If you didn't read last week's article, I recommend starting there unless you're already familiar with the deck. This was the version we did the majority of our testing with:
Over the last week and a half, I've played around 60 matches with the deck. I loaned it to Ricky Sidher, and he ended up grinding 80 matches in 3 1/2 days like a madman.* This was the sideboard we used for the majority of games:
*He told me this was horrific and nobody should try this at home.
Vs. Mono-Red/Saito RG
Step One: Stabilize the board.
A lot of the specifics come down to the strength of your hand and whether you have one-drop into Cartel Aristocrat. With that, you can reliably stonewall them, even most Burning-Tree Emissary draws if it's Young Wolf. If not, you may have to convert your first two plays into Healing Salve and like it. These games are usually on the draw, and ones where you'll just lose if they have a reasonable curve.
Sorin, Lord of Innistrad is pretty wretched on the draw, since the 1/1 lifelink has too little board impact, but overall he's solid and an MVP at the end of your own curve. People who T4 Sorin do so at their own peril, unless the red player only has a Boar and random bear on the field. You're just begging to lose to Hellrider over two turns, whereas with Varolz, the Scar-Striped and Lingering Souls you can pump out enough creatures to trade.
On the draw, mulligans are important, since you really need a curve draw or a card that will change the flow of the game. Typically this card is Cartel Aristocrat, but sometimes it can be Blood Artist or Skirsdag High Priest if you have the mono-one-drop hand and they lack Pillar of Flame. Post-board, you have Unflinching Courage, which is a huge turnaround and nearly unbeatable if you shove on a Varolz or Aristocrat with another creature in play.
Boarding is pretty simple. Deathrite Shaman is a better one-drop most of the time since you may gain some life before you chump it away. Unflinching Courage is the big game-changer on a creature that protects itself.
Don't underestimate Voice, since you can force a response, and 2 Elementals represent a huge team. Ideally you want to build the board and go for it on turn four so the Elementals are 4/4s or 5/5s to start. 3/3 Elementals have a nasty habit of blocking and dying to Ghor-Clan or Spear while the other one just trades off with a bear. You gained a card on them, but that doesn't matter when you lost most of your board.
Skirsdag High Priest and Blood Artist both leave because they don't do anything on the draw, and even on the play they only succeed when the opponent allows for it. Any burn spell shuts them down before they can do much damage, and you need to be at a stalemate at the very least before they swing the match for you. If you fall behind you need to be playing cards that immediately do something, and these guys can't even block well.
Gavony Township rarely makes a difference, can't cast most of your spells, and if you flood out you'll lose anyway. This is one of the few times I'm sure cutting a land is better than cutting a weak spell.
Based on my own experiences and discussions with Ricky, this match is as lopsided as it gets. We're a combined 18-0 against it across Daily Events, 8-mans, and 2-mans. Now obviously there was some variance involved since we, y'know, have a 100% win rate which seems a little excessive even with such a small sample size. I think realistically it's closer to 70% in our favor against players familiar with the match. Outside of having a lot of removal, there's just not a lot going for the UWR players in this match.
Cards like Cartel Aristocrat, Lingering Souls, and Varolz, the Scar-Striped all provide a huge advantage, and Sorin + Garruk combine to create insurmountable PW support. Heck, even just a handful of one-drops and bears can be deadly with Gavony Township. The hands you have to worry about all involve double or triple Supreme Verdict, and the range of hands you can keep are quite diverse. Unlike mono-red or the mirror where a range of normally keepable hands can turn into concessions, you can keep nearly any hand with less than five lands and even some five-landers if they contain Township.
Part of this inherent game one advantage comes from how many UWR decks are constructed. They don't pack the maximum Verdicts maindeck, and they don't have very many Pillar of Flame until post-board. Many also don't contain the maximum number of Snapcaster Mages, which reduce Pillar, Snapcaster, Pillar or even Spear, Snap, Spear as potential chains which can really hurt. Instead you deal with more costly removal or removal you can play around (Azorius Charm). There's no reason you have to swing with tokens early if you feel you can get more value out of them later via sacrificing.
Basically every hand decision should be considered on the basic of getting wrathed. Post-board this is an even bigger concern because "wrath" becomes "sweeper," since Izzet Staticaster and Electrickery both do the job.
I'm not quite sure if I should be taking out Blood Artist, since it does make their sweeper effects more costly. On the other hand, it encourages overextending, which is the best way to lose. I think if Warleader's Helix didn't exist I'd feel all right with keeping all the Artists in, but as it stands I feel they have enough life gain that you'll rarely burn them out. Skirsdag High Priest suffers from the same issues, where you really want to overextend to make it work.
Note that if you have Rootborn Defenses your opponent gets to play a fun game of, "Do they have it?" This breaks the match if you also have Gavony Township in play, and can often be a one-turn swing where you trade 1-1 with their best card and get another creature out of the deal. If you counter a Verdict with Rootborn defenses, you either win on the next turn or put them in a position where they lose even after the 2nd wrath.
The Naya Aggro match plays out similarly to mono-red. It's slightly easier to beat, since their draws are less explosive and Firefist Striker can't blank your best guys. Some run less removal on the whole, which can make games on the draw less of a struggle and makes Voice much better. In general, if you get a sacrifice outlet and a Voice, you're favored.
When Naya skews bigger, it vastly increases the amount of time you have to get your board in order. It also increases how good Blood Artist, Varolz, the Scar-Striped, and Voice of Resurgence get since they actually have time to hit play and grow. The board frequently devolves into a stalemate, so 2 Blood Artists can turn the game into a one-sided route, and the same is true of 2 Voices. Lingering Souls alongside Sorin or Township are also a big game unless they have Hellkite at the ready.
Naya midrange is a bit tougher due to Bonfire of the Damned and Mizzium Mortars. It doesn't take a lot of effort to duck Mortars (kill them before it matters or leave your Voices alive, trading damage for sweeper protection), but Bonfire of the Damned can strike out of nowhere and be deployed as early as turn three. It will kill you in a close race even if you're ahead on the board—sometimes miracles do happen.
Thundermaw Hellkite is another card that shouldn't be a big deal, but is another annoying way to wipe Souls tokens out, and flies it over everything else in your deck. Save Tragic Slip for Boros Reckoner and Dragons.
I never quite figured out how to board for either Naya deck. For example, I tried Garruk Relentless and he was a great way to force action from Naya in stalemate situations. Making Wolves or fighting a random guy to begin tutoring are both excellent. If you flip him and start tutoring for Voice of Resurgence or Blood Artist they often have little recourse.
Unflinching Courage is a bigger game against the Naya Aggro builds and the lack of removal they have can put them in a big hole to the brave Cartel Aristocrat. With that said, you can't rely on her protection ability nearly as often because turning her pro green or white will make the Courage fall right off. This usually only applies to Loxodon Smiter as everything else is smaller, but it's important to keep in mind when Ghor-Clan Rampager or Selesnya Charm pump is a relevant concern.
I like reducing the land count to prevent flooding, and you have enough time to actually make use of Blood Artist and Skirsdag High Priest. Also, save your Abrupt Decays, because Rest in Peace or Boros Reckoner meeting Blasphemous Act from Naya is a huge threat. Against UWR playing RIP you can lean on PW and Gavony Township to grind the game out, against Naya you'll probably just get run over in a few turns.
Hope to not get swept 16 times a game, or deal with a sweeper plus Olivia Voldaren. In all seriousness, the best you can hope to do is get an Aristocrat and Voice out at the same time. Then, you can present a respectable clock and limit the damage of any single sweeper.
Otherwise, the same ground rules apply. Try to minimize your exposure to Bonfire of the Damned and Mizzium Mortars, play around Pillar if possible, and remember that sometimes it's better to hold your creatures than be mana efficient. There's a four-way race between Doomed Traveler, Young Wolf, Blood Artist, and Skirsdag High Priest for the title of ‘worst possible draw' in game one.
All share the common flaw of only being good when you have sac outlets—if the Jund player targets those 7-8 cards and draws more than one sweeper you'll be dead most of the time. It isn't that Junk Aristocrats can't win this match, they can, if Jund draws the wrong chunk of their deck or doesn't see their 5-6 sweepers G1. However if Jund wants to beat you, they can put themselves in a very strong position for post-board games.
Deathrite Shaman is probably going too far, but I really hate almost all your options here. I'm probably biased because I decided to play Jund with Curse of Death's Hold specifically to crush this deck, but after playing both sides of the matchup I realize how rough it is. The discard is incredibly important because it can limit how many times you get board-wiped. Protecting your board and knowing what you need to play around is more important here than against even UWR.
You can keep Young Wolf in against them, but I think two Deathrite activations give you more value, and every so often they'll sit there and clock while Young Wolf is just dead against everything. Blood Artist and High Priest both require way too much maintenance to stay relevant in the match—at least the other bad cards only cost one.
Adding more Appetite for Brains to the sideboard makes this matchup much easier to handle.
Win through Thragtusk before the Angel of Serenity or Craterhoof Behemoth endgame gets online. You can beat both of these with a strong enough curve, but it is a struggle. This is the kind of match where the Sorin emblem truly shines—you want to be able to race and they may not be able to spare an attacker to take out the Sorin. In fact, the entire deck can basically hum along with minimal interference, and your main goal is dealing the maximum amount of damage by turn five.
Skirsdag High Priest may be terrible against Angel of Serenity, but it's easy to trigger on turn three against Reanimator and clock them in a hurry. Varolz, the Scar-Striped and Cartel Aristocrat also create a tag team of death, where you can create a 4/4 or 5/5 pro-white/green creature to crush them with. With that said, Varolz is actually pretty god awful in the match since Angel of Serenity does exist.
I actually like Skirsdag High Priest because only Fiend Hunter and Angel of Serenity actually deal with Demon tokens. Blood Artist surprised me a lot in this match, since I figured there wasn't much creature combat going on. Having a way to take them out without turning guys sideways really helps and combats opposing Lingering Souls nicely.
Cards coming in are pretty obvious, Deathrite Shaman turns off their best chance at cheating you out of a game and Garruk provides more gas toward the end. It can be flipped easily, allowing for you to threaten Overrun or simply find more Shamans/Artists to win the game with.
Uhhhh... hope they keep some really terrible hands that involve missing a color of mana. Hope they never see a Geist of Saint Traft, either. This match is horrible and any good draw they have makes a giant joke out of your deck even though in theory you should have tons of blockers for every non-Invisible Stalker creature.
Sorry guys, unless you have Ray of Revelation or something techy, you aren't winning this match.
Vs. The Mirror
Draw more Blood Artists than the opponent to win the game. Outside of that little nugget, Skirsdag High Priest and Cartel Aristocrat are quite relevant, Lingering Souls advantage is only trumped by Blood Artist, and Sorin sucks. Usually. I don't have a great answer for you regarding the mirror—I have a winning record, but I attribute that more to luck than anything special. Sequencing your lands properly can save you some life and I don't mind aggressively mulliganing, because your cards have a tendency to bounce off each other. Blood Artist and Lingering Souls are some of the only ways to break this parity, so they end up as the best cards by default.
I've never had much luck with Sorin. Either it just killed my opponent a turn faster, or he sat around doing nothing of relevance while my opponent crushed me. Garruk Relentless at least shoots Blood Artist or makes slightly bigger tokens.
Profit // Loss was more loss than profit, unfortunately.
Other attempts at mirror cards I've seen: Curse of Death's Hold is expensive and absolutely smashes the mirror worse than any non-Blood Artist card. Perfect! Too bad hitting five lands is by no means guaranteed and it doesn't help if when you play it you just die to Artist.
Other builds I've seen have tried Intangible Virtue, which wins the Souls war and lets you play some defense. My issue with this take is that it's heavily dependent on drawing Lingering Souls in the first place.
Well that's it for my take on Junk Aristocrats. I'd like to thank anyone who helped me craft a plan, and definitely Ricky Sidher, who put a ton of work into figuring out some of the trickier gameplay elements and sideboard plans.
As for other goings-on, I bailed out from battling Junk Aristocrats this weekend at my PTQ (more on that next week). I played Jund tweaked against Aristocrats decks, with maindeck Thundermaw Hellkite, and Curse of Death's Hold in the board with Pillars. I promptly lost to a pair of Aristocrats decks, one via many Falkenrath Aristocrats and the other by an Appetite for Curses. Disappointed, I tweaked it and played it in a Modern Masters box tournament where I split Top 4. In this one I played 0 Aristocrats decks and instead got paired against UWR and Red every round.
If you want to play Jund and expect a fair amount of Aristocrats, this is my current list:
What I like about Jund is how well the deck can configure itself post-board against the entire field. Having access to Cavern of Souls, Rakdos's Return, Sire of Insanity, planeswalkers, and beats like Thundermaw Hellkite is just crushing against control plans. Against aggro, they get stuck dealing with a 16-removal-spell deck along with a bunch of life gain. The only place you're lacking is against Reanimator, and even then you can win a fair game at least. I think if you really want a decent board against them, it's time to go back to Cremate or Rakdos Charm to dodge the quad-Acidic Slime plan, or to go more aggressive with Thundermaw Hellkite.
If you like Junk Aristocrats and wanted a few tips and tricks, then I hope this pair of articles helped you out. If you were looking for a fun, challenging, and unique synergy deck in this Standard format, hopefully this convinced you. Until next week!
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom