A quick introduction to who I am: last year I decided that I would chase the Starcitygames.com leaderboard. I played in 3-4 Invitational Qualifiers per week, while trying to drive to any Open within 10 hours distance. I had a lot of decent finishes at Invitationals, Opens, and Premier IQs, but never broke through that final top 8 barrier. Well, this past weekend was different. My name is Zack Kanner and I just top 8’d the Starcitygames.com Open in Baltimore with Abzan Oath.

How I Arrived at the Deck:

So, let’s back track a couple of weeks, when Eldritch Moon full spoilers were released. Looking at the new cards there were some obvious winners; Liliana, the Last HopeSpell Queller, and many more. I was hanging out with a bunch of my friends when we started thinking of some cool interactions that we could produce with these new powerhouse cards. Scrolling through the spoilers, I ran by Oath of Liliana again and thought that the card had a very high upside. The wheels start turning in my head and I was trying to find old cards that work well with this enchantment. Looking at the 4 mana Planeswalker slot, we have Arlinn Kord and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Both of these cards work really well with Oath of Liliana since they apply fast pressure on your opponent by both creating a 2/2 token and teaming it up with the 2/2 Zombie from Oath of Liliana. My first thought was to go with red to get Arlinn Kord and Chandra, Flamecaller

After a couple of days testing a Jund Planeswalkers deck that I knew would not end up working out, I talked to my friend Ryan Saxe, and he sent me an Abzan version of the deck utilizing the splash color more efficiently than what I was doing with Jund. The white splash still gave me the 4 mana Planeswalker I desired to pair with Oath of Liliana, and it also gave access to 8 total creature lands and better removal. I had a strong 6 mana finisher with Sorin, Grim Nemesis at the top of the curve, which I felt was also more impactful than what I was doing in the Jund deck. Bouncing the pros and cons off Ryan and my other teammates, we settled on Abzan being the best option for this style of deck. The final list consisted of 10 Planeswalkers and really utilized Oath of Liliana and Oath of Nissa to full potential.  

The exact 75 I submitted Saturday morning was the following:

Lands (26):

Evolving Wilds

Shambling Vent

Hissing Quagmire

Llanowar Wastes

Caves of Koilos

Forest

Swamp

Plains

Creatures (10):

Sylvan Advocate

Nissa, Vastwood Seer // Nissa, Sage Animist

Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

Den Protector

Planeswalkers (10):

Liliana, the Last Hope

Ob Nixilis Reignited

Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

Sorin, Grim Nemesis

Spells (14):

Languish

Ruinous Path

Grasp of Darkness

Anguished Unmaking

Oath of Nissa

Oath of Liliana

Sideboard (15):

3x Transgress the Mind

3x Dead Weight

2X Blessed Alliance

2x Declaration in Stone

1x Tragic Arrogance

1x Anguished Unmaking

1x Ishkanah, Grafwidow

1x Seasons Past

1x Dragonlord Dromoka

I settled on this list for a number of reasons, the most important one being it has a strong matchup against Bant Company, while not folding to the other decks in the format. Having access to additional creature lands were a big push for this deck too. I personally believe that Shambling Vent is the best creature land in the format, and having it in my deck felt good. Last, but not least, the white gives me more removal than what the red overall had to offer. My matchups for the weekend were: 6 Bant Company, 3 G/W tokens, 2 B/W control, 2 G/B Delirium, 1 Spirits (round 14 camera match, found here), 1 W/r Humans, and a Jeskai Lancers deck.

A lot of these matches were really good and fun, but there were a couple that I wanted to delve into a little bit more. With playing and receiving my first loss round 1 to G/B Delirium, I quickly learned to try to stay away from that matchup if possible. Even though my deck is designed to grind out the opposing deck, the G/B decks are designed to do that and much more. The next match I want to talk about was my first Bant Company matchups. My opponent was none other than Devin Koepke, SCG Columbus winner. Game 1 he took a mulligan to 5 and I rode Sorin, Grim Nemesis and Ob Nixilis Reignited all the way to victory that game. Those threats are really important in this match up game one because they go above Spell Queller while controlling the board by killing creatures. I boarded out the 4 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, 1 Oath of Nissa and 2 Oath of Liliana which allowed me to bring in 1 Tragic Arrogance, 1 Seasons Past, 2 Declaration in Stone, 1 Ishkanah, Grafwidow, 1 Anguished Unmaking and 1 Dragonlord Dromoka. Game 2 I was fortunate enough to be able to stick an early Liliana, the Last Hope. She puts a lot of pressure on the opponent to extend into her to try to beat her down, which plays into my favor with the 4 wrath effects I had post board. Devin couldn’t deal with the fast Liliana, the Last Hope and slowly got overran by the zombie hoard that her emblem creates. I went on to finish 7-2 for the day.  

In Day 2, I played against a lot of Bant Company as it was 43% of the day 2 field. I was pretty excited when I found that out because of my confidence in this match up. Round 10 was about to start and I see that I get paired up against another CardHoarder team member in Kent Ketter. I was able to put him on Bant Company before sitting down. Even with that knowledge, it didn’t do me much justice and I was defeated pretty swiftly in 3 games. After that loss I had to just take a deep breath and get back on track. After picking up my 3rd loss, I knew if I wanted to top 8 I had to play basically perfect and 5-0 the last 5 rounds.  The next couple of rounds were grueling to say the least. Playing against Bant, Jeskai Lancers, G/W tokens, and the aforementioned U/W Spirits feature match. The Jeskai Lancers match was definitely the most fun couple of games I played this past weekend. It was against my buddy from home Pat Older, and he utilizes Thalia’s Lancers to get a slew of juicy targets. Besides the expected ones (Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and a slew of Angels), he also played a one-of Pyromancer’s Goggles. Throughout the match we exchanged haymakers, but luckily I was able to prevail in 3 games.  

Round 15 for my win and in I was paired up against Rudy Briksza who was on B/W Angels. I felt pretty confident in that matchup knowing I was able to out-grind the B/W Angels deck, due to my green spells out of the board and higher density of Planeswalkers. Game 1 did not start out so well for the home team because I took a mulligan to 6.  My keep was: Hissing Quagmire, Caves of Koilos, Sylvan Advocate, Oath of Liliana, Liliana, the Last Hope and a Languish. I scried a Sorin, Grim Nemesis to the bottom. He plays a land and passes to me and I draw a Llanowar Wastes. I play a creature land and pass my turn over back to Rudy. The first couple of turns were draw go with some anemic Sylvan Advocate beatdowns until he lands a Gisela, the Broken Blade. Luckily for me, I had the Oath of Liliana in my hand since I kept my 6 card opener, so I was able to deal with her easily.  He untapped and played a second Gisela and passes back to me while stuck on 4 lands. I look at my hand to see the Languish in there. Unfortunately, I was still looking for my 4th land to be able to cast it. My draw step was a Nissa, Vastwood Seer, which allowed me to find my 4th land. I cast it, grabbed my Forest, played it, and plussed my Liliana on his second Gisela. He attacked my Liliana for 2 and passed after playing his 5th land. Now, this is turn 6 and I look at my hand before my draw step to see what is my best draw out of this. Seeing my Ob Nixilis Reignited staring back at me, the best draw for me would be an untapped land. My draw for turn was Llanowar Wastes…got there! I tap 5 and slam Ob Nixilis down instantly, immediately using his minus 3 on Rudy’s Gisela and starting to feel good about this match having a Sylvan Advocate and 2 Planeswalkers on the board to his empty board.  He untaps, draws, plays his 6th land and plays Sorin, Grim Nemesis. His minus 2 on my Ob Nixilis kept me from getting too far ahead. Once again I looked at my hand before drawing. Another untapped land on top of my deck would allow me to cast my own Sorin to shoot his down. The draw was…Caves of Koilos! Got there again! Without even putting it in my hand I drag the card from the top of the deck to the battlefield and slam my Sorin and kill his, and Rudy conceded game 1. Moving to game 2, I took out 2 Oath of Liliana and 3 Languish for 3 Transgress the Mind, 1 Seasons Past, and 1 Anguished Unmaking. Game 2 was pretty anti-climatic. Rudy kept a loose hand and died to a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar in a couple of turns.

I finally broke through the barrier and made top 8!

I wish I could go more in-depth about my top 8 match against Osyp Lebedowicz on G/W tokens, but I didn’t get to play much Magic. Game 1 I mulliganed to 6 cards on the draw. Osyp had a fast start, deploying a Nissa, Voice of Zendikar into a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, putting me way too far behind to compete. My board plan for this match up was to take out 4 Gideons, 2 Oath of Liliana, and 1 Oath of Nissa. I replaced those cards with 3 Transgress the Mind, 1 Seasons Past, 2 Declaration in Stone and 1 Anguished Unmaking. Game 2 started off as rough as the first. I mulliganed a 7 land hand into a no land hand. I eventually kept my 5 card hand with Caves of Koilos, Shambling Vent, Den Protector, Liliana the Last Hope, and a Languish. That is probably the best 5 I could ask for in this match, but unfortunately I never hit land #4 and died with multiple copies of Languish in my hand. Although I lost to GW tokens in top 8, I still feel really favorable in this matchup. Even though I lost in an uneventful way I was happy with how my day 2 went and wouldn’t have changed a thing.  

Going foward, I would continue to jam this deck for the time being, with Bant Company and other creature decks prevalent in the format. I would change the mana base slightly by cutting 1 Hissing Quagmire and adding a copy of Forsaken Sanctuary. The reasoning behind this is that I wanted an additional white land that’s still a dual land, so casting Gideons becomes a lot easier without Oath, and I didn’t want to cut an untapped land for a tapped land.  In the sideboard, I would cut the 2 Declaration in Stone.  They felt really lackluster and W/r Humans wasn’t as big as I thought it would be. The replacement cards would be 1 Gilt-Leaf Winnower and 1 Ultimate Price. I know I wanted to keep the removal spells high and these two cards are really versatile. Ultimate price is good against mono white and a lot of Bant Company’s threats, just like Declaration in Stone. Gilt-Leaf Winnower is great against Bant Company since it gets around Spell Queller and can be recurred with Liliana.

I strongly recommend this deck for any event because it’s really fun, while also being really competitive and well-positioned in the big picture Standard metagame right now. 

For a more big-picture recap of this event, click here.

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