Abzan Midrange - Standard Deck Doctor

This deck doctor entry was submitted by Will Y.

As Land Say Go grows, we undoubtedly will get a plethora of decks to sort through, and sometimes, we come across a deck or two that needs a little help. Often times the submitter will ask for advise on how we would approach their list, or to help with the mana base, or to help build a sideboard. Sure, we'd love to help!

This deck was submitted by Will Y., and this deck is one of those mentioned above. He requested that I help come up with a sideboard, and if there was anything I'd tighten up in the list. Well, I've played it in a few 3 match series and I do have some suggestions for you, Will.

First, let's break down the game plan before we go deep into the weeds on directions we can take this deck or cards that I think should be included.

The Creature Package.

So, we have an interesting set of creatures here. The only 2 creatures that aren't going to be multicolored is Hero of Precinct One and Priest of Forgotten Gods. A play set of Hero of Precinct One joins us for battle, and at first glance, it seems like a strong card for us to have. I know during my games, it was definitely gaining me a lot of incremental value with all of the 1/1 Humans I was accumulating from the variety of multi-color spells we can cast throughout the game. Once we have these 1/1s we can then use our Priest of Forgotten Gods to sac off the tokens, force our opponent's to lose 2 life and sacrifice a creature, and then we get two black mana and an extra card.

We are running a number of highly effective multi-colored creatures. A full play set of Knight of Autumn is in this deck, and I think this is a great choice. This card screams utility and almost every deck that can play it in Standard, should (at the very least in the sideboard). It is great hate against Rakdos Burn or Mono Red with its gain 4 life on its enter the battlefield trigger; it is also great hate against those darn, pesky enchantments like Wilderness Reclamation or Search for Azcanta. We also have the option to buff it with 2 +1/+1 counters if we just need to get in some fast damage against a control player or grow our creatures out of the range of White Weenies. Knight of Autumn is a great answer card in this Standard meta.

Speaking of answer cards, we also have Aryel, Knight of Windgrace. This card is a wonderful answer to both control and creature decks. Since Aryel has vigilance, she skirts around spells like Seal Away. On top of that, you can utilize her after attacks to kill an opponent's creature by tapping her and your other vigilant knights. You can also use her as a great way to deal with control. If you are able to stick her, you can literally just keep her on the battlefield and pump out 2/2 vigilant knight tokens by paying 2W and tapping her. The reason you would want to do this against control is that it is a great way to circumvent their counter spells by allowing you to build your board presence. You'll continue to accumulate cards in your hand and then when your opponent does deal with the board, they'll likely be tapping out for some sort of a board wipe, giving you the option to cast a few spells on your turn to recover.

We also are running 2 Elenda, the Dusk Rose. Since we are sacrificing our tokens, we are able to make use of their death triggers with Elenda. Every time a creature dies, we place a +1/+1 counter on her. Then on her death, we get a number of 1/1 Vampires with lifelink equal to Elenda's power. So, the bare minimum for this card is that she replaces herself if killed before you can grow her. What I also really like about Elenda is that she has lifelink, so as she grows, you are able to gain back life lost from aggro or burn. Another piece of hidden synergy is that if we need to get a sudden board and your opponent isn't killing your Elenda, you can cast another one on to the battlefield, sacrifice the old one, get your amassed board and grow your new Elenda from the death of the first. Some neat looping capabilities are available.

Speaking of death triggers, we also have a play set of Conclave Cavalier. I have to say, I was a little skeptical of this card at first, but it is definitely one of the best creatures that we play in this deck. It is a great beater, hitting in for 4 damage, its a great blocker, as it has vigilance, it is even great against kill spells, as we get two 2/2 vigilant tokens on its death. I found that Conclave Cavalier was not difficult to cast with our mana base, and it often prompted a response from our opponent, even as far as our opponent cashing in a Teferi just to tuck it into our deck. All in all, a very good card. Round of applause.

Lastly, we have a single copy of Vona, Butcher of Magan. I think Vona can be exceedingly powerful, giving us a great way to remove problematic nonland permanents by exiling them. She's a 4/4 for 3WB with vigilance and lifelink. Her activated ability of pay 7 life and tap her can be dangerous, especially as you are putting yourself at risk of a blow out if they are able to kill her before she deals combat damage to gain you back 4 of the 7 life you paid. But, if you are able to land her, and attack to gain more and more life, her activated ability can pick apart your opponent's best defenses.


We are running a few planeswalkers here to help us control the board. These walkers are also great since they are multi-colored; they will trigger our Heroes. We are running a single copy of Vraska, Golgari Queen and two copies of Vraska, Relic Seeker. I've played my fair share of Vraska in standard, and both versions of her are acceptable. They both provide incremental value on their plus ability, Golgari Queen giving us card draw and a life point, so long as we sacrifice off a permanent (in this case, we hope it is a token from Hero of Precinct One or a Conclave Cavalier). Relic Seeker will give us a 2/2 with menace, other great piece of fodder for the Golgari Queen. They both have "destroy options" attached to them as well. Golgari Queen can hit any nonland permanent 3 CMC or less, and Relic Seeker can destroy a creature, enchantment, or artifact while also providing you with a treasure every time you blow something up. Lastly, they both have "win the game" ultimates: Golgari Queen gives your creatures deathtouch, and kill an opponent after hitting them once, no matter their life total. Relic Seeker puts your opponent down to 1 life, and with all of your 2/2 menace tokens you have been making with her, should be able to sneak in and finish the job. Both are very good walkers - win conditions by themselves.

Our Spell Package.

As far as our spell package goes, we are running a full set of Mortify, this 1WB instant destroys both a creature or an enchantment, so it is an instant speed answer to something like a Skarrgan Hellkite or a Wilderness Reclamation. We are also running 2 Consecrate//Consume. Consecrate is another instant speed option to create a token off of Hero, but it also hates on cards like the Phoenixes or Jump-Start cards as it exiles a card from a graveyard and draws you a card. Consume, a sorcery for 2WB, forces our opponent to sacrifice their largest creature and then we gain life equal to that creatures power - wowee zowee. Consume specifically is great hate against a card like Carnage Tyrant being an edict effect; it circumvents the hexproof on Carnage Tyrant. We are also running 3 Incubation//Incongruity (specifically only the Incubation side) to trigger our Heroes and dig 5 cards deep for a creature. We have a card advantage tool kit in Find//Finality. Find gives us up to 2 creatures from our graveyard back to our hand, getting back our most important spells. Finality also gives us a bad Languish for 4GB, a spell that can be a great reset button if needed.

Overall Suggestions.

If you weren't to drastically change the deck, a few of the things I think you should change are as follows:


We first would want to add a sideboard, and below is what I would probably run given your list as it is now. Our worst match up is against counterspell decks, so we'd want to have our Duress' to pick apart those hands early. Since many of our creatures don't do something immediately when they hit the battlefield, I think against the removal heavy match up we should be running 3 Shapers' Sanctuary to refill our hands once our creatures have become targeted by a removal spell or by a Mono Blue targeted ability. For the decks that are able to get much wider than us, faster, I would love to see something like Kaya's Wrath or a Golden Demise, something to help us sweep the board. I'd run 3 Assassin's Trophy in the sideboard to help take care of a flipped Azcanta or pesky planeswalkers like Teferi or Vivien Reid. In addition, I'd run a couple Vraska's Contempt to facilitate a similar role, but to also have the added ability of exiling the creature or planeswalker and gaining us a couple life. Lastly, against the aggro or graveyard match up (probably even control, to be honest), I'd bring in a few Kaya, Orzhov Usurper. This card can single handily can win you the game, or even keep you in the game as you gain life from her +1. Not to mention, her -1 is a great answer to much of what Mono Blue is doing, run a couple of copies.

My Sideboard Suggestion:

3 Duress

3 Shapers' Sanctuary