December 3, 2018

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Grinding With Abzan in Standard

Hi there everyone,

This time I’m back with some thoughts and a deck list from a friend that’s been doing relatively well in my local Standard. This deck really reminds me of Khans of Tarkir block, smashing Siege Rhino mirror matches, due to the grindy/value nature of the deck.

I took this 75 from my friend, Nolan McDonald who had won a PPTQ with it on Saturday, November 10th, at World Collide in Oshawa, Ontario. Nolan is a talented, young, relatively new Magic player who worked to tweak this list with his teammate, confidant, and senior, Adrian Murchison.

After Nolan’s close out in Oshawa, I took the deck (with minimal practice, of course) to two consecutive PPTQ’s: Saturday, Nov. 17th at Top Games in Hamilton, Ontario; and Sunday, Nov. 18th at L.A. Mood Comics in London, Ontario.

Hamilton didn’t really go my way. I ended with a saddening 2-3 record and feeling unsettled about the deck’s performance. It felt strong every time I played it. It felt good, it felt like it gave me the opportunity to out-maneuver opponents, but just couldn’t come out on top. I did catch a few bad breaks with lands that day, seeing check-land after check-land but with no land to check. That’s just bad luck though, and it doesn’t really happen all that often.

Here’s the deck that Nolan so graciously lent me:

Nolan McDonald’s Abzan

Spells (6)
Find // Finality
Assassin’s Trophy

Creatures (26)
Trostani Discordant
Knight of Autumn
Militia Bugler
Jadelight Ranger
Ravenous Chupacabra
Llanowar Elves
Merfolk Branchwalker
Wildgrowth Walker

Planeswalkers (4)
Vivien Reid
Karn, Scion of Urza
Vraska, Relic Seeker

Lands (24)
Plains
Isolated Chapel
Forest
Swamp
Sunpetal Grove
Woodland Cemetery
Temple Garden
Overgrown Tomb

Sideboard (15)
Duress
Dead Weight
Vraska’s Contempt
Wildgrowth Walker
Sorcerous Spyglass
Profane Procession
The Eldest Reborn
Adanto Vanguard
Necrotic Wound

All around, the deck is gorgeous and I have to admit it plays like a dream. Other than the few unlucky land troubles I described above, the deck is capable of some absolutely ridiculous grindy games and has few holes. I did feel that this deck struggles with opposing Carnage Tyrants from the few times I played it. When I consulted the deck’s creator, he suggested we just also play Carnage Tyrant. Reasonable.

It was a Carnage Tyrant into Find // Finality that spelled my demise with the deck, and nut draws from Mono R or U decks are just hard to keep up with period. Two of the things I remember specifically loving while playing this deck are:

1) Militia Bugler into Trostani Discordant is GAS.

2) Open board against control once (both players, one card in hand) I played Militia Bugler into his three Militia Bugler buddies against control and it felt GREAT. Sure, I had tweleve-mana, but that’s quite the board reset after a Settle the Wreckage and having one card left in hand. It’s these little things that amaze me, the unlikely scenarios, that are still possible and DO happen.

I consulted Nolan a bit before I borrowed the deck and afterwards to see what he’d like to say about it.

Nolan explained that:

“The deck is jammed with value, which shows in its match up strengths against the control decks and other Golgari variants in the meta. When the opponent gives this deck time to do whatever it wants, it’s pretty much unstoppable. In the control match, most of their board clearing effects are negated by Find // Finality and the power of Militia Bugler plus explore creatures. It’s always good against control to hold Planeswalkers until the opponent uses one of their desperate board wipes to clear the ground and tap themselves out.

The sideboard against control is great as well with three Duress , two Adanto Vanguard , a Sorcerous Spyglass , a The Eldest Reborn, and a Vraska’s Contempt . All of those cards are great, but I would say the biggest player is Adanto Vangaurd. That card brings so much power for two mana and is almost impossible for control decks to kill if you play around Settle the Wreckage properly.

In the match up against other Golgari decks, we have so much card advantage with Militia Buglers and explore creatures that we should have a play on every turn of the game. I would say our worst match ups are aggro and angel decks. Angels’ lineup of big flyers can be a pretty big problem for this deck and the tech of Tocatli Honor Guard is a bit of a pain for us; our creature base is heavy in “enter-the-battlefield” effects.

I’ve had more success in this match up lately from a new addition of Necrotic Wound in the sideboard. This card helps the match up so much since it exiles Rekindling Phoenix and is an effective one mana removal spell. In the mono r/w match ups it’s really all about conserving as much life as we can early game, until we hit our big sweepers or resolve a Trostani Discordant.

Wildgrowth Walker is an ideal turn two for this deck in these tough match ups because it’s a must kill for the opponent. The fear of me playing a Jadelight Ranger next turn and turning Wildgrowth Walker into a 3/5 blocker and gaining six life is enough motivation to remove it.

I would say this deck could improve the sideboard plan. It has a lot of flexible slots which could probably be improved on like Profane Procession. It’s hard to get a reading on the card as a one of and I think it might be better as another Necrotic Wound. I would like to fit another Sorcerous Spyglass in, possibly taking out a Duress.”

So there you have it, right from the creator himself. I think we’ve determined:

-look out for Carnage Tyrants
-Angels are tough to beat, but possible
Adanto Vanguard is nuts
-So is Wildgrowth Walker
-So is Find // Finality

I’d also like to point out that I did have a Profane Procession resolve against a Drakes player at a PPTQ. It felt insanely powerful exiling Enigma Drakes and Crackling Drakes. Heck, I even got a Niv-Mizzet, Parun once!

That’s it for Standard for now – I’ll be making as many PPTQ’s as I can before the season finishes out, and PPTQ’s are finished for that matter. I had a close call the other weekend in Woodstock, ON at Bootown’s Games, except I tried Mono U this time. Missed Top 8 on breakers after losing a pair down to my best match up. Ninth place. WOMP, WOMP.

This Abzan deck is really grindy, and has the ability to compete with basically anything. It feels to me like the Swiss army knife of decks in Standard.

Until next time, thanks for reading!

…and if you’d like to follow my M:tG and gaming adventures, give me a follow over on twitter: @GoblinCredible

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