In The Shadow Of #SCGStates

Chris VanMeter studies the weekend that was in Magic! Is Bant Company just the way to go for #SCGStates? What is the best strategy to fight it? Is this metagame already settled or is it just getting started?

SCG States April 23-24!

The Season One Invitational has come to a close, and while fellow SCGLive caster Craig Kremples came extremely close to taking the crown in Columbus, ultimately it was Max McVety who won the trophy with his Mono-White Humans deck.

Now, a trophy isn’t all Max gets for his first place finish. A whopping 50 SCG Points, a nice cash prize of $10,000, his likeness forever immortalized on his very own token (please, for the love of everything, don’t pick a 1/1 Red Elemental; I don’t want another young prodigy getting burned by the beard), an invite to Pro Tour Eldritch Moon

He also punched his ticket for the StarCityGames.com Players’ Championship in Roanoke in December, where he gets to battle against fifteen other competitors for a whopping $20,000 first-place prize.

It’s pretty good to be a Human named Max McVety. Congratulations and well done, my friend!

The narrative of this Standard format is turning out to be quite interesting. The first-week decks were as strong as we have ever seen first-week Standard decks before, and it set the stage for what we had the pleasure of seeing at #SCGINVI.

Coming into the weekend, there were quite a few different decks that I expected to see: Bant Company, different flavors of Humans, Eldrazi decks like W/B and Mono-Red, and a few controlling styles of decks like Esper, W/B Midrange, or something along the lines of Jund or Mardu.

The Standard Top 8 actually looks pretty diverse. We’ve got a few Bant Company decks, some Humans decks, a G/W Tokens deck, and a couple of larger decks in Big White and U/R Control.

The real story comes when you look at the Standard decks that went 7-1 or better.

Bant Company; Bant Company; Bant Company; oh, here is a Humans deck; oh, here is a W/B Midrange deck; and then even more Bant Company.

Even though it didn’t win the Season One Invitational, Bant Company was the deck of the tournament.

What does this mean moving forward?

Well, hopefully something happens next weekend at Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad or at #SCGStates, because as it stands, it’s going to be Bant Company versus the world, and the world is mostly going to be Bant Company, and I don’t know if you caught many of the mirrors that were happening over the weekend on SCGLive, but it reminded me of the G/W Devotion mirrors from GP Orlando.

Three-Digit Life Totals

Yeah, this actually happened.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that this mirror is actually as bad as the G/W Devotion mirror — as we can see, that was absolutely abysmal — but it’s still pretty bad. We’ve got droves of creatures entering the battlefield, many of which are X/3s, which just make it extremely tough to gain an edge in combat, which is the point of playing those creatures.

We don’t really have hard removal. Dromoka’s Command is close, but that’s about it. We are depending on tempo and Reflector Mage to lean on our opponent and win with superior battlefield position, but what happens when that is both players’ gameplan?

Normally, these situations are trumped by some sort of planeswalker. Could you imagine how awesome Elspeth, Sun’s Champion would be in the Bant Company mirrors? Stabilize the battlefield with a bunch of 1/1s if we’re behind? Help pull ahead when at parity and threaten to ultimate and make our army huge and flying? If only.

Jim Davis and company basically broke it, and it looked like he and his crew were the only ones who tried to innovate the deck for this tournament. Most Bant Company lists just have a few cards different from each other. How many copies of Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy or Nissa, Vastwood Seer do you play? Do you have a full four copies of Dromoka’s Command in your main? How many Tireless Trackers? There really wasn’t all that much customization to be done.

I’m not sure if Dan Ward worked with Jim and the rest of the New York crew, but he was also on Eldrazi Displacer just like Jim, and I think his deck looks really sweet.

It may make your mana a bit more strained, going up to four copies of Evolving Wilds to make it possible to play a Wastes along with some Yavimaya Coast to support the activation on Eldrazi Displacer, but I think it’s worth it.

Shutting off Ormendahl, Profane Prince is something that this deck needs access to sorely, but also allowing us to play an even more tempo-focused game is great. Tapping down our opponent’s creatures and getting extra uses out of Bounding Krasis and Reflector Mage is pretty big game. This particular list doesn’t go so far as to play Archangel Avacyn, but that’s quite the wombo-combo too.

Eldrazi Displacer also shines in a defensive role, completely negating Hangarback Walker and killing off all other tokens. Being a 3/3 body is also pretty nice and it can get into the red zone, brawling with the best of them.

The one unanimous change that almost all Bant Company pilots used was cutting a copy of Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. With so few cards to re-buy with Jace, no madness cards to abuse with the looting aspect, and the much slower flip timing due to fetchlands rotating, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy does seem pretty lackluster in this deck.

The big question for me has to be, “Is it even worth continuing to play Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy in the Bant Company deck?”

Anytime you get to cast a Collected Company again, it feels like you are miles ahead. The same can be said for Dromoka’s Command and sometimes even Ojutai’s Command, but is it really worth it to take a turn off applying pressure to play a Jace?

In the mirror, Sylvan Advocate does a very good job of gumming up the ground, so even if we were playing a Duskwatch Recruiter or an Advocate, an opposing Advocate makes it basically so we can’t attack and push through any damage. In that case, it is probably fine to play a Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy on turn 2 so that we can loot to hit our land drops and find more Collected Companies than our opponent.

Against the midrange and control decks, Jace is also good, allowing us to loot to our important cards and get rid of things like Reflector Mage or Dromoka’s Command that are likely to not make much of an impact.

Jace seems at his worst against the Humans decks where he isn’t trading for something, and we might be unable to afford taking a turn off. It’s important to keep in mind that we do have to have a critical number of creatures in our deck to hit with Collected Company, and 26 is definitely on the low end of what I’m comfortable with.

Maybe there is a better option and we can relegate Jace to the sideboard for the non-Humans matchups? Maybe something like Bygone Bishop is worth slotting there instead? It’s not a two-drop, but it sure did look very impressive in Gerry Thompson’s W/U Humans deck, and there are even a few Bant Company decks where it shows up.

Another card that I think might have some applications in the mirror is Linvala, the Preserver. She is a miss for Collected Company, but she is very good at helping stabilize a battlefield where we happened to fall behind, and she seems pretty insane alongside Eldrazi Displacer.

There were quite a few Linvala, the Preservers in people’s sideboards last weekend, and I think this card is going to continue to grow in popularity as Bant Company continues to overshadow the rest of the format.

Now, I’m pretty locked into just playing Bant Company for States this weekend, but if there was anything that could potentially change my mind, it’s the winning deck from the Standard Open.

“G/R Ramp is dead.” – Everyone after #SCGINDY

“Nope, you’re all wrong.” – Josh Dickerson at #SCGINVI

You all know me. I love Ramp. I love Chandra, Flamecaller. I love this deck.

I wasn’t having very much success with Eldrazi before. With Ugin, the Spirit Dragon gone, we didn’t really have ways to clean up the battlefield that could also win the game. Chandra, Flamecaller is phenomenal, but she’s just no Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. I also kept trying to build versions with Ruin in Their Wake and Traverse the Ulvenwald, but those just didn’t really pan out the way I wanted them to. Josh’s build is very straightforward and seems extremely powerful.

I didn’t give Nissa’s Revelation a shot before, and that might just be the card that changes everything. It continues to ramp us along to our set of Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger while also giving us time to get there. Chandra, Flamecaller is a great top end still. Along with our World Breakers to take care of Always Watching and Kozilek’s Return to sweet up the Humans, this deck might actually have a shot.

I want to get some games in against Bant Company, since playing at instant speed really hurts our gameplan, but Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger might just be good enough that it doesn’t matter. People are shaving on copies of Archangel Avacyn anyway.

Josh made a great call for the Open by playing all of his Jaddi Offshoots in the main. Thraben Inspector is still only a 2/3 even with Always Watching on the battlefield, so Jaddi Offshoot lines up pretty well against the Humans strategy.

I am also betting that it feels glorious to exile Pyromancer’s Goggles with a World Breaker.

My favorite card for this deck is the use of Tireless Tracker out of the sideboard. I have become more and more impressed with this little card advantage machine, and as the format starts to evolve and even rotate at some point once we have more sets, I think that Tireless Tracker is going to end up being the Den Protector of Shadows over Innistrad.

That’s a pretty big claim, but hear me out.

See, Den Protector didn’t really catch on until later on in the format. There, it was combined with Deathmist Raptor to be an awesome card advantage engine, but later was adopted by Abzan Midrange as a way to reuse some of its efficient cards and be a relevant body in matchups where that mattered.

Tireless Tracker does the same thing, really. It is rewarding us for just playing our normal game of Magic, allowing us to convert land drops into Clues which really help smooth out the game. They give us extra chances at gas and game-altering draws and can help us hit even more land drops when we need it, which is especially important in a deck that wants to hit ten mana for something like Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Tireless Tracker even grows as we pop our Clues and can clock our opponents pretty well.

Explosive Vegetation or Nissa’s Renewal with a Tireless Tracker on the battlefield seems absolutely disgusting.

All that being said, I think that we are going to see a lot of Tireless Trackers this weekend in Madrid for #PTSOI.

I also like Thought-Knot Seer and Spatial Contortion in the sideboard. Seer is getting better and better, especially with combat revolving around a bunch of X/3s. Being able to block and actually kill a creature is nice, and likewise, Spatial Contortion kills a lot of creatures.

I am going to get both Bant Company and G/R Ramp together on Magic Online this week and battle some games to see if I can figure out which direction I wanna go. Either way, I know I will be sleeving up some Tireless Trackers. Man, I can’t believe I missed this card during the previews, and even though I shelled out eight bucks apiece, I’m not too sad about it, since I will be tracking tirelessly for quite some time!

SCG States April 23-24!