We’ve only got a couple more weeks of the Standard PPTQ season left – and between the beginning of June and the Grand Prix in Prague and London in August, many of us will have little reason to spend much more time exploring Dragons of Tarkir Standard. For me, that’s a shame, because last week I finally found a deck for the format that I not only love playing, but honestly believe is perfectly built to exploit the current metagame.
That deck is Abzan Megamorph – with a twist. I’d been experimenting with decks using the Den Protector/Deathmist Raptor shell for a couple of weeks and what I’d really been looking for was a way to win the grindy battles that the various midrange “mirrors” create. Good card choices helped, but I really wanted to find a way to go a little deeper on value than my opponents to allow me to out-grind them over long games. I found the solution just in time to take down the Aldershot PPTQ last Saturday – Satyr Wayfinder.
With Wayfinder levelling up Den Protector (comfortably my favourite card in Standard right now), getting extra Deathmist Raptors into the graveyard and allowing me to get ahead on tempo by playing delve spells for one or two mana, I was able to grind through a string of Abzan, Esper Dragons and Collected Company decks to qualify for the RPTQ at the end of June.
Here’s the list, as I’d play it this weekend:
1 Elspeth, Sun's Champion
2 Glare of Heresy
3 Drown in Sorrow
3 Ultimate Price
1 Dromoka's Command
1 Sorin, Solemn Visitor
1 Hidden Dragonslayer
There are a few interesting card choices – and omissions – which are concessions to the current metagame. I’ll go over a couple of the more interesting ones:
0 Hero’s Downfall, 0 Bile Blight
Not playing any copies of Hero’s Downfall might seem like heresy in an Abzan deck, but right now the card is largely outshone by Dromoka’s Command and, in this version of the deck Murderous Cut. Both are cheaper, more efficient creature removal, with a wider range of applications in the case of Dromoka’s Command.
It’s true that I can expect to lose the odd game to a resolved Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. But in the current meta I’d firmly expect to win many more by running cards that are more efficient and less awkward on the mana. The heavy three-colour manabase has always been one of Abzan’s downfalls (yep, pun intended), but this version of the deck minimises that issue effectively. If Ashiok continues to increase in popularity, I may be interested in adding a Display of Dominance to my sideboard to reduce the pressure on the discard spells.
Mana constraints are also one of the reasons not to play Bile Blight but I’ve also been increasingly unhappy with just how situational the card is. It sits dead in hand far too often, and not having it in mirrors means you’ll increase your chances of drawing good cards you can use in the late game. Almost every card in this deck is a great card to find on turn ten (the Satyr Wayfinders are the only significant exception), and making sure you have the better quality of topdecks in midrange mirrors is a great way to increase your win percentage there.
0 Courser of Kruphix
This is the kind of deck I’d usually be very happy running Courser of Kruphix in, but it’s important to look at the bigger picture when deckbuilding, and right now the big picture has a whole lot of copies of Dromoka’s Command.
Right now, playing any enchantments at all in a creature deck is a great way to gift your opponent 2-for-1s. So far the worst a Command has been able to do to me is Hunt the Weak one of my creatures, whilst I’ve been getting tons of value from my copies against Abzan decks running Courser and Green-White decks playing Boon Satyr. If Command drops off I’d be happy to experiment with Courser again but for now I’d rather play the value game the right way.
0 Sylvan Caryatid
When I first put the deck together I tried out both Sylvan Caryatid and Elvish Mystic as I suspected that the way to beat the mirror was to get ahead with acceleration in the early game. Having played the deck a little more I’ve realised that the cards in the mirror are so redundant, and the quality of the removal so good, that it’s pretty hard to get too far ahead this way without playing something like Wingmate Roc – which, to be fair, is starting to look fairly well-positioned again – and you’re better off again by improving the level of value you can get from your deck in the mid-game and strengthening your topdecks towards the end of the match.
I’ve seen enough Abzan mirrors decided by one player drawing a couple of lands and Caryatids in a row while the other finds gas to want to do everything I can to be on the right side of that equation as often as possible. Playing Mystic and/or Caryatid pushes us towards losing that battle, and whilst Satyr Wayfinder is itself a poor late draw, it does allow us to skimp on lands a little – so we can reasonably play 24 rather than the more usual 25 or 26 – and that in itself means we get to keep our late land-draws down to a minimum.
MATCH-UPS AND SIDEBOARDING
The metagame remains immensely diverse, but I’ll try to provide some strong starting points for approaching sideboarding and strategy in some of the more prominent match-ups.
Lots of decks wrongly claim to have a strong match-up against Esper – this deck actually has one. The Raptor engine is very tough for them to beat, especially backed up by discard. When using your discard spells, if you’re unsure whether to take an answer spell or a threat, I’d lean towards a threat. Not only does taking a Dragonlord Ojutai buy you time to get through their reactive spells, it can potentially turn off cards like Silumgar’s Scorn later on.
Postboard, Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver is their most problematic card – always try and attack their hand before they can cast it. A good trick is to bait out countermagic with face-down Deathmist Raptors, bluffing the Den Protector, to try and run them out of counters so you can resolve the Protector and get a bunch of value.
Red-Green Aggro/Red Deck Wins
This deck has fallen away a little lately so the maindeck isn’t optimised for the red decks, meaning game one is tricky. Postboard though, we bring in Drown in Sorrow and more cheap removal, meaning we should be slightly favoured. Be careful not to activate Sorin’s +1 ability into the Skullcrack mode of Atarka’s Command, which is the easiest way to lose from a stable board state.
Abzan decks come in all shapes and forms, such is the depth of card options this colour combination has. More than with any other deck, be flexible with your sideboarding and ensure you spend time working out what you need. Generally speaking I will look to take out Thoughtseize on the draw, as I’m expecting to find it tougher to get ahead on tempo and become the aggressor in the game, but keep them in on the play where I’ll expect to be out of the gates faster most of the time.
There are lots of midrange-y versions of Abzan that are hard to categorise as “control” or “aggro” – it’s important to work out whether you want to be the beatdown or go for the long game when you sideboard. Decide on your plan and commit to it.
As you can see, my list of cards coming in or out is pretty fluid. You have to play to the cards they’ve shown you. Elspeth and Glare of Heresy are generally your best cards but what they replace will vary depending on exactly what your opponent is doing.
Aggro decks tend to be slightly easier to board against, but the presence or absence of Wingmate Roc is important to consider, as you will likely want to keep one or two Thoughtseize in for that card as you have no other way to tarde with it one-for-one, whereas you should otherwise take it out. The value of Dromoka’s Command will vary heavily depending on whether they play any enchantment creatures, which the aggro versions usually don’t. If they aren’t playing any enchantments I would typically take it out. Ultimate Price is generally awful against Abzan but occasionally a build will play enough cards like Heir of the Wilds
A rising archetype designed to beat Abzan and Esper decks, game one is horrible, but the sideboard has all of the tools you need to win the match. Any answers to Stormbreath Dragon you can find should be in the deck, and helpfully their threat base is usually almost exclusively mono-coloured creatures, making Ultimate Price an all-star.
Dromoka’s Command does take out Outpost Siege, and important card in the match, but is usually poor otherwise. The stock Mardu list usually runs two Sieges and the card is excellent in this match-up, but because of Command’s prevalence I’d expect to see the numbers of Sieges being played to drop in the next couple of weeks.
This is a deck that’s popping up with increasing frequency since Craig Wescoe took it to the Top 8 at GP Toronto. Happily it seems like a pretty great match-up as your creatures simply outclass theirs at every point on the curve, so as long as you play around Collected Company properly, you’ll be fine.
Postboard, Thoughtseize is a card I see people leaving in that I think should be cut, especially on the draw. Their deck is extremely redundant except for Company itself, and they usually run Den Protector themselves to make discard quite low-impact. The value of Glare of Heresy depends heavily on their creature base. Most of these decks play a majority of mono-green creatures, so I would only bring it in if I saw cards like Brimaz, King of Oreskos or Seeker of the Way.
On the play, Dromoka’s Command and Sorin, Solemn Visitor are often better than Whisperood Elemental or Tasigur as you can’t afford to be out of the gates too slowly, and both are great for catching up from behind.
I’m almost a little sad that winning last week’s PPTQ prevents me from competing in the last two weeks’ worth of Standard tournaments, because I’ve had more fun playing this deck than any other since Mono-Black Control stopped being good almost a year ago. The deck has a great balance between aggressive and reactive elements and is better set up to grind value over a long game than any other list I’ve seen in the last few weeks.
If you’re still trying to lock up one of those precious few RPTQ slots for the end of June, I can’t recommend Abzan Dredgamoprh (as I’ve realised I should call it, because who doesn’t love a good Magic pun?) enough. Best of luck, and maybe I’ll see you in Huddersfield!
P.S. I’ve recently decided to dive into the world of Twitter, where I can fill the online world with excellent Magic puns and spam links to my articles. If you fancy following me, feel free to find me on @wildrovermtg.
Community Question: In your opinion, what is the best deck in Standard right now and why?
Thanks for reading,