Extended, Standard, And Bant Player Guide

Thursday, March 10 – Reid Duke, who recently won an online PTQ with Stoneforge Bant, has his eye on the meta and brings you the data to see how Extended and Standard are shaping up. Don’t miss his play/sideboard guide for Stoneforge Bant!

Extended MTGO Metagame (Daily Events)

[Click to see Extended Bar Graph]

        pie chart

I used seventeen Extended Daily Events from February 27 to March 3. Unfortunately, the events have been small lately, with rarely enough players for
two to go 4-0. Add to this the fact that it’s mostly dedicated grinders, willing to build and play the top deck of the week, and there’s a
shockingly low amount of diversity.

There have been some pretty extreme changes since I last looked at Extended Daily Events about two weeks ago:

(Change in metagame breakdown in percentage points)

U/W Stoneforge   +21.2%, or +9.4% from traditional U/W

Elf Aggro              +6.4%


Red Deck Wins      -5.1%

G/R Scapeshift      -15.1%

That’s a lot more Swords of Feast and Famine. Consequently, there’s a lot less Scapeshift. A big draw of Scapeshift decks is their ability
to take hits for the first four turns and then win once the time comes. Sword of Feast and Famine means that life total isn’t the only resource
at stake when a Scapeshift player is attacked; those resources also include cards in hand and tempo (or mana).

For the first time, I can say that Faeries isn’t dominant. It’s still in a dead heat for the title of “top deck,” but U/W
Stoneforge and Elf Aggro both look like they could overtake Faeries in popularity. There’s no doubt that skilled, dedicated Faeries players will
continue to do well. However, if you look at the top seven decks from this week, you won’t find an easy matchup for Faeries. If
you’re looking to pick up a new deck for the first time, I recommend looking elsewhere.

Maybe here:

U/W Stoneforge, Bant, and Elves share the common weakness that they can’t efficiently remove quick weenies. I’ve mentioned Lotus Cobra and
Fauna Shaman, but how about a feisty feline who can deal eight damage before Bant Charm comes online? Quick creatures and burn also happen to be a
tried and true strategy against Faeries.

sandydogmtg’s list takes the best cards from both Standard formats where landfall Boros has been legal and adds in Figure of Destiny as the
cherry on top. Ranger of Eos searching up two creatures that become 8/8 fliers is an endgame most people won’t be counting on from a deck that
can also kill on turn 4.

The dominance of the top four decks this week may make it look like the sky is falling. It’s not. Don’t discount any Extended deck
that’s had results in the past ten weeks. From my experience, people can get much too caught up in the flavor of the week. If a deck used to be
good, chances are that it’s still good. If people aren’t playing it, that’s all the more reason to take a PTQ by surprise.

Standard MTGO Metagame (Daily Events)

[Click to see Standard Bar Graph]

        pie chart

Now the sky is falling.

Caw Blade’s results are out of hand. It’s given nearly as many players 4-0 records as every other deck in the format combined. For anyone
with a premium membership, I recommend Gerry Thompson’s article from last week. For
those of you who don’t, he explains how he tore through the SCG Open in Washington D.C. by gearing his Caw Blade deck for the mirror match.

Even though Caw Blade is a fantastic deck, I believe (hopefully not too optimistically) that it won’t remain quite this dominant.
It’s the type of deck that can be geared to beat just about anything. However, right now players have no choice but to gear for round after round
of Caw Blade mirrors. Mr. Thompson admitted to losing a lot of ground in his game one against Valakut.

Valakut comes in a distant but respectable second. Anyone building their own Standard decklist should make a good Valakut matchup a requirement.
It’s such a powerful deck, and it’s so different from everything else that if you don’t go out of your way to beat it, you
won’t beat it.

The next most popular strategies are the various tried and true aggro decks. U/B Control is alive but struggling. There are a wide range of fringe
strategies that can succeed when properly tuned. In particular, I saw some interesting Fauna Shaman decks.

There’s tremendous variety in the successful Fauna Shaman decks. This makes it hard to find the best list to copy for a tournament, but it also
means there’s a lot of room to play around, which gives the archetype a great chance of being successful down the road.

Bant Player Guide

Here’s a new list, slightly updated for the Elf-heavy metagame:


Faeries is a good matchup and not all that hard to play as long as you don’t get careless. Mulligan decisions are very important because
you’ll typically win most games that you stick an early threat and lose most games that you don’t. The tricky part is that you don’t
know what combination of removal, permission, and discard they’ll have. Keep most hands with a turn 1 Bird (I’m going to use
“Bird” to refer to Birds of Paradise or Noble Hierarch), including a one-lander if it’s excellent. Keep a hand without a Bird if it
has three lands, a two-drop, a three drop, and another spell. Mulligan any hand that doesn’t give you a good chance of landing a quick threat.

If your hand has only one threat, it usually means you have plenty of lands, so keep making land drops, and don’t let it get countered. However,
if you have a hand full of gas, consider playing into a Mana Leak. If you suspect Mana Leak and don’t cast a spell, you may give them a
much-needed window to use a removal spell or play a flash creature. Their mana will usually be the limiting factor. Bant’s advantage in the
matchup (aside from pro-black) is having more mana in the early turns.

If you have a pro-black creature, Bitterblossom may hurt them more than help them. However, I recommend usually using Pridemage to kill Bitterblossom
right away unless you can see exactly how the game is going to end within two or three turns. It’s simply much, much harder for them to get
anything going without Bitterblossom.

SB: -2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant -3 Mana Leak +4 Great Sable Stag +1 Path to Exile

Removal is important because they have to win a lot of their post-sideboard games with a Hail Mary Sower of Temptation. Also, if you have a Path
waiting for their big threat, you can use Bant Charm to counter Cryptic Command.

The cards I recommend sideboarding out may seem strange. Mana Leak and Elspeth are often good against Faeries, but every card left is always good against Faeries. Overload on quick threats so that you can have two when they play Thoughtseize.

U/W Stoneforge

This matchup is similar to Faeries. It’s favorable, but you need to show discipline with your mulligans. Games are easy when you’re ahead,
but it’s very difficult to come back from behind. Bant and U/W have a lot of cards in common, so it’s almost like playing a mirror match
except Birds lets you take a turn before the game starts. Of the expensive cards in U/W, Day of Judgment is excellent against you, but the rest are
very inefficient if the U/W player is on the back foot. Jace will make you look stupid when you’re already losing, but it’s not a big
threat when things go according to plan.

If you have the wrong kind of hand, it’s difficult to play around Day of Judgment. The rule of thumb is that you should extend enough to make
sure you’ll almost certainly win if they don’t have Day of Judgment. There’s nothing worse than holding two creatures in your hand
and watching them take control of the game with a Jace bounce and a Path to Exile.

SB on the play: -4 Mirran Crusader +1 Path to Exile +3 Unified Will

SB on the draw: -4 Mirran Crusader +2 Path to Exile +2 Unified Will


If they’re the non-combo version, there are usually three ways the games play out.

Elves wins fast. Unfortunately, this is the most likely of the three.

Bant wins fast. Look for an excellent hand with Mirran Crusader and maybe Elspeth too.

Bant wins a long game. This is up to the luck of the draw. If you can have a removal spell for every lord, they’ll be stuck fighting you with
1/1s. If your opening hand has two or more removal spells, it’s worth keeping just in case.

Plan your lands carefully if some come into play tapped. Think about the best time to use Path to Exile. Usually Imperious Perfect and Ezuri, Renegade
Leader need to be Pathed on your own turn. Usually Elvish Archdruid on their draw step.

SB on the play: -4 Qasali Pridemage -1 Knight of the Reliquary +2 Path to Exile +2 Oust +1 Flashfreeze

SB on the draw: -4 Qasali Pridemage -1 Mana Leak +2 Path to Exile +2 Oust +1 Flashfreeze

Bant Mirror

Creature mirrors are interesting with Bant because they have the potential to end at any time if one player falls behind, but they also have the
potential to go long and come down to topdecks. Don’t keep a bad hand, but mulligans hurt more here than in other matchups. In a lot of matchups,
you can mull to five, come out fast, and win the game before the disadvantage catches up to you. This is not the case in a mirror because your opponent
will be able to keep step with you.

I wish I had more concrete advice, but it really comes down to playing carefully. Don’t rush into an attack without considering the
possibilities. Plan out the math of a race a few turns in advance. Early damage doesn’t matter very much, so squeeze every ounce of value that
you can out of Knight of the Reliquary.

SB: -1 Birds of Paradise -3 Mana Leak +2 Path to Exile +2 Oust

There are a lot of options when it comes to sideboarding. If Player A leaves in Swords, Player B wants to leave in Pridemages. If Player B leaves in
Pridemages, Player A wants to take out Swords. If player A takes out Swords, Player B wants to take out Pridemages. Permission is pretty good on the
play and pretty bad on the draw. It’s worth changing things up to keep your opponent guessing. Even if you come up with a hard and fast plan that
you like, you should pretend to change your deck between games two and three.

Red Deck Wins

SB: -4 Qasali Pridemage -2 Mirran Crusader +3 Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender +2 Path to Exile +1 Flashfreeze

The plan is to keep their permanent creatures off the table. They have to spend their burn to take out your creatures, and hopefully there won’t
be enough left over to deal you twenty damage. A useful tactic is to hold Knight of the Reliquary as long as you can. If you draw into an extra
fetchland, they’ll have to spend a better burn spell or maybe even two burn spells to kill her.

G/R Scapeshift

SB: -2 Path to Exile -4 Bant Charm -1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant +3 Unified Will +1 Flashfreeze +3 Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender

Top priority is setting up a reliable clock. Sometimes they’ll have a slow hand and die to your turn 2 Knight or Crusader. Forge-Tenders come in
to help with the “reliable” part. Second priority is having a counterspell at the ready when they try something. Hard counters are much
better than Mana Leak and Spell Pierce because holding mana up to counter Khalni Heart Expedition in the early turns will hurt you as much as it hurts