In Good Company - Top 8 at GP Vancouver - Massdrop East/West Article #5
Hello, my name is Eric Severson. I am Gold Professional on Massdrop East and just came off my 5th Grand Prix Top 8 at the Modern Grand Prix in Vancouver. I’d like to share some stories of the experience and insight into my current favorite deck in Modern - Abzan Company.
The first deck I considered for the tournament was the new Puresteel Paladin combo deck. I’ve never been interested in trying to play fair in modern, and was intrigued by the deck’s explosive potential. But after playing the deck online, I was disappointed how hard it is to beat 1-mana removal spells. You also struggle at stopping multiple axes of interaction, such as removal coupled with discard or hateful permanents.
My next choice was Affinity. I already had Mox Opals from the last deck, and was able to borrow the rest online. Affinity is staple of the format, but one I had yet to play in a tournament. I had initial success and really enjoyed the deck, but started losing more and was worried about my inexperience as a pilot. As I was packing for the tournament on Thursday, teammate Ari Lax said he had been having success with Abzan Company, a deck I had played previously and really enjoy. Plus I still had most of the cards around, so it wasn’t too difficult to mulligan decks.
After goldfishing on the plane, chatting with Ari about final tweaks to the list, and a session against teammate JC Tao’s Eldrazi Tron deck, here is the list I settled on:
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Birds of Paradise
3 Viscera Seer
2 Melira, Sylvok Outcast
2 Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Fiend Hunter
1 Spike Feeder
4 Kitchen Finks
1 Tireless Tracker
2 Eternal Witness
2 Renegade Rallier
1 Archangel of Thune
4 Collected Company
4 Chord of Calling
2 Temple Garden
1 Godless Shrine
1 Overgrown Tomb
2 Horizon Canopy
2 Gavony Township
4 Windswept Heath
4 Verdant Catacombs
2 Marsh Flats
1 Razorverge Thicket
1 Ethersworn Canonist
1 Kataki, War's Wage
1 Maelstrom Pulse
1 Orzhov Pontiff
3 Path to Exile
1 Phyrexian Revoker
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Selfless Spirit
1 Sin Collector
3 Tidehollow Sculler
1 Tireless Tracker
Notable Features: No Murderous Redcap: You still deal infinite damage via unlimited bolster with Viscera Seer / Kitchen Finks / Melira / Anafenza, and many threats right now are too big for Redcap’s 2 damage to handle. I couldn’t think of common scenarios where I would need a way to win outside of combat: even against Lantern Control, you can attack with a 0 power Birds of Paradise or Noble Hierarch and then bolster combo. I instead opted for Fiend Hunter as the maindeck piece of interaction. This helped keep my Company hits higher, and also let me cut the 2nd Overgrown Tomb with no BB mana costs in the deck.
Archangel of Thune / Spike Feeder combo: Angel was the one creature I played that I can’t get off Company, and it overperformed all weekend. It dominates the battlefield, acts as giant Melira to combo with Finks, and gives you a way to combo that skirts any graveyard hate. Furthermore, the new curve of mana creature into Renegade Rallier rebuying a fetchland sets you up with 5 mana on turn 3 for the Angel.
My first round after byes was against teammate Eugene Hwang playing Eldrazi Tron. Game 3 I beat turn 1 Grafdigger's Cage, turn 2 Thought-Knot Seer with the triple Birds of Paradise into Gavony Township beatdown plan.
I then beat Lantern Control played by Adrian Sullivan on camera, who never drew Ensnaring Bridge game 1, and then could not land one through my Tidehollow Scullers game
2. After a few more wins, I had a very exciting match against Ad Nauseum in round 8. Game 2 my opponent’s Spoils from the Vault for Slaughter Pact to kill Ethersworn Canonist left him with 4 cards in his library and no way to win the game. Then in Game 3 he cast Ad Nauseam through my Canonist. Seeing his deck, I did not think he could win. I forgot, however, that he could still cast his Pentad Prisms through my Canonist, giving himself the mana to Lighting Storm me on my upkeep. At 12 life with a land in hand, I realized I was dead if my opponent discards down to Lightning Storm plus six lands. But then on my upkeep he instead Slaughter Pacted my Canonist and cast Lightning Storm with 5 lands left, which I redirected with my land in hand to give him lethal poison through Phyrexian Unlife.
Now I was 8-0 and back on camera against Gabriel Carleton-Barnes, who had knocked me out of Top 8 of the last GP Vancouver, playing Scapeshift. I made a key mistake on my last turn of Game 3. I sacrificed a Birds of Paradise to scry on my upkeep (instead of a Noble Hierarch), then drew a Tidehollow Sculler, which was Remanded and I was without a 2nd black source to recast it. Gabe then cast Peer Through Depths and untapped into lethal Scapeshift. He told me after the match that the Scapeshift was actually the card he drew for turn, however, so my Tidehollow Sculler would not have stopped him. I wasn’t too upset to be 8-1, as in the three times I have 9-0ed Day 1 of a Grand Prix, I have not managed to win more than 2 matches on the next day.
Back on Day 2 I ran through GW Eldrazi Hatebears, two Jund opponents, and Infect without dropping a game. Paired against Gerry Thompson at 12-1, we realized we would lock Top 8 with an intentional draw. I then beat Josh Utter-Leyton in the last round to get first seed going into the Top 8.
My quarterfinal match against Sam Black’s Death Shadow deck was close and exciting. I narrowly lost game 1 on a mulligan to 5, Maelstrom Pulsed two Death’s Shadows to take game 2, and then could not stop Liliana, the Last Hope from going ultimate to lose the match. I had felt good about my chances in this Top 8, but was still very pleased with the tournament result overall.
Here are the links to my matches I had on camera:
[Round 5 vs Adrian Sullivan](https://www.twitch.tv/videos/122996203?t=05h03m25s)
[Round 9 vs Gabriel Carleton-Barnes](https://www.twitch.tv/videos/123102241?t=03h07m10s)
[Round 12 vs Arian Moshrefi](https://www.twitch.tv/videos/123257454?t=02h43m43s)
[Quarterfinals vs Sam Black](https://www.twitch.tv/videos/124427951?t=25s)
Now some more advice about the deck:
Tips and Tricks: Preserve Fetchlands: The modern heuristic of cracking fetches end step to find tapped shocklands no longer applies, because of Renegade Rallier and Tireless Tracker. You often play untapped Shocklands first and leave uncracked fetches in play in case you draw one of the above creatures. Also try to crack a fetch on the turn you cast Collected Company in case you find Renegade Rallier. Remember the bottom of your deck: Between Collected Company and Viscera Seer scrying, you will often know cards on the bottom of your library, and have better information on what you could draw or if it is advantageous to shuffle your library with a fetchland. Along those lines, if you see Company off of a Company, put it on the bottom of the 4 cards (with any good creature hits below it). If you later scry your whole deck with Viscera Seer, this maximizes the chance that you could cut to that Company and have good hits for it.
Scrying your deck: With Viscera Seer, Kitchen Finks, and Melira / Anafenza, you get an unlimited number of scry 1 triggers. The accepted tournament shortcut is to pick up your deck, look through it, and pick a spot to cut your deck (since with unlimited scry 1’s you could see every card in your deck in order then choose which to scry to). If your opponent is not okay with this shortcut (and hasn’t conceded to infinite life), call a judge to verify. You will most often find the missing copies of Melira / Anafenza, and ideally cut to a Collected Company that will hit them, although Chord of Calling could sometimes be better. It’s also smart to take quick note of your deck order, especially the top few cards. I lost a game in GP Detroit at infinite life to Jace, Memory Adept after the combo was broken up. I had Collected Company up when Jace used his mill 10 ability. With perfect knowledge of my deck order, I should have known casting it in response to mill 10 would give me a better choice of creatures, but I did not remember the order well enough and my end step Company only hit one creature.
Knowing when to Combo Off: If you are able to assemble your infinite combo, sometimes it is correct to wait to execute it, since sacrificing Kitchen Finks leaves you vulnerable to spot removal, and you now threaten to go off at instant speed if your opponent breaks up your combo. An in tournament example was post-board against Eldrazi Tron, where I assembled the combo with Spellskite protection and had another Chord in hand. I went for it, and ended up losing to his Surgical Extraction on my Kitchen Finks. If I had waited a turn, I could have Chorded for a second Kitchen Finks to keep going off in response to Surgical, and since I had Spellskite protection I think it was worth it to play around this specific piece of interaction. Another scenario is playing around removal with Archangel of Thune / Spike Feeder by waiting to hit your opponent with the Angel. The lifegain will put a 3rd counter on Spike Feeder, giving you the ability to try to combo off and then have an extra counter to combo off again in response to removal spell.
Affinity: +1 Qasali Pridemage +1 Orzhov Pontiff +1 Selfless Spirit +1 Kataki, War’s Wage -1 Scavenging Ooze -1 Renegade Rallier -1 Tireless Tracker -1 Eternal Witness
Affinity has too many cards like Etched Champion and Cranial Plating that kill you and don’t die to Path to Exile so it isn’t great. You are looking to combo quickly or find one of your hate creatures, so the three drops are too slow. Selfless Spirit has flying so it can block most of their attackers.
Jund: +3 Path to Exile +1 Maelstrom Pulse +1 Selfless Spirit +1 Tireless Tracker +1 Sin Collector -1 Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit -1 Melira, Sylvok Outcast -1 Spellskite -2 Viscera Seer -2 Chord of Calling
Your creatures are all good against removal, so Jund will run out of answers if you kill their good creature. Your combo is bad against their removal and graveyard hate, and Chord of Calling is hard to cast if they are killing your creatures. Grixis and Abzan are similar to Jund, but Maelstrom Pulse is worse vs Grixis (keep a Chord instead) and add Pontiff vs Abzan if you see Noble Hierach or Dark Confidant in addition to Lingering Souls. The Death’s Shadow plan is also the same as Jund. If you know your opponent has multiple Liliana, the Last Hope, then Spellskite is better than Selfless Spirit. If you know they have multiple Grafdigger’s Cages like consider Qasali Pridemage.
Eldrazi Tron: +1 Phyrexian Revoker +1 Qasali Pridemage +1 Maelstrom Pulse +3 Tidehollow Sculler +2 Path to Exile -2 Renegade Rallier -1 Eternal Witness -1 Scavenging Ooze -1 Viscera Seer -1 Melira -2 Chord of Calling
Too many Path to Exiles allows them to shut you down with Chalice of the Void, and Tidehollow Sculler can take whatever their main threat will be. Chord of Calling has to get cut to make room for Path to Exile and keep creatures for Collected Company.
Burn: +3 Path to Exile +1 Sin Collector +1 Tidehollow Sculler +1 Selfless Spirit-1 Chord of Calling -1 Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit -1 Tireless Tracker -1 Eternal Witness -1 Renegade Rallier -1 Horizon Canopy
If Burn can’t attack with a creature multiple times, it’s hard for them to deal enough damage against Kitchen Finks.
Tron: +3 Tidehollow Sculler +1 Phyrexian Revoker +1 Qasali Pridemage +1 Selfless Spirit -1 Tireless Tracker -2 Eternal Witness -1 Spellskite -1 Scavenging Ooze -1 Renegade Rallier
Titan Breach/Shift: +3 Tidehollow Sculler+1 Sin Collector+1 Selfless Spirit -1 Scavenging Ooze-1 Fiend Hunter-1 Tireless Tracker-2 Eternal Witness
Ad Nauseum: +3 Tidehollow Sculler+1 Sin Collector+1 Phyrexian Revoker+1 Qasali Pridemage+1 Ethersworn Canonist+1 Selfless Spirit -2 Eternal Witness-1 Fiend Hunter-1 Scavenging Ooze-1 Spike Feeder-1 Archangel of Thune-1 Renegade Rallier-1 Tireless Tracker
Archangel and Spike Feeder get sideboarded out against combo, Angel at five mana is just too slow.
Goryo’s Vengeance: +3 Tidehollow Sculler+1 Sin Collector+1 Ethersworn Canonist+1 Phyrexian Revoker -1 Spellskite-2 Eternal Witness-1 Tireless Tracker-1 Spike Feeder-1 Archangel of Thune
Fiend Hunter is good here, you can Chord of Calling for it after they put out an Emrakul, the Aeons Town.
Gifts Storm: +1 Ethersworn Canonist +3 Tidehollow Sculler +1 Sin Collector +1 Selfless Spirit +1 Maelstrom Pulse -1 Spike Feeder -1 Archangel of Thune -2 Eternal Witness -1 Tireless Tracker -2 Renegade Rallier
Mirror: +3 Path to Exile +1 Orzhov Pontiff -2 Renegade Rallier -1 Chord of Calling -1 Viscera Seer
Thanks for reading! Feel free to post any questions about the deck. If you are curious about our team, check out our intro here:
along with our previous weekly articles: https://www.massdrop.com/talk/1240/breaking-into-eternal-formats-case-study-gp-louisville-massdrop-east-west-article-4 https://www.massdrop.com/talk/1158/how-to-prepare-for-an-mt-g-pro-tour https://www.massdrop.com/talk/1193/approaching-new-magic-drafts https://www.massdrop.com/talk/1213/recap-of-constructed-testing-for-massdrop-east-west-for-pro-tour-aether-revolt