Built from scratch

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Do you ever see a card and think “This is it! The one piece I needed to pull together my off the wall idea?” Or maybe an entire deck idea springs to life because of a new card? I have, and it happened when I saw this:

Immediately I knew that I had to make a goblin aristocrats deck. Aristocrats is of course nothing new, and is a term that pays homage to sacrifice-based Standard decks of old. I wanted a deck that sacrifices goblins and burns my opponents out — no combat damage needed. To add some structure to the deckbuilding process I obviously followed the guide, to provide an example of how I’d use it. So let’s get to it and build this deck!

Kicking it off we start with player type and power level. For myself I know I’m a Timmy/Johnny, so I want this deck to have some big splashy combos. In terms of power level, I’d like this deck to be around a 7 — I want some consistency and answers but I’d rather play the most fun cards rather than making every optimal choice.

Shattergang Aristocrats – Bryan Smith

Creatures (24)

Spells (41)

Lands (35)


Next we move onto theme, which will of course be goblin aristocrats. We want lots of goblins, maybe some tribal payoffs and a way to sacrifice our goblins to annihilate our opponents. Since we want to overrun the board with sac-able goblins let’s include a token theme as well. This gives us some good building blocks for card selection. If we can find any goblins that have aristocrat effects they should be auto-includes. What I’m looking for here are cards that make it easy for me to sacrifice my own creatures.  

Next up is colours. This is where we can shake it up a bit if we want. Our inspiration card is black, and produces red goblin tokens, so we already have a Rakdos foundation. Most goblins printed are in red, so it is a natural fit. We could stop here and build Rakdos, but we can get a lot more distance out of tokens if we’re getting twice as many, so let’s add green for some doublers — which are of course staples in Commander. Green also opens up creature tutors, which could come in handy.

But what about our Commander? Who will lead our horde of goblins to their untimely demise? A quick search on Scryfall for a Legendary Goblin in black, red and green returns one result:

We’ve lucked out here with a commander that is completely on theme: it’s both a goblin and it wants us to sacrifice our permanents. 

At this point we’ve got a solid sense of direction: we’ve locked in our colours and we have a few synergistic themes to guide our search. Before we dive into the 99, we first set aside 35 slots for our manabase, leaving us 64 slots to work with. I’ve picked 35 as the baseline for lands since I think this deck will have a lower CMC.

The easiest place to start is ramp, and with access to green we have a lot of options. We should also look for duplication where we can, or ramp that works specifically with our strategy. We’ll want some sacrifice outlets, so Ashnod’s Altar and Phyrexian Altar will check those boxes. Since we’re building goblins, we also have access to Skirk Prospector, basically a goblin version of Phyrexian Altar. With an abundance of tokens, Cryptolith Rite and Song of Freyalise can give us some explosive turns. Another way we can ramp is through cost reduction, and we have a few options for reducing the cost of goblins in Frogtosser Banneret and Goblin Warchief (warchief also gives our goblins haste, synergizing with our Cryptolith Rite effects). We can fill out the rest of our ramp package with artifacts, giving us some targets for Shattergang Brothers in the late game: Sol Ring, Golgari Signet, Rakdos Signet, Gruul Signet and Fellwar Stone (when Throne of Eldraine come out we can swap out the Fellwar Stone for an Arcane Signet). Now we have 12 ramp effects and we can get up to 15 by adding in the three Bounce lands we have access to (Golgari Rot Farm, Rakdos Carnarium and Gruul Turf). We may want to cut some of these cards for more fun stuff, depending on what other goodies we find. 

52 cards to go.

To make a strong backbone for our deck, we’ll want some good draw options. Harmonize, Painful Truths, Read the Bones, Night’s Whisper and Faithless Looting offer efficient draw. Vanquisher’s Banner draws us cards on our creature ETBs whereas Moldervine Reclamation, Deathreap Ritual, Warteye Witch (technically scrys, but that’s okay for our purposes) and Fecundity draw us cards on creature death. Skullclamp and Krav, the Unredeemed let us sac our creatures for card draw while Dragon Appeasement and Smothering Abomination let us draw cards on sacrifices. We should hit one of our draw effects consistently on 14.

38 slots left.

With our core set, we can start to focus on our main strategy – how are we going to make a bunch of goblins then sacrifice them to drain our opponents? Let’s start with our aristocrat effects, specifically sacrificing creatures for value. We only have Sling-Gang Lieutenant and Goblin Bombardment, so we’ll need to loosen our criteria. Widening to dealing damage when a creature dies, this search nets us one card, namely Pashalik Mons (which also makes goblins). If we use the search terms graveyard instead of dies, we also find Boggart Shenanigans and Goblin Sharpshooter; rephrasing your search can net different results. This still leaves us with too few effects. Since our options are quite limited, let’s add a small infinite combo package. Murderous Redcap is a goblin with persist (meaning when it dies it comes back with a -1/-1 counter), that we can bring back infinitely if it enters the battlefield (ETB) with a +1/+1 counter. We can achieve this with Bloodspore Thrinax, then we just need a sac outlet for infinite sacrifices (and damage). 

Only having 6 effects to kill our opponents is quite a gap from our target of 14. Let’s review our other strategies with a creative eye to identify some alternative win-cons. We’ll have a lot of ETB triggers with all of the goblin tokens we’ll be making, so we can add Impact Tremors, Outpost Siege and Purphoros, God of the Forge. If we can maintain our large board state we can burn out our opponents with Goblin War Strike, Munitions Expert and Sparksmith. That brings us to 12 effects, which is much closer to our target.

We have 25 cards remaining, and should try to get to 30 creatures (we have 14), so about 16 slots should be creatures. 

Let’s make some goblins. Krenko, Mob Boss will be an all-star, doubling our goblins. You know what would be really cool? Quadrupling our goblins. Since we’re in green we have access to some spice in Parallel Lives, Primal Vigor and Second Harvest. We should also have some goblins that come with friends so let’s add in Goblin Instigator, Mogg War Marshal, Beetleback Cheif, Marsh Flitter, Siege-Gang Commander, Goblin Goliath and Wort, the Raidmother. Some good distance there. We can make even more goblins using [Weirding Shaman], Goblin Warrens, Krenko’s Command, Dragon Fodder and Warren Weirding. This collection adds another 16 cards to our list, leaving us nine slots for removal, sacrifice outlets, recursion (if we want it) and tutors.

Thankfully we have 6 repeatable sacrifice outlets already: Phyrexian Altar, Ashnod’s Altar, Skirk Prospector, Sling-Gang Lieutenant, Krav, the Unredeemed and Goblin Bombardment. Another one we can add is Altar of Dementia, which has a built in win-con with enough goblins (or one that can be sacrificed infinitely). If we want to add another infinite combo, we can use Nim Deathmantle to recur goblins that come into play with a goblin by saccing them both to Ashnod’s Altar.

This leaves us with seven cards. Now we have a tough decision to make. Do we fill the remaining slots with removal, tutors or recursion?

We have a lot of draw effects, and a good number of “aristocrats” effects (even though we had to loosen the definition to include creatures entering and dealing damage equal to the number of goblins we control), so let’s add in some removal. Green black opens us up to some great single target removal in Abrupt Decay, Assassin’s Trophy, Windgrace’s Judgment and Casualties of War. For wraths we can rely on Gaze of Granite, Pernicious Deed and Killing Wave.

Given the strong devotion to red, we’ll be able to run this list on a budget mana base. The rough estimate of a low CMC was pretty much spot on, coming in at 3.06. I’m comfortable staying on 35 since 41 of 64 cards have a CMC of 3 or less (for those curious, the estimated number of lands based on our CMC is 36.6). For tri-colour lands we’ll use Command Tower, Ash Barrens, Evolving Wilds, Terramorphic Expanse, Myriad Landscape and the slow fetches Mountain Valley and Rocky Tar Pit. For dual coloured lands we have the three bounce lands, the three scry lands (some were reprinted in the M20 core-set, you should grab them now), the three pain lands (Karplusan Forest, Sulfurous Spring and Llanowar Wastes) and three refuge duals (Bloodfell Caves, Jungle Hollow and Rugged Highlands). 

This gives us 14 sources for each colour (since Ash Barrens replaces itself it’s more utility) and 16 slots to play with for basics and utility lands. Let’s use nine of our 16 slots for mountains to get us up to 23 sources so we can consistently cast our goblins. Double green and double black on our cards are going to be tough (double green more so since we have four cards that need it) so we’ll round out our mana base two swamp, one Bojuka Bog] and four forests. Final count is 23 red sources, 17 black sources and 18 green sources.

I’ve played around with a few Jund Aristocrat decks and none of them really felt right. I started with a Shattergang Bros control list, but it didn’t have the right feel (that deck later spun into Lord Windgrace Lands, and ended as a Vaevictis Asmadi Lands deck). After some tweaking, I built out this idea with Saskia the Unyielding so I could add white for Anointed Procession. It was still clunky, so I added planeswalkers that made tokens (Vraska the Unseen, Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast etc). Ultimately, it played too slow and I could never get the combo pieces assembled in the right order. This list is a different story though. With redundant pieces and a tonne of synergy, this list shouldn’t have the same issue as previous iterations. I’m really excited to play this list! I can’t wait to drop a Parallel Lives with Krenko, Mob Boss in play to quadruple my goblins and then sling them all at my opponents’ faces. 

There we have it, a deck built from scratch in an article. What cards would you have picked? Did I miss some obvious includes? Drop your thoughts in the comments below!

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