Abzan Maverick: A 2023 Update on the Archetype

Abzan Maverick: Green-White-Black

Table of Contents

What is Abzan Maverick?
Abzan Maverick Gameplay
What’s the reason to splash black in Maverick?
Cards currently being tested out in Abzan Maverick
What’s a good starting build for Abzan Maverick?
What to look for in an opening hand with Abzan Maverick
Abzan Maverick’s History
Abzan Maverick FAQ
Best performances by Abzan Maverick
Other Resources

What is Abzan Maverick?

Abzan Maverick (also referred to as Junk or Dark) is one of Maverick’s most popular archetypes, splashing black for powerful removal pieces and early interaction via hand disruption.

The height of Abzan builds was during the Deathrite Shaman era, resulting in a top 8 finish at GP Seattle by Miranda Keith.

The deck typically has a strong matchup against other creature strategies (thanks to the amount of removal) yet still has some issues against fast combo.

Abzan Maverick gameplay

Top Finishes for Abzan Maverick in 2023

July 29th | 9th Place Legacy Challenge | Harry1232
July 23rd | 3rd Place Legacy Challenge | Harry1232
June 2nd | 12th Place Super Qualifier | Harry1232
March 18th | 1st Place Legacy Challenge | DNEELEY
February 12th | 10th Place Legacy Challenge | Harry1232

What’s the reason to splash black in Maverick?

Reasons for splashing black have changed over the years, from Zealous Persecution and Thoughtseize, to Abrupt Decay and powerful planeswalkers in Kaya and Vraska.

In 2023, there are 3 main reasons to splash black in Maverick in my eyes.

Grist, the Hunger Tide 

Grist, the Hunger Tide

Grist is a unique planeswalker as it’s a creature in all zones other than on the battlefield. This means you can Green Sun’s Zenith for it and also play it for 3 mana even when non-creature taxing effects like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben are in play.

Grist also gives you an outlet to turn non-relevant creatures into removal spells. Take for instant Collector Ouphe against Elves. Typically a vanilla 2/2 in this matchup, Ouphe can now can be traded for an opposing, key creature.

Grist works very well with Sylvan Library, allowing you to set up the top of the deck so you have full control over what gets milled into the graveyard.

It’s important to note you CAN find Grist through a Containment Priest as it’s not considered a creature once in play.

Plague Engineer

Plague Engineer is a great way to take down go-wide strategies like Goblins and Elves. Although these archetypes have been able to insulate themselves over the past few years with printings such such as Rundvelt Hordemaster or Leaf-Crowned Visionary, Engineer can still be very effective.

Although Plague Engineer cannot be found off Green Sun’s Zenith, you can dig for it via Once Upon a Time and tutor for it in a Fiend Artisan build.

Plague Engineer is also a very clean way of dealing with Mother of Runes. No longer are you in a rush to find spot removal before Mother comes online, as you can now sweep her off the field in future turns.

True-Name Nemesis doesn’t see as much play as it once did in Legacy, but Plague Engineer is still a great way to keep them from stalling or owning the board.

Plague is just a great value play. For nuisance cards like Ice-Fang Coatl and Baleful Strix which replace themselves on entry, you often feel bad spending a removal spell on them. Not only is Engineer a clean way to get these creatures off the top, it typically takes a removal spell out of your opponents hand too.

Opposition Agent

Agent is a fantastic bullet against a variety of fair and non-fair matchups. Stoneforge Mystic, Recruiter of the Guard, Crop Rotation, Natural Order, Green Sun’s Zenith, Fiend-Artisan, Knight of the Reliquary, Elvish Reclaimer, Urza’s Saga, Infernal Tutor, Wishclaw Talisman, White-Plume Adventurer…the list goes on for search in Legacy. Did I mention Fetchlands?

Being a flash creature is also critical to surprise your opponent. Be aware against Wasteland decks like Maverick, Death & Taxes, Lands and Naya Depths when getting your black source early. Without being cautious, this may result in being cut off black at a critical time.

Fiend Artisan

Fiend Artisan has been popularised in Legacy by Elves master HelloNewton (if you’re not already following him on Twitch or Twitter I highly recommend it. Not only is his gameplay fantastic, you always come away from his streams having learnt something new), a close friend of the ‘Zenith and a founding father of the Sylvan Syndicate.

Fiend doesn’t necessarily have to be played in Abzan (as it can be cast for GG), but I’ve found most of the success with Fiend Artisan in Abzan Maverick.

Fiend is a powerful tutor as it can find any creature no matter its colour. It also fills the 2 CMC slot nicely and is a great GSZ tutor target for when you’re still not sure what to find.

Overall I’ve been really impressed by Artisan in Maverick with the testing I’ve done so far. My recommendations is having access to 1-2 Gaea’s Cradle (which can be off-putting for those on a budget) and between 10-12 1 drop creatures.

Just like Grist, Fiend can also recycle irrelevant creatures (Collector Ouphe vs Elves) into a very real threat (Plague Engineer for this example).

Additional Removal

 Abrupt Decay Snuff Out

Abrupt Decay hasn’t aged too well thanks to Prismatic Ending (another great reason to run 3 colours in Maverick) but does still see some light play from time to time.

Assassin’s Trophy is a similar removal spell that you sometimes see in sideboards but I wouldn’t say a staple piece of removal in the archetype. Some of the benefits of Trophy over Decay including hitting Murktide, Seasoned Dungeoneer, Minsc & Boo, Field of the Dead and Dark Depths to name a few.

Snuff Out is currently one of the best removal spells in Legacy thanks to UR Delver and Mono-W Initiative being on top of the metagame. In all honestly it could be up there with the top 3 cards in regards to why you should be playing Abzan right now.

Prismatic Ending

Prismatic Ending Prismatic Ending isn’t just a great reason to play Abzan Maverick, it’s a great reason to run more than 2 colours (alongside white) in Legacy.

Ending is exactly what you want in a removal spell – cheap and flexible.

Ending can be your answer to a turn 1 Aether Vial or Mother of Runes, a Sylvan Library, Grindstone, Planeswalker…the list goes on as it scales.

Believe it or not, it’s actually quite tough to fit Prismatic Ending into Maverick as the deck already has a fair amount of non-creature spells in the maindeck (Green Sun’s Zenith, Swords to Plowshares).

As the deck is built around the ability to tutor for specific creatures and lands, you don’t necessary want to make the room for more instant and sorcery speed spells. If you do run Prismatic Ending in Maverick, you tend to see it as a 2-of.

Additional Planeswalkers

Kaya, Orzhov Usurper Kaya, Ghost Assassin

Planeswalkers are still a viable strategy in Legacy as alternative ways (to creatures) to build on-board pressure. The bar has been raised over the past few years however, with ‘walkers that doesn’t produce an immediate benefit simply not making the cut.

All of the above planeswalkers have seen play across the past few years in winning lists and can be great ways to attack the metagame no matter what’s on top.

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Cards currently being tested out in Abzan Maverick

Tourach, Dread Cantor

Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler

Tyvar is the new ‘walker off the block that some players are currently testing out in Maverick. I ran through some of the applications of Tyvar in the deck which can be found in the video below.

Tourach, Dread Cantor

Tourach right now is respect for Mono-White Initiative and finding new ways to fight the deck post-board. Thankfully in testing, Tourach is also great vs UWx control.

Kicking Tourach isn’t too easy, but a 2/1 pro-white creature that can be saved from Karakas is pretty relevant in today’s metagame.

The idea behind Tourach is that against Initiative he is a 2/1 pro white and against UWx control he’s a 4 mana 4/3 ETB Hymn that you can bounce with karakas.

There are barely enough black sources to cast him but you will usually have enough time to find them against control decks. Even as a 2/1 and throwing an equipment on him is usually very hard for control decks to deal with” – Harry1232

The Most Dangerous Gamer

Attractions haven’t made a real impact in Legacy, but they are a unique way to form an advantage. Unlike the initiative or the crown, they cannot be stolen from your opponent.

Here’s an example of a really sweet list by Alex Rouw that not only takes advantage of attractions, but also the initiative AND the crown. They were able to take this list to a 2nd place finish at the Haarlem Magic Nights Legacy Qualifier in February 2023.

What’s a good starting build for Abzan Maverick?

Within Abzan you have a few different builds. A classic take on GWB, an Urza’s Saga build and another that might splash for initiative or attractions.

If I was building the deck in 2023, I’d look at a 75 similar to this by Harry1232. With Mono-W Initiative being the best stompy deck in Legacy, Blood Moon and mana-denial strategies aren’t seeing too much play. This means I’m happier to be trying out 3-colour builds that also include Urza’s Saga, a land that can just win games on its own.

Both Harry & Mark Strassman have been pioneering Urza’s Saga builds of Maverick and this take on Abzan is no different. This list has some obviously metagame calls (Tourarch in the sideboard) but that’s the benefit of Maverick’s flexibility.

Here’s a build of Abzan Maverick I’ve been working on with a focus on Fiend Artisan


What to look for in an opening hand with Abzan Maverick

Sadly like other versions of Maverick, once you have your opening hand you don’t have too many tools to quickly switch your strategy as easily as decks with cantrips. Green Sun’s Zenith and other tutors like Stoneforge or Knight of the Reliquary can allow this, but that’s generally done in the mid-late game and often too late.

Typically the basic questions when assessing a hand are;

  1. Can I cast my spells?
  2. Does this hand have a plan (What am I most likely doing on the first 3 turns)?
  3. Do I have a way to fight vs early combo?
  4. Do I have removal for an early threat?

Let’s look at some hands using the list above.

Hand 1

Great hand. We have multiple options on turn 1 in either mana acceleration, getting Mother of Runes online or removing an early threat / opposing mana acceleration.

We also have a threat in Knight of the Reliquary as early as turn 2, which can then tutor up Wasteland or Karakas if needed.

The Outland Liberator may be a dead card, but even as a 6 without it this is a fine keep.

This hand is a little weak to fast combo with Outland liberator potentially being relevant, but you have a fair amount of good draws off the top if you lead on the Hierarch (such as holding up Endurance).

Hand 2

Another great hand. You can accelerate into a turn 2 Grist and then turn your insects into real threats thanks to the Sword of Fire and Ice. Swords to Plowshares is very relevant at the moment with UR Delver and Initiative being top decks so it’s great to have a cheap piece of removal in our opening hand.

The Green Sun’s Zenith also gives you some flexibility on what you need as the game progresses, which when paired with mana acceleration is huge.

Hand 3

I would most likely mulligan this hand but there is some reason to keep. You have a strong plan in accelerate turn 1 into turn 2 Stoneforge Mystic (for Kaldra) and Wasteland, but another land or two off the top could cause you to just flood out.

Why would I drop this? Well this is pretty much a 5 card hand. The Dryad Arbor isn’t great in your hand and the Shadowspear can be fetched if needed by the Stoneforge Mystic. You don’t have a great plan for Delver or Initiative without Swords to Plowshares or protection for Stoneforge, and although Kaldra is a great clock vs combo, you need disruption alongside pressure.

Maverick mulligans pretty well, so going to 6 is most likely going to give you a nice clean hand with a strong strategy for the first few turns.

I want to give a huge shoutout to Moxfield and their built-in hand generator.

If you’re new to a deck like Maverick, a hand generator is a great way to understand opening hands and what you should be looking for. They also give you a solid take on the consistency of your deck and if you need to change things up like land count.

If you want to find the decklists I build for Maverick and other archetypes, find & follow me on Moxfield!

Abzan Maverick’s History

One of best ways to get a better understand of how Maverick has evolved over previous years is viewing old dech-techs. Here’s one with Jon Stern at GP New Jersey in 2014 and another blast from the past with Ari Lax’s deck tech on Abzan Maverick in 2018


Abzan Maverick FAQ

Is there a reason the deck was once referred to as Dark Maverick?

Other than the black splash being referred to as dark, one of the main reasons you might see Dark Maverick pop up was due to the builds featuring 4 Dark Confidants.

Why doesn’t Abrupt Decay see much play anymore?

Prismatic Ending is the big reason. The upside of using a 2 CMC spell to take out a 3 CMC permanent is outweighed by the flexibility of Prismatic Ending and its ability to trade with 1 CMC permanents for 1 mana. Prismatic also being able to trade with a 2 CMC threat for just GW is much easier than having to find a black source in your early turns.

Why doesn’t Thoughtseize see much play anymore?

You do see it pop up in sideboards from time to time, but I believe it’s a few things. Veil of Summer is a huge blowout if you’re on the draw against a combo deck. There’s also so many good cards in Legacy right now that Thoughtseize is mostly outclassed by the top of your opponents deck / rest of their hand).

By that I mean that you can Thoughtseize Dragon-Rage Channeler out of your opponents hand, but that still leaves the Delver in hand or doesn’t stop the potential second copy of DRC off the top.

You’re also spending a mana to trade 1:1 with your opponent when they haven’t. Typically against combo, the best turn 1 play right now is Deafening Silence.

What’s with the love for Snuff Out? Why is it seeing play?

In one word? Development. Snuff Out is a unique removal spell as it doesn’t cause issues where you can’t develop your mana early because you need to spend the turn casting Swords to Plowshares.

Snuff Out allows you to cast your mana dork or Mother of Runes while also removing an early threat. This is vital against decks like Mono-W Initiative and UR Delver due to the amount of value and protection they have for their threats.

There also aren’t too many black cards being played currently – Fiend Artisan, Griselbrand, Atraxa, Leovold and sideboard cards like Opposition Agent and Plague Engineer are currently the big names within the colour.

Has Plague Engineer taken the spot of Zealous Persecution?

ZP still has a home in Legacy, but obviously it’s hard to play it over Plague Engineer which for 1 additional mana comes with a 2/2 deathtouch body and keeps the effect around.

I’ve still enjoyed a split from time to time, especially against Elves where you can take out Insects (Wirewood Symbiote) and Dryads (Dryad Arbor) along with the x/1 Elves.

ZP has the added bonus of surprise, not only to remove threats but also in both combat phases.

Best performances by Abzan Maverick

#1 In 2018, Miranda Keith finished in the top 8 of GP Seattle with Abzan Maverick

For more recent finishes, here are some standout performances from 2022 with Abzan builds:

2022 | MTGO Legacy Challenge 10th Place | Harry1232
2022 | MTGO Legacy Challenge 9th Place | Harry1232
2022 | Swedish Nationals 1st Place | Gustav Bystedt
2022 | MTGO Legacy Challenge 2nd Place | DNEELEY
2022 | Buffalo Chicken Dip Legacy Open 10th Place | Juan Morales
2022 | SCG CON Baltimore – Legacy $5K 12th Place | Michael Mascilak

It wouldn’t be right to not include some of the decklists of Abzan Maverick pilots so enjoy!

Abzan Maverick by Carlos S

DarkMaverick by Carlos S

Abzan Maverick by Michael S

Abzan Maverick by Michael

Abzan Maverick by AlecInTheInk

If you’re looking for recent decklists check out the Maverick Discord alongside…

Other Resources

Maverick Discord

Abzan Maverick Dech-Tech: April, 2022

Legacy Challenge: Top 4 Report April, 2021