Deck Tech: Pedro Carvalho's Abzan

Posted in GRAND PRIX SÃO PAULO 2015 on May 3, 2015

By Frank Karsten

Pedro Carvalho is a 27-year-old part-time lawyer and part-time Magic player from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and he showed up with an interesting tweak on Abzan Aggro this weekend. Carvalho has a Top 8 finish at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica and two Grand Prix Top 8s to his name, and I always respect his opinion on aggro decks.

Pedro Carvalho is playing maindeck Den Protector.

For this event in particular, he had a good reason to test a lot: two Pro Tour money finishes left him with only 17 pro points on the season, and a good performance here could give him the 3 points he needs to qualify for Pro Tour Magic Origins in Vancouver. At an 8-2 record so far, he's still in the running.

This is his list:

Pedro Carvalho's Abzan Aggro – Grand Prix Sao Paulo 2015

Download Arena Decklist

Abzan Aggro has been around for a while, and the curve of Fleecemane Lion into Anafenza, the Foremost into Siege Rhino remains as strong as always, especially if you follow up that curve with 1-2 removal spells. "You can overpower almost everyone if you draw your mana correctly," Carvalho said. "The mana is not great, but the cards are powerful, and you want to play powerful spells in this kind of format."

I sat down with Carvalho to ask him a few questions about his build.

Frank: Why did you end up choosing Abzan Aggro this weekend?

"I wanted to play an aggro deck because I don't want to get draws with Esper Dragons. I started by spending a week losing on Magic Online with Mono-Red. I tried every possible combination of colors and three-drops, but I just couldn't beat Siege Rhino, Dromoka's Command, and Drown in Sorrow, at least not all of them at the same time. So I had to switch, and Abzan Aggro is the next-best aggro deck."

Frank: Maindeck Den Protector is unusual. Can you explain that inclusion?

"Den Protector is actually a good 2-drop in the deck," Carvalho answered. "It trades with other 2-drops, it works well with pumps from Anafenza and Abzan Charm, and you can attack over Satyr Wayfinder and 1/1 tokens. It can also save your Anafenza from Foul-Tongue Invocation. It's great in the late-game, but the eye opener was how good it was on turn two."

"Another thing to remember is the evasion. It's a key aspect of the card and can give you an out to Elspeth, Sun's Champion. Instead of getting back Hero's Downfall back from the graveyard, you can now get Abzan Charm, put two counters on Den Protector, and attack the Elspeth for five."

Frank: Did you consider Deathmist Raptor to go along with the Den Protector?

"I did, but I really wanted Anafenza as my three-drop because it's great against other people's Deathmist Raptors, and I couldn't cut anything else."

Frank: The Abzan colors are filled with a lot of efficient spot removal spells. How did you arrive at the mix in your deck?

"I hate Ultimate Price, but you have so many tap-lands that you need some cards that you can play on turn two. I would like to have 3 Dromoka's Command, but sometimes you end up with multiples in hand and no creatures in play, and I wanted to reduce that risk."

"I also have 3 Hero's Downfall. I didn't expect a lot of Esper, so I don't worry too much about dead cards. I could run 4 Abzan Charm and 2 Downfall, of course, but then I would be weaker to Mono-Red and Stormbreath Dragon. It's hard to make those choices, but I had to make a meta-call and compromise."

Frank: Your sideboard includes Wingmate Roc and Sorin, Solemn Visitor–two cards that are frequently seen in the maindeck. Why did you put them in your sideboard?

"Wingmate Roc is great against any build of Abzan, especially against versions with Elspeth and Deathmist Raptor. However, it sucks against Esper Dragons, so I didn't want it maindeck. As for Sorin: I didn't know what to cut. So I just have them in the board to put in against control decks and Mono-Red."

If you've been working on an Abzan Aggro deck yourself, Carvalho's build is a great source for ideas!