Hangaring Back This Weekend

Abzan Rally has thrown all of Standard for a loop and The Boss, Tom Ross, has his answers for how best to address it in time for #SCGRegionals this weekend.

I’m not qualified for Pro Tour Magic Origins.

Instead I’m hanging back to hold down the house that myself and Worlds hopeful Brad Nelson both share. I don’t have enough Pro Points to make a run at anything useful this year and am waiting until the first Pro Tour of next season to start a new run. It sucks to not be competing at the very highest level in the world this weekend, but right now my focus is on the Open Series and possibly another appearance in the Players’ Championship at the end of the year. Regionals gives out a ton of Open Series Points which means a prime opportunity to gain some ground in the race. Therefore, I have a flag to plant.

Over the past two weeks, Heroic has shown itself to be still viable in Standard with Magic Origins, putting up back-to-back second-place finishes on the Open Series. The deck is strong, but not always so well-positioned. When Mardu Dragons with Crackling Doom and Foul-Tongue Invocation are dodging Gods Willing and Ajani’s Presence, the Heroic decks will have a bad time. When green decks like G/R Devotion are on the top of the mountain and have a defensive gameplan of blocking with large ground creatures, cards like Aqueous Form, Stratus Walk, Gods Willing, and obnoxiously large Heroic creatures have a ball against a removal-light matchup.

SCG Richmond was a great field for Bant Heroic. G/R Devotion was out in high numbers, as was Abzan Control, another positive matchup. Bant Heroic was a surgical blade ready to slice through the competition like a hot knife through butter. What myself, Todd Anderson, and Chris VanMeter didn’t sign up for was bringing our knife to a gunfight. Ray Tautic and his Abzan Rally deck blew us away in embarrassing fashion.

I was really close to playing Mono-White Heroic, a deck that I’d been casually playing over the last couple weeks that I felt was well-positioned in a field heavy with G/R Devotion. Then five test games later against David McDarby with Ali Aintrazi U/B Demonic Pact deck and five losses later left me questioning my decision to play a deck that felt so underpowered. Kytheon never flipped, I could never kill anything, and Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy/Erebos’s Titan ran me over.

Even though Ali’s deck was likely the worst possible matchup for Mono-White Heroic, and my draws weren’t particularly exciting in our extensive five-game set, I was left worried about my deck choice. Both Chris VanMeter and Todd Anderson were locked on Bant Heroic and were giving no thought toward my Mono-White version, no matter how many small advantages I’d say.

This is what I had sleeved up the night before SCG Richmond.

And this is what I decided on the morning of the tournament.

The differences in my deck and Todd’s and CVM’s are the following:



Seeker of the Way Valorous Stance Ajani's Presence Temple of Plenty


Battlewise Hoplite Ordeal of Heliod Triton Tactics Temple of Enlightenment



Disdainful Stroke Encase In Ice Lagonna-Band Trailblazer


Stubborn Denial Stubborn Denial Valorous Stance

The maindeck changes from what Todd and CVM liked were a response to two things: Mono-Red Aggro and Languish. I wanted a third Ordeal of Heliod somewhere in the 75 but didn’t want to dedicate another sideboard slot to it. I felt like SCG Richmond would be a big tournament for Languish given that it’s good against G/R Devotion and reasonable against W/U Heroic, and Triton’s Tactics was just the answer I wanted to the card when Gods Willing or Ajani’s Presence wouldn’t do the trick. With Ordeal of Heliod maindeck, I could exchange a Seeker of the Way as a lifegain creature for a Battlewise Hoplite. To smooth out the mana symbol numbers, another blue source in Temple of Enlightenment was exchanged for Temple of Plenty. The sideboard choices were based on my counterspell and removal preference.

I felt my list was better in some ways, but what all three of us agreed on was that we wanted another Valorous Stance somewhere. I would play one over the maindeck Triton’s Tactics if I could go back, but outside of the Temple switch, their maindeck was better than mine. In the aftermath of SCG Richmond, this is the Bant Heroic version I’d run at Regionals this weekend.

There’s been a lot of talk about Ray Tautic and his Abzan Rally deck and how to beat it. For Regionals I recommend people dedicating at least two, and as many as six, sideboard slots to that matchup. Many cards will bleed over to other matchups so they are not just completely dedicated to Rally the Ancestors decks. Keep these cards in mind for those decks.

Agent of Erebos Tormod's Crypt Hallowed Moonlight Hushwing Gryff Anafenza, the Foremost


The first five fight Rally the Ancestors decks directly, either fighting the graveyard or stopping enters-the-battlefield abilities. Hangarback Walker fights it a little differently by nullifying the Edict effects from Merciless Executioner and Fleshbag Marauder and by being able to block with colorless creatures in Hangarback Walker or the Thopters that it generates. Heck, attacking with a Hangarback Walker loaded up with an Ordeal of Thassa will get you two cards real quick just like a Heroic creature will. While Matthew Tickal’s version was a touch less refined than Ray Tautic’s, we can see from a feature match at SCG Chicago how effective Hangarback Walker is in the matchup.

Speaking of Hangarback Walker and the menace that is Abzan Rally, something that’s been brewing in my head the last couple of days is a combination of the two, taking out the whole Rally combo for more redundant cards. More often than not, the Abzan Rally deck doesn’t need to combo off to win but rather gets there through good old-fashioned value plays. Andrew Jessup played a G/B Collected Company value deck with a similar concept to a 21st place finish at SCG Richmond, beating myself along the way. The following is a blend on the two concepts, while jamming Hangarback Walker for a few key reasons.

Here, the Hangarback Walkers do a couple things for us. They up the two-drop count in a deck that’s pretty heavy in the three-drop department. Next, and most importantly, they enable this wonderful draw:

Turn one: Llanowar Wastes, Elvish Mystic

Turn two: Swamp, Liliana, Heretical Healer. Cast Hangarback Walker for zero. Flip Liliana, +2 discarding Deathmist Raptor.

Outside of that dream scenario, it’s a good two-drop that works well with the Edict creatures, which has been bumped up from five to seven in the maindeck. Having a way to use excess mana in the mid- and late-game is always nice, and creating colorless flying creatures is another angle of attack against both ground blockers and a possible Ugin, the Spirit Dragon or to block around things like Mogis’s Marauder or Gods Willing.

The sideboard doesn’t include many non-creature spells like Thoughtseize or Hero’s Downfall, instead preferring to lean on creatures that enter the battlefield and make both players sacrifice a creature – or to sweep the small stuff under the rug in the case of Minister of Pain. Instead of Thoughtseize, we have Brain Maggot as a hit off of Collected Company. Hitting one or zero creatures off of Collected Company is the worst, and I aim to keep the creature count high (and the feel-bads low) after sideboarding.

For my last deck, I have what I almost played instead of Bant Heroic last weekend and have been thinking about tuning for Regionals this weekend. The inclusion of Hangarback Walker fixes many of the holes that you’d expect from a linear deck like a Mono-White Weenie strategy.

There’s a noticeable three lands more in this list than the previous Mono-White list. The overall converted mana cost remains low, but the deck is still mana hungry with Hangarback Walker, the Outlast from Abzan Falconer, and Bolster from Gleam of Authority, all the potentially holding up Gods Willing when needed. I shaved a few white mana symbols here and there and added some more colorless ones which led me to feeling comfortable four copies of Foundry of the Consuls. Much like how Mutavault gave us a reason to be mono-colored in previous Standard formats, Foundry of the Consuls will shape builds to fit it in. The late-game effect is very powerful and just a matter of how freely one can build to support it.

The sideboard is a response to the expected increase of Abzan Rally decks for this weekend. Hallowed Moonlight is likely the single best outright spell against the card Rally the Ancestors since they must return all their creatures onto the battlefield, thus exiling them, killing off their gameplan and their graveyard all while drawing a card for two mana. Hushwing Gryff further pushes the hate for the deck to a point where I feel that Mono-White Heroic is reasonably favored after sideboard.

The Hangarback Walkers help against control too, but not enough that I think you’ll be favored. If your expected field is Abzan Rally, Mono-Red Aggro, and G/R Devotion, I recommend this little Mono-White deck here. If your metagame is full of controlling decks, I’d stay away.

If this weekend will be devoid of Abzan Rally decks I’d play the G/B Value deck because I think its simplified concept, easier manabase, and greater redundancy is even better against most things than the combo version, but will likely get trounced in a mirror-ish match when they have Rally the Ancestors as a trump and you don’t have a Tormod’s Crypt.

This weekend I’ll be at SCG Regionals in Raleigh, North Carolina and if you’re in attendance and we haven’t met, don’t be afraid to come up and introduce yourself. While I don’t know my exact list just yet, I am sure of two things: Abzan Rally is the best deck in Standard right now and that my list will include some number of Hangarback Walkers in the 75. Abzan Rally is the deck to beat and does absurd things, to the point that it looks like a Modern deck in action. To succeed this weekend, whether you’re playing at the Pro Tour, at Regionals, or a local Friday Night Magic, you’ll need a plan to beat them or a deck that matches their power level and can hold its own in an extremely long and grindy game.

Good luck this weekend!