A Sideboarding Guide for Modern Abzan

by Zen Takahashi on 09 January 2017, Monday

Modern 
Zen Takahashi

A Sideboarding Guide for Modern Abzan

Hello everybody!

Throughout our Modern preparation for the World Magic Cup, one deck that impressed me was Abzan. Over the last couple of sets, the deck has gained a lot of great cards, and with the printing of Fatal Push in Aether Revolt, I suspect the deck will only get better. I have discussed the deck in detail, including card choices, in my previous two articles, which can be found here and here. Today I will be going over the sideboard notes that Matt Rogers and I came up with the day before the World Magic Cup, with some matchup analysis against the most popular decks.

The following was the list Matt played:

 




Against Dredge

 

Golgari Grave-Troll Stinkweed Imp


-2 Abrupt Decay
-1 Maelstrom Pulse
-4 Lingering Souls
-3 Liliana of the Veil
-1 Path to Exile
+3 Collective Brutality
+2 Grafdigger's Cage
+1 Nihil Spellbomb
+2 Liliana, the Last Hope
+2 Night of Souls' Betrayal
+1 Golgari Charm

Matchup: Favoured

Unlike most GBx decks, this version has a favourable matchup against Dredge. Pre-board is about Even, as you’ll be able to win most games where you draw a combination of Nihil Spellbomb, Scavenging Ooze or Anafenza, the Foremost, but will be tough if you only draw one of them unless they have a weak draw. You should mulligan aggressively as hands without any graveyard hate has almost zero chance to win.

Post-board becomes significantly favoured as you bring in three more graveyard hate spells, in addition to two copies of Night of Souls’ Betrayal, which is almost impossible for them to beat without them destroying it. Unlike against Jund or Grixis, Golgari Grave-Troll is much worse against Abzan due to Path to Exile. Although Collective Brutality and Golgari Charm may seem out of place, it’s largely because we have a lot of dead cards in the main deck, and the former is good as additional disruption while the latter can be potent in combination with a Nihil Spellbomb or Anafenza, the Foremost.

 

 


Against Infect

 

Glistener Elf Blighted Agent


-3 Nihil Spellbomb
-2 Scavenging Ooze
-2 Anafenza, the Foremost
-1 Maelstrom Pulse
-1 Grim Flayer
+3 Collective Brutality
+2 Liliana, the Last Hope
+2 Night of Souls' Betrayal
+1 Engineered Explosives
+1 Golgari Charm

Matchup: Favoured

Infect is a great matchup, as we have a broad range of disruption spells that can attack both their hand and their creatures with discard and removal spells respectively. The matchup gets even better post-board, as we get access to powerful disruption cards such as Collective Brutality, Liliana, the Last Hope and Night of Souls’ Betrayal.

One mistake that I commonly see players do is keeping hands that are light on disruption spells. You need to mulligan aggressively for them as Infect can consistently win on Turn 3 if there’s no disruption. Liliana of the Veil is great in the matchup but isn’t enough on her own, especially if you’re on the draw as your plan to bluff a removal spell can be discovered through a Gitaxian Probe. Also, remember that Abrupt Decay cannot hit Inkmoth Nexus, so you usually want to use them over Path to Exile unless exiling matters for casting Become Immense.

 

 


Red-Green Valakut

 

Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle


-3 Path to Exile/Abrupt Decay
+3 Collective Brutality

Matchup: Unfavoured

Ramp strategies have traditionally been favoured against midrange decks, and RG Valakut is no exception. They’re relatively resilient to disruption, as they only need to resolve one card to win the game – Scapeshift or Primeval Titan, neither of which can be hit by Inquisition of Kozilek.

That being said, the matchup has gotten better compared to past iterations of Abzan. With the addition of Grim Flayer and Anafenza, the Foremost, you can often steal games with an aggressive draw that manages to go under them. This is especially the case in games where your Grim Flayer can allow you to chain a series of disruption spells while it puts a decent clock on them. Collective Brutality is also a nice addition as it’s both a disruption spell and provides a life total swing. The life gain definitely matters, as if you can keep your life total above 18, you can survive a Scapeshift or a Through the Breach’d Primeval Titan.

 

 

Against Mirror Match

 

-1 Nihil Spellbomb
-2 Inquisition of Kozilek / Thoughtseize
+2 Liliana, the Last Hope
+1 Painful Truths

Matchup: Slightly Unfavoured

This version is slightly unfavoured in the mirror, as neither Anafenza, the Foremost or Nihil Spellbomb are very good, while we also have less cards to bring in from the sideboard as most people play some number of planeswalkers such as Gideon, Ally of Zendikar or Sorin, Lord of Innistrad but we don’t. However, the mirror often does come down to whoever can curve out better, and in those games having planeswalkers doesn’t matter as they’re poor if you’re already far behind on board.

 

 


Against Burn

 

Goblin Guide Boros Charm


-3 Nihil Spellbomb
-3 Thoughtseize
+3 Collective Brutality
+1 Engineered Explosives
+2 Liliana, the Last Hope

Matchup: Even/Slightly Unfavoured

Burn used to be quite a tough matchup, but has gotten better recently thanks to the addition of Collective Brutality and Blooming Marsh. The matchup is still unfavoured pre-board, but gets a lot better after sideboard thanks to Brutality, which can often win games single-handedly as you cast it for all three modes.

 

 


Against Suicide Zoo

 

Death's Shadow


-1 Nihil Spellbomb
+1 Engineered Explosives

Matchup: Favoured

This matchup is like Infect, as our range of disruption spells is tough for them to beat, making it a favourable matchup. It is important to note that Suicide Zoo doesn’t have any protection spells such as Vines of Vastwood, but it plays a lot more creatures so they’ll try to force you to use your removal spells before setting up their combo kill via Become Immense and Temur Battle Rage. This means that you want to hold up a removal spell for the combo, so you’ll often have to try deal with their creatures via combat such as double blocking, with having a removal spell up for in case they try to force the combo to kill you and/or the creatures blocking it.

The sideboarding is slightly different to against Infect, as their creatures are bigger in size so Night of Souls’ Betrayal, Collective Brutality and Liliana, the Last Hope all stay in the board. You want to keep in some copies of Nihil Spellbomb, as they will bring in either Tarmogoyf and/or Hooting Mandrills from their board.

 

 

Against Jeskai / Grixis Control

 

Nahiri, the Harbinger Kolaghan's Command

 

-4 Path to Exile
-2 Abrupt Decay
-1 Maelstrom Pulse/Birds of Paradise
+3 Collective Brutality
+2 Liliana, the Last Hope
+1 Nihil Spellbomb
+1 Painful Truths 

Matchup: Unfavoured

The blue-based control decks are like the mirror, except they have much more card advantage with Ancestral Visions, Snapcaster Mage and Cryptic Command. They also have less creatures, as they rely on winning via Nahiri, the Harbinger and/or Snapcaster Mage with a combination of burn spells, which makes a lot of your removal dead in pre-board games. It does get better post-board as you’re able to bring out the dead removal spells, but the matchup is overall unfavourable as you’re trying to do similar things but they draw more cards and have less dead cards.

The key to winning, especially in pre-board games, is to land an early Liliana of the Veil or use your discard spells to pave a path for Grim Flayer and Tarmogoyf to hit through. Make sure you don’t walk into Spell Snare, as that is one of their key spells to deal with Tarmogoyf.

 

 


Against Lantern Control

 

Lantern of Insight Ensnaring Bridge

 

-4 Path to Exile
-1 Scavenging Ooze
+1 Nihil Spellbomb
+2 Stony Silence
+1 Painful Truths
+1 Engineered Explosives

Matchup: Slightly Favoured

 

 

Against White-Black Hatebears


-3 Nihil Spellbomb
-3 Liliana of the Veil
+1 Collective Brutality
+2 Liliana, the Last Hope
+1 Engineered Explosives
+1 Golgari Charm
+1 Painful Truths

Matchup: Slightly Favoured

 

 

Against Merfolk

 

Lord of Atlantis Master of the Pearl Trident

 

-3 Nihil Spellbomb
-1 Lingering Souls
-2 Anafenza, the Foremost
+3 Collective Brutality
+2 Liliana, the Last Hope
+1 Engineered Explosives

Matchup: Even/Slightly Unfavoured

 

 


Against Blue-Red Kiln Fiend

 

Kiln Fiend

 

-3 Nihil Spellbomb
-2 Anafenza, the Foremost
+3 Collective Brutality
+1 Engineered Explosives
+1 Painful Truths 

Matchup: Favoured

 

 

Against Ad Nauseam

 

Lotus Bloom Ad Nauseam

 

-4 Path to Exile
-2 Lingering Souls
-1 Nihil Spellbomb
+3 Collective Brutality
+2 Stony Silence
+1 Engineered Explosives
+1 Golgari Charm

Matchup: Even/Slightly Favoured

 

 

Against Affinity

 

Cranial Plating Arcbound Ravager

 

-3 Nihil Spellbomb
-3 Thoughtseize
-2 Scavenging Ooze
+2 Night of Souls' Betrayal
+2 Liliana, the Last Hope
+2 Stony Silence
+1 Engineered Explosives
+1 Golgari Charm

Matchup: Even/Slightly Favoured

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this article as I covered how to sideboard with Abzan against the top decks in Modern, with some analysis on its matchups against the most popular decks. Even if you’re not planning to play Abzan, it is a popular deck so knowing what its plan is against your deck is very valuable e.g. as a BW Hatebears player, I’d shave on some copies of Flickerwisp after sideboard as they’re already poor against Lingering Souls, and it only gets worse after board when the Abzan player brings in Liliana, the Last Hope as well. With the release of Fatal Push in Aether Revolt, I suspect Abzan will only get better as it finally gets a cheap, one-mana removal spell. Expect to see more of this deck in the future!

Until next time!

Zen Takahashi
@mtgzen on Twitter




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