Deck Spotlight: Abzan Counters Company

My name is Wojtek (Laplasjan on MTGO), I’m from Poland and this text is about Counters Company deck. I will focus on maindeck structure, flexible slots and sideboard choices. At the end I will sum up with some sideboard tech.

Let me tell you a little bit about myself as this is my first article on Card Knock Life. I’ve returned to Magic a couple of years ago and, since Eldrazi Winter, I’ve played Abzan/Counters Company. I’ve visited a couple of GP’s with some day 2 appearances but recently, MTGO is kind of “my thing”.  In fact, I have quite a few 5-0 results piloting Counters Company to prove it…

Link to Laplasjan’s tournament finishes on MTG Goldfish

Why Company?

Modern is a format where you can play whatever you want. I don’t think that now it is some special time for Collected Company decks to shine, but its not a bad time either. I like this deck. It is very versatile and I know how to play it well. I believe that this is enough to be successful in Modern.

Why Counters?

Why have I chosen Abzan Counters Company version of the deck when there are so many other options available?  This topic contains many micro-choices/decisions we have to make before we choose an exact deckbuild. Let’s start with the Devoted Druid and Vizier of Remedies combo. In wide metagame (which Modern certainly has), we often have to proceed with our own plan. Sometimes, a midrange to lategame plan is available, sometimes not. Against Ad Nauseam, Dredge, Humans or Boggles, there is no life after midgame. We are going to loose. GW Company/Valuetown does not option to combo off and tend to struggle with above mentioned opponents. The Druid and Vizier combo is fast and contains creatures that aren’t useless on their own. Sounds fine for me. Then we have to build the deck around that. We, of course, are going to play Collected Company and Chord of Calling. We want high density of creatures that cost between one and three mana. Kitchen Finks satisfies all requirements plus it works nicely with Vizier of Remedies. Finks is great against aggro strategies (Burn, Hollow One, Zoo) but also against midrange-control decks (Jeskai, UW Control, Jund). If we commit one slot to Viscera Seer, we get a really nice package of creatures that are good in a wide variety of match-ups. It makes the deck consistent and gives the possibility of comboing off in a couple of ways.

So why not something else?  Take Bant for example… Reflector Mage and Spell Queller make pseudo-mirror matches hard for my version of the deck. Also, blue gives the possibility of packing Retreat to Coralhelm which functions in a combo with Knight of the Reliquary.  I think this build is a very intriguing build but I’ve stuck to Abzan because of two main reasons.  The first, I don’t want to cut any Kitchen Finks (which are difficult to hold in Bant version). Loosing this fantastic combo/value creature is not the price I want to pay. The second, I like the broad spectrum of sideboard options that black provides.  Abrupt Decay and Sin Collector are my favourite ones, but there are also Tidehollow Sculler, Thoughtseize, Big Game Hunter, Anafenza, the Foremost, amoung others.


Abzan Company Core

Spells (8)
Collected Company
Chord of Calling

Creatures (28)
Birds of Paradise
Noble Hierarch
Viscera Seer
Devoted Druid
Vizier of Remedies
Duskwatch Recruiter
Eternal Witness
Kitchen Finks
Walking Ballista
Lands (21)
Windswept Heath
Verdant Catacombs
Wooded Foothills
Overgrown Tomb
Temple Garden
Forest
Swamp
Plains
Horizon Canopy
Gavony Township


I originally packed in the ninth fetch to be able to thin the deck, for the testing of Renegade Rallier, and because there is no need for another fetchable source of mana. It worked out well so I left it in the deck, but in the meta full of Burn and other aggro strategies, I recommend packing one copy of Razorverge Thicket instead. Also, if there are many land-destruction or Blood Moon decks floating around, one extra copy of Forest is good.

I like to keep my one-mana creature count high because hands that do not contain any of them or Devoted Druid are often mulligans. Even being on the play turn two, Duskwatch Recruiter or Vizier of Remedies is too slow to keep fighting against top decks of the meta. One copy of Viscera Seer is just fine to include for your infinite life combo. A playset of Devoted Druid and Vizier of Remedies is obvious. I decided to play full four Duskwatch Recruiter as well. They have proven to be good in both matchups when we want to combo out and against midrange. Looping creatures together works even against UW Control. From the Collected Company package, I cut one Eternal Witness. Facing graveyard hate like Ooze or Nihil Spellbomb with too many of them in hand can be problematic. Finally, I run just one Walking Ballista. Adding second copy is perfectly correct. They are great when meta is full of small or one-toughness creature decks (Elves, Counters Company, W/BW Taxes). Right now with Hollow Ones and Humans I decided to cut it.

Flexible slots

We’ve established the core of the deck but we still have three slots left.

  

These are the cards I change from time to time based on the changes in the meta.  Currently, I’ve committed these spots to one Forest, Scavenging Ooze and Renegade Rallier. With extra land, I often hesitate on what is the right count; either 21, or 22. Scavenging Ooze is the only silver bullet I play main. I can’t even count how many matches it helped me win or at least gave a good fight. Now, with this Hollow One meta, it is even more relevant to include. Now that people are coming back to Lightning Bolt instead of Fatal Push, the power of Ooze is increased. Renegade Rallier is/was my experimental inclusion. It should have been a very good option to combo with Druid in the graveyard but also plan for lategame, potentially getting back a Duskwatch Recruiter, Scavenging Ooze, Gavony Township, or similar. Having him in the opening hand is also quite nice. Imagine a first turn Birds of Paradise, second turn fetch, Renegade Rallier into fetch and Noble Hierarch. With some gas in the rest of the hand, this start is powerful. In theory, it looks good. How about reality? I’m not sure yet. So far, its been fine, but not spectacular. There are too many requirements for him to be excellent.  As for Scooze, our green gummy friend does not need much to do his job. Just some dead creatures, doesn’t even matter who they were.  😉

You might ask why don’t I play more silver bullets in the maindeck. I have been and they were not good enough.  When I can chord for something that would stop my opponent and help me win the game, it could also be my own combo. Against Storm, do I chord for Eidolon of Rhetoric? Too slow. Against Ad Nauseam, maybe Sin Collector? Sure, but I can also try to combo off if I have mana and chord. What about other match-ups? Sin Collector vs Boggles, Humans, Affinity – this is a dead card. Of course, when the meta-game will force me to be prepared for some special kind of decks I will main some answers. This is the power of this deck and we have to use it sometimes. But in my opinion, not now. As an example, in a second era of Death Shadow (if it ever comes), I may consider this type of plan. I used to play 2 copies of Mirran Crusader in my main-deck that helped me immensely against the slew of those types of decks.

Sideboard

Sideboard choices are always more or less optional. What you want to have in sideboard depends on your maindeck, metagame, preferences, and so on. Instead of discussing all possible (countless, in fact) options, I will list my sideboard, describe all positions in a couple of words and share some of my favorite maybeboard cards.


Abzan Company Sideboard

(15)
Path to Exile
Abrupt Decay
Kataki, War's Wage
Qasali Pridemage
Scavenging Ooze
Voice of Resurgence
Eidolon of Rhetoric
Brimaz, King of Orescos
Sin Collector


Path to Exile is one of the best removal spells in the format. We sometimes suffer because of no removal in our maindeck, but this is the price we pay for a creature-combo oriented deck. Path is so versatile that I was considering a full playset in the sideboard, but it turned out to be too much. It works against big mana decks (Though-Knot Seer, less effective Primeval Titan), aggro (Grim Lavamancer, Eidolon of the Great Revel, Kor Spiritdancer), midrange (Dark Confidant, etc) or against creature hate (Linvala, Keeper of Silence, Phyrexian Revoker). Wuff. Enough.

Abrupt Decay fulfills almost the same role but also destroys annoying non-creature cards (such as Grafdigger’s Cage). Right now I don’t see my deck without those positions.  

Kataki, War’s Wage is, of course, devoted to beating Affinity and Lantern Control. Robots tend to be more and more popular in the face of the Humans and Hollow One agression. If those decks are not a big part of the metagame, feel free to cut this card. I will do it as well. But remember, this one slot can give you a lot of free wins against artifact decks. Do not underestimate that!

Qasali Pridemage is always somewhere in my 75. It used to be in main to great effect. I was surprised how many decks have something to destroy in the main. I don’t mind going back to this card. Especially if, as I just mentioned, the artifact decks are again on the top.

Scavenging Ooze is here because of Hollow One mostly. Dredge, Living End, or Burn have all lost in popularity. I would consider a second copy of Ooze in almost any meta.

Voice of Resurgence is anti-control card. With Humans and Affinity in tier 1, Jeskai Control is rising from the dead. This is not the only purpose for green-white deer to be here. Hollow One, Jund, Mardu Pyromancer and all UR Breach/Moon decks will struggle with him too.

Eidolon of Rhetoric I never cut. Even when Storm looses popularity, he is just slam dunk. With such a bad matchup against Storm we just have to shoot for some free wins. Eidolon is also surprisingly good vs Living End, UR decks with no Path to Exile, and Grixis Shadow.

Brimaz, King of Oreskos is probably my newest experiment. It has four toughness, exchanges with Hollow One, and is a token-maker.  I’m more than happy from his performance but more than one cat king is probably too much.

Sin Collector plays a role of both combo-hate and control-hate. People often bring in Anger of the Gods or some kind of Wrath of God effect against Company decks. Collector is a very versatile card that I strongly recommend including. In my opinion much, it is much better than Tidehollow Sculler.

So, I’ve covered pretty broad spectrum of decks we can face. In some cases, I might slot in some other options from my “maybeboard”…

Kor Firewalker is great in a meta full of Burn, Storm and UR decks.

Selfless Spirit is effective against UW Control and mass removal sideboard from my opponents.

Tireless Tracker can provide ridiculous value for match-ups where its relevant.

Mirran Crusader is great vs. BGx and Death Shadow strategies.

Reclamation Sage is a faster version of Qasali Pridemage and a nice option against Hollow One’s fastest draws.

Anafenza, the Foremost provides graveyard hate, trades with Hollow One, and is out of Bolt range.

Pharika, God of Affliction was nice against Death Shadow a long time ago.  I don’t forget. 😀

Summary

This is my current decklist with sideboard:


Laplasjan’s Abzan Company Decklist (May 2018)

Creature (30)
Birds of Paradise
Noble Hierarch
Viscera Seer
Devoted Druid
Duskwatch Recruiter
Scavenging Ooze
Vizier of Remedies
Eternal Witness
Kitchen Finks
Renegade Rallier
Walking Ballista

Instant (8)
Chord of Calling
Collected Company

Land (22)
Windswept Heath
Wooded Foothills
Verdant Catacombs
Forest
Plains
Swamp
Gavony Township
Horizon Canopy
Overgrown Tomb
Temple Garden
Sideboard (15)
Path to Exile
Abrupt Decay
Kataki, War’s Wage
Qasali Pridemage
Scavenging Ooze
Voice of Resurgence
Brimaz, King of Oreskos
Eidolon of Rhetoric
Sin Collector


How to Sideboard

Humans

Pre-board games are often decided by Reflector Mage. He put us back two turns which can be difficult to overcome. Sometimes it’s better to sacrifice one Devoted Druid by putting -1/-1 counters on it instead of getting it bounced by Reflector Mage (especially if we have second copy in hand).  I think we are still favored, however.  We have lots of different ways to put combo creature pieces into play make us resilient to Meddling Mage. Also, lifegain and blockers on the ground give the time needed to go off. Post-sideboard, be prepared for Grafdigger’s Cage and Izzet Staticaster.  After boarding, the longer the game goes, the smaller are our chances to win. Gavony Township very rarely matters against Humans.

  • In: 3 Path to Exile, 3 Abrupt Decay, 1 Qasali Pridemage
  • Out: 1 Gavony Township, 1 Scavenging Ooze, 3 Kitchen Finks, 2 Collected Company

Jeskai Control

Our chances to combo off are very small, but it happens. Usually, the games we win are focused around looped Company into Witness plus Gavony Township. Post-sideboard, we have more options to go the value route. All games are usually very long and skill intensive. Overall, I think we are a bit favored because our creatures are good in one-for-one exchanges. Pack more Path to Exile if your opponent is playing the more creature heavy version of the deck (with Spell Quellers, etc). One copy is enough for Celestial Collonade or Vendilion Clique that might come from sideboard in the more ‘draw-go’ versions. 

  • In: 1 Path to Exile, 3 Abrupt Decay, 1 Scavenging Ooze, 1 Qasali Pridemage, 2 Voice of Resurgence, 1 Brimaz, King of Oreskos, 2 Sin Collector
  • Out: 1 Viscera Seer, 4 Vizier of Remedies, 3 Devoted Druid, 3 Chord of Calling

Affinity

This matchup is all about speed, and because of this, hands with no one-drop or Druid are almost auto-mulligans. If they have a fast start that includes Galvanic Blast, we are probably dead but our combo has the potential to go faster than they do. With proper sideboard, we are highly favored to win the whole match.  

  • In: 3 Path to Exile, 3 Abrupt Decay, 1 Kataki, War’s Wage, 1 Qasali Pridemage
  • Out: 1 Gavony Township, 1 Vizier of Remedies, 1 Scavenging Ooze, 3 Kitchen Finks, 2 Collected Company

BR Hollow One

I don’t think we are favored to win this one (maybe its even but I’m not sure). With its crazy fast draws, it seems like nobody can beat Hollow One. Right now, my strategy is to go value with some small window to combo off. More and more people play some copies of Grim Lavamancer and Collective Brutality in their sideboard.  That paired with Lightning Bolt is hard for us to overcome by combo. Unfortunately, it is difficult to say what our opponent has in side. Definitely both options (combo or value) are reasonable.

  • In: 3 Path to Exile, 3 Abrupt Decay, 1 Scavenging Ooze, 1 Qasali Pridemage, 2 Voice of Resurgence, 1 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
  • Out: 1 Viscera Seer, 3 Vizier of Remedies, 2 Devoted Druid, 4 Chord of Calling, 1 Walking Ballista 

Jund

The Jund match-up during game one is usually around 50-50 and it tends to improve after sideboard. The biggest problems pre-sideboard are Liliana, the Last Hope and Scavenging Ooze. Combo happens more often than against Jeskai Control, but we’ll side it out anyway. We face no counterspells and Liliana of the Veil is weak in this match-up. The most tricky thing is when to kill Dark Confidant. Sometimes we have to turn the game around and attack instead of going combo. Confidant can be our best ally in those cases.  

In: 3 Path to Exile, 3 Abrupt Decay, 1 Scavenging Ooze, 1 Qasali Pridemage, 2 Voice of Resurgence, 1 Brimaz, King of Oreskos, 2 Sin Collector

Out: 1 Viscera Seer, 4 Vizier of Remedies, 3 Devoted Druid, 4 Chord of Calling, 1 Walking Ballista

Mardu Pyromancer

Unanswered Young Pyromancer is hard to overpower and having only one Walking Ballista in the main puts us a bit behind from the start. Fortunately, like in Jeskai’s case, our creatures usually like to trade one-for-one. Aggressive discard openings turning into a topdeck game can favor us as well. With proper sideboard (which I think we have made) this can be a favorable match for us. Go for your basics early and be ready for a long, grindy game.

In: 3 Path to Exile, 3 Abrupt Decay, 1 Scavenging Ooze, 1 Qasali Pridemage, 2 Voice of Resurgence, 1 Brimaz, King of Oreskos, 2 Sin Collector

Out: 1 Viscera Seer, 4 Vizier of Remedies, 4 Devoted Druid, 4 Chord of Calling

Burn

Rumor has it, well everybody “knows that”, with four Kitchen Finks in main, the Burn matchup has to be great. It’s not true. We almost never combo off here.  Searing Blaze (four copies in the main) is always six damage for two mana and Eidolon of the Great Revel punishes almost all our spells. This matchup is really dangerous and don’t be shocked when you loose 0-2 a couple of times. Of course, we have our good draws (Birds – Finks – Company) but they have their good draws as well (Guide – Eidolon – Searing Blaze). This matchup can be very close so pay attention to every point of life. When Burn decks rise in popularity I will play one to two Kor Firewalker in sideboard.  

  • In: 3 Path to Exile, 3 Abrupt Decay, 1 Scavenging Ooze, 1 Qasali Pridemage, 2 Voice of Resurgence, 2 Sin Collector
  • Out: 3 Vizier of Remedies, 4 Devoted Druid, 1 Duskwatch Recruiter, 3 Chord of Calling, 1 Walking Ballista

Gx Tron

I’ve been writing about good and 50-50 matchups. Well, we’re due for a bad one. We are not favored and with no fast start, we are sure to lose. Side properly to destroy Grafdigger’s Cage and Pithing Needle. I tried a Fulminator Mage package but it has to take at least three slots to be effective and its not spectacular anyways. Still, we have to find our combo while slowing them down, and that doesn’t always work.

In: 3 Abrupt Decay, 1 Qasali Pridemage, 2 Sin Collector

Out: 1 Gavony Township, 1 Scavenging Ooze, 4 Kitchen Finks

So this is it. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading. I’ll be waiting for any feedback from you 😉 If you test this list by yourself and have any question/comments to this content – don’t hesitate write to me!

-Laplasjan

Discussion