Deck Tech: Blue-Black Aristocrats with Christian Calcano and Pascal Maynard

Posted in Event Coverage on October 17, 2015

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

A lot of people were confident in an established metagame coming into Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar. Decks like Atarka Red, Green-White Megamorph, and Dark Jeskai had already dominated tournaments in earlier weeks. Most teams settled on one of these archetypes or followed through with an established deck, but members of the Team TOGIT broke the mold with an exciting new strategy that few people had thought to explore.

A lot of teams probably tried Zulaport Cutthroat decks in some capacity or another. It seemed obvious that Black-Green would be the best color combination for the strategy. Black-Green versions of the deck fell short and most teams moved on to explore other decks. Team TOGIT dug deeper, though, and found that a Blue-Black deck could use Zulaport Cutthroat and friends more efficiently than other color combinations.

Let's take a look at Team TOGIT's Blue-Black Aristocrats!

Christian Calcano—Blue-Black Aristocrats

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I sat down with Christian Calcano to get the skinny on this new and exciting archetype.

Calcano was happy to talk about his team's wild creation. "The first thing people need to understand is that nobody knows what we're doing this weekend," Calcano said. "Our deck is strong, but it becomes significantly more powerful when we consider how unique our plan is. People are frequently making mistakes against us because it's unclear what we're trying to do."

The deck has a number of particularly exciting interactions that Calcano was happy to talk about. "Nantuko Husk in conjunction with Whirler Rogue deals a lot of damage and often kills opponents right then and there," Calcano explained. "We cast Whirler Rogue, make our Nantuko Husk unblockable, and sacrifice all the creatures that we made with Whirler Rogue to get through for what is often a lethal attack. Nantuko Husk is just a beast in this deck. The card requires opponents to have an answer to it or it can just kill them on any given turn."

The deck is likely the best Liliana, Heretical Healer deck we've ever seen, with the ability to easily flip the Planeswalker and pressure opponents' hands while discarding cards like Bloodsoaked Champion. "Liliana, Heretical Healer is pretty easy to flip here and the reanimate ability is better here than in virtually any other deck," Calcano said. "We can just minus one our Liliana for Sidisi's Faithful, bounce our opponent's threat, and we're often draining them for some amount of damage in the process."

Hangarback Walker, one of the most impressive cards in Standard, is also significantly better here than it is in just about any other shell. "Hangarback Walker is insane in this deck!" Calcano exclaimed. "Sidisi's Faithful, Nantuko Husk, and Whirler Rogue? The card combos with a third of our deck and it's just a great Magic card completely on its own."

Calcano, in a rush to play in the next round, told me that Pascal Maynard had designed the deck and encouraged me to seek him out for further explanation of all the deck's interactions.

I found Maynard and asked if he could walk me through all the interactions of the deck. He smiled. "You ready for this? Things are about to get complicated!" he said. "With Zulaport Cutthroat in play, you can repeatedly cast Sidisi's Faithful bouncing itself, sacrificing other things to drain your opponent for some amount for every blue mana you have."

This interaction gives the deck another sacrifice outlet for all its interactions.

"With Cutthroat in play, you can minus zero Liliana, Heretical Healer to return Hangarback Walker and drain the opponent," Maynard continued. "You can cast Hangarback Walker for zero with Liliana in play to immediately flip her into a Planeswalker."

This makes Liliana less susceptible to removal and doesn't require us to assemble a combination with Sidisi's Faithful or Nantuko Husk to flip into Planeswalker mode.

"Sidisi's Faithful can also be used to bounce your own Whirler Rogue to be replayed for additional tokens," Maynard went on. "A manifested Hangarback Walker can be flipped up for zero to flip Liliana, drain the opponent, or reduce the cost of Murderous Cut by one. Manifest creatures that happen to be Murderous Cut or Hangarback Walker can also be bounced back to your hand with Sidisi's Faithful."

The deck's interactions seem countless and make for perhaps the most complicated deck in Standard. It may be a bit mentally draining, but the rewards are well worth it.

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