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Much Abrew: Izzet Nabanamonicon (Modern)

Hello, everyone! Welcome to another episode of Much Abrew About Nothing. As you probably know, there's nothing I enjoy more in Magic than Panharmonicon decks, and while decks featuring Panharmonicon itself are great, this love extends to the rest of the Panharmonicon family as well, including cards like Yarok, the Desecrated and Naban, Dean of Iteration. As such, when someone managed to 5-0 a Modern league with a Naban, Dean of Iteration deck, I just had to give it a shot! So today, we're trying out Izzet Nabanamonicon, a deck looking to use Naban to double up the enters-the-battlefield triggers of Wizards like Sea Gate Stormcaller and Snapcaster Mage (along with a bunch of utility Wizards) to copy and recast cheap spells like Opt, Lightning Bolt, and Boomerang in order to generate absurd amounts of value. Is Naban, Dean of Iteration finally playable in Modern? What cool tricks can the deck pull off? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Much Abrew: Izzet Nabanamonicon

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  • Honestly, I'm not sure what to say about Nabanamonicon. We know someone managed to win with the deck because only decks that go 5-0 in a league get published by Wizards, but our experience with Nabanamonicon was decidedly not great. Not only did we 0-5 a league, but I also played a bunch of additional matches with the deck trying to figure out what was going wrong or hoping that our luck might change and lost all of those too. Record-wise, Nabanamonicon is on the short list of the worst decks we've ever played on Much Abrew. If there is something obvious I was doing wrong, make sure to let me know in the comments. While the deck almost certainly isn't as good as its 5-0 finish would suggest, it's also almost certainly not as bad as it looked today.
  • While we didn't do much winning, we did do a couple of cool things, including hitting our opponent for 15 with a single copy of Lightning Bolt thanks to the combo of Naban, Dean of Iteration and Sea Gate Stormcaller!
  • So, what is Nabanamonicon trying to do? As far as I can tell, the main goal is to get a Aether Vial on two so we can cheat cards like Naban, Dean of Iteration, Sea Gate Stormcaller, and Snapcaster Mage into play for free. With a Naban out, both Sea Gate Stormcaller and Snapcaster Mage double trigger, with Stormcaller giving us three copies of a cheap instant or sorcery like Lightning Bolt, Opt, Manamorphose, or Boomerang, while Snapcaster Mage can flash back two spells from our graveyard. 
  • Aether Vial might be the most important card in the deck. Naban, Dean of Iteration dies to everything, so being able to cheat it into play with Aether Vial and immediately follow it up with an enters-the-battlefield Wizard to get at least some value before Naban dies is important. It's also hard to have enough mana to cast cards like Sea Gate Stormcaller and Snapcaster Mage and the spells they allow us to copy or flash back without Aether Vial as weird ramp.
  • The deck has some really cool synergies, although in our experience, they don't actually come up all that often. For example, with a Naban out, we can play a Sea Gate Stormcaller and follow it up with Manamorphose to draw three cards and make six mana, hopefully giving us more things to have a weird, pseudo-Storm-style combo turn. We can also use the same trick to bounce all of our opponent's lands with Boomerang or deal a ton of damage with Lightning Bolt.
  • There are some sweet synergies with our utility Wizards as well. Watcher for Tomorrow is our main card-draw Wizard, potentially giving us two cards with hideaway if we have Naban, Dean of Iteration on the battlefield. The problem is that we need Watcher for Tomorrow to leave the battlefield to get the cards. Thankfully, we can use Barrin, Tolarian Archmage or Venser, Shaper Savant to bounce our own Watcher for Tomorrow (and if we have Naban, something else too) to speed up the process. Then, we can cast Watcher for Tomorrow again to repeat the process. Even just casting Venser, Shaper Savant with a Naban out is pretty powerful since we can bounce one of our opponent's spells or permanents and then use the second Venser, Shaper Savant trigger to bounce Venser back to our hand to do it again the next turn!
  • So, why did a deck with tons of sweet tricks and synergies fail so hard? I think there were two major issues. First and foremost, Naban, Dean of Iteration dies a lot, and our deck is pretty underpowered without a Naban on the battlefield to double up our Wizard enters-the-battlefield triggers. Second, our creatures are really small, which makes it really difficult to win the game fairly (i.e. when we don't have a crazy spell-copying turn with Naban and Sea Gate Stormcaller or Snapcaster Mage). 
  • The other issue with the deck is it can get some really clunky draws because the deck itself is sort of pulled in two different directions. We need enough creatures (specifically Wizards with enters-the-battlefield triggers) to make cards like Naban, Dean of Iteration and Aether Vial good, but we also need enough spells to make Snapcaster Mage and Sea Gate Stormcaller good. We had quite a few games where we drew a bunch of Snapcasters and Stormcallers but didn't have enough spells to really do anything important with them and other games where we'd have Naban or multiple Aether Vials but a handful of spells. 
  • So, how did someone manage to go 5-0 with Nabanamonicon? My guess is some combination of hitting the right matchups (decks with a lot of creatures that die to Lightning Bolt) and also running well. 
  • Is it possible to fix the deck? I'm actually not 100% sure. While the combo turns are really sweet, the deck in its current form is too underpowered and inconsistent, thanks to its weird split of creatures-matter cards and spells-matter cards. It might be worth focusing more on the creature-based plan by adding cards like Merfolk Trickster and Reflector Mage and use the possibility of copying a Lightning Bolt a bunch of times with Sea Gate Stormcaller and Naban as a backup plan. The other possibility is to focus more on the spell plan and play cards like Wizard's Lightning, turning the deck into more of an 8 Snap Wizard Burn deck (which does sound pretty sweet), although I'm not sure Naban, Dean of Iteration would be good enough for the deck if we cut creatures for more spells.
  • So, should you play Izzet Nabanamonicon in Modern? I think the answer is pretty clearly no. While the deck likely isn't as bad as it looked today, it's probably not all that good either. On the other hand, Naban, Dean of Iteration is a sweet card, and it is powerful when it sticks on the battlefield. Plus, it's a Panharmonicon! If you have some other ideas of how to build around Naban in Modern, make sure to let me know in the comments. Maybe we can come up with a sweet Modern Naban build (that can maybe even win a match or two) and revisit Naban again in the future.


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

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