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Magic: The Gathering – Standard Abzan Absolution

by Ron Duwell | February 3, 2019February 3, 2019 7:30 am PST

With our first weekend of Limited Ravnica Allegiance behind us, we enter the next phase of every Magic: The Gathering Standard expansion: construction. I spent the week plowing through Magic Arena with a pretty standard Gruul Rhythm of the Wild deck, and while it’s fun, consistent wins remains the biggest problem at the moment.

Why is that? Well, it takes a while to get going, not usually what a beat down deck wants to do. Unless you get both a Llanowar Elves and a Rhythm of the Wild in your opening hand, chances are your opponent will have already pummeled you with mono-Red, mono-White, or mono-Blue creatures or have enough mana open to control the game entirely. The only way to catch up will be to play a Ghalta, Primal Hunger for super cheap and haste it in for 12 damage.

Beyond that… good luck.

Another factor is a trend in Magic: The Gathering Standard is strategies that don’t rely heavily on creatures. Control decks that employ non-creatures spells rule the metagame and are often built to keep the board clean of anything that can kill them in the meantime.

Jeskai Control is the most prominent at the moment, and everyone agrees that they hate it because games against it take about 15 minutes to play out. Usually, if an opponent plays Teferi, and I am not set to win the next turn, I just scoop and go on to the next game.

However, I did run into another excellent deck that I really want to try out. Instead of Teferi, this deck used White/Black/Green Abzan colors and tapped into Ravnica Allegiance’s best Limited card, Ethereal Absolution, to exceedingly powerful results. I’ll do my best to recreate it here, and set it as the next deck I’ll aim to make in the game.

Piloting this deck is pretty simple, and the gameplan lays out nicely. Fill both your opponent’s and your own graveyards with creatures and bash them to pieces with 2/2 spirits.

ABZAN ABSOLUTION

Creatures

Seeing how this is a Control deck, we don’t actually have that many creatures to cling to in this deck. Just two staples of the current Golgari play style.

Golgari Findbroker is still one of the most dominant cards in Standard. Buying back your threats and leaving a huge 3/4 creature on the board is one of the best moves you can make in Magic these days.

This deck excels because of specific cards that you’ll want to keep in play, Ethereal Absolution stands out as the most important card, and if that enchantment ends up in your graveyard, Golgari Findbroker helps you get back on track in a flash.

And we have the Chupacabra, a creature that is probably far more powerful than anyone at Wizards of the Coast ever expected. You gain a creature, they lose a creature, and you’re happy about the trade you’ve made.

Using these two Standard all-stars, we can neglect the rest of our creatures and focus more on spells.

Spells

Any deck running both Green and White wants to run this card. There simply isn’t a reason not to. It replaces a land, and it can be cashed in on later in the game when your Spirit tokens are on the board.

Taking care of creatures is what you want to do with this deck, and this does just that. Sure, it misses some of Standard’s most powerful threats, like Ghalta or Niv -Mizzet, Parun, but it takes care of most everything else. A trip to the graveyard means more ammunition later in the game.

Remember, we’re not trying to exile anything, so Vraska’s Contempt takes a back seat.

Assassin’s Trophy hasn’t been played all that much in Standard since better options have surprisingly turned up. However, here it works splendidly, taking care of powerful creatures, pesky enchantments, game-breaking Planeswalkers like Teferi and Vivien Reid, and game breaking enchantments.

The small ramp you give your opponent, especially when they likely already have enough to cast their game winning spell, is inconsequential.

A little more BOOM for our deck. This one doesn’t handle artifacts or Planeswalkers, but it does help us get rid of powerful cards for just three mana.

Any three color deck needs some mana fixing to get it to run correctly, no matter how strong the mana base is. This gains you some life back, ramps you a turn, and helps with some of our hard-to-cast spells.

Later in the game, it provides more mana to activate Ethereal Absolution multiple times a turn.

Wiping boards and securing your life total is where you want to be in this deck, so we have a spell that takes care of both. It might be hard to cast, but with a proper mana base, opponents who run a lot of creatures won’t stand a chance against this card.

Carnage Tyrant, Hydroid Kraisis, Nullhide Ferox, all of those hard to kill creatures need an answer, and this is one of the best ways to do it.

It might seem unnecessary, but this spell gets you back all of your best ammunition. If you lose Ethereal Absolution, you can get it back with this card. That alone can save you the game.

This card also buys back Mortify and Assassin’s Trophy if you need removal. It buys back a Golgari Findbroker, which will allow you to buy back something else. It buys back a Kaya’s Wrath, allowing you to wipe the board and gain a ton of life… again.

In a three color control deck loaded with profitable multicolor cards, this shines brightly. It’s just a shame that you can’t buy it back.

Another effective board wipe that should keep opponent’s creatures in check. This one also takes care of enchantments, giving it more targets, especially pesky White removal like Conclave Tribunal or Hieromancer’s Cage. If you were to take out two of those with this card and get your exiled permanents back, you’ve probably won the game.

Win Conditions

Naturally, as with most control decks, you need a way to put the game away. Otherwise, you’re just playing until your deck runs out.

Our main source of victory. Once you’ve loaded up your opponent’s graveyard with creatures, go ahead an play this. Sit back, control the board, and watch as you create one or two 2/2 spirits every single turn. All the while, your opponent’s creatures are much weaker and will have a harder time closing them game. If they attack into your boosted spirits, they will likely trade, go into the graveyard, and become future fodder for this card.

Protect this card at all costs, buy it back with our multiple options, play it in doubles since those pump abilities do stack, and you’ll eventually end up on top.

The Immortal Sun is also essential to our deck. It shuts down Teferi in a heartbeat, gets us extra cards to play, makes everything cost less, and yes, turns our Spirit tokens into playing 3/3 threats. It does everything we need.

Don’t feel as pressured to bring this back as Ethereal Absolution since it is not an essential part of the deck, but if you need to, go ahead. This turns down the clock on your opponent by huge margin and gets more important removal into your hand.

Vraska helps us close out games, too, as a powerful 6-drop Planeswalker. She creates evasive, powerful creatures on her own and most importantly, evades all board wipes. If you have her in play and wipe away all creatures, she should have no problem getting you back out in front on board dominance. Those 2/2 menace pirates, especially if they become 3/3’s or 4/4’s, can’t be blocked so easily if they have only a single creature on the board.

After the wipe, if you start picking off singletons, your opponent will never be able to block.

Nope, can’t do it. I would need to run at least one of these to feel secure. The obvious weakness in our deck is that if our opponent isn’t playing a creature heavy deck, we won’t be able to properly exile them to make Spirits. If this is the case, we’ll need a little beef to help close out some games.

Hence, we have the best closer in the game. With Ethereal Absolution and The Immortal Sun in play, Carnage Tyrant is a six-mana 9/8 that can’t be interacted with and probably can’t be blocked.

Creatures (9)

  • 4x Golgari Findbroker
  • 4x Ravenous Chupacabra
  • 1x Carnage Tyrant

Spells (23)

  • 2x Flower//Flourish
  • 3x Cast Down
  • 4x Assassin’s Trophy
  • 4x Mortify
  • 2x Kaya’s Wrath
  • 2x Vivid Revival
  • 4x Cleansing Nova

Enchantments (2)

  • 2x Gift of Paradise
  • 2x Etheral Absolution

Artifacts (1)

  • 1x The Immortal Sun

Planewalkers (1)

  • 1x Vraska, Relic Seeker

Lands (23)

  • 3x Forest
  • 3x Godless Shrine
  • 2x Isolated Chapel
  • 4x Overgrown Tomb
  • 1x Plains
  • 2x Swamp
  • 3x Sunpetal Grove
  • 3x Temple Garden
  • 2x Woodland Cemetery

As with most three-color decks, you’re running the risk of not having enough mana to cast your spells early. Hopefully, with a mana base this diverse, you’ll be able to get to Assassin’s Trophy and Mortify quickly enough to keep opponents in check while you continue to build your board out.

From there, control the board, kill anything threatening that comes down, regardless of whether its a creature or something else, and watch as your Spirit tokens handle the rest. If you opponent plays no creatures, ensure that Teferi doesn’t run away with the game, and Vraska or Carnage Tyrant puts them away cleanly instead.

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