Modern Abzan Aggro: Legless Walkers

What happens when the Robots and Forest Folk join forces? Technology meets raw natural power. This ain’t yo’ Llanowar Grandad’s Abzan deck. It’s a pairing that would have made even the most liberal Argothian (rest their souls) more than a little bit uncomfortable. This is a brew that Robo from Chrono Trigger would have been proud of.

First, I have to give props to a couple of Michigan players: Bryan Kinnell and Stephen Boggemes, who have been doing really elite and innovative work on brewing decks. Stephen has been deep in the tank on BIG Affinity and Bryan has had his fingerprints all over Faeries and now Abzan Affinity. It’s a lot of fun to work with players who think outside the box and are willing to invest in these ideas.

Mirrodin Meets Innistrad

So, I know you clicked on the link because you wanted to see the list, so let’s get to it:

Abzan Affinity

The deck isn’t really an Affinity deck. It’s a G/B/x Aggro deck that features a bunch of +1/+1-counter-based artifact creatures. The deck gives up Cranial Plating and Nexuses, but gains a bunch of colored-mana cards. The trade-off is real and the deck gains a ton of utility, including a toolbox element. I love me some toolbox utility…

Slither of the Machines

The Abzan Affinity deck is a strange hybrid between BIG Affinity and a G/B Aggro deck based around the following two cards:

“May the scales ever be in your favor..”

Obviously, these cards incentivize you to play as many +1/+1-counters-matter cards as possible—and two of the best such cards to ever step off the assembly line? You guessed it:

“These walkers were made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do. One of these days these walkers are gonna walk all over you…”

The deck started off only playing the two Robots but slowly gravitated toward more of a modular theme. Sometimes you just feel like putting O.K. Computer on the turntable because you can’t beat an original class:

“Sometimes the tiniest robots have the most heart.”

It turns out that the +1/+1-counter artifact creatures are the best +1/+1 counters matter creatures in Modern, and we arrived at the Hardened Scales + the “Fab Four” through a completely different line of thought.

In Mirrodin, Toolboxing Day is a National Holiday

“Let’s go for a walk in the woods and look for forest-dwelling robots.”

Traverse is an absurd card in this deck. In Modern, fetchlands make lands in your graveyard a gimme, and your artifact creatures provide two types. The card essentially gives the deck a toolbox for very little cost outside of the cards you are already playing.

The reason the deck went in the Robots direction was that we wanted to tutor for a sacrifice outlet that could set the Thopters free from an on-board Hangarback Walker. Bryan initially had a Cartel Aristocrat in that spot and I asked, why not just play a Ravager? It didn’t take long to robot up the brew.

Traverse also sets up some cool utility in the deck.

“Mirrodians and Innistradians living together – TOTAL CHAOS!”

Gavony Township feels pretty obvious in an 8 Hardened Scales deck. I’ve got to give Bryan credit for the Vault of the Archangels because I fought him on it. I thought Gavony was better, and so we should play 2. But the interaction between Walking Ballista and deaththouch is completely absurd. Machine gun time. The fact that the deck has 4 Demonic Tutors gives the option legs.

The Vault of the Archangel also has a ton of value post-sideboard when you bring in Lingering Souls and go wide.

It Ain’t Easy Being Green

When you walk down the artificer’s path, it’s easy to lose sight of the glory that is colored spells. But this isn’t an “artifact deck.” It’s a +1/+1 counters deck that has artifact creatures in it.

Let’s take a second and switch from metal gears to sinew and slime…

“Don’t be ‘jelly’ because this deck is so cool.”

Hardened Scales + Scavenging Ooze is actually gross. The card is already great and a useful toolbox card against Dredge and Snapcaster Mage. The fact that it gets double counters makes it a very quick finisher.

“Life’s a Drag(on) and then you die.”

You all remember “+1/+1 and fight.” The other modes are just cake. But countering a Searing Blaze or making an opponent sacrifice a Stony Silence is also real.

Few things make you die quite as decisively as Dromoka’s Command in Abzan Affinity. It deals a lot of damage and it creates a big clock. Adding counters to Walking Ballista is among the least fair things that I can imagine.

“I wanna push you around, well I will, well I will.”

Good card is good. The deck thrives on mana efficiency, board presence, and interaction. The synergies between counters are what allows you to be bigger and faster than other decks. Moving a Tarmogoyf aside or killing a Blighted Agent for a single B is always a good thing.

“The non-laser toting, non-robot Funky Space B.O.B.”

Dark Confidant feels like it doesn’t belong. I keep saying that we should cut it because it doesn’t have synergy with the +1/+1 counters angle, but it is just such a good card. There is also something to be said about the low CMC of the deck. Hangarback Walker and Walking Ballista both have a CMC of 0, which makes them fantastic Bob flips. It’s pretty sick when you get to draw threats and take no damage!

The other thing I love about the deck (besides the fact that it is full of all my favorite Modern cards) is that it has a ton of play to it. The deck curves out nicely, interacts up and down the curve, and has a ton of nuanced ways to generate board and card advantage. In particular, the Walkers have a lot of synergy but also a lot of play.

It is also fun to see the befuddled look on an opponent’s face who has absolutely no idea what is going on. Hardened Scales? Walker? Dromoka’s Command? What the heck is going on here!?

In the real world, the lawnmower is the natural enemy of the snake. In my world, the snakes push turbo-powered lawnmowers into battle. What a wonderful world.


Scroll to Top