Quelling Bant Company

We’ve heard a lot of input on the big results from last weekend! Is there hope for more decks at the top? We have a Pro Tour Champion in Shaun McLaren who will be happy to preview #SCGBALT for all of us!

Here we go again.

It didn’t take long for Bant Company to seat itself at the top of the Standard metagame.

It’s reminiscent of how Jim Davis won with it the first week after the release of Shadows over Innistrad, and this time the deck is looking better than ever.

The first reveal of Spell Queller signaled impending doom was on the way, and the results of the Columbus Open make said doom official.

Bant Company not only emerged victorious, it also put three copies in the Top 8 and made up a staggering half of the Top 32 decks. It’s the first week of the format, but those numbers are at least worthy of an eyebrow raise.

So just how good is Bant Company? Can any decks smash Bant Company or just reliably beat it? Will the upcoming Standard format completely revolve around Bant Company?

Today I’ll try to answer those questions, examine some decks from the Columbus Open, and discuss them in terms of competing against Bant Company.

First, the Enemy

I think you’re looking at the new face for Bant Company, so get used to it.

Just because a list ends up winning a tournament doesn’t mean it was the best list of the tournament, but I like a lot of what’s going on here.

Bant Company was already good and it didn’t just get a little better, it got a lot better.

So what makes Devin Koepke’s list different from previous versions of Bant Company?

Call it fate, call it Kismet, call it whatever you want, the fact is Bant Company was blessed with many great new cards. Thalia, Heretic Cathar is possibly the most interesting addition.

Thalia, Heretic Cathar is great in the Bant Company mirror match, and having three maindeck probably contributed a great deal to Devin’s success over the weekend. Bant Company has a lot of lands that will enter the battlefield tapped because of Thalia, and she’s particularity punishing towards Evolving Wilds.

First strike is great in conjunction with Dromoka’s Command and its +1/+1 counters and fight mode, allowing you to fight after blocks and not take any extra damage from combat or just to jump up an extra power.

Thalia, Heretic Cathar allows you to get aggressive and pressure the opponent, not only because your opponent’s creatures enter the battlefield tapped but also by making blocking attempts potentially awkward if Reflector Mage or Dromoka’s Command enter the mix at instant speed.

Thalia, Heretic Cathar also severely nerfs the effectiveness of flashy creatures like Archangel Avacyn and Collected Company by giving you solid ambush insurance. Ishkanah, Grafwidow is also going to look a lot worse as she and her baby Spiders will take a whole extra turn before they can swarm attackers.

Selfless Spirit is another new addition that looks great.

It combos fantastically with Archangel Avacyn by being an activator for her to flip out. One common way to remove an Archangel Avacyn is to kill her with her indestructibility trigger on the stack, and Selfless Spirit helps there as well. Selfless Spirit also works wonders against an Archangel Avacyn that’s flipping by saving the rest of your team, whether your own Avacyn or your opponent’s.

Selfless Spirit also just adds an excellent level of evasion to the deck for sneaking through damage or pecking at planeswalkers and makes Collected Company even more of a headache for your opponent.

Then of course there’s Spell Queller.





There isn’t much left to say about Spell Queller that isn’t going to be bleeped out. It is just as infuriatingly powerful card that encourages lopsided non-interactive games.

Spell Queller was a mistake… or Collected Company was…

Collected Company and Spell Queller were mistakes.

So where is Tamiyo, Field Researcher? They print a seemingly perfect planeswalker for Bant Company, and only Bant Company, that fits the top end of the curve and helps with exactly what the strategy is doing… and the deck is so powerful it doesn’t even make the cut?

All right, ranting over. Thank you for indulging me a little. Let’s get back to being positive.

I’m positive Spell Queller is a dumb card.

Okay, that was the last one.

There’s really isn’t much point griping about things yet.

This is Week 1 of the Standard format.

It almost always seems like the sky is falling during Week 1.

Usually it ends up being some other deck entirely (the one that wins the Pro Tour) that completely ruins the format (I’m looking at you, G/W Tokens and Eldrazi.)

If the format got ruined about ten more times once a week after each set was released, we’d have a diverse and evolving Standard metagame right up until rotation each season.

There is plenty of hope for this Standard season.

Bant Company was an obvious great choice right out of the gates. There may have never been such an obvious choice for so many in the history of Magic for what deck to pick up and play Week 1. Bant Company was an established archetype that got much better; now it’s time for the rest of the format to try to catch up.

G/W Tokens was what ended up being the true bogeyman of Standard before Eldritch Moon. Is history going to repeat itself… or continue itself?

G/W Tokens used to have a good matchup against Bant Company, but it didn’t get as many obvious upgrades, and it feels like the scales are currently tipping in Bant Company’s favor. In fact, the three biggest additions to Bant Company (Thalia, Heretic Cathar; Selfless Spirit; Spell Queller) are great against G/W Tokens.

Thalia, Heretic Cathar is great against the planeswalkers in G/W Tokens. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Nissa, Voice of Zendikar are going to be much more vulnerable when they tokens they pump out enter the battlefield tapped and can’t be immediately used to protect themselves.

Selfless Spirit is a cheap flier, and that’s good enough to do work by itself, but it also makes big combat clashes terrible and protects against Archangel Avacyn flipping.

Spell Queller exiling a planeswalker is a nightmare of lost tempo and requires removal, which G/W Tokens isn’t exactly overflowing with. Also it has flying.

Ishkanah, Grafwidow is interesting tech for G/W that fits the deck very well when you have delirium. Multiple planeswalkers providing Anthem effects for a battlefield full of Spiders is excellent. The tricky part is getting delirium on time, which should happen naturally reasonably quickly most games, but not usually by turn 5 every game.

Tragic Arrogance might be one of the best tools for fighting Bant Company going forward. It dodges Spell Queller, unlocks spells already underneath Spell Quellers on the battlefield, and gets around Selfless Spirit. It’s an excellent way to get back the battlefield when you’ve fallen behind and Bant Company doesn’t have many ways to play around it.

Aerial Volley is a nice little sideboard card that’s exactly what you want against U/W Spirits and great against Spell Queller in general.

It looks like it’s going to be a race between G/W Tokens and Bant Company to see who emerges at the head of class as the deck to beat, and right now G/W Tokens is losing.

The next style of deck that may have a chance against Bant is the “Grasp of Darkness plus Languish” control category. Ali Aintrazi on Sultai Control, Ronnie Ritner on B/W Angel Control, and Kasey Walton on B/G Seasons Past also represented this type of deck, but I’m picking Sam Jakemovski’s version, the one with the least creatures, to look at.

Bant Company has plenty of cards that are great against opposing creatures but weak elsewhere. Reflector Mage and Dromoka’s Command don’t look so hot when your opponents aren’t slinging creatures. This can allow you to play a weaker deck in general by abusing a weakness in the format: that everyone is focused on killing opposing creatures.

Grasp of Darkness and Languish are excellent against Spell Queller and Bant Company in general, and the deck has actually reached a critical mass of removal that can keep up with the seemingly never-ending swarm of Bant creatures.

Liliana, the Last Hope might seem odd in a deck where in Game 1 its middle ability just reads “-2: Put the top two cards of your library into your graveyard,” but it might actually be good enough anyway. It forces the opponent to overcommit into Languish if they want to push through damage, threatens to ultimate, and most importantly can kill one-toughness creatures, which is potentially a huge deal. (Though running three copies does seem ambitious.)

Liliana, the Last Hope then gets very good post-sideboard when you do the old switcheroo: bringing in creatures, like Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, while your opponent takes out their removal. Oldest trick in the book, and often surprisingly effective even when your opponent expects it’s coming. What are you gonna do, leave in removal against my control deck?

Other than that, B/W Control just wants to keep the battlefield clear and gain card advantage and planeswalker advantage while the opponent draws a bunch of dead removal spells.

All’s Quell That Ends Quell

The Pro Tour will provide a much more accurate map of things to come.

Bant Company will almost certainly be a major part of Standard and one of the best decks. Right now it feels like it will be difficult to beat. I’d rate it as a “55% against the field” type of deck. Not Stoneforge Mystic and Batterskull bad, where you would just easily and massively win games, but very powerful nonetheless.

Other archetypes had some success Week 1, including Humans decks and U/W Spirits, and if the target wasn’t already squarely on Bant Company (which it was), it is even more so now.

Decks will beat Bant Company, but they might not be able to hold up to the rest of the metagame while doing so. Bant Company is full of very powerful cards.

But to beat Bant Company we must turn the can’t into a can, and if things go very wrong, turn the Bant into a ban. Just remember, if all else fails and you can’t Beat ‘Em, Bant ‘Em.