11-4 with Abzan in Dallas

Howdy cowboys and cowgirls! This past weekend, this wrangler moseyed on down to the Lone Star state for Grand Prix Dallas. Seeing how the format was Modern, I was stuck between two horses for the event: Abzan Company and Bant Eldrazi. If you’re a longtime fan of these articles (and why wouldn’t you be?), you already know my intense love affair with the former. If not, you can check out my previous article here that I wrote after going 13-2 at GP Pittsburgh which qualified me for another Pro Tour.

In recent months however, my friend Charley has been hounding me to try Bant Eldrazi. Abzan Company is incredibly difficult to pilot online–there’s no simple way to deal with infinite triggers–so I decided to heed his suggestion and take the colorless menace out for a few test spins. After multiple events, I wasn’t really convinced. I had managed to go 3-2 in every single MTGO League event which, while not terrible, were not really the consistent results I was looking for. Still, I had spent nearly all my time leading up to the Grand Prix testing this new deck and none on perfecting my Abzan list. It was in this conflicted position that I hopped on my plane to the Big D.

On the flight to Dallas, Charley informs me that he’s playing his previous favorite deck, Infect, and that the Eldrazi cards are fully available to me. After discussing with him further, we both came to the conclusion that I should just stick with my tried-and-true and sleeve up some Kitchen Finks. I wasn’t really sold on Eldrazi in the first place and, perhaps more importantly, I had a strong history with the midrange/control list. I knew how to pilot Abzan against multiple decks and there’s something to be said for playing a deck that you’re familiar with. With the decision made, I immediately got to work with updating my list as I haven’t made any changes since Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch.

Here’s the deck that I registered for the event:

Abzan Company by Charles League

Here is a quick summary of some of the updates I made since the last Modern Pro Tour:

  • I finally bit the bullet and played Noble Hierarch. I held out for a long time, but after reviewing some recent finishes where almost everyone had at least three of the exalted one in their list, I knew it was time to include a few. Hierarch adds a little bit more explosiveness to the deck which I felt was pretty important in the current Modern metagame, particularly with Dredge being a major Modern player. I thought I needed to go a little faster because of the heightened speed of the format and that these mana dorks would be a bit safer. Also, with the rise in Lantern Control, having access to more exalted can help.
  • With the decline of GBx decks and Control decks, the need for solid attrition cards like Voice of Resurgence or trick cards like Rally the Ancestors weren’t needed. Replacing them are a Fiend Hunter and a main deck Qasali Pridemage.
  • For the board, I knew going in that I would be facing a lot Grafdigger’s Cages and Rest in Peace in games 2 and 3. In addition to the normal Disenchant effects that I was planning on running (Abrupt Decay, Reclamation Sage, Pridemage), I also included two Tireless Trackers to help play more of a midrange game while also drawing cards to fight the hate.
  • I decided to forego and sideboard Tron hate as the matchup is already terrible and I don’t want to dedicate the number of cards needed to make the matchup positive. I considered both Aven Mindcensor and Selfless Spirit but both ended up staying in the binder this time.

Overall, I liked all of these changes. In particularly, I was really impressed with the Tireless Trackers which were great every time I brought them in. They were obviously good against anything with graveyard hate as they provided a large, problematic threat that folks really weren’t prepared for. They were especially solid in my matches against Lantern Control where they helped me dig to cards to deal with opposing hate and Ensnaring Bridge. The only change I’m not 100% sold on is my decision to include only one Voice of Resurgence and Fiend Hunter. They never really made an impact.

I could spend the rest of the article detailing round-by-round the story of riding the roller coaster of an event but here’s a quick summary.

After starting with two byes, I won my first six rounds played and achieved my fourth Grand Prix of going into round 9 unblemished. My hopes of finishing the first day undefeated in Dallas were dashed by my own absent-mindedness though, as I choose not to block a Tarmogoyf thinking I would go to 1 when, in fact, my own Chord of Calling increased it to a lethal power. I finish Day 1 at a respectable 8-1 record and headed to nightly rodeo with some friends.

After starting off the next day with a loss against none other than GR Tron, I was able to battle back with three straight wins putting me within spitting distance of the top 8 where I ended up in a feature match against eventually champion Kevin Mackie on Skred Red. I was able to steal game 1 with a perfect hand while he was stuck on two lands for the majority of the game. In game two, I made several mistakes including letting a Kitchen Finks get Relic’d, missing Kor Firewalker triggers left and right, and Chord’ing for a Kitchen Finks instead of Firewalker #2. I was justifiably defeated in the match after drawing an awkward manabase in game 3.

Continuing the slide, I also lost round 15 to finish with a disappointing 11-4. While this was good for a pair of Pro Points and a little cash, I can’t help but feel like this was a missed opportunity. Having not practiced with the deck in a long time, I missed a few key interactions and in a hostile format like Modern, there isn’t usually a lot of leeway.

My next major event is fortunately a Modern one. Being a local RPTQ though, my paranoid inner-self can’t help but feel like there is a bullseye on my back with people packing lots of hate for me specifically. Who knows. Maybe I’ll look to pick back up with my colorless friends and try to catch people off guard.

Thanks for reading!

Charles League

Charles League

Hailing from Richmond, Virginia, Charles derives most of his magical prowess from his warlock-like beard. His proudest Magic achievement is being crowned the two-time Richmond Virginia Grand Melee winner, narrowly beating out the time he went undefeated in draft at Pro Tour Hawaii 2014. Charles accidentally became the Pentago US National Champion Runner Up in 2012.
Charles League

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Published:November 7, 2016

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