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Sacrificing Tokens for Value in Mardu


Aristocrat decks typically include elements that act as a sacrifice outlet. Cards like Village Rites or Goblin Bombardment allow you to sacrifice your own creatures for some sort of benefit. What happens, though, when we choose to fill our deck with creatures that sacrifice themselves automatically? What sorts of things can we do with that extra space? This is the thought process that led to today's list!

Cost: $18 at the time of publication

The Core

Promise of Bunrei
Initially, I wanted the deck to focus on zombie tokens with decayed, which meant a full playset of Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia, as well as Ghoulish Procession. Eventually, however, it became clear to me that the most powerful cards I could be playing were not creatures, but rather creature tokens and their creators. Since Procession does not trigger on creature tokens, it had to lose its slot. So, it wasn't long before a general token swarm strategy became the backbone of the deck.

When it comes to creating an army of tokens, Promise of Bunrei and Chandra, Acolyte of Flame are likely the most powerful cards in the deck. Promise is quite easy to trigger, and produces four 1/1 creatures at a cheap three mana. While Candra has three abilities to choose from, we will almost always be activating her +0 that creates two elementals. With these two cards, we'll have no trouble filling the field with ferocious fighters!

The Backup

Like many decks, our card choices can be filed into three categories. Here, those categories are cards that make death triggers, cards that benefit from creatures dying, and cards that benefit from lots of creatures being in play.

Chandra, Acolyte of Flame
Considering cards from the first category, we've already mentioned Chandra. She's one the most efficient of our death trigger enablers, but she's not our only one. Mogg War Marshal is actually perfect for this deck, since it both creates bodies to swarm with, and gives us an easy death trigger. Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia and Lagomos, Hand of Hatred exist for the same purpose. They each reliably create a token each turn that will also die just as regularly. Finally, there's Shriekmaw, which is a removal spell in creature form that dies the moment we cast it.

Moving into the second category, we've also already mentioned Promise of Bunrei. It's the most efficient token producer we have access to. Similar in function is Quest for the Gravelord, which needs three deaths instead of only one, but it creates a respectable 5/5 zombie to pressure our opponent with. Juri, Master of the Revue can grow in strength to become even more powerful than Quest's token, something that's not too difficult to achieve with a Chandra in play to support him.

Looking at our final category makes it clear the limitations that our budget brings us. Lunarch Veteran // Luminous Phantom and Corpse Knight bring tons of life gain and burn potential to the table, and are particularly strong with our core planeswalker and enchantment. However, if we felt like spending just a little more money, Blood Artist would easily replace both of them, giving us four more slots in the deck to play around with. Still, the deck functions fine without the extra cash spent. Besides, burning out the opponent with Corpse Knight or Blood Artist Triggers is not the only finishing play we have. Warhost's Frenzy backed up by even a single Promise of Bunrei could easily spell doom for anyone across the table from us. Should the player survive, our tokens won't, which means we're drawing tons of cards and refilling our hand for another round.

Tips and Tricks

  • With Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia,Juri, Master of the Revue, and Lagomos, Hand of Hatred, we have a decent chunk of legendary creatures at our disposal. Considering the legend rule, it's possible to cast a second copy of one of them in order to get a death trigger we otherwise might be struggling to find.
  • Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia triggers at the end of each of your end steps. In most cases, you'll want to be attacking with his zombies every single chance you get in order to maximize the number of deaths he creates for you.
  • Chandra's only viable target for her -2 is Warhost's Frenzy. It's a fine target though, as double casting a single copy could easily result in a dead opponent.

Blood Artist was already mentioned as a card that we definitely want to include if money is not as much of an issue or copies are readily available. If this is out of the question, though, you can always play Elas il-Kor, Sadistic Pilgrim. Being legendary, it's difficult to fit four of him in the list, but two or three can almost always be justified. Zulaport Cutthroat is also an option, though his price also adds up quickly.

Hidden Stockpile is a card I had in my early versions of the deck, and it hurt me to take it out. I particularly liked how it gave me an easy sacrifice outlet for Juri, who can straight up one-shot unsuspecting players with his on-death burn effect.

Idol of Oblivion is another card I did not enjoy removing from my initial lists. It felt so strong next to Jadar, Lagomos, and Chandra. In fact, I was still trying to find room for it as I was finishing up this article. Extra card draw is never a bad thing, so if you can bring yourself to reduce your card count elsewhere, this is one of the first additions to the list I would make. If you prefer your card draw in creature form, Mentor of the Meek is also quite powerful.

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