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Abzan Company

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Welcome to the first installment of Modern Warfare, a weekly column in which I examine the ins and outs of decks both popular and obscure in the Modern format.

Collected Company is like the frozen pepperoni pizza of Magic cards. That’s not meant to be clever—I’m just comparing one delicious piece of cardboard to another. Check it out:

Collected Company

I don’t think anyone can look at this card and not see how crazy it could be in the right deck. Being able to cheat two creatures into play on your opponent’s end step is a powerful effect, and it becomes downright terrifying when those creatures work in tandem to generate infinite life or damage (or value).

Birthing Pod
“Wait, whoa, hold on there, Jimbo—this sounds kinda like Melira Pod.”

That’s an astute observation, friendo.

Once upon a time, Birthing Pod ruled Modern. It didn’t always win, but . . . well, okay, it almost always won. While the deck eventually moved away from its stockpile of infinite combos, the version of the deck featuring Melira, Sylvok Outcast was downright unfair during its reign.

With Melira, Kitchen Finks, and Viscera Seer on the battlefield, the Finks could be sacrificed to Seer to gain 3 life with the -1/-1 persist counter being canceled out by Melira. The result was virtual infinite life, and infinite damage could be generated by replacing Kitchen Finks with Murderous Redcap. Finally, Archangel of Thune combined with Spike Feeder could also gain infinite life with the Archangel continually putting counters on the little apple worm. Any of these combos was easily tutored up with Birthing Pod and/or Chord of Calling.

So, what does that have to do with Collected Company?

With Birthing Pod banned in Modern, these combos become much, much more difficult to piece together. And, as previously mentioned, the archetype had even moved away from the infinite combos in favor of value creatures. Collected Company, however, gives us an instant-speed way to parse through our deck and cheat combo pieces into play. So, I think it’s time to take a second look at what infinite life and damage can do for you in Modern. (Spoiler alert: You kinda, sorta just win.)

As a 4-mana instant in an Abzan deck, Collected Company can be cast as early as turn three off Birds of Paradise or Wall of Roots. As previously mentioned, the ability to cheat up to two creatures into play on an opponent’s end step can be downright unfair, and I’ve always enjoyed doing unfair things in Magic. While we’ve retained most of the same toys from the old Melira Pod lists to work with, Melira herself has been replaced by a certain Spirit Soldier whose ability really bolsters our strategy, hopefully keeping us first and foremost in whatever competition we’ve deigned to dominate. [Editor’s note: We’ve removed the “outlast” and “endurance” puns, and Mr. Brady has been docked half his pay.]

Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
Courtesy of Dragons of Tarkir, our new enabler for abusing creatures with persist is Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit. With Kitchen Finks, Viscera Seer, and Anafenza in play, we can sacrifice the Finks to the Seer. When Finks comes back into play due to its persist trigger, Anafenza asks if we’d like to bolster 1, so we choose Kitchen Finks to bolster onto—which has 1 toughness—and it once again becomes a 3/2. Rise and repeat ad infinitum.

But what if your opponent doesn’t snap-concede to your arbitrarily high life total? Well, that’s easy: Let’s cast Chord of Calling (off all of these creatures we’ve cheated into play with Collected Company) and find Murderous Redcap to sacrifice to Viscera Seer while Anafenza is in play.

Boom goes the Redcap—infinite damage. We knew you well, kiddo.

But what if we can’t piece together the combo win? Luckily for us, we don’t exactly need to. Kitchen Finks is among the most efficient (and persistent) attackers in the Modern format, and Anafenza (and/or one of our two copies of Gavony Township) can make even the lowly Viscera Seers and Birds of Paradise into threats. Throw in a couple Tarmogoyfs, a Scavenging Ooze, and Varolz, the Scar-Striped to scavenge some +1/+1 counters, and we have quite the company party on our hands.

Our suite of noncreature spells consists of four copies each of our two combo enablers, Collected Company and Chord of Calling, and two copies of Abrupt Decay (for when you absolutely, positively have to remove something with a converted mana cost of 3 or less). Two copies of Eternal Witness are perhaps the most important and versatile cards in the entire deck besides Collected Company, as hitting a Witness off Company allows us to recur the green instant. It also serves to protect our combo by recurring lost Seers, Anafenza, and the like.

Chord of Calling
Last but not least, Melira acts as a fifth copy of Anafeza that can really ruin an Infect player’s day, and a single copy of Spellskite acts as a combo protector and a searchable foil to Splinter Twin, Bogles, Infect, Burn, and so on. Casting Chord of Calling to find Spellskite will almost certainly be a common play while piloting the deck.

The sideboard is fairly straightforward, consisting of a high creature count in order to best make use of Collected Company and Chord. With hedges against Burn, Affinity, and combo decks like Splinter Twin and Amulet Bloom, Abzan proves once again that its colors are the best sideboard colors in Modern.

Time will tell if Abzan Company becomes a true competitor in the format, but given the past success of such formulae, it’s not at all farfetched to think it could place well in the next Modern Pro Tour.

Collectively yours,

Jimi Brady

Know of any creative brews or interesting takes on existing Modern decks? Shoot me a link to the list via Twitter, and I’ll give it a fair rundown in a future installment of Modern Warfare.


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