Big White, #SCGINVI, And Bant Company

Fresh off the #SCGINVI weekend, Chris Andersen talks about Collected Company dominance, the Big White deck his team put together, and of course, #SCGStates!

SCG States April 23-24!

Another Invitational is in the books, and what an Invitational it was! Once again, I had a medium weekend personally, but I count the weekend as a great success overall for the team. Team Lotus put its first member into the Players’ Championship! A huge congratulations to Andrew Tenjum for a solid Top 32 finish at the Invitational after dominating the SCG Tour® this season.

Also, while none of us were able to crack the Top 8 this time around, friend of the team James Wager did! James put up his biggest finish to date and has been on quite the hot streak lately, making the Top 8 of Ohio Regionals and narrowly missing Top 8 of #SCGLOU. I’m looking forward to seeing him develop more as a player on the SCG Tour® during Season 2. Also, congratulations to Andrew Maine for making the Top 4 with an update of the G/W Tokens deck we used last week in Baltimore! It was really cool to see both of the decks we helped develop able to break the Sunday stage, though it was a bummer they had to play in the quarterfinals.

As many of you probably know by now, we decided to play Big White at the invitational. Kent Ketter did a great job explaining the deck in this video.

I was happy with my result from #SCGBALT, but I thought we could do better than G/W Tokens for the Invitational. I lost to various Humans decks multiple times on Day 2 in Baltimore and felt that, if I wanted to have success at the invitational, I would need to have a very good Humans matchup, seeing as how it made up an entire half of the Top 8. Luckily, the other deck we had our eye on was doing very well against Humans. That deck? Big White.

Big White actually started as an Eldrazi deck. Our team was happy with Chandra, Flamecaller out of Red Eldrazi, but we were not satisfied with Roast and Spatial Contortion as the removal suite. We started working on a R/W Eldrazi deck because of how great Declaration in Stone was, and Eldrazi Displacer is an amazing card with the proper support behind it. The deck ended up being decent, but we didn’t like the mana very much, and we kept asking ourselves what the point of playing the red cards was.

Tenjum came up with a white Eldrazi deck, and after a few games with it, we knew it had potential. We decided to keep developing G/W Tokens for Baltimore, but we wanted to come back to the white deck for the Invitational because we were pretty sure it would do very well against other white decks. While we weren’t sure exactly how dominant white cards would be during the first week of the new format, we had a feeling that everyone would be up to speed by the time the #SCGINVI rolled around.

Then we got to play with Archangel Avacyn. To say the card is stronger than Reality Smasher doesn’t come close to doing it justice.

After getting to play against Archangel of Tithes out of the Humans decks, we realized that it was also probably just better than Thought-Knot Seer. Then the only Eldrazi left was Displacer, so we scrapped the list and rebuilt it from the ground up.

We knew we wanted to be playing these removal spells in the maindeck. They were some of the most powerful and flexible removal spells in the format and were all white cards.

Next we knew we wanted to be playing a lot of Archangels, both of the Tithes and Avacyn varieties. We realized that we were starting to look very much like a Jund deck, in that we were just playing the most powerful, consistent threats and the best removal we can. We pretty easily filled out the rest of the decklist with more excellent white cards and ended up with this.

There were some variations between our lists. I tried a two-two split of Thraben Inspectors and Hedron Crawlers that ended up being pretty bad. Also, some of us also decided to play Tragic Arrogance over the Planar Outbursts. I even had one copy of Tragic Arrogance in my maindeck, and it definitely won me a few games. Looking back, though, I don’t think it was right to play Tragic Arrogance over Planar Outburst. The synergy with Archangel Avacyn was great, but when you weren’t visiting Magical Christmas Land, giving a deck like Bant Company one threat left over was rarely worth it, even if you got to keep a creature too. Going forward, I would recommend the Planar Outbursts James used.

I ended up going 2-1-1 in the Standard portion of #SCGINVI, beating Humans once and splitting three matches with Bant Company 1-1-1. Unfortunately, my lack of preparation in Modern came back to bite me. I decided to play Burn in Modern because I didn’t spend much time preparing for the new format. I knew Burn pretty well from when I played it before the Splinter Twin and Summer Bloom bans, and I knew that it would be pretty consistent.

Unfortunately, I succumbed to the deck’s biggest weakness: the inability to control the top of your deck. My mana refused to cooperate, and after three quick rounds I found myself out of contention.

I think this will be the last time I play Burn in an important Modern tournament. I talked with Todd Anderson a bit after Day 1, and we agreed that, while Burn is a good deck with good matchups, it has two very big drawbacks. The first is that if you draw too few or too many lands, you can just lose and there’s nothing you can do about it. The second is that the decision points in the match are typically put onto the other player. That isn’t to say that Burn is a mindless deck by any means, but you can only sequence your spells so well, and in too many games, your opponent is the one making the critical decisions.

On Saturday, I entered the Open with high hopes. I was really happy with Big White. I thought the deck was good, and I was having a lot of fun piloting it. Things started out pretty well, but after a few wins I picked up my first loss to Bant Company and then drew with Bant Company in back-to-back rounds. Near the end, I fell to Bant Company yet again. I squeaked into Day 2 with a 6-2-1 record, but I was not very happy about my Bant Company matchup.

Unfortunately, Sunday was full of nothing but Bant Company. I was able to take down my first opponent but lost my next three rounds, all to Bant Company. After being eliminated from prize contention, I decided to drop and enjoy Columbus’s North Market across the street instead of suffer through more matches of Bant Company.

I played Bant Company three times in four rounds of the invitational. In the Open, I played against it nine times in thirteen rounds. That is twelve rounds against Bant Company in seventeen rounds of Standard on the weekend. Frankly, I hope something amazing comes out of the Pro Tour, because Bant Company is ruining what was shaping up to be one of my favorite Standard formats in a while.

Bant Company is not fun to play against. Nearly the entire deck operates at instant speed, but there are tons of aggressive creatures in the deck too, so the deck is very good at being both proactive and reactive. There are tons of ways to generate card advantage in the deck between the blowout two-for-ones in Collected Company; Dromoka’s and Ojutai’s Commands; the mana sinks in Duskwatch Recruiter, Tireless Tracker, and Eldrazi Displacer; and the planeswalker potential from Jace, Vyrn’s Prodigy and Nissa, Vastwood Seer.

The deck just doesn’t run out of cards. For a deck as aggressive and tempo-oriented as Bant Company, that really isn’t okay. It felt like I was playing against Faeries over and over and over again, and it left a bad taste in my mouth at the end of the weekend. At least the next two stops on the SCG Tour® will be Modern events.

In Standard, I think G/W Tokens has the better matchup against Bant Company, so I would look at that deck for your local events if you want to play one of the decks we worked on. If you have more Humans decks in your metagame, then Big White is the way to go. I would stock up on Linvala, the Preserver in the sideboard of Big White, as it were pretty good against Bant Company. I wish I had more useful advice for a more diverse metagame, but when 70% of the matches I played on the weekend were one deck, it’s hard to learn much about other matchups.

As for the Big White vs. Bant Company matchup, it’s not good, but it’s winnable. Your sweepers can steal games, especially when they don’t see them coming. You have to worry about not getting run over by their fast starts, but if you do manage to stabilize, usually with Eldrazi Displacer, you aren’t out of the woods by any means.

They are very good at keeping pace with you, but they don’t have many fliers. Try to save your removal spells for their card advantage engines if you can, and look to try to turn the corner quickly with fliers, which they are short on. If the game does go long, try to steal a game by firing off a huge Secure the Wastes backed by Gideon, Ally of Zendikar if possible, but if not, that’s okay. If resources are getting traded, a swarm of tokens can often get the job done.

Like I said earlier, Linvala was very effective, but is by no means game-breaking. They pretty easily can deal with it but they have to burn a few resources to do so. Perhaps if we sideboard in three, then multiples would be too much for them to deal with. It does a nice job of turning the corner by giving you a life buffer, two good blockers, and a fast evasive clock.

For Modern, I’ve had my eye on Scapeshift for a while, and I am looking forward to giving it a spin. I love a good ramp deck, and from what I’ve seen so far, the deck looks very powerful. However, it might have some of the same problems as Burn does in that it’s a sequencing deck that surrenders the critical decision points of many of its games to an opponent with more flexible cards. Unfortunately, that’s just the way Modern has been as a format for a while now.

If I don’t like Titanshift, I will probably try one of the Chord of Calling decks. Kiki Chord, Abzan Company, and Elves all look like solid decks, and I would love to cast a mana creature again.

This weekend is #SCGStates! I will be taking the weekend off to visit my extended family, but I am looking forward to seeing if anyone can take down Reflector Mage and Company (ha!). See everyone at #SCGMKE in two weeks for the start of Season 2!

SCG States April 23-24!