Another weekend full of Bant and Humans decks. Let’s jump right in with the deck of the weekend.
Craig Krempels, 2nd at the SCG Invitational
Daniel Ward, Top 16 at the SCG Invitational
So many Bant Company players at the Invitational…
Why is Bant so hard for other midrange and control decks to trump? It enjoys a mix of creatures that all provide card advantage and aren’t as clunky or mana-intensive as the Den Protector/Deathmist package. Bant also has the upsides of being able to board in Negate and Dispel instead of purely board control. So many control decks just pack it in to Bant Company because any resolved threat represents 2 or 3 cards, and Negate can blow you out on your sweeper turns. You have to fight them the entire way, because otherwise you’ll never be able to turn it around against their deck.
The reason I posted both builds was to illustrate the Eldrazi Displacer configuration, which had some traction at the Invitational. While it sacrifices Avacyn for mana and space considerations, a Displacer with Reflector Mage is practically a hard lock against some decks. It stretches the mana a bit further with Yavimaya Coast and Wastes. Dropping down the white to only 11 sources isn’t the end times, but it pushes on the Evolving Wilds even harder.
It should be obvious why you can’t beat the deck with traditional creature means. Mono-white can get away with it because the mana in the deck is perfect and Gryff’s Boon means you can cheat and get in a lot of free damage. Bant Company may have reasonable mana, but it still stumbles from time to time or has to make suboptimal curve plays because of its mana. Mono-White Humans, on the other hand, always curves out as well as their creature selection allows. If red had enough real cards, it would be the same way.
Tangent on Multicolored Sets
This is why the excitement that multicolored sets bring always transforms into a depressing sigh over time. Whenever these sets/blocks roll around, people end up with a wedge or shard as the dominant midrange force. For it is always midrange with that configuration and never anything else—2 colors to produce the dominant creatures and another to produce the engine or support. Although in Abzan’s case, due to the way Khans of Tarkir was structured, it actually was that the gold cards were too good and did all the heavy lifting.
Lack of any playable LD only helps perpetuate this cycle. I understand that Armageddon was misery and I don’t want to go back to those days. Even playing against it in Cube I know that at least one player is going to have zero fun when the deck is built around disrupting the opponent in such a fashion. Even weaker LD has limits as to quantity as I also played during the time where Boomerang, Eye of Nowhere, Stone Rain, and Magnivore was a real thing. It didn’t help either that Remand was a legal Magic card, but I digress.
What I’m saying is a Tectonic Edge, Dust Bowl, or Spreading Seas now and then wouldn’t hurt. Even now when most of the reasons to be tri-colored have left the building the holdovers are still running things—Reflector Mage backed by friends because 3-color doesn’t have a high enough failure rate and 2-color can’t compete. Every deck gets to freeroll some number of utility lands except the mono-white deck, which is funny and sad. Land destruction isn’t fun, but it can also serve as an important safety valve or at a minimum, a way to interact with creature lands on the cheap.
Three Decks to Deal with Bant Company
GR Eldrazi Get Lucky
Joshua Dickerson, 1st at the Columbus Open
Draw your opening 7. Keep if you see lands plus ramp. Draw cards in the right order. Win tournament easily. Your threats are so beyond the pale that fair decks like Bant Company or slower Humans decks have nothing to do.
Max McVety, 1st at the SCG Invitational
Another deck where there’s not a lot to talk about. Max played the most aggressive deck in the format and clobbered everything that stumbled or didn’t have the right answer in their first 10 cards. The deck has perfect mana and a selection of threats that look laughable but play surprisingly well. Originally, Gryff’s Boon looked like a draft card thrown in for fun and turned out to be the key to the deck having enough reach to close games. This is closer to how Tempered Steel felt than the normal WW decks.
Brian DeMars just covered the Big White deck, which is effectively an updated version of the White Eldrazi deck I posted in my article comments a few weeks ago. They decided that the only Eldrazi worth running main deck was Displacer, and that Thought-Knot could come out of the board. Now that the metagame has coalesced I no longer feel that’s correct, though I do agree that gaining Knight of the White Orchid was worth some mana tweaks.
While you lack the card advantage engine that is Collected Company, your primary threats hit like a bus and Eldrazi Displacer doesn’t need help to dominate a game. When it does, Avacyn or even Thraben Inspector go a long way. Moving the Thought-Knots back to the main deck also gives you a way to disrupt grindy decks like UR Goggles or Eldrazi Ramp and eventually lock them out.
Bant Company still has a lot of ways to get you, but this is one of the few decks where your threats are better and you can take advantage of your removal suite. A few tweaks toward removal less easy disrupted by Dromoka’s Command and main-deck Tragic Arrogance definitely has helped.
The pair of Endbringer may look silly, but after trying it a bit, I’ve come around to giving it an extended audition. Combat management and effective vigilance make for a big game. Like everything else, it gets bounced by Reflector Mage, but much like Displacer, it can dominate a game if the opponent leaves it alone. It also gives you a great way of stopping flyers outright or getting a pesky Sylvan Advocate or Avacyn out of the way when attacking.
Of course, if you dislike turning cards sideways or playing basic Forests, you may have an out…
UX or BX Creatureless Grindhouse
These decks are all firmly tier 2 at the moment, but the UR Goggles deck is on the cusp of being legitimately the scariest thing in the format. Suprisingly, it isn’t even the blue cards doing the heavy lifting—it’s the cantrip engine with Magmatic Insight and Tormented Voice backed by Drownyard Temple and madness cards. That’s one of the only good ways to cheaply cycle through the deck and craft your hand. Pyromancer’s Goggles is amazing at turning the corner and closing the game out. What it lacks is a playable sweeper because Kozilek’s Return is a garbage fire and would be unplayable in the deck if not to stop Secure the Wastes. Splashing a color just to play Radiant Flames on 3 against Humans and Bant Company may be worth it despite the hit to consistency.
WB decks that are split half between midrange and control are awful right now. They’ll win games because they have a ton of powerful cards and if they happen to be drawn in the correct sequence, congratulations, you did it. Otherwise, stick to sweeper-heavy builds and only utilize creatures that give you immediate value or have a high likelihood of netting you a card like Avacyn. Linvala is a reasonable choice as is Goblin Dark-Dwellers if you go Mardu or a similar red build.
If you truly are dedicated to grinding them out then you can do it. Otherwise don’t even bother—trying to clock them with a random Kalitas or Gideon isn’t going to get the job done. The white deck almost fails in this regard, but has enough of a threat base that it can actually chain them, which makes Displacer much better. Unless you want to run 16 threats, the same plan doesn’t really work for you.
Hopefully the Pro Tour shows more encouraging signs of life in Standard than 20 hours of Bant Company mirrors.