Feature Article from Raphael Levy

Abzan Blue in Action (Videos)

Raphael Levy

11/27/2015 11:01:00 AM

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Last week I decided to play a couple more games (actually, a lot more games!) with Abzan Blue to try out the changes I talked about in my Grand Prix Brussels report.

After the Grand Prix I realized the deck didn't want Wingmate Roc at all and that Sorin was a little out of place. I replaced them with Skyrider Elf #4, Woodland Wanderer #3 and Murderous Cut #4. That way, the deck felt a little more consistent and the draws were a little smoother.

I also took out a Duress for a Dispel in the sideboard as Rally was a deck I wanted to have an extra card against. Dispel counters their important spells (Collected Company, Rally the Ancestors, Murderous Cut, and their own Dispel) and is more versatile than Duress in a way. Being able to sit behind a Dispel feels a lot safer in the midgame as you'll gain the turn when you counter their key spell, a sequence that would not have happened if you had a Duress (they can have two key spells in hand and won't lose the turn when they play one of them).

So here is the list I took to the online tables:

Abzan Blue by Raphael Levy
Main Deck
Sideboard
4 Anafenza, the Foremost
4 Den Protector
1 Heir of the Wilds
4 Siege Rhino
4 Skyrider Elf
4 Warden of the First Tree
3 Woodland Wanderer
Creatures [24]
4 Abzan Charm
3 Dromoka's Command
4 Murderous Cut
Spells [11]
2 Canopy Vista
4 Flooded Strand
2 Forest (269)
1 Plains (253)
3 Polluted Delta
1 Prairie Stream
1 Smoldering Marsh
1 Sunken Hollow
2 Swamp (261)
4 Windswept Heath
4 Wooded Foothills
Lands [25]
Deck Total [60]


3 Arashin Cleric
3 Disdainful Stroke
1 Dispel
1 Duress
3 Exert Influence
2 Surge of Righteousness
1 Ultimate Price
1 Virulent Plague
Sideboard [15]





Click for full deck stats & notes!

Changes from the last list:

-1 Sorin, Solemn Visitor
-2 Wingmate Roc
-1 Island
-1 Duress (SB)

+1 Murderous Cut
+2 Woodland Wanderer
+1 Swamp
+1 Dispel (SB)

A few words before you watch the videos:

-I played a lot of matches and selected the ones I thought were interesting, so you have a better understanding of how the deck works and what its strengths and weaknesses are, and how the other decks interact.
-I don't think I played particularly well; it is indeed pretty hard to comment at the same time as I'm playing, but I'm doing my best. So if you notice a good play that I missed or a horrible play that I made, I won't take it personal!


Videos

Vs. B/G Ramp

Your matchup against Ramp is pretty hard to lose and, as I mentioned earlier, Disdainful Stroke is your trump card. But really, your best shot at winning against it, no matter which version they're playing, is to have a normal draw and watch them stumble. When the deck (Ramp) works, it looks unbeatable (even though a couple of disruption spells would keep them from going anywhere), however, it's far from working every time. They need to hit a land every turn, to keep their mana producer alive on turn two (if they have one), never miss a land drop (at least not miss the crucial third one) AND have their win cons ready at the right time. The video shows just that.


Vs. Four-Color Aristocrats

While team Tournament Center had an insane win rate with Rally against Abzan at Grand Prix Brussels, our version with blue has a few cards that could make the difference, and Skyrider Elf is one of them. An unchecked Anafenza can also do the work. We also saw that Disdainful Stroke as well as Dispel are extremely useful to keep them from going off.


Vs. Atarka Red

The Atarka Red matchup can sometimes be a little tricky and close, but I haven't lost to it in the last few days I've been playing the deck (about four or five times). Just play super carefully and know when to pull the trigger (meaning when to attack). In this matchup, even if I take some of them out, Woodland Wanderer is the best way to attack your opponent, attacking for chunks of six every turn makes for a super-fast clock for them.


Vs. G/W Megamorph

I hadn't talked about G/W Megamorph in my report since I had never played against it until now. Now that I have, it feels that this matchup is very hard. The problem is that we can't really attack on the ground when they have Raptors and Hangarback Walkers and unfortunately, Skyrider Elves are very soft targets for Silkwrap. Their converted mana cost is two no matter how big they are and come back as a 0/0 if you free them with a Dromoka's Command. Exert Influence won't do as much either as, again, Silkwrap will ruin you day. Unless you steal a Wingmate Roc (your best target being a Warden of the Free Tree), and they can still exile it with Silkwrap or Stasis Snare and have an easy choice if you make them sacrifice an enchantment with the G/W command (they will get their creature back).

G/W Megamorph can stop you nut draw, and take over the game in a couple of turns. You won't be able to easily deal with their Gideon. So overall, it might just be your worst matchup.

***

I really like the deck the way it is now. In fact, that's the only standard deck I've liked in a while. I got to appreciate how good Warden of the First Tree was and how powerful Anafenza and Siege Rhino were. The addition of blue fills the curve gap that some other versions of Abzan have.

Mid
Low
 Warden of the First Tree
$0.86
$0.13
Store QTY Price  
helvault 1 $0.15
Tier Zero Gaming 1 $0.18
supergalacticgames 1 $0.19
Boss Monster Games 1 $0.21
JLD Singles 2 $0.26
Markorama Games 1 $0.26
SaffronCardShop 1 $0.26
Bayside Thrift 1 $0.26
Q Music Shop 2 $0.30
Card Addiction 80 $0.30
Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Warden of the First Tree Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card

So far this is the only deck that I've seen with Skyrider Elf. Manu Vernay was right, this card is amazing, and I'm pretty sure we'll see it again in other decks. I used to like Icefeather Aven for its bouncing ability, but I didn't mind playing it as a 2/2 flyer for two mana. Skyrider Elf has the ability to attack planeswalkers, block Mantis Riders, fly over Rally chump blockers, dodge Surge of Righteousness.

I also believe that, along with Woodland Wanderers, they are good replacements for Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Wingmate Roc. Maybe I'm wrong, and we'll see soon enough if people switch from Gideon to converge creatures in their Abzan lists. As far as I'm concerned, I'm sold.

I hope you enjoyed watching and if you'd like this kind of videos and want me to make more, or if you have suggestions, just let me know.

Until next time!

Raph