Abzan is everywhere, once again!
Let’s take a look at the numbers from the last GP Brussels:
GP Brussels Day 2, 226 players
Siege Rhino is all over the place.
I found myself at 10-2 at GP Brussels after winning 5 mirror matches, then I lost 3 in a row to finish with a disappointing 10-5 record.
I was prepared for the mirror match and I had a nice plan which I explained in my deck tech, but I’ll also cover it today.
Let’s start with the deck list I would run if the tournament were tomorrow:
Unfortunately, the Construct has gone missing of late, maybe looking for the old Standard where in between Temples and tri-lands it had the time to level up, or when Hero’s Downfall was the removal of choice. Now Silkwrap and Anafenza are ubiquitous, forcing Walker to hit the bench.
Heir of the Wilds
In Hangarback Walker’s place we have Heir of the Wilds, which is the best 2-drop in the mirror match, and is also better than Hangarback Walker against red decks, fearlessly blocking Monastery Swiftspear.
It’s much worse against control decks such as Jeskai or Esper, because it doesn’t provide the extra value and doesn’t make a joke of Foul-Tongue Invocation. It’s also worse against Eldrazi because it’s just another creature that dies to Ugin.
This is the most overrated card in Standard. it was great last summer when Stoke the Flames, Lightning Strike, and Exquisite Firecraft was played in everything, but now this card isn’t even good against Atarka Red!
Not to mention, it’s awful against control and in the mirror when on the draw—or when you draw it late in the game you don’t want to cast it because of possible removal in response to your Command.
I choose to still play 2 copies because it’s very mana-efficient, costs GW, which sometimes is even better than costing B like Murderous Cut. This deck needs a lot of green and white mana, but not a lot of black, which means that sometimes it’s easier to cast Dromoka’s Command plus Abzan Charm than Murderous Cut plus Abzan Charm. Feel free to board this out on the draw against pretty much everyone and even on the play in the mirror match.
Playing 12 fetchlands means that your graveyard it’s always full, and playing Murderous Cut is the best removal spell in Standard when you can delve the full amount. I’ll always play at least 2 copies.
This is the best answer to Hangarback Walker, even if players are cutting it. It’s also the best answer to Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, which is the main reason you lose to Jeskai. If you deal with Jace, you increase your win percentage immensely.
With Jaces in every deck, I want to have as many early removal spells as possible.
Again, because Dromoka’s Command is bad right now, I want to play more Silkwraps, and people are going to start trimming their Commands which means Silkwrap is going to keep getting better.
Straight Abzan or Abzan Blue?
Play straightforward Abzan. Being able to play 4 Shambling Vent is great against control decks and you simply can’t fit an additional color.
The fourth color certainly isn’t for Woodland Wanderer, which is miles worse than Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. You have to play Rattleclaw Mystic, which is good on turn 2 and terrible the rest of the time. Stubborn Denial is a situational Negate in a deck that has to play creatures and removal spells.
What I’m Not Playing In My Sideboard
Sorin, Solemn Visitor
There are too many 4-drops right now, and Gideon is miles ahead.
Tasigur, the Golden Fang
I’ve never been in love with Tasigur in the sideboard, it’s just a great card versus everyone, so who am I supposed to bring it in against? I already have 2 Murderous Cuts, and I don’t want to find myself having too many delve cards in my hand.
I played this at the GP and I thought it was great, but it turns out that if you are behind with an empty board, and if the opponent’s creatures are huge, then even leaving them with one is going to hurt. Gone is the RG Devotion matchup, where you could keep your Rhino and attack their Xenagos. Life now is different, and it’s time to play new wraths.
Eldrazi is a bad deck, and is even more worse now that Jeskai has fallen off the radar. You can beat Eldrazi just with an average curve and a discard spell, and I don’t think you want to name Dragonlord Ojutai against Esper Dragons, even if I don’t consider it completely wrong.
What I Am Playing In My Sideboard
This is new technology. We’re in the middle of “new deck fever”—before it was Eldrazi, now it’s Rally. Just be prepared with a card that they can never beat. This also happens to be useful against Deathmist Raptor, Ojutai’s Command, and Hordeling Outburst, but I don’t think you can sideboard this in those matchups.
I want something to respond to a turn-5 Wingmate Roc with when I’m on the draw. Tragic Arrogance used to be good enough in the old Standard, but now I don’t like it anymore. I still need a Wrath of God to answer the unbeatable Bird. Planar Outburst has also the ability to make a 4/4 for 8 mana, which is relevant when you reach the point where you are both in top deck mode and have all the fetchable lands in play.
The third Wingmate Roc is there because it’s the best thing ever on the play against a deck without sweepers—when you curve out and your opponent is trying to answer everything you do 1-for-1, Wingmate Roc breaks the streak and it’s very difficult to catch up.
It’s very important to understand when you need to board differently on the play or the draw, especially in a deck like this that can play aggro or control.
It’s also very important to balance your spell and creature count: if you board in 5 spells, you can’t board out 5 creatures—even if they don’t shine in the matchup, you have to leave some of them in.
On the Play
As I said, I dislike Dromoka’s Command in the mirror match. It’s only good at the first stage of the game when your opponent is tapped out. It’s going to be bad in the late game because if your opponent represents a removal spell, you can’t cast your Dromoka’s Command with the risk of getting 2-for-1’d.
On the other hand, I like Silkwrap more, mainly because it’s known that Dromoka’s Command is a card to board out on the draw, and your opponent will do that and your Silkwrap will be a great removal spell. It’s not good enough to board in the third copy though, since it’s unable to answer a Siege Rhino. I like leaving in Silkwrap also because Heir of the Wilds is difficult to deal with, and Dromoka’s Command certainly can’t remove it.
On the Draw
I like to board out Silkwrap because players keep their Dromoka’s Commands on the play, so it’s not worth it.
I like to cut 1 Warden and 1 Gideon because they are also bad on the draw: you don’t have time to level up all your Wardens and might be behind on board when you play Gideon. I like to board in Transgress the Mind and Planar Outburst because you want to be able to answer Wingmate Roc, which is the main way to win the mirror match. Exert Influence and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar are two other powerful win conditions, that’s why I like Transgress the Mind.
Very easy sideboard plan here. Take your bad cards out, put your good cards in. The matchup is difficult though. You have to play it well, play around threats, and attack a lot with your Shambling Vent. Don’t be frightened if they have a Dragonlord Ojutai in play—if you just pass without doing anything, they won’t attack and you can bluff Abzan Charm. Play your Siege Rhinos, and hope they don’t find a way to counter your removal for their tapped Ojutai.
You don’t want to tap out ever, and you always want to be safe against their combo. Duresses and cheap removal spells are going to do the trick. Abzan Charm used to be awful against Mono-Red last season, but now it’s decent and it stops the combo, and you can very easily draw 2 cards as I did versus Javier Dominguez during the GP, because Atarka Red players aren’t going to finish you off with direct burn spells. The matchup is bad in game 1, but gets better after.
On the Play
On the Draw
On the play you want to attack, and they need to answer everything you do, so they won’t be able to leave 4 mana up for Ojutai’s Command to counter your Wingmate Roc, and that’s why the third copy is great. Meanwhile, when you are on the draw, they will be able to answer your plays at instant speed and resolving a Wingmate Roc will be more difficult. On the draw you will board in more discard spells—instead of on the play when you want to win fast and curve out with creatures and removal spells—that’s why Dromoka’s Command is better than Abzan Charm on the play. Heir of the Wilds is incredibly bad, because they are going to use their Fiery Impulses on it. It’s your job to play around Fiery Impulse with Warden of the First Tree. Level it up only if they can’t answer with a shock. The matchup is tough, and Jace is very powerful and can easily take over the game if unchecked.
Finally we bring in Hallowed Moonlight against someone, and in this matchup, it’s the real deal. You also board in your discard spells, which are going to be helpful to protect your Anafenza, the Foremost from a Valorous Stance or a Murderous Cut. Ultimate Price and Silkwrap are better than Abzan Charm and Dromoka’s Command to deal with Nantuko Husk and Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. The matchup is all about Anafenza, so make sure to value it correctly.
I keep hearing the argument that this matchup favors Eldrazi, but that’s not true at all. I haven’t lost to it yet online and I didn’t lose to it at the GP. You just curve out with creatures and take their key card away. Den Protector is great here because it survivesUgin, the Spirit Dragon and lets you play your discard spell again. I like Ultimate Price because they always board in Whisperwood Elemental and Nissa, Vastwood Seer, and you can snipe an early Rattleclaw Mystic.