Perilous_Research

Out for Blood

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The letter W!elcome back to Perilous Research, DailyMTG.com's exclusive Magic Online column. Today, I've got some exciting stuff to share with you. First, we'll be taking a look at the latest preview card from Dragon's Maze. Next, we'll be taking a look at the new version of The Aristocrats that has been shaking up the state of Standard over the last week and a half.

Inexpensive creatures that generate card advantage have been a huge part of Constructed Magic since the very beginning. Cards like Ophidian and Hypnotic Specter were winning tournaments before many players were born. Creatures have improved dramatically since the old days, but cheap dudes that draw cards are still some of the most powerful critters in Constructed play. Dark Confidant is the most obvious example of this. Sure, it's just a 2/1 for two mana that has the potential to deal you a ton of damage, but I can barely remember a game where I let my opponent untap with a Dark Confidant and won.

Art by Peter Mohrbacher

Today's preview card will be compared to Dark Confidant initially, which isn't exactly fair. Dark Confidant is in a power level all by itself. The card's applications are far reaching. Dark Confidant goes in control decks, aggro decks, and midrange decks seamlessly. If you're producing black mana and you need a two-drop, then Confidant is the cream of the crop.

I'm already getting ahead of myself. Let's take a look at Blood Scrivener:

The most obvious deck to support Blood Scrivener would be a hyper-aggressive black strategy. Luckily, the current Standard format has no shortage of aggressively costed black creatures and spells. Gravecrawler, Diregraf Ghoul, and Rakdos Cackler give us twelve 2-power one-drops right off the bat.

Knight of Infamy and Blood Scrivener can be our two-drops. The deck can top out at three mana with Geralf's Messenger.


One of the major problems with the deck we're creating is its weakness to Supreme Verdict. We'll be happily unloading our hand with the expectation of drawing extra cards with our Blood Scrivener. If our opponent is fortunate enough to have Supreme Verdict on the right turn, then we'll be left with very little while our opponent probably still has a full grip ready to go.

For this reason, I think we'll want to play a few copies of Duress in our main deck. After sideboarding, I'd like to have the option to go up to four copies of the one-mana discard spell. The deck will be difficult for control opponents if we're able to pluck their Supreme Verdicts out of their hands the turn before they would have been able to cast them.

A few spot-removal spells will round out the deck and turn it into something that's reasonably strong and worthwhile against competitive Standard strategies. Here's what the deck might look like when we put it all together.

Mono-Black Aggro
Dragon's Maze Standard

Main Deck

60 cards

20  Swamp

20 lands

4  Blood Scrivener
Diregraf Ghoul
Geralf's Messenger
Gravecrawler
Knight of Infamy
Rakdos Cackler
Vampire Nighthawk

25 creatures

Duress
Sign in Blood
Tragic Slip
Ultimate Price

12 other spells

Liliana of the Veil

3 planeswalkers



I'm excited to see where Blood Scrivener finds a home in the coming months. Perhaps we'll see a hyper-aggressive Dimir strategy with Cloudfin Raptor, a bunch of black one-drops, Blood Scrivener, and Whispering Madness. This card has a world of potential and the rewards will outweigh the associated risks, especially in a ripe metagame.

The New Aristocrats (Act 2)

Moving on, two weeks ago I had just returned home from doing coverage at Grand Prix Pittsburgh. I went to a local draft on Tuesday night and found out there was a PTQ in Philadelphia that coming weekend. My wife was working late all week and I decided I would dive headfirst into the new Standard metagame with hopes of qualifying for my first Pro Tour in more than two years.

The first deck I put together on Magic Online was Junk Rites. I had been following Magic Online events very closely and the deck was putting up better numbers than any other archetype. I played ten heads-up queues with the deck and went 6–4. I liked the deck, but there wasn't really a spark. I didn't feel connected to the deck and it wasn't really the type of strategy I was looking for. It was, however, helpful to pilot the deck a good deal to learn the inner workings of the biggest deck in the format. This gave me a huge edge when playing against the deck in all games henceforth.

Then I moved on to The Aristocrats. I've always enjoyed complex board states and combat math. The deck was a lot of fun, but in my first ten matches I went 3–7. I was underwhelmed with the deck's matchup against a lot of the Thragtusk decks and I found myself getting run over by Naya Blitz. This was a deck I enjoyed playing immensely, but I didn't think it had the power level I was looking for.

I put together Reid Duke's Jund list from the Magic Online Championship. I went 9–1 in my first ten matches and changed the deck one card at a time until I got it to a place where I felt comfortable with the list. I was crushing the heads-up queues with the deck, easily destroying opponents regardless of what archetype they were playing.

Late Wednesday night, after about sixteen straight hours of Magic Online, I decided to call my good friend, Brad Nelson. Brad and I have been close for the last six years and we've always called each other when preparing for tournaments. Brad always has a good sense about metagame placement, especially with Standard, and I wanted to get his opinion before I went ahead and played Jund in the coming weekend's PTQ.

Brad didn't seem thrilled with my choice. He quickly redirected the conversation to talk about his new version of The Aristocrats. I had enjoyed my few matches with the original version and a new version of the deck seemed like it was exactly what I was looking for. Brad sent me the following list:


The deck plays similarly to the old Aristocrats deck, but Blasphemous Act in conjunction with Blood Artist and Boros Reckoner give the deck an incredible Junk Rites matchup; the Blasphemous Act combo is surprisingly strong right now. I put the deck together on Magic Online and never looked back.


I queued for a heads-up match with the deck and killed my opponent on the fourth turn with my Blasphemous Act combo in the first game. I was in love.

I played between forty and fifty matches with the deck over the next two days, oftentimes playing in two or three Standard heads-up matches at the same time. I was changing the list too. I was really impressed with Skirsdag High Priest and underwhelmed with Orzhov Charm and Zealous Conscripts. I was also formulating sideboard plans with Brad over the phone and the deck was changing very rapidly.

I arrived at the following list by Friday evening before the PTQ.

Jacob Van Lunen and Brad Nelson's Aristocrats (Act 2)
Standard – Winner, PTQ Theros, Philadelphia


I've seen many updated versions since that day and I'm not sure if people are playing with the deck before making some of these changes. For example, many people have begun cutting some number of Skirsdag High Priest. Sure, the card is weak against Esper and Jund, but it's the central piece of your game plan against just about every other deck. People play with two copies and find it underwhelming because it just dies. Here's the secret: if you play four and they kill the first one, you might have a second one! Others have been cutting Searing Spear in favor of main deck Sorin, Lord of Innistrad or other spot removal. I can see switching to Sorin if one feels that Esper and Jund are becoming popular, but Searing Spear gives the deck another way to attack Planeswalkers, it's another removal spell that kills Olivia Voldaren, and it just kills people a lot of the time in conjunction with Blood Artist or Boros Reckoner.


I went to the PTQ confident with my deck and comfortable with the current Standard metagame. Eight rounds with 225 players meant that it would be difficult to draw into the Top 8. I started out 6–0 and drew the seventh round with the intention of drawing the eighth round as well and securing my spot in the Top 8. Unfortunately, I got paired down in the final round of Swiss and was forced to play.

Luckily, my eighth-round opponent was playing Junk Rites and I handily destroyed him, despite him playing the match well. I went into the Top 8 at 7–0–1 as the highest seed, meaning I got to choose the play or draw throughout the entirety of the Top 8.

I smashed my way through a Four-Color Reanimator Deck, Bant Delver, and Red-Green to secure a plane ticket to Dublin to compete in my first Pro Tour in a long time. I put a lot of work into the event and it felt good to be rewarded for almost certainly being the most practiced individual in the room.

My sideboard has confused a lot of people so I'd like to take a moment to talk about my sideboarding plans throughout the PTQ.

Against Junk Rites:

-1 Searing Spear
-3 Tragic Slip
+1 Blasphemous Act
+3 Tormod's Crypt

It's going to be hard to lose this match if you draw Blasphemous Act at any point. Don't use your spot removal on their mana creatures unless it will 100% prevent them from casting Angel of Serenity or Craterhoof Behemoth on a key turn.


Against Naya Blitz:

-4 Falkenrath Aristocrat
+4 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad

Naya Blitz still has a very scary nut draw, but they have a small enough amount of spot removal that it should be easy to get an early Skirsdag High Priest online to take over the game. Try to aggressively one-for-one them as much as possible. Always use Searing Spear or Tragic Slip to kill a Champion of the Parish before playing a creature. I like the first copy of Blasphemous Act I draw in this matchup, but I don't feel like I'd ever need the second.


Against Red-Green:

-3 Blasphemous Act
-4 Falkenrath Aristocrat
+2 Intangible Virtue
+2 Obzedat, Ghost Council
+3 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad

Blasphemous Act is good against Red-Green in the first game, but postboard they will have lots of Hellrider, Thundermaw Hellkite, and Domri Rade. I really like the token plan here because it forces them to unload as quickly as possible and minimizes their ability to get tricky. Act 2 is good at trading and chump blocking and can easily win the game once the initial onslaught is over.


Against Esper:

-2 Searing Spear
-3 Blasphemous Act
-3 Skirsdag High Priest
-3 Tragic Slip
+2 Intangible Virtue
+2 Obzedat, Ghost Council
+3 Duress
+4 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad

Esper is the deck's worst matchup. We have a ton of cards to bring in, but the matchup still isn't stellar. I was able to defeat an Esper opponent in the Swiss thanks to some good draws on my part and a mishap or two on my opponent's part. Try to put enough of a clock onto the board to force Supreme Verdict when you can follow up with Sorin, Lord of Innistrad. Always make an emblem immediately when you cast Sorin and already have a creature in play.


Against UWR:

-2 Searing Spear
-3 Blasphemous Act
-4 Blood Artist
+2 Intangible Virtue
+3 Duress
+4 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad

This matchup isn't great, but they have issues with enough of your game plans that you can usually catch them without an answer to one of them and secure the game. Intangible Virtue is the best card here in my experience.


Against Jund:

-3 Blasphemous Act
-4 Blood Artist
+1 Intangible Virtue
+2 Obzedat, Ghost Council
+4 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad

Blasphemous Act combo doesn't work well against a deck with as much spot removal as Jund. Sometimes you can steal a Game 1 by slow-rolling a Boros Reckoner or Blood Artist and Blasphemous Act, but Obzedat, Ghost Council and Sorin, Lord of Innistrad are both nightmares for Jund. The matchup is probably slightly below average in Game 1, but it improves significantly for postboarded games.

I'll be back next week with another Dragon's Maze preview card. Be sure to keep your finger on the pulse of Standard and good luck in your respective tournaments this weekend. Remember, practice makes perfect and there's no place for practice like Magic Online.

Knowledge is power!






 
Jacob Van Lunen
Jacob Van Lunen
@JVLTMS
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Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published.

 
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