Why I’m Still Playing Abzan Blink (Yorion) In Historic And You Should Be Too

Don’t count out Abzan Blink (Yorion) in Historic! Sam Black shares his latest list and an extensive sideboarding guide.

Yorion, Sky Nomad, illustrated by Steven Belledin

A few weeks ago I wrote about building around Yorion, Sky Nomad in Historic.  Since then, we’ve had some major events and the metagame’s changed a bit, and no one’s really picked up Abzan Blink (Yorion).  So is the deck bad? I don’t think so.  I actually think it’s actually pretty well-positioned at the moment and I like where I’ve gotten my list.

Aside from four copies of Thoughtseize, every card in this deck is a permanent. But despite that, it plays 23 cards that can destroy or exile an opposing permanent.  That means every time you answer your opponent’s card, you’re advancing your own gameplan by leaving something on the battlefield.  The easiest matchups are against opponents who mostly cast one permanent each turn, so that you can efficiently answer each as the opponent casts them.  Decks like Gruul Aggro, Jund Sacrifice, and even Simic Paradox Engine all fall under this category.

Control decks that largely interact on the stack can be a little harder, because some of your draws won’t offer an opportunity to productively spend your mana if your opponent isn’t casting any nonland permanents.  Fortunately, those opponents tend to give you a lot of time and you’re very good at grinding, so those matchups are close.

Muxus, Goblin Grandee

The worst matchup is Mono-Red Goblins. Since all your answers are permanents, they’re all sorcery-speed, and since you’re playing so many, you’re mostly relying on answering a single thing at a time.  Muxus, Goblin Grandee is a nightmare because it usually results in a wide battlefield with haste, and even if you don’t immediately die, you’re not good at cleaning up the pieces.

Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath

The good news is that, in exchange, you’re not really worried about the most successful card in the format, Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath.  Your opponent will generally be able to escape Uro, but with twelve white cards that exile it, that’s usually the end of your worries and your opponent drawing a single extra isn’t a big deal since you have so much card advantage anyway.

Let’s look a little more closely at how this deck plays against other decks in Historic to explain more of the card choices and gameplan.

VS Simic Paradox Engine

Simic Paradox Engine has a few basic paths to victory.  The easiest is to untap with Emry, Lurker of the Loch and then cast Paradox Engine.  If that happens, there’s a pretty good chance they have an infinite loop of some sort that involves casting the same artifact over and over again. If they can’t untap with Emry, their backup plan is to use Karn, the Great Creator to get Ancestral Statue while they have Paradox Engine, and then cast Ancestral Statue around 50 times before picking up Karn, getting Aetherflux Reservoir, and casting any other spell.  If neither infinite combo is available, their backup plan is mostly just to attack with Uro.

Emry, Lurker of the Loch

None of these plans really have any hope of working against you.  You have 21 cards that kill Emry, so it should be extremely hard for them to untap with Emry on the battlefield.  The backup combo requires enough nonland permanents to make at least four mana and you just don’t really let them build up that kind of battlefield.  Knight of Autumn; Skyclave Apparition; and Vraska, Golgari Queen pick off their artifact mana, and without Emry they don’t really have a substantial source of card advantage, so they just can’t get a wide enough battlefield to get their engine started.

That leaves Uro, and as I’ve mentioned, Uro just isn’t a particularly threatening card against this deck.

I’m really not sure what a game that they win looks like barring complete failure for your deck to function. I guess they draw several copies of Emry and you flood out a bit or something.

They can’t sideboard very much, a few counterspells if they want them, but you’re the one who’s trying to trade one-for-one, so that doesn’t do much for them.  You’re playing a Yorion deck, which means your sideboard is less effective since your deck’s bigger, but the changes you make are pretty good.


Omen of the Dead Omen of the Dead Acolyte of Affliction Acolyte of Affliction Acolyte of Affliction


Oath of Kaya Grafdigger's Cage Grafdigger's Cage Necromentia Necromentia

They’re not destroying any of your creatures, so you remove your recursive element and bring in some more cards that stop their deck from functioning.  I usually name Karn, the Great Creator with Necromentia the first time I cast it, since their combo doesn’t really do that much without Karn and it’s their best source of card advantage and alternate gameplans.

VS Sultai/Four-Color Midrange

Sultai and Four-Color Midrange aren’t substantially different against you. For the most part, their removal doesn’t really matter.  Extinction Event can be pretty good but you’re never particularly sad when an opponent casts Heartless Act or Fatal Push.

Their best cards are Nissa, Who Shakes the World; Shark Typhoon; and Hydroid Krasis, probably in that order.  You’re not great at attacking Nissa, so you hope to resolve an Elspeth Conquers Death to remove it.  Sometimes you just kill every land as they animate it, ideally after blocking with Wall of Blossoms, but the extra mana generally results in something bad happening to you. 

Shark Typhoon shouldn’t be a big deal, since the token is easily dealt with with Glass Casket or Trial of Ambition, but the instant-speed element’s a pain and a lot of your other removal can’t interact with it, so sometimes a 5/5 Shark becomes a huge problem.  Hydroid Krasis is much easier to kill, so the flying body isn’t usually a big deal, but the card advantage can certainly matter depending on the game’s going.

For the most part, I think you’re advantaged when they don’t untap with Nissa and they’re advantaged when they do.


Knight of Autumn Knight of Autumn Trial of Ambition Trial of Ambition Vraska, Golgari Queen Vraska, Golgari Queen


Mazemind Tome Mazemind Tome Mazemind Tome Mazemind Tome Necromentia Necromentia

You could maybe cut a Yasharn, Implacable Earth or two instead of another card, if you want, depending on your opponent’s sideboard; for example, if they bring in Elder Gargaroth, you might want more Trial of Ambitions in your deck.  Necromentia would generally name Nissa.

VS Jund Company/Jund Food

Your primary advantages in this matchup are Yasharn, the fact that you have a lot of maindeck removal that can answer artifacts and enchantments, and the fact that a lot of your removal exiles.  Your primary weakness is the fact that you don’t close quickly, so versions with Trail of Crumbs and Korvold, Fae-Cursed King can potentially win long games against you, especially if they have Bolas’s Citadel.  I think you’re substantially more advantaged against the Collected Company versions, which seem a little more common.

Regardless of their build, your goal is just to answer their threats as they cast them. For the most part they’re a synergy deck and you’re good at breaking up their synergies.


Elvish Visionary Elvish Visionary Elvish Visionary Elvish Visionary


Grafdigger's Cage Grafdigger's Cage Oath of Kaya Yasharn, Implacable Earth

Elvish Visionary’s in the deck to offer a productive way to spend your mana when your opponent isn’t doing anything.  Jund is basically all cheap threats, so you won’t find yourself sitting on a handful of answers you don’t want to cast.  Further, Elvish Visionary dies too easily to Mayhem Devil to really get any value out of it.

Against Collected Company builds, you might also want to cut two copies of Thoughtseize for two copies of Wrath of God.

VS Azorius Control

I was worried about this matchup, since a lot of your cards aren’t great and counterspells are pretty scary, but you grind pretty well and their counterspells enable your recursive elements and things can definitely slip out of hand for them.  Castle Locthwain is a big deal in this kind of matchup, so if you have one you basically just want to cast everything you can to try to run them out of answers.  Really, that basically has to be your plan either way.


Trial of Ambition Trial of Ambition Trial of Ambition Trial of Ambition Glass Casket Glass Casket


Mazemind Tome Mazemind Tome Mazemind Tome Mazemind Tome Necromentia Necromentia

Your two-mana creature removal is really bad, but you want to keep a few around to answer Sharks.  This might actually be too low and you might want to cut some Skyclave Apparitions instead of some of Glass CasketsNecromentia should name Teferi or Shark Typhoon, since those are basically their only ways to win.  Your goal is basically to force through a Yorion while you control an Acolyte of Affliction or Omen of the Dead, and then hope things spiral out of control for them from there.  Thoughtseize, Mazemind Tome, and all of your expensive spells are pretty good in this matchup.

VS Mono-Red Aggro

This could refer to Mono-Red or Gruul; in either case they’re a creature deck and your primary goal is just to survive.  Casting your spells naturally on-curve that answer the best threat your opponent controls should be pretty straightforward.


Thoughtseize Thoughtseize Thoughtseize Thoughtseize Omen of the Dead Omen of the Dead


Authority of the Consuls Authority of the Consuls Oath of Kaya Wrath of God Wrath of God Yasharn, Implacable Earth

Thoughtseize is pretty bad when you’re trying to protect your life total and Omen of the Dead is mostly a late-game card that offers inevitability, which isn’t what you need in this matchup.  Instead you just bring in more cards to slow your opponent down.  Authority isn’t great, but I think it’s good enough to want over Omen of the Dead here.

VS Mono-Red Goblins

It’s incredibly hard to win a game against Goblins before sideboarding. You just don’t have the tools to kill them before they find Muxus, which should usually win the game for them from roughly any position.  After sideboard, you have some hope of stopping them from doing their Muxus thing but you’re still not a favorite.


Omen of the Dead Omen of the Dead Acolyte of Affliction Acolyte of Affliction Acolyte of Affliction Vraska, Golgari Queen Vraska, Golgari Queen Elvish Visionary Elvish Visionary


Authority of the Consuls Authority of the Consuls Grafdigger's Cage Grafdigger's Cage Necromentia Necromentia Wrath of God Wrath of God Yasharn, Implacable Earth

If you want, you could also just give up on this matchup and replace Authority of the Consuls and/or Wrath of God with cards for other matchups, maybe some kind of cheap removal spell or additional discard.

VS Azorius Auras (Lurrus)

I think this deck is falling out of favor somewhat, so I’ve removed some cards from the sideboard that were intended for this matchup, such as Legion’s End.  I’d expect my curve of removal to be pretty good against this deck, but they can definitely have draws where they just pull too far ahead with a protected Enchantress creature and your non-removal spells are admittedly very bad in the matchup.  If you expect to play against this deck, you probably want to change the sideboard slightly because you definitely have more unimpressive cards than you have strong cards to replace them with.


Elspeth Conquers Death Elspeth Conquers Death Elspeth Conquers Death Elspeth Conquers Death Omen of the Dead Omen of the Dead Acolyte of Affliction Acolyte of Affliction Acolyte of Affliction


Wrath of God Wrath of God Oath of Kaya Grafdigger's Cage Grafdigger's Cage Mazemind Tome Mazemind Tome Mazemind Tome Mazemind Tome

I’m not excited about Mazemind Tome in this matchup but all the cards you’re cutting are really horrible.  Yasharn and Elvish Visionary aren’t particularly good either but we don’t have a lot to work with.  I could see a case for Necromentia instead of Mazemind Tome or either of those.

VS Rakdos Arcanist (Lurrus)

This is another deck that I don’t think is particularly popular at the moment, but you’re pretty well set up against them regardless since you have enough removal not to get run over and you have a stronger attrition game than they do thanks to your recursive elements and ability to exile Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger.


Elspeth Conquers Death Elspeth Conquers Death Elspeth Conquers Death Elspeth Conquers Death Knight of Autumn Knight of Autumn Thoughtseize Thoughtseize Thoughtseize Thoughtseize


Grafdigger's Cage Grafdigger's Cage Oath of Kaya Yasharn, Implacable Earth Mazemind Tome Mazemind Tome Mazemind Tome Mazemind Tome Wrath of God Wrath of God

Despite the aggressive starts their deck is capable of, you want Mazemind Tome here because the matchup generally gets grindy thanks to all their discard, and you’re good enough at answering their early threats that the game does tend to come down to them running away with early pressure while you’re stuck with cards in your hand. Their cards are mostly interchangeable and they largely play out of their graveyard, so Thoughtseize isn’t good here.

If you like playing interactive games but you’re sick of Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath, I think this is a strong choice as long as you’re not expecting a lot of Goblins. Until you blink an Acolyte of Affliction and Yorion with another copy of Yorion, you probably don’t understand how fun this deck’s games are.