Butcher Of The Horde

Just as a heads up, Sam Black really likes sacrifice-oriented Mardu cards. He was Mardu before Mardu was Mardu! See the incredible lists he’s already conjured up based on one of the most exciting Khans of Tarkir spoilers so far!

So, Butcher of the Horde.

A few people pointed me to this card as soon as it was spoiled. WRB, “Sacrifice another creature:” Yeah, okay, I’m interested.

This is a super-efficient, huge creature, which usually isn’t really my thing–this is a finisher, not an engine, and I’m generally into assembling
contraptions. This particular contraption just ends the game, which isn’t necessarily the most fun you can have. So why does this interest me?

Well, as good as a 5/4 flier for four mana is, Magic has gotten to the point where that’s really nothing special. If you want this card to be good enough
to justify playing these colors, you really need to take advantage of the last ability, which means you need to build a deck around it.

Building a deck around sacrificing creatures? Now, I’m interested.

The obvious card to compare this to is Falkenrath Aristocrat. They’re both four mana finishers that can function as sac outlets but that are mostly about
ending the game rather than building an engine. This one is a little bigger but doesn’t protect itself and doesn’t naturally have haste. On the other hand,
being bigger means it needs less protection, lifelink is huge, and vigilance is–well, it’s another option.

If you can feed the Butcher it seems basically impossible to race, but not necessarily all that hard to kill. Fortunately, if you can give it haste at a
relatively low cost, you’ll get a good amount of value out of it right away if your opponent’s tapped out.

The other reason that Butcher of the Horde is interesting to me is that it’s so powerful that it can go in almost any kind of Mardu deck, so finding the
best shell for it is very complicated as we have tons of options.

So, let me get to some options.

First, I’m still really into the white convoke spells, and I’d like to be able to protect the Butcher. I don’t want to tap four mana and maybe sacrifice a
creature just to have my opponent use a removal spell, but I’d love to have my opponent play a removal spell that I can counter for one mana or less and
then hit them for five.

I have a reputation for loving the “sacrifice a creature” mechanic, but that’s not it exactly–the card I always cite as one of my favorites is Doomed
Traveler, and I also have a fondness for Gravecrawler. I like these creatures that can give you a little extra value, and then by extension, I want ways to
sacrifice them to make sure I get that value. If Mardu is about making lots of things die, I need them to give me lots of things first. I’m looking for a
Doomed Traveler or a Mogg War Marshal. I’ll be delighted if Khans of Tarkir has such a card, but for now, we still have a few options.

One of the best might actually be Raise the Alarm. Raise the Alarm didn’t really see any play in Standard the first time around in Mirrodin, but it’s seen
a bit of play in Modern in token decks. If you’re just looking for bodies, it gives them to you at a respectable rate. Mardu Charm offers something similar
at a slightly worse rate, but it has other good options–it’s possible that it’s worth playing if we’re going to always be satisfied with the second mode.

So, if we’re just looking for cheap bodies to sacrifice, the easiest way to get them is probably Raise the Alarm and Mardu Charm, possibly up to Triplicate
Spirits if we find that we’re good enough at generating creatures that we can afford to convoke. Launch the Fleet is another potential source of tokens.

The first tension that we come to is that if we’re trying to flood the board and play Butcher of the Horde, Butcher of the Horde likely wants to be the top
of the curve, but if we’re making a bunch of tokens, then pumping them would be pretty nice, and Dictate of Heliod would likely be awesome, but we have to
decide if we really want five mana spells, and we need to know what we’re doing to win when we don’t draw Butcher of the Horde.

Also, we’re going to want some one-mana plays.

Alright, enough talk, let’s look at some lists:

This is a W/B based token shell that tries to support Triplicate Spirits. Pain Seer is nice with convoke as a way to tap it for inspired, and Brain Maggot
is good with convoke because it lets you use the 1/1 body productively. I’m not too optimistic about Sorin, Solemn Visitor in general, but I think it might
be a reasonable alternative anthem in a deck like this. I only have one Dictate of Heliod because I’m only playing 23 lands.

One thing that I noticed is that if you’re willing to play some lands with drawbacks, you can have really good mana. This configuration offers 13 red, 17
black, and 18 white sources, and I’m not even pushing it as hard as I can. This is encouraging, and I also like just how many options we have.

Herald of Anafenza is pretty great here. I needed another one-drop, and this one gives me something to do later in the game that is entirely on plan. It
may not be the optimal one-drop for a more traditional Mardu deck (one that actually uses the raid mechanic, for example), but when I’m just trying to make
a bunch of tokens, this is a welcome source of additional tokens.

Brimaz, King of Oreskos is great with Butcher of the Horde, as the cat tokens he generates usually die without really getting you any value at all, and
Butcher of the Horde can easily turn each of those cats into five life by sacrificing them after they’re blocked to gain lifelink. They’re also great with
instant speed convoke spells.

This seems like an acceptable starting point, but there are still a lot of great cards with Butcher of the Horde that I didn’t manage to fit in here.

First, while I’m on the subject of white convoke, I want to take another shot at using my pet card, Return to the Ranks. I didn’t include it here because
too many of my creatures are tokens, which is the same reason I didn’t use Mardu Ascendancy, which only triggers when you attack with nontoken creatures.
Let’s look at a deck that’s built to use those, along with another little engine:

Soulmender and Sungrace Pegasus aren’t exactly Constructed powerhouses, but there are a few reasons to try them–the alternatives for one mana creatures
aren’t amazing. Sungrace Pegasus is good at triggering Mardu Ascendancy, and I’m really curious about Ajani’s Pridemate, especially with some lands that
gain life. I also think that Ajani’s Pridemate is a way to turn Return to the Ranks into a respectable finisher, as getting one or two of them back with a
couple creatures that gain life gives you some pretty big threats. I think the power level is a bit too low here, but I wanted to get the idea out there
anyway. This would be much better in Modern, where returning several Soul Wardens with an Ajani’s Pridemate is a lot more explosive.

This sideboard contains Goblin Rabblemaster. The deck isn’t really built to use the Rabblemaster, but the card is incredible if left unchecked, so I wanted
access to it against people who wouldn’t be well positioned against it. Really, I think it’s one of the better cards to build around with Butcher of the
Horde. Unlike Brimaz and Mardu Ascendancy, Goblin Rabblemaster creates a token at the beginning of combat, before attackers are declared, so you can
sacrifice the creature to give Butcher of the Horde haste, which is exactly what you’re looking for.

Consider this more aggressive take:

This “mono red” deck splashes for Mardu Ascendancy and Butcher of the Horde. Splashing two colors in a Foundry Street Denizen deck might seem weird, but
this could be the world we live in. The mana seems to work–this deck has only four tapped lands and 22 red sources, 13 black sources, and 12 white sources
(but that’s counting Bloodstained Mire as a regular dual land)–I’d consider cutting a Mountain for a Plains or Caves of Koilos, but I wanted ten
“mountains” for the Chained to the Rocks in the sideboard.

Once I’ve gone through all the trouble of making all my creatures red, Foundry Street Denizen looks incredible–it’s absurd with Goblin Rabblemaster, as
we’ve seen in Standard, but it’s even better with Mardu Ascendancy, which makes red goblins as well (all this deck needs is a Boggart Shenanigans).

This deck isn’t protecting its three and four mana creatures, but it’s playing cheaper creatures that are all serious threats, which forces the opponent to
spend their removal as soon as possible, and if they can’t, this deck packs enough burn to punish them for falling behind.

As much as I dislike red decks, this shell actually looks better than the white decks to me.

One thing that I notice about this creature base is that it has a lot of warriors–Foundry Street Denizen, War-Name Aspirant, Borderland Marauder, and
Goblin Rabblemaster are all warriors. As it happens, Mardu Charm also makes warriors (though, sadly for Foundry Street Denizen, they’re white). Also, as it
turns out, I like Bident of Thassa, so maybe we can do something with Raider’s Spoils:

This deck has 17 black and red sources with only two tapped lands and 27 warriors counting Mardu Charm as one. Raider’s Spoils seems really awesome here,
as +1/+0 to all your creatures (not just your warriors) is pretty good by itself, and drawing cards is great.

All of these decks have been on the smaller side, and it’s also possible to make a black creature base, though I think the red base is just better. What I
haven’t looked at is the decks where Butcher of the Horde is just one of a number of heavy hitting midrange creatures instead of the curve topper.

I’m not totally sure about Raise the Alarm in this deck, but it seems like it might be good against some of the aggro decks, and I like it as a way to
trigger raid on Wingmate Roc, a card I think is currently pretty underrated. It’s somewhat hard to find the right deck for a five mana creature that needs
you to have other attacking creatures, but if you have that, the payoff seems incredible to me. Broodmate Dragon was excellent, and this is a mana cheaper
for a similar impact on the board. Yes, you’re down two power, but I think the card would actually be worse if it made two 4/4s, oddly, as that would make
them vulnerable to Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, a card that Wingmate Roc is currently perfect against.

Wingmate Roc might be better in another color combination that supports midgame offense better–maybe some kind of Jeskai skies deck with Mantis Rider, but
I’d still want to try it here.

I’m also not sure if Sign in Blood is better than Read the Bones, but I really wanted the two mana play since I have so many threes, and there aren’t a lot
of good twos available. I think the best two mana creature for this deck might actually be Generator Servant.

If it ends up being too hard to have a creature for Wingmate Roc, I might consider trying Zurgo Helmsmasher in that slot–in general I’ve been leaning
toward Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker over Zurgo Helmsmasher because I think it’s going to be important to attack Nissa and Xenagos over their ground defense,
but Zurgo still might be worth testing.

There’s a lot of work to do on these decks still, but I’m really excited to see a powerful card that pushes me to want to try to build a non-green deck, as
I was worried that Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix would push the other clans out of the format. Seeing how easy it is to build functional manabases
with a tri-land and Mana Confluence gives me hope that the other clans can compete as long as their cards are strong enough, and Butcher of the Horde
definitely looks strong enough.