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The New Kid on the Block


Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen the rise of Grim Flayer across multiple format. This card is effectively a pseudo-Tarmogoyf, as long as you’re willing to do some work. In addition to just being a 2/2 early on in the game, it provides card selection, stocks your graveyard, and becomes a 4/4 later in the game. It should be no surprise that, as Modern becomes more aggressive, Grim Flayer is beginning to supplant other two-drops like Dark Confidant and Scavenging Ooze. Pat Cox, with some help from Willy Edel, took a look at what this might mean for Modern Abzan:

What comes out of this is an Abzan deck which is much more aggressive, since you have access to both Grim Flayer and Tarmogoyf as oversized two-drops. This means that you’re much more capable of racing decks like Ad Nauseam or Death's Shadow. This is particularly true since it’s relatively easy to turn on Delirium on this style of Abzan deck. You’re going to play fetchlands and discard spells, so you get Land and Sorcery mostly for free. In addition to that, instant speed removal like Abrupt Decay or Path to Exile get you most of the way there. Sure, you have to play something like Mishra's Bauble to help make Delirium a little more consistent, but the advantage you get in using Grim Flayer to apply pressure, dig through your deck, and give you free copies of Lingering Souls may well be worth it.

It’s also worth noting the removal suite for this Abzan deck. Other iterations have played assortments of Disfigures and Grasp of Darkness in addition to Path to Exile and Abrupt Decay. This suite of removal isn’t really attractive if Death's Shadow and Tarmogoyf are popular. Instead, you’d much rather have hard removal like Murderous Cut and Abrupt Decay, particularly as the format becomes more and more focused on raw aggression and efficiency.

Speaking of efficiency, notice that the curve of this deck tops out at three with Lingering Souls and Liliana of the Veil. In previous months, something like Siege Rhino was a huge reason to play Abzan over Jund. Now, the format is too aggressive for Siege Rhino, with cards like Become Immense and Temur Battle Rage going way over the top of the Khans of Tarkir powerhouse. Instead, this is an Abzan deck focused on interacting early and often while applying quick pressure with Tarmogoyf and Grim Flayer. This plan, backed up by Lingering Souls to generate blockers and buy extra time, is much more suited to the current Modern format than something resembling more traditional midrange with Siege Rhinos and Dark Confidants. Time is at a premium in Modern, and you can’t afford to spend time messing around.

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