Modern is in a good place, and the changing of the guard has already begun.

Bye Probe and Troll!

Welcome Push and Rallier!

Modern is a big format. There is a plethora of stable decks, as well as break-out decks weekly. GP Vancouver brought the rise of Jund Death’s Shadow, but was also accompanied in Top 8 by a slew of format mainstays: Affinity, CoCo, and Merfolk.

I’ve always viewed Modern as open enough that players can play what they want. It isn’t like Standard, Legacy, or Vintage where the top-tier decks weed out the majority of strategies by virtue of being dominant, better options. I’ve been looking forward to Modern this weekend because there are a lot of enticing options to play. I’m always happy when I have 3 or 4 great choices in the queue. I like Tron, Grobots, and Storm, but I’m almost certainly going to end up on Abzan Company.

When the chips are down, cast CoCo and hope for the best.

It is also encouraging to see Collected Company Top 8’d the last Modern GP.

Abzan Company

Eric Severson, 5th place at GP Vancouver

Eric’s list looks great, and is very close to what I will sleeve up.

The Legend of the Angel and the Spike Feeder: “Once upon a time… the game ended.”

I’ve played the combo before and love the fact it made Top 8. It is a boon to have a combo kill that doesn’t go through the graveyard. With that being said, Feeder is a mediocre card and Angel isn’t a CoCo hit. It is a great option but also has a price.

All in all, you’re just another root in the wall.

Eric has no Wall of Roots, which opens up some main-deck slots for him. Personally, I continue to be impressed with Wall and the synergy it has with Chord of Calling and Clues. They are also effective blockers against aggressive decks.

One last thing about Roots: it gets -0/-1 counters, which means even with multiple uses a single +1/+1 counter generates positive power when blocking. People miss that a lot.

Here is the list I’m going to play:

Abzan Company

Brian DeMars

Let’s talk about cards.

What wonderful Wood Elves!

Rallier is a tricky card to evaluate. When it works, it really works. When it sucks, it’s embarrassing.

It’s a trap!

Saffi + Rallier + Viscera Seer allows you to generate infinite scrys.
Saffi + Rallier + Viscera Seer + Anafenza, Kin Tree Spirit generates infinite bolster triggers.

The whole deck already features a bunch of creature combos, and these loops are less effective pound for pound than the other options. This deck has enough good combos that there is no room for mediocre ones.

I tried another version with multiple Voices and Ralliers. My line of thinking was that making and recurring Voices might be a powerful angle of attack. The version felt worse than what I had before.

I have one copy now and it is a unique and impactful tutor target.

Main Deck Flex Slots

The core main deck from list to list is fairly solid. There are really only a handful of flexible spots that people tend to play with.

Scooze me while I kiss the sky…

I moved Ooze to the board for a while but it has found its way back to the main. It is an important tutor target in enough matchups that it feels worth it. Obviously, it is insane against Dredge but also important against decks like Storm, Reanimator, and Living End. The decks Ooze is good against are on the rise.

Spellskite is in the same category of card as Ooze. It is the right card for certain jobs. It’s important against decks that pump creatures—Infect or Battle Rage—and has other defensive duties against removal decks. I only play Spellskite when it is good enough to maindeck. It loses a lot of its value against Infect post-board because they will have more Twisted Images.

I never get tired of this card!

Tracker is the card advantage grinder and my path through decks with a lot of removal, which is why it has permanent spots in my 75. Tracker plus fetchland is so much value.

How My Sideboard Works

While Abzan main decks have started to look more and more alike, the sideboards are where the real customization is taking place. For instance, my sideboard and Eric’s are almost completely different. Don’t get me wrong—I like his sideboard, but I choose to position mine a little bit differently.

I use a third of my board on this configuration of cards. Tron is a rough matchup and I want to give myself a real chance to win every time. Fulminator + Surgical ends most games. Finding and recurring Fulminators is often good enough as well.

Surgical is obviously great against Dredge’s creatures or Conflagrate. It is also a spicy option against combo decks like Storm or Goryo’s Vengeance. I use it to solve specific problems where I’m not great at interacting. I don’t bring it in against Jund or Snapcaster decks.

Shrugs at burn deck.

I can’t quantify why Courser is great, but it is. It always over-performs. It’s good against Burn and can draw extra cards against control. It also has a neat bonus of surviving Anger of the Gods.

Forge-Tender vs. Selfless Spirit is a debate I’m willing to have. I agree one or the other is worth having to tutor for against Whipflare or Anger. I’m currently running Forge-Tender because I like that it is 1 mana cheaper to Chord for and is actively insane against Burn by blocking.

Interacting with hateful artifacts and enchantments is important. I have no main-deck way to kill a Worship or Ensnaring Bridge. But these kinds of cards are more common post-board than main deck.

Cage is nearly unbeatable for our game 1 configuration. Luckily, I’ve never faced one pre-board before. I play against the card a lot post-board.

Because it is so effective, you need to be aware of what you are going to do about it after board. I’m conscious the card is likely to come in and often try to alter my deck in such a way as to be more flexible about playing around it.

I bring in Pridemage a lot as a random “just in case” answer to a Cage. It is a reasonable card even if they never play an artifact or enchantment with the upside that it occasionally saves your game.

These are both great options against decks that try to go wide against you. Kataki is a house against Affinity and can do a lot of damage if deployed quickly.

I want Pontiff against Infect, Affinity, and other Birds/Hierarch decks. It is so effective at doing what it does that it often floats between main and side.

Storm is a problem matchup and Eidolon is the best solution. Eric has Canonist, but I prefer an answer that is more difficult for them to interact with. Neither Bolt nor Anger answer Eidolon, which is great because a lot of games will come down to whether they can get rid of Eidolon or not.

Here are a few tips to consider when you sideboard:

  • Against controlling decks, sideboard to be more flexible against hate.
  • You don’t want to push the combo route against decks that are good at stopping you from combo’ing. It is often easier to just attack them to death with whatever threats stick to the board.
  • I’m a proponent of boarding out some number of Melira, Seer, and Chord against Jund or Jeskai. Chord loses a lot of value against decks with sweepers because it becomes expensive to cast once you’ve gotten Angered.
  • I like to bring in Pridemages and Fulminators against decks that are likely to kill my creatures and have hateful cards. If they are going to kill my creatures I’m going to take something down with them.
  • You might also consider boarding out some number of Wall of Roots and Birds for threats or interaction. These cards equate to dead draws later in the game because they are poor attackers. Roots is worse when you board out Chords.
  • Against decks that are more aggressive than mine, I try to lower the curve and interact better.
  • Against Burn, Affinity, and Infect you don’t need an endless grind of card advantage—you need to not get run over quickly. I shift gears and become better at engaging these decks on their terms. I’m not favored in a race so I interact on a different axis. If I can weather the early storm most games will reach an eventuality where they can no longer win and I can take over. Witness and Tracker are slow and ineffective and they come out. Kitchen Finks is pretty bad against Infect because it doesn’t block twice against Infectors and some number should come out.

Those are the two major areas that dictate sideboarding: Speed of interaction and amount of grindy. If you can determine whether you are trying to speed up or hunker down, everything comes together pretty organically.

I believe that Abzan CoCo is currently one of the best options in Modern. The deck is fast, efficient, and can pressure from a lot of angles, which makes it a great choice for a tournament. It is sometimes tricky to play because there are often a lot of lines of play available, but with practice it is a very rewarding deck. I’d certainly never complain that my deck gives me too many options!