Historic Abzan Constrictor: The Best Type of Counter Spells
Hello everyone! Today I’m coming at you with a super sweet deck that won the Maryellen Goldstein Treatment yesterday, Abzan Snake! When Winding Constrictor came into Historic, I thought that although it was one of the best Standard decks in it’s time, it probably wasn’t good enough to see play as the counters sub-theme was too cute. However, I was happily proven wrong yesterday. HowlingMines has been working with his chat on perfecting his list, and with a solid 7-1 run, their hard work definitely paid off. Let’s take a look at this spicy list.
I mean come on, a sweet aggro deck that has great synergy and Lurrus? Sign me up. I didn’t think this deck would have any legs against interaction, but HowlingMines kept smashing his way through Sultai players nevertheless. Furthermore, with the potential for very fast starts with any 1 drop and a counter doubler or highly interactive draws with Thoughtseize and removal, this deck can easily pivot it’s game plan to meet the demand for the game.
Wondering if the deck was a flash in the pan, I decided to give the deck a spin myself. Once again, I was impressed by the thoughtfulness that went into the list and, although I don’t think this is the newest Tier 1 deck in Historic, this is an extremely powerful option that plays better than I gave it credit for, even in matchups that would seem bad like Sultai or Sacrifice. Let’s go through the card choices and how they function in the deck.
Companion: Lurrus of the Dream-Den
It’s very rare when a Companion like Lurrus can be included nearly for free in a deck, but that seems to be the case here. I was scouring through the legal Historic cards this deck may want, but none of them were better than the ability to play Lurrus in the deck. The endemic issue with a lot of Lurrus decks is that most of the 1-2 CMC threats aren’t that powerful which can make closing games difficult. However, with the help of the +1/+1 counter doublers, any creature that can accrue counters can become a huge threat given a little bit of time, mitigating one of Lurrus’ main weaknesses.
4 Stonecoil Serpent
Stonecoil Serpent didn’t seem like a Historic power level card, but it was an MVP during the matches. Being able to make this large with extra mana or +1/+1 counter doublers is already solid, but having both Trample and Protection from Multicolor pushed it over the edge. There were a lot of situations against Sultai where the opponent had both a Hydroid Krasis and an Uro, generally a position no deck wants to be in, but a large Stonecoil Serpent just easily killed them through it.
4 Knight of the Ebon Legion
A cheap threat that gets counters and has an activated ability? In.
4 Pelt Collector
Pelt Collector grows big very, very fast. If you ever curve Pelt Collector into Winding Constrictor or Conclave Mentor, you’re already swinging for 3 on turn 2!
3 Conclave Mentor
This came as a surprise to me initially that one of your counter doublers would only be a 3 of instead of a 4. However, after I watched the matches and played many matches myself, it made more sense. The effect is very powerful, but Conclave Mentor is more fragile than Winding Constrictor as Bonecrusher Giant and Cry of the Carnarium are seeing significant play. Furthermore, although this is a +1/+1 counter deck, we are by no means reliant on always having a counter doubler as your threats can still flourish on their own. Although this is worse than Snake, having incidental life gain on the death trigger is quite nice
4 Luminarch Aspirant
If you’ve been reading a lot of my articles, you know how much I love this card. It’s such a scary threat and synergizes perfectly into this deck, no reason not to include it.
4 Scavenging Ooze
Everything I said about Luminarch Aspirant perfectly applies here as well, with the added ability of graveyard hate for Uro and incidental life gain!
4 Winding Constrictor
Snek OP. Having a counter doubler out, though not necessary is obviously great and Snake is the better of the two. 3 toughness is a great statline and dodges some of the common removal spells that see play in Historic.
3 Agadeem’s Awakening
Agadeem’s Awakening and Lurrus of the Dream-Den go together like butter and toast, and it makes sense why. The deck has 8 1 drops 15 two drops and Lurrus that can all be recurred with Awakening at a not terribly high cost. At worst, this is a Bolt Swamp.
2 Bloodchief’s Thirst
This deck is all about leveraging it’s efficiency so having good 1 mana removal is key. Thirst is obviously great at bonking off small creatures, but with the added bonus of killing anything at 4 mana.
1 Inscription of Ruin
Should you play Inscription of Ruin? Likely not. Is playing Inscription of Ruin good for you? Absolutely. Jokes aside, I thought this card was completely out of place when I first saw it in the list, but with playing it myself, I get it now. I’ve frequently talked about liking 1 of modal spells in my deck as being able to get more value later is great, but for better or for worse, it seems extremely rare you’ll be able to kick this. On that note, although none of the modes are that strong for 3 mana, the fact you have the choices is very nice. I found myself using the Mind Rot mode way more than any other as nobody is playing around Mind Rot in Historic. The reanimate ability is nice in a pinch, but I didn’t really find myself wanting to use it. The removal side, although not the most mana efficient, is obviously a fine use as well.
2 Maelstrom Pulse
Sometimes you just want hard removal, and it isn’t really bad against any deck as it can hit any nonland permanent.
21 Lands + 3 Agadeem’s Awakening
2 Bloodchief’s Thirst
More small removal for small goons.
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
Lurrus is incidental in this deck so making sure you have ways to stop decks that utilize the graveyard or library (like Muxus or Collected Company) is still a great addition.
2 Shapers’ Sanctuary
I’m quite surprised how little play Sanctuary sees considering it’s so good against 2 of the top decks, Sultai and Sacrifice. Every single spell or ability that will target any of your creatures nets you a free card, replacing the creature that likely got killed.
1 Soul-Guide Lantern
RB Arcanist seems like a difficult matchup, but significantly less so when we have Cage and Lantern.
2 Baffling End
More removal for slightly larger creatures compared to Bloodchief’s Thirst.
3 Noxious Grasp
Grasp is excellent right now as it’s good against anything from green based aggro to Sultai and UW Control. A lot of Historic’s premiere threats are either Green or White which makes this card an easy inclusion in many matchups.
For when you have to Naturalize some annoying permanents. The most common application will be tagging Witch’s Oven, but this is obviously good against fringe decks that have a lot of artifacts or enchantments like Paradox Combo or Enchantment Prison.
MATCHUPS AND SIDEBOARDING
|+2 Shapers’ Sanctuary||-3 Conclave Mentor|
|+3 Noxious Grasp||-2 Bloodchief’s Thirst|
The boarding plan is straightforward here as we just need to take out our squishiest threat and a bad removal spell for insulation and good removal. Mentor isn’t bad against Sultai, but a lot of lists have multiple Cry of the Carnarium after board which can really get you if you aren’t careful.
|+2 Shapers’ Sanctuary||-4 Knight of the Ebon Legion|
|+2 Baffling End||-1 Conclave Mentor|
|+2 Wilt||-1 Inscription of Ruin|
This matchup can be very challenging as the Cat loop, Claim the Firstborn, and Mayhem Devil are all excellent against small creature strategies. However, you can have surprisingly fast and resilient starts and a lot of the board cards you have is quite powerful. HowlingMines actually boarded differently in that he took out Thoughtsieze instead of Knight of the Ebon Legion, but I prefer Thoughtseize as Mayhem Devil, Claim the Firstborn, and Collected Company (if they play it) are so much better then everything else they could have. In that vein, if they are playing Company, you’re going to want Grafdigger’s Cage as well and you can take out Bloodchief’s Thirst.
|+2 Grafdigger’s Cage||-2 Scavenging Ooze|
|+2 Baffling End||-2 Bloodchief’s Thirst|
This matchup seems difficult as Goblins is really good at beating up on creature decks, but we do have more interaction than the typical creature deck. Focus on not letting a Krenko or Muxus stick on the battlefield as best as you can, and the best way to do that is to kill them quickly.
|+2 Bloodchief’s Thirst||-4 Thoughtseize|
|+2 Baffling End||-1 Inscription of Ruin|
|+3 Noxious Grasp||-2 Maelstrom Pulse|
This matchup is predominately going to be a race so you want to leverage your cheap spells to get ahead and use your removal to gain a tempo advantage. A lot of your threats are quite good against Gruul so playing a normal game against them should usually end in your favor.
- Filling out your curve is vital in most matchups so if that means you have to play a Stonecoil Serpent for one, it is worth considering.
- Knight of the Ebon Legion only triggers on your turn, but it triggers if ANY player lost 4 life. Shockland into Thoughtseize is an easy way to get a Knight trigger off.
- Pelt Collector is generally the best turn 1 play as it curves out the best with your counter doublers.
- Try to deploy your counter doublers early to leverage their maximum effectiveness. However, if you can double spell and get immediate value, that’s even better.
- When playing with Luminarch Aspirant, generally you want to diversify your counters as you want multiple threatening creatures, not just one big one. This could change if you want to make a large Pelt Collector or Stonecoil Serpent as they have trample.
- Grab Lurrus as a last resort most games, you don’t want to go too long with this deck.
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