew a Reckoner but I finally drew a removal spell, an Orzhov Charm, putting me in Helix range. However, the Reckoner was her last guy on the board, and I still had the Aristocrat and two Sorin emblems (Sorin was dead by this time), and managed to get there by (finally) drawing a Blood Artist. I think we both had like 14 lands in play at this point—it was a very long game. We had less than five minutes on the clock when it ended. I didn’t think we’d make it through game 3, and we didn’t. I will say that if the game had been allowed to finish, I was in a fair amount of trouble, as she was at 43 life (Trostani again; where was all that removal?) and I was at 14, but we were stalled out such that there were no productive attacks to be had on either side.
2-1-1 matches, 6-4-1 games
Round 5: John, playing Naya
So, I again got rounded up. John could draw in, but I couldn’t, so we had to play it. There was still some outside chance he could get in if he lost, so he wasn’t too upset at his bad luck of being rounded down. His build was a little more midrange, but definitely not the Blitz-style Naya deck. Game 1 was really interesting. I started off with Doomed Traveler into Blood Artist into Aristocrat into Sorin. Sorin made a token, then got hit by a Resto that was flashed in for no value at the end of my turn. Sorin gave me one more token before dying to the Resto. However, I had two more Sorins in hand. The second Sorin made an emblem and got eaten by a second Resto. He followed that Resto with an Assemble the Legion, which I had no way to interact with. Sorin #3 came out and made an emblem before dying to Resto. I got in for a few more to get John down to 11, but his next turn had him up to six soldier tokens and I knew I just didn’t have the numbers… so I swung with the Aristocrat and a vampire token for 7. No blocks, putting John at four with one card in hand that I guessed probably wasn’t instant-speed life gain, and I had a total of five creatures in play, so I sacced the other for to the Aristocrat, draining him for four and the game. I don’t think he saw that coming. Game 2 was curvetastic for me. Doomed Traveler into Voice into Varolz, follow with Blood Artist, sac the Traveler to regenerate Varolz from a burn spell, scavenge the Traveler onto the spirit token, Putrify a blocker, swing in to bring him to 2 with his only permanent being Assemble the Legion at 1 counter, concession. Yay, into the top 8 for me. Unfortunately, John’s breakers weren’t good enough and he didn’t get in.
3-1-1 matches, 8-4-1 games
Quarterfinals: Bobby, playing Boros Aggro
This was pretty dumb, actually. Basically, both games he got Legion Loyalist on turn 1, meaning all the Doomed Travelers and Lingering Souls and Advent of the Wurms in the world weren’t going to stop his rush, and the High Priest I drew in game 1 just wasn’t going to come on line fast enough to save me. Maybe if I had managed to draw a single removal spell in either game it would have helped, but I didn’t. Actually, that’s not quite true, as I did draw one Orzhov Charm game 1 when I was at 4 life and him with a Boros Reckoner on board. Not exactly helpful.
3-2-1 matches, 8-6-1 games
The last match was awful, but overall not a bad showing for having found the decklist the morning of the tournament and throwing it together, then playing it for the first time in round 1 of the tournament. Also on the upside, I got two packs for finishing in the top 8, and they had Ral Zarek in one and Ætherling in the other, so that was pretty decent.
Now, comments on the deck. As I noted in the intro, this deck is really a cross between Junk Tokens and The Aristocrats Act 2. Junk Tokens isn’t a particularly popular archetype right now, but it does work together with some of the tricks in the Aristocrats, but it does give up the explosive power of Blasphemous Act for a more grindy, midrange feel.
The deck is fun to play. The synergy between Cartel Aristocrat, Blood Artist, Voice of Resurgence, and Varolz is great, and enables all kinds of fun shenanigans. However fun these interactions are, they mostly aren’t fast, and while they can be useful, they aren’t always all that powerful. The biggest scavenge target in the deck is Voice, which is +2/+2—nothing to sneeze at, but not exactly overwhelming. In principle it seems like it ought to be really good against aggro decks with all the tokens and incremental life gain, but if the aggro opponent is running Legion Loyalist and you don’t draw a removal spell for that guy, you will get run over even with many blockers on the table. I didn’t get to play against any control decks, but it seems like it ought to be highly resilient to sweepers and sacrifice effects, as you would expect from a token deck. So the big question is how the deck plays against other midrange decks. It is somewhat weak against large creatures, especially if those creatures have trample. There’s a fair amount of removal in the deck (and it’s generally easy to have morbid live for Tragic Slip) but if you don’t draw it, an opposing Thragtusk or Olivia can be a real problem, and Angel of Serenity seems like a blowout. I think I need to play it more against other midrange decks to get a clearer sense of those matchups. Still, a very fun deck to experiment with, even if it may not be quite Tier 1 right now.