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Abzan in Standard and UB in Draft, Top 16 at #PTDTK

Another Pro Tour is over, and what a run for Team Day1MTG: Marco Cammilluzzi Top 8’d, I reached Top 16, Tim Wu the Top 25, and Devon O’Donnell and Joey Manner made Top 50. We are really proud of our result overall!

Most of us played the Abzan Control that I designed, a pretty stock list that closely resembles the lists before Dragons of Tarkir, aside from the addition of Ultimate Price which gave some extra consistency to the deck and more early plays.

The deck is well suited to combat a wide spectrum of the metagame such as Abzan Aggro, Jeskai Tempo, RG Dragons, Jeskai Tokens, and Devotion but stumbles game 1 against polarized strategies like Sligh Red and Control decks because you have an abundance of dead cards that you need to replace post-sideboard.

Abzan Control

I went 6-3-1 in Standard:

Round 4 – Valentin Mackl (Jeskai Dragons) 2-0
Round 5 – Tom Martell (Abzan Midrange) 2-0
Round 6 – Eric Froehlich (Jeskai Ascendacy Tokens) 0-2
Round 7 – David Calf (Atarka Red) 2-1
Round 8 – Don Van Ravenzwaaij (Abzan Midrange with Sidisi, Undead Vizier) 2-1
Round 12 – Marco Cammilluzzi (Abzan Midrange) 1-1
Round 13 – Shouta Yasooka (UB Control with Dragons) 2-1
Round 14 – Seth Manfield (Abzan Midrange with Dragonlord Atarka and Whip of Erebos) 1-2
Round 15 – Raphael Levy (Rb Aggro) 0-2
Round 16 – Soo Han Yoon (UB Control) 2-1

I felt like I had nothing more to give in the matches I lost. EFro quickly defeated me in the feature match with his 2 copies of Disdainful Stroke in the main deck—he was able to counter my 2 Elspeth, Sun’s Champions, and then my 3rd copy was too late.

Against Seth Manfield, I got punished in game 2 by keeping a terrible hand and in game 3 he showed me the power of Whipping back a Dragonlord Atarka in a midrange mirror.

Raphael Levy simply destroyed me—I was never in any of the games and I think he was able to easily deal more than 30 damage to me in both the games I lost.

Tom Martell had a better version for the mirror match with Den Protectors, although I was able to win 2-0. Against both control decks the matches seemed to be always in their favor, but thanks to 6 discard spells and the high number of threats, I came up with a victory both times.

During the tournament I had to play very quickly because of the timer. In multiple matches I could have found myself with an inconvenient draw if I didn’t play that quickly or didn’t force my opponent to.

I don’t know if my version is better than the one played by Alexander Hayne and Team ChannelFireball with Den Protector, I could see cutting Liliana Vess and some other cards to find a place for them. To me it looks great against every matchup—against aggro it’s a solid 2-for-1 because it can trade and get back removal from the graveyard, while against midrange/control strategies it is pure card advantage.

Sideboarding

UB Control

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Esper Dragons

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Abzan Aggro

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Abzan Midrange

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Mono-Red

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RG Dragons

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Devotion

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Jeskai Tokens

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Since I had already chosen my deck, I focused a lot on drafting both online and on paper. The archetype that I found myself most comfortable with was UB, whereas the worst was GW since white was the worst color with its mediocre commons—even its best one, Pacifism, can easily be trumped by exploit.  I quickly realized that the format is really fast—RB/RG/RW/GW can close the game in a couple of turns if you don’t stop them, that’s why you need a large number of 2- and 3-drops to make some trades.

Some fringe cards like Sultai Emissary and Jeskai Sage got way better after Dragons of Tarkir, they are now easily first-pickable if you need fuel for your exploit.

Black is by far the best color, with great commons like Flatten, Vulturous Aven, and Butcher’s Glee as the top 3. Red also has great commons and together they are probably the best archetype in the format, but it’s always overdrafted so you might end up a very poor aggro deck with a bunch of 2/3s for 3 and some removal spells. UB was pretty overdrafted as well in my PT testing, but was the one that I understood better, and even at the PT I found the right path to draft it twice.

As I said, at the PT I drafted UB Control both times, going 3-0 in the first pod and 2-1 in the second. I always had a very high number of low-drops, and prioritized them over the more expensive cards.  In my second draft, since I had only three 2-drops (one of which was Sultai Emissary, which I first-picked), I took a Sultai Skullkeeper over a Write into Being in pack 3.

First Draft

In my 2 Dragons of Tarkir packs I opened two premium uncommons: Ultimate Price and Death Wind, and I got passed great cards like Silumgar’s Command, Youthful Scholar, Crux of Fate, and Tasigur, the Golden Fang. The deck was fantastic and the only game I lost was against Hall-of-Famer Bob Maher.

I thought I was missing ways to seal the deal after trading my drops and killing what was left, but in the end Silumgar Monument and Tasigur, the Golden Fang did the job. Crux of Fate was obviously busted and every time I had it in my opener it was an easy game.

Qarsi Sadist and Wandering Tombshell, even if they seem like filler, were great in this deck and I’m really happy I had a lot of high-toughness creatures since I played against aggro decks all three times.

I also didn’t regret my choice to not play Zephyr Scribe in the main deck. I was ready to sideboard it in case I played against slower deck, but that didn’t happen.

Second Draft

I found myself 9th at the end of Day 2, so got to draft at the second pod with a bunch of 6-1-1 and a 6-2, along with my teammates Ben Friedman and Tim Wu. I opened Pitiless Horde, and went basically mono-black with a Gudul Lurker and an Updraft Elemental in first booster.

Pick 1, pack 2 was the most difficult for me. I had to choose between Boltwing Marauder and Youthful Scholar. As I said I love UB more than RB, and as my previous draft showed, Youthful Scholar is an incredibly powerful card, but the same goes for the Dragon. I was still open to both archetypes and that pick would set me in one direction only. Eventually I took the Scholar and the draft continued smoothly, I received a Foul Renewal P2p2 which is an insane card, and also a Supplant Form P3p3.

This was my final deck list:

I lost the first round against my teammate Tim Wu and his Abzan Skycaptains, then I won against RB pretty easily, and then again against GW in two very long matches. The deck felt much worse than the first one but I managed to 2-1 in a pretty difficult pod.

Once against, I thought people underestimated forcing two colors, when you find an archetype that’s way better than others.

This weekend was great for me, first because of my 15th place finish and then because another Italian, my teammate, reached the Top 8 of a Pro Tour, helping to put Italy and Day1MTG on the map.

[Editor’s Note: The Abzan Midrange sideboard guide said to cut 4 Duress instead of 4 Thoughtseize.]

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