Abzan Persist Combo in Modern
Deciding what deck to play for this week’s article, I was disappointed to find a lack of potentially Easter-related decks in my backlog. Eggs is a bit too established for me to want to take it for a spin, and there aren’t exactly a critical mass of bunnies in Magic. So, being oblivious, I decided to take good old junk persist for a spin. In fact, it wasn’t until I was thinking of how to start this article just moments ago that I realized there actually is a connection between Easter and this deck: resurrection. So uh...go me? This week’s deck is one I brewed up a month or so ago, and it’s a pretty weird one that uses some top-tier spice. Let’s take a look at what the deck looks like.
If I’m being honest, there are a few things I would change in this deck if I really wanted to do well at FNM, but as it stands now, I think it’ll fare decently at any not-overly-competitive LGS, but we’ll touch more on that in a bit. This deck utilizes the interaction between our signature two-drops with persist to keep recurring creatures as much as we want. Melira, Sylvok Outcast and Vizier of Remedies have both seen Modern play. Melira for her use in the exact combo this deck uses, and vizier to make infinite mana with Devoted Druid. These serve the exact same purpose in our deck, however, in allowing our persist creatures to return from the graveyard over and over again, since they’ll return to the battlefield without their -1/-1 counters. Birds of Paradise helps us ramp into our top-end of Collected Company, and mana fixes for Murderous Redcap. It also allows us to get out Finks a turn early, which can be crucial at times.
Bloodthrone Vampire and Viscera Seer give us free sacrifice outlets, with Bloodthrone being able to become an unstoppable threat, and Seer being able to dig for other pieces of our combo, removal, or anything else we might need at the time. Safehold Elite gives us a persist bear, which is good as an early-game creature, blocker, and can go infinite with one of our counter bears (Melira and Vizier) and a sac outlet. The main reason these are here is for a critical mass of persist creatures to combo with. Kitchen Finks is a card we’re never sad to see, since it gains us life, blocks twice, and allows us to pull off the infinite life combo. It can even be hit off of a Collected Company! Murderous Redcap is similar to finks, with the exception that we are sometimes sad to see it. However, Redcap is our top-end, and will finish the game on the spot if we have the rest of the combo out.
Our spells are absolutely fantastic here, with Collected Company being able to fetch out most of our combo pieces, with the exception of Redcap. Fatal Push is just generally a fantastic removal spell, as is Path to Exile. The spiciest bit of our spells comes from Claim // Fame, which can help fight against our opponent’s removal. While it can’t get back Finks or Redcap, it can get the other parts of our combo in Melira, Vizier, Seer, and Bloodthrone Vampire, which makes it a pretty nice addition. The Fame half of the card isn’t used too much, but we are able to cast it thanks to Birds of Paradise. Our manabase here is pretty straightforward, with a basic fetch/shock manabase, and a one-of Horizon Canopy to help for when we run out of cards.
The sideboard is probably where I’m most hesitant in this deck, since it’s graveyard based, which means we need to worry about our opponent’s strategy as well as what they’re going to do to stop ours. We have Relic of Progenitus as our graveyard hate of choice, since it allows us to have a more controlled burst than Rest in Peace, and we can use it in a way that it only hurts our opponent. I could also see a case being made for Nihil Spellbomb here, since it has a similar effect at a different cost. Gaddock Teeg is here to help deal with Tron and control, shutting off Karn, Cryptic Command, and every boardwipe in the format. This also gives us some incidental hate against Kiki-Chord and Lantern, since it shuts down Chord of Calling and Whir of Invention. Reclamation Sage and Stony Silence help against Affinity and Lantern, and Sage can even take out Blood Moon or other problematic enchantments. Wear // Tear is mostly here to give us an instant-speed answer to enchantments, but it can also be useful against artifact decks with Birds of Paradise. Field of Ruin is another card to help shore up the Tron matchup, and also helps against miscellaneous greedy manabases. Finally, we have some discard in the sideboard in the form of Inquisition of Kozilek, Thoughtseize, and Collective Brutality. The first two are helpful primarily against combo, where Brutality can pull through against a variety of decks, and is a pain for burn.
As long as you have a Viscera Seer on the battlefield, your opponent’s spot removal should never resolve. When your opponent targets a creature, sacrifice it to Seer’s ability. This will get you a scry out of the deal, and will negate any other effects the spell might have had, such as the “gain 3 life” clause on Lightning Helix.
A sac outlet + Melira or Vizier + a persist creature means that the persist creature has pseudo-indestructible and pseudo-vigilance, since dying results in the creature coming back, and sacrificing the creature will bring it back untapped to block.
Seer + Melira or Vizier + a persist creature will get you infinite scry 1, which means you can set up the top card of your deck. This is especially useful when you have four mana available and you’re ready to go for the Redcap combo.
In a pinch, if you don’t have a sacrifice outlet, you can use Fatal Push on your own creature to bring it back untapped, and in the case of Finks or Redcap, get a little bonus.
Collective Brutality goes nicely with Claim, since you can pitch a small creature for a bonus effect, and then reanimate it.
Originally I had Puppeteer Clique in this deck, but against most decks it doesn’t do enough. However, I can see plenty of decks where stealing your opponent’s entire graveyard is useful, and getting a 3/2 flier to go with it isn’t too shabby either.
Black Sun’s Zenith is a one-sided boardwipe with Melira out, and is at least less potent against you with a Vizier.
Blood Artist can be good for a more aristocrat-style focus, and allows you to win with any persist creature rather than just Redcap.
Reveillark is a fantastic card, and can get back most creatures in the deck.
Grave Pact and Dictate of Erebos are hilarious ways to clear the board, since the odds are high that you’ll be able to sacrifice more than your opponent has.
Rally the Ancestors can give you a combo out of thin air, allowing you to win at instant speed if you have the combo pieces split between your graveyard and your battlefield.
Mikaeus, the Unhallowed can protect you from random creatures, buffs the team, randomly hoses humans, and interacts very well with persist, giving you a six-mana, beefed-up Melira.
Worship gives us a bit of a random creature hoser, stopping our opponent from killing us as long as we can keep a creature out. Admittedly, we’re not as good at this as Troll Worship, but it’s still something the deck is capable of supporting.
Pithing Needle would be a great catch-all sideboard answer, hitting Jace, Liliana, and a smattering of other random cards.
This might be better as a Chord of Calling deck rather than a Collected Company deck. I haven’t tested it that way yet, but Chord certainly seems strong here.
Claim // Fame might be better off as more removal or threats, since sometimes it will be a dead card.
Renegade Rallier is extremely easy to trigger between our sacrifice outlets and fetches, and can get us back the last combo piece we need to win. It also serves as a decent blocker, and can ramp us up.
Another Horizon Canopy sounds fantastic here. We’re hellbent far too often with this deck, and the extra card draw is always welcome.
Junk persist, while not necessarily being the strongest deck I’ve played, is definitely just as fun as any other. Some of the interactions will be all too familiar to former Pod players, while leaving newer players just a little bit confused for a moment. Finks is always a blast to play with, and the combo potential is a wonderful thing to have in your pocket. And while comboing is great, the deck can still just win off of its creatures swing in. Overall, Junk Persist is an exciting deck that just needs a tiny bit of tweaking to help it compete at FNM, and has a lot of fun potential additions to mess around with. Take it for a spin, and hunt for the version that works best for you!
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