I’m going to try to keep this as concise as I can since a 14 round GP with Abzan isn’t the most interesting thing to read by any means. Going into the tournament I chose Abzan for two reasons. Firstly, lingering souls is a very strong card against Death’s Shadow and is just strong in general. Secondly I’ve been playing the B/G/x archetype for several years and it was a comfort pick. For reference, our standard player was on Esper God Pharaoh’s Gift and our legacy player was on BUG Delver. Here’s the list I played:
I know some card choices may seem strange so:
3x Grim Flayer: This card can be awful in some matchups (burn, eldrazi tron, company decks, etc) but it does exactly what I want Dark Confidant to do in Jund: get me cards I want to see. Didn’t have room for a 4th. The card ended up being fantastic every time it dealt damage. I’d play it again.
2x Siege Rhino: This is the worst card in the deck and I don’t think it’s close. However, In this version of Abzan I wanted to have some sort of top end that can get damage through. Also it beats Worship, which is almost relevant. This card in my opinion is unplayable and wouldn’t play it again.
1x Twilight Mire: This was from a last minute decision to remove the 4th Blooming marsh and it paid off immensely. Coming into play untapped with no life loss is broken.
2x Tireless Tracker: This card is insane and I hate that it’s good. It let’s you play an even more grindy game than before. It’s slow, but so is the deck. I boarded them out against most aggressive decks.
1x Gideon, Ally of Zendikar: Gideon is absolute trash and unless I lose my next 5 mirror matches in a row I won’t play it again. He was meant to be a clock against tron and control decks that just ends up being too slow. I played with a 14 card sideboard for this tournament essentially.
1x Sorin, Solemn Visitor: Sorin’s my pet card that I use to break midrange mirrors. He ultimates very quickly and he has insane synergy with lingering souls to gain you dumb amounts of life.
1x Stirring Wildwood. I don’t know why I thought this card was even remotely playable but I’m not good at building decks. This should be a 3rd Shambling Vent or a 2nd forest.
Round 1 vs Mill
Our opponents came all the way from Italy which was pretty neat. What wasn’t neat was playing against Mill at Comp REL. The matchup isn’t bad by any means, but you can get archive trapped out of the game sometimes and it’s annoying in general.
Game 1 I beat him down with Tarmogoyfs and stripped his hand of cards he needed. Wasn’t very close.
Game 2 I kept a very slow hand and got milled out. Nice meme.
Game 3 I kept a very suspect hand that needed one more land to be great. However, the match was over after we resolved mulligans as my teammates had already won their games. Unless he milled me early, I had no 3rd land in my next 6 or so cards.
Team is now 1-0
Round 2 vs U/R Through the Breach
There isn’t much to say about this round but I actually put my opponent on storm until I saw Cryptic command from a Thoughtseize later in the game and then I realized I needed to be scared of Emrakul.
Game 1: He died to threats he couldn’t interact with.
Game 2: He had more staying power but his can trips never found him anything.
Round 3 vs Grixis Shadow
My opponent was actually a really cool guy. His standard teammate told us that he just started playing constructed and my legacy teammate literally was teaching their legacy player how to get Craterhoof into play in elves where it wasn’t intuitive. He was literally playing 3 games of magic at once a few times.
Game 1: I’m able to snag a snapcaster with Inquisition and he discards some of my threats as well until I can get some lingering souls and other threats out to kill him. This is a very good matchup in general for me and one I was prepared for.
Game 1: Opponent struggles to keep threats on the table as I deploy mine. Tarmogoyf hits hard. Shoutouts to him for being such a good humored person.
Round 4 vs UWR Control
No not the Geist version. This was my game to lose since I constantly trash talk this deck. I think it’s durdle city and I cannot fathom how pooping out a singleton Torrential Gearhulk with Nahiri is stronger than just playing U/R Breach or the UWR Nahiri deck that feel out of favor a while back.
Game 1: His draws are very well equipped to beat all of my threats and I scoop with no cards left in the interest of finishing the match time. HOWEVER, I made an egregious error in trying to take back a play. He got gearhulk from nahiri ultimate and I forgot that it gained haste. Opponent said “take 5?” and I said OK. I said that forgetting I had a path to exile in hand and then in a panic tried to do it before damage. I shook my head and said “No I said damage resolves and I’m at 5” and I path’d it on endstep. I should have, in hindsight, called a judge on myself, or my opponent should have called one on me, as that is never ok at this level of competition.
Game 2: Tireless tracker is a dumb card when they get you 3 or more clues and your grim flayers have found you every threat you could want. I made another really loose mistake and tried to attack with a tracker after my flayers had been blown up by an engineered explosives, which my opponent pointed out to me. Oops. I’m more than confident I would have won that game, but my teammates had won theirs already and the match was over
Round 5 vs Eldrazi
Games 1 and 2 I got completely stomped and it wasn’t even close. I made a huge error by not holding Liliana in my hand for a threat and instead developed her pitching Damnation. Nice. Top deck reality smasher ended me.
This is already a bad matchup and I played path to exile almost specifically for this, but It ended up not getting me there.
Round 6 vs Coralhelm Company
Luckily this is a matchup I have a ton of experience in and was prepared for. I don’t think it’s a great matchup but when you play a deck that’s a pile of removal it never feels unwinnable.
Game 1: Tarmogoyf beats a very slow hand from my opponent.
Game 2: He companies like a god and spell quellers my answers.
Game 3: I can’t remember if this was in game 3 or 1, but I was able to maelstrom pulse 2 birds when he was on 1 land and fatal push his 3 drop. Opponents mana was bad in this game either way and lingering souls is a good card.
Round 7 vs Storm
My opponent had the most energy I’ve ever seen in my life and was jamming out to stuff on his headphones. He was very animated until I started playing and he got quiet very fast. If you can’t interact with Tarmogoyf you probably will lose. Abzan really has no excuse to lose against storm unless you draw terribly. I 2-0’d this one quickly.
Unfortunately my teammates lost xd.
Round 8 vs Reid Duke on Jund Shadow
OH BOY THE BIG ONE. Anyone who I talk to about magic knows I’m a huge Reid Duke fanboy and I had been joking ALL DAY about the possibility of running into the Peach Garden Oath team consisting of some of the best players in the world. And here we are. My teammates let me know this was my fault.
I knew Reid was on Jund Shadow splaying lingering souls from observing a match of his a few rounds prior to this one, and I’ve played various mirrors over the years so I was prepared but not confident. I just wanted to give him a good match.
Game 1: Oh boy time to give him a great game I think to myself. Then I mulligan to 5 and just hope I can prove I’m not trash. He beats me pretty soundly but it wasn’t a stomp like I had imagined. Lingering souls tokens quickly finish the game for him.
Game 2: I’m able to draw an insane amount of removal and Reid takes a ton of damage just through his own cards, making my threats a priority to kill no matter what I play. Sorin Vampire gets me there.
Game 3: Reid keeps a hand of shockland, street wraith, street wraith, thoughtseize you on his first turn and I’m on the draw. I fight back as best as I can but at one point, either I wasn’t paying attention to his traverses or what but the turn I felt I had the game he deploys 3 threats in one turn as my Sorin is about to ult. I’m able to clear a few of them and I know if I can ult Sorin I don’t think I can lose. Reid draws his card for turn and I see Owen Turtenwald go wide-eyed and start cheering while making this face:
Reid had drawn a fatal push to clear the way for his Death’s Shadow to kill my sorin in one hit. And I promptly drew blanks as he drew more threats. I thanked Reid for great games and he agreed to answer a few of my questions about B/G/x. I asked him if he thought Bloodbraid Elf was getting unbanned next month and he chuckled and told me he’s really not the person to ask about that, but he did feel it would be unbanned in the next 2 years. Ok. During the match Reid thoughtseizes me and sees path to exile in my hand. For those who don’t know, Reid is not a fan of path in this archetype whatsoever. In every article he writes about Abzan he reiterates that it’s unecessary and counter intuitive to the resource denial plan. So when I revealed my hand after telling him at the beginning that I was a fan and appreciated his articles, it was incredibly embarrassing.
Basically I told him I felt the eldrazi matchup suffered a lot without it, and he agreed with me. He told me he just hates it as early interaction against company decks where mana dorks are so prevalent. So basically he wants to beat company, I want to beat eldrazi.
Team: 6-2 and live for Day 2
Day 2 we were a bit nervous as the standings had us sandwiched between 2 teams that we really didn’t want to play against
Luckily we dodged them but we constantly saw pro teams, hall of famers, and pro tour regulars on either side of us the next few rounds, which was pretty surreal.
Round 9 vs Storm
This storm player was very meticulous and seemed to SCRY EVERYTHING TO THE TOP holy moly.
Game 1: I get dumpstered by insane tempo and couldn’t win quick enough.
Game 2: I brought in the spicy anti empty the warrens package of zealous persecution and flaying tendrills. Ironically I drew maelstrom pulse to kill 12 goblins and kill him.
Game 3: I get there with threats that can’t be interacted with. Storm’s a good matchup.
Round 10 vs Burn
Every time I think I have a read on what an opponent is playing based on their mannerisms I get memed. This guy was fairly quiet and reserved, and then his turn 1 is lava spike you. Magic is hard. Context: I hate losing to burn, and Kitchen finks hasn’t left my sideboard for several years. Apparently this guy also is a regular on the SCG tour.
Game 1: Opponent seemingly keeps a terrible hand that can’t be beaten by my draws
Game 2: I curve into finks and other lifegain shenanigans and as I win game 2 I find out both my teammates have lost their games.
Round 11 vs Dredge
I didn’t actually know people still played this after Grave-troll got banned again.
Game 1: He keeps a slow hand and I Tarmogoyf is a good card
Game 2: He crushes me and I die on turn 3.
Game 3: Almost identical to what happened in game 2. This matchup is pretty atrocious and very difficult without either graveyard hate or removal with an exile clause. Our team lost as well.
Round 12 vs Burn
OH BOY good thing I stubbornly always prepare to never lose to this deck.
Game 1: He’s creature heavy and I’m able to turn the corner quickly after he runs out of cards.
Game 2: I get the most disgusting lifegain curve: triple escalate Collective Brutality to kill your Goblin Guide, drain you, and take your burn spell, Kitchen Finks, Sorin, finks in that order.
Round 13 vs U/R Breach
Oh no not again. Thankfully my opponent was incredibly nice and it was actually a pleasure to play someone so late in the tournament who was this relaxed.
Game 1: He can’t take my threats off the table and his cantrips don’t get him to his combo
Game 2 and 3: Kind of a blur but I remember him having insane amounts of tempo that awkward mana on my end can’t handle. I do remember making a sequencing mistake where I could have avoided a remand by playing a 2 drop and replaying it with a land I had topdecked but instead tried to keep forcing out Lily to keep him down a few cards. Flet bad to lose this one.
Teammates were able to get us there.
Round 14 (Final Round) vs Tribal Zoo
My opponent in game one fetches for two shocklands that typically aren’t seen in the same deck, looks at my face and asks if I’m confused. I’m not, I just haven’t played against this in literally 3 or 4 years.
Game 1: I stabilize at 6 life and My threats end him as my removal gets me through his creatures.
Game 2: Triple 1 drop is way too fast for me to do anything about. Tribal flames for 5 is a great meme.
Game 3: Oh boy I find out I’m the deciding match and there’s potential money on the line.
My hand is actually insane and I snap keep 7 with all the removal I could want. Interestingly my opponent has thoughtseize to make it less great, but we’re still ok. My opponent is taking damage from his own cards constantly, so I know any threat I draw is going to be really hard for him to beat. I manage to get kitchen finks and 4 lingering souls tokens to put me in a position where my next swing is 100% lethal. Opponent sighs, draws, and WINDMILL SLAMS PYROCLASM?????????????? I think pyroclasm is terrible against abzan and I never would recommend anyone bring it in no matter how badly you hate lingering souls. My opponent casts it leaving me with kitchen finks persisted and he has a swiftspear. Sorin comes down and makes me a guy so I can try to end the game. Opponent then draws his card, and his teammate shakes my teammates hand as they concede and we end our tournament at 10-4 for 23rd place. The cutoff for prize money was 24th.
Overall the tournament was a ton of fun and I hope wizards does more team events.
As far as Abzan goes, I think the deck is ok but it can be way too slow for it’s own good. I don’t know how I dodged regular Tron, Valakut, and affinity all weekend but I won’t complain. Death’s shadow likely is just a better verison of what I’m doing. I don’t think I’ll be playing this going forward as I’m hoping Bloodbraid is unbanned next month. (UPDATE FEB 12: WOOOOOOOHOOOOOOO)
TL;DR Abzan is medium and team events are a blast.