Abzan Auras is a white, black and green deck that uses the powerful enchantment payoff cards introduced in Theros Beyond Death to overwhelm your opponents with card advantage! In this deck guide, we will go through how to pilot the deck in best-of-one (BO1) Standard play. From here, we will be exploring more BO1 decks – both fun and competitive, so tune in daily!
Firstly, the we want to clarify the deck name in more detail. Some players may understand Aura decks to involve slapping on enchantments on your creatures (usually hexproof such as Paradise Druid) to make them big and unstoppable. Unfortunately, this kind of strategy is easily disrupted in the current Standard format.
This deck does have Hateful Eidolon and 10 Auras to fuel it, but there are other powerful payoff cards involving general enchantment synergies. The deck is also somewhere between aggro and midrange, where it has good early pressure but can also sustain longer games as long as you can keep chaining your enchantments. Overall, this is by no means a top tier deck that has its weaknesses (to control decks) but it thrives in the BO1 environment where it can prey on other aggro decks.
We will be using bkowal23’s decklist as a sample, who used it to reach Mythic during the February ranked season.
This is quite an intricate deck that requires a few pieces to really get going. We will go through each card, their role and how to play them.
During the early turns of the game, you will ideally have one or two of the above creatures in your hand to get the ball rolling.
- Hateful Eidolon: This is the card that the deck is named after, and provides a card draw engine similar to Edgewall Innkeeper. Having a 1/2 body is good for blocking the opposing Scorch Spitter or Fervent Champion and can hold Mogis's Favor well. It is usually a must answer threat early in the game. You also draw a card for each instance of it on the battlefield and can snowball quite quickly, and thus is a must answer threat.
- Aphemia, the Cacophony: It is not very hard to turn on the ability for immediate value, as you will usually have either one of your one drop creatures or an Aura in the graveyard. It can continuously ping for two damage in the air while you generate zombies that will hold the ground. Remember, you don’t always have to exile an enchantment card (if you want to save it for another Aphemia in your hand in case it dies) and try to hold off exiling Mogis's Favor as long as possible.
- Alseid of Life’s Bounty: Your opponents will have to navigate around this card well as it can protect your best creatures, but be wary of selecting a color that will make your Auras fall off (which would usually be Black). Most importantly, it is a cheap one mana enchantment to trigger Constellation and you can even bring it back for a second activation with Nightmare Shepherd.
Another good thing to know is if Bonecrusher Giant (or another Adventure card) targets the Alseid, you can sacrifice itself to fizzle the spell so they cannot also get a creature out of it.
- Mogis’s Favor: This is a versatile Aura that can act both as a removal spell or give your creatures a slight damage improvement if there aren’t any suitable targets. Either way, it will trigger Hateful Eidolon. Your most common play in BO1 will be applying it on something like a Scorch Spitter or a Healer's Hawk, and having a Hateful Eidolon at the same time is a good turn two play (though double Black mana source can be an issue).
If you are using it buff your creatures, be wary of removal spells that your opponent can use. For example, putting it on a Archon of Sun's Grace will make it vulnerable to Deafening Clarion.
This is also a very important card because it can be played over and over, thus enabling your payoff cards (Hateful Eidolon, Setessan Champion, Archon of Sun’s Grace). It shares the graveyard with Aphemia though, so be sure to assess the situation accordingly on what you want to prioritize.
- Dead Weight: Not as good as Mogis's Favor, but early interaction to deal with the aggro decks in BO1. Remember it doesn’t always have to kill a creature, and shrinking your opponent’s creatures is good enough sometimes.
- Kenrith’s Transformation: This is a hard card to play right, since it can work both ways (like Mogis’s Favor) but mostly, you want to play it on your opponent’s creatures as a pseudo-removal spell since your own ones have abilities that you don’t want turned off. If Banishing Light isn’t there to save the day for you, it can go on anything from Anax, Torbran, the big creatures of Jeskai Fires, Korvold, and more. Remember, a few things:
– Putting it on a Heliod, Sun-Crowned (or any other God) will cause it to fall off if the Devotion goes below at any point.
– It doesn’t remove +1/+1 counters so it will just make Hydroid Krasis even more big.
- Setessan Champion: This is one of your main win conditions, and the card you want to see in your opening hand the most. You don’t always want to run it out on turn three, and you will want follow up enchantments to ensure value or so that it goes out of direct damage range. If left unchecked, it can grow very big and by then the damage is done and you would have drawn a few cards already. You can also deal the final bit of damage by making it unblockable with Alseid of Life's Bounty.
- Archon of Sun’s Grace: If you’ve seen the World Championships recently, then you would know how good this card is. It creates huge life swings in your favor, and this almost every card in this deck will be able to trigger its ability and chaining it along side Setessan Champion is a great fun.
With both of the creatures above, you rarely will want to have more than one out at the same time. You will usually want to get initial value out of these, rather than getting greedy and losing tempo by having them die and not get any ability triggers.
- Banishing Light: A catch-all removal spell that doubles up as an enchantment. Remember, you can also protect it with Alseid of Life's Bounty should the situation arise.
- Nightmare Shepherd: Your other creatures don’t care if they come back as 1/1s, since the ability is the main thing that matters. As mentioned above, a nice little bonus is the second activation of Alseid of Life's Bounty you can get. Remember that if you are using the graveyard for Aphemia, depending on what you need more you may not want it exiled (though that would be a corner case).
We will cover the most common matchups that you may face in the BO1 environment.
Jeskai Fires: Slightly Unfavored
This will likely be a rough matchup for you since it can slow you down a lot in the form of Deafening Clarion, Brazen Borrower, Teferi, Time Raveler and Bonecrusher Giant which are all great against you. Furthermore, your Auras are not particularly good against their big creatures, and will rely on having the right amount of Kenrith's Transformation and Banishing Light (though being Sorcery speed means you can still be defeated without warning).
You will be hoping to rely on Archon of Sun's Grace to win by going over the top and wide, so be sure to protect it at all costs using Alseid of Life's Bounty. Be careful not to overextend though, and try to lure out an early Deafening Clarion where possible. Furthermore, it will be best to run it out when you can get a fellow Pegasus Token on the board the same turn.
Mono Red Aggro (and other aggro decks): Favored
This is a favorable matchup for you, since you have a lot of lifegain and early removal spells to deal with their early onslaught. Banishing Light and Kenrith's Transformation are best saved for their Anax, Hardened in the Forge, Torbran, Thane of Red Fell and Rotting Regisaur. If you don’t have any good early plays, then don’t be scared to mulligan your hand.
Temur Adventures: Slightly Unfavored
This matchup is about who can get there quicker, but they have more relevant interaction spells (Bonecrusher Giant, Brazen Borrower) and early blockers (Lovestruck Beast) to slow you down. You are the aggressor in this matchup, and the earliest board wipe you can expect is Fae of Wishes + Storm's Wrath. At least try and get your Setessan Champion out of this range so you can keep drawing cards afterwards. Your Banishing Light is best saved for Lucky Clover, so try not to use it too early on their creatures where possible.
Azorius Control: Unfavored
This will be one of your weakest matchups, but thankfully you may not see it too much on BO1. You need to play around their counterspells, board wipes and Teferi. You don’t necessarily have to be the aggressive side, since your deck is not quite as fast as something like Mono Red Aggro.
You will want to get as much value from individual cards as possible and try to overwhelm them with card advantage. For example, having them use Shatter the Sky on your lone Aphemia and its zombie tokens may be a good enough deal. Dream Trawler is a tricky card to deal with, but you have plenty of flyers in your deck to get in its way.
This matchup will depend on who can get their key creatures to stick. The main creature to watch out for is Mayhem Devil as it can wreck havoc on your board (especially your Aphemia and Alseid) and protect your big creatures where possible. Kenrith's Transformation is very useful against the devil or Korvold, Fae-Cursed King, and Banishing Light can be used to turn off their engines such as Witch's Oven and Trail of Crumbs if you’re controlling the board well.
The Rakdos version is better in your favor, since your early removal spells do a lot of work against things like Gutterbones or Priest of Forgotten Gods. If this matchup is particularly troublesome for you, you can try substitute the Dead Weight for Mire's Grasp.
Budget Decklist and Card Substitutions
The deck is not too bad in terms of cost, but still has 33 rares (including the lands) so it can still be expensive for new players. If you are interested in giving this deck a go but don’t want to commit to the full resources, try this version:
- Transcendent Envoy: A cheap 1/2 enchantment creature that is also a flyer, and is a decent substitution for Aphemia. It can also hold Mogis's Favor and makes your Auras cheaper.
- Siona, Captain of the Pyleas: An alternative to the Archon, you want to ideally find All That Glitters to slap on the flying creature.
- All That Glitters: Without the Archon, you want games to end more quickly and want to maximize damage where possible.
- Mire’s Grasp: Using this instead of Dead Weight to capitalize on Transcendant Envoy’s mana reduction ability.
- Setessan Training: Using this instead of Kenrith's Transformation for the same reason as All That Glitters, since we want to end the game quickly and giving Trample will be useful if you don’t have Transcendant Envoy.
If you want to go one step further and don’t want to commit to the lands (though you should eventually!), then reducing the deck by one color is an option:
- Orzhov Auras (white and black): Uses Hateful Eidolon as the main card draw engine and goes more all in on buffing your creatures with All That Glitters.
- Selesnya Auras (white and green): The deck requires Setessan Champion to be more competitive but also has access Season of Growth for further card draw.