For GP Krakow, I played a deck of Craig Wescoe design. The overall game plan is to present a swarm of resilient threats such as Fleecemane Lion, Deathmist Raptor, and Dragonlord Ojutai while using Dromoka’s Command and Valorous Stance to remove relevant opposing threats. Den Protector and Mastery of the Unseen help give you the mana sinks needed to have action in the late game when your opponent has a lot of interaction for your early pressure.
Deck Difficulty: Medium
This deck is often fairly straightforward, but has enough modular cards that sometimes decision-making can be tricky. With so many morphs, you often have a ton of different choices for what to do with each card as well as what to return with Den Protector.
These are your main threats and each are difficult to deal with in some way or another. With the number of mana creatures in the deck Fleecemane can become monstrous very quickly and present a serious headache for control decks. Raptor is great in the current metagame because it can attack through any Dragons or whatever bigger threats they can present while also providing a nice grindy effect against aggro decks that can close the game out quickly when the time comes.
This is, in my opinion, the pivotal card of the deck. It gives you a creature that can easily attack through Courser and Caryatid, as well as Elspeth tokens while also giving you a relatively cheap way to rebuy your Raptors. It’s also very important that the Protector gives you access to additional copies of any sideboard cards you draw, which can be huge as those are typically very high impact.
This is the card that lets you win longer games by stabilizing your life total, or creating an uncounterable stream of threats. It’s also completely insane when you hit Ojutai or Raptor because of how hard it is to play around.
The mana creatures serve a dual function of increasing the number of creatures in the deck to help make Mastery better, while also helping to give you the mana to activate Mastery a bunch of times in the first place.
This removal suite is almost unprecedentedly good for a base-GW deck, giving you access to spells that let you kill small creatures, enchantments, and larger creatures while also not being dead in scenarios where you don’t have ideal targets. Dromoka’s Command in particular can be great because of how versatile it is. Remember that you don’t have to put a counter on the same creature you fight with!
Surrak is super powerful, working nicely with all your various 3-power dudes, but isn’t essential to your game plan. Giving Ojutai haste is a huge game though.
Courser is usually completely absurd, but in this deck I think it’s just all right. The card’s value has gone down overall in the format in part because of Dromoka’s Command, but it’s still good enough to play a few. We don’t play the full 4 because it’s not great in multiples and not great at attacking through blockers without help.
Stratus Dancer – Wescoe’s original list had Negate, but I prefer Stratus Dancer because of how much synergy it has with our overall game plan. The downside normally would be that you can’t counter planeswalkers like Elspeth or Ugin with the Dancer, but you’re already bringing in 4 Disdainful Strokes in those matchups anyway so it shouldn’t be a big issue. If Ashiok becomes super popular, Negate would be good to keep in mind.
Arashin Cleric – I think this is the best of your options if you want a card against Atarka Red, the immediate life gain is important and it can stick around to block Goblin tokens, even surviving if they have a Command to pump the team with. I’m not convinced that this is necessary because red decks are generally pretty good matchups.
Last Breath – Craig played this at the last GP as an answer to opposing Rabblemasters and Hornet Nests, but I haven’t really had trouble dealing with Rabblemaster thanks to the high density of early creatures and I haven’t run across anyone actually playing Hornets Nests either.
Treasure Cruise – I haven’t tried this one out yet, but I think there’s a chance that you could support 1 Cruise in the board for the longer matchups.
Sagu Mauler – Another untested option that I think would be very good against Abzan Control decks.
Glare of Heresy – Just a super efficient card. Good against most Abzan decks as well as helping out against Mastery of the Unseen decks.
Mono-Red – Favorable
Mono-Red is a pretty easy matchup because of how quickly you’re able to get on board and how well you’re able to protect yourself from burn spells thanks to life gain from Courser and Mastery, as well as prevention from Dromoka’s Command.
Esper Dragons – Slightly Favorable
I’m still not confident this matchup is as good as it appears, but I did go 4-2 against it at the GP and have beaten it a good amount online since. Game 1 is tough because there’s not a lot you can do to stop them from just slamming a Dragon and attacking, so don’t try to slowroll your threats too much. In the post-board games, you can afford to pick your spots much more because you have access to Disdainful Stroke. This means that you can sequence your spells to try and disrupt their curve as much as possible. Also keep in mind that they typically have no way to remove a Mastery of the Unseen aside from Ugin, so if you can make the game about that, they often have a hard time racing it.
Abzan Control – Favorable
This matchup is great! They have a hard time dealing with either Raptor/Den Protector loops or Mastery of the Unseen. Don’t be afraid to play a long game with them—aside from Ugin, which not all decks even play, they don’t have any big trump card that just wins them the game outright. Post-board, you get to bring in very effective Strokes and cut your less effective removal spell in Dromoka’s Command.
Abzan Aggro – Even
Anafenza and Dromoka’s Command are the two cards you care most about here because they’re capable of shutting off your value engines. I’ve found game 1 to be pretty good if you draw a Valorous Stance as you’ll be often be able to return it with Protector, but pretty rough otherwise. Post-board we get a bunch of strong removal that matches up well.
Tips and Tricks
• You don’t have to attack with Ojutai! Often Abzan decks are almost forced to leave up 3 mana if you have her in play, and it’s usually right to just not attack into it assuming you have other guys or other plays to make. Then next turn they’ll be left with the same problem.
• Study Dromoka’s Command. The card has some pretty tricky interactions, typically involving the sacrifice an enchantment mode. For example, did you know that you can’t kill two of your opponents enchantments by fighting one and making them sacrifice?
• Be unpredictable with your morphs. Sometimes people get locked into always playing their cards the same way, which makes it easy for your opponent to guess what your morphs are. If you never play a Raptor face down, they’ll basically know that any face-down guys you do play are going to be Den Protectors.
I hope that this article inspires people to try out Bant! Let me know in the comments if you do and how it goes for you!