pretty much

pretty much

“Fucking Elspeth is bullshit. Can’t wait until this shit rotates out of Standard.” – Person on the internet

I remember vaguely a report by Owen Turtenwald after Pro Tour M15, where he and Huey top8’d the Pro Tour with Black/White — Orzhov, for those who deem it more correct — control with Thoughtseize and Pack Rat. He recalled several opponents giving him a hard time for playing Pack Rat, as if it was ‘bullshit,’ as in ‘I can’t believe you are still playing this dumb card’ as he activated it over and over and over and over, crushing his adversaries in a maggoty sea of the hairy Ravnica underworld. I love this attitude from players, the fact that playing one of the most powerful cards in a Standard format can be so tilting to a Magic player. The Pro Tour isn’t for Timmys and Johnnys. It’s for people who want to win. Who hunger for the cold, hard W.

Neither is the internet. When I digitally sleeve up a Magic deck for testing the week before a Qualifier tournament, I am sleeving up a deck that’s going to win. Not a deck that will be cool to play for a night of giggles. So in the fifty or so games i’ve played online this week on a Free — that’s right, free — digital client for Magic, i’ve had several opponents playing what I consider to be real decks in the format fling half-digested shit in my blue tan face for playing Abzan Control. And you know what I say to that? +1. +1. +1. With a cold glow squinting my face. Deal with it.

I won’t apologize for being spikey. No matter what the stakes, I came here to play and to get better at playing. Sorry you hate the Pack Rat win. Sorry you can’t beat Elspeth. These are the power cards in a small pool format. So if you can’t beat it, figure out how to or it’ll kill you on your way to the finish line.




This sunday i’ll be heading to The Uncommons for a Standard PPTQ. I’m running this list. It’s sort of a blend between Owen’s and Seth’s lists from Worlds.

Abzan Control

Creatures (14)
Courser of Kruphix
Den Protector
Nissa, Vastwood Seer
Siege Rhino
Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Spells (20)
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
Tragic Arrogance
Abzan Charm
Hero’s Downfall
Bile Blight
Ultimate Price
Murderous Cut
Lands (26)
Windswept Heath
Sandsteppe Citadel
Temple of Malady
Temple of Silence
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Caves of Koilos
Llanowar Wastes

Sideboard (15)
Dromoka’s Command
Unravel the Aether
Drown in Sorrow
Glare of Heresy
Fleecemane Lion
Tragic Arrogance
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
Sorin, Solemn Visitor
Ajani, Mentor of Heroes
Ultimate Price
Bile Blight

Everyone knows this decklist, more of less, but let me go over some of the small details I decided on after some playtesting.

The 3rd Elspeth is preferred over Dragonlord Dromoka: This is based on personal preference in the mirror and against Stormbreath Dragon decks. Dromoka is more answerable than Elspeth is, and when mirrors often come down to Planeswalker battles, I want the one with the extra Elspeth.

Murderous Cut is preferred to Silence the Believers: While Silence is a huge late game draw, the prevalance of Jace, Mantis Rider, Stormbreath, and mono-white Devotion all make me want a more flexible answer in Muderous Cut then a slow, late game catch all answer like Silence the Believers or Utter End.

Maindeck Tragic Arrogance is a concession to Hangarback Walker and Devotion Decks: as awesome as Languish has been, Tragic Arrogance offers a couple of specific, yet fantastic, interactions with the deck that have convinced me to run one main deck. If you have two Courser of Kruphix’s out, you can keep them both. If your opponent is trying to crack Hangarback Walkers and beat you in the air, it’s a fantastic answer that equalizes the board in your favor. It was also nuts against mono-white devotion, especially post board when I could kill their Elspeth with my attackers after resolving it. It’s not hard to engineer a situation where this card can catch you up, or swing a board state in your favor, and with Den Protectors to get back… well, whatever you want to… I’ve been psyched about the inclusion of 1 main and 1 side.

Glare of Heresy is really, really good right now: There are many decks with great targets, and with the rise in popularity of white devotion, I like having cold blooded answers to Mantis Rider, Elspeth, and Mastery of the Unseen in a sideboard slot.




The cards in this deck are so unbelievably powerful I just can’t bear the thought of playing anything else in the format. It’s like a big plate of crispy bacon: hearty, delicious, and as Dave Grohl once said, is God’s currency. When you’re on Bacon, you’re on a mission from God.

This Standard format has a ton of play to it, and i’ve thoroughly enjoyed dipping my toes into it right before a huge rotation. With some good draws and tight play I feel good about my chances this weekend. Wish me luck! And if I sit across from you, prepare to eat some bacon.

Derek Gallen lives and writes in Brooklyn, New York.

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