The recent object of my Modern affection was revealed last week, as I finally told y’all what it was I have been testing for the Team Unified Modern Grand Prix in San Antonio. I’ve been a greedy teammate, hogging Noble Hierarch and most green fetches, but I’m fortunate to have a zombie and a fish as teammates, so there isn’t any real overlap. With nostalgia-soaked memories of Rally the Ancestors and Reflector Mage dancing in my head, it only made sense to dive into the world of being a Company man.
Starting with Eric Severson’s Grand Prix Vancouver Top 8 list, I got to work to testing the complicated creature combo deck. The bevy of toolbox options and multiple combos was initially overwhelming, but the deck was a whole lot more consistent and significantly faster than I initially thought. Dropping Murderous Redcap and some of the fluff, like Voice of Resurgence, focused the deck much more on just being a straightforward combo deck game 1.
Leaving Redcap out initially seemed suspect, but once I started playing with the deck I realized that infinite life is almost just as good as closing the door on your opponent as infinite damage. The added benefit of being easier to Collected Company into, as well as cheaper to Chord of Calling into made dropping Redcap all the more logical.
My first foray into the deck began with an easy 2-0-1 at a local weekday event in Manhattan. Ignorance and pilot error be damned, the deck was too good to lose. I immediately was in love with the power, versatility, and redundancy of the deck. Severson’s list felt great minus the small omission of a mainboard Qasali Pridemage.
Having an answer to random enchantments or artifacts felt important to have for the few decks where infinite life didn’t immediately win you the game. Think of degenerate nonsense like Lantern Control or Tron. Pridemage’s positive interaction with Renegade Rallier (which has been an amazing addition to the deck) was all the more reason to try and fit the exalted kitty into the main board.
On a similar note, Tireless Tracker didn’t feel great in the main. Game 1 seems to be almost exclusively about combo-ing as fast as possible. Pre-board, your opponent most likely doesn’t have any specific way to interact with the combo, save for targeted removal. This is easy to fight through with Spellskite or the value generating creatures like Renegade Rallier and Eternal Witness. An opponent casts Lightning Bolt on your Melira, Sylvok Outcast in response to you sacrificing Kitchen Finks? Just Company or Chord for a new Melira or maybe an Anafenza. Or just buy back the Melira with Rallier or Eternal Witness!
This combo-focused game plan lent little time to be spent popping clues. The more game 1s I played, the more I realized I just wanted to be attempting the combo as fast as possible. This coupled with how I pretty much brought in the utility kitty in every match up made for an easy swap.
With Qasali Pridemage in the main and Tireless Tracker relegated to the sideboard, I also had to question whether I really needed 2 Trackers in the board at all. The card seemed great in any slow, grindy matchup, like classic rock-style Jund, but Jund was more and more becoming the aggressive-leaning Death’s Shadow build. Although they do slow down and morph into something resembling classic Jund much more post board, it still seemed like hardly the type of card I’d need multiple copies of.
With the trimming of one of a Tracker, I found myself with an open board slot. Ethersworn Canonist had impressed me as a means for adequately hosing some potentially troublesome matchups. The Storm-crushing hatebear also had utility against Ad Nauseam, which I expected to be a popular option for Grand Prix San Antonio due to its lack of overlapping cards with the rest of the format.
I also found it to be beneficial to bring in against both the Grixis and the Jund versions of the Death’s Shadow deck, as the deck often wants to play multiple cheap spells on its turn. Casting Traverse the Ulvenwald for a land so you can follow it up with a Thoughtseize or a Tarmogoyf is a lot harder with Canonist in play.
With the minor tweaks and adjustments to Severon’s 75, I have settled on the following as my weapon of choice:
Abzan Company by Austin Mansell
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Noble Hierarch
3 Viscera Seer
2 Melira, Sylvok Outcast
2 Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Qasali Pridemage
4 Kitchen Finks
2 Renegade Rallier
2 Eternal Witness
1 Spike Feeder
1 Fiend Hunter
1 Archangel of Thune
3 Path to Exile
1 Selfess Spirit
1 Kataki, War’s Wage
2 Ethersworn Canonist
1 Phyrexian Revoker
3 Tidehollow Sculler
1 Sin Collector
1 Orzhov Pontiff
1 Tireless Tracker
1 Maelstrom Pulse
Tips and Tricks I’ve Learned
First and foremost, one of the most important things I’ve learned about the deck is how Renegade Rallier’s presence changes how you use fetch lands. Generally one of the most typical play patterns with fetch lands is to crack them on your opponents end step so that you may fetch for a tapped shock land and save yourself the 2 points of life.
It’s not uncommon for Company decks to lead with a turn 1 mana dork and then play a 2 drop like Anafenza or Melira off your first land drop and the dork. This typically would let you fetch for a tapped shock and save you some life, but Rallier changes everything.
Make sure to save your fetches for the turn you are casting Collected Company, or if the mana is not needed, keep them uncracked for any potential Rallier draws. Obviously the shuffle can be more valuable if you happen to know the bottom of your library from Viscera Seer scries or a Company being casted. Weigh the benefit of the shuffle versus the benefit of ensuring Rallier is turned on. Horizon Canopy is also great at turning on Rallier and can be typically saved for him as well. If you have the mana to pop it and cast coco in the same turn, make sure you pop it before you cast the Company.
Viscera Seer’s activated ability is also a boon for turning on Revolt and shouldn’t be forgotten. If you have redundant mana dorks, don’t be afraid to sacrifice one before you cast your coco. This can help push any non creature card to the bottom, ensuring a better Company, all while turning on Revolt should you hit a Rallier.
One of the best fair starts to the deck often leads with a turn 1 dork, into a turn 2 fetch, play Rallier, buy back fetch. Don’t miss out on this potential for a huge boost in mana development!
Speaking of mana dorks, think hard about any opening hand game 1 that doesn’t have one, especially if you’re on the draw. Hands lacking dorks should have combo pieces, Kitchen Finks (to make up loss of life on the draw and present durable blocker), or Collected Company to help catch up on battlefield presence. Look to still have a solid curve and if you’re lacking, ship it back. The deck recuperates mulligan’s inherently well due to the card advantage-generating creatures like Eternal Witness, Kitchen Finks, and Renegade Rallier, plus of course its namesake card, Collected Company.
As I mentioned when discussing cutting Tireless Tracker from the main, game 1 should be focused on assembling the combo as fast as possible. Prioritize casting Company quickly and finding your combo pieces. Eternal Witness is also one of the best hits if you don’t find any combo pieces, because it can immediately regrow the Company to your hand. Generally always cast Coco before you cast Chord since the two bodies makes casting Chord easier, and you’ll have a better sense of what piece you are missing and need to specifically tutor for.
Unless you’re rightfully afraid of a sweeper and need to play around it, play out your creatures as quickly as possible. This is obvious with mana dorks to develop a mana advantage, but is more important in regards to any potential copies of Chord of Calling you might draw. Extra bodies to convoke can be the difference in going off a turn earlier or tutoring for the piece of disruption you need.
If you’re lacking action or any meaningful play, don’t be afraid to Chord for a Witness just to buy back Chord. This essentially gives you +1 mana for your Chord next turn.
Fetching for multiple green sources is always important when Scavenging Ooze is in your deck, but don’t forget you need double white to cast Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit. If Anafenza is in your opening hand, get her out quickly to ensure maximum bolster triggers.
Don’t forget to ‘reset’ Kitchen Finks with Spike Feeder counters or Gavony Township in response to removal. Additionally, Collected Company is always a valid response to any removal incase you hit Spellskite or Viscera Seer.
Similarly, you can respond to any number of crazy things just in the hopes of hitting Spellskite. If an Arcbound Ravager’s modular ability is on the stack targeting one of your opponent’s creatures, you can steal the counters with Spellskite since it is an eligible artifact creature. Post-board, this works as well in regards to Orzhov Pontiff. If your opponent is casting a Ravager, Master of Etherium, or any lord that might pump their team, remember what your Company can hit! This also applies to a Steel Overseer activation, etc.
Zero power creatures plus exalted are your friend when it comes to Ensnaring Bridge! Get under the Bridge and still get damage in. Chord-ing or Company-ing to find Noble Hierarch is often right against Lantern. Similarly, you can one-shot your Lantern opponent if you set up the Spike Feeder+Archangel of Thune combo. Attack with your 0 power dorks and then go infinite before damage! This also works with Kitchen Finks, Viscera Seer, and Archangel of Thune.
Abzan Company is an incredibly complicated deck with dozens of play patterns and options, and I must admit I was afraid I might not be able to pilot it competently at the Grand Prix level. The burden of wanting to succeed compounds even more so when your teammates are relying on you to do well. With that in mind, I made extra effort to put in reps with this deck on MtGO, as well as go out of my way to play in additional weekly events.
Fearing that local week night events might not be the stiffest of competition and subsequently not the most apt practice, one of my teammates and I made the drive out to New Jersey this past Saturday so that we could specifically play in a higher level Modern event. A Modern GPT with the awesome prize of a round trip ticket to Amsterdam plus a stipend for lodging was sure to bring out the area’s local Modern grinders and fanatics.
So how did I fare? Was my practice enough to earn me a trip to Grand Prix Amsterdam? Or did the deck’s complications overwhelm me?
Well, you’ll have to find out this Friday when I give you a full breakdown in my tournament report! WHOA BONUS ARTICLE WEEK FOR AUSTIN ON SPELLSNARE!
Looking forward to the shakeup that Amonkhet will bring Standard? New Spellsnare writer Riccardo Monico gives you the rundown of some cards that are primed to thrive in a new Standard environment here.
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