Yesterday I was able to play my Abzan GPG for the first time and it proved to be very interesting and modestly powerful. The matchup I was up against after 4 rounds were Big Red, Abzan Tokens, RG Beatdown, and Sultai Energy.
The Big Red match up was very difficult in both games. He had kept plenty of removals that kept me off the board while his Bomat and Ferocidon clawed their way at my life total.
Ixalan’s Binding was strong but slow, while my Thopter Arrest was just drawn too late. The other thing was that the Big Red deck packed 2 copies of Scavenger Grounds which kept me off of firing my Gate to the Afterlife while having an Angel of Invention and Regal Caracal in the yard – for both games.
Match ended at 0-2.
Against the Abzan Tokens, I think the match was quite evenly matched. Game 1 was a battle of Cast Outs and Ixalan’s Binding. Opposing Fatal Pushes kept my Snake from giving our explorers more than 1 +1/+1 counter but the Abzan GPG was able to clutter the board full of 4/4 zombie clones of my high value creatures.
Game 2 I was locked with multiple Anointed Procession and an Anointer Priest in the battlefield. I got my opponent down to 5 life but in 2-3 turns, he was back at 17 and could chump block me all day.
Game 3, my Ajani Unyielding help me refuel my hand against Fumigate and a well-timed Walking Ballista shot down his Angel of Sanction that was sitting on my GPG. I was able to swing in for lethal.
Match ended at 2-1.
Round 3 I was up against RG Monsters where both games 1 and 2 ended by turn 4 with us drawing no lands and conceading. Game 1 he was stuck at 2 lands with my behind a 4/5 Winding Constrictor and a 4/4 Rishkar, Peema Renegade.
Game 2 I was facing a Voltaic Brawler, Rhonas the Indomitable, and a Heart of Kiran and me with 3 white lands and a hand full of green cards.
Game 3 was interesting to say the least. He had several Lathu Helions that ate through my 2/1 and 1/2 explorers that failed to explore into nonland permanents and my Ixalan Bindings and Thopter Arrest weren’t fast enough to shut down his Chandra and a surprise appearance of Glorybringer which I didn’t see in Games 1 & 2.
Match ended 1-2.
Last round I was against a Sultai Energy deck that got me on game 1 which so much value thanks to Glint Sleeve Siphoners, Longtusk Cub and Blossoming Defenses that made blocking very tricky.
Game 2 I was able to surprise him with GPG which he wasn’t expecting because I wasn’t able to play/show it in Game 1.
Game 3 was a long game that ended with turns because his creatures couldn’t get through my cat tokens and servos that came from my zombified Angel of Invention and Regal Caracal. If we had more turns, my Ajani could have drawn me enough gas to get the last win.
Match ended 1-1-1.
Record: 1-2-1 after 4 rounds.
In restrospect, the deck in principle works. The Snake and Explore synergy is definitely beautiful if the opponent doesn’t have answers. The GPG surprise angle is also a great way to screw your opponent’s side boarding. Apart from graveyard hate, the deck shows a lot of resilience against attrition games. And unlike the UW/UB GPG builds, the deck has more creatures that can buy us some time or present a beat down approach against slower decks.
The problem with the deck is the absence of removal in the main board. I didn’t have a Fatal Push included because I didn’t want my creature density to be diluted which makes Gate to the Afterlife more difficult to activate. Apart from the life gain creatures, I also do not have creatures that do something when they enter the battlefield apart from making things bigger thanks to the +1/+1 counters.
My last round last night inspired me to try a Sultai shell instead because it lets me keep most of my Black-Green cards intact like Seekers’ Squire and Merfolk Branchwalker.
Adding Blue gives me access to faster engines that make the GPG strategy more consistent, I guess.
Minister of Inquiries definitely found a slot in the main. He was a common denominator in the UW and UB builds because he truly does a great job filling the yard with GPG targets.
Champion of Wits is another excellent engine that helps us draw the lands which is improtant for a 3-color deck, and allows us to dump cards from our hand and meet the 6-dude-condition faster.
Together with green, Rogue Refiner quickly replaced Winding Constrictor because the energy was great at recharging Minister of Inquiries, replaces himself with another card, and generates the same value when reanimated.
With 2 cards working with energy, playing Attune the Aether and Aethr Hub makes more sense now which allows us to reduce our land count a bit, making our explore hit percentage higher as well.
Together with black, The Scarab God becomes accessible. This creature has warped many sideboards to include Vraska’s Contempt, Cast Out, Ixalan’s Binding, Puncturing Blow or 2 dozens of Magma Spray to keep it dead. So why don’t we play it too as another alternate win condition.
So how does the deck look like now? Let me present my take on Sultai GPG.
4 Minister of Inquiries
3 Merfolk Branchwalker
4 Seekers’ Squire
4 Rogue Refiner
4 Champion of Wits
3 Hostage Taker
1 The Scarab God
1 Noxious Gearhulk
1 Demon of Dark Schemes
4 Attune with Aether
3 Fatal Push
4 Gate to the Afterlife
2 God-Pharaoh’s Gift
4 Aether Hub
4 Botanical Sanctum
4 Blooming Marsh
1 Fetid Pool
1 Ipnu Rivulet
1 Hashep Oasis
3 Kitesail Freebooter
2 Gonti, Lord of Luxury
2 Confiscation Coup
2 Deathgorge Scavenger
I try to squeeze maximum value and synergy in all my decks and I find Demon of Dark Scheme to be a good 1-off in the deck instead of the 2nd copy of Scarab God. It’s a 5/5 flier which is good in a meta with not much fliers apart from Glorybringer worth noting.
It’s ETB Infest ability is also quite useful against the tokens deck, thopters and opposing Glint-sleeve, Refiners, Ahn-Crop Crasher and more. It also helps generate energy for our lands and creatures, and also serves as our third reanimator engine.
Hostage Taker is also another card I’m dying to try out. I just got my playset for around $7 each so I’m pretty excited to know why people like or hate this card so much.
The sideboard didn’t change much from my Abzan list. I just swapped out Thopter’s Arrest with Negates and Confiscation Coups for the control and God-match-ups. I made room for Duress as well which is good against most decks post-board because the opponent will surely back sweepers or artifact removal post-board.
I want to introduce a maybe-board where I dump card ideas that I think might work and I have a few for this build.
Against a very aggressive match-up, I think Filigree Familiar might be worth including in the sideboard. The life gain is really good early and it replaces itself when it dies. With GPG, it comes back for the same value on a much bigger body which is super sweet.
Liliana, Death Majesty is also another sideboard card I want to swap the 6-GPG suite if I know my opponent will put in Appetite for the Unnatural or Abrades. Liliana’s synergy is actually really good – fills up the yard, makes a 2/2 blocker, reanimates stuff and blows up everything but our stuff because they are zombies thanks to GPG’s replacement effect.
That’s it for today – I am looking forward to play this deck before the year ends and give you guys updates on its performance.
See you guys soon, and don’t let Magic ruin your Christmas!