One of the things I enjoy most in Magic is brewing. I used to be the type of person who would only play brews at tournaments. Unfortunately, because I’ve started to care more about winning, I haven’t been able to play rogue decks anymore unless I am relatively confident that they are better than the less rogue options. Superstars had a great series of Standard tournaments packed into one weekend, and I was determined to find a brew that I thought was good enough for the current Standard to crush the upcoming 1ks and 5k.
Due to not having a lot of Standard cards on Magic Online, my main way to test these deck ideas was to just talk through them with people I trusted. The main person I rely on to evaluate brews is Wrapter. First of all, he is incredibly honest. He isn’t afraid to tell me my deck sucks; in fact, I think he enjoys it. In addition, he is very good at evaluating decks. He often finds holes in decks and can predict why it will be good or bad (mostly bad).
Here are some of the brews I came up with and Wrapter’s responses:
[15:54] Wrapter: and all your sh*tty other creatures
[15:55] Wrapter: are in fact sh*tty
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Darkslick Shores
2 Drowned Catacombs
x Inkmoth Nexus
[21:28] Matt Nass: if you bare minimum everything its 33 nonlands
[21:28] Matt Nass: doesnt this look sweet?
[21:29] Wrapter: no
Wrapter also failed to see the ingenuity in my Grand Architect Forgemaster deck that was basically Ali Aintrazi’s deck from the SCG open with Forgemaster and Tezzeret added. Then, I had the conversation. It contained words I hadn’t seen on a screen from Wrapter in a long time…
4:50] Wrapter: why would naya be a deck?
[14:50] Matt Nass: good stoneforge mystic deck
[14:50] Matt Nass: UW has trouble with fauna shaman
[14:51] Wrapter: yeah actually this sounds awesome
This … sounds … awesome… Wrapter doesn’t use those words very often. When he does, there’s usually a not or doesn’t somewhere in between. In fact, the last time I heard those words without a “doesn’t” was when I talked through an Extended Elves list with him, and we all know how that turned out.
I knew I had to play a deck with Fauna Shaman, Vengevine, and Stoneforge Mystic. The next step was figuring out what else belonged in the deck. I decided I couldn’t really play Naya or just Green White because there’s no real way to beat Valakut in those colors. I didn’t really consider Black as Blue offered better disruption (counters are better than discard against Valakut) and Jace. Here is my next conversation with Wrapter:
14 U (all turn one)
plus 1 anti-valakut
[11:14] Wrapter: sparkmage is going to ranch you
[11:14] Wrapter: you probably want 1 linvala
[11:14] Wrapter: and i would look to play a couple twisted images
[11:16] Matt Nass: do you think the deck has potential?
[11:16] Wrapter: yeah
[11:17] Wrapter: 3 Preordain is probably right
[11:18] Matt Nass: fine… ill play 4
[11:18] Matt Nass: -1 bonehoard +1 preordain
[11:29] Matt Nass: how good is B&M against caw go?
[11:31] Wrapter: worse than famine
[11:32] Matt Nass: but you’d snap board it in right?
[11:33] Wrapter: well you want 2 swords, yes
[11:34] Matt Nass: do you think sun titan would be good for returning offeringed swords?
[11:34] Wrapter: yeah
[11:37] Wrapter: cobra, baneslayer
[11:37] Wrapter: are your worst cards
[11:54] Matt Nass:
14 U (all turn one)
[11:56] Matt Nass: so does this look good?
[11:56] Wrapter: ya
Well, that was that. I had the Wrapter seal of approval. The deck had a bunch of things going for it. It was a Fauna Shaman Vengevine deck, and while it didn’t have super cheap creatures to return Vengevine, it did have a lot of them, and Squadron Hawks to keep the 4/3 hasters coming. It’s a Stoneforge Mystic Sword deck with more creatures to hold the equipment than Caw-Blade. It’s a Jace Gideon deck with acceleration and blockers to protect them. It’s even a Basilisk Collar Mortarpod deck for grinding out opposing creature decks. Overall, the deck does a lot of things, and does them all pretty well. All of these plans were great against Caw-Blade, giving the Bant deck a significant advantage in the mirror against either the Blue White version or the Blue White Red version.
Against Valakut, the deck only has minor disruption game one, but has access to four more hard counters in Flashfreeze post board. The one nice thing about the deck in the Valakut matchup is that it plays more Stoneforge Mystic than other Caw-Blade decks. A curve of turn two Fauna Shaman, turn three tutor, Stoneforge, turn four bring in Sword equip Fauna, attack gets you an active Sword on turn four.
Against aggro decks, the game one is rather weak. The deck is a tiny bit slow and often falls behind. Post board, you bring in a bunch of different anti-aggro tutor targets, and get to board out some of your weaker cards. I tend to win game 2 since I’m usually on the play, but game three is the tricky one. Overall, I consider Bant an underdog to Boros and Vampires, but not a huge one.
The manabase is one of the things I am most proud of about this list. It uses Stirring Wildwood instead of Celestial Colonnade because it is cheaper to activate (and thus more likely to be able to hold a Sword) and fits the manabase better. By having a green white tapland, all of your blue sources can be untapped while still having a relatively even number of sources for each color. The deck squeezes in as many fetches (for Cobra and Jace) as it can without risking having a Fetch with no lands to get. Obviously, when you play a three color deck with double colored cards in each color, your mana isn’t going to be perfect, but I think the current manabase works about as well as it can.
It was now time to battle the 1k and test the deck out for the 5k the next day. I had to scramble to get the cards for the deck, so I didn’t really have time to look over it carefully. It turned out the list I shipped Wrapter and the list I was playing had 61 cards. The list was legal, since it was the same as my deck, but it was still very awkward.
The actual games weren’t that interesting, but long story short, the deck performed. I took down two Valakut decks, three Caw Blades (including Luis, all splashing red), a Kuldotha Red, and one more deck on my way to a 7-0 finish and first place in the 1k. Fauna Shaman was a trump in the mirror, and gave me access to a consistent Stoneforge in the Valakut matchup just as planned. I was super excited and decided to tighten up the list (mainly cutting the 61st card) and get right back on the horse the next day for the 5k.
I told my dad that I had won the tournament and that I was excited about my deck. I told him I was planning on just cutting the extra card and otherwise playing a very similar list. He asked me why I wasn’t just playing the same 61. I tried to explain that playing 61 wasn’t really accomplishing anything and that I wanted a better chance of drawing my best cards. It’s funny how even people as smart as my Dad (professor at Stanford) still cling to results based thinking. I don’t care how well you did with a deck, it most likely wasn’t perfect. Figure out what parts worked and didn’t and play the tightest list you can for the next tournament.
Unfortunately, I did well at the wrong tournament. At the 5k I ran into a slew of aggro decks which my maindeck wasn’t really built to handle (especially after cutting the maindeck Baneslayer). I once managed to take down both games two and three against boros, but in a couple other rounds I managed to take game two, but couldn’t pull out the post board games on the draw.
Of course, I received no shortage of abuse from my dad who was now convinced that I had tossed away over one thousand dollars by not playing 61 cards. Ironically enough, he may have been right. That Baneslayer would have been pretty good against that string of aggro decks I faced … Maybe results based thinking is good: just look at what happens when you don’t use it.
At the second 1k on Sunday I played the same list as I did in the 5k. I was able to scoop – draw into top 8 after a 3-0 start (it only had 17 people), but then lost in top 8 against GW Quest after some loose play in game 2.
After some consideration, I think I like where the list is at. Like the Caw Blade decks, it has decent game one against Valakut and good post board game. The biggest trade-off with normal Caw-Blade is a good “mirror” for a weaker aggro matchup. Obviously, whether this trade-off is worth it is completely metagame dependant. If your metagame has a lot of Caw-Blade or you just want a change of pace, give this deck a try. I do think I want to work the Baneslayer back into the main, and I may have Lifestaff and Basilisk Collar switch places as a hedge against aggro (Collar is better overall, but Lifestaff is better against aggro). I’m definitely excited to try more things with the deck like more anti-aggro cards main and some off-the-wall ideas like Twisted Image. Also, I’m going to pick up the cards on Magic Online and get a video up as soon as possible. Hopefully that will help give you a sense of how the deck works. This deck just Bant lose to Caw-Blade. Give it a try!