Abzan Cats – Midrange Abzan Deck Featuring Ajani and His Friends
There’s something about Ajani that’s fascinating, aside from the fact that he looks different compared to Jace, Chandra, Garruk, and well… most of the planeswalkers. He is a Nacatl, a race of leonin from the shard of Naya, which was originally a part of Alara. The other planeswalkers look human. My fascination for cats obviously spilled over my MTG preferences.
In my early active days of MTG (around Classic 6th Edition), I rarely played White. I used to play Green-Red, however, when I returned three months ago (Theros block), I found myself going for White-Green and Green-Black combos. With Khans of Tarkir out, I initially chose between Mardu (WBU) and Temur (GUR) but my Temur bear deck didn’t perform quite well. I’m going to tweak my Temur deck some more to make it work soon.
I shifted to Abzan (WBG) and it has been working out well. The deck I’m using these days have 5 planeswalker cards. This is initially an aggro deck that has the capacity to go Midrange when needed. It has handled Jeskai quite well–everyone seems to be going either Jeskai or Abzan these days. I have yet to try it against mono-colored decks and I’ll update this article accordingly.
NOTE: The cards here are those that I own. There are some more ideal cards that are mentioned under Key Cards and Replacements.
Updated: Nov. 5, 2014 – Because I have Windswept Heath now
3 Reclamation Sage
1 Garruk, Apex Predator
2 Hero’s Downfall
3 Bile Blight
1 Silence the Believers
3 Drown in Sorrow
Any 2 or 3-to cast creature could get you started. My ideal hand would have Sylvan Caryatid, Fleecemane Lion and/or Rakshasa Deathdealer. Heir of the Wilds would also be good too. Any early deathtouch creature would be good defense.
Prioritize Forest if you get it at first draw so you can cast Sylvan Caryatid. The rest of the mana will come in easier after that, unless you have a really bad draw (like all lands stuck together for some awful reason).
Cast cheap but powerful minions early in the game then use Spear of Heliod and/or Whip of Erebos to get your creatures buffed up with lifelink. Buff them up some more with +1/+1 counters from Ajani, Mentor of Heroes, Abzan Ascendancy and Anafenza, the Foremost. This is an aggro to midrange deck so it’s expected to be fast however if you find yourself stuck in a longer game, that’s where you will be able to use the help of Liliana Vess or Garruk, Apex Predator.
Key Cards & Replacements
Fleecemane Lion – Cheap 3/3 that becomes hexproof and indestructible when it’s monstrous
Heir of the Wild – Deathtouch 2/2 that becomes a 3/3 when your Siege Rhino comes in
Herald of Torment – Cheap flying 3/3
Rakshasa Deathdealer – Really cheap cat that never seems to die
Siege Rhino – 4-to-cast 4/5 with Rhino that makes your opponent lose 3 HP when he comes to the battlefield and then make you gain 3 HP.
Sylvan Caryatid – Useful defender that adds one mana of any color. When used with Spear of Heliod, those 1/1 soldiers and goblins could get pwned by this plant every turn.
Thoughtseize – It’s ideal to have 4 of this in this deck. You may take away Liliana Vess if you have 4. I only have one Thoughtseize at the moment but it’s still fine.
Ajani, Mentor of Heroes – For distributing 3 +1/+1 counters among 1-3 creatures each turn or looking at the top 4 cards of your library for an Aura, Creature, or planeswalker and putting it in your hand. You can also gain 100 life with him.
Liliana Vess – Aside from letting you make your opponent discard a card, you get to search your library for a card and put that on top of your deck. Best part of this is, you may put all creature cards from all graveyards onto your battlefield under your control when you have enough loyalty counters (i.e. 8).
Garruk, Apex Predator – He is NOT Liliana’s best friend (read MTG lore) but I placed him here because he can destroy another target planeswalker and he can place a 3/3 black Beast with deathtouch. He is there for games that stretch on longer than intended. You may replace him with High Sentinels of Arashin from your sideboard, if you want to make the most out of your other creature’s +1/+1 counters
Anafenza, the Foremost – Cheap 3-to-cast 4/4 that places +1/+1 counter on another creature. Don’t play her when you have Liliana Vess in play because you won’t be able to bring the creatures from all graveyards under your control. However, you may play her with Lil if you have no intention of bringing back the creatures from the graveyard.
Artifacts and Enchantments
Spear of Heliod – Buffs your creatures and can destroy target creature that dealt damage to you
Whip of Erebos – All your creatures get lifelink. This is especially useful since your Herald of Torment makes you lose life each turn.
There’s Retribution of the Ancients but there are more exile options in my deck. I chose exile over “destroy” cards because of the Indestructible permanents that people play these days. If your creatures can’t kill your opponent’s creatures, exile them with Abzan Charm or Utter End. You may replace Divine Verdict with Duneblast. I placed Reclamation Sage for enchantment-heavy decks. There’s Bile Blight and Drown in Sorrow for token decks in the Sideboard.