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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Oct 10 2018 11:00am
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 KUMAGORO:  Hey, Generalissimo, look at this Human lineup plus Falkenrath Aristocrat (total cost 3.72 tix):

  

 I played Falkenrath Aristocrat plus human fodder before, but it was years ago, and there's a lot of new toys now. Basically, Falkenrath Aristocrat – code name: Vampirella – can freely snack on both Doomed Traveler, because in doing so she makes him better, and Bloodsoaked Champion, because he can immediately come back; in fact, with the Champion you can do eat-recast-eat-recast-eat in the same combat phase for four mana before the damage is even dealt.

  

 Hanweir Militia Captain and Hanweir Garrison create Human tokens to eat – and of course there's also some Hanweir Battlements in there, to occasionally creates that fancy Eldrazi Ooze, which should be funny.

 

 Queen Marchesa either creates tokens (they're not Human, so not particularly tasty for Vampirella, but they have deathtouch and haste) or gives you a card. Anointer Priest is healthy to eat and exploits all that token-making for a little life. Cartel Aristocrat is a miniature Vampirella. The rest of the deck can be removal – Swords to Plowshares and Vindicate would be my choices, since Council's Judgment is $1.5 while Vindicate is freaking $0.02, which is something I'll never come to terms with. The mana base can be tricky because the three colors are all needed almost equally. Luckily, Scrubland and Plateau are very cheap (0.8 and 0.5, respectively), but of course it all adds up ultimately, so my full list is 16 tix without counting my precious Verdant Catacombs.
 Would you be interested in trying it?

 GENERALISSIMO: Yeah, I'd be happy to play with these Aristocrats; I've actually had an Aristocratic Cleric deck half designed, sitting on the back-burner for quite some time that shares some similar ideas I can steal. And I've also wanted an excuse to try Marchesa out.

 KUMAGORO:  Great, then let's do it. I remember in my previous iteration I used a white Human that taps to create a Human token, but it was a 1/1, very clunky, didn't like it. These new guys have more flair. Hanweir Garrison especially, as it's a 2/3, creates two attacking tokens by attacking, can turn into a 7/4 trampler plus two 3/2s, it's basically a finisher in its own right. Following up a turn-three Garrison with Vampirella, you're able to attack immediately with the whole team; the 1/1s will probably get blocked but you don't care because they're there to be eaten anyway.

 Here's the list I'm planning to play. Westvale Abbey is yet another Human-token-maker, but I've only put one copy in there because the list seems hungry for colored mana. Verdant Catacombs is a bit awkward because it can't fetch Plateau, but that's the only true fetch I have so I'll make do (by selling two Catacombs I could actually buy a full set of Marsh Flats, but I don't want to).

 

 GENERALISSIMO:  Right, now I remember why my Cleric deck has been languishing half-finished for so long: there are so many tempting options for this kind of deck that it becomes very hard to narrow it down to just 60 cards!

 Well, my first thought is that I'm not convinced about Anointer Priest. I'll admit this might just be residual disappointment from when I played my Cleric Standard deck a few weeks ago, but it always felt fairly miserable when I was paying four mana to bring back a 1/3 and I think I'd rather just run a Soul's Attendant for that effect. I also don't like Cartel Aristocrat so much, it feels like the 2/2 body is too small when you're going aggressive and the sac ability doesn't generate any long-term advantage to make her good in grindy games; I'd rather run Carrion Feeder and/or Bloodthrone Vampire for free sac outlets that can threaten some real damage.

 

 Other things I'm thinking about adding: Preacher; Liliana, Heretical Healer; Cabal Therapy; Xathrid Necromancer; Skirsdag High Priest.

 KUMAGORO:  Of all my choices, Anointer Priest is the most likely to get replaced, I guess. Though I like early defensive bodies that can buy me time. Soul's Attendant is not a blocker, she would just sit there doing nothing but waiting for triggers. In a Soul Sisters deck, it's about the critical mass of lifegaining. But if we'll looking at having just one out at a time, with no other real function, then (Ajani's Welcome)'s better (but I still don't particularly want it).

 To me the Anointer is just a Human that can solidly block, then later an Aristocrat can eat, and has built-in recursion so she can be eaten twice. Ideally all Humans in the deck should have this kind of double value (either by returning or by creating more creatures). I'm also aware that Cartel Aristocrat can be underwhelming, and four of them might indeed be too many, but I remember from playing her in the past, there are times when you just win by attacking a couple times with an unblockable Aristocrat. After all, there was a Standard deck based on her and Vampirella at the time (I believe it was called "The Aristocrats").

 Your proposals are all interesting.

 

 Preacher: I like the idea of saccing the opponent's creatures (adding Preacher would suggest to keep the full playset of Cartel Aristocrats, because at that point it's a combo we're doing).  What I don't like is that Preacher is a three-drop 1/1 that does nothing the turn he drops. That's a terrible turn 3, and it doesn't guarantee anything substantial on turn four. Plus he dies of anything. More importantly, he only exists in the old card frame!

 The card I was referring to earlier, Thraben Doomsayer, had the same issues for me: I even remembered it as a 1/1 though he's actually a 2/2, but still sets up a turn 3 where you basically play Gray Ogre and pass, and then the following turn you have a creature that you can't attack with, can't sacrifice (or it would defy its purpose entirely), and whose only immediate gain is getting you a 1/1. Long-term can be great, but this is a deck devised for Legacy, so long-term can mean five turns.

 

 Liliana, Heretical Healer: She's a better three-drop, her trigger is part of the deck's plan, and her rewards are... decent? I guess one Zombie token is better than no Zombie tokens, and a planeswalker is always a planeswalker, but do we even need her abilities? I don't think we're that friendly with self-discard, and she's going to minus to bring back something like Doomed Traveler? Well, sure, it's all advantage, I'm not against adding one copy of her.

 Cabal Therapy is a good idea. I remember you playing it in some older deck, and knowing what the opponent was holding felt good, it can be crucial to decide when and what to sacrifice, and it's great synergy with Bloodsoaked Champion. Though I'm a bit wary to rely too much on the sacrifice theme: if too many things compete for sacrifice, we risk ending up with too many engines and not enough fuel.

 Xathrid Necromancer: Makes sense, though on a superficial level he's a strictly worse Doomed Traveler. If you treat him as something you don't sac lightly because you want for him to witness other sacrifices, then he has a bit of the same issues of Preacher and Doomsayer, but I think he might be better than both (at least he doesn't ask for double colored mana).

 Skirsdag High Priest: I don't like him. Bad blocker, you don't want to sac him, and you have to engineer a sacrifice while you have two other untapped creatures? Feels like a stretch, something that will happen once every five games.

 As for Carrion Feeder and Bloodthrone Vampire: I don't like much adding off-tribe stuff just because it's better than the in-tribe stuff, it feels like cheating to me. Especially when we're already dealing with a gigantic tribe like Human, we shouldn't be looking elsewhere.

 GENERALISSIMO:  I feel like Aristocrats is a deck that can easily be pushed faster towards an aggro-control role or slower towards a midrange role but what I'm wary of is ending up with a mixture of both that can lead to the deck fighting itself. Going T1 Bloodsoaked Champion into T2 Anointer Priest doesn't seem like a focused start to me and that's part of why I'm shying away from it (also, I don't think a 1/3 is actually a great improvement over a 1/1 as a blocker since it still gets Lightning Bolted and can't favourably block a Wild Nacatl or a 2/x buffed by a lord, which is the sort of thing an aggro deck is going to be doing).

 To be fair, my own suggestions were kind of all over the place in terms of direction for the deck; Carrion Feeder and Cabal Therapy are better for an aggressive slant, while Preacher, Liliana, Xathrid Necromancer and Skirsdag High Priest move the deck in a slower, value-oriented direction. I think Falkenrath Aristocrat, Bloodsoaked Champion and Hanweir Garrison all encourage an aggressive stance so I'm going to resist the urge to mess around with the list too much and just try to push it bit more towards the aggro end of the scale.

 KUMAGORO:  All true. I think we can safely agree on the following:

  • Champion, Garrison and Vampirella are the deck's core.
  • Doomed Traveler is a great one-drop in many decks and fits this one.
  • Queen Marchesa is very cool. (Side note: for our next Legacy-based experiments, we should look into the CMD/Conspiracy-exclusive legendary creatures that are available online, they're typically high-complexity but also typically very interesting because they don't really print filler as new cards in those products).
  • Hanweir Militia Captain is potentially strong. It requires a large creature base, though, which is why I chose to have 28 creatures (24 tribal slots rather than 20).

 Cartel Aristocrat and Anointer Priest is where our builds will probably differ, but I'm still not 100% sure myself what to play in these slots. Nothing we talked about is enough of an eureka moment for me. I thought about the kind of Humans that generate additional value by immediately create a token that's better than themselves, so you eat the Human, keep the token. Like, Blade Splicer. Or even Seller of Songbirds? Of course I used to play with Ophiomancer in the past, and she's definitely similar and better than both of the mentioned options, but since I rebuilt my collection she's been too expensive to acquire.

  

 The way I envision Anointer Priest's role, Trueheart Duelist feels like the closest alternative in that role. Buy time, get eaten, then get eaten again. Duelist trades better, blocks more, recurs for less. Oh, and then there's Doomed Dissenter. Dunno why I overlooked that one before, I just randomly stumbled upon him on MTG Arena. Man, navigating the Human tribe is not a simple job.

 

 GENERALISSIMO: OK, after much fussing with the exact numbers, I'm pretty sure this is what I'm running:

 

 I ended up reducing the curve a decent amount and including a lot more one-drops. Both of the four-drops got trimmed; honestly, I'm not sure Marchesa should even still be in the deck but I want to play with her and I already spent the money, so I'm running her, and I generally didn't want to see two Falkenrath Aristocrats in my hand at once. The interaction got slimmed down to just one-mana cards: Fatal Push and Cabal Therapy instead of the Vindicates. I replaced most of the Cartel Aristocrats with the other sac outlets I already mentioned.

 I suppose the biggest variation is I added a playset of Mother of Runes because, if I'm going all-in sacrificing tons of creatures to make something huge, I don't want to get blown-out by a single Swords to Plowshares. The lower curve also let me cut a couple of lands and replace the checklands with fastlands.

 KUMAGORO:  I think the deck should run four Vampirellas, it's the main way the deck aspires to win with. Two in hands? Why not? That's 12 potential damage in two turns. You can either prioritize one, or sac a bit towards either of them so the opponent won't have a clear target to remove. Plus, it's not like we should expect to really go Arcbound Ravager with her; she's a four-powered flyer with haste, enough of a finisher even without further help, the sacrificial snacks should mostly be used for protection, or if they're absolutely cost-free, like a Champion when you have enough free mana to recur him immediately. I was worried about her geting exiled too, and considered some protective spells, but then I reasoned that I worry too much, not all decks run Swords to Plowshares or Path to Exile, in fact we're likely to face black-, red- or green-based decks which essentially don't have a way to get rid of Vampirella as long as there's other creatures to back her up.
 Of course Mother of Runes is great, but she's so overused, feels boring!
 Oh well, we'll see who'll do better. Good luck to you, mate, and clearly expect Gatherling to pair us against each other!

The two lists were entered into Tribal Apocalypse 403 on September 29. What follows is Generalissimo's video commentary of the event.

 KUMAGORO:  Okay, here's some random notes about your commentary.

  1. It's pronounced "Markèsa". It's Italian for marchioness, which makes her name kinda silly.
  2. Were you also struggling with red mana sources? Though I saw you ran four Badlands. Whoa, that's semi-expensive!
  3. About checkland vs. fastland, can we do the math? Because I'm reasonably sure the checklands in a Legacy deck with tons of true duals have close to zero chance to disrupt you (unless you have, like, all checklands in the opening hand, which seems extremely unlikely, and you can just mull that anyway), whereas the fastlands have the fourth turn issue, and we have crucial turn-four plays here.
  4. Why did you fear to lose the monarchy so much? If you do, Marchesa gives you more firepower, which is exactly what you should have wanted, for instance, in round 1, game 1.
  5. Of course Vampirella #4 is better than Marchesa, I would never touch my full set of those, I think it's the deck I wanted to play here, a deck built around a set of Vampirellas to make them always the best possible finisher. As I hoped and kind of predicted, I think neither of us faced a deck that could exile her, and there's very few commonly played fliers that are able to worry her, if she's properly supported.
  6. The Cabal Therapy of it all. Of course it's a great card, and certainly fun to play with. Though, to be honest, it also lost you a lot of clock with all the guessing game and relative research (live commenting is also responsible for that, of course). But while seeing it in action, I realized I can't really play Cabal Therapy since I'm the tournament's host, so if I guess it right at the first try (like you did with Collected Company in round 1), people might think I cheated by looking at their list. So that totally absolves me from ever playing it, I think!
  7. Anyway, my build won because I ended up 5th place due to better tie breakers, while yours ended up 7th!

 GENERALISSIMO:

  1. Thank you. Though I'm sure I will completely forget that by the next time I use her.
  2. A little bit, but it didn't feel like a huge, game-losing problem; I generally had other things to do and mostly when I didn't have red mana, I didn't have four lands to cast the four-drops either. I'd certainly prefer to have better access to red but I'm not really sure how to do that without an expensive fetch/dual manabase. I already owned the Badlands and they're not that expensive – just 2 tix each for the VMA versions [oh well, it was double that price when I checked a few weeks ago! – Kuma's note] – plus, I'm much more willing to spend money on a good land base than on other things, because it's an investment that improves multiple decks.
  3. You know what, I probably did not spend enough time thinking through the decision of putting in the fastlands. I'm not sure there's an easy way to just math it out, though, because it's not just a question of how likely the land is to enter tapped but also how bad it is for you if it does; playing your four-drop a turn late is bad but having to mulligan a hand is way worse. Also, checklands can affect your access to colours in the early turns: an opening hand with Plateau, Isolated Chapel and Bloodsoaked Champion has the potential to screw up your curve for several turns. My deck had lots more one-drops and slightly less four-drops than yours too, so I do still think the change makes sense. Plus, checklands are way more awkward against Wasteland, which I know you had issues against.
  4. Well, getting a 1/1 token really didn't seem worth the drawback of giving the opponent extra draws when I had other things I could be doing. I was probably also undervaluing Marchesa by forgetting she had haste again...
  5. I think I mentioned it previously but the main reason I kept Marchesa in over the fourth Falkenrath was just a desire to test it out (as it happened, I kind of blew the opportunity by misusing her repeatedly but whatever) and I didn't really regret cutting the four-drop count; there weren't any times where I was wishing I was drawing more of them. Also, Lordpipas's Spirit deck did actually have Swords to Plowshares in it but the two cards just never faced each other in our games.
  6. True, it's a card that gets better the closer you are to a format, but I guess you're just a little too close to this particular format. It's an extremely satisfying card to use well, though.

 KUMAGORO:  Here's my full debriefing. First of all, my tournament was weird and didn't really satisfy me as a test. AJ_Impy's God deck in round 1 was mostly based around the Rest in Peace/Energy Field/Web of Inertia combos, and just as you couldn't remove that, I had no problems getting rid of it, so both games ended with me casting Vindicate then attacking for lethal. It didn't tell me much about the deck except that I'm indeed able to draw into Vindicate at the right moment.

   

 Round 2 vs. tournament winner Bandit Keith wasn't that much more interactive either, as he would win through heavy direct damage, so I would do my thing and then he would close with a turn where he would cast Price of Progress for 10 into Fireblast (it made me want to buy more fetch lands and cut all the duals!) Still, I made bad mistakes in this match, and would have actually won due to an embalmed Anointer Priest (of all cards) that would have given me enough life out of a Garrison attack to survive the fatal Price of Progress and attack for the win. It would, if I remembered to embalm it when I had open mana and nothing else to do.

 Then round 3 against Yokai_'s Izzet Humans was pretty much non-existent. Game 1 was decided by an opening salvo of three Wastelands followed by Force of Will and Daze. In game 2 the shuffler gave me unkeepable hands down to 4 cards, when it gave me two lands and two four-mana creatures, so I just conceded.

 

 The mirror match we did after the tournament also made little sense because you blatantly exploited the fact that you knew what you were facing, so those Cabal Therapies were unrealistic. Again, playing versus an omniscient player doesn't really tell me anything about the deck.

Some highly sketchy move.

 This said, here's what I thought of the cards' performance.

 THE GOOD

"If only I ran Vindicate over Cabal Therapy", case #1.

"If only I ran Vindicate over Cabal Therapy", case #2.

 THE GOOD ENOUGH

  • Clearly Swords to Plowshares is a timeless classic, the best creature removal in the game. But I'm not sure if in this meta it was necessary. Fatal Push might be better, with all those sacrifices. Or even Path to Exile, because in a pinch you can use it on your tokens to fetch a land, whereas giving life to the opponent protracts the game.
  • Doomed Traveler is fine. It's a team player, not really a MVP.
  • Hanweir Battlements, even with its haste ability being occasionally useful, is just cute; one copy is enough for the occasional giggle of transforming your Garrison into an Eldrazi monstrosity.
  • On the subject of Westvale Abbey, I feel like the occasions when I'll have the free mana to create a token are few and far between, and the moment you have enough expendables to summon Ormendahl with no regrets are when you're already winning, whereas a deck that aims for Ormendahl has a lot of fodder that either does nothing or actively wants to die (here Ormendahl will ruin the day of a transformed Hanweir Militia, for instance). Still, one copy is warranted and not too harmful, even with all the triple-color cards and the looming prospect of getting Price of Progress-ed.

 THE NOT GOOD ENOUGH

  • I didn't draw into Cartel Aristocrat too often, but what you said during deckbuilding is, alas, true: she's just not impactful enough to be competing for sacrifices with Vampirella.
  • I still like Anointer Priest better than you do, and she could have saved me once if I played correctly. Still, she was always the least impressive member of this lineup. I briefly considered to run Doomed Dissenter instead, but in the end I stuck with the Priest. Dissenter is sort of a worse Traveler. It could work. But what if...

 THE REPLACEMENTS?

 Okay, what if, considering how the deck is perfectly able to go super-aggro with the Hanweir family, we doubled down in that direction? I mean, is Thalia's Lieutenant too obvious? Because that's a way to put +1/+1 counters onto all those Hanweir-made tokens. And why not to include a couple of Thalia herself, at this point? (The two-mana one, especially the one with the promo art I'm in love with). My build was only running eight noncreatures to begin with. I'd cut down to seven by removing one Vindicate, cut a land down to 23 (still think 22 is too few, but I run six four-mana cards), to add two more creatures, up to 30, and those could be a couple of Loyal Cathar, yet another overlooked card which seems better than both Doomed Dissenter and Trueheart Duelist. Or what about freshly printed, Guilds of Ravnica's Hunted Witness? That's sort of a new Doomed Traveler. (There's two thousand Humans to find a good one- or two-drop, after all).

   

 It's definitely more cutthroat this way, closer to classic white weenie Humans, but still runs a lot of cards they don't run, so it's sort of a hybrid?

 GENERALISSIMO:

 THE GOOD

  • Falkenrath, Bloodsoaked, Garrison and Militia Captain: I don't have anything to add, they're just real good in the deck.
  • I agree that one Hanweir Battlements feels like the right number; something that's useful occasionally but you never, ever want to draw more than one of.
  • I'm not sure what you're talking about with Queen Marchesa; she doesn't have haste, does she?
  • Cabal Therapy: Have I gushed enough about how great this card is yet?
  • Swords to Plowshares: I guess maybe you could trim on this for other removal but I wouldn't want to. I certainly feel like Path to Exile would be a mistake; casting it against totalhate's Wall deck or ramping Lordpipas into a turn-3 Collected Company seems like it would have been real bad.
  • I'm sure I won't be blowing anyone's mind by saying that Mother of Runes is good, but... well, she really, really is!

 THE OKAY

  • Doomed Traveler: This was my feeling when I cut it down to three copies. Being just a 1/1 on both sides means it's not very good as either an attacker or a blocker and it kind of needs some sacrificing synergy to really be useful. The fliers were good against the Walls, though, and I certainly think my deck needs a critical mass of nice, sacrificable one-drops to fuel Cabal Therapy.
  • Fatal Push: Was just fine but I also didn't face any of the aggressive decks where the one-mana removal really shines while something else like – oh, I don't know – Vindicate, for example, can be too slow and clunky.
  • Carrion Feeder: Was never amazing or anything but was a fine role-player.
  • Cartel Aristocrat: I can't even recall if I ever actually drew it, but it would have been better than the Bloodthrone Vampire that I replaced some copies with, so... it was fine, I guess.

 THE BAD

  • Bloodthrone Vampire: She really never came together with a large board to be able to threaten lethal amounts of damage and as a 1/1 for two mana she's all sorts of terrible. The more I look at her, she seems good when I've already got a giant force on the board and awful otherwise, which sounds like the definition of win-more.

 THE REPLACEMENTS

 Well, I would basically never want to run Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Vindicate (or Cabal Therapy for that matter) in the same deck, and for a version with Thalia's Lieutenant, my instinct would be to add more one-drops and de-emphasise the sacrificing element; add Champion of the Parish and Metallic Mimic and treat it more as a straight aggro deck with Falkenrath Aristocrat at the top of the curve purely as a hasty finisher to break board-stalls and convert blocked attackers into damage. Thraben Inspector could be a reasonable addition as a cheap creature to hold +1/+1 counters or something to sacrifice without losing value later on.

  

 KUMAGORO: I was fearing the logical consequence of allowing the Lieutenants in would be to turn the deck into white weenie plus. That's definitely not what I'm gunning for, and it feels very dull to me. I think it's possible to play Thalia's Lieutenant without necessarily having it open the doors to the entire WW package. The alternative cannot be to avoid playing the Lieutenant in favor of stuff that almost certainly would be worse in the deck, as that's just a self-defeating concept. Honestly, a deck with Thalia's Lieutenant, Champion of the Parish, Metallic Mimic and a bunch of one-mana removal is not a deck you spend too much mental energy brewing, and I don't feel it'd be something worth writing about, since its synergies are all built-in. But maybe I'm not being enough results-oriented. Going forward, maybe I should keep in check my inner Timmy and you should keep in check your inner Spike, so we can deliver the for-fun-not-for-win-but-also-a-little-bit-for-win, Johnny goodness!

This deck does lend itself to powerful alpha strikes, though.