Last week the current version of Abzan Aggro was still a relatively new deck, though it was obviously good, and it was the top deck in my current rankings of Standard archetypes, which can be found here. Now though Abzan Aggro is the deck of Standard. It is an extremely difficult deck to successfully attack in its current configuration. After reviewing results from Magic Online, Abzan Aggro has put up by far the best results of any archetype in Standard right now. This is the most common list which was popularized by Andrea Mengucci, and played in the Top 8 of Grand Prix London by Marco Cammilluzzi.


This list is a bit different from Fabrizio Anteri's which won Grand Prix London. The primary difference is that Cammilluzzi has two copies of Wingmate Roc and a little bit of a different removal suite. Wingmate Roc is really a game changer in the mirror match which is a large part of the reason it is necessary right now. Just because Wingmate Roc is a strong card in the mirror doesn't make it bad in other matchups. While it is true that it doesn't matchup particularly well with Languish, against the decks that do run Languish, if they don't immediately sweep away the Wingmate Roc and the token the game usually is just over. I understand the argument that you don't want to have a four toughness creature and then attack with it, only to flood the board with more four toughness creatures, but there are ways to work around this scenario. Simply having a greater than four toughness creature can be pretty easy as it could be a Siege Rhino, or you can use Dromoka's Command or Abzan Charm to beef up a smaller creature. The card that had hated Abzan Aggro out of the metagame for a couple weeks was Languish, but now that you no longer have Rakshasa Deathdealer and the threats are more resilient, Languish is much less of an issue.

A lot of the maindeck slots of Abzan Aggro are essentially locked up, but there is a little room to play around with. Warden of the First Tree is a bit of a hangover from the older version of Abzan Aggro, but I'm not sure how good it is, because it makes opposing copies of Ultimate Price better. The other reason I'm unsure on Warden of the First Tree is that with Hangarback Walker there is another mana sink you want to be using each turn. Warden of the First Tree is a card that is obviously insane if it gets out of hand, but that doesn't happen all that often. The question then becomes is there another creature this deck wants to be playing? I'm not sure that there is. Another option is just simply going up to four copies of Den Protector; this makes the deck a bit slower, but better versus control decks.

As for the removal, Marco Cammilluzzi is only running three copies of Dromoka's Command and that doesn't seem right. Dromoka's Command might be the most powerful, format-warping noncreature spell in Standard right now, and this deck uses that card better than any other. I would much rather be shaving an Ultimate Price and sticking it in the sideboard. The other maindeck note is that two planeswalkers seems to be the direction most lists are going. This could be two copies of Sorin, Solemn Visitor or there could be an Ajani, Mentor of Heroes in the mix. There are merits to both planeswalkers here. Sorin, Solemn Visitor is the best way to swing the aggressive matchups in your favor, and is also one less mana when compared to Ajani, Mentor of Heroes. However Ajani, Mentor of Heroes is not only a powerful source of card advantage, it also has obvious synergies with Hangarback Walker.

As for the sideboard, this deck has the ability to go bigger and, in a way, after boarding the deck becomes much more of an Abzan Midrange or even controlling deck than the aggressive take on Abzan players are used to seeing out of the deck. In fact even the maindeck is slower than it was before but with cards like Hangarback Walker the later stages of the game are much better for this version of Abzan Aggro. Elspeth, Sun's Champion is one of the cards that allows you to go bigger and more controlling, as this is one of the best mirror breakers available. However the most important sideboard card is likely Tragic Arrogance. Some lists only have two in the board, but Cammilluzzi has gone up to three copies. The reason is that there are so many decks that actually can't beat a Tragic Arrogance. The decks that rely heavily on creatures lose essentially their entire board, while you can keep your best creature, which is great versus, say, Green/Red Devotion. Even a Whisperwood Elemental won't be good enough when you have an Anafenza, the Foremost in play, as the creatures do get exiled.

Abzan Aggro is a deck that can transform to compete with just about any matchup in Standard. Normally Thoughtseize is good enough to be maindeck in a deck like this, but the maindeck is essentially good enough that Thoughtseize has been relegated to the sideboard. There aren't actually that many dead removal spells in the deck, and after sideboard you can take these spells out in favor of Thoughtseizes and threats. Another threat the deck has access to is Herald of Torment. Herald of Torment is another useful tool versus Green/Red Devotion and bestowing it allows you to have more mana sinks later in the game. After sideboarding this deck does usually bring in some expensive cards, but by doing so is able to play a bunch of the most powerful cards in Standard and is one of the reasons the deck is so great.

So if Abzan Aggro is so good, how does the deck lose? What archetype beats it?

Well the fact is that Abzan Aggro is the best deck in Standard right now.

Abzan Aggro is pretty solid against typical forms of aggression like Monored Aggro, but there are other aggressive midrange style decks that can prove more problematic. For instance take a look at Martin Juza's Red/Green Midrange deck he made the Top 8 of Grand Prix London with:


This deck actually has a lot going for it against Abzan Aggro. While Red/Green Midrange doesn't Demolish Abzan Aggro it has a lot of the best tools in order to make the matchup favorable. Red/Green Midrange can play a tempo game, and the Abzan Aggro deck is often on the back foot. The primary game plan is to accelerate into a dragon as quickly as possible. First of all, the Abzan Aggro deck's Ultimate Prices can quickly become over taxed, which means that they may not even have a removal spell for Stormbreath Dragon when it comes down. Stormbreath Dragon is a very sticky threat, and Abzan Aggro has been shaving Hero's Downfalls as there are less Stormbreath Dragons in the format right now. Both Thunderbreak Regent and Stormbreath Dragon either make your opponent take a large chunk of damage, or can ust win you the game by themselves if left unanswered.

While Red/Green Midrange is winning with flyers and burn, there are also a number of creatures to gum up the ground. Deathmist Raptor is quite good at stopping Siege Rhino's from attacking, and Goblin Rabblemaster often leaves around some leftover tokens. Goblin Rabblemaster hasn't actually been seeing much play lately but this could be a time for it to make a comeback in the right deck. This is another example of a tempo card that is very hard to leave up removal for, and once the tokens get rolling things can get out of hand. Another factor is that just simply playing with Elvish Mystic and Goblin Rabblemaster together allows for turn two Goblin Rabblemaster, which means a free win a lot of the time.

After sideboarding the removal spells get upgraded as the staple burn spell versus Abzan Aggro in Roast will be brought in. Red/Green Midrange is certainly one of the top options for attacking Abzan Aggro and not giving them the time to make a large Hangarback Walker.

While Red/Green Midrange is an option for fighting Abzan Aggro it certainly isn't the only one. However there is no single archetype that blows Abzan Aggro out of the water, it is more about finding specific cards that can be very problematic. For instance traditional Monored Aggro is not great against Abzan Aggro, but that doesn't mean that red decks don't have tools available to them. There have been tribal decks that have been finding success on the back of Obelisk of Urd. Elves has been doing well as has Goblins. Both of these decks utilize the power of having a number of small creatures of the same creature type very early in the game, which helps make the draws involving Obelisk of Urd so potent. Here is a Goblins list from Magic Online played by TheBaartol:


First of all, I do recommend going ahead and playing four copies of Obelisk of Urd as that is the centerpiece to the deck, even though you usually don't want to draw two copies. However, there are a lot of things I like about this particular list. The first thing is that every single creature in the deck is a goblin. Many Goblin decks do play a full complement of Monastery Swiftspears, but the issue with that is you are now playing creatures that aren't goblins! This means when Obelisk of Urd comes down your draw is less powerful. However with that said, I do understand the draw to play Monastery Swiftspear as the card is clearly very powerful and would be the best available one-drop if you discount goblin synergies. There are however three different one-drop goblins that are perfectly playable, and here you can see a total of nine one-drops in the deck, as there is only one Goblin Glory Chaser.

Here there is kind of a mish mash of goblins as there are a bunch of one-ofs. I understand wanting access to a bunch of different creatures but at the same time this doesn't really seem like a deck built for one-ofs as you want to be as consistent as possible. The Mardu Scout and Subterranean Scout in particular seem a bit unnecessary. The deck is already playing Goblin Piledriver, Dragon Fodder, and Lightning Strikes, so there should be plenty to do on turn two. This Goblin deck is one of the most explosive decks in the format and Abzan Aggro can just die before getting anything going pretty easily. In addition the sweeper that the Abzan Aggro deck is boarding into is Tragic Arrogance, and that may be too slow for the likes of Goblins

Thanks for reading,

Seth Manfield