Going into Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar, Abzan Ascendancy was identified as a card that had a lot of power and synergies in Standard, but one that was just hard to build around. This was one of my top choices for the Pro Tour and, while ultimately I didn't play it, the deck is definitely both good and fun to play with. There are definitely a few different options in terms of building the deck, but I wanted to make as much use as possible out of the theme of sacrificing creatures. This is the list:

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This is a deck I was happy to get a chance to play with on Magic Online, as when the deck was created and tested initially it was before Battle for Zendikar was released on Magic Online. The idea being that I wanted to see how the list would hold up in the current metagame. There are now other decks that use graveyard synergies like Rally the Ancestors-based strategies or even the Blue/Black tokens variants. This deck has some of the same cards like Nantuko Husk in combination with Zulaport Cutthroat, but in fact goes in its own unique direction. As you will see in the games the deck's engine is very powerful once it gets going.

Okay so you can see based off of how the games played out that actually playing the deck isn't easy. While we played two Mardu decks which may not be the most representative sample size, that deck has been getting more popular recently. That is actually one of the matchups that I wouldn't have thought would be that great, and even though we got top decked out in one of the matches it felt pretty good from the Abzan Ascendancy Combo side.

Even though there were many games that Abzan Ascendancy wasn't drawn, if we would have had it the game wouldn't have even been close. The reason being is that there is so much spot removal being played and those cards match up very poorly against this deck. Oftentimes you will have creatures that you actively want to die, and if they do a flying Spirit Token will be created with Abzan Ascendancy. Perhaps the only creature that you really don't want to die is Smothering Abomination but that is the card that helps the deck really thrive.

Smothering Abomination hasn't seen much play yet but I expect that will change. Reflecting on how the games played out whenever Smothering Abomination didn't immediately die it felt like the deck was able to do its thing and draw enough gas to make plays every turn. The primary removal spell in the deck is Bone Splinters and while that card doesn't seem like a card that was made for Constructed play, in this deck it is absurd. You get to sacrifice a creature with it which is actually an upside. With Smothering Abomination not only can you sacrifice a creature every upkeep, but with Bone Splinters, Nantuko Husk, or an Eldrazi Spawn token you can sacrifice a creature and draw a card with a Smothering Abomination in play.

After playing out the games it does feel like this deck has what it takes to be a serious contender in Standard, but the sideboard could be updated a little bit. Although I didn't play against Abzan Aggro or Dark Jeskai in these games I can confirm that they are good matchups. While Dromoka's Command is pretty good out of the green/white-based decks since it deals with Abzan Ascendancy you can still sacrifice creatures with Nantuko Husk in response to a Dromoka's Command. While there is still the problem of drawing the wrong part of your deck and feeling like all your cards are underpowered that doesn't happen too often. What I mean is, say, having a draw where all you have are Sultai Emissary and Blisterpod without ways to sacrifice them, which can be pretty awkward. This is because the cards aren't good individually but they work together to form a very synergistic deck.

When looking at the list itself you will see that all of the spells in the deck are four-ofs. This isn't because other cards haven't been tried out as there are definitely other options out there. Grim Haruspex is one option for additional ways of drawing cards, but I do think here Smothering Abomination is better. As of now this deck isn't a Collected Company deck but it could be reconfigured to play Collected Company, so that it would look more like the Rally the Ancestors deck. The issue there though is you can't really play Hangarback Walker and Smothering Abomination can't be found off Collected Company. Hangarback Walker is actively great in this deck as it is good on its own and whenever it is sacrificed the thopters can be very important. Remember that Abzan Ascendancy has two different benefits to the card and one of them is pumping your team. Making a bunch of thopters and Spirit Tokens bigger can be the difference in a game.

The Abzan Ascendancy Combo deck is one that I'm considering playing this weekend, and I plan to do some work on the sideboard. Based on the matchups I have been seeing on Magic Online we may want more copies of Surge of Righteousness as that seemed to be the most popular card we were bringing in. Overall I was happy to do my first video article for TCGplayer and look for more to come in the future. Any feedback would certainly be appreciated!

Thanks for reading,

Seth Manfield