For today’s article, I am going to play in several Extended heads-up queue with a similar Bant deck to the one Antoine Menard suggest I to play at Worlds (which I ended up doing). First, here’s the decklist I am going to use:
- 1 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Meddling Mage
- 4 Tarmogoyf
- 2 Venser, Shaper Savant
- 3 Vendilion Clique
- 4 Rhox War Monk
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 3 Qasali Pridemage
The Bird of Paradise maindeck should eventually be Arbor Elf, which can produce several colors of mana too, but unlike Birds of Paradise he is able to carry Umezawa’s Jitte. I think the color-fixing aspect of the card, able to cast turn 3 War Monk or Vendilion Clique, is more important than being able to carry the Jitte, so I decided to play the Bird over Llanowar Elves.
The Vensers and the sideboard changes are mostly due to the shift away from combo decks towards control style decks (Fae, Thopter, Scapeshift). I think Spell Pierce does a great job in those matchups.
Let’s get started with the queues. As 8-man queues are not firing, I decided to start with 2- man queues until the 8-mans pick up.
Round1 – Combo Elves
I lose the die roll.
I keep against an unknown opponent. Draws including a turn 1 Hierarch are just so much better than draws without it, and the deck is not very good at taking mulligans.
He started the game with Misty Rainforest into Overgrown Tomb, Forest, and Nettle Sentinel. I now expect Elf Combo. My first two draw steps are Hallowed Fountain and Tarmogoyf. I lead with the War Monk so I am able to pass the next few turns with countermagic up and still apply a fair amount of pressure. He resolves Elvish Archdruid in his next turn, but I am a good enough player to draw Path to Exile immediately and kill the Elf Lord in his upkeep. He plays yet another Archdruid, which I don’t mind Mana Leaking. A freshly-drawn Meddling Mage forbids Glimpse of Nature. He fetches up Elvish Visionary with Summoner’s Pact and resolves it, as I don’t fear the card on the current board state, and he resolves Cloudstone Curio in the same turn. When he fetches up a Heritage Druid next turn, and bounces the Visionary, generating some mana in the process, I decide to counter the Shaman this time. I Spell Snare another Visionary, and after some chump blocks he dies to the War Monk.
A turn 1 Thoughtseize from his side takes care of the Hierarch. I draw Temple Garden, which I play over Treetop Village as it allows me to play a second turn Meddling Mage if I get lucky… which I get, and Meddling Mage forbids Heritage Druid from entering the battlefield. I don’t think he can go off in his next turn after playing Elvish Visionary without the Druid, while I guess he can do it without Glimpse. If he taps out for Archdruid, I can simply Path it in his next upkeep and have Mana Leak back up for a next threat. Duress takes care of Mana Leak, and another Elvish Visionary joins the party. I draw another Rhox War Monk and simply play one of the Rhinos without trying to trade the Meddling Mage with the two Visionaries. He plays some more Elves, in the form of Llanowar and Viridan Shaman, while I play some more Rhinos. He plays Regal Force the turn after, and I Path it in response to its own trigger so he would need to sacrifice some part of his board to survive the next turn. He concedes after drawing the cards.
Round 2 – Tribal Zoo
My opponent wins the die roll.
I think it is closer than the hand in the first match, I still keep, as once again we have turn 1 Hierarch, and If we draw a Blue fetchland we are perfectly fixed.
Plains, Steppe Lynx gets answered by Forest, Noble Hierarch after my first draw step is Qasali Pridemage. He swings for four and plays Kird Ape off a fetched Blood Crypt. I expect him to have a Forest in his hand if he makes this play (not fetching Stomping Ground), therefore playing Pridemage would be nonsense. I just pass the turn. He has another fetchland, and I Path the Steppe Lynx as he puts the fetched-up Stomping Ground into play tapped. He has no land to fetch up, but Helixes the Hierarch in response. Yet again no land, but a Tarmogoyf that gives some hope. Noble Hierarch is not the worst draw, but I am down to five as he Tribal Flamed me for the full amount. Knight of the Reliquary joins his side, and I concede the game when I don’t draw a land.
My opening hand: 6 land plus Jitte. Easy ship
I start the game with Treetop Village, as I would like to fetch up Hallowed Fountain to be fixed if he decides to kill the Hierarch. He starts with turn 1 Wild Nacatl, and I play my fetchland and the Hierarch after drawing a sweet Rhox War Monk. Nacatl swings for two and Kird Ape joins the battlefield. I don’t Path anything as he is stuck on one land. He finds a land next turn and immediately Paths the Rhox after fetching up a White source. I draw another Path and pass with 2 Path, 2 Spell Snares, and 2 Treetops in play. I trade one of my Treetop Villages with the attacking cat, and he plays another cat: Steppe Lynx. I don’t think this is a huge threat as he is screwed. I draw Vendilion Clique and pass the turn. I decide to take 4 damage from Steppe Lynx and play Vendilion Clique targeting him in response to his Thoughtseize.
I decide to take Tarmogoyf as he could easily play it in the same turn, which would leave me with zero Path to Exiles in hand, and he is not able to cast Bant Charm yet. He picks Path to Exile and plays another Steppe Lynx after killing the Clique.
I draw Threads of Disloyalty, but I don’t play it as there is no target that would make a huge swing in the game yet. He draws and plays Wild Nacatl, which gets stolen by Threads after I draw an Island. I now can play it with an untapped Hallowed Fountain. He swings with Kird Ape and I drop to six. He draws another Nacatl, while I draw land plus Birds. When he attacks with Wild Nacatl, I don’t have a choice but to Path it. At least he shouldn’t be able to find an Island. He has another Kird Ape, and I get another land and swing with the Birds.
I try to kill one of his Kird Apes with Treetop Village when he attacks, but he has found an answer in form of Lightning Bolt. I drop to 2. I draw Umezawa’s Jitte, equip the Bird with it, and it swings. He can’t attack and trades Tarmogoyf and Tribal Flames with my two remaining hand cards, the Spell Snares.
I draw another Hierarch, play it, and equip the Nacatl after attacking with the Birds, dropping my opponent to 5. He untaps, draws, and concedes.
Bird of Paradise was actually better in this game than Arbor Elf could have been. Interesting.
A bit slow, but good enough.
He opens with Steppe Lynx into Kird Ape. I draw Tarmogoyf and Kitchen Finks, and pass twice with no play but a land. I am not able to find a land, and I am forced to pass once again without a play. He has a third fetchland and doesn’t crack it, attacking me down to four. I decide to Mana Leak the Nacatl he plays afterwards to prevent some damage next turn from the fetchland, but he has Tribal Flames for the kill
Round 3 – Burn
I lose the die roll
My opening hand: 0 Land
He makes turn 1 Spark Elemental. Ugh. Hallowed Fountain comes into play tapped, and Hellspark Elemental drops me down to 14. I play another Hallowed Fountain tapped (with Misty Rainforest and Tarmogoyf in hand), as Tarmogoyf would only be a 2/3 and I am positive I could use either Spell Snare or Path to Exile in his next turn. He unearths and plays Teetering Peaks, so I prevent the damage with Path to Exile. I draw Rhox War Monk and play it. He concedes.
I draw another Forest and let his suspended Rift Bolt resolve, so I could fetch for Hallowed Fountain if he doesn’t do anything relevant. He suspends another Rift Bolt, I draw another War Monk. I drop down to 10 from an end of turn Lightning Bolt and the Rift Bolt. He passes and I draw Misty Rainforest, and pass as well. Surprisingly nothing gets played at end of turn, and I just end up fetching Hallowed Fountain after he passes again. I draw Pridemage and play it. I Spell Pierce and end of turn Flames of the Blood Hand. Umezawa’s Jitte joins the Pridemage next turn, but I don’t equip it yet. When I equip it next turn, and he opts to Shard Volley it, I could counter that with Mana Leak and Spell Pierce, but I don’t think its needed as I would drop down to four if I do that, by using my fetch land. When I draw and cast Kitchen Finks next turn, he concedes.
Round 4 – Mono Green Stompy
I lose the die roll.
Again, I like keeping these hands.
He starts with Forest, Noble Hierarch. I do almost the same. I answer his second turn Dryad Sophisticate with a Rhox War Monk thanks to the drawn Scalding Tarn. I fetch for an Island, as I expect the game to turn out as a damage race. He plays Spawnwrithe and attacks for 3. I play Pridemage and Tarmogoyf, and swing back for 5. He attacks with his two guys and I block the Spawn with Pridemage, expecting to see Vines of Vastwood or something similar. He indeed plays Vines, and I drop down to 10, but the Tarmogoyf is growing to 3 power. I draw Treetop Village, play another Pridemage and Meddling Mage forbidding Vines of Vastwood. Once again the Monk is stealing some life back. He enchants the original Spawnwrithe with Blanchwood Armor, and attacks with it and Dryad Sophisticate. I trade the Enchanted Spawn with Pridemage, who is teamblocking with Tarmogoyf. I swing back with my whole team, including Treetop Village, forcing him to chump block, and I have Mana Leak backup for the next turn.
He starts with Noble Hierarch into Cold-Eye Selkie, which I decide to Path sorcery speed so not to run into an immediate game-winning Vines of Vastwood. He follows it up with Groundbreaker, and I play the first of the now three Taromgoyfs in my hand. I chump block the second Gorundbreaker playing around the almighty Vines of Vastwood. I play another Tarmogoyf and have Mana Leak and Path to Exile backup. He plays Dryad Sophisticate, and I resolve Path to Exile, targeting it. I play another Tarmogoyf, and the first one swings. I trade my Tarmogoyf with his Vines when he is attacking with his Hierarch. We both draw land, but I draw Rhox War Monk the turn after. He drops some more lands, and eventually concedes.
An 8-man queue is filling up at three players, so for the last tournament in the article I will play in that queue.
Round 5 – Naya Zoo
I win the die roll!
Not much of a choice but to keep.
He mulligans to five and plays a turn 1 Misty Rainforest. His first play is a turn 3 Woolly Thoctar, which I simply Mana Leak. I draw Umezawa’s Jitte and some more land, so my plan for turn 4 is to Vendilion Clique and then play Jitte in my turn, unless something unfortunate happens. He taps out for Bloodbraid Elf and hits Path to Exile. Nothing unfortunate happens. Vendilion Clique sees Lightning Bolt, Woolly Thoctar, and Tarmogoyf. I take the Tarmogoyf, even though it is smaller, but it is a lot easier to cast while playing some more spells. And I won’t lose the game unless he plays multiple spells on his next turn. I draw and play Treetop Village, and the Jitte is charging. He plays Arid Mesa and Woolly Thoctar. In my first main phase, I opt to play Meddling Mage. It resolves, and I name the known Lightning Bolt while Vendilion Clique is charging the Jitte some more. Meddling Mage tastes a Lightning Helix which I can’t prevent from happening, and I prevent some damage by Pathing the Thoctar. I Mana Leak the Bolt aiming for the almost deadly Fae (thanks to some Jitte upgrades). He untaps, draws, and concedes.
His first play is a Jitte on turn 2, while I have only Treetop Village in play. When he ops for a Tarmosquire the turn after, I Spell Snare that. I now play my own Tarmogoyf, which has 3 power as I drew a Jitte to answer his if I don’t find a White source to kill it with Pridemage. He taps out for Blood Moon. I remove his Jitte with mine, to grow Tarmogoyf and get in some beats. He has another Tarmogoyf on his own, and I have to stay back. Nothing happens for some turns, until he finds his fourth mana for a Bloodbraid Elf which cascades into Wild Nacatl. A second Bloodbraid Elf cascades into Woolly Thoctar, putting me in real bad shape. I still don’t draw any basic land, and I die.
His first play is a turn 2 Noble Hierarch, which I counter as he took two mulligans. He doesn’t play a second land, and I play my War Monk off two basics. He finds a second land immediately, and plays a Tarmogoyf the size of Rhox War Monk. I Threads it, with 2 Path to Exile, Spell Snare, and Umezawa’s Jitte backup, but no fourth land. He taps out for Blood Moon the next turn, but I find a land myself to charge the Jitte. He deals with the Monk with Path, and Tarmogoyf trades with Wild Nacatl and Lightning Bolt. He than taps out for Bloodbraid Elf, cascading into Lightning Bolt. Jitte kills the Elf, leaving him with no board or hand and me with Spell Snare and Jitte, but no White mana for my two Paths to Exile. I immediately draw Tarmogoyf, but he finds a solution in form of Path to Exile the turn after. I then top deck Venser, which I can cast as all my basics are in play. Venser wins the game and match.
Round – 6 Burn
I lose the die roll.
My opponent mulligans twice again, and starts with turn 1 Spark Elemental. I draw a Forest and play Noble Hierarch off it. He Incinerates the Hierarch, and I play Hallowed Fountain tapped, passing the turn with no play. Goblin Guide reveals Rhox War Monk, which gets immediately played after I fetched an Island with Misty Rainforest. He Lava Spikes me and concedes as soon as the Lifelink Rhino blocks his Goblin.
I keep as I expect this hand to do fine against burn. Being able to counter 2-3 burn spells puts them in a really rough shape, and if I can follow it up with a turn 5 or 6 Rhox War Monk, this should be good.
He starts of with Goblin Guide revealing Treetop Village, and I draw another Misty Rainforest. Ding. I play one of the Rainforests and discard Treetop Village. After he reveals Noble Hierarch, I fetch up a Hallowed Fountain and remove the Guide. Keldon Marauders joins the party. His Hellspark Elemental meets with Mana Leak, and I take five from the Marauders attack, pumped by Teetering Peaks. Lava Spike hits me down to five, and Marauder in his next upkeep to four. Hellspark Elemental, pumped up by another Teetering Peaks, gets me.
My second turn Tarmogoyf has one power after he Lightning Bolts me in his first turn. He plays Keldon Marauders, which gets chumped by one of the Goyfs as I drew a third one and he pumped his guy with Peaks. He plays another Marauder, while I play another Tarmogoyf, still not seeing a third land. I chump with another Tarmogoyf, staying as high as possible as I think I am winning as soon as I hit my third land. I draw Misty Rainforest, searching for a Forest, which allows me to cast Kitchen Finks and Vendilion Clique. This leaves only the Rhox War Monk and the 2 Path to Exile uncastable. I play Vendilion Clique in his attack step after he played Goblin Guide, targeting him, revealing a hand with which he wasn’t able to kill me nor any of my guys. This leaves the Clique, Tarmogoyf and Kitchen Finks lethal.
I wasn’t able to 6-0 with the deck a second time, but I still think that Antoine Menard’s deck is performing really well in the current metagame, and the Spell Pierce update seems really good. I sadly didn’t draw Venser in those games often enough to be sure if it’s better than Bant Charm.
Thanks for reading!