Competitive Casual: Attacking the Standard Metagame with Anointed Procession
We’re just coming off the back of one of the most exciting Pro Tours in recent memory. Mono-red aggro dominated proceedings, with a large share of the metagame and an even larger share of the top 8. Two other decks were successful, due to their apparent strength against Mono-red, namely BG Constrictor and Mono-black Zombies.
Each of those put one deck in the top 8 of the Pro Tour, and then dominated the MTGO PTQ on 30th July, with 6 copies combined in the top 8, including first place through to fifth.
That gives us the beginnings of a metagame to attack
When thinking about how to combat these three decks, I remembered Sam Black’s Abzan Tokens deck from last Standard season. For reference, his list from around that period can be found here. Since that deck was favoured against Black Green and had a decent Zombies matchup, tuning it against Mono-red seemed like an option.
You already have some game there. With Anointed Procession and Anointer Priest in play you can gain a lot of life and flood the board with tokens, which is naturally strong against falter effects and Ramunap Ruins.
Another card that interacts favourably in this way is an uncommon from Hour of Devastation. Namely, Sunscourge Champion.
On its own, this card can come down and gain you a bit of life and help stabilise the board. If you can Eternalize it with Anointed Procession in play though, you gain a lovely 8 life and create two 4/4 creatures! I hear two Obstinate Baltoths are pretty good. If you have Anointer Priest in play also, things start to get silly.
Sunscourge Champion does two things for you. First, the aforementioned lifegain, helping you to stabilise to give you time to get your token-making engine online. Second, it enables you to start to pressure the opponent’s life total with powerful 4/4 creatures.
I was chatting to a couple of friends about the combination of Sunscourge Champion and Anointed Procession, and they said “You mean like the deck that finished 9th in the MTGO PTQ”?
Clearly someone else had the same idea
Well, not quite. They’d gone for a straight black white option, similar to one Ross Merriam recently referenced in a Daily Digest on Starcity.
Black White Tokens – hyphon68450 (9th Place MTGO PTQ)
This deck has a similar core to Black’s tokens deck (Anointed Procession, Anointer Priest and Hidden Stockpile), but is less all in on the synergies and more controlling. This take on the archetype offers more individual card power and interactivity as well as a stable 2-colour mana base, at the cost of losing Catacomb Sifter, Cryptolith Rite[c], [c]Blisterpod and Ulvenwald Mysteries.
What does that mean? Well, I think it makes the BW build stack up a little better against some of the other linear archetypes on the fringes of Standard. Abzan is heavy on linearity and stacked full of combo pieces. That means there isn’t a lot you can do if your opponent makes God-Pharaoh’s Gift and puts Cataclysmic Gearhulk into play, or casts Hour of Devastation followed by Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
Having said that, Mono-red has pushed a lot of those over-the-top style decks out of the metagame. Instead, we can just focus on beating the big three decks. The way I see it, BW and Abzan are two possible strategies, and there are positives to each.
Black/White or Abzan?
- Abzan has a higher upside, with huge combo potential once your engine gets going.
- Black White has a powerful catch-up card in Fumigate, which can really help stabilise if you’ve spent the first couple of turns setting up.
- Abzan is better able to block in the early turns with Blisterpod[c/] and [c]Catacomb Sifter making life difficult for aggressive opponents.
- Black White can interact more with the opponent as it can run the flexible Cast Out.
- Abzan offers strong resistance to removal, with Ulvenwald Mysteries in addition to Hidden Stockpile.
- Black White offers a different approach by running more Planeswalkers.
- Abzan is better able to get some kind of engine online, as it has more combo pieces that all interact well together.
- With fewer combo pieces, Black White is able to sideboard more effectively without disrupting the engine.
- Abzan offers some mana acceleration in Eldrazi Scions and Cryptolith Rite.
- Black White has more consistent mana.
Right now, I really can’t decide. My head says play Black-White, my heart is attracted to the sweet sweet value that Abzan offers. If I was going to start testing these options, I’d use the above Black White list for a basis. Here’s where I’d start for Abzan:
In terms of a sideboard, I’d want some copies of Dusk // Dawn to come in against Zombies and Black Green, Fatal Push and maybe Declaration in Stone for Mono Red, and some Tireless Trackers to help out against more controlling decks.
Thanks for reading
I hope you enjoyed my bit of theory-crafting today. I plan on taking one of these lists for a spin at upcoming events and through some leagues on Magic Online, and I’ll find out where these ideas bear fruit.