Since the emergence of the Bant deck at Pro Tour: San Diego (Zvi’s Mythic), the archetype has found a slot alongside Jund and UW as one of the best decks in Standard. Rise of the Eldrazi gave it two very good cards – Vengevine and Eldrazi Conscription. The results with both Mythic Conscription and Next Level Bant in this column are quite impressive; in fact, they are so good that the one that wins this matchup might be the best deck in the current metagame.
I’ll be playing Yuuya Watanabe’s Next Level Bant decklist, from his Top 8 performance at Grand Prix: Manila.
- 2 Birds of Paradise
- 2 Ranger of Eos
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 1 Scute Mob
- 2 Sphinx of Lost Truths
- 4 Sea Gate Oracle
- 4 Vengevine
- 4 Wall of Omens
My playtest partner this week is Raphael Levy. Raph is playing Naoki Nakada’s Mythic Conscription list, with which he won Grand Prix: Manila.
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Knight of the Reliquary
- 3 Sovereigns of Lost Alara
- 3 Dauntless Escort
- 3 Baneslayer Angel
- 4 Lotus Cobra
Maindeck Games (7 wins, 17 losses, 29.1% games won)
On the play: 4 wins, 8 losses
On the draw: 3 wins,9 losses
Raph: twice to 5, once to less than 4
Me: once to 5
Mythic Conscription is more aggressive than NLB. While I was gaining some cheap card advantage, Raph was casting powerful creatures that I had to handle straight away if I did not want to automatically lose the game. I have rarely felt so helpless during the games. The only way I could win was by clearly outdrawing Raph.
As the score reflects, the matchup is heavily in Mythic Conscription’s favor. I could talk, as I usually do, about the important “to do/not to do” plays here. However, I think it is more relevant to analyze the very nature of both decks, which pretty much determines the outcome of the matchup before the games are even played. The strategy in the games is quite easy: get rid of your opponent before he can cast spells that will kill you.
Do not misunderstand me. NLB is a great deck, but it is just not suited for the match-up in the main deck.
Just take a look to the differences (and similarities) and what this implies:
NLB: 24 lands (4 Seaside Citadel, 4 Celestial Colonnade, 1 Stirring Wildwood, 9 Green mana sources available on turn 1)
MC: 25 lands (1Terramorphic Expanse, 4 Celestial Colonnade, 1 Stirring Wildwood, 2 Sejiri Steppe, 10 Green mana sources available on turn 1)
With nine lands that enter the battlefield tapped against eight (but one more land), and one less Green mana source available on turn 1, NLB is a bit slower, but the difference is not significant.
NLB: 2 Birds of Paradise, 4 Noble Hierarch
MC: 4 Birds of Paradise, 4 Noble Hierarch, and 4 Lotus Cobra
This is one of the reasons why the matchup was awful. The Mythic Conscription deck can explode, and it thus better than NLB in this regard. When Raph was on the play, it is as if he started with an extra Time Walk; he was almost always two turns ahead. Whenever I was on the play, Raph was also ahead on the tempo.
NLB has fewer Birds of Paradise because it does not really need to cast a three-drop. On the other hand, Knight of the Reliquary on turn 2 is a huge threat that you need to Exile or bounce before it is active or you will lose. Draws such as turn 1 Noble Hierarch, turn 2 Lotus Cobra and Knight of the Reliquary, especially when you are on the draw, are so good that you are actually drawing dead if anything relevant follows. Turn 3 Sovereigns of Lost Alara, when your three-drop is Sea Gate Oracle, is unbalanced.
Creature Power/Impact on the Game:
2 Ranger of Eos: Almost no impact on the game, as most creatures on the offense are bigger than the blockers, which usually just chump. Too slow.
1 Scute Mob: Good in combo with Elspeth, Knight-Errant (if there are no opposing Birds of Paradise). Otherwise, it can just be chumped by many small guys.
4 Sea Gate Oracle, 4 Wall of Omens : Raph called them “cycling cards.” Their impact on the board is very low, and their card advantage not very significant. They just protect your Planeswalkers and chump (chumping a 14/15 trampler can provide you enough life to actually have a chance, but is not dreamy).They might bring Vengevines back from the graveyard sometimes, but it did not happen in our testing, not even once.
2 Sphinx of Lost Truths : As you do not “combo” the Vengevines, and as MC does not kill your mana acceleration, you usually cast it for seven mana. It can kill Planeswalkers, but cannot really block a Celestial Colonnade or a soldier token pumped by Elspeth, Knight-Errant, as those will be exalted most of the time.
4 Vengevine : Very disappointing, as Raph did not cast his Jace, the Mind Sculptor when the Elemental would have killed it. It just tried to race, but facing Eldrazi Conscription, Baneslayer Angel, Knight of the Reliquary, and tons of chump blockers, it simply lost.
3 Baneslayer Angel, 3 Sovereigns of Lost Alara: NLB takes its time to kill the opponent. That works well against Jund and UW, and the Wall of Omens and Sea Gate Oracle protect you well against pure aggro. Baneslayer Angel just wins the race, and you cannot really stop it. If you do not have an immediate Path to Exile to spend on it, Sovereigns of Lost Alara will be a lot of trouble. It is really important to stay high in life to survive the attack, then get rid of the enchanted creature and the 4/5 without being killed by a Celestial Colonnade on the following turn. You will need to have 2 answers anyway on your following turn, such as Jace, the Mind Sculptor plus Oblivion Ring to handle the creature that got +10/+10 AND the Sovereigns of Lost Alara. Or just hope that you opponent holds his second Eldrazi Conscription in his hand.
4 Knight of the Reliquary: Just like every other deck, you need to kill it before it is active or you will be in trouble. With 2 Sejiri Steppe, if it stays around to untap, Exiling a Baneslayer Angel or Sovereigns of Lost Alara will be impossible. Second, a 9/9 creature that turns lands into Celestial Colonnades and accelerates the mana cannot be good news when he shows up, especially on turn 2.
3 Dauntless Escort: Almost irrelevant. It is very rare that 2 NLB creatures attack without being exalted into a 3/3, so its ability’s only use would be against Gideon Jura. Wall of Omens and chump blockers make it impossible for it to race or have any impact as an attacker.
Most of the Bant Conscription creatures are threats you NEED to deal with, on the other hand. None of the NLB guys do anything. Considering this, only the Planeswalkers and Celestial Colonnades can actually kill your opponents.
I thought that the Planeswalker control would be the key in the matchup. It turned out that Raph could win easily with no planeswalkers on the board, while I needed the Planeswalkers to have a slight chance to win the game and beat his monsters.
Mythic Conscription has a better mana development plan, which allows your opponent to activate Celestial Colonnade to kill your planeswalkers faster than I could get rid of his. Alongside Noble Hierarch, the land can immediately destroy any planeswalkers that show up, except for Gideon Jura who requires two attacks.
By being more aggressive in general, his deck deals with planeswalkers better than NLB, except that I have the 3 Oblivion Rings main. Even so, they only get rid of one planeswalker, while Colonnade is a constant threat.
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor in each deck
Vengevine could have killed his Jace a few times if he’d cast it in the early game, tapping his mana creatures out. That would actually make the Elemental efficient, and thus Raph did his best to stop this situation ever happening. It usually bounced the first threat to avoid facing 2 at the same time later on, trying to get the tempo. Bouncing Lotus Cobra on turn 3 on the play was great.
With Jace, the +2 ability does not save it from an exalted Celestial Colonnade. It would almost always be better to dig for answers to all the cards that you cannot leave on the table. The ultimate ability of any of the planeswalkers is ridiculous.
3 Elspeth, Errant-Knight in each deck
This card is the only way for your creatures to be effective, but it still takes too much time compared to Eldrazi Conscription and Baneslayer Angel. Moreover, MC has 4 Birds of Paradise to chump block and win the race. Once you consider this, Elspeth is your (only?)kill condition. I lost most of the games, if not all of them, when Raph had Elspeth, Knight-Errant dominance.
2 Gideon Jura in each deck
NLB’s Gideons are better here, as there are actually creatures that you need to kill. It is an expensive Assassinate plus Fog, but does not do much else against you other than forcing 1/3 guys to attack. You are the control deck against the midrange aggro deck, so you have better things to do with Gideon, which are always obvious.
MC has the same number of each of the planeswalkers , which makes it tough to get yours going. And of course, there are even more threats to handle from that side of the table.
2 Eldrazi Conscription: NLB takes a lot of time to kill and does not attack the opponent’s mana guys, which turns the eight-mana enchantment into a card that you can actually cast, and quite early. As you only have two instants in your deck, the annihilator effect will affect your gameplan. In the end, that’s two more threats in your opponent’s deck that you will need to deal with in one turn.
3 Oblivion Ring: This is precious, as it has 18 must-handle targets in your opponent’s deck. It can be good to get rid of a one-mana guy on turn 2 when on the play, but you need to have an aggressive game plan to follow up. Otherwise, it will probably better to hope that your opponent does not draw many threats and you can deal with all of them.
2 Path to Exile: There are so many important targets that it is always needed. It is good to keep it as long as possible, even if it means that you have to skip a turn by not playing it at end of turn to cast Oblivion Ring on your turn rather than anything else, then have it up for an upcoming Sovereigns of lost Alara or Eldrazi Conscription.
As you can see, Mythic Conscription (or at least this version) contains no instants or removal, which makes the games even easier to play.
2 Eldrazi Conscription , 4 Birds of Paradise, 4 Lotus Cobra, 4 Noble Hierarch, 3 Sovereigns of Lost Alara, 4 Baneslayer Angel, multiple copies of the same planeswalker, no card advantage. Many reasons why Mythic Conscription is an unstable deck: 37 mana sources and, if you do not draw them in the right order, 11 cards that cost five mana or more, which are tough to cast with no Lotus Cobra. On the other hand, NLB makes card advantage and digs deeper, with a lower curve. That’s actually why I still won games. On paper, the matchup is awful.
The main problem would be that the engine, the synergy of NLB, just does nothing in the matchup. In any game Raph in which drew normally, I lost. The raw power of the cards from Mythic Conscription, and the explosive nature of the deck, are just too much for the NLB main deck.
+1 Bant Charm
+1 Martial Coup
+2 Master of the wild Hunt
+1 Journey to Nowhere
-4 Sea Gate Oracle
-2 Ranger of Eos
-1 Scute Mob
I think that the options for the midrange deck are just worse than MC’s sideboard, so you have to try to go for a better control plan. It will be tough to win, but not really more than game 1; I will focus on that once I’ve handled Raph’s game plan and dealt with all his threats (assuming that is even possible). Wall of Omens seems better than Sea Gate Oracle, as it is on-curve and it blocks an exalted Lotus Cobra.
Sideboarded Games (11 wins, 15 losses, 42.3% games won)
On the play: 9 wins, 4 losses
On the draw: 2 wins,11 losses
The matchup became much closer. I won games were I was behind, while I could never achieve this main deck.
Whenever Raph was on the play, the games became even tougher. Not as bad as the stats indicate, but still close to that. On the play, I could cast my counters on tempo; on the draw, I sometimes had to stay untapped and Time Walk myself, hoping that he would cast a non-creature spell so that I could Negate it. Otherwise, he would just cast something that would end the game.
There were two very different types of games:
Games in which I could attack his mana
– Whenever I had Oust, I would almost always play it in the early game on anything that showed up
– When I had a solid game plan in which I would tap out in the next 3 turns
– when I had a Jace, the Mind Sculptor to cast and could untap with a counter and a removal spell as backup
Games in which I could keep removal to get rid of anything annoying showing up on his side of the board
Basically when I have nothing other than removal, or just enough removal to give me an edge on the game
Many Mythic Conscription decks have Linvala, Keeper of Silence in their sideboard. The card was a pain, but in the end, it was just one more creature I had to deal with. If it showed up early enough to lock my mana, then I would have a removal for it. In the late game, it would just slow down my Celestial Colonnade activations and be a random creature on the board. When I remember how good Troublesome Spirit used to be, it’s scary to see that the same guy with a good ability instead of a terrible one has a fraction of its impact on the board. As far as modern Standard is concerned, I like Master of the Wild Hunt a little better, but its matchup against the Angel is bad. That was the first time I played the Wolf Master with Elspeth, Errant-Knight. Giving a token +3/+3 to kill a Sovereigns of Lost Alara was priceless.
Emerge Unscathed and Bant Charm were the two instants to fear in his deck. Maybe the counters would have been good as well. Anyway, with two one-shots in your opponent’s deck, there is no way you play around them. Same goes for the couple of Oblivion Ring that he will probably board in, except in the case when you decide to force all of your opponent’s creatures to attack Gideon Jura. If you attack and do not keep enough blockers, the enchantment might just eat the planeswalker, which should probably kill you.
Martial Coup was excellent, inasmuch as I did not cast it when low on life, facing a Celestial Colonnade and lots of lands. As I soon realized that my opponent did not board in any counterspells. I made the Martial Coup in my hand my whole game plan all by itself, and it worked perfectly well. Maybe a second one would be good, but it still requires seven mana, which is a lot, and deciding to plan your game around it then losing to a Negate would be pretty bad.
To conclude, in the Bant mirror, Mythic Conscription has a clear advantage, and reaching almost 50% after sideboard would require NLB to board in 13 cards, which would cost a lot against the other matchups. Still, going for a Planeswalker control deck with mana acceleration seem to be the best post board plan there.
If the format stays the way it is now (most Jund decks I play against online have main deck Jund Charm), Mythic Conscription is probably better, but from one week to the next, the metagame evolves. Next Level Bant might regain its crown and be the best deck to play.