There's a sort of running gag I have with a friend over the number of aristocrats decks we both own. For whatever reason, we both love the playstyle. There's just something satisfying about sacrificing your own creatures for profit on both a gameplay level, as well as a thematic level. I also grew up loving zombie movies, so it doesn't hurt that most aristocrats decks play or make tons of zombies. Today's deck follows this trend while also proving yet again that within every joke there is a kernel of truth.
Rakdos Humans| Casual | James Heslip
- Creatures (22)
- 2 Juri, Master of the Revue
- 2 Lyzolda, the Blood Witch
- 3 Doomed Dissenter
- 3 Novice Occultist
- 4 Bloodsoaked Champion
- 4 Unlucky Witness
- 4 Xathrid Necromancer
- Instants (4)
- 4 Village Rites
Cost: $14.00 at the time of publication
Xathrid Necromancer is the reason we are playing a creature suite of nothing but humans. I'll never understand why such a (casually) powerful value engine is as monetarily cheap as it is, but I'm not going to complain. Every time one of our humans dies, Necromancer does what his name would imply, resurrecting the fallen and adding them to our growing zombie horde.
Almost every other card in the deck is included because it can benefit Necromancer in some way. Whether it's a creature whose death comes with an added bonus, or a sacrifice outlet that makes said death that much more likely, killing all humans is the name of the game.
Unlucky Witness is one of the reasons I put this list together. Until he had been printed, there were not enough Red humans around to make a functioning Rakdos human aristocrats list. While we are not technically drawing cards, his death still provides some great card selection without a loss to card advantage. As a Red tribute fodder one-drop, he's exactly what the archetype needed to make the transition from neat idea to reality.
Bloodsoaked Champion's recent reprint keeps him well within our budget, which is great because this recurring 1-drop is another perfect addition to our human tribal list. While his inability to block is definitely relevant, his cost-effective power and recursion more than make up for it. Such characteristics allow Champion to put the pressure on early without fear of what might happen to the crimson-colored killer. Should he die in battle, we'll simply revive him on a later turn, possibly with the intention to send him right back to Satan's lap for our benefit.
Admittedly, I couldn't decide which 2-drop I liked better, Novice Occultist or Doomed Dissenter. So, I included both at three and called it a day. Dissenter provides extra blocks (relevant because of Champion), and Occultist digs for the more powerful threats in the list (or answers to opposing threats). Both fit right into our game plan, and continue the curve well. Juri, Master of the Revue was an obvious inclusion to the 2-drop slot. While in play, every human sacrificed makes him stronger. Once he's big enough, feed him to the undead swarm and watch any desired target burn.
Lyzolda, the Blood Witch is the deck's only repeatable sacrifice outlet and is a blast to play. Her instant-speed sac ability snipes down small threats and draws cards depending on what color creature you arm her with. Pair her with Bloodsoaked Champion, and you've got a repeatable draw engine that only gets stronger with Xathrid Necromancer in play.
Eaten Alive, Reckless Abandon, and Village Rites are the deck's other sac outlets. The former two deal with enemy fighters, while the ladder adds to the already competent draw power of the deck, bringing it to new levels. Abandon also gives the deck some powerful reach potential, often ending games without warning.
With this, it's finally time to talk about Thatcher Revolt. I love this card in this deck. For three mana, we get three hasty bodies to throw at the opponent or sac to our previously mentioned outlets. This is great, but what really earns the Avacyn Restored sorcery its slot in the deck is the fact that each of the three humans created die at the end of the turn. What would normally be a drawback in any other strategy is actually a boon to us, as Xathrid Necromancer is more than happy to turn three 1/1s into three 2/2s at no extra cost to us. And yes, Necromancer's ability stacks. So, the more dark wizards you have in play, the more zombies swarm the battlefield. Juri, Master of the Revue also benefits from the slaughter, gaining three +1/+1 counters for each Revolt cast.
Tips and Tricks
Thanks to the burn and cost-effective power of our cards, this list has more aggro potential than most aristocrats decks. Thus, the pilot should play accordingly. As long as you can take advantage of it, attack and attack often. Swinging in with a swarm of humans and zombies will usually net damage (assuming the opponent doesn't have enough blockers to stop them all) and due to the nature of the deck, you don't care if any of your creatures die in the process. Anything that is blocked should be sacrificed to Village Rites or Lyzolda at instant speed, since it's likely going to die in combat anyway.
Once the opponent is low enough, a well-placed Reckless Abandon should end things. Lyzolda's ability can also be activated as many times as you want (as long as you have the mana and bodies) so with enough resources you could use her for a final barrage of burning bodies. Note that Juri, Master of the Revue is perfect fodder for the cleric (especially if he's the last one to go). Since he's both Black and Red, he triggers both Lyzolda's burn and draw effects, not to mention his own damaging on-death trigger.
Additional Options | James Heslip
- Creatures (25)
- 1 Alesha, Who Smiles at Death
- 1 Archfiend's Vessel
- 1 Bogardan Dragonheart
- 1 Bushmeat Poacher
- 1 Captivating Crew
- 1 Demon's Disciple
- 1 Desperate Farmer // Depraved Harvester
- 1 Dutiful Attendant
- 1 Ecstatic Awakener // Awoken Demon
- 1 Elite Headhunter
- 1 Fireblade Artist
- 1 Ghoulcaller Gisa
- 1 Jerren, Corrupted Bishop // Ormendahl, the Corrupter
- 1 Judith, the Scourge Diva
- 1 Liliana's Devotee
- 1 Orzhov Enforcer
- 1 Plaguecrafter
- 1 Qarsi High Priest
- 1 Ravenous Demon
- 1 Shadowheart, Dark Justiciar
- 1 Skirsdag Flayer
- 1 Skirsdag High Priest
- 1 Village Cannibals
- 1 Whisper Squad
- 1 Zulaport Cutthroat
- Enchantments (1)
- 1 Stensia Uprising
I tried to mention the more relevant humans that one might try to include in their own list. There's a lot of powerful options to pick from, and I was sad to cut many from my original test versions. Alesha, Who Smiles at Death, for example, is an on-color recursion engine that I really wanted to find room for. She could be a lot of fun, especially in lists that also include Archfiend's Vessel. Captivating Crew would add some fiery spice to the deck as well. The four-cost pirates could steal enemy creatures for us to attack with. Then, before the opponent has time to regain control, we could then sacrifice the mutinous monsters for added value. While he sounds fun, I think he's just too mana intensive to include. The same could be said for a lot of the creatures shown in this additional options list.
Ecstatic Awakener // Awoken Demon, Whisper Squad, and Qarsi High Priest are all 1-drops that could replace Bloodsoaked Champion. This was more relevant before his recent reprinting in Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate tanked his value, but if you can't find him for whatever reason, these will all work fine as well.
Shadowheart, Dark Justiciar\Bushmeat Poacher give more draw power potential, while Jerren, Corrupted Bishop // Ormendahl, the Corrupter and Liliana's Devotee could act as Necromancer-lite alternatives. Jerren's power to bestow lifelink would help cushion us from damage that Bloodsoaked Champion couldn't prevent or Novice Occultist caused, too. His potential as a beefy win condition is tempting as well. Considering Ecstatic Awakener // Awoken Demon, Skirsdag High Priest, and Ravenous Demon, we could have a nice little human/demon theme going on. Ravenous Demon specifically has great synergy with the already included Bloodsoaked Champion, and gives us yet another mana-free repeated sacrifice outlet to grow our zombie army with.