One card that I think I overlooked in my Pro Tour testing is Rakshasa Deathdealer. I felt like a lot of the value in this card came from the fact that the opponent wouldn't want to block it early, so I felt like it only fit in an aggressive deck. All the aggressive decks we built ended up being too aggressive for this card, focusing on 2/1s for one, which lacked any staying power at all. Rakshasa Deathdealer is perfect for decks that want to come out aggressively, but play creatures that will still be relevant later in the game, which Abzan is perfectly positioned for, especially when pairing this card with Fleecemane Lion as Mike Sigrist did at Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir. I like his deck a lot on paper, so I wanted to try it out for myself. I'm playing his list exactly as he played it.
- 4 Fleecemane Lion
- 2 Heir of the Wilds
- 4 Rakshasa Deathdealer
- 4 Siege Rhino
- 4 Herald of Torment
- 3 Anafenza, the Foremost
This was basically just an embarrassing showing by the Jeskai Ascendancy deck. I understand keeping a hand with Sylvan Caryatid and Jeskai Asendancy in game 2 even if you're flooded with creatures, but my opponent certainly got unlucky in trying to draw out of it.
Game 1 demonstrated how far ahead the player with mana acceleration can get in this matchup, as I really couldn't keep up or compete with Wingmate Roc ahead of schedule. The next game, I would claim as arguably a triumph for the higher threat density, as my opponent Thoughtseized me a couple times but then died to what I had left. I wonder if Abzan with mana accelerants should side out Thoughtseize, as trading isn't what it's trying to do--it's trying to trump. I would take them out, but I might be overreacting to a difference in position rather than just trying to play the best cards. The third game was close, and while I could answer the Elspeth and felt like I was still in good shape, the interaction between that and Sorin was just a little bit too much for me.
Anafenza, the Foremost was incredible against Sidisi, Brood Tyrant, which was actually one of the interactions that pushed me away from trying more dedicated Sidisi decks, even if Anafenza didn't get played all that much. Failing to bring in Erase was a giant blunder, but Rakshasa Deathdealer's ability to grind through Hornet Queen was really impressive here.
Hushwing Gryff was very impressive in that match. I think these R/W decks are underpowered, and get most of their wins from the opponent not knowing how to properly play or sideboard against them due to how seamlessly they can switch gears between aggro and control. I think I should have treated my opponent as more of an aggro deck with planeswalkers, but not a ton of pressure and focused on just trading as much as possible and then winning a lategame because my cards are more powerful on average. Drown in Sorrow would have been the most important card to include that I left out toward doing this.
All in all, the deck felt pretty good. I didn't feel outmatched by the bigger Abzan deck because I had strengths I could push, like higher threat density, and I generally felt like my spells were powerful and versatile.