At Players Tour Nagoya, MPL member Ken Yukuhiro surprised everyone with his Sram Auras brew. His Pioneer deck looked awesome and propelled him to a second-place finish. But what stood out was that it was largely based around recently printed cards.
All of these cards are from Throne of Eldraine or Theros Beyond Death, so a large portion of Ken Yukuhiro’s Pioneer deck was Standard-legal. I tried to recreate his deck in Standard, and after trying several versions, I settled on the following:
Abzan Auras (Standard)
With this list, I went 12-8 in Mythic on MTG Arena. Along the way, I beat a streamer who said “whenever I face these friggin’ off-meta decks like this, I always lose” and to me, that added to the fun. Playing a deck that opponents are not familiar with and don’t know how to sideboard against makes the game more enjoyable to me. In the matches I played, Abzan Auras didn’t feel like a tier one deck, but it did come across as a sweet option that is still competitive viable.
Abzan Auras Main Deck Card Choices
These cards were copied from Ken Yukuhiro’s build, and they offer a clear enchantment-based direction for the deck. If you start with a lifelinker on turn 1 and enchant it with All That Glitters on turn 2, you will be ahead in the damage race against any creature deck. Later in the game, the 1-drops mean that a removal spell on an enchanted creature doesn’t completely wreck you.
My list does not have Sentinel’s Eyes or Karametra’s Blessing. I started my first version with these cards because they were included in Ken Yukuhiro’s Pioneer list, but they underperformed. It was nice to put Sentinel’s Eyes on Paradise Druid, which my first version was capable of, but it was inconsistent and low-impact. I ultimately found that Mogis’s Favor was the superior escape Aura.
Karametra’s Blessing, in the meantime, was horrible against an opposing Teferi, Time Raveler. Also, my Standard version ran fewer and more expensive Auras than the Pioneer version, making it more difficult to find a good spot to protect a creature with Karametra’s Blessing. I ultimately cut them to make room for other cards.
Sram is not legal in Standard, so Setessan Champion is the replacement. It costs a mana more, but the triggered ability is even better. It is also not restricted solely to Auras, which means that we have the luxury to add some non-Aura enchantments, such as Banishing Light. Overall, I felt that Setessan Champion was the most powerful card in the deck—it’s worth building around.
The deck needed more creatures, preferably a 2-drop for the mana curve, and Bronzehide Lion fits perfectly. It blocks Robber of the Rich, dodges Shatter the Sky, and attacks for a bunch. More importantly, it returns as an Aura, which will trigger Setessan Champion and boost All That Glitters.
Mogis’s Favor has two roles. First, it acts as a removal spell for Fervent Champion, Runaway Steam-Kin, Edgewall Innkeeper, Brazen Borrower, and so on. If you control Hateful Eidolon and/or Setessan Champion, you get to draw cards when killing opposing 1-toughness creatures, and escape lets you do it multiple times. Mogis’s Favor is awesome against Mono-Red Aggro and Temur Adventures in particular.
Second, Mogis’s Favor can boost your own creatures. This mainly comes up against decks like Azorius Control or Jeskai Fires. Adding 2 power for 1 mana is not amazing, but at least it’s not Dead Weight.
Mantle of the Wolf is the final Aura in the deck. It helps bash through Lovestruck Beast and leaves value behind in the face of Shatter the Sky. It is worth noting that Mantle triggers when it is put into the graveyard from the battlefield, not when the creature leaves the battlefield. So if the enchanted creature gets bounced by Teferi, you still get the two Wolves.
Sideboard Card Choices
Before thinking about what I wanted to have in my sideboard, I thought about which cards I would want to cut. As it turned out, I wanted to cut a lot of cards against Azorius Control. Mogis’s Favor was medium in that matchup, but cutting it made Hateful Eidolon worse, which in turn weakened All That Glitters. As a result, I needed twelve decent cards to board in against Azorius Control.
Some discard is always good against control decks. Duress is the most mana-efficient, and Davriel added to the hand disruption suite. Since they will rarely attack it, it acts as a triple discard spell, which can wreck them especially if Duress has already ripped apart their hand.
Growth-Chamber Guardian is a weird one. I added it because I was looking for a threat that could be played right into Shatter the Sky without risking too much card disadvantage, that would attack through the 0/4 Wall made by The Birth of Meletis, that would survive Deafening Clarion against Jeskai Fires, and that would not be affected by Elspeth Conquers Death. After a deep dive into the card pool, I arrived at Growth-Chamber Guardian. It has no synergy with the enchantment theme at all, but it did some good work in post-sideboard games, and I believe it is underplayed in Standard right now.
Rounding out the anti-control package are two white enchantments. They come in for nearly every matchup, but that doesn’t mean they should be main deck. Generally speaking, post-sideboard games are different because opponents will have more ways to break up our synergies, which slows down the games and requires us to bring some answers to their key cards. Also, if completely different cards are boarded out in different matchups, then it’s fine to have sideboard cards that come in all the time.
The final three cards in the sideboard are tailored for the Mono-Red Aggro matchup, but they are also useful against other creature decks.
Tips and Tricks
- Alseid of Life’s Bounty can give protection to enchantments. Don’t forget that you can save your Mantle of the Wolf from an opposing Elspeth Conquers Death, for example.
- I would generally mulligan any hand without a turn-1 or turn-2 play. One-landers are auto-mulligans, and many five-landers are mulligans as well.
- The static ability on Narset, Parter of Veils can prevent Setessan Champion from drawing cards. If you can’t attack Narset, then one solution is to cast Banishing Light and stack the triggers in the right order: first exile Narset, then resolve the constellation trigger.
- If you control at least one Hateful Eidolon, are out of gas, and can escape two different Mogis’s Favors, then you can kill your own Hateful Eidolon to draw two cards for each Hateful Eidolon you controlled.
- If you draw multiple Aphemia, then you can always play another, have it die to the legend rule, and exile it to create a Zombie token at end of turn. This way, excess Aphemia are never truly dead.
- When protecting an enchanted creature with Alseid of Life’s Bounty, be careful to choose the right color. For example, suppose you control a creature enchanted with All That Glitters and your opponent bounces it with Teferi. Then you should choose blue, not white, unless you want your All that Glitters to fall off. Sometimes that’s the right play when you need escape fodder for Mogis’s Favor, but in any case you should be aware of this.
- When exiling cards with Mogis’s Favor, try to leave as many enchantments in you graveyard as possible. Aphemia may need to munch on them later.
Abzan Auras Sideboard Guide
Versus Mono-Red Aggro
Versus Azorius Control
Versus Jeskai Fires
Versus Temur Reclamation
Versus Bant Ramp
Versus Jund Food
Versus Temur Adventures
I am not going to tell you that Abzan Auras will easily carry you to #1 Mythic or a Grand Prix trophy. It probably won’t. It also isn’t trying to attack the metagame in any particular way.
But if you’re like me and have more fun playing off-meta, synergy-driven aggro decks, then Abzan Auras is a great choice for a competitive brew. You will surprise opponents with your card interactions, and it just feels good to attack with a 20-power lifelinker. If you’ve been trying to make Hateful Eidolon work in Standard, then give my build a try!