Conditions Allow - Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice EDH

Ben Doolittle • April 20, 2021

Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice  by Chris Rahn

The Boros Legion's Last Hurrah?

Hello, and welcome back to Conditions Allow, the article series where I take a legendary creature with a drawback and turn it into a strength. With Strixhaven here, we're getting a new interpretation of half of the two color pairings. The red-white pair, Lorehold, is particularly exciting because it fulfills a request many players have had for some time: commanders that don't just care about the combat step. But is that a fair accusation for Boros commanders? And is it really a doomed strategy in EDH? In order to find out, let's build around the Boros Legion's leader herself: Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice EDH!

Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice is all about the combat step, which is reflected by the cards that appear on her EDHREC page. Multicolored creatures like Swiftblade Vindicator and Skyknight Legionnaire are solid aggressive creatures that Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice can help scale into the mid-game with mentor. The problem is that Swiftblade Vindicator and Skyknight Legionnaire aren't very good cards. Additionally, Aurelia can only buff them to four power with mentor, over the course of multiple turns. Instead of focusing on pure damage output, I want to find more creative ways to use the +1/+1 counters Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice creates.

Count On Me

Boros isn't usually thought of as a color that interacts with +1/+1 counters, but white certainly is. This year gave us both Basri's Lieutenant and Alharu, Solemn Ritualist, which reward us when a creature with counters on it dies. This helps to blunt the impact of board wipes, and lets us circumvent one of the inherent drawbacks of the mentor mechanic. Once a creature becomes too big for Aurelia to mentor, you can sacrifice it, create a token, and keep attacking. Once you have a steady flow of +1/+1 counters, The Ozolith will save any fallen counters to place on Aurelia. She can then make your other creatures even bigger, or eventually win with commander damage.

You don't have to lose access to the creatures you sacrifice, either. Sigil of the New Dawn and Enduring Renewal fit into any deck running white, but focusing on counters opens up additional reanimation effects. Together Forever is a cheaper Sigil of the New Dawn that you have to activate preemptively. For more explosive plays, Cauldron of Souls is very, very good with +1/+1 counters. Not only does the Cauldron return your creatures directly to play, but Alharu, Solemn Ritualist and Basri's Lieutenant can immediately remove some of the -1/-1 counters that come with persist as they enter the battlefield. Add in Cathars' Crusade and your creatures will never stay dead for long.

Assembling the Legion

Of course, your primary source of +1/+1 counters is going to be Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice herself. Mentor can only target another attacking creature, so you're going to need to play creatures that are easy to attack with.

Selfless Spirit and Remorseful Cleric are both perfect creatures to play in this deck. They're both cheap, naturally have evasion, and can sacrifice themselves for a powerful ability. If you can't find Cauldron of Souls to protect your creatures, recurring Selfless Spirit can be even better. It even protects your creature tokens. Remorseful Cleric, Shinewend, and Goblin Cratermaker are also recur-able utility spells. Each of these four creatures can also sacrifice themselves. This is important in a deck with so many moving parts. Instead of having to find both a sacrifice outlet and a good creature, you get both on a single card.

Most importantly, all of those creatures have a base power and toughness less than two. Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice needs you to play small creatures that she can target with mentor. Even better, Recruiter of the Guard and Imperial Recruiter can search up just about any creature in your deck. Need to draw some cards? Grab Skullclamp with Stoneforge Mystic, or go straight for Mentor of the Meek. Need to keep the pressure up? Robber of the Rich and Grenzo, Havoc Raiser are strong draw engines too, while Captain Lannery Storm provides extra mana every time she attacks. Mikaeus, the Lunarch is a good late-game option, spreading one +1/+1 counter from Aurelia to every creature you control.

White is also very good at resurrecting small creatures. Sun Titan is a staple for good reason, but this deck can also make good use of Custodi Soulcaller. I'm not going to include Bishop of Rebirth, for the sake of keeping the creature curve low, but it's definitely worth considering. In a deck playing this many creatures with one toughness, it might be a better pick than Cauldron of Souls.

Dying on Your Terms

Despite its aggressive bend, this is an aristocrats deck. And no aristocrats deck would be complete without sacrifice outlets. Spawning Pit is perfect, as it allows us to sacrifice Imperial Recruiter to re-trigger its enter-the-battlefield effect, and generate creature tokens. Dark-Dweller Oracle is a source of card advantage, helping you dig for vital cards. Finally, to help pay for all of the activated and triggered abilities in the deck, Ashnod's Altar converts any extra tokens into mana.

Another method to kill your own creatures is to attack with them. Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice puts a +1/+1 counter on a creature when she attacks alongside it, so Together Forever and Cauldron of Souls can safely pluck it out of the graveyard if it is blocked and killed. Most of the time, though, you'll prefer your creatures survive combat. Reconnaissance plucks your creatures out of combat before they can be killed, or untaps them at the end of combat to simulate vigilance. Loyal Unicorn actually grants vigilance, while preventing combat damage to attacking creatures. Finally, Iroas, God of Victory keeps your creatures alive and makes them harder to block. Not only does this let you attack with impunity, it helps with the goal of ultimately winning through combat damage.

Aurelia Mentor EDH

Commander (1)
Creatures (26)
Artifacts (18)
Enchantments (8)
Instants (8)
Sorceries (2)
Lands (37)

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For a commander that supposedly only cares about attacking, Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice seems really cool. Forcing you to attack to create +1/+1 counters avoids some of the durdlier play patterns that Simic and Sultai decks can fall in to. In order to get the extra value from sacrificing creatures, you have to be attacking and moving the game forward. As someone who constantly forgets that the combat step even exists, the reminder that combat is good and needed is much appreciated.

Let me know what you think. If you've played with Aurelia, what cards have stood out for you? Is it really possible to win with Swiftblade Vindicator? Let me know in the comments below, and thanks for reading!

Ben was introduced to Magic during Seventh Edition and has played on and off ever since. A Simic mage at heart, he loves being given a problem to solve. When not shuffling cards, Ben can be found lost in a book or skiing in the mountains of Vermont.