Getting Nassty – Brewing Bant in Standard

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:
[15:48]Matt Nass:

[15:54] Wrapter: your grand architect doesnt actually do anything
[15:54] Wrapter: and all your sh*tty other creatures
[15:55] Wrapter: are in fact sh*tty

21:27] Matt Nass: 4 Kuldotha Forgemaster
1 Blightsteel Colossus
1 Myr Battlesphere
x Lotus Cobra
x Joraga Treespeaker

4 Everflowing Chalice
3-4 Throne of Geth
4 Ichor Wellspring
4 Sphere of the Suns
1 Mindslaver
x Tumble Magnet
x Ratchet Bomb
x Prophetic Prism
x Mox Opal

4 Genesis Wave

4 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

4 Misty Rainforest
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Darkslick Shores
1 Swamp
2 Island
6 Forest
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:

12 W

14 U (all turn one)
15 G



plus 1 anti-valakut

UW: -1 Collar -1 Mortarpod +1 Sword of B&M +1 Viridian Corrupter

Boros: -4 Vengevine -3 Jace -1 Sword of F&F, +4 Oust +1 Baloth +1 Sylvok Lifestaff +2 Baneslayer Angel

Valakut: -1 BSA -2 Gideon -1 Mortarpod -1 Collar -1 Bonehoard +4 Flashfreeze +1 Sword of B&M +1 anti-valakut fauna shaman target?

[11:08] Wrapter: you have way too many equipments
[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:


12 W
14 U (all turn one)
15 G



[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.

Here is what I came up with:
-1 Baneslayer from the main, -1 Divine Offering from the side +1 Baneslayer in the side.

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!

45 thoughts on “Getting Nassty – Brewing Bant in Standard”

  1. Cool article and deck, the list definitely seems good for the current caw-heavy meta. Our match at the 1K was one of the closest and most fun I played that day. I realize now that I shouldn’t actually have ditched the quests for the man plan in game two, I figured you were on Divine Offerings but I guess not…

  2. Pfft BAHAHAHAHA!!!1!11!1!!1one!! That Cliff Nass link is something special.

    And oh, the deck seems awesome as well. I’ve been working on tuning Naya for the meta, hoping that its stellar aggro and CawBlade matchup make up for its awful Valakut matchup. My strategy there is to cross my fingers and hope the CawBlade players take care of Valakut for me.

  3. Re 61 cards: If you were brewing a Battle of Wits deck, 60 cards would certainly be wrong. Not to say that cutting to 60 was necessarily wrong with your Bant brew, but sometimes, going above 60 is just correct. So let’s think a moment about that witty old deck. It ran a ton of search and card draw and managed to pull out victories despite the number of cards it ran. Now look at current U/W. Between Preordains, Stoneforge Mystics, and Squadron Hawks, that’s a lot of search. Your list includes Fauna Shaman for even more search. So is it entirely out of the realm of possibility that your list can get away with playing more than 60 cards?

    If you’re going to brew, you can’t let yourself be boxed in by conventional thinking. It’s one thing to look down on results-based thinking, but it’s entirely another to ignore why you achieved the result that you did.

  4. Have you thought about Naya? Basicly just take out all your blue cards and add Sparkmages and Bolts.

  5. @above

    He mentions it in the article, but moved on when he couldn’t solve the Valakut matchup.

  6. Results based thinking is logical and useful. It’s result based thinking you want to be careful about.


  7. @HC: you know battle of the wits played so many cards because of the condition for Battle of the Wits? It didn’t so because “it ran a ton of search and card draw”

  8. “Results-based thinking is logical and useful. It’s SINGLE-result-based thinking you want to be careful about.”

    Clarified because your witty comment is relevant but easy to misread. If there is a deck that wants to play 61 cards, that deck is likely to possess at least 8 tutors and 7 draw-filtering effects.

  9. Running more than 60 is most certainly wrong, but the difference is quite small.It was probably the decision to cut Baneslayer, which is an excellent anti-aggro card, which sucked.
    Cool coverage

  10. I’m going to have to come down on the side of 61 here. In game 1, Baneslayer further increases your matchwin against Cawblade, worsens Valakut a bit, and significantly helps aggro matchups.

    Against aggro, one hit will likely turn around the whole game for you, and thus outweighs the extremely small likelihood that it ‘buries’ a card that you NEED to win/survive even after Baneslayer (ie, decreases chances of drawing said needed card by a small amount). Against Valakut, I can see it being a problem, but you look well-positioned enough games 2 and 3 that it shouldn’t matter too much. Against Cawblade, it trumps pretty much anything other than a sword-wielding Colonnade, is a 3-turn clock with a sword, and dies to neither bolt nor sparkmage, again outweighing any slight decrease in the percentage of drawing a card that’s needed even after a Baneslayer. Against Elves, which might be increasing in popularity due to its good matchup against Cawblade, you mentioned in the previously posted video that Baneslayer is extremely good, and thus an actual tutor target in that matchup, which seems to be quite needed in that matchup, as losing Day of Judgment and having only Spell Pierce game 1seems problematic.

    To put it another way, assume adding a 61st card always causes a slight decrease in win percentage across the board of, say, 0.2% due to additional variance (this might actually be high, considering the slightness of the change). In this case, having the Baneslayer maindeck seems like it would increase your matchup against aggro decks by a good 3-4%, and maybe your Cawblade matchups by 1-1.5% or so. Given that those deck-types make up a pretty significant portion of the metagame, you’ve got a net increase in win percentage.

    Might it be even better to trim another card? Possibly, in fact probably, but the only thing that jumps out at me is the 4th Vengevine, which is still pretty excellent.

  11. Another possible reason in favour of 61 cards is the ratio of lands to spells. For every set of spells, a perfect number of lands must exist but that’s unlikely to be a whole number. If these 36 spells require, say, 24.82 lands to be at optimum efficiency then you’re closer to this ideal by playing 25 than you are by playing 24 and this might make up for the corresponding lack of efficiency in drawing the best spell for the situation.

    If you’re drafting and really have no idea whether to play 16 or 17 lands then it may be that the correct answer is to play 17 and a 41st card.

  12. Just Cut a Preordain!!! I have know Idea why its such an automatic 4 of. Its the perfect kind of spell to run 2-3 of. It is soo clunky if drawn in multiples, people act like it doesn’t cost mana.

  13. friday 1k’s ‘other deck:’ Chapin’s Tezzfather
    If I win and Luis wins that last round, Luis probably gets the shop, but fauna shaman(s) sticking is bad news for tezzy, jace, and tezzfather’s 31 mana sources

  14. @Serge you’re obviously missing the point of my post. The point is that he has so much card search that 1 extra card in his deck might actually be correct. The point is not why you have so many cards, it’s that the amount of search that he has could potentially justify running an extra card maindeck (or more–there was that controversy over the 66-card extended deck in a recent GP). 60 cards is not always the only correct number of cards to run in constructed. Over 40% of his deck manipulates and/or searches some part of the rest of his deck. Sneaking in a singleton that acts as a trump against a good percentage of the field could be perfectly reasonable, and not simply from a results-oriented viewpoint. Moreover, given his 7-0 result, he should have incentive to test to see if it was more than a fluke.

  15. I brewed a really really similar deck in this weekend, with BoPs in place of Cobras and no Mortarpod. I`ll give Mortarpod a try, looks pretty interesting. I tested Hero of Bladehold, and it sucked. BSA looks by far better.

    I tried Naya also, and while it has great matchups against Boros/Caw-Blade, it doesn’t win against Valakut.

    Congratz for the 1k results, and I`m really glad this deck is real in the metagame.

  16. I’m not so afraid of Naya V. Valakut. With Hero of Oxid Ridge and Goblin Guide, moving fast enough is real. Sideboard has 3, maybe 4 Mark of Mutiny to finish them on turn 5.

    I wouldn’t fear it.

  17. Generally 60 is correct. Sometimes, however, going higher can also be “correct.” Long ago I played a mono U draw-go deck and decided I wanted X removal (and yes back then there actually was removal in mono U), Y counters and Z draw/manipulation to go with my 2 win conditions. Putting in the correct amount of land left me short either a counter, removal, etc while adding the extra counter, removal, etc didn’t wreck my land/spell ratio – as Michael stated above. So playing 61 in that case was correct assuming I actually was right and needed the card.

    In this case, it seems pretty clear that the one baneslayer improved your weakest matchup and should have been retained – either at the cost of playing 61 or eliminating some other card.

  18. “Maybe results based thinking is good: just look at what happens when you don’t use it.”

    Heh, clever.

  19. Been waiting for a bant list to pop up in some top 8’s for a while now. the methodology for a WUG deck never really changes, blue gets card advantage, counters, and draw fixing, white gets potent creatures and some the odd powerhouse spell, while green gives you a strong infrastructure for your deck to build on.

    personally, i would be playing 4 birds and 4 cobras in a bant list, a turn 1 birds leaves mana open for a spell pierce to protect your turn two stoneforge mystic, fauna shaman, or lotus cobra, or lets you preordain for a land or a strong play. after that it makes a good flying body to put a sword on, serves as a 1 drop to bring out vengevines easier, and you wont feel bad sacraficing it to a kicked gatekeeper of malakir when vampires is staring down your baneslayer.

    also, i appreciate that viridian corrupter answers a sword on turn 3 or 4, but it seems criminal to ignore how good acidic slime is in this metagame, gets swords just fine, keeps vamps off red, knocks out a valakut or gets them off double green on a weak draw, kills decisive manlands vs cawgo and UB, and so on and so forth.

  20. Congrats to your 1k win!
    Nice to see, that I’m not the only one thinking on Bant. I feel it fits quite well right now. I played a similar deck at Gameday, and I’ll definitely try some of your ideas.

    How were your Wildwoods? I was running 4 Colonades, and the reach is huge. I imagine the Wildwood is blocked by Sword-wielders or chump-blocked by Steppe Lynxes (if Boros starts blocking, I’ve won anyway, but that’s not the point). Did you ever wish the Wildwood was a Colonade?

    How important is that turn 1 blue? Having so many 2-drops, I don’t feel Preordain is required on T1. And Spell Pierce does not hit much right n, w at first turn.

    Did you miss a 1-drop creature for VV recursion? I had Birds but wasn’t overly happy with them. Students might be better in that spot, but…

    Anyway, thanks for the article. As a side note, I’m full in on the 61 cards. 24 lands seemed to few, but I did not want to run 25. Maybe(!), the additional card is the solution. (Wasn’t 5CC running 61 cards as well, back then in Standard?)

  21. this is awesome considering that ive been spending quite some time contemplating the viability of bant stoneforge decks, i ve held off though because of all the aggro in my meta, this is encouraging however and validating

  22. I would have liked to see green suns zenith pop up somewhere in the list as fauna shaman #6 and/or #7. Shaman dies to pretty much everything so being able to get that BSA ,Sun Titan or Linvala after a bolt/clasm to your board would be a great addition to the deck IMO.

  23. develop your own personality instead of seeking other’s approval so desperately.

    all the time in your reports you keep mentioning: “oh, I played against this and that famous player”

    and now another article based solely on busting another guy’s balls

  24. @ Jon R.

    Green Sun’s Zenith only hits green creatures, so only Shamans, Cobras and Vengevines (Baloth after boarding) from the current list.
    It would be interesting to see if by adding GSZ and then some extra targets (Acidic Slime/Viridian Corruptor is a possibility) would be an upgrade.
    But it seems like there are limited slots already (the discussion about playing 60 or 61 cards) so the deck would probably have a different feel if GSZ was added.

  25. Peter Humphrey

    Your father is a professor at Stanford. Book writer. Ph.D.

    You should listen to him.

    I don’t care if he does not plays MTG.

    He is probably right.

  26. @Rhubarb Actually the last deck list posted had Bane Slayer Angel main as well as Sun Titan and Linvala in the board… all reasonable targets.

  27. Aaah im an idiot.. tired lol GREEN creatures.. very true. Oh well.. still an idea for design : )

  28. List seems soft to Valakut still… 3 Spell Pierce isn’t gonna be enough to keep em off Primeval Titan…

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  30. Just call the deck what it is, Mythic Deck Wins….

    Love the deck though, probably needs some form of aggro stoppage.

  31. “Maybe results based thinking is good: just look at what happens when you don’t use it. ”

    Well played.

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