Hello everyone! As I keep saying, Alchemy has been an absolute blast for me and so many decks have had the chance to shine. One of my favorite archetypes that I’ve been trying to get work for quite awhile is Sacrifice, but for Standard 2022 and Standard so far, it just wasn’t getting there for me. Long gone are the days of Cauldron Familiar and Witch's Oven and although it wasn’t a fun synergy, it is one that I’m “nostalgic” for.
Fun fact with that, the first Mythic Championship (Pro Tour, PT) I played was PT Oko (oh god why) and while some Oko midrange deck was the clear deck to play, one team brought Sultai Oko with the Cat/Oven combo and the like which ended up being the highest win rate deck. However, after Oko’s banning, Cauldron Familiar fell off the map. It was only brought back months later because Chris Kvartek played it (it being Rakdos Cat, an existing but unpopular deck) in a Mythic Point challenge to the maximum wins and it proliferated from there.
I digress, since Cat has been gone, Sacrifice has been off the menu. The most obvious reason wasn’t the creatures as there were plenty of good ones to sacrifice, but the payoffs. The Cat/Oven deck had Mayhem Devil, Korvold, Fae-Cursed King if you were Green, and the Cat loop itself to reward you. In Standard all we had was Extus, Oriq Overlord as the big payoff, and with Fading Hope being popular, that’s a pretty raw deal.
We did get The Meathook Massacre shortly after that which did act as a psuedo Bastion of Remembrance, but it wasn’t enough by itself. However, with Alchemy we got another Blood Artist effect in more literal terms: Sanguine Brushstroke. I had a feeling that with more ways to drain when creatures died the deck could finally reach a critical mass and brewed a preliminary list as a launching off point.
I felt like this deck had a whole lot going for it. 12 cards that like creatures being sacrificed, 16 creatures that liked to be sacrificed, 8 pieces of card advantage (not including Warlock Class), 2 removal spells and lands. The whole deck only cared about deploying creatures, getting down something that liked seeing creatures die, and do just that.
I was a bit concerned that this deck may be too slow, but I figured the concept was worth testing out. So I queue up a game and face Mono Green Aggro and I got to face my fears immediately. They had multiple large trampling threats and I had a lot of small bodies and a few cards that hurt me. I felt and was behind the whole game and realistically just felt like I was slowly dying and delaying the inevitable. I was sad as I thought the concept was cool, but being so flummoxed by a deck that’s likely to be popular is problematic… until I hit them for 15 in one turn.
The pause wasn’t just for dramatic effect, that’s more or less what happened for me. I felt obscenely behind like I could die at any moment, but I chumped the bare minimum to keep creatures on board and played Sanguine Brushstroke into a small The Meathook Massacre to deal a million damage. That was nifty, but more testing was needed. Queue up again and face an Omnath midrange deck. Okay, this is where things get difficult, Omnath is good at going over the top of decks that aren’t super fast or super grindy and I obliterated them.
Alright, alright, but it’s all going to fall apart once you face Control! I queue up against Dimir Control and they had the works. Turn 3 Meathook to wipe my board, Key to the Archive turn 4, Approach of the Second Sun turn 5 while I still barely have a board, turn 6 The Meathook Massacre, then they Meathooked again a few turns later, and I still won, albeit a super close game. This deck is insanely resilient and it may feel like you’re just barely hanging on a lot, but it rewards really meticulous play and unlike the other Sacrifice decks I’ve tried recently, it can pull you out of any spot.
Nevertheless, no deck is built perfectly the first try. I kept playing and kept tweaking since I figured there was a lot of room for improvements. After all my work, here’s where I ended up.
In case you’re struggling to see the difference, I swapped the fourth Jadar with a third Infernal Grasp, cut two Warlock Class for 2 Agadeem's Awakening, and replaced the Confront the Past in the board for a second Necrotic Fumes. I generally like tinkering with decks, but the base just felt really good already. The only thing I’m still unsure on is the amount of Warlock Class I should be playing (I think the correct answer is 2 or 3), but it’s felt really good.
Like any good Sacrifice strategy, you have to start with the one drops! Shambling Ghast is usual suspect one as it can help kill a small creature or make a Treasure on death, both unassuming but nice abilities. Eyetwitch is of course another excellent one drop as you draw a card when it dies which is obscene for one mana! For the last one drop creature, I knew Cursebound Witch was going to be good as it was similar to Eyetwitch, but I relegated it to a worse Eyetwitch. After playing more with it, I would now amend my statement to say that Witch is roughly as good, and sometimes even better! The spellbook cards it can grab are generally at least as good as a Lesson card, and maybe I’ve just been getting lucky, but they’ve usually been better.
For the final one drop in the deck, we have two copies of Warlock Class. Warlock Class is by far the weakest of the sacrifice payoffs as it only triggers once on your end step, but it does replace itself with it’s level 2 and then the final level can be game winning if you get that far. I think two is the right number despite them improving in multiples, but you can leave that to your discretion.
Next we have the two drops and representing the only two drop creature is Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia. In a deck that cares about death triggers, Jadar produces a Zombie that’s willing to die and come back every turn which is great whether you’re attacking or sacrificing it for value. Deadly Dispute has completely overtaken Village Rites as the card advantage of choice since it both produces a Treasure and you can sacrifice artifacts if you don’t want to lose a creature.
Although not really a two drop, The Meathook Massacre can be deployed on two to start getting the death triggers rolling and obviously scales really well into the late game. Infernal Grasp is the final of the two drops and is definitely the hardest card in the deck to balance. It doesn’t synergize with anything and it’s just a hedge for creatures, something a Sacrifice deck shouldn’t have a hard time dealing with in general. I think 3 is the right number to deal with big creatures that can mess us up, but I’m honestly still unsure.
To top the curve at 3 is a beautiful thing and one of the advantages to playing this deck. Fell Stinger was a card I really liked with Crimson Vow’s release and I’m glad to see I was right about it. Sign in Blood on a stick is pretty good apparently, especially when that stick lets you sacrifice something and is a 3/2 Deathtouch!
Then we have the final card that made it all possible with Sanguine Brushstroke. I knew this card was going to be good (Blood Artist is pretty insane if you never got to play it in Standard), but it’s definitely overperformed for me. I’m more than happy to pay 3 mana for Blood Artist, but getting a free filter and drain as well with the Blood token is just gravy.
This deck is super lean, can work on a little or a lot of mana, and can grind super well into the mid game. It can be a challenge to pilot, but it’s an absolute blast to play and generally offers interesting decisions every single turn.
NOTABLE EXCLUSIONS / POTENTIAL INCLUSIONS
I haven’t really liked combing the creature lands with Faceless Haven, but playing 1 probably isn’t unreasonable.
I’ve been on the Curtains tech in other decks for a little bit as robbing the opponent of their best card and getting a 3/4 in the process is not a bad deal. If the meta fills up with Control, you could consider playing this to help out there.
Eaten Alive is a popular removal spell in Sacrifice strategies, but I don’t find it much better than Infernal Grasp. Furthermore I’ve found that you want to save your sacrifices to the most opportune times and not just whenever you can manage to get them.
This Limited staple has yet to see play in Constructed, but it honestly may be good enough. Maybe you can cut Warlock Class to try them out, but they’re likely too weak.
I like this card in theory as rebuying a value creature can be cool, but it’s generally hard to get a lot of value out of this, it costs 2 life, and it’s a tapped land otherwise. I wouldn’t blame anyone for throwing in a copy or two, but I don’t love it compared to the 2022 Mardu Sacrifice deck which could get back Orcus, Prince of Undeath or Goldspan Dragon.
If Planeswalkers become a big thing then maybe you could play this, but Eaten Alive would almost certainly be better.
Older Sacrifice decks felt more or less forced to play this, not that they necessarily wanted to. It isn’t a bad card as it allows you to have Pest Summoning on 3 consistently, but it’s far from great.
I absolutely love this card and can be excellent in the right metagames. If the meta is all about slower decks I would definitely consider playing this over the Infernal Grasp.
Not a bad effect as you’ll generally trade a better creature for a worse creature, but 3 mana is no small ask and a 3/1 is pretty bad.
Skullport is interesting as it can trade in creatures for cards and it blocks really well. I could see playing a few copies, but wouldn’t be positive on what the cuts would be to make room.
I do like Henrika in Sacrifice strategies in theory, but the appeal of this deck is that it’s low curved and Henrika isn’t strong enough to justify us playing it.
Pretty much the same reasoning as Henrika, but Lolth is definitely much better and a much higher consideration, even if I ultimately think it doesn’t belong.
TIPS AND TRICKS
- Sequencing your 1 drops is very important. On the blind I will lead with Eyetwitch, if I know I want to be blocking I would lead with Shambling Ghast. Cursebound Witch I tend to deploy last as the cards I want to get off of it tend to be a bit pricier.
- You probably surmised this from how I talked about Eyetwitch, but I’m grabbing Pest Summoning most of the time with the Learn trigger.
- With Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia Zombies, you can hold full control, attack, and before the Decayed trigger resolves cast Deadly Dispute sacrificing it.
- Although you would rarely want to, remember Fell Stinger can both sacrifice itself and target the opponent for a bit of Burn if you need it.
- Sometimes (but very rarely) Infernal Grasping your own creatures is correct. I will sometimes do this against creatureless decks if I am looking for a particular card with Eyetwitch or Cursebound Witch.
- Try to not play out Agadeem's Awakening as a land if you can help it since it can be really powerful later in the game, but I wouldn’t necessarily miss land drops to do it either.
- As I said before, sometimes deploying The Meathook Massacre on turn 2 can be correct, especially against control decks.
- Sanguine Brushstroke conjures a copy of Blood Artist so it can hit your graveyard to get back with Agadeem's Awakening. Another fun tip, Sanguine Brushstroke triggers whenever you sacrifice a Blood, but you don’t have to activate the Blood to do that! Sacrificing it to Deadly Dispute will work as well!
Thank you for reading!