This past weekend we saw Ari Lax win the Pro Tour with an Abzan Midrange deck that used some of the best cards in the deck's colors. Cards like Elspeth, Sun's Champion, Courser of Kruphix, Siege Rhino, and Wingmate Roc were all instrumental in Lax's victory and I wouldn't go to a Standard event in the next six months without expecting to play against them.
Today we're going to take a look at an Abzan list, but it isn't the one that Lax used. No, today we're looking at the list that Mike Sigrist used to dominate the swiss rounds to an impressive 7-2-1 record before breaking into the Top 8. His deck was more aggressive than many of the opposing Abzan lists, with his curve topping out at a mere four mana.
As you can see the most expensive cards in the deck are Sorin, Solemn Visitor and Siege Rhino: two Abzan cards that proved to be powerhouses over the weekend. The other unique inclusions are cards like Heir of the Wilds and Anafenza, the Foremost. While the mythic legend was talked about early on for its aggressive casting cost and ability, Heir of the Wilds was a card that quietly snuck under the radar. There were murmurs about this card being good, but Sigrist seems to have proven those murmurs as fact. Deathtouch on a 2/2 that can attack as a 3/3 is just huge, especially when you're able to block 4/5 rhinos and attack into both Courser of Kruphix and Sylvan Caryatid.
But let's see how the deck performs before we get too ahead of ourselves.
Abzan Aggro vs. UW Heroic
Abzan Aggro vs. Esper Control
Abzan Aggro vs. Abzan Dredge
That Dredge match was brutal, but fortunately we have enough removal that the other aggro decks can't really deal with, and we have enough reach and disruption so that we're not at a terrible disadvantage against the control decks.
As you can see this is much different from Ari's version. Sigrist chose to go with an incredible ten two-drops, all of which are actually very threatening. Eight of them can't be killed very easily once we have enough mana, and the remaining two have deathtouch and can easily attack as 3/3s. The three-drops are equally insane. Not only does Anafenza, the Foremost buff our already huge two-drops while attacking as a three mana 4/4, but we also have four Herald of Torment. This guy is incredible and I think he's criminally underplayed right now. Herald allows us to win games out of nowhere with his bestow ability and even on curve he's a substantial threat on his own.
But the best part about Sigrist's deck, or the Abzan wedge in general, is that this deck doesn't follow the rules of a traditional aggro deck. Not only is Abzan Charm an incredible removal spell, it also draws us cards at instant speed if we ever find ourselves out of gas and it gives our creatures a boost if we need to win in combat or deal those last few points of damage. It can also save our creatures from damage-based removal if necessary.
Sorin, Solemn Visitor is also an amazing tool in the deck. While most aggro decks are at the mercy of their own cards that Deal Damage to them (fetchlands, Ulcerate, Herald of Torment, etc.), this list has a couple of ways to come back from that. Not only does Sorin giving our huge creatures lifelink pose a huge problem for opposing aggro decks, but being able to make 2/2 fliers is also a useful ability as sometimes you just need a few extra point to swing over the top with. Siege Rhino is the other four-drop and gives Sigrist's deck even more reach when it comes to being able to close out games. Aside from the fact that the Rhino is nearly unbeatable in combat, the opponent has to have non-damage based spot removal to get rid of him. And even if they do, the damage is already done with the Rhino's free Lightning Helix.
If you couldn't tell, I'm a huge fan of the deck. I think it plays some of the strongest and cheapest creatures in the format, along with some of the most powerful disruption. I think the deck is actually in a great position right now as it presents more threats than decks like Jeskai can deal with, it has removal for their few creatures, and it has several ways to gain life. The fact that the deck can go over the top with cards like Herald of Torment also seems to make it great against the other Abzan decks.
Either way, if you're looking for a non-red aggro deck that has a lot of resilience (monstrous Fleecemane Lions or bestowed Herald of Torments for example), this could be the deck you're looking for. Mike ended up losing only three of his entire twelve Standard matches at the Pro Tour and that has to say something. The deck takes some practice though, to know what the correct order of things is, so be warned. I would play a few test games first to get an idea of what the best ways to utilize your mana are, especially since the deck has several options per turn with all the activated abilities and versatile spells.
Well, that's about all I have this week! Thanks for reading and I'll catch you back here on Monday, just in time for next weekend's TCGplayer MaxPoint $50,000 Championship in Indianapolis, Indiana on October 24th through October 26th. I'll be live commentating the entire event with Marshall Sutcliffe and I hope to see you then!
Frank Lepore@FrankLepore on TwitterFrankLepore on TwitchTV