SCG IQ with Abzan Dash tournament report

SCG IQ with Abzan Dash tournament report

I think having a threat on turn two is one of the best places to be in the BFZ format, and no, I don’t mean Hangarback Walker. Here’s how my first tournament with Abzan Dash went.

Abzan Dash

I posted on /r/spikes about the list not so long ago, and got some quality feedback.

After considering the suggestions and a lot of playtesting, here’s the list I ended up settling on my first opportunity to play an event post-rotation.

Abzan Dash

by Billy Pedlow


4x Warden of the First Tree

3x Chief of the Edge

2x Rakshasa Deathdealer

4x Anafenza, the Foremost

4x Mardu Strike Leader

2x Pitiless Horde

4x Siege Rhino

Noncreature Spells

1x Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

1x Sorin, Solemn Visitor

4x Valorous Stance

4x Dromoka’s Command

1x Murderous Cut

2x Abzan Charm


4x Windswept Heath

1x Canopy Vista

2x Forest

1x Plains

4x Llanowar Wastes

4x Caves of Kolios

2x Shambling Vents

4x Sandsteppe Citadel

2x Swamp


4x Self-Inflicted Wound

2x Arashin Cleric

2x Surge of Righteousness

1x Utter End

3x Duress

1x Transgress the Mind

2x Ultimate Price

The Best Creature in the Deck

This deck foregoes many of the elements that make Abzan Aggro able to grind out a long game instead opting for a very linear game plan: to beat face. It attempts to be a true aggro deck, in order to take advantage of how powerful Siege Rhino is as a curve topper, rather than leaning on him to stabilize. It uses Dash as a way to acquire hastey pressure that also avoids the sorcery speed removal in the format. Most importantly:

But really what this deck seeks to do is maximize the impact of what I think is the best creature in the deck, and may I say, one of the best creatures in the BFZ format:

Warden of the First Tree.

Chances are if you’ve been playing standard, you’ve had to deal with some turn one Wardens, and I emphatically believe that turn one Warden, turn two level up, is the most powerful early game sequence available. If you can follow it up with a turn three creature or removal spell, chances are you’re winning that game.

The relative inefficiency of current removal only solidifies the power of this threat. Between him and Chief of the Edge, this deck will have a three power threat on turn two more often than not.

Oh and don’t forget Warden is a warrior once leveled up! However, I must drive home this point however, I’m playing this card because it smashes for three, any extra damage is welcome but purely incidental. The fact that Chief makes Strike Leader into a 4/2 (and each token it creatures into a must-deal-with threat) is, again, great, but a little winmore, and not the primary reason we’re running this rather unconventional creature. Remember, we’re an aggro deck.

But I’m not here to write a primer, if you want to know more about my card choices, check my post history. We’re hear to talk about some games.

Game 1: Vs. Kasun on GW Megamorph

It was a small tuesday IQ, so there we’re only five rounds in the Swiss.

I won the dice roll and led off with a turn one Warden. He had a turn one Warden of his own. I levelled up mine and smashed in, and then he did the same. I broke parity with a Dromoka’s Command (great to be on the play!) and hit him for four damage. Then the board got stalled for a while. I ended up having to fight through 3 (!) Gideons, and a flipped Nissa, before I was able to start sending damage his way, but in the end I got there. This is a bit of a theme of the night.

Gideon is an extremely powerful magic card, but I have found that a combination of a turn two/three body and a removal spell and he’s relatively easy to take care of. With the added factor of Dashing, the deck does a pretty good job of dealing with opposing Gideons.

At one point I was attacking with two leveled up Wardens and a Chief of the Edge, and my opponent blocked a Warden with a morph, flipping it over to reveal a Hidden Dragonslayer, but he crucially forgot that the Chief made both Wardens four power, and by the time I looked at him and said, “so you take four?” it was too late.  “Four?” he asked, and scooped up his cards.

I brought in Self-Inflicted Wounds, Utter End, and Ultimate Price, taking out a couple Valorous Stances and Mardu Strike Leaders. I don’t like Strike Leader on the draw against decks that muck up the board. The crucial turn happened when I Dromoka’s Commanded (+1 Counter and Fight) my Anafenza into a Nissa, and he responded with his own Command with a Raptor fighting my Anafenza, to which I responded with a Valorous Stance making my Anafenza indestructible for a satisfying blowout. I ended the game without ever getting below 20 life, forcing my opponent to be on the back foot the whole time.

I can’t sing enough praises for Dromoka’s Command as a removal spell, and it’s especially potent in a deck like mine that plays plenty of early creatures, but man, do you leave yourself prone by casting it! Dromoka’s Command is Blowout City!

Overall, I didn’t think I’d be favored in this matchup, but in the two matches I played against it that night I felt that the couple extra removal spells, and greater early pressure give me the edge in this matchup. Oh and Rhino.

Game 2 vs Greg on Esper Dragons

This is a matchup I believe that I am pretty favored in. They very rarely expect haste out of an Abzan deck, and our deck is capable of early pressure and a fair amount of reach (via Dash and Rhinos).

Game one saw me stick an early Chief of the Edge, and beat down for a couple turns while every other threat that I tried to put down got countered. He removed the Chief and I started Dashing in Strike Leader. In the end, he got down a Silumgar, the Drifting Death, which stopped my assault, leaving me with three tokens on the field.

The crucial moment was when instead of attacking and wiping my warrior tokens with Drifty, he kept him back to block. This gave me an extra two points of damage that I was able to, in combination with a well-timed Dromoka’s Command, leverage for lethal.

I sided out Dromoka’s Command, Murderous Cut, and Valorous Stances, I couldn’t decide what the right number of Self-Inflicted Wounds was, but settled on three. Didn’t see a single Ojutai, however, and they rotted in hand. I debated bringing in Ultimate Price and Utter End for Jace, but ultimately decided against it. I was going to be on full beatdown, and would just have to kill Jace on the board. The Dash team is pretty good at this.

Game two saw him just completely wreck me. I started off with a Warden and felt in a good position, getting him down to twelve pretty quickly, but a Foul Tongue Invocation and a couple Dig Through Times later and the game was completely out of reach. My opponent remarked  afterwards that all his Digs were just gas.

Game three I started with a Chief of the Edge, into a Mardu Strike Leader, and he got stuck on lands, and no matter he just couldn’t find a Crux or Languish to clear my board. I had a Pitiless Horde and a Strike Leader in hand at the end of the game, and didn’t think it was in the cards for him boardwipe or not. I had to attack through a Jace, but Silumgar came down too late, and neither could stem the flow of blood. I didn’t see any discard spells, but I did get to resolve a Rhino finally at the end of the match.

Silumgar, the Drifting Death and Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy are the real problem cards in this matchup. I want to figure out a better sideboard configuration to deal with them, and think perhaps even Ultimate Price may be correct. How deep down the rabbit hole can we go?

Game 3 vs. Richard on Jund Dragons

Jund Dragons is the best deck that no one is playing, in my humble opinion. There is so much raw power and efficient removal in this color combo, with some of the best threats available, its a wonder to me that we haven’t seen more. Richard ended up in the top8, so we can take a look at his list!

Jund Dragons

by Richard Berry


4x Rattleclaw Mystic

4x Catacomb Sifter

4x Deathmist Raptor

2x Den Protector

4x Thunderbreak Regent

2x Dragonlord Kolaghan

2x Dragonlord Atarka

Noncreature Spells

2x Sarkhan the Dragonspeaker

4x Draconic Roar

3x Complete Disregard

2x Foul-Tongued Invocation

2x Murderous Cut


4x Bloodstained Mire

4x Wooded Foothills

4x Cinder Glade

3x Smoldering Marsh

1x Haven of the Spirit Dragon

4x Llanowar Wastes

1x Swamp

2x Mountain

2x Forest


1x Ob Nixilis, Reignited

2x Foul-Tongued Invocation

2x Rending Volley

2x Twin Bolt

4x Radiant Flames

4x Transgress the Mind

I did not feel favored in this matchup at all, and not knowing what was in his decklist certainly didn’t help.

Game one I think I remember winning with dashers, notably I think Pitiless Horde did a lot of work. However, I don’t feel comfortable playing Pitiless against decks with Draconic Roar so it came out game two.


I took out Pitiless Horde, some number of Mardu Strike Leaders, Rakshasa Deathdealers and some number of Dromoka’s Command. I wasn’t happy with my sideboarding here, I should’ve taken out Sorin against any decks with Draconic Roar, I know better than that!

Game two was a massacre with him never getting lower than 15 life, controlling the board and beating me down with dragons.

There was a point where I Ultimate Priced a Regent while at five life, and my opponent Draconic Roared my creature in response so he could get the damage before his dragon died. So I took three bringing me down to two and then Richard pointed out, “three from Regent?” I told him he had missed the trigger. It didn’t feel good but it gave me another turn of play via which I could’ve turned it around. I didn’t however, and he played a Sarkhan to finish me off. The red planeswalker seems better than ever.

I brought the Strike Leaders and Dromoka’s Commands back in since I was on the play, as I often do. This game was a little closer as I had him down to five life in the end. I think this was the game where I got beat down bad by an Eldrazi Scion. Catacomb Sifter is a card, let me tell you!

I remember thinking that I had him when he was down to only a few cards, one of which I knew was a Dragonlord Kolaghan (for which I had an Utter End with her name on it). But then he played a Sarkhan and I was forced to Utter End it. I died to the Dragonlord the next turn.

I really enjoyed my games with this opponent and had the pleasure to take the train home with him and talk to him about his card choices.

I think the deck has legs, if I were to bring the list to a tournament, however, my mainboard would look like this:

Jund Dragons

by Billy Pedlow


4x Hangarback Walker

4x Rattleclaw Mystic

4x Catacomb Sifter

2x Den Protector

2x Nissa, Vastwood Seer

4x Thunderbreak Regent

2x Kolaghan, Storm’s Fury

2x Dragonlord Atarka

Noncreature Spells

4x Draconic Roar

2x Foul-Tongued Invocation

2x Kolaghan’s Command

1x Murderous Cut

25 lands (Richard’s manabase is probably fine)

I think the value engine of Nissa, Hangarback, and Kolaghan’s Command is just too potent to miss out on.

Not to mention, the combo kill that Storm’s Fury brings to the table is in my opinion one of the biggest allures to play the deck.

Round 4 vs. Jason on Abzan Hangarback

I can’t seem to locate my notes on  this match, but this one was interesting because, one, it was presumably a win-and-in, and two, we both knew what the other was playing.

We had discussed decks beforehand, so Jason had quite a good idea that I was on Mardu Strike Leader, and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to surprise him with Dashers. I knew he was on a classic Knight of the White Orchid (Brad Nelson inspired) Hangarback build. I didn’t tell him that I was playing no Hangarbacks in the 75, might as well keep some secrets!

That being said, I dashed Pitiless Horde turns four and five and the game was over before we got very far.

I sided out my Dromoka’s Commands (I don’t like them much on the draw and play around with the numbers in the mirror frequently, I don’t like my kill spell being countered by kill spells). Brought in Self Inflicteds and my discard spells.

I had a tough turn three because I played a Warden turn one, and leveled him up turn two. He got killed, and then turn three I had two options, either Warden + Transgress the Mind or Warden + Duress.

I am a sucker for maximizing my mana so I went the Transgress route, and got badly punished.


The two cards I wanted out of his hand were Wingmate Roc and Gideon. Looking at his mana I knew he would play the Gideon next turn, so I took that, despite knowing that the Wingmate would prove difficult. Looking back this was wrong, the Wingmate was far more problematic than a Gideon and I should’ve taken the bird, but alas, I did not. The optimal line was certainly to Duress, taking Gideon, freeing me to Transgress the Mind the next turn to take Wingmate.

That said, I tried to make the best of my situation and kept a leveled up Warden back to block the lone Knight of the White Order. I figured, hey, at least I can make the Wingmate less value by forcing him to give up the Knight. He did just that,  I put the Warden in front, and main phase two I was facing down two birds.

I managed to cobble two  removal spells for the Wingmate, and stumbled over the finish line with some damage here and there. Oh and Rhino. Depending on tiebreakers, I knew I was probably headed to the top 8.

Round 5 vs… Bye

Checked the standings and saw I could take the bye, gratefully went downstairs to cop some snacks.

Top 8 vs. Kasun on GW Megamorph

My round one opponent was far from happy to be paired up against me again. He’s on the same exact mainboard as Michael Majors GW list, with a couple tweaks to the sideboard, and expressed how he felt the matchup was lopsided. He was on the play.

Game one was a long grindy stalled affair. This was more of what I expected from the Megamorph deck, with him keeping the board stalled with card advantage generating creatures. However, he couldn’t find a Wingmate Roc, and his dearth of removal spells let my Warden level up all the way to the top to break the stall. After the second hit from a massive Warden he finally found a Valorous Stance and the board was cleared with him at 8 life and me at 21. He ripped a Wingmate (unraided) to which I answered with a Rakshasa Deathdealer.

I attacked in with the Rakshasa and he didn’t chump. I pumped, bringing him to four, and played out the second Rakshasa I drew. He drew, looked at his board, and scooped up his cards

This time when sideboarding I took out all the Valorous Stances, Self-Inflicted Wound was just much better, and Valorous Stance didn’t have any targets that the other removal, Command, Price, Abzan Charm, and Self-Inflicted couldn’t handle. Took out the Strike Leaders on the draw.

Game two I got grinded out hard, with a bunch of thopters ending the ordeal in short order. I felt very behind the whole game.

Strike Leaders back in. I believe opened with a Chief of the Edge, and his first play was a Deathmist Raptor which meant a prompt Abzan Charm. He played out a Nissa, which met with a Self Inflicted Wound, followed by a Rhino, and a Mardu Strike Leader to close the game out.

I felt a little vindicated as I heard Richard’s Jund Dragons deck beat Kevin Jones on Jeskai Black from the table behind me.

Top 4 vs. Patrick on Abzan Hangarback

I think the thing that happened in this matchup made writing this report worth it all on it’s own, it’s just so interesting.

He chose to draw.

In fact, he explained to me that his deck was designed to take the draw, and that he had taken it every time he’d gotten the chance throughout the night.

Let’s look at his list.

Abzan Hangarback

by Patrick Older


4x Hangarback Walker

4x Knight of the White Orchid

4x Siege Rhino

3x Den Protector

4x Wingmate Roc

Noncreature Spells

4x Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

4x Abzan Charm

3x Dromoka’s Command

1x Celestial Flare

1x Ultimate Price

1x Reave Soul

1x Murderous Cut

1x Valorous Stance


4x Plains

1x Forest

4x Shambling Vents

4x Windswept Heath

4x Sandsteppe Citadel

2x Llanowar Wastes

2x Canopy Vista


4x Surge of Righteousness

2x Duress

1x Celestial Flare

2x Transgress the Mind

1x Valorous Stance

1x Painful Truths

2x Utter End

2x Evolutionary Leap

When I looked up his list after the tournament, well, I felt a little better. As far as White Orchid Abzan Lists, this is the best one of I’ve seen. There are so many great choices. His diverse removal suite is almost humorous in it’s acknowledgment of the lack of predictability of a new meta, but is well suited to deal with anything.

But why take the draw?

Well, for one Knight of the White Orchid is better on the draw, since you can get a land far more reliably.

Not to mention his conditional two mana removal, things like Reave Soul and Celestial Flare are notably better on the draw as well.

And you get a free extra card? I guess?

In the end, I think it’s wrong. The tempo loss you take from being on the draw is not worth the extra card or the extra land. That being said…

I played a turn one Warden, hoping to prove to him that taking the draw was wrong. But then I got stuck on two lands for way too many turns, and it wasn’t much of a game, Wingmate into Wingmate.

Game two I took the play, a direct statement of “I think you were wrong to to take the draw.”

He mulled to five. Can’t remember how he scried, but I was feeling good looking at my hand.

Again, I led off with a Warden, and put on some solid pressure. He played turn two removal, a turn three Knight of the White Orchid, fetched up a Canopy Vista, and all the sudden (between the land and being on the draw) it was as if he undid the mulligans.

The crucial turn came when I had him heavily on the backfoot and he blocked a trample lifelink 4/3 Warden with a 1/1 Hangarback and a Shambling Vents. I could’ve allowed the trade and left him with a single Thopter to my Chief of the Edge (and something else I think), but I decided instead to press the advantage and give five counters to the Warden by leveling him up. He tapped the Shambling Vents and his last remaining land for a Valorous Stance. Blowout! I drew more lands while he drew Gideon into Wingmate into Wingmate and that was that.

Closing Thoughts

It felt good to top 8 with a deck that I designed, and I felt like a madman playing Abzan without Hangarbacks or Den Protectors, but the deck felt great.

Biggest problem cards are definitely Silumgar, Drifting Death and Wingmate Roc. I am seriously considering replacing Duress with Transgress the Mind in order to deal with those cards better.

Other than that, I am going to ease back on the 4 Valorous Stance to 3, and move up to 4 Chief of the Edges, a turn two threat is too important for this decks strategy. I stand by Valorous Stance being so good in this meta however.

And I will move the Sorin to the sideboard (in the place of an Arashin Cleric) and go up to 2x Gideon. I still don’t want to be a 4x Gideon deck, since I think the Dashers do better work for the deck. The deck pretty much only wants to play Gideon once it’s exhausted of its other resources, and that makes Gideon extremely powerful in this deck, but something that also sits around in the hand while we do more damage clearing the path for our early drops or getting in with Dashers. He is insanely good as a follow up, really punishing opponents for using up all their resources dealing with the rest of the deck. After more testing, I have been very happy with him at two.

Happy Dashing!

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