GP London 2015 Tournament Report – 1st Place with Hangarback Abzan, plus Sideboard Guide by Fabrizio Anteri
Today I have something to write about that I am sure a lot of you would be interested in reading: My GP London 2015 tournament report and sideboard guide of Hangarback Abzan.
After the success of Mono Red and UR Artifacts in the Pro Tour two weeks ago, the card I wanted to be playing at the London GP was Dromoka’s Command. GW Kibler’s or CoCo were the first decks that came to mind, but GP San Diego put so many copies in the top32 and I felt the need to go one level further.
A friend introduced me to the first version of Hangarback Abzan from an article of BBD. It didn’t take many games Online to realize how powerful the deck was; I tried different cards and different numbers, and ultimately this is the list I played:
Hangarback Abzan by Fabrizio Anteri
1 Ultimate Price
2 Self-Inflicted Wound
2 Tragic Arrogance
2 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
1 Arashin Cleric
1 Surge of Righteousness
1 Glare of Heresy
1 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
The base of the deck is very similar to the Abzan Agro we have known for several months now. The mana base gets a bit of an improvement by removing one Tap Land and one Pain Land, but the biggest improvement is the addition of Hangarback Walker instead of Rakshasa Deathdealer. Hero’s Downfall was the last addition to the deck as a replacement of Wingmate Roc, and it was the only spell that was double black in the whole 75. By avoiding cards like Bile Blight and Herald of Torments we are able to have all the power of Abzan Aggro but with a new found level of consistency.
Dromoka’s Command is at its best in this deck. You are not only getting all the benefits of the first two modes in this metagame, but you also have the most efficient creatures in the format to make a great use of the last two modes of the Command.
Hangarback Walker already proved to be the key in the GW mirrors, but in Abzan you also have Anafenza to shut down their Walkers. She is also the scariest card you can have against Abzan Rally.
Overall the deck is very well placed against most of the popular decks at the moment. Devotion strategies are still tough matches, but to be honest very few decks can fight back the nuts hands from Devotion. Ultimately, control decks like Esper Dragons and Blue Black are the real bad matches for Hangarback Abzan, but these two shouldn’t be very popular right now considering all the other decks in the metagame.
Grand Prix London was the first individual Grand Prix I played with less than three byes in over a year, due to my Gold Status to be finished for this season. This meant that I had to get an extra win during Day 1 to be able to make it to Day 2. Luckily, this Grand Prix was also the first time I went 9-0 on Day 1 in almost two years.
The decks I played against on Day 1 were: GW Kibler’s, Abzan Rally, UR Artifacts, Abzan Control, UR Mill, Hangarback Abzan and Jacekai Tempo. Basically 7 different decks, and I managed to dodge the two archetypes I didn’t want to face most.
On day 2 my first opponent had a game loss for a decklist mistake. He forgot to specify which Anafenza he was playing (remember to right the whole name of the cards in your decklist, ESPECIALLY when there are multiple cards in the format that start with the same word!). I lost game 1, but got the 3 match points winning game 2.
On round 11 I was facing the other remaining 10-0 player of the tournament: Brad Nelson. He was on RG Dragons, our match was covered in the feature match area and I think it was a quite interesting one. I would recommend to have a look by following this link and finding the 01.08.14 mark in the video. We both drew very well all three games, had some good plays, but I ended up losing for missing a line of play the turn before he topdecked Stormbreath Dragon when I had a Siege Rhino on top that would have gave me the win.
My next two opponents were in GW Kibler’s and UR Artifacts and both had unfortunate draws against my very solid ones, so I got 6 extra match points, leaving me very very close to top 8.
Round 14 was very important to me because the win would represent a qualification for Pro Tour Milwaukee, which was my primary goal for taking part in GP London. I really wanted to play the first PT of the season and I couldn’t afford to pay the ticket myself, so using my Silver Invitation there was not a consideration.
My opponent was on Abzan Control. I won game 1 by having a very good hand. For game 2 my hand was again really solid, he cast Thoughtseize on turn 2 and I revealed: Two untap lands (having played a Sandsteppe Cidatel on my turn 1), Fleecemane Lion, Anafenza, Den Protector, Sorin and Abzan Charm. At this point I thought he would interrupt my mana curve via Fleecemane or Anafenza, but he instead promptly took the Den Protector.
Den Protector is a normal target for Thoughtseize in the Abzan Control mirror matches, but I was not only playing an aggressive version of Abzan I also had a good mana curve that could win the game before he can take advantage of having the best late game. The fact that he didn’t even think for a second about making me discard Den Protector lead me to believe that he had a Languish in hand. As a result, I played the Fleecemane Lion on turn 2 and decided to pass the turn with 3 mana open on my turn 3. Apparently he didn’t have a better play on turn 4, so he decided to still cast his Languish on my Lion, allowing me to use my Abzan Charm to make it grow. Anafenza and Sorin joined. He fought back with Crux of Fate and Siege Rhino, but few turns later I was way ahead on life and resources for him to come back; I took the game, the match and the Pro Tour ticket.
I got paired against Marco Cammilluzzi in the last round and we were the only table able to secure a spot in the top8 with a draw. That’s what we did and I had the time to watch the match of my buddy Daniel Fior. Daniel is a long time friend, also Venezuelan/Italian, he stayed at my place for the week, we tested and decided the final list of the deck together, although he didn’t like a couple of cards in my sideboard so he replaced them with alternatives instead.
He won his match and made the top 8, being this the third Grand Prix we top 8’ed together, we were basically are each others lucky charm. Sadly the bracket of the top 8 put us against each other in the quarters. We split the first two games and before starting the last one, he told me he wanted to concede.
Daniel is moving back to Venezuela after the GP for an undefined period of time and he is not going to be able to play much Magic in the upcoming months, he knew I was be trying to get back on the train of Pro Magic and he felt he wouldn’t need the Pro Points as much as I do. After the match he told me that he was considering the concession as soon as he knew we were paired against each other, but it could look bad for the spectators of the tournament if we didn’t play, so he decided to play at first. Considering we were not even the main match of the coverage and the result of the match was just one game short, he conceded. Thanks again bro, its a really kind gesture and I really appreciate it.
Semifinals and Finals were covered here and here. There is one thing I would like to talk about regarding the Finals, which is my sideboard plan. Matteo was playing a very similar list of the deck; his list was more aggressive but it was lacking some of the important late game cards for the mirror matches (he didn’t have Ajani and he only had two Den Protectors and two Abzan Charms). The only threat I was really worried about was Wingmate Roc.
As usual, I planned to bring in Elspeth, Tasigur, Glare of Heresy and Self-Inflicted Wound, and I also decided to bring in 3 copies of Thoughtseize. This card is known to be bad in the Abzan mirrors and it’s the first card you take out during sideboarding, but I felt my version of the deck was so ahead in the mirror, and as such I could afford to draw a dead Thoughtseize in the late game.
Thoughtseize did help that second game, but ultimately I have to say that I won because he drew very poorly after starting with a decent hand.
I said it before and I will say it again: It takes a good deck to win a GP, some skill, but lots of luck as well. I am really happy to have taken home my third GP champion trophy and I will be looking for more in the upcoming seasons.
Sideboardinging Guide for Hangarback Abzan
The performance of the deck was simple amazing, it completely dominated the tournament. With the WMCQ this weekend and GP Prague the weekend after, everyone should really keep an eye on the deck if they want to succeed in Standard.
I’ve already been asked by a lot of people about a sideboarding guide for this deck, and I am sure everyone who read until this point is just waiting for it, so I won’t make you wait any longer, here we go!
VS Mirror Match
As I said before, the cards you want here are Elspeth, Glare of Heresy, Self-inflicted Wound and Tasigur. The only bad card is Ultimate Price, so other than that you will have to remove some numbers of other cards depending on the exact list and how aggressive or not you want to be (which will depend on whether you are on the play or on the draw). The most common cards I remove some copies of are: Dromoka’s Command (not really good if you are behind or they have open mana), Hangarback Walker (bad against Anafenza and Abzan Charm), Sorin (specially on the draw it doesn’t feel like doing much), Warden of the First Tree (requires a lot of mana before being a decent threat).
VS Abzan Control
This is suppose to be a bad match for Abzan Aggro, but the numbers I’ve seem so far say otherwise. I would like to test more the match before drawing any conclusions. I think playing well around each other’s cards is key for the match. I wouldn’t be surprise to see the best player winning more often than not in this match up.
VS Mono Red Aggro
-4 Abzan Charm
You remove your bad cards and add your good ones, easy right? This is probably the best match for the deck. It’s really hard for them to force through enough damage with creatures when you have so much efficient removal and big blockers, then you have life gain and Dromoka’s Command to stay away from Burn range, and finally you have a pretty fast clock yourself to kill them.
VS GR Devotion
I couldn’t agree with friends what’s the best sideboard plan for this match up, so feel free to ignore this guide if you feel you have a better idea of the match.
VS Ensoul Artifact
VS Esper Dragons
This is the worse match because you have a lot of dead cards Game 1. Post board it gets more even with Thoughtseize. The games are likely going long so cutting a Land is perfectly fine, at least on the Draw.
VS Jacekai Tempo
Your threats are very hard for them to answer, so your best plan is making sure they can’t make big profit of Jace, Soulfire Grand Master and Mantis Rider. If you manage to keep life high for long enough, eventually your threats will stick around to kill them.
I haven’t play much this match, but it should be decently good. You have lots of cheap efficient removal against them and Hangarback Walker makes it almost impossible for them to have a good attack in the late game.
VS RG Dragons
Another match I didn’t test before the GP, I felt the need to be controlish on the draw against Brad, but probably Tragic Arrogance is not good enough against hasty Dragons. Until I get further information of how to play this match, I would only make this change for postboard games:
With that I think I’ve covered the most important matches of the current Metagame. Going forward I will expect a lot of mirror matches and without giving it much though I believe the best way to fight that would be to have some sideboard in the main deck already. Elspeth, Sun’s Champion as a one-of at least is the first card I would add.
I hope you enjoyed the reading and it helps you win your Qualifiers this weekend. I am so happy to don’t have to play the Online PTQ I was planning to before the GP, so I will be chilling out this weekend and I will see you in GP Prague the week after!