Immediately following the Pro Tour, several of you loyal readers brought a list to my attention and told me that I should try it out for Modern Monday. Now I wasn't immediately sold, as I felt like I had played a similar list before in an article, but when I realized I hadn't done so in Modern, and that a deck like this actually seemed pretty strong, and that it had Abzan Ascendancy, similar to Chieves...well, it piqued my interest to say the least.
Let's take a look at the list.
While David Heineman only went 5-5 with the deck at Pro Tour Fate Reforged, there definitely looked like there could be something to the deck. I'm not 100% on all the numbers - for example I think we could definitely cut down on some of the Return to the Ranks - but I do like all of the creatures we're including. Every time I play against a Blood Artist I feel like I'm basically just dead, so I'm hoping to recreate that feeling from the other side of the board. Let's see if we can do it.
Abzan Aristocrats vs. Splinter Twin
Abzan Aristocrats vs. Amulet of Vigor
Abzan Aristocrats vs. Mardu Burn
Abzan Aristocrats vs. RG Tron
As an updated version of the Aristocrats this deck was awesome, but I feel like I say that about all the decks I play. I don't think that makes it less true, I just think that happens to explain why I'm drawn to them to begin with!
Blood Artist was just as strong as you remember him when he was back in Standard. While the old Aristocrats list used to take advantage of the built-in resilience of cards like Young Wolf and Doomed Traveler, this deck does that to the next level thanks to Abzan Ascendancy and Return to the Ranks. I was super surprised to see Tukatongue Thallid in a competitive list, but sure enough, he's not that bad. He's a 2/2 for one mana after an Abzan Ascendancy drops, and when he dies he makes two tokens and triggers Blood Artist? Sign me up! With those kinds of synergies, and such a high number of them, you can see why the deck can have such explosive interactions.
As I mentioned earlier, Return to the Ranks was a card I didn't think we needed four-of. Our guys don't actually die that often, and we're actually a much more aggressive deck than we might seem. I could definitely see adding a couple more Path to Exile in place of two Return to the Ranks. Having convoke seems to make Return to the Ranks an improvement over the previously tried Immortal Servitude.
A couple things I would probably try and change are some sideboard choices. I would love to add another Leyline of Sanctity against the Burn decks, but we do have three Burrenton Forge-Tenders already. Stain the Mind was actually great at removing Primeval Titans from the Amulet of Vigor deck, and I think it's actually a very well-positioned card in the metagame. It also gives us more game against Tron, which it seems like we need after our match against them. Ultimately white, green, and black have a lot of great sideboard options for the format, so you're basically free to pick and choose whatever you like. I could also see adding a couple Ghostly Prison for the Splinter Twin matchup, or Nature's Claim would also be a good choice, and it performs double duty by being good against some other decks as well.
There isn't too much else to say about the deck, quite honestly. It's incredibly straight forward and, aside from the mana base, it's actually relatively cheap to build, which is pretty sweet.
Before I go, I want to discuss my current feelings on Modern. While I love the decks that I pilot in my articles, because most of them are super unique, as I mention in the Splinter Twin matchup, one of my biggest pet peeves with the Modern format is that there are so many decks that fight on a very specific axis and, unlike Legacy, we don't have catch-alls like Force of Will to keep all the combo decks honest.
This means that unless you're playing specific cards that can disrupt those decks on that axis, it's very difficult to interact with them in a meaningful way. This isn't to say that Show and Tell or Ad Nauseam in Legacy are honest, but they're hardly dominating the format while things like Force of Will, Daze, and Wasteland are factors. While Splinter Twin might not be dominating Modern, that type of deck with a similar, linear game plan is (like RG Tron, Amulet of Vigor, and Burn). These are all decks that need very specific answers to deal with them, and sometimes you simply aren't playing the specific answers needed. Sometimes you are, and you simply don't draw them.
The point I'm trying to make is that my current impression of Modern is that there are far too many matchups that, on paper, cannot be beaten if you aren't playing a specific card/strategy/deck. For example, if you don't have any cards that gain life in your deck, you basically start on game two against Burn. If you aren't playing Abrupt Decay, or have a removal spell in your hand at the right time, you may basically start on game two against Splinter Twin. Are decks like Splinter Twin unbeatable? No. Is there too high a frequency of times where the game is decided before you sit down at the table? Maybe.
That's all I have for today. This Thursday I'll most likely be playing some Sultai Control and I'll be streaming every day at 2 pm PST, so don't miss it. Thanks for reading and I'll see ya then!
Frank Lepore@FrankLepore on TwitterFrankLepore on TwitchTV, streaming Monday - Friday, starting at 2 pm PST