When I was preparing for GP Vancouver, I looked back through history. When was the last time an Abzan deck dominated the Pro Tour—and what was good against it? I remembered back to Pro Tour Amsterdam 2010 where Brad Nelson and Brian Kibler punched through to the Top 8 with the Team ChannelFireball Doran deck. Kai Budde and Paul Rietzl also reached the Top 8 with a White Weenie deck of Gabriel Nassif’s design, and Paul won it all over Brad in the finals. Yes, it was the last days of Extended rather than the beginning of Modern, but the formats have enough in common that it’s worth looking back for good deck lists.
Here is the champion’s winning list:
I went back and read Paul’s outstanding tournament report, and contemplated what would need to be updated to play it in current Modern.
Hate bears: This deck’s format contained decks that cascaded for value and to combo, Storm and Ad Nauseum, and Punishing Fire was ubiquitous. In that environment Ethersworn Canonist was the perfect hate creature. In this format where the top combo decks are defined by a single eponymous card, I think the best bear is Meddling Mage. (Honorable mentions: Spellskite and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben.)
Mana: One big plus for this deck is the addition of allied-color fetches from KTK. It’s now possible to run 16 fetches that find basic Plains, which means a power upgrade for the already amazing Steppe Lynx. I believe Paul Rietzl once said something like, “sometimes it feels like R&D made the best 1-drop of all time just for me.”
The Flagstones of Trokair needed to be cut because with the new legend rule they are lower impact than before, and the deck requires a certain number of “real” lands. Meddling Mage requires at least one Hallowed Fountain to support it.
Here is what I was playing:
The deck is aggro-control, with an emphasis on aggro vs. combo. Develop a big board quickly and then disrupt the opponent just long enough to finish them off. Meanwhile, the deck gets to have a reasonable aggro-midrange plan against more controlling or midrange decks thanks to the ability of Figure of Destiny and Student of Warfare to go huge, and the card advantage from Ranger of Eos and Spectral Procession. Brave the Elements is the lynchpin of the deck, allowing unblockable alpha strikes, protecting key creatures from removal, or ruining combat math by saving a bunch of chump-blockers.
Relic of Progenitus is very good against Tarmogoyf and Tasigur decks. Don’t be shy about boarding it in as a not-quite-hard-removal spell. This was one of Paul’s secrets to success against green decks at PT Amsterdam.
Against R/x combo decks, Burrenton Forge-Tender is usually better than Brave the Elements because it gets to beat down before protecting a guy from a removal spell. Also if they turn into an R/x control deck post-board, Forge-Tender is immune to all their removal and can sometimes go the distance either in pairs or with Honor of the Pure.
The deck can be developed in a few different directions.
More blue: If combo is a problem in your meta, the deck could easily play a 2nd Hallowed Fountain, and go up to 6-9 counterspells in the 75. With access to UU, Deprive becomes interesting to reset lands to feed the Steppe Lynx.
More mana hate: At GP Vancouver a mono-white land hating deck featuring Leonin Arbiter, Aven Mindcensor, and Ghost Quarter did quite well. This deck doesn’t like Leonin Arbiter much because it is mana-hungry and plays fetches for Steppe Lynx, but it does have options. Playing some combination of Judge’s Familiars (bonus: targets for Ranger of Eos), Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and Aven Mindcensor could wreak havok on the opponent’s plans. (Maybe over Mana Tithe, Meddling Mage, and/or Knight of the White Orchid?)
New cards: In attrition matches this deck makes a lot of land drops. I wonder if something like Secure the Wastes might make a big threat in those cases, while also being a threat that can be deployed while holding up countermagic when the deck gets more aggro-control post-board against other decks?
That’s all I have to report this week. I look forward to questions and discussion in the comments.
[Editor’s Note: Honor of the Pure was originally listed among “Creatures” in the final deck list.]