Lessons To Take To #SCGRegionals Weekend!

CVM got to call the SCGLive action from Baltimore last weekend, and he learned a lot about this Standard format! If you want to get the jump on #SCGRegionals, CVM is your man!

SCG Regionals August 6!

Like it or hate it, Bant Company is dominating Standard. With overwhelming numbers, we really haven’t seen anything this over-represented in Standard in as long as I can remember, and while there are some strategies that can beat the deck, even those are likely only favored and not completely dominating the deck.

A full 42% of the Day 2 decks at #SCGBALT this weekend were Bant Company. This is even more impressive than it sounds because records of 6-3 or better made Day 2, which totaled 125 players; again, 42% of them were on Bant Company.

Yes, there are some variations between the decks, like how many Thalia, Heretic Cathar or Selfless Spirit you play, or if you play Eldrazi Displacer or some other card to try to break the mirror, but really they are all just the same deck.

Game, set, match.

This trio is going to be a headache for everyone until Collected Company rotates out of Standard. Even then, though, Spell Queller and Reflector Mage will be a one-two punch that will stick around for a little bit longer.

What can we do in this world where everyone is cuckoo for CoCo? I was able to sit and watch through all eighteen rounds this weekend in Baltimore and I’d like to share some of my observations!

To Win Games of Magic, You Actually Have to Cast Spells

This is pretty self-explanatory but is crucial right now with Bant Company.

The deck itself is built to take advantage of its namesake card, Collected Company. This card requires that you play a critical number of creatures that cost three mana or less, but due to the nature of the creatures available and for the sake of gaining as much value as possible out of your cards, we are seeing a huge glut in the three-mana department, and rightfully so. I mean, have you seen the cast of characters that these decks get to play?

These cards are all exceptional, but what happens when you aren’t running hot? When you don’t hit exactly what you need on your Collected Company, or when you completely fail to even find any? We still have to play Magic: The Gathering, and the current Standard is defined by tempo. Leaving unused mana on the table is an easy recipe for disaster.

Time and time again this weekend, we saw the easiest way for Bant Company to lose was to miss land drops and never get into “two spells per turn” range, which generally rests at six mana.

To combat this, though, we saw Team Cardhoarder change the Bant Company deck around that was used to win #SCGCOL in the hands of Devin Koepke to play an additional land and some number of Nissa, Vastwood Seer in the main.

Let’s look at the list that team captain Chris Andersen took all the way to the top 4 of the event in Baltimore.

Chris was dispatched by the eventual champion Osyp Lebedowicz in an intense three-game set where we saw Chris stuck on four lands for quite some time in Game 3. You can up the count and play enablers, but sometimes you still need to get a little lucky.

Chris’s list has gone up to 26 lands and is playing a Nissa, Vastwood Seer in the main, which seemed to be very nice. Games in the mirror can often turn into long grind sessions and one of the best ways to break that parity is with card advantage. Tireless Tracker is great for this, but so is Nissa, Vastwood Seer. Not only does she help ensure that you hit six or more lands so that you can flat-out do more things than your opponent, whether casting spells or activating Duskwatch Recruiter, but she is also a great source of card advantage in the mid- and late-game once you can transform her into Nissa, Sage Animist.

I really can’t express just how important I think that it is that Bant Company move towards 26 lands being the standard. It is so important to just hit your land drops as your gameplan and cards are exceptionally powerful and the amount of card advantage that the deck can generate is pretty off-the-charts for a deck that only has eight noncreature spells.

This weekend Chris and the rest of Cardhoarder went with an untapped land to help smooth their curve-out draws, but if the format starts to adjust even more to combat Bant Company, it may be right to just play another Lumbering Falls. As a 3/3 hexproof creature, Lumbering Falls is exceptionally well-suited at fighting back against hard-line control strategies, and if we see a resurgence in any Esper-style control decks, it will likely become an invaluable resource in fighting that angle.

I’ve Got a Crush on You

If you’re tired of collecting companies and are looking for something a little different, then this weekend was quite the treat for you. I knew from the first time we had him on camera that there was something special going on with Cory Dissinger’s G/U Crush deck.

This is the one that I hope catches on. I hope that some of the teams preparing for Pro Tour Eldritch Moon are able to figure out what the final 10 or 15% is for this deck, because I think that Cory is already 85% of the way there with this thing of beauty, and it was a pure delight getting to watch him pilot his deck.

That’s what it is, too. It’s his deck.

While I was gushing about how awesome it was while waiting for the Top 8, MetaGameGuru’s captain Jim Davis mentioned that he had seen Cory the last time we were in Baltimore for a Standard Open doing the same thing.

Looping Crush of Tentacles with Den Protector over and over while making an 8/8? Apparently he had been playing and working on the deck ever since Oath of the Gatewatch came out, even before Shadows over Innistrad, but just didn’t really have anything that he could build towards once he had the game locked.

He does now. The actual shadow over Innistrad. The final piece for this tentacle tribal theme deck. Emrakul, the Promised End was everything that he could have ever hoped for.

Seeing him start crushing his opponents, literally and figuratively, as early as turn 5 was awesome. Traverse the Ulvenwald and Oath of Nissa are great enablers that also play other roles in the deck. Finding Emrakul, the Promised End or Den Protector is great for both, but the fact that Oath of Nissa comes back to your hand when you Crush of Tentacles is the real icing on the cake.

Once the tentacles started to constrict around you, there really was not much that you could do.

Speaking of which, how great did Noose Constrictor look in this deck? It can be the beatdown when you need it to and even plays exceptionally well with Deathmist Raptor in the post-sideboard configuration aimed to combat controlling strategies, and it does a very good job at playing defense on both the ground and in the air.

I’d say that Noose Constrictor is an honorary tentacle in this deck.

There are quite a few singletons in the deck, so if you decide to pick up Cory’s exact list, I would suggest playing a bunch of games with it so that you can learn the roles of all of them. Here is where I see their applications, though.

Void Grafter is likely used as a way to protect your 8/8 Octopus. Once you get into the Crush of Tentacles / Den Protector Loop, eventually you will build more and more mana. You might not have found Emrakul, the Promised End yet and there is a good chance that the opponent has something like Reflector Mage or Ob Nixilis Reignited to recast and kill the token. Once we get enough mana on the battlefield, then we can just save our 8/8 and get in some damage every Crush cycle.

This can also be used to protect Emrakul, the Promised End, since our opponent does get that one “mercy turn” once we Mindslaver them into oblivion.

Bounding Krasis is another defensive card that we will be able to use once we get into the Crush cycle. Flash threats are a real thing, and being able to tap them down with the Bounding Krasis when they go to attack so that we can untap and Crush again is a great way to stay alive while we loop our Crush of Tentacles until we can promise an end with Emrakul.

While Hangarback Walker is a decent defensive card on its own, I feel like it’s mostly in the deck as a potential Lotus Petal as a way to reduce the cost of Emrakul, the Promised End. We fly through our deck so quickly with Kiora, Master of the Depths that it’s likely we can either find the Hangarback Walker as a way to defend our Kiora or just mill it to reduce our Emrakul. By having the artifact in the deck, we can get Emrakul down to seven mana which is quite the good deal.

Once we get into the Crush loop, we can also Elvish Visionary to draw an additional card each time if we need to. It’s also a fairly cheap card that we can use to surge a Crush of Tentacles to start the loop, but it does require an additional mana as opposed to when we are using Oath of Nissa or Traverse the Ulvenwald.

Ishkanah, Grafwidow is a bit interesting since we don’t even have access to black mana to activate its secondary ability, but simply getting four bodies, all with reach and high toughness, for only five mana is quite a steal when we are trying to just delay the game.

Also, just in general, Ishkanah, Grafwidow is very good against Bant Company, which had the biggest target on it for the weekend.

Emrakul, the Promised End is really what puts the deck over the top. I can envision games before Eldritch Moon where you are able to stave off the opponent’s attack and start our Crush of Tentacles loop but just can’t really finish the game. Now, with a giant Eldritch monstrosity that we can find and cast eventually, we can end the game. I mentioned it plenty of times during coverage, but Emrakul really does fulfill her promises, and I’ve only seen one game where the player who is resolving Emrakul, the Promised End loses.

Now, there is also a Clash of Wills in the deck, but I think that’s more of a miser’s copy than anything.

There Are Other Options

Bant Company may be the most popular deck by an extremely wide margin, but it’s not the only option. There will still be a lot of Bant Company players even after the Pro Tour, but just from this last weekend, we can see that there are decks that can be built with Company in mind and hang with it.

#SCGBALT had four non-Bant Company decks in the Top 8, and from watching Osyp on camera with his extremely controlling version of G/W Tokens, there is hope for the future of Standard.

The big key is to try to attack the Company deck from a unique angle. G/W Tokens is able to do that with its extremely effective use of Tragic Arrogance and the value that it can grind out of an Evolutionary Leap.

The combination of those two cards facilitates an extremely powerful endgame, but Evolutionary Leap in particular gives the G/W Tokens deck some amount of protection from opposing Tragic Arrogances. It also lets the Tokens deck have sort of an on-demand transformation of Archangel Avacyn.

The G/U Crush deck also attacks Bant Company from a unique angle. Spell Queller is great at disrupting cards with converted mana cost four or less, but when we are either overloading on spells or just playing powerful spells that cost five or more, then we can limit the interaction from the Bant Company deck.

W/B Angel Control is another deck that fights on the “over the top” axis.

Cheap spot removal is a great way to overload Spell Queller, but having a near-unbeatable endgame is a way to trump the Company deck. Melding Bruna, the Fading Light and Gisela, the Broken Blade into Brisela, Voice of Nightmares is a very doable plan and limits forms of interaction to only hitting a Reflector Mage off a Collected Company, and even then, we can just recast the Angels to meld again, since they all have different names.

We also saw the G/B Delirium deck put up quite the fight against Bant Company, mainly on the back if Ishkanah, Grafwidow. If we can find some way to efficiently close the game out after we have stymied them, I really think that G/B Delirium can be a contender. I also like that it has access to Infinite Obliteration which is a great card to attack the G/U Crush deck with if it happens to catch on.

Comments from Last Week

“Can you play Dark Petition in the GB delirium deck? Spell Mastery seems trivial, its adds a sorcery + another card for delirium, it can fetch anything from Emrakul to Winnower etc….”

– Chris Palmer

Chris, I definitely think that you can play Dark Petition in the G/B Delirium deck. I know that Todd Stevens and Robert Wright both had it in their sideboard to go along with some powerful hate cards like Infinite Obliteration. I’m not sure if we can afford to play it in the main, though. Traverse the Ulvenwald is basically going to do everything that we want it to do for the most part.

I will say that finding a Liliana, the Last Hope and playing it off the BBB that you get from spell mastery does get me pretty excited.

“I’ve been working on something remarkably similar to the Zombie Emerge deck, but splashing green for both Grapple with the Past and Gather the Pack, to increase the consistency of getting the Haunted Dead and Kozilek’s Return into the graveyard. Using Yavimaya Coast and Llanowar Wastes also opens up the possibility of Reality Smasher and Thought-Knot Seer sideboard.

And I can’t cast Kozilek’s Return…..”

– Guy Baldwin

After playing a bunch with the Zombie Emerge deck, I ultimately felt like it was a bit inconsistent and not what I was wanting to do. The engine is pretty impressive, but we also have to be able to play Magic when we aren’t in Christmas Land, and cards like Haunted Dead and Prized Amalgam aren’t really going to get that done.

I am hopeful for the Pro Tour and StarCityGames.com Regional Championships, though, since if anyone is going to pick up that archetype and make it the real deal, it will likely come out of one of those two tournaments.

Personally, I like Standard where it is. We have a defined enemy that we can all rally against, and when you know what you’re trying to beat, you can start to be a little more creative.

I won’t be able to make it to an #SCGRegionals this weekend, since the closest to me is up in Canada, so my plan is to work on Modern in preparation for next week leading into Syracuse and the New Jersey Invitational, which I will be battling in!

SCG Regionals August 6!