In Modern, Abzan has been surging past Jund in terms of popularity. The deck can fight Bant Eldrazi while having access to Lingering Souls, a format-warping card. One of the primary points of contention is what two-drop creatures to play in these black/green-based midrange decks. Dark Confidant is the typical choice for Jund while Abzan can be more delirium-based with Grim Flayer. Personally I like playing Noble Hierarch and focusing more on the powerful three-mana cards, so there is less of a need for two drops.

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Going into the tournament I knew this version was different from many of the more popular Abzan builds, but that didn't scare me. Despite not putting up the result I wanted at Worlds, I believe this is the best way to build Abzan in Modern. During the World Championships a combination of bad matchups and bad draws prohibited me from doing as well with the deck as I had hoped. The deck really wants to come out strong with a Noble Hierarch followed by a three-drop, and start to take over the game from there.

Against the majority of decks in the format I would rather be on the Abzan side of the matchup, but almost all the matchups are pretty close. There are sometimes where you have to decide which decks to prepare for with the allotted sideboard space. Looking back at the decks I played in the World Championships I wish I had put Fulminator Mage in my sideboard, but I could just as easily have dodged the three Scapeshift players rather than playing two of them. Modern can come down to which matchups you want to focus on most, and there will be times where you want to be careful how many of certain hate cards end up in the sideboard.

Playing the Abzan deck on Magic Online, I knew I would face a wide variety of archetypes, even some more obscure ones; I'd never played against W/R Control and U/R Faeries before. The opponent definitely had the advantage because of this; I had no clue I was going to lose game one to Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Pestermite. It is fun to play against the more innovative decks in the format rather than the ones that always do well.

Since Abzan doesn't blow any other deck out of the water, many of the games will be close, and poor draws like against the Death's Shadow player are punishing even when the matchup is good. Abzan is not a deck choice for everyone, it's the best midrange deck I can recommend right now for Modern. In such a large format like Modern, when eight out of 24 players show up to the World Championships with the same deck you know there is a reason behind it.

Moving forward, I suspect more players to play a Noble Hierarch build like this one and also start to cut Grim Flayer. Making Grim Flayer good comes at too high a cost — you really need to build around it, and even then it still dies to a wide variety of opposing removal.

I expect Liliana, the Last Hope to see more and more play in Modern, especially with all the one-toughness dudes running around. She is lights out against lots of decks.

Thanks for reading,

Seth Manfield