Weatherlight's First Stop (DOM Testing Part 2)

May 15, 2018

Picking up where I left off from my last article, let’s now discuss the evolution of GW Tokens. 

The deck was losing to other decks that tended to grind, or it required a large amount of 

interaction in the mid-game which the deck did not have. Something needed to change, and naturally when I think of interaction in Frontier, I tend to think of Black. Green White Black happens to already be a proven archetype in Frontier, so I was happy to pick up 

Abzan. It is is probably the color combination I’ve played the most of in Frontier, and Magic on the whole. The improved mana-base only made me more excited to play it. 

 

Frontier Abzan Aggro by Taylor Holbrook

 

4 Elvish Mystic

2 Tireless Tracker
4 Warden of the First Tree
3 Anafenza, the Foremost

4 Scrapheap Scrounger

4 Siege Rhino

1 Abzan Charm
3 Dromoka's Command
3 Fatal Push
3 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
1 Murderous Cut
2 Plains
1 Shambling Vent

2 Flooded Strand

2 Forest

1 Smoldering Marsh
4 Smuggler's Copter
1 Sunken Hollow
3 Windswept Heath
4 Wooded Foothills

4 Blooming Marsh
2 Canopy Vista
2 Concealed Courtyard

 

 

Sideboard:

2 Ajani Unyielding
1 Authority of the Consuls
2 Declaration in Stone
2 Duress
1 Fatal Push
2 Infinite Obliteration
2 Lifecrafter's Bestiary
2 Transgress the Mind
1 Virulent Plague

 

 

The Abzan deck I built was predicated on a fast start and a sideboard that could grind. While I felt the deck was still strong and the was the best iteration of Abzan to date, it had some very clunky draws if you drew a bad mixture of aggressive cards and grindy top end. Just like the GW deck, I wanted to slow Abzan down and turn it into a true midrange strategy. Which brings me to this current 

iteration.

 

Frontier Abzan Midrange by Taylor Holbrook

 

3 Anafenza, the Foremost
4 Sylvan Advocate
4 Siege Rhino
2 Lyra Dawnbringer


4 Knight of Grace
1 Collective Brutality
2 Dromoka's Command
3 Fatal Push
3 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
3 Liliana, the Last Hope
4 Oath of Nissa
2 Vraska's Contempt
1 Abzan Charm
4 Blooming Marsh
1 Canopy Vista
1 Smoldering Marsh
4 Windswept Heath
4 Wooded Foothills
1 Woodland Cemetery
1 Concealed Courtyard
2 Plains
4 Isolated Chapel
2 Forest

 

Sideboard:

2 Ajani Unyielding
2 Authority of the Consuls
2 Duress
1 Fatal Push
2 Infinite Obliteration
2 Lifecrafter's Bestiary
2 Tireless Tracker
2 Transgress the Mind

 

 

The biggest addition to the deck is the improvement on the manabase thanks to check lands and Oath of Nissa, but also adding Knight of Grace. Knight of Grace is one of the two-drops the deck needed - It’s great at blocking red decks thanks to First Strike, as well as dodging any black-based removal like Push and Liliana. It’s a nightmare card for UBx Control as it dodges all of their counterspells while on the play, then demands a sweeper to be answered. Those sweepers look poor against the rest of our deck with planeswalkers and creatures too big for Languish.

 

Oath of Nissa does a good job of making sure you can grab whichever lands you need in the 

early game, to make things more smooth, as well as helping the planeswalkers be very easy to 

cast. It’s similar to Attune with Aether during the Temur Energy hayday in standard, except it 

gains more value late game than just two energy. Most of the one-mana dorks in Abzan don’t 

always help you cast your cards early, due to the fact they only make green mana, when the 

deck really needs all 3 colors. They can also be a terrible top deck. Oath of Nissa, however, can 

help you find one of your late-game threats if you draw it on time. 

 

I still think that Abzan is lacking good defensive creatures in the early game. The fact that you 

have to set up your mana and your creatures are easily removed makes the red matchup 

incredibly hard. Until we get a card like Kitchen Finks, Lingering Souls, or Tarmogoyf (not saying 

we need one of those cards, but one with a similar function), I’m not comfortable calling Abzan a 

Tier 1 deck. With this in mind, I wanted to take my focus off of this midrange dream that I had. If 

I can’t beat what I think the best deck is, then I wanted to play it. 

 

After my devastating losses to Atarka, one of our teammates asked our team, “What if we all 

just played Atarka {in UOL Season 5}?” I was more than on-board with that, as I think it’s the best 

deck, and I just played it to an undefeated record in the swiss of Season 2 of the Xmage 

League. Some of the differences between the below Atarka deck and the more stock list are 

the mainboard Hazoret, and the bigger burn spells. I wanted both because I felt that tokens rarely 

did enough in Atarka and the way it would lose is if the board got gummed up too early. Hazoret 

the Fervent and burn are both better against midrange and control decks than the token 

production spells which are often played in Atarka. However, Hazoret is also fairly poor against Ishkanah decks. The only real downside to the DOLT Atarka list is the Atarka mirror, where we are fairly unfavored.

 

 

Frontier Atarka Red by Team DOLT

 

 


3 Hazoret the Fervent
4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Soul-Scar Mage
2 Zurgo Bellstriker
4 Smuggler's Copter
4 Atarka's Command
1 Become Immense
4 Dragon Fodder
3 Exquisite Firecraft
4 Lightning Strike
2 Stoke the Flames
4 Wild Slash
7 Mountain
4 Ramunap Ruins
4 Wooded Foothills
4 Bloodstained Mire
2 Cinder Glade

 

Sideboard:
2 Abrade
2 Aethersphere Harvester
1 Blossoming Defense
2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
2 Kari Zev's Expertise
1 Mountain
2 Rampaging Ferocidon
2 Roast
1 Scavenger Grounds

 

 

On a personal note... while I’m happy to play what I think is the best deck, it does make me worry for the format if midrange cannot be competitive enough. This isn’t to say that midrange decks are unplayable by any means, but when testing all these midrange lists, I felt that you almost have to choose whether you want your deck to lose to control or to lose to aggro and the existence of both has kept these midrange lists down. Great players can win with many different decks, but I would urge people to start trying to find ways to fill this growing lead that the two archetypes have. For example, my teammate Clayton has been honing a Mono-Black Eldrazi deck for over a year now, and it seems to have a fighting chance against most decks. So while my Weatherlight will be passing over midrange for a bit, I think that it is an area that the community needs to continue to explore to keep up the diversity in Frontier.

 

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