This weekâ€˜s matchup of choice will be Bant Conscription versus Turboland. Since the Japanese Nationals were recently held, and a mixture of Bant Conscription and NLB posted a sixth place finish at the tournament, I decided — with the help of Antoine —playing that list would make more sense, as it seems better in most the matchups. M11 is here, of course, but that doesn’t negate the validity of this excercise, especially since the MTGO metagame hasn’t shifted as yet.
Here is the decklist I played:
- 2 Birds of Paradise
- 2 Ranger of Eos
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 3 Sovereigns of Lost Alara
- 1 Scute Mob
- 4 Sea Gate Oracle
- 4 Vengevine
- 4 Wall of Omens
The deck combines the powerful finish available through Sovereigns of Lost Alara with the strong engine of card-drawing creatures of the NLB deck, in combination with Vengevine. The decklist has almost no targets for spot removal, which makes it similar to NLB in that regard. In order to successfully combine these two powerful strategies, you lose two cards that are very unfair once you untap with them — Lotus Cobra and Knight of the Reliquary. In most of the matchups, people don’t have problems dealing with these two cards, and upgrading to a less fragile core for the deck doesn’t seem wrong in a Jund and Mono Red heavy metagame.
As a reminder, this is the deck Antoine played:
Going in, I didn’t think the matchup will be very good for me. I wouldn’t be able to deal with Lotus Cobra or Oracle of Mul Daya the majority of the time, and I didn’t think I could win when either of those saw play early in the game. I also expected Antoine’s Jace, the Mind Sculptor to be much better than mine, since he had Time Warps to give him an unfair advantage, and he would be able to bounce my guys to buy turns while he was playing no guys that were worth bouncing. After sideboarding, I thought it should improve a little for me, since I picked up more cards that interact with my opponent, while I was able to sideboard out some of the many cards that don’t seem impressive in the matchup (Wall of Omens, Sea Gate Oracle).
Pre-board Games (7-5 on the play, 5-7 on the draw)
In order to win games in this matchup, you need either Sovereigns of Lost Alara or Elspeth, Knight-Errant, alongside either Vengevine or Ranger of Eos. Otherwise, you shouldn’t be able to press through damage against an Avenger of Zendkar. And it is very hard to win before that card sees play.
Taking very aggressive mulligans is key in this matchup. If you don’t play a Noble Hierarch or Birds of Paradise in the first two turns, your kill usually takes longer than his. Therefore, I mulliganed the majority of my hands that didn’t have one of the two cards above, along with a Green source. There are a few other hands you can keep and expect a positive outcome — mostly hands that have a fair amount of removal (two out of five cards) followed by a big threat. And as “big threats” go, the best is Jace, the Mind Sculptor. If your opponent untaps with Lotus Cobra or Oracle of Mul Daya, you are in bad shape; if he manages to combine those two cards with a Jace, the Mind Sculptor, you are very unlikely to win the games. Antoine often had to play his Avenger of Zendikar without being able to play a land in the very same turn, so removing the Avenger can buy you a decent amount of time to win with one of your two win conditions.
After playing the pre-board games, I became sure that a list built around Lotus Cobra and Knight of the Reliquary would post much better results in the matchup. Your opponent won’t be able to deal with any of the guys you play, and the mana boost from Cobra gives such an unfair advantage in the Blue/Green mirror. The Vengevine engine is not very impressive in the matchup, as both Wall of Omens and Sea Gate Oracle seem too slow if they are not played on the second turn. I often faced the following decision: should I be playing Wall of Omens or Sea Gate Oracle on the second turn? If I already had a turn 3 play in the form of a powerful four-mana spell, I usually decided to play the defender in favor of the Oracle, just in case I drew another one-mana spell.
Ranger of Eos was usually fetching a pair of Noble Hierarchs, as Scute Mob is just not very impressive without either Elspeth, Knight-Errant or being enchanted with Eldrazi Conscription. Sometimes, though, it helps to fetch up a Bird of Paradise, as if your opponent locks down the ground with an Avenger of Zendikar, you’re still able to press through some damage with the small flyer. Don’t bank on Celestial Colonnade in that scenario, as your opponent should have much fewer problems dealing with the man lands (thanks to the ton of Wasteland effects) than he should have with the Bird (or which he only has two options: Jace, the Mind Sculptor, or killing you first).
I think most of the sideboarding is common sense. All the cards that get cut are more than mediocre, and useless in the mid to late game. Most of the cards that get brought in, aside from Ranger of Eos and Martial Coup, seem pretty obvious.
I brought in Martial Coup to have an answer for Avenger of Zendikar, and it replaces a card I only want to have on turn 2. I expected Martial Coup to be able to steal a game or two. I am not sure if the third Ranger of Eos is better than having one Wall of Omens. Ranger is a decent four-drop, but it’s by far the worst in the matchup, while Wall of Omens might be able to balance your draws.
Post-board Games (6-7 on the play, 3-10 on the draw)
In 8 of the 26 games, I took mulligans to five or fewer cards. Not only did I mulligan aggressively, but I also had tons of unkeepable hands. I either had zero lands, all lands, or two Eldrazi Conscriptions in the opening hand, and I don’t think anyone is able to keep hands such as these. In the games I won, Antoine started with five cards in hand a fair amount of the time. I think that the post-board games should be pretty even, while the Turboland deck might be a slight favorite in pre-board games. I think you should be able to keep more opening hands post-board, since you have more removal, and such spells are early drops that do something in addition to your mana acceleration. The countermagic seems much better on paper than it actually is in this matchup, as Tectonic Edge, Time Warp, and his own countermagic often foils your plans. The card that changes post-board games the most is All Is Dust. It is important that you understand when to play around this card, and when it is better to just go all in and hope he doesn’t have the Eldrazi sorcery. With Vengevine, it is often easy to play around the card, and if you are able to keep up two counterspells without worrying about Tectonic Edge, you shouldn’t be able to misplay either. Games where you don’t have access to tons of mana and have to find a way to kill your opponent are more complicated, and they deserve some testing. I killed my opponent’s creatures very aggressively, as any of them can be game-changing.
Mold Shambler is another card I expected to be a lot better than it actually was. It was good once because I only had two Green mana when I had Noble Hierarch in hand as well, in order to return two Vengevines — but Antoine didn’t have the All Is Dust at that point, so it didn’t matter. It might be best to not board in the Mold Shambler and the Martial Coup, to have access to two Wall of Omens, which might be able to defend your Jace and not put you in awkward positions where you have to keep Vengevine on defense to protect your Jace that already Unsummoned a guy.
You rarely want to counter any “non-big” spell, since most other spells accelerate the deck and your opponent will not have access to many big-mana spells. Once in a while, though, you want to counter a turn 2 Rampant Growth or Explore, primarily if you have a very aggressive draw and you want to be tapping out on the next few turns (with something like turn 3 Vengevine, turn 4 Elspeth, and turn 5 Sovereigns of Lost Alara). Try to keep up basic lands and mana critters for your countermagic, so Tectonic Edge doesn’t thwart you.
As many Bant matchups, this one doesn’t have too much interaction, but I think the most important thing is to know when and how to mulligan. Hands where you cast your first impactful spell on turn 4 are just too slow.
First I thought that the deck would be strictly better than the decks built around Lotus Cobra and Knight of the Reliquary, but after playing this matchup, having those two guys in the Bant (or Blue/Green) mirror seems to be a very unfair advantage. But overall, I can’t suggest that you play any particular version, as the metagame you expect to face matters a great deal.
Thanks for reading…