A few weeks ago, I designed an Extended Bant deck that used Noble Hierarch and Birds of Paradise to skip straight to three mana, where the
format’s best creatures are. This is my favorite style of deck. Some players love suicide aggro, and some players need to control every aspect of
the game, but the most satisfying feeling for me is dropping a big, fat creature before I’m supposed to be allowed to. With the Bant deck, I
could use a modest amount of disruption and removal to clear a path for a single all-star creature to win the game.
I liked the deck a lot and had a ton of fun with it. On the whole, however, it was one of those decks that bats a little below fifty percent against
almost everything. In particular, I couldn’t make my Faeries matchup good enough to be comfortable playing Bant in an important tournament. I set
Bant aside while I straightened out my Standard deck and my travel plans for Pro Tour Paris…
…After not making the cut to Day Two in Paris, I basically had the whole weekend to meditate on Extended and how I could win a PTQ and get back
on the Pro Tour. I thought about what Mirrodin Besieged would do to change a healthy and balanced, but somewhat stagnant, format. While there were a
few cards like Green Sun’s Zenith, Go for the Throat, and Sword of Feast and Famine that would provide modest upgrades for established decks, I
couldn’t help but notice that there were two insane white creatures who were just asking to be cast a turn early. Mirran Crusader can’t be
killed by Extended’s good removal and can’t be blocked by Extended’s good creatures. It puts on a fast clock by itself and gets
insane with exalted triggers and Elspeth, Knight-Errant. Hero of Bladehold is better than Baneslayer Angel in an aggressive deck, and it costs one mana
less. If it’s not dealt with right away, the opponent will be lucky if they live long enough to notice the irreparable damage that one attack has
caused. I was excited to return to Bant, and after some whirlwind testing against the top decks and paying triple price to buy Besieged cards online
from Prerelease players, this is what I entered in the first post-Besieged MTGO PTQ:
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Knight of the Reliquary
- 4 Qasali Pridemage
- 1 Baneslayer Angel
- 4 Mirran Crusader
- 3 Hero of Bladehold
Round 1: Zellybeanz with R/U/G
The tournament started unexpectedly, as Zellybeanz led with a turn 2 Lotus Cobra and turn 3 played and equipped Sword of Feast and Famine. He attacked
through my Knight of the Reliquary, which couldn’t block it, and forced me into a tough choice of what to discard. My board was: two G/W lands
(Murmuring Bosk and Razorverge Thicket), Island, Qasali Pridemage, and Knight of the Reliquary (4/4). My hand was: Misty Rainforest, Path to Exile,
Qasali Pridemage, and Hero of Bladehold. I thought for a long time and decided that, given that I already had a board presence and a few answers, the
most likely way I would lose would be him answering my creatures and me flooding out, so I discarded my fourth land. He untapped his lands, played
Spreading Seas on Murmuring Bosk, and Lightning Bolted my Pridemage. I untapped and didn’t draw a land, so I couldn’t cast any of my
creatures and couldn’t activate my Knight. Two more Spreading Seas and no more lands off the top, and I had lost game one.
I won game two with a good hand on the play and lost game three to his good hand on the play. This was a frustrating loss for me because I felt like if
I had played against him any time besides round one I would’ve won. If I’d played him later in the tournament, I would’ve watched replays and seen
Spreading Seas and known not to leave myself with only one Forest for Knight of the Reliquary.
I lose 1-2
Round 2: thediabetical with W/b Weenie
I told thediabetical “gl” as I always do when a match starts, and he did me one better by thanking me for the article I wrote about White Weenie with a black splash.
It’s always great to meet someone who reads and listens to the advice in my articles, but I would’ve felt better if we’d met in the
winners’ bracket instead.
I was scared of losing to fast draws from White Weenie. Luckily, my draws were good, and his were below average. That said, he conceded very
prematurely in both games.
I win 2-0
Round 3: damek with RDW
Red Deck Wins is a terrifying matchup. Game one is basically a hopeless cause. The post-board games are fine, but I hate being in the position of
praying that the red player fails to get a god draw in either game two or three.
Game one I stayed alive by throwing out an endless stream of weenie creatures to suck up burn spells. Eventually, I drew Elspeth, Knight-Errant and
then Hero of Bladehold, but it came down to me at three life and him with a 4/4 Figure of Destiny and five lands. I would’ve been dead to a burn spell
or an untapped land, but he drew a Hellspark Elemental, which I blocked with a Soldier token. I was lucky to win this game at one life because damek
forgot about a Hellspark Elemental buried deep in his graveyard that he could have unearthed.
In game two, he led with a Tattermunge Maniac, and I played a Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender. A solid draw with the Forge-Tender let me win from there.
I win 2-0
Round 4: Box with R/U/G
I don’t know where this deck came from, but it’s a pretty bad matchup for Bant. Lotus Cobra is the single scariest card for me because Path
to Exile is a sorry way to slow down mana acceleration, and Bant Charm is too mana-intensive to be a good answer. In game one, Box Lightning Bolted my
Birds, played a Lotus Cobra, and then stayed ahead with Cryptic Command and Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
In game two, he spent his first two turns Preordaining six cards to the bottom while I set up an attack for fourteen with two Mirran Crusaders and
Elspeth. He almost made a comeback at one life, but I topdecked Bant Charm to stop the chain Cryptic Command shenanigans.
For game three, I brought in Forge-Tenders strictly to protect my mana creatures from Lightning Bolt and Burst Lightning (he had at least six between
the two). It worked perfectly, as I kept a one-lander with two Hierarchs and was able to protect them long enough to stick a Hero of Bladehold, which
is the kind of creature that makes you want to tear up every burn spell you own that deals less than four damage.
I win 2-1
Round 5: DudeJustTop8EDaGP with Faeries
In my introduction, I mentioned that the Faeries matchup with old Bant was a little shaky. It’s my absolute favorite matchup with new,
post-Besieged Bant. DudeJust went first and played a turn 2 Bitterblossom. I played a turn 2 Mirran Crusader. From here, if I were to play no more
cards for the rest of the game, he would’ve still been hard-pressed to win. However, I used Tectonic Edge on his Mutavault and later played a second
Crusader to speed up the clock. His time ran out.
Again in game two, he played a turn 2 Bitterblossom on the play. I killed it with a Qasali Pridemage. Then when he didn’t have a Mana Leak or a
Go for the Throat to answer my Hero of Bladehold, he conceded on his fourth turn.
I win 2-0
Round 6: CutNShuffle with W/U Tempered Steel
Bant is very straightforward and no-nonsense, so it tends to be very good against rogue strategies. At this point in the tournament, I was starting to
scout the top players, and I was very pleased to be paired against the one Tempered Steel player at the top of the standings. In game one, I mulliganed
and found a very nice draw with a turn 3 Hero of Bladehold with removal to back her up (just checked the picture to make sure she’s a girl). When
you plan to trade with the Hero, it’s very, very bad when your creature gets Bant Charmed before combat.
I learned a hard lesson about the Bant vs. Tempered Steel matchup in the last online PTQ I played. Post-board, both decks may have a lot of removal, so
it’s not about speed anymore. This time, I sideboarded out one land and two Birds of Paradise to lower the chances of flooding in the late game.
It was still fortunate to draw a nice mix of mana, creatures, and removal, while CutNShuffle had a good start but ended up drawing more lands than his
deck needed or could use.
I win 2-0
At this point, I was starting to watch the replays of all the players at the top of the standings. There were three 6-0 players, and they were all
playing Faeries. I couldn’t help getting ahead of myself and thinking what a favorable Top 8 it might be if I made it.
There was also a secret breakout deck that four or more of the most successful MTGO players were piloting. It was a U/W Control deck with Stoneforge
Mystic, a lot like Ben Stark’s Standard deck from PT Paris, except without Squadron Hawk. I felt like Bant would match up well against the deck, since it’s very tempo oriented, and I have plenty of both
creature and artifact removal. I would’ve rather faced the Stoneforge Mystic build than a traditional U/W or a Five-Color Control. That said, I was
still nervous to face an unfamiliar deck in the hands of a great player.
I still have yet to play with or against this deck, so hopefully a writer other than I will cover it this week. Based on the results, it must be a
great deck. __SipItHolla won the tournament with it after
winning a mirror in the semifinals.
Round 7: austindz2 with Naya
The Naya matchup can go either way. Bant has bigger creatures and more removal, but if the Naya player is able to keep Bant from sticking a dominant
creature, their deck is much better because of Bloodbraid Elf, Fauna Shaman, and Cunning Sparkmage. I won the die roll and mulliganed to a one-lander
with two Noble Hierarchs, Qasali Pridemage, Mirran Crusader, and Elspeth, Knight-Errant. I drew a Mystic Gate to cast the Crusader on turn 2, then a
Celestial Colonnade. I quickly went to cast Pridemage but noticed that Mystic Gate wouldn’t allow me to play both Pridemage and Hierarch. Since
all that mattered was getting Elspeth out the next turn, I played the Hierarch. On turn 4, I played Elspeth, jumped the Crusader, and killed austindz2
without a second to spare because he had been on the verge of turning the game around with Cunning Sparkmage. If I had played the Pridemage and he had
killed my only Hierarch, I may have lost.
Game two was long, and I outdrew him. It wasn’t overly lucky to draw a few removal spells, since I have eight post-board. However, he had four
Bloodbraid Elves in his deck that didn’t show their faces, and it just so happened that he was flooded with lands that couldn’t turn into
I win 2-0
Round 8: dubz1337 with Doran
Dubz deck was pretty similar to mine except he had black instead of blue. We both had Birds, Hierarch, Knight, Baneslayer, Path to Exile, and other
fatties. He also had a Stoneforge Mystic package and Fauna Shamans. I generally don’t recommend playing Fauna Shaman without a graveyard engine,
but the Shamans were very good against me because of the ability to tutor up Shriekmaw. In game one, he played Thoughtseize and left me with a
Pridemage and a bunch of mana. However, from there, my deck delivered Bant Charms and big white spells, and I won.
In game two, I had one of those opening hands where you just know you’re going to win. Since I was only one game away from the Top 8, it took
everything I had not to get excited and to stay focused on the game. It was good that I didn’t get my hopes up because I didn’t win this
game. After he promptly killed my Knight and my Baneslayer, the advantage he got from his Sword of Feast and Famine along with some lucky draws on his
part allowed him to seal the game.
Game three, I kept a slow hand with three removal spells. He killed my Knight of the Reliquary but couldn’t answer my Hero of Bladehold. Since I
didn’t let him stick a big threat, the Hero went all the way.
I win 2-1
Quarterfinals: siegegangedelson with RDW
I’ve already explained how RDW is hopeless game one, so it won’t be surprising that I lost after mulliganing to five cards.
Game two, my seven-card hand had no lands, and my six-card hand had a Tectonic Edge. Being down a game with five cards against RDW doesn’t make
you feel like a winner, but I was determined not to go down like a wuss after working so hard to make the Top 8.
My five-card hand was two lands, Path to Exile, Finest Hour, and a Forge-Tender, which slowed him down long enough for me to draw out of the mulligan a
little. I made a pretty careless attack with the Forge-Tender because he had no creatures, and I expected any haste guys to be small, flying, or have
trample. He played Koth of the Hammer and hit me to eight and next turn to five with Searing Blaze on Noble Hierarch. At this point, I still
hadn’t hit five lands and had Finest Hour stuck in my hand. Forge-Tender can block Mountains all day, but it can’t stop Koth’s
ultimate, so I had one chance to draw an untapped land. I did, but unfortunately it was a fetchland that left me at four life. I played Finest Hour and
attacked Koth for two and then three. On his turn, siegegangedelson Flame Javelined me for lethal, so I had to use my Forge-Tender. This left me with a
Celestial Colonnade, four other lands, and the Finest Hour. I drew Hero of Bladehold and played her. He burned me to one. I attacked twice and made an
army that was ready to win next turn and held my breath.
This was one of those moments where you swear that you’ll change your life if you make it out alive. I’d go to church; I’d volunteer
at the soup kitchen, and I’d buy Tiny Tim his Christmas ham if only my opponent would please draw a Mountain. I’m not sure what he drew,
but I didn’t die, so it doesn’t matter to me.
Game three I had a good hand (seven cards this time) with Forge-Tender again. Since he wasn’t pressuring me, I was very patient throughout the
whole game. I waited until I drew a second fetch before playing out Knight of the Reliquary, and once she was in play, I always left her untapped for
counter mana and chipped away with a Celestial Colonnade. Once Knight was big enough, I Pathed his blocker and attacked for the win.
I win 2-1
Semifinals: Yliajo with Four-Color Control
Bant isn’t at a natural disadvantage against control decks, but my particular list isn’t geared for the matchup. Game one highlighted the
advantages of being on the Bant side, as I landed a turn 3 Elspeth on the play and sat back until she won the game for me.
In game two, I mulliganed to a hand with no early pressure, and the game went extremely long. Yliajo gained a lot of life with Wall of Reverence and
drew a lot of cards with Jace, the Mind Sculptor, but I had a big turn where I landed Finest Hour and killed Jace. I may be wrong about this, but it
seemed to me like he had Brainstormed a few times and had been unable to find Cruel Ultimatum because he had ten lands, and I had been tapped out a few
times. Before Jace died, he had Brainstormed and presumably put two non-Ultimatum cards on top. He drew one and thought for a while and played Esper
Charm to draw two cards, one of them fresh…then he played Cruel Ultimatum and went on to win. I don’t feel like I deserved to win the game
because the Ultimatum could’ve been anywhere in the top 22 cards. However, it seemed set up for maximum emotional damage that it had to be that 23rd
At the end of game two, Yliajo had five minutes left on his clock. I’ve been in situations like this before but never with so much on the line.
Winning by time is certainly not unsportsmanlike. However, I don’t know the etiquette on running out the clock. When things looked bad, I kept
playing until I saw my last draw step, and it wasn’t a Path for his Baneslayer Angel, and then I conceded. I thought of trying to eat time with
Finest Hour triggers and useless Tectonic Edging and that sort of thing but decided against it. Plan A was to win game three fair and square anyway. I
don’t regret the way I used the clock in game two, but I do regret what I did in game three.
Again, I kept a hand with no early pressure, and he took a significant lead after resolving an Ultimatum to draw three and to make me discard three of
my five cards. I kept a Bant Charm and a Glen Elendra Archmage and played the Archmage. My instincts tell me that when I have a creature and the
opponent doesn’t, I should attack. However, he was at 24 life with less than two minutes on his clock. If I sat on the removal spell in my hand
and the two charges on Archmage, it’s almost certain that the game would have stalled, and he would have timed out. What happened was that I
attacked two turns in a row, and he Condemned two turns in a row. After that, the game went on for a while until he Thoughtseized my Bant Charm and
then Lightning Bolted me three times to finish me off with 54 seconds on his clock.
I lose 1-2
I’m not sure if I should feel like an idiot for missing an opportunity to win, like a hero for nobly declining a win that I didn’t deserve,
or like a scumbag for even considering using the clock to win. I’ve decided to not even really think about it. I’ll make it my goal next
time to just win every match by getting my opponent to zero life, and hopefully the situation won’t come up again.
Bant is good. It has a good Faeries matchup and is solid across the board. The main problem is that it’s hard to build it to beat aggro decks and
control decks at the same time.
Hero of Bladehold was my MVP. This card is incredibly good and hasn’t gotten the hype it deserves. It will be in many decks throughout the years.
I’m not even going out on a limb with that prediction because I promise that I’ll be playing with the card in a lot of decks from
Writing this report, I noticed myself describing my topdecks leading me to wins. A lot of tossup situations fell my way this time, and if I played this
tournament ten times, I wouldn’t Top 8 every time. However, Bant is extremely good in these topdeck situations because the threats are so
powerful, and they only give the opponent a limited window in which to answer them. There’s no complicated synergy, and every non-mana card is good on
its own whenever you draw it.
I’ll be playing Bant again next time and hopefully for the rest of the season. Maybe I’ll switch if something crazy happens like G/W Trap
becomes 20% of the field.