Magic the Gathering decks need to be thought of as 75 cards, not 60.
While your “main deck” will only feature 60 cards, you still have access to 15 cards in your “sideboard,” which is essentially your bench players, ready to substitute in for certain matchups. While they aren’t a part of your starting line-up, they’re still key players that can help win championships.
In a deck like Abzan Blue, the sideboard is far more important than most other decks. While your main deck splash of blue is rather limited, strictly staying with Reflector Mage and Stubborn Denial, being able to sideboard in even more counter magic is crucial. Players are able to combine the powerful curve of an Abzan deck with effective tools to defeat match-ups like Bant Company and 4-Color Rally. With the popularity of these decks in the competitive scene, it’s important to be prepared for this match-up.
Not every local scene is going to feature these decks. My Friday Night Magic event last week featured one Bant Company deck and zero 4-Color Rally decks. There was also a lack of Abzan (minus myself) and R/B Dragons, too. Plenty of Eldrazi and Jeskai variants, though. The point is that every local meta is different; you should be tuning your deck to defeat what you play against, not what other people play against. If you hedge against aggressive red decks when you know everyone at your local store hates playing red, that’s wasted spots in your sideboard. Instead, you need to be using cards to help shore up the match-ups you expect to play against.
A lot of this seems like common sense, but for those people that aren’t deck builders (like myself, I prefer to play the decks other people build), it’s something that needs to be reinforced. Play to beat the people you play against, not just the top decks in the format. There are plenty of stores that are dominated by brews; if you want to succeed at the local level, you need to be prepared for these brews instead of just playing with the same 75 cards that won the Pro Tour.
I won’t be posting a decklist this week for Abzan Blue as I’m playing in an RTPQ in Knoxville, TN, so I want to keep things a little private. This might seem a little bit ironic, considering that I just said the archetype I plan on planning, but since there are so many different variations and angles of attack I still feel pretty safe keeping the actual 75 secret. Despite it’s lack of showing at the recent Magic Online Championships, I still feel confident that the deck can do well.
For the future, I plan on starting to document my journeys and experiences as a grinder on the Magic circuit, so look out for that in the future in addition to this bi-weekly column. As always, be sure to tune into twitch.tv/topdeckproductions every Tuesday night for Modern, plus Standard on Wednesday and Friday nights, all beginning at 6:30 Eastern.