четверг, 3 сентября 2015 г.

MtG. 99 Cents on Abzan Company in Modern. Summer Origins Updates

Hello, folks! Welcome to the first post in the new blog!
This blogger would be the new home for all Magic: the Gathering  and Hearthstone strategy articles from me and my friends.

In this post  I would like to elaborate on my thoughts on Abzan Company in Modern after practicing the deck at a bunch of PPTQs this summer and other tournaments and share my experience on a couple of new cards from Magic Origins this archtype received. This is not a Primer-type article, but very close indeed. Consider this piece as a Summer Season Experience analysis. I would also touch a lot on other decks in Modern with connection to Abzan Company of course. You may definitely disagree with some of my statements and I would like to hear them, but please explain your point.

Let's start the dive!


Recent Oddity

Logan Mize's version from SCG Open in Charlottte couple weeks ago definitely rose some eyebrows. In short his maindeck is very uninteractive concerning what the opponent might be doing and he just goes all-in on the combo plan. His sideboard is indeed full of antihate cards and interaction, but it does neglect other combos and ramp decks for the most part. It is a viable strategy in geneal, yet certainly it has a lot of disadvantages.


FNm Trial


This is a version I want to trial out a bit tomorrow-today at an FNM before WMCQ:
 Maindeck





Sideboard






Card explanations in my build

First of – this version is not the absolute truth and traditional versions have the right to exist and be competitive as well. The given build is just one of the routes you can take with the deck. Indeed, I showcase and talk about this version, because I like it more and I think it is better than other variants right now. The biggest factors impacting my considerations is the existence of a lot of strong midrange and control decks in the format as well a plethora of combo decks, and that I hate losing to any deck of any side of the metagame spectrum. In particular, I don’t enjoy my Chords to be Dispelled after I tap out, or when my Chords are in my hand after all my creatures die and I am on just three lands, or when I topdeck an extra mana dork, or when one sweeper ruins my day….,or when I get wrecked by one Nihil Spellbomb. Hence, all the strange and odd adjustments in the deck.

I am not a big fan of playing more than one Horizon Canopy in the deck. I pretty much never want to see it in my starting hand. It adds up to SO much damage in addition to your fetches and shocks, if you draw it early. On the other hand the worst enemy of this deck is running out of gas. I’m happy with one copy nevertheless.

I really love Fiend Hunter, it even allows winning through a cast Emrakul, but it had to go. In order to find room for the value package a few cards had to be cut. I maindeck 2 Paths, I don’t run Walls and only 2 Chords. I.e. Hunter is not at best in this build.

Archangel-Feeder duo: I want to give this another shot. Indeed, Feeder is odd on its own. Lily main and Lark post-board make it a bit more attractive. Also the plan here is to go more on value, and Archangel is very sweet here as a big trump. It also allows additional combos, like Seer-Finks-Archangel. On its own it makes beatdown a much better plan. Replacing Redcap with Blood Artist keeps our >3cc creature count at two, therefore Company math is still fine. Linvala, in my opinion, is too good to even consider shifting it to the sideboard. Every interactive deck in the format hates Linvala. You even keep it in against Burn, because it blocks well, doesn’t die to just one Bolt, shuts down Grim Lavamancer, and doesn’t cost you 2 life with red Eidolon. It also shuts down Hangarbacks in the new versions of Jund and Abzan Midrange. One more advantage of this secondary combo is that it dodges opponents graveyard hate out of the sideboard, which is highly expected. It is not really fun to lose to Scavenging Ooze/older Anafenza/ Nihil Spellbomb/ Graffdigger's Cage/ Torpor Orb/ Relic of Progenitus and so on. Yes, we can often just win off of the beatdown plan, but the deck does get crippled quite a bit. There is also access to Decays/ Paths/ Pridemage for their hate, yet I do like the "Muahahah" effect of this duo, and as I said above, at least the angel is nummy on its own and has other add-on synegies.

Blood artist just looks better in the world full of removals and sweepers. Redcap is nice and versatile and all that jazz, and synergizes better with Township, but I’ve never been alone on this problem since Collected Company was printed. From a week to week I’ve been shifting back and forth multiple times on the Redcap camp, but with the second combo in the deck this vampire might be the choice. With this archtype you cannot go to a tournament just with the infinite life combo. There has to be a way to win at least the mirror. Infinite Bolster plan is too clunky to be relied upon that much. Artist almost wants to put Lingering Souls into the deck, and I used to play that card in the deck in the sideboard before those autumn bans like many did. Even Pawn of Ulamog flashed in my mind for a moment, but that kind of a puzzle I cannot solve yet, or just don’t see a competitive chain. Maybe something involving Xathrid Necromancer could lead to a viable package. Humans we already play are Nobles, Melira, Cartel, Witness, Lily, Sin Collector, Pontiff…With that plan in mind we can even play our own Wild Nacatl in the form of Champion of the Perish. But that is another story, which I don’t have enough time to explore just yet.

Kataki over Stony Silence: It is not just about having a creature for our digging spells. I once unintentionally drew against Affinity with a Stony Silence in play. It is about the same reason I came back to Scullers over Thoughtseize. We need to have pressure, gas, and not just an answer. Abzan Company is not Grixis Control. We don’t have enough hate for everything, we can only buy time. If we cannot quickly close out the game, they would eventually win. Running Kataki and Scullers makes presence of Burrentons a must in your sideboard. I would not hate a second copy, if you can find room.

Fulminator Mage is the best friend of Liliana and also a legitimate way to win our bad matchups like Amulet, Tron and Scapeshift. To most of you this is old news. As for some lesser known facts about this established sideboard tool, I would like to point out that Mages kill manlands, of which there are quite many all around. I generally board in at least one against Affinity and like 1-2 versus Jund/Abzan/non-Delver Grixis. Also Fulmis are nice versus the Living End deck. I would probably never cut Mages, but if you feel like can "dodge the bullet", then go ahead. I am simply not comfortable losing to matchups, which I face quite often in my area.

Sin Collector shines in a lot of matchups. Grixis, Twin, Jund, Abzan, Burn, Scapeshift, etc. Scullers costs one less and takes any non-land, which is why only one copy of Collector. It is great off the Company and with Lily/Lark. The exile clause is sweet because of opposing Snapcasters. If your field is full of decks mentioned in this paragraph, then go ahead and add a second copy.

No Wall of Roots and only 2 Chords: The seeling point of the Wall for me is not that it is amazing with Chords, but that it bolcks well Tarmogoyfs, Rhinos and Tasigurs. On the other hand, the deck is clogged with 2-drops and there's been too many cases, when I topdecks a manadork in the mid/late game and couldn't finish off the game. With only 2 Chords the Walls also become less relevant. In my mind it goes without saying that if you want to run the all-in variant maxing out on Chords you have to run 2 Walls alongisde Fiend Hunter, since in that version your Paths are in the sideboard. The problem with that strategy is that decks that interact and discrupt you a lot, make your Walls and Chords blanks a lot of the time. Which is why I replaced the 3rd Chord with a copy of Evolutionary Leap. That card essentially does the same function as the Chords, but it gives way more value. It cannot be Dispeled, but can run into a Spell Snare and can be Spell Pierced just like Chord. However, it makes a lot of opposing removal spells nearly a blank, since with 1-2 mana up you just reload on creatures and keep the pressure going. The ongoing feature of the Leap is what makes it better than Chord all so often. 

Liliana, Heretical Healer is another card that Magic Origins gave this deck. Here it is an extra Eternal Witness with few extra features. It gives the deck more grinding power, just like the Leap. And the Lily-Witness comparison is very similar to the Leap-Chord argument from above. Despite all that, I found that runing more than one copy of each makes the draws sometimes very redundant and clunky. In general, you don't to draw multiples. Leap doesn't work that well with no creatures in play. Also Abzan Company is not Combo Elves, which rund 4 Leaps. There is no huge mana ramp and our creatures cost more on average.  

Other card options

I can see a lot of arguments for and against Eidolon of Rhetoric. It is very similar to Aven Mindcensor in its function. Both cards are quite narrow but very powerful in right matchups. I actually like the Aven much more than Fulminator Mage, but the latter comes in nearly third and sometimes half of the matchups during the tournaments I play. Also if you play with any numbers of the new Liliana, you have to play Mages in SB. However, Aven has a continuous effect, even though they can still hit what they wanted. Basically you can never go wrong with cards like Reveillark, 2nd Scavenging Ooze or 2nd Spellskite in your sideboard. Therefore, when in doubt, put those in. After all the sideboard is tool for metagaming, and it makes sense to put generically good cards in an unknown meta. But please note here that there is a difference between unknown and random! If you have grounds to think that your WMCQ meta would be rather random, then put in an Eidolon, older Anafenza, Kor Firewalker and cards like that into your sideboard. The odds of dodging Tron and Amulet would be much higher and you might even play a mirror match!

Phyrexian Revoker is a funny card. It does hose Tron decks very nicely, and it’s also fine vs Amulet decks just naming Slayer’s Stronghold, i.e. the haste and vigilance land, or naming the double strike land. But there is more. Against BGx decks like Jund and Abzan it shuts off Liliana of the Veil and Scavenging Ooze. But because of Kolaghan’s Command in Jund it might not be super great. On the other hand, they are going to get value either way with the Commands, so perhaps it is potent. Abzan Company is full of X/2 and X/1 creatures as well. If replacing Dark Confidants in those decks with Hangarback Walkers ever become a popular thing, then Revoker becomes better. I would not side it in against Abzan Midange though. The reason Jund wants to replace Confidants is the Burn matchup and such. Siege Rhino negates Bobs quite a bit, and it is a solid 4-of in the deck, unlike 1-2 Huntmaster of the Fells in Jund. The pesky 2/1 Revoker is also very good against Mirror and Affinity. The card is more applicable in the format than Stony Silence and Kataki. Basically if for some reason you don’t want to hedge widely via Fulminators and Thoughtseizes against Ramps and Combos, and Tidehollow Sculler does not excite you as either, then do run Revoker. It’s usable at so many angles.


Thank you very much for reading!
Good luck at your local WMCQ or Open tournaments!
Stay tuned for more articles in the near future!

- Aarne Pyulze
- OthalaBor on Hearthstone
- Ekvilor everywhere else