I was wrong.
When new cards come out, we immediately take to evaluating them. We read their text, and our first thought is: “Is this card good enough to see Constructed play?” Our second thought is: “If so, where?” Our third thought is, “I think I forgot to turn the lights off at home.” We don’t have a fourth thought. We’re not that evolved as a species yet.
When I first saw Reflector Mage, my read was, “it’s good enough on power alone, but it won’t find a home.” Blue/white was a maligned color combination in Standard. The only decks that touched those two colors did so because they played four or five colors. I thought Reflector Mage was a good-but-not-great card, stuck in colors where it wouldn’t see play.
I made a classic mistake. Good cards don’t just try to fit into existing decks or existing color combinations. They make decks. They make color combinations good. They warp decks and formats around them.
As it turns out, tacking on an extra point of toughness and a semi-Time Walk onto Man-o’-War is good enough to be the kind of card that demands to be built around. Who knew? Well, apparently the people who have been winning with the card. I was not one of them. Not until now. Now I am one of them, and as “one of them” I’d like to say: “I told you so.” Revisionist history is my bread and butter.
It’s hard to appreciate just how powerful Reflector Mage is until you’ve played with or against the card. All it takes is to tap out for a creature, have them Reflector Mage that creature, draw a second copy of that creature for turn, and be stuck looking at a hand where you can’t cast anything. They just Time Walked you while adding to the board. I hesitate to say game over, except… no I don’t. That’s game over. That’s just game. Get rekt. I keep wishing that I could reveal that I have two copies of the creature in my hand and cast the second one, but unfortunately that’s not how Reflector Mage works.
The wait-a-turn-to-recast ability on Reflector Mage is so powerful that even bouncing creatures with absurd enters-the-battlefield effects is still fine. Siege Rhino? Back to the hand. Goblin Dark-Dwellers? Don’t mind if I do. Sure, you can play that Dark-Dwellers in 2 turns and get mad value out of it. I’m just going to advance my board and smack you in the face for 10 points of damage in the meantime. Have fun with that. How’s that value treating you?
Reflector Mage is also powerful enough, and showing up in enough decks, that I suspect it is going to push out cards that don’t interact well with it. Tasigur, the Golden Fang is the perfect example of a creature that doesn’t have a favorable interaction with Reflector Mage. Tasigur? More like “Tasigrrrrr, I guess I’ll pick this card back up and never recast it.” If I played Jeskai Black in my next event, I wouldn’t touch Tasigur, or any other creature that doesn’t play well against Reflector Mage. Even Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, a card with tremendous upside, is certainly worse when your opponent can just sending him packing for a turn cycle. Ghet ****ed.
In terms of what I would play—well, I’d play Reflector Mage. Shocker, I know. All that build up, and I throw a curveball at the last moment. What is wrong with me. Anyway, right now, I think the three best decks in the format all play Reflector Mage, and I think we could all do worse than just playing one of those.
Of these decks, Bant Company is the list that excites me the most.
Rally the Ancestors can go befriend itself. It can suck a big lollipop that wasn’t flavored properly. It can eat an entire bag of hotdogs, no bun, no condiments, medium quality ingredients. Smack that deck. Smack that deck right in the backside. Rally the Ancestors sucks the fun out of Magic like the creme filling from the middle of a store-bought donut well past the expiration date.
Rally the Ancestors is a powerful deck, but it’s just not one I consider fun. I don’t enjoy playing with it. Nor do I enjoy playing against it. While dismissing a deck entirely because it’s not fun seems like a foolish thing for a professional Magic player to do, the truth is that it’s actually… well, yeah, it’s actually foolish. Nobody ever said I was smart. But in some sense, I tend to do worse with decks I don’t enjoy, and conversely do better with ones I do. On the flip side, I hated Splinter Twin and kept doing well with that deck. So that statement is probably also false. I think I just convinced myself in this paragraph that I should play Rally.
But I’m still not going to anyway! Ignorance is bliss.
I think Abzan Blue is a pretty sweet deck, but Bant Company offers a higher upside.
Bant Company provides a number of things. For one, it is extremely customizable. There are about 350 creatures that cost 3 or less mana in Standard right now. Can you say options? Just at the 3-drop slot alone, there are cards like Nissa, Vastwood Seer, Veteran Warleader, Void Grafter, Wall of Resurgence, Undergrowth Champion, and Yasova Dragonclaw as alternative options. That’s a non-exclusive list.
I’ve tested out a few of those cards to mediocre results. Wall of Resurgence had a very high ceiling but also a very low floor. Nissa, Vastwood Seer is a great card, but requires more than 2 basic Forests. They all have their ups and downs, but I love that there are so many options.
Even beyond the options that Bant provides, there’s no reason you can’t build Abzan Company, which Andy Ferguson did, or even a 4-color Company list that merges Abzan and Bant together. I’m interested in even trying Bant + red, providing options like Mantis Rider or Savage Knuckleblade, or both.
Jace and Collected Company is the fuel that holds the 4-Color Rally deck together. It also shines here as a sweet engine that ensures that the oil keeps flowing. It seems weird to play Jace in a shell that doesn’t have a lot of spells, but those few spells are so high impact that it’s actually pretty good. Having Jace be a removal spell in Dromoka’s Command, and two big sources of card advantage in Ojutai’s Command and Collected Company, is still pretty powerful.
When I first looked at this Bant Company list, it didn’t seem that good on paper. Having played with it, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Sylvan Advocate is really, really powerful, and the deck generally hits 6 lands relatively easily. Secondly, the combination of Reflector Mage and Bounding Krasis makes combat hard for the opponent. They either have to leave too many creatures back to block or risk getting tempo’d out of the game, or they have to play aggressively, in which case Bounding Krasis and Reflector Mage can still mess them up defensively. Generally speaking, the opponent plays defensively, which provides the Company deck with plenty of time to use Jace, Den Protector, and Collected Company to bury them in card advantage.
Also, there’s Reflector Mage. That card is pretty good. Or so I’ve heard. Could just be hearsay.
Or it could just be fact.