The Deadliest Abzan Deck

The life of a brewer can be lonely. That’s why Matt Higgs has fully embraced a niche enchantment that can pack a punch! See the deck he’s currently working on before #SCGPORT!

I’m an extroverted loner.

I love being around people, but at the same time, being by myself is really clarifying and energizing. I’ll be just as excited to go to a party, spend time
with my wife, or go to a family dinner as I am to strike out by myself one day and go for a walk or a drive somewhere fun. There’s nothing wrong with
either kind of person; I just happen to fairly flexible on the presence or absence of company.

Today though, we’re going it alone. In Dragons of Tarkir, the concept of a lone wolf is rewarded with one of its more unusual uncommons, Deadly

I’m not sure where the flavor of a spell like this comes in, but the bizarre effect of granting a sole creature a huge bonus is not unheard of in Magic. In
fact, the previous iteration of Deadly Wanderings helped lead me to one of my best tournament finishes.

Besides a devilishly clever title, if I do say so myself, this deck featured Deadly Wanderings’ predecessor, Homicidal Seclusion. For five mana, you could
grant one creature lifelink and a Dark Favor, no matter what the gamestate looked like. You’d play this, swing for tons of damage, and pull yourself back
from the brink of death in one combat step.

Homicidal Seclusion was right up my alley: a sleeper card that you had to work at to maximize value. Deadly Wanderings stuck out due to its similar design.
Despite the similarities, every card’s quality is the product of its format, and Homicidal Seclusion had environmental benefits that Deadly Wanderings did

First of all, Homicidal Seclusion was developed in a format where a single creature could do a lot of your work. This was Thragtusk Magic, and any one
creature did a lot of work back then. Nowadays, going wide is preferable, with cards like Hordeling Outburst, Hornet Queen, Master of Waves, and Monastery
Mentor calling the shots. This isn’t the land of Supreme Verdict anymore, and the fact that hard board wipes aren’t available until five mana puts them out
of many decks’ scopes. Second, enchantment hate is more powerful, whether it’s a maindeck Dromoka’s Command, a one-of Reclamation Sage to fetch with Chord
of Calling, or an on-time Thoughtseize or Duress to pluck it right from your grip. Single cards aren’t as durable as they used to be, and even enchantments
aren’t safe anymore. Finally, Homicidal Seclusion is just a better card. The extra +1/+1 is huge when lifelink and survivability come into play,
and the deathtouch and extra black devotion are little consolation for this step backward.

With all those things working against it, what is it going to take to make Deadly Wanderings a potentially reasonable card?

For starters, what’s a reasonable card that can carry the torch by itself?

Yeah, well…well, actually, I kind of like that.

Soulflayer, while somewhat reliant on creatures, gives you access to one creature with all the keywords. The other creatures can be keyword
bearers, if you will: nice if you need them, but easily discarded if they’d be more valuable on a 4/4. From there, we can use graveyard fillers to maximize
our graveyard delve choices for the Soulflayer, create a big creature while blocking with any extras, then defeat our opponent with a huge life swing, just
like I did with my favorite little solitary enchantment from Innistrad Block.

Green is the obvious choice thanks to its bevy of “look at the top X, take a card, discard the rest” spells, and after reviewing the other options for
colors, I decided to go white with a hair of blue built in, and you’ll see why.


Satyr Wayfinder is a really solid Magic card. It’s an Elvish Visionary that fixes your mana while also filling your graveyard with juicy delve fuel.
Although seemingly against the theme, the Wayfinder’s ability to do these two essential tasks means it’s gotta be in here, and besides, a 1/1 that lives
more than a few turns without dying in combat or a sweeper spell is a rare specimen indeed. Soulflayer is next, and what a card it is. In most decks, it
would be worse than a Tasigur, the Golden Fang, but here, Soulflayer has tons of great delving targets, making it the creature of choice after a graveyard
builder resolves.

I don’t believe that any deck that currently plays green, white, and black together does not play Siege Rhino. It has to be one of the most
relevant three-color spells in Magic’s history, and even this brew isn’t safe for the consistent power. The fact that it has the trample keyword is a
flimsy justification for inclusion in a deck with Soulflayer, but it does actually give it a great leg up with Deadly Wanderings. It will become a 6/5 and,
with deathtouch, I can assign just one damage to every blocker. It can get through an entire Hornet Queen and still deal one damage to the opponent! If I
told you synergy was the only reason I was playing the Doc, I’d be lying.

Conifer Strider works well with both key parts of the deck, and by itself, it even provides a great curve. Give me a 7/1 hexproof lifelink deathtoucher any
day! The Soulflayer can suck it up to give itself hexproof, too. Soul of Zendikar also combos nicely, providing reach for Soulflayer’s delve, a huge 6/6
body or, perhaps more relevantly, a 3/3 beast at any time. If you have Deadly Wanderings and no creatures, this can spawn you a 5/3 from the graveyard.
Give ’em a surprise! Tasigur, the Golden Fang is an alternative delver and graveyard feeder, and in many cases, it’s just a better Soulflayer.

There are several singletons, two of which are Gods. Both lend indestructible to the list of potential Soulflayer keywords, but both also dovetail with the
theme. Nylea provides any big deathtouch brawler a way to get damage through, and the pump activation is not irrelevant. Pharika, God of Affliction, like
Soul of Zendikar, can spontaneously spawn 1/1 Snakes. In the same way that I used Trading Post to make 3/2 Goats in the 2013 version, Pharika can, too.
With Nylea and both Deadly Wanderings, Pharika herself is a 9/5 lifelink indestrucible God, so in that rarest of instances, you might just obliterate them outright. The other two, each a legendary Dragon, provide critical keywords. Silumgar, the Drifting Death provides the ever-potent
flying and hexproof and represents the only maindeck blue spell. Dragonlord Dromoka, who is a house herself, provides evasion and a lifelink ability when
the Deadly Wanderings wanders away from the top of your deck.


Commune with the Gods is probably the strongest thing this deck can do at almost any point in the game. There are only nine non-land cards that this
doesn’t hit, so you’ll likely hit in the first two or three you find. Murderous Cut, fueled by eight active graveyard fillers, provides the critical
removal and tempo you need to stay ahead of the game. Two Deadly Wanderings seems just right; it is expensive, and Commune with the Gods can find it.
Rarely do I think two out at once will make or break a game (as they don’t stack as well as Homicidal Seclusion), but sometimes, it’s exactly the card you
want on curve. Necromancer’s Stockpile, a card I’ve been anxious to brew with in other places, is a way to pitch those awkward six-drops that provide such
great value for Soulflayer and do nothing for your hand. A singleton Thoughtseize seemed acceptable as an out to about anything, but I felt like you only
really needed one to do the job.


Being four colors, even on a tiny splash, makes the landbase tricky. In this case, I decided on 26 lands with an Evolving Wilds, Mana Confluence, and a
Temple of Enlightenment to fill my blue quota. This deck, with its inordinate amount of bulky six-cost creatures and lack of mana producers, seems like as
good a place as any outside of a control deck to play that many lands.

I made up a quick sideboard, which most notably featured Sylvan Caryatid. If Deadly Wanderings was going to work, I couldn’t be clogging the board (and
disarming my Wanderings) with mana producers. Thus, this would come in if ramp, more than graveyard filling, was a priority. The rest was, frankly, a
collection of powerful spells that suited the colors of this deck, including an aggressive blue splash for six of the sideboard spells.


Building and chatting about a deck’s strategy is helpful, but you can’t beat the chance to run this seventy-five into someone else’s and seeing what
happens. As the first weekend in months without schoolwork weighing me down, I actually got a considerable amount of valuable testing done.

That being said, two matches and four losses later, I decided that not only was Sylvan Caryatid helpful, but it was arguably the most synergistic card in
the deck. There was a whole lot of fluff, the creatures were clunky, and I ended up stock with a lot of six-drops in my opening hands. How embarrassing.

Yeah, this was my first list. Right.

This one I took out to the killing fields in twelve matches, nine of which I got.

Best Matchups – Abzan Mirrors

This deck crushed five Abzan mirrors, regardless of their speed. Deadly Wanderings was a wonderful stalemate breaker, and more often than not, a
combination of this enchantment or a flying, hexproof Soulflayer closed the game. It feels pretty good when someone decides to Utter End your Deadly
Wanderings over a Siege Rhino when they’ve got no blockers. That’s living the dream right there. Against Abzan Aggro, resolving even just a Soulflayer
on-time was good enough to stop Rakshasa Deathdealer and Fleecemane Lion, and in the control matchups, every creature was a threat thanks to my two Gods
and Deadly Wanderings.

Good Matchups – Control (U/W and U/B)

I played two matches against blue-based control, and the list proved to be pretty durable against it. The real all-star, especially in the U/B match, was
Soul of Zendikar, which provided an unopposed stream of 3/3s , and after my opponent finally found the Crux of Fate, I brought in a final 3/3 to finish the
job. U/W was more challenging because Elspeth, Sun’s Champion can create a problem, mostly because of her ability to -4 and destroy a hexproof Soulflayer
and most of the rest of my board. Still, Silumgar, the Drifting Death or a loaded Siege Rhino can still do the trick.

Fair Matchups – Atarka Red

Although I thought this deck might be unprepared for brawling matches with red-based aggro, it actually did okay. This was a highly hand-dependent deck,
but I was able to trade off a match each against two different R/G decks. Atarka’s Command is a great card, but my gang of 4/4s still eats most creatures
that get pumped by it. Siege Rhino and the more traditional Abzan cards helped me clinch the match I won, and a combination of not respecting Atarka’s
Command when I’m behind and bad sideboarding kept me from getting the other one. At best, this deck is unreliable at handing this archetype.

Poor Matchups – Mardu

I played three matches against Mardu and handily lost two of them, and all the Mardu decks I played had different builds. The only one I beat was a token
deck; the deck wasn’t designed to handle trample, and my opponent made some unfortunate blocking choices. Siege Rhino was the star again. The second one I
fought, more of a raid-style Warrior deck, beat me into submission with cards like Alesha, Who Smiles at Death and Chief of the Edge. Even out of the
sideboard, my removal was too slow and irrelevant, and cards like Crackling Doom kept my well-endowed Soulflayer out of the game. The last match, a Mardu
Control match, went to game 3, but after he slammed End Hostilities, two Crackling Dooms, and an Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, I couldn’t stay up anymore, and I
crumbled to Stoke the Flames and Ugin’s +2.

The deck was glorious to play and, for the most part, it functioned without many of the staple Abzan pieces like Courser of Kruphix and Abzan Charm, which
gave it a fresh feel in an otherwise monotonous color combination. Even the off-color Commands from the sideboard were good, and Ojutai’s Command shone
especially bright, as I found I used every mode over the course of testing.

In an effort to help with the aggro matches, I’d probably bring in Ultimate Price and Bile Blight over the Hero’s Downfall; Silumgar’s Command can play
double duty really well, and the Negates even came in during a couple matches. Despite its reasonable showing, this is still a draft, but the fact that
Deadly Wanderings is still a viable variant makes the world not seem as lonely.

In your own independent wanderings, where have you found a place for Deadly Wanderings? How have you shaken up Abzan to break the tedium of Siege Rhino
mirror matches?