My last article talked about the Selesnya builds of Collected Company featuring Heliod, Sun-Crowned. This week let’s take a look at the Abzan version of the deck, and what you get out of adding black mana to the deck. Abzan Company is and has been a huge pet deck of mine. Back in 2017, I took the deck to a 13-2 finish at Grand Prix Las Vegas, and I’m eager to play the new version of the deck in the new Modern metagame.

One of the main reasons why I love Abzan Company is the sideboard. You can transform between midrange and combo strategies to fight opponents on whatever axis works best. Plus you get all the well-known answers and countermeasures offered by white, black, and green.

Abzan Company

Creatures (33)
Birds of Paradise
Noble Hierarch
Viscera Seer
Giver of Runes
Devoted Druid
Vizier of Remedies
Scavenging Ooze
Duskwatch Recruiter
Knight of Autumn
Selfless Spirit
Kitchen Finks
Eternal Witness
Heliod, Sun-Crowned
Walking Ballista

Spells (8)
Collected Company
Once Upon a Time
Lands (19)
Verdant Catacomb
Windswept Heaths
Overgrown Tomb
Temple Garden
Godless Shrine
Horizon Canopy

Sideboard (15)
Path to Exile
Plague Engineer
Qasali Pridemate
Reclamation Sage
Assassin's Trophy
Maelstrom Pulse
Aven Mindcensor
Eidolon of Rhetoric

The Abzan version of the deck looks similar to the Selesnya version. You have Heliod, Walking Ballista, and all the mana creatures. You have the Devoted Druid plus Vizier of Remedies combo as well. The biggest change in the maindeck is swapping out Spike Feeder for Kitchen Finks. Both cards go infinite with Heliod, but you need a separate sarifice outlet for Kitchen Finks—in this case, Viscera Seer. This shell offers more more flex spots, giving up Eladamri’s Call for extra utility creatures.

New Combos

Add the black splash brings a few new combos even with mostly the same cards. Viscera Seer, Kitchen Finks, and Heliod, Sun-Crowned generate infinite life; but Seer adds Scry 1 to each sacrifice. This means you can dig directly to whichever card you need on top of your deck. And that’s why the deck uses more flex spots for value creatures like Knight of Autumn and Selfless Spirit.

Once you add Vizier of Remedies to the mix, you no longer need to put Heliod’s counters on the Finks. That creates either infinite counters on your Walking Ballista, or arbitrarily large creatures when you attack. Being able to spread the counters resembles the old Bolster combo with Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit.

The last combo generates infinite green mana through Devoted Druid plus Vizier of Remedies. If you don’t have the natural kill with Ballista, Duskwatch Recruiter allows you to dig through your deck for every creature you need. And with the three copies of Eternal Witness, you can loop Collected Company until you find a way to win.

Lure to Black

In all my time with Abzan Company, the best part has been the transitional sideboard. Going to the sideboard brings powerful black spells to grind opponents in a longer game: three Thoughtseize, two Assassin’s Trophy, and one Maelstrom Pulse. You can go to this package when your combos won’t work or the post-board are guaranteed to go long—against GBx decks and Azorius Control archetypes, for example.

Black also gives you an extra utlity creature: Plague Engineer. In the old days playing Abzan we had Orzhov Pontiff, and Plague Engineer is a major upgrade in most situations. Now we can slow down Thopter Foundry, and it also helps against the new styles of Dredge popping up.

Why Play Abzan?

Comparing the Abzan and Selesnya, either can be better depending on what you are looking for. Selesnya is more streamlined and has more ways of digging for combo pieces with Eladamri’s Call, while Abzan has to get lucky on draws until it assembles the Viscera Seer engine. compared to needing to get a little lucky. And of course Selesnya has a more stanle mana base.

You know what Abzan brings to the table already: the transitional sideboard and wider strategic flexibility brought by the black cards. You can answer the cards opponents bring to fight your engines more easily than in Selesnya. Even against your worst matchups, Thoughtseize can save the day. More broadly speaking, opponents will be less certain what you are doing, especially in slower and more grindy post-board games.

In the end, the choice comes down to personal preference. Which style do you like: streamlined and dedicated combo, or a more resillient but less consistent toolbox? The answer to that question can also depend on the metagame for a specific tournament or your regular playgroups. If you expect many back-and-forth battles, Abzan is the way to go.

Zack a veteran grinder at this point plays most of his magic online nowadays. That doesn’t mean you won’t find him occasionally slinging spells at an Open or Grand Prix. Catch him streaming on Twitch to find where he’s at with all the formats.

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