Hello everyone! Today, I think I owe a certain card an apology, and that card is Sanguine Brushstroke. Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Sanguine Brushstroke, I think the card is absolutely fantastic and you don’t have to convince me on the power of Blood Artist in general.
That said, I honestly thought the card was unplayable in Alchemy as it had a major problem: Blue decks. You see, the Brushstroke decks are really good against the creature decks, but tend to struggle against the Control decks. I figured enough people figured out that Blue was the place to be in Historic making Brushstroke midrange a really bad place to be. Imagine my surprise when I see Tom Ross absolutely dominate the day 2 of the Bo3 open with nothing other than a Brushstroke deck!
Like any good Brushstroke deck, we have a few options at one mana. To start us off, we have Cursebound Witch which has been absolutely amazing for me in every deck I’ve tried it in. The spellbook cards generally range from decent to really strong so getting access to them on a one mana creature is huge. The second one drop is one I’m sure we’re all familiar with in Shambling Ghast. Ghast is great against stonewalling smaller creatures or accelerating us with a Treasure which makes it a strong and versatile creature.
Finally, one of the new additions to this strategy is a spicy 2 of Slayer's Bounty. This was a card that I slated as being underrated and I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who thought that! Very often, this is a small Peek that turns into a draw two for two additional mana, and very often one of those cards is a removal spell. This is pretty innocuous in a deck without ways to produce additional clues, but is still solid card draw in colors that can’t easily get it.
Moving onto the 2 drops, we don’t have any creatures, but plenty of spells! First we have another staple in the Brushstroke decks with Deadly Dispute. Sacrificing a small creature, nabbing two cards, and getting a treasure? It’s pretty hard to beat that value! Next is one of the main reasons to go White in Vanishing Verse. It doesn’t hit absolutely everything relevant, but it comes close enough that it’s easily the best removal spell in Alchemy and Standard. Then we have another good reason to be White with Rite of Oblivion. Rite of Oblivion lets you pitch a random permanent to exile anything, and then lets you do it again for 4 mana! That’s very powerful in The Meathook Massacre – it is half interaction, half Blood Artist and is absolutely crippling against creature decks while still being serviceable against the Control decks!
Next we move onto the 3 drops which consists of two powerful enchantments! First, we obviously have Sanguine Brushstroke as the card that’s made this archetype really thrum in Alchemy with it’s swingy capabilities. The second enchantment isn’t exactly new to this archetype, but falls in and out of favor with Wedding Announcement. Announcement is generally pretty whatever against creature decks while being strong against Control, but in a deck with 4 Deadly Dispute and Rite of Oblivion, it seems quite strong in any matchup!
Finally we move up to the end of the curve, the few four drops in the deck. Sorin the Mirthless is another no brainer for a deck like this as it can produce blockers or keep finding gas at a premium considering the curve is so low. The second four is another card I thought was extremely underrated in Citystalker Connoisseur. Citystalker is an absolute house no matter the matchup as it will (almost) always hit the best card in the opponent’s hand and still leave behind a very relevant body to boot. Against creatures this will always be a strong 2 for 1, but against Control you can very often hit their win condition whether it’s Lier, Disciple of the Drowned, Discover the Formula, or Hullbreaker Horror which can easily make the difference between winning and losing.
I’ve seen my fair share of Monoblack and Orzhov Brushstroke decks, but I can easily say that this is the most tuned of all the iterations for the current metagame. It has a lot of what you would expect from a Brushstroke deck, but it has a sideboard that is clearly ready for a lot of Blue decks and a few main deck inclusions that can support there as well.
I knew this strategy could play well in Bo1 since there’s a higher incidence of creature decks, but I was more concerned with it in Bo3. Even with this sideboard, can it really tackle the control meta? Well after playing it a decent amount, I can say that it definitely has what it takes to compete with the control and aggro decks alike! Despite how good the original version felt, it wouldn’t be a Bob article if I didn’t give it at least a few adjustments!
As you can see, I just changed around some sideboard slots. I like the amount of hate we had for Control so I kept that mostly intact. The only main difference was changing around the threat suite slightly to make it more flexible for multiple matchups and adding some additional cards for the creature decks.
For Bo1, I felt the deck was already pretty well positioned, but could use some minor adjustments as well. Here’s where I ended up.
The only difference was nixing the Slayer's Bounty for the fourth Cursebound Witch and Citystalker Connoisseur. I like Slayer's Bounty, but it’s pretty slow against the lightning quick Clerics and Dragons decks you’re privy to find on Bo1 ladder so I figured this was a nice hedge to respect those a bit more.
NOTABLE EXCLUSIONS / POTENTIAL INCLUSIONS
I’ve been seeing some Orzhov lists but I’m not exactly sure why. This is very narrow and pretty good against combo decks, but those don’t really exist anymore.
In theory this deck would really want the Lesson package as pretty much every other Brushstroke deck utilizes it, but I really like nixing it here. For Bo3, I really think you need the sideboard slots and realistically in Bo1, Cursebound Witch and Shambling Ghast are just better than Eyetwitch anyway. So by that logic, if you aren’t looking to play Eyetwitch, you’re extremely unlikely to want Professor. You can certainly use the lesson package in Bo1 if you really want to, but I think you may be surprised at how good the deck can be without.
This card is always good but doesn’t really fit in this deck.
This card is super cool and I’ve seen some lists utilize it, but it’s very likely unnecessary.
This is a consideration in Bo1 when you have the free sideboard slots. You could replace a Sorin with this which would probably be pretty free.
Same logic as Professor.
A decent hedge for Blue decks and a decent blocker against aggro, I don’t like this as much against Control decks with a lot of removal but was a good idea for the Alrund's Epiphany decks in Standard.
Although this has been a staple in other Brushstroke strategies, between fewer creatures and Rite of Oblivion, we don’t have nearly as much sacrifice fodder to justify this.
Unnecessary in this list, but I’ll never turn my nose up to a copy or two in any Black deck.
I personally love Lolth, but I don’t think it’s what you want to be doing in Alchemy right now. Too slow against the fast decks and not super high impact against the slow decks. I like going for Sorin the Mirthless and Citystalker much more in this meta.
Edgar is a great card, but better in the versions that play Blood on the Snow or in a more creature heavy metagame. A bit too low impact against Control.
Big Kaya fan, but in lists that have more creatures and in heavier creature metagames. Playing this against Control when neither of you have other permanents is very sad.
MATCHUP AND SIDEBOARD GUIDE
DIMIR / ESPER CONTROL
|+1 Sorin the Mirthless||-2 Vanishing Verse|
|+1 Citystalker Connoisseur||-4 Rite of Oblivion|
|+3 Duress||-4 The Meathook Massacre|
|+1 Check for Traps|
|+4 Go Blank|
You bring in all your good cards and take out most of the interaction that doesn’t do anything. The game plan is to rip their hand apart and poke them to death with whatever threat you can manage. I like keeping in some amount of Vanishing Verse since most of these decks play Lier, Disciple of the Drowned or Hullbreaker Horror.
|+1 Sorin the Mirthless||-4 Vanishing Verse|
|+1 Citystalker Connoisseur||-2 Rite of Oblivion|
|+3 Duress||-4 The Meathook Massacre|
|+1 Check for Traps|
|+4 Go Blank|
Pretty much same logic as above, but against Azorius I keep in some Rites of Oblivion as Verse will only hit Hullbreaker Horror (if they even play it) and completely miss against Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset and Key to the Archive which are higher priority targets.
|+1 Citystalker Connoisseur||-2 Sorin the Mirthless|
|+2 Liesa, Forgotten Archangel||-2 Deadly Dispute|
|+3 Doomskar||-2 Slayer's Bounty|
We’re already pretty well geared for the creature decks, but bringing in higher impact cards and taking out the Sorins which can be easily killed and some card draw is generally how I approach every creature matchup.
MONO WHITE / MONO RED AGGRO
|+1 Citystalker Connoisseur||-4 Deadly Dispute|
|+2 Liesa, Forgotten Archangel||-2 Slayer's Bounty|
The only exceptions to the creature matchup boarding is Monowhite and Monored Aggro (and technically other really small aggro decks.) Sorin can actually be really good doing nothing else than producing a 2/3 Flying Lifelink so if that stat line for 4 mana is acceptable in that matchup, you should board this way. The game plan is obvious, stall them out, gain some life, kill them with a big threat.
The mirror is a bit rough since presumably neither side has great tools against the other. The main way to approach it is you want as many 2 for 1 cards as possible since there’s always the threat of a Rite of Oblivion eating one of your best cards for little cost. To that end, I think just boarding in all 2 for 1s and boarding out Vanishing Verse which hits very little and gets blown out by Deadly Dispute is likely the way to go.
TIPS AND TRICKS
- Against Control I will almost always keep ticking up Sorin the Mirthless rather than making a 2/3. The threat of the ultimate is enough to force interaction, but getting cards to replace Sorin in the meanwhile tends to be a much higher EV play.
- With Cursebound Witch you should generally take the highest impact card you see, even if you can’t use it immediately. A lot of players are tempted to take something they can play earlier, but I’ve won many games off of a Cruel Reality that I drafted at the very beginning of the game. If you’re desperate for a play, then obviously you can ignore this advice.
- If you’re on the play against an aggro deck, I will pretty much always play Citystalker Connoisseur over Sorin the Mirthless on 4. Most aggro decks have their highest impact card on 4 so taking it from them is insanely high value.
- Remember Deadly Dispute can sacrifice any creature or artifact, that means Treasure and Blood tokens are fair game! This also works with Slayer's Bounty as you’ll get to draft a card from the spellbook as well.
- Don’t discount the turn 2 The Meathook Massacre for 0. It can drain a lot of life over the course of the game against controlling decks.
Thank you for reading!