On The Bandwagon, Sort Of: Abzan Delve

Hi all,

Modern continues to exist well outside the eye of the tornado, and the recent Pro Tour tournament is proof. The big number from the weekend is 28. If you read any coverage of the event, then you saw that Abzan was at 28%. Of course, for many, this meant that the sky was falling, and that bans were, of course, necessary.

Fortunately, once the jar of dust is settled, we can see that within that big number of decks with Forests, Swamps, and Plains, we see quite a variety of decks. We expected the [c]Liliana of the Veil[/c] and [c]Tarmogoyf[/c] lists to be successful, but since then I’d have to say that Jacob Wilson’s Selesnya hate-bears deck with a splash of black for [c]Lingering Souls[/c], [c]Siege Rhino[/c], and [c]Thoughtseize[/c] has to be the deck with the largest groundswell.

Within the 28% we even saw the card [c]Abzan Ascendancy[/c] in a deck which really had me reading a lot of cards.

Today, I’d like to offer you an Abzan deck of a different sort.

Within these colors, we have some of the more exciting key words in recent times: Delve and Dredge. [c]Gurmag Angler[/c] was waiting for a home in Modern, and he certainly found it in Pat Chapin’s Esper build. Despite his crash and burn, we still see cards like [c]Mishra’s Bauble[/c] spiking in price because, hey, it’s a new brew by a pro. [c]Gurmag Angler[/c] has great synergy with a lot of other cards, including [c]Grisly Salvage[/c], and once we put those two together, it’s hard not to throw in some more Timmy, Power Gamer effects.

First, let’s get to the list.

[d title=”Abzan Delve (Modern)”]
1 Godless Shrine
2 Marsh Flats
4 Mosswort Bridge
1 Murmuring Bosk
2 Overgrown Tomb
1 Swamp
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Windbrisk Heights

4 Birds of Paradise
4 Bloodghast
1 Craterhoof Behemoth
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
3 Golgari Grave-Troll
4 Gravecrawler
4 Gurmag Angler
4 Lotleth Troll
2 Satyr Wayfinder
1 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
4 Vengevine

Other Spells
4 Grisly Salvage
2 Lingering Souls
2 Unburial Rites

2 Abrupt Decay
1 Blood Crypt
3 Ancient Grudge
1 Darkblast
3 Gnaw to the Bone
3 Golgari Charm
2 Ray of Revelation[/d]

There are so many interactions here that I am scared to attempt to list them all. Let’s start with the lands.


[c]Murmuring Bosk[/c] – We operate on few lands for most of the game, and this helps smooth out the mana. We never want to see more than one in a game, though, and our [c]Verdant Catacombs[/c] can fetch them out.

[c]Windbrisk Heights[/c] – This deck is perhaps the most reliable at activating [c]Windbrisk Heights[/c] because of the combination of [c]Bloodghast[/c], [c]Gravecrawler[/c], and [c]Lingering Souls[/c]. It would be nice to have a bit more meat available to cast for free with the activation, but even a [c]Gurmag Angler[/c] or large [c]Golgari Grave-Troll[/c] is acceptable. My favorite is to have [c]Unburial Rites[/c] hidden away even if it is not relevant on turn one. Some good target will appear by the time you can activate it.

Many players often attack with [c]Windbrisk Heights[/c] for a cost:benefit ratio that is favorable. In this deck, there is very little cost because you are attacking with creatures that will come back after death.

[c]Mosswort Bridge[/c] – We play recurring 2/1 and 4/3 creatures and [c]Gurmag Angler[/c], so the 10 power is an easy obstacle to overcome.

Remember that [c]Windbrisk Heights[/c] and [c]Mosswort Bridge[/c] actually cast the creature spells if you’re playing paper and have [c]Vengevine[/c] in your graveyard.

Moving on, we have our …


4 [c]Birds of Paradise[/c] – These are surprisingly the glue that holds the deck together, and I don’t think they can be removed. I am even tempted to add [c]Noble Hierarch[/c] for extra copies. You will even be impressed with how often “flying” is relevant with [c]Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite[/c] and [c]Craterhoof Behemoth[/c]. If nothing else, they help trigger [c]Vengevine[/c]. Remember to attack with [c]Birds of Paradise[/c] for zero if it means you can activate [c]Windbrisk Heights[/c].

4 [c]Bloodghast[/c] – These are the weakest and least reliable of the recurring creatures, but they help us to activate our hideaway lands and provide a reasonable clock at no expense.

4 [c]Gravecrawler[/c] – This guy was made a little better by [c]Gurmag Angler[/c], the Zombie Fish (who knew?), as long as you aren’t removing [c]Gravecrawler[/c] in the process. The benefit of the zombie over the vampire is that you are casting [c]Gravecrawler[/c] and therefore triggering [c]Vengevine[/c].

1 [c]Craterhoof Behemoth[/c], [c]Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite[/c] – These two finish the game handily. They come out from [c]Unburial Rites[/c] or a hideaway activation and very rarely disappoint.

3 [c]Golgari Grave-Troll[/c] – In the early stages of the game, he fuels your yard with critical things like recurring creatures, [c]Lingering Souls[/c], and [c]Unburial Rites[/c] plus the fatties to reanimate. Beyond that, he is a sweet reanimation target himself or card to hide away because he will get large in the midgame.

4 [c]Gurmag Angler[/c] and 1 [c]Tasigur, the Golden Fang[/c] – These essentially are five of the same guy. There are plenty of pieces of chaff in your graveyard that while these seem in opposition to your reanimation and recur strategy, it rarely plays out that way. They’re cheap, they’re cast, and they have a lot of power for [c]Mosswort Bridge[/c]. It’s really nice to open with a bird and play [c]Grisly Salvage[/c], 5/5 on turn 2, also taking your choice of creature or land.

4 [c]Lotleth Troll[/c] and 2 [c]Satyr Wayfinder[/c] – These are engine pieces of the deck, placing critical cards in the graveyard and triggering all the things that need to be triggered.

4 [c]Vengevine[/c] – Dies to bolt. Kills opponent the next turn. Easily brought back onto the battlefield, the elemental wraps up games in short order and activates [c]Mosswort Bridge[/c].

Finally, let’s look at the spells.

4 [c]Grisly Salvage[/c] – Feed brains, get sweet cards.

2 [c]Lingering Souls[/c] – Here is the breakout card of the Pro Tour. It will help us block and buy time, it will give attackers for [c]Windbrisk Heights[/c], finishers for [c]Craterhoof Behemoth[/c] and [c]Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite[/c], and extra value from cards like [c]Grisly Salvage[/c] and [c]Satyr Wayfinder[/c], netting us extra cards.

2 [c]Unburial Rites[/c] – Again we have a key card to the strategy that isn’t lost forever when we are dredging and playing [c]Satyr Wayfinder[/c] and [c]Grisly Salvage[/c]. Instead, the cogs work together to build quite the clock for your opponent.

After [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] was banned, Abzan became the real deal. [c]Golgari Grave-Troll[/c] hasn’t yet joined the party, but I think this archetype can bring the color combination and the keyword that never was to the top tables and cash events.