The World Championships are in the books, and have given me lots of awesome material to work with in this column!
I have Bant, Bant, Emrakul, Bant, Emrakul, or Bant!
Abzan was the dominant force in Standard for a long period. Siege Rhino and friends were crushing tournaments left and right, both in aggressive, midrange, and control roles. While the aggro versions have pretty much vanished completely, Abzan is still a strong deck that can play the midrange and control role well. With creatures that are efficient early and late, a strong collection of the Gatewatch and some removal spells, you’ve got a deck that can compete at any level.
Liliana, the Last Hope provides an early-game play that will destroy creatures, keep others off your back, and provide card advantage by recurring your creatures. Liliana is the perfect way to get an opponent to overextend into your sweepers as it’s going to be hard to deal any damage with her ticking up.
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar will have a similar effect but for a completely different reason. An army of 2/2 Knights will force your opponents to put more onto the board in order to deal with the planeswalkers. Liliana plus 2/2 tokens can take down most early plays in the format.
As the game progresses, Ob Nixilis Reignited, Sorin, Grim Nemesis, and eventually Nissa, Vastwood Seer can completely take over. They all protect themselves or run away with the game by drawing extra cards every turn.
With so much of the Gatewatch present, this deck is definitely interested in swearing some oaths. Both Oath of Nissa and Oath of Liliana shine here. Nissa can dig you deeper while also making it much easier on your mana base to cast turn-3 Liliana and turn-4 Gideon. Liliana’s Oath will take down a creature when you cast it, but also provide an army of tokens throughout the game to make it even harder to attack your super friends.
With all of this protection, tokens, and shrinking of opposing creatures, 4 Languish will do the dirty work to clean up every mess, and Liliana can even team up to kill 5-toughness creatures.
With so much power, you’re going to need to make sure you can survive. Ruinous Path and Anguished Unmaking deal with the more problematic permanents, while Grasp of Darkness should stop most early threats.
With so many powerful planeswalkers, you don’t need much in the way of creatures, but Sylvan Advocate does a great job of blocking early and attacking late. Den Protector isn’t the best blocker early, but it’s serviceable while setting up a team and preparing to Languish. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet can shut down entire strategies, gain life, and create an army. In combination with Zombies created from Oath of Liliana or your removal spells, Kalitas can get out of range of Languish or just swing for huge lifelink chunks of damage.
Abzan is still a strong contender and plays out very similarly to Esper Control. You’re turning in your Jaces for Sylvan Advocates, and you get an additional reward of Oath of Nissa for card selection and mana fixing. Keep in mind the Peace of Mind in the sideboard—this is some of the best tech possible for control decks to fight Fevered Visions if it’s a big part of your metagame!