New Sets and Shenanigans
My favourite time of year on the MtG calendar is spoiler season of the new big set and the first few weeks/months of Standard there after. Khans of Tarkir was no different and was certainly not a let down. Having never played with a set that focused on three colour combinations I was excited to experiment with the possibilities that having access to the best cards from three colours had to offer.
I’m usually a little bit gutted as well because as a new set comes in we are losing another – but to be honest, this time round I was glad to see the back of Supreme Verdict, it kind of made the tail end of the last Standard block very unenjoyable for me – uncounterable wrath’s are like drugs kids, just say NO!
My favourite card to be spoiled was Abzan Charm, I loved the way it took the best abilities for the three colours it represented and wrapped them up in a nice little bundle – and ultimately it led me to choose Abzan in every pre-release event I played on MTGO – and I wasn’t dissapointed.
The outlast mechanic can get obscene in the limited format but this article is about my experiences with the deck I have cobbled together for standard and you guessed it, the deck flies the Abzan banner.
The Sideboard looks like this live:
The deck looked a little bit different originally. A wargames store has opened in my home town and they have (at the moment) a very small MtG community but with the shop being on my doorstep I was dying to get involved. This however posed me an issue as I had only a handful of the cards I needed to run the deck I wanted to and I found I was adding things in to try and substitute for cards I had online but didnt have in real life as of yet, notably I added – Ashen Riders, Whip of Erebos, See the Unwritten and Boon Satyr.
I had watched Abzan Midrange perform at the Pro Tour and various other SCG and TCG events but knew my deck wasn’t at that level just yet. (I was missing my third and fourth Rhino, not a Wingmate Roc to my name and only one Sorin) yet much to my surprise I won all four rounds.
And even more surprising, it was the cards that I had put in as ‘fillers’ that over-performed.
I’ll not lie, when opening my first box I pulled two of these out of the mythic slots and was sorely dissapointed. But after playing with it pretty extensively, it is a powerhouse of a card. At the time, every single creature in the deck triggered the ferocious ability which just made it all the better.
On more than one occasion flashing in a Boon Satyr at the end of my opponents turn and then playing See the Unwritten on my own was enough to illicit a scoop – especially if I revealed one of those ever so expensive Ashen Riders.
Once I obtained the ‘meat and potatoes’ of the standard Abzan Midrange deck I just couldnt justify taking these out as combined with a playset of Rhino’s and a playset of Roc’s, casting it in my second main phase just get’s ridiculous.
Boon Satyr had originally been in for Courser of Kruphix, more to fill the three drop slot than anything else. Once I obtained a playset of Courser’s these were promptly taken out… and then gradually crept back in.
I can hear the gasps now, “You seriously switched Courser of Kruphix for Boon Satyr? Are you mad!?”
No, I’m not mad, and I totally appreciate that Courser of Kruphix is a powerful card with the incremental life gain and card advantage, as well as it’s four toughness making it difficult to deal with on turn three – but it just wasn’t working for me.
Giving my opponent complete information by revealing the top card of my library proved to be extremely detrimental – as was drawing a second one late game when I was really looking to push through for those extra points of damage.
Boon Satyr let me flash in a creature to either provide a threat, pump a guy or prepare for See the Unwritten and over the course of about 30 games I had reduced the number of Courser’s to zilch and re-deployed a team of BOOM Satyr’s.
Another key point as to why these went back in was that against control build decks, it messed up the ebb and flow of their game plan by forcing them to use mana on their own turn, or if they chose to kill it on my turn, it allowed me to follow up with an uncountered threat (assuming it was early to mid game and they didnt already have a bazillion mana.)
Another card that was in as a filler originally that I couldnt justify removing when I acquired all the cards for the ‘standard’ deck.
I know a lot of Abzan builds run these out of the sideboard but with so much efficient removal in the set and the ETB abilities of 10 of my cards (Rhino, Roc and Rider) it just seemed insane to remove these to make room for an extra 2 Sorin.
I was really reaching for cards to make up the deck I first played live under the Abzan colours and put this in purely for See the Unwritten value. But as the format is progressing Im finding that hard casting this isn’t beyond the realms of possibility and for the time being they are remaining a two of in the deck.
That being said, this is one of the first cards to bite the dust when sideboarding commences in certain matchups so they may not be there forever.
So far, both online and in paper this deck has performed well for me. Though some matches are somewhat harder than others:
I read an article regarding the TCGplayer open and that of the six (it might have been eight) rounds where Mardu Midrange played against Abzan Midrange, they all went in Mardu’s favour.
This posed me concern as I had just forked out a ton of cash for the cards to finish the deck and I quickly proxied the Mardu deck up – thankfully the numbers are bit more even than the article I read suggested.
These games don’t go my way when I don’t have an answer to an early Rabblemaster, or when Crackling Doom hits a Caryatid (These games really suck. In fact Crackling Doom as a card is pretty crushing regardless of what it hits.)
This deck is all about speed and getting my life total down ASAP. With my curve erring on the higher side of the spectrum I would have thought that this matchup would be against me however, I’ve had good results. The lifegain from the Rhino’s and the Whip aswell as Sorin, Solem Visitor make it difficult for my opponent to Rush my life total to 0.
Against the Tempo deck alot of their removal is redundant at killing my creature base, often forcing a two for one as the game progresses. The access to so much life gain again tends to stabilize me in these matchups and as the game goes longer I am able to overwhelm my opponent
Abzan Midrange (The Mirror)
These games tend to go long….way long! As the recent Pro Tour finals shows. Often it comes down to planeswalker dominance or whoever casts the most Roc’s.
A difficult and thought provoking matchup – if Im being honest, im running less planeswalkers than most builds and this matchup can be punishing in game 1 because of this.
Right now – my nemesis.
I really struggle against this deck, but it is the deck I’ve played least against so variance may be against me.
Disdainful Stroke hits so much of my deck it’s painful, dissolve, dissipate, negate are never dead against my deck either and always crushing.
The Boon Satyr‘s have swung matches for me purely because I flash it in on my Opp’s end step and he either counters or Downfall’s and I follow it up with a Whip of Erebos giving me scope to ‘get in’ for damage even after my creatures hit the graveyard.
This matchup I am definitely looking for some input from the MtG community. What’s the best way to play against this sort of deck, how should I sideboard against it? Or do I just need to bite the bullet and accept that I’m not going to have a good win rate here?
With five weeks until my local PPTQ I am interested in your thoughts about both this deck and Abzan decks in general as a contender in the standard format at the moment.
I’m also eager to learn what changes you would make if you were piloting this deck both in the main and the sideboard.
And obviously, regarding the U/B control match up – how can I improve here?
Community Question: How can we make Abzan Midrange better against UB Control in Standard?
Comment in section below,