Do Your Worst - Mono-Blue Aristocrats

(Inga Rune-Eyes | Alternate Art by Nico Delort)

Born to Die

Hello, everyone! Welcome to the fifth installment of Do Your Worst, where we take a popular archetype and find the most unusual home for it! I'm your host, Philomène, and in this column, we will be looking at decks that should not be – or should they?

Did you ever sacrifice all your precious creatures to Dictate of Erebos? Did you ever die to a Blood Artist trigger? Do the words "free sacrifice outlet" make you shiver? Then you're probably already familiar with the Aristocrats strategy!

Aristocrats is a deck archetype that focuses on sacrificing your own creatures for value. This strategy often wants to go wide with tokens (Hallowed Spiritkeeper), to sacrifice and recur value creatures with effects when they go to the graveyard (Archon of Justice), and to gain benefits while doing all that (Pitiless Plunderer). Sacrifice outlets (Priest of Forgotten Gods) are a key piece of the engine, even more so when they are free to activate (Viscera Seer). The most powerful sacrifice outlets, like Phyrexian Altar, let you trade your creatures for mana, which can lead to many powerful gameplay loops.

As far as color combinations go, Orzhov is the most popular, with 5957 decks, most often played under Teysa Karlov. Mono-black (5743 decks) and Golgari (5105 decks) are close behind, helmed most often by Shirei, Shizo's Caretaker and Meren of Clan Nel Toth, respectively. (I must add, Yawgmoth, Thran Physician is also a popular option for mono-black.) We drop quite a bit in numbers with Jund and Rakdos, at 1778 and 1378 decks, respectively. We can see a pattern here: black is all over this archetype. This means that, to build our deck, we will avoid it at all costs! Green and white also have a lot of synergies with both the graveyard and token creation; I guess we'll have to let them go as well. Rakdos sacrifice is an archetype that has been supported in many sets, notably in Commander Legends with the likes of Juri, Master of the Revue, so red is pretty much out of the equation too!

Well, you all read the title of the article, so let's not waste any more time: mono-blue Aristocrats, here we come!


The Research

The first thing to realize is that if we aren't careful, this task can be too easy. If we go with Emry, Lurker of the Loch, or maybe Sai, Master Thopterist, we could end up with an artifact deck that functions a lot like an Aristocrats deck. Cards like Myr Retriever and Scrap Trawler feel like cheating. Let's make a conscious decision to stay away from "Artifacto-crats" and, besides, I already did pretty much that in mono-green, so no easy way out for us. Let's get to work!

Going down the list of mono-blue commanders, a few options present themselves. Minn, Wily Illusionist has a trigger when her Illusions die. Maybe we could get into loops with drawing cards and sacrificing our Illusions to put permanents on the battlefield? Keiga, the Tide Star, Kairi, the Swirling Sky, and Toothy, Imaginary Friend all have a trigger upon dying or leaving the battlefield, but I feel like they would go in the 99 rather than in the command zone. There's also Jalira, Master Polymorphist, although that would just be a Polymorph deck, wouldn't it? Barrin, Master Wizard is a very powerful card, but it doesn't pull me in a strong direction for this deck.

There is a blue commander that caught my aristocratic eye: Geralf, Visionary Stitcher.

Geralf operates a lot like his sister, Ghoulcaller Gisa; in fact, his design could be described as "the opposite" of Gisa, which is very flavourful and cool. It's a real shame that Geralf can't sacrifice tokens, though. I was going to tell you all about the Geralf deck that I built where I sacrificed Charix, the Raging Isle and made a 17/17 flying Zombo and how Colfenor's Urn was a really cool way to recur creatures in blue, but every game I won was with big Zombie flyers. I mean, it's a legitimate win condition, and I was sacrificing things, but it just didn't feel aristocratsy enough for me.

Besides, I knew all along which commander I would really build. I just didn't realize it until I saw her near the bottom of the mono-blue commanders list.


Can't Stop Staring at those Ocean Eyes

Ever since she was printed in Kaldheim, I knew I would build a deck around Inga Rune-Eyes. What can I say? I'm enthralled by her difficult set-up cost and very mild payoff. Three creatures have to die, in blue of all colors, only to draw three cards? She's challenging me. And I am so up for it.

First, let's see what we have in terms of our base ingredients in blue. Aristocrats strategies rely on several pieces to enact their plan. This includes sacrifice fodder, cards that trigger on creatures dying, sacrifice outlets, and recursion.

Sacrifice Fodder

We have some ways of generating tokens in blue. Homarid Spawning Bed is an old one, but it's a sacrifice outlet too. Plus Camarids are neat. Since it looks like we're going to be drawing cards, Chasm Skulker, Minn, Wily Illusionist, and Nadir Kraken will work perfectly. Faerie Artisans is a nice repeatable way to make a token, and we might get something spicy from our opponents as well. Whirler Rogue and Specimen Collector create tokens on entering the battlefield, and they can be triggered additional times when we recur them.

Look, I really want to make Reef Worm work, so I'll put it in here. At one point, I will make a 9/9 Kraken, I just know it.

Death Triggers

There are a lot of creatures that draw us a card when they die in blue. The dream of recurring Floating-Dream Zubera several times to draw a ton of cards is real (kind of). Jeskai Sage, Oculus, Palace Familiar, and Surveilling Sprite are basically all copies of the same card. Toothy, Imaginary Friend is like a supercharged version of that, while Murder of Crows lets us loot. Selhoff Occultist can technically kill our opponents if we get infinite die triggers... we'll keep a rune-etched eye on that one. People will groan at Keiga, the Tide Star, and, with the right board state, Aura Thief will induce similar resentment. Heck, we might even end up with an Anointed Procession or a Grave Pact!

Sacrifice Outlets and Recursion

That's where it gets a little difficult. But fear not! Stitcher's Apprentice is here. It's... so bad. But we'll keep it.

Altar of Dementia, Spawning Pit, Ashnod's Altar, and Blasting Station will save our butt here. If you have a copy of Phyrexian Altar, by all means, put it in your Inga deck. You'll need the help.

Now for recursion: Cauldron of Souls is probably one of the best cards in our deck, and Body Double is a kind of recursion, when you think about it. Salvager of Ruin and Nim Deathmantle are essential since we don't have a lot of options.


Eyes on the Prize

Now that we've had time to see what we're dealing with, I think I can see a path to victory.

We don't have Blood Artist or Corpse Knight to help us, but there are other ways. After this initial Scryfalling, it occurred to me that we'll be drawing lots of cards. That can help us find some combo pieces! I think our safest bet is to combo off, which, admittedly, is what Aristocrat decks end up doing a lot of the time. I perused Commander Spellbook and tried to find some ways to win that would make sense with our plan of sacrificing stuff. Turns out that we have some good lines to go infinite and kill our opponents.

Nim Deathmantle, with Ashnod's Altar and a creature that makes at least two tokens on ETB (Whirler Rogue, Specimen Collector), gets us infinite tokens, enters-the-battlefield, leaves-the-battlefield, triggers and infinite colorless mana. When Selhoff Occultist is on the board, it's game over! False Demise and Iridescent Drake reach this goal as well.

Naru Meha, Master Wizard combos with a bunch of cards, including Cackling Counterpart, Illusionist's Stratagem, and Sublime Epiphany. I won't get into every detail, but with Illusionist's Stratagem, for example, we can infinitely flicker Naru and draw our whole deck. Enter Thassa's Oracle. It might not be exciting, it might cost a buttload of mana, but I'm trying here! With that combo, we can also win if Psychosis Crawler is out and we have more cards than everybody's life total. Look, it's not the wincons we wanted, but it's the wincons we deserved for trying to build this deck!

Where does Inga Rune-Eyes fit in this plan? For starters, her scry 3 is actually pretty useful to set up our next move and, in this deck, we'll meet the conditions for her death trigger pretty easily so she'll draw us plenty of cards, especially with Cauldron of Souls out.


Behind Blue Eyes

No one know what it's like to be the bad deckbuilder. But we'll still try and check all the boxes in our template.

Ramp

Aside from the usual mana rocks, Solemn Simulacrum and Burnished Hart work well with our strategy, and Thought Vessel will let us keep a nice, full hand. I also want to highlight two cards that are, in my opinion, worth an include in this ramp package. Retraced Image lets you put another Island on the field at the cost of a card. It's not super great, but it can lead to a fast start. Mitotic Manipulation is a Rampant Growth for one more mana, and trust me, it always hits... most of the time.

Card Advantage

Skullclamp is good, as is Mulldrifter, everyone knows that. River Kelpie works really well with our plan, and it triggers from our opponents' permanents as well! We don't have much more than that dedicated to card advantage, but between our commander and all the little creatures that draw us a card when they die, we're covered.

Interaction

We don't want our opponents to ruin our plans, but we do want to ruin theirs. Overcharged Amalgam lets us sacrifice a creature to counter a spell but also an activated or triggered ability, which is pretty handy sometimes! Sublime Epiphany is a useful spell in all its modes; plus it's an award-winning piece of art. Pongify, Sidisi's Faithful, Reality Shift, and Ravenform help us get rid of some singular threats, while Floodgate and Evacuation deal with wider problems. Vedalken Shackles lets us steal our friends' creatures and then sac them when we're done with them.


Now, feast your eyes on this complete decklist:

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These Eyes Have Seen a Lot of Decks, but They're Never Gonna See Another One Like I Built With You

I think we managed to build a pretty convincing mono-blue Aristocrats deck. Yes, we bascially need to combo off in order to win, but we're sacrificing stuff and making tokens along the way, while profiting from it. I say good job, us. Also, I discovered that a surprising numbe of songs have "eyes" in their title.

If Inga Rune-Eyes piques your interest, Elder Drunken Highlander made a video about her! I always try to avoid listening to other content when building my decks, and I found it pretty funny that we built Inga similarly. Check them out!

How would you build your mono-blue Aristocrats deck? Would you go for Geralf, Visionary Stitcher or another commander instead of Inga? Did I miss any spicy card or interaction? Let me know in the comments! I'm Philomène, and this has been Do Your Worst. See you next time!

Philomène is a film composer from Montréal, Canada. Her love of card games started in the late 90's with Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Dragon Ball Z and of course, Magic : The Gathering. Preferring a more casual kind of game in commander (art and lore being very high on her list of reasons to play cards), she satiates her competitive urges through Limited formats.