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Against the Odds: Can 2015 Abzan Compete in 2022 Modern ? | The Ghost of Modern's Past


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 317 of Against the Odds. It's New Year's Eve 2014. The calendar is about to flip to 2015. Tarmogoyf costs $200. Siege Rhino was just printed and is all the rage in Modern. Sets like Modern Horizons and Modern Horizons 2 are unthinkable. UW Control is finishing the game with Consecrated Sphinx and Sphinx's Revelation. You finish 5-0'ing a Modern league with your trusty Junk deck; then, on your way to bed, you somehow manage to stumble into a time machine like Fry from Futurama. You wake up on New Years' morning but quickly realize something is amiss. Rather than being 2015, you somehow jumped forward in time to 2022. Whatever. You roll out of bed and fire up another Modern league. Your playset of Siege Rhino is all but assured to lead you to a strong finish...or is it? Your opponents' decks are way different than they were last night. Monkeys are everywhere. Everyone is playing this weird two-mana planeswalker that isn't Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded. You die to someone free-equipping a Colossus Hammer on Turn 2. Can your 2015 Junk pile still compete? Let's get to the video and find out in today's Against the Odds; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: 2015 Junk

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The Deck

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Lately, I've been reflecting on the state of Modern and how much the format has increased in power over the past couple of years thanks to power creep in Standard and various Modern Horizons sets. In celebration of the holiday season, I decided this was the perfect time to see just how much for format has changed over the past seven years by playing a literal 2015 Modern deck. Basically, we're playing the role of the ghost of Modern's past in our own Magic-themed version of A Christmas Carol

The concept is simple: you're IEP_Iceman. It's New Year's Eve 2014. You 5-0 a Modern league with Junk Siege Rhino. (Why specifically 2015 Junk, you ask? Two reasons: First, I'll take any chance I get to play Siege Rhino. Second, it was pretty much the only legit tier one Modern deck from its era that had not been severely nerfed with bannings. At the time, Birthing Pod, Splinter Twin, and Affinity with Mox Opal were at the top of the meta, and none of those decks really exists anymore in Modern thanks to bannings, discounting Affinity's recent MH2-fueled resurgence.) You decide to head off to bed and call it a year. (This part is all true, by the way—our deck did 5-0 a Modern league on New Year's Eve 2014 in the hands of IEP_Iceman.) You fall into a time machine like Fry in Futurama does, and when you wake up the next morning, it's almost exactly seven years later, with the calender about to flip to 2022. You jump into a Modern league. Can your Putrefys and Siege Rhinos keep up with 2022 Modern? 

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The answer to this question seems to be sort of, depending on the matchup. I played a bunch of matches with 2015 Junk and ended up going 3-4 overall—not a great record but also not a complete and total disaster. The deck felt pretty solid in some matchups (like playing against other midrange piles like Saga Jund), while it felt like we had almost zero chance in others (like against Hammer Time). Our removal spells are hilariously bad compared to Unholy Heat, Fatal Push, Assassin's Trophy, and friends (we're playing main-deck Putrefy, which is the most 2015 thing I've ever seen), but we've still got some halfway decent cards in our deck. While cards like Siege Rhino and Scavenging Ooze aren't Modern staples like they were in 2015, they aren't horrible. Plus, our mana and discard are still pretty much up to 2022 standards.

I wouldn't say that 2015 Abzan is stone unplayable in 2022 Modern, but it did feel like our Abzan deck was pretty Against the Odds, which, in and of itself, is pretty shocking. In 2015, Junk / Abzan was one of the best decks in the Modern meta. Seven years later, it's an Against the Odds deck. It had the ability to win games when things went well or in the right matchup, but it didn't feel like it could really compete at the highest levels of the format.

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However, I did learn a couple of things from playing the deck. For one thing, having a bunch of creaturelands in our mana base felt strong. People have mostly moved away from creaturelands in favor of things like Urza's Saga and other utility lands, but our 2015 Treetop Village tech won us a bunch of games. On the other hand, I was shocked at how easy it was for 2015 decks to flood out. In 2022, it seems like every card is two cards or can snowball into infinite cards. In 2015, you actually ran out of action. You played your hand and eventually entered top-deck mode, where you would hope for the best. In a lot of our matches, it felt like we ran out of cards and our opponent didn't. With cards like Teferi, Time Raveler, Urza's Saga, Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, Omnath, Locus of Creation, Lurrus of the Dream-Den, and friends, it's really, really hard to wind up in a position where you have nothing to do and are at the mercy of the top of your deck. With 2015 Abzan, we were in that position in most games. 

I think our experience today clearly shows that the idea your Modern deck will survive for years and years mostly unchanged is a thing of the past. While our build today was from 2015, I expect that you could play a 2017 or 2018 Modern deck (anything pre–Modern Horizons) and have a similar experience. In some sense, Modern is a rotating format now. If I wanted to play Abzan Siege Rhino today, I'd need to spend $77 on a playset of Esper Sentinel, another $225 on Stoneforge Mystic and an equipment package, $150 on three copies of Solitude, and $114 for some Endurances for the sideboard, along with some scattered dollars to upgrade the removal spells to Assassin's Trophy, Kaya's Guile, Fatal Push, and Prismatic Ending. Plus, my playset of Tarmogoyf is now just $100, after I spent $800 on it back in 2015. Basically, I might as well just build an entirely new deck. 

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So, what can we do in this ever-changing world of Modern? The best solution is probably what Fry does in Futurama: embrace it. It's not like there's any other choice. If you end up 1,000 years in the future; everything is weird, different, and expensive; and everything you thought you knew is wrong, what else can you do but have as much fun as you can exploring this strange and exciting new world? That's the only option, and while there will certainly be things you like better about your old world, with time, you might find that the new one has some advantages too.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. Happy holidays, everyone! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.



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