Abzan And Sultai in Standard

Two of the big breakout archetypes of the first big Open Series weekend were Abzan Midrange decks and Sultai Graveyard decks. Check out Brian’s latest lists of both archetypes and what he thinks of the new format!

Last week
, I published a list of the “level one” decks (Rabble Red, G/R Devotion, and Mono-Black Aggro) that I recommended players start to test against for the
start of the new Standard season. Thankfully, I followed my own advice this time around and earned myself a nice top four split finish at the 70 player
Border Wars Tournament at RIW Hobbies in Michigan last weekend after finding something that did well against all three.

The Border Wars tournaments are a cool series that a few stores in Michigan and Canada are running as a cooperative effort where there’s a sub-tournament
going on that tracks who beats each other more, the Americans or the Canadians. Unfortunately for me and the other Americans, we lost out of the country
portion of the event by a few wins.

Despite the USA not taking down the event I had a nice tournament and was able to split the Top 4 playing an Abzan Midrange deck.

I have really been looking forward to this new, fresh Standard format and getting a chance to tinker with the new cards and new decks. I wanted in on the
ground floor and have spent quite a bit of time brewing and tuning new decks.

For the first time in a long time, I was blessed with the ultimate “first world problem” of having two decks that I thought were really good and that I
wanted to play. Today I’m going to share both of those decks and discuss why they are both options you may want to consider looking at in new Standard.

I love playing this style of deck: powerful threats, great removal, and lots of options.

The great thing about a deck like this is that it absolutely crushes the “level one” aggressive decks that I was looking to beat early in the format. I
didn’t want to be playing something that lost to mono colored linear decks, and I can say with a great degree of confidence that Abzan Midrange is a big
time predator of aggressive decks.

A beatdown deck’s worst nightmare.

Siege Rhino is an absolute nightmare for decks that plan on attacking with one and two mana creatures. It comes down, gains back much of the progress that
the opponent has made, and drains your opponent’s face which makes racing against even very aggressive decks a reality. The other thing that is great is
that it sits in play and makes the opponent’s attacks on their next turn look pretty grim before heading into the red zone and flipping the script.

For the record, Siege Rhino is not very good at attacking through walls, which is kind of ironic. Despite the irony, the card is fantastic against many of
the popular decks in the format and one of the cornerstones of the Abzan strategy.

The most important card in Standard.

Elpseth, Sun’s Champion is going to fill a big part of the void that Sphinx’s Revelation has left behind. It is objectively one of the most powerful cards
in the format, if it isn’t outright the most powerful card in the format, and every deck is going to have some sort of a plan for dealing with this
powerful planeswalker.

I went straight for the full four copies of Elspeth, Sun’s Champion in my build of Abzan because I simply wanted to be Elspeth-ing harder than any other
deck in the format. There are very few scenarios that can arise in which Elspeth won’t help dig you out. Fliers can be a problem as can dying before
Elspeth can take over the game, but other than that, an unanswered Elspeth, Sun’s Champion will usually topple any other obstacle.

Elspeth may rule the ground, but these creatures rule the air.

I played two copies each of Wingmate Roc and Hornet Queen in my 75 and was extremely impressed with how both performed for me over the course of my
tournament. The main reason that I’m playing with these cards in my deck is that they are extremely efficient at dealing with opposing Elspeths. Elspeth
can’t use her minus ability to impact these fliers, nor can her legions of soldiers block them, but most importantly, they cannot be answered by a singular
removal spell outside of a strived Silence the Believers.

Hornet Queen was directly responsible for multiple wins over the course of the day, including one win against Mono-Green where no other card in my colors
other than the Queen would have been enough to best what my opponent brought against me.

The fact that Hornet Queen is a fantastic answer to Elspeth, Stormbreath Dragon, all of the planeswalkers, and most of the creatures in the format makes it
a nice top of the curve catch all.

While Villanous Wealth may be the biggest end game available in the format, I’m pretty hard pressed to find a card that is better than Hornet Queen to be
the second highest level that a player can go. I may actually be playing with a singleton copy of Hornet Queen in my maindeck by next week.

The best land in the deck!

So, if you haven’t heard the joke yet…

Tap Windswepth Heath for Black mana and save the shuffle effect for when Courser of Kruphix shows you there is a brick on top of your deck.

If you didn’t know about this, you should be keeping it in mind while you’re playing. It’s a pretty sweet way to get a free roll.

Multi-purpose sideboard card.

Originally, I had Anafenza in the maindeck but quickly moved her into the sideboard. I hated the way that she matched up poorly against Siege Rhino and how
playing her alongside Rhino made my deck really susceptible to getting blown out by the planeswalker’s -3 ability.

Despite being a card that doesn’t fare particularly well in a world full of midrange battles, the card is fantastic against aggressive decks (because it is
huge on the blocks and a very fast clock when racing against creatures that stink at blocking), and it is a house against graveyard-based strategies.

Speaking of graveyard-based strategies….

The Sultai deck is an absolute blast to play and also feels like an extremely powerful deck in the format. It can do things that are really unfair, and it
has the biggest endgame of basically any deck in the format: play Hornet Queen every turn!

The biggest innovation that I’ve made with this deck is to not play Murderous Cut.

I’d happily pay a little more to kill Elspeth…

It isn’t just getting to kill Elspeth, Sun’s Champion that makes Hero’s Downfall the card that I’d rather be playing.

Is Ancestral Recall good in my Standard Deck?

Let’s be clear here, Treasure Cruise in a delve deck is basically just Ancestral Recall.

Most of the decklists I’ve seen playing Murderous Cut are not playing Treasure Cruise, which I don’t understand at all. I understand that they don’t play
Treasure Cruise because there are only so many cards to delve with, and Murderous Cut is using that resource. However, the issue is that Downfall is so
much better than Murderous Cut with the flexibility it offers, whereas “Ancestral Recall” is an irreplaceable effect.

Combo Endgame.

The thing that I like about the Sultai Deck is that it’s endgame is extremely big and difficult to beat. The fact that every Nyx Weaver you mill will allow
you to Whip it back into play and regrow the best possible card gives the deck a lot of late game inevitability.

“To the skies!”

Another big allure of the Sultai deck is that these two bestow creatures in combination are extremely powerful and deal a ton of evasive damage. Also, when
coupled with Whip of Erebos the amount of life that a player gains via the dredge deck’s giant pounders, Nighthowler and Nemesis of Mortals quickly puts
the game out of reach against regular aggro decks.

What is a Dredge deck without zombie tokens?

Sidisi, Brood Tyrant is an absolute powerhouse in this Sultai delve deck. I have rarely played a game where Sidisi, Brood Tyrant comes into play, isn’t
immediately answered, and I don’t win the game off it.

It’s comparable in my mind to a more powerful Huntmaster of the Fells, since most of the time it will come into play and bring a 2/2 Zombie token with it.
However, the fact that it will continue to generate zombies as the game goes on is pretty amazing. Lots of bodies to attack and block is huge against
opposing creature decks, especially with Whip of Erebos playing heavily into the equation.

This card is the whip.

Whip of Erebos is the lynchpin that holds the entire deck together. While it is possible to simply win games on the back of Nemesis of Mortals or Sidisi,
Brood Tyrant with some good old fashioned beatdown, all of the major endgames involve this powerful legendary enchantment.

Whip makes racing a near impossibility for most opponents, and it also generates lots of card and board advantage by virtue of Satyr Wayfinder, Hornet
Queen, and Nyx Weaver. The fact that the card is so important and synergistic is the reason that I play three copies despite having Commune with the Gods
to dig for it and Nyx Weaver to Regrowth it.

I’ve really been enjoying playing the Sultai deck. In fact, it’s my favorite deck to actually play with, and it was a pretty tough decision between which
deck I actually wanted to play in my event last weekend.

I give this bee an A+.

Either way, one thing that I’m pretty sure of is that I want to be playing with Hornet Queen in my Standard deck. If you want the biggest, baddest,
buzziest finisher to go over top of everything your opponent is doing, Hornet Queen is the card you’ve been looking for.

It’s pretty interesting that the only cards that overlap in my Sultai and Abzan decks are Hornet Queen, Thoughtseize, Hero’s Downfall, and Llanowar Wastes.
To sit alongside those other obviously insane Magic cards as the only cards that overlap between decks should give you some idea of just how good I think
the Queen actually is in a format that looks to be defined by midrange battles.

I’m absolutely enjoying how this Standard format is unfolding and am immensely enjoying no Sphinx’s Revelations, Pack Rats, or Lifebane Zombies floating
around. A new block only comes but once a year, so live it up.