After the slam dunk that was Innistrad, I definitely have high hopes for Dark Ascension, both in terms of flavor and gameplay. The cards I've seen so far all look pretty sweet, with Zombie Apocalypse being my favorite so far (found on the Visual Spoiler).

Of course, you aren't here to hear me talk about Zombie Apocalypse (did I mention that it's sweet?), so let the preview commence:

I guess I get to be the first to point out that this card is like a very good card from a few years ago, possibly one with many of the same stats. That card is of course [card]Giant Solifuge[/card], and the comparison is actually fairly apt. This card may take a little more work, but she definitely delivers the beats, and she has many of the same advantages.

They both cost four and bash for four hasty damage, and both do a good job getting through blockers. Flying on the Aristocrat is mostly better than Trample, so advantage Vampires (Moorland Haunt does throw a wrinkle in this).

The next part is the obvious difference, though I wouldn't say that either card has a distinct advantage. Shroud without doing any work is nice, and makes Solifuge play much better off the top, but the fact that the Aristocrat can indefinitely battle through blockers (1/1 spirit tokens being the most likely suspects) is pretty key. This is a creature-heavy format, and winning creature battles is huge. Plus, the Aristocrat (sounds like a punchline every time I type that) already flies over most things that would devour a groundpounder. Becoming indestructible dodges burn spells, [card]Go for the Throat[/card], and most importantly, [card]Day of Judgment[/card], though [card]Oblivion Ring[/card] still does the trick, though the key is obviously going to be finding fuel. I don't imagine that most sacrifices are going to be humans, but there is certainly a nice bonus if they are.

Aristocrat gives a huge boost to any RB aggressive deck, and might be enough incentive to help create one, since the current Standard format is a sea of UW tempo decks. As a finisher against control, the Aristocrat does a good job, and is a really fast clock. Day of Judgment is looking worse and worse these days, what with [card]Moorland Haunt[/card], undying creatures, Thrun, and stuff like this.

On the other hand, she doesn't shine against an army of 1/1 fliers, though if human sacrifices are found, that is less of an issue. I could still see her ending games quickly enough in creature mirrors, but [card]Olivia Voldaren[/card] is going to just be better there anyway.

Speaking of Olivia, she is going to be one of the natural competitors for the four-drop spot in a black-red deck, and the only thing holding her back is how slow she is to kill a control deck. I'd much rather be bashing with Aristocrat than playing Olivia, saying go, then getting in for a measly three the following turn. As long as the food is plentiful, the Aristocrat is sticking around.

[card giant solifuge]Solifuge[/card] has left (many pairs) of shoes to fill, and even though it's physically impossible, Falkenrath Aristocrat is going to do her best to fill them.