Standard Bant Is Bantnanas

Looking for a deck to play at SCG Standard Open: Worcester, Massachusetts? Grand Prix winner Brian DeMars suggests giving his Bant Tapout deck a try!

Blue. White. Green.

I play Standard in a weekly tournament where attendance never dips below 50 players. The past three weeks I have been running a tuned up Bant Control list. I made Top 8 each time and have as of yet only lost one match with it.

I started out by looking at Reid Duke list from his article a few weeks ago but quickly began to take the deck down a different road. Reid is a great deckbuilder and fantastic player and person, so when I saw that he was on the Bant Wagon that was all I really needed to know before dusting off my Thragtusks and Sphinx’s Revelations.

"Banttle Beast – wood / water hologram emblem."

A quick story about Reid Duke from Grand Prix Las Vegas.

I played against him in an on-camera feature match on day 2 of the tournament and arrived at the following situation. Up a game, Reid is at two life, and I have Sudden Shock in hand and 1R open.

"The slowest roll?"

What do you do?

Visions of being responsible for the biggest slow roll in the history of Magic ran through my head.

I could play just badly enough that he wouldn’t suspect I had the Shock, let him battle back into the game, and just when he thought he’d pulled off the most epic comeback ever and with his lethal attack in the red zone, Zap! Dead. Had it all along…

Unfortunately for my plans of epic Sudden Shock shenanigans, Reid Duke is on my list of players who are simply too nice to slow roll that way. I talked to Ari Lax on the phone yesterday (Ari is also a fan of the Sudden Shock slow roll), and he agreed with a sigh, "Yeah, Reid Duke is one of the people you just can’t slow role on camera."

I had to settle for winning my match with dignity instead of ring leading my own person circus. Oh well.

So blue, white, and green.

What do we get?

Card draw.

"Now I know the answer to the Sphinx’s riddle: ‘what is the most demoralizing way to lose?’"


"Everything that grows dies. And when everything dies on turn 3 or 4, a Bant player’s chance of winning grows."

 Mana ramp.

"Looking for a way to play four-drops on turn 3 and always have perfect mana? Found it!"

Premier threats.

"Ach! Hans, concede! It’s the Aetherling!"

What can’t this color combination do?

My experience with Standard the past six months has been one of love and hate. I love the way that the format is so diverse and that there are so many different decks a player can play; however, I’ve found it difficult to find a deck that I really enjoy playing and can win consistently with.

I had a pretty good run playing the Junk Tokens deck I wrote about last month. While I thought the deck had a lot of play to it, ultimately I felt like when I lost I was getting beat by cards that were simply more powerful than mine.

I cast a Loxodon Smiter; they cast a Thragtusk. I play an Advent of the Wurm; they play an Olivia Voldaren. Etc., etc.

Such a deck banked on playing narrow niche cards like Selesnya Charm, Rootborn Defenses, and Intangible Virtue and trying to have those cards in combination with other cards at the right time in order to overcome more powerful spells from the opponent.

For instance, one might arrive in a situation where they are attacking with a Loxodon Smiter with a Rootborn Defenses in hand and the opponent plays Azorius Charm.

Wrong situational card at the wrong time.

Don’t get me wrong; I really enjoyed building and playing the deck for a time, but ultimately I got tired of losing to the same old song and dance over and over again.

Can’t beat an Angel of Serenity. Can’t beat a Bonfire of the Damned. And so on and so forth.

So I decided to go back into the tank and build a new deck that didn’t give a Squee about the kinds of cards that were consistently beating my tokens deck.

I had a lot of success playing Bant Control at the beginning of Return to Ravnica Standard and wrote an article about the deck. I bought my playset of Sphinx’s Revelations at $6 apiece and my article is hilarious.

Check this out from the article:

"Name a card that is criminally underplayed in a Thragtusk metagame?" — Sphinx’s Riddle.

I don’t understand why this card doesn’t see more play in Standard. It blows my mind.

Is this even a card?

Well, obviously, it caught on…

To say that Sphinx’s Revelation is a good card is basically a gigantic understatement.

I also built a version of Wolf Run Bant that I played quite a bit last winter. To say the least, I have quite a bit of experience with the archetype.

The core of the Bant deck is just so solid that it is basically a collection of the best and most powerful cards in the format.

First and foremost:

"An unstoppable killing machine."

I am a huge fan of Aetherling and would go as far as to say it might be the best card in Standard. The only thing going against Aetherling is that it is kind of expensive and won’t impact the game until later in the game than other cards can. However, once it’s deployed, it almost doesn’t matter what the opponent does—they just lose.


With all of the praise being said of how powerful the card is, I find the flavor of this card lacking. Aetherling is a bigger, better, even more unbeatable Morphling.

"Dear Superman, meet your new brother Dr. Manhattan."

I am sick of "-lings" as a thing in Magic to denote some unbeatable creature with five abilities. It is silly.

The suffix "-ling" is used to describe a younger, smaller, or inferior version of what is being denoted by the modified noun. For example, a little baby duck is a duckling.

Morphling, Thornling, Torchling, and Aetherling are all kind of tongue in cheek jokes. See this little baby morph or aether creature thing? Completely and utterly unbeatable.

So here is what I would have done with the card: MAGE EATER WHALE.

So. Much. Cooler.

First of all, all of my degrees are in English and Literary Theory. Aetherling is Moby Dick.

The unbeatable, unkillable, unvanquishable bane of every opposing wizard. The unblockable ability feels like it dives under the water and comes up to chomp down on the opponent’s face or friendly planeswalkers; then when an opponent tries to throw a Doom Blade at it, "DIVE WHALE!" It quickly vanishes beneath the waves untouched by Ahab’s harpoon.

The point is that attaching the suffix "-ling" as a flavor justification to make an unbeatable creature with a jillion abilities is played out, self-indulgent, and lazy.

And that is why I don’t like the flavor of the card.

End Aside

Aetherling is awesome because it essentially makes Kessig Wolf Run obsolete since it does everything that card does only better and doesn’t force the Bant deck to corrupt its mana.

It is fantastic at quickly eliminating opposing planeswalkers, and it is also the best pure finisher in the format. If you’re not already playing with or against Aetherling in Standard, I’m telling you that it is only a matter of time before this card is going to become much more popular because it is simply amazing.

"Mana Drain in Standard! How could I possibly refuse?!"

Those of you who read my Vintage content will undoubtedly know that I have a strong affinity for the card Mana Drain and basically play it every chance I get.

Plasm Capture feels a lot like Mana Drain because it creates the exact same kind of script-flipping blowouts as its Legends counterpart. (Counterpart, like counterspell…get it?)

This was a game of Magic:

On the play, I cast Farseek on turn 2, as does my Jund opponent. On turn 2, I leave up four lands that can produce UUGG. My opponent taps out for Huntmaster of the Fells (which is a reasonable play), and I Capture it in Plasm. I untap on turn 4 and use the Plasm Capture bonus to cast Aetherling with UU up. He concedes on the spot.

That kind of situation is exactly why I think that Plasm Capture is a very good Standard card at the moment. It creates really broken scenarios that shoot a player so far ahead that the game becomes comical.

Also, there is not really a lack of things one can do with Plasm Capture in this deck. Plasm Capture also sets up Thragtusk + Restoration Angel, Angel of Serenity, or a huge Sphinx’s Revelation.

The spell is expensive, but the shift in tempo it generates between taking their turn away and then having the biggest turn ever is well worth the UUGG price tag.

The Bant deck feels a lot like a Solar Flare deck to me in the sense that you tap out a lot and play spells that go over the top of your opponent. There are clearly some cards like Azorius Charm, Restoration Angel, Sphinx’s Revelation, and Plasm Capture that make it so that you don’t always want to be tapping out, but in general you can summon powerful threats and go over the top of most decks.

" Defense Grid + Kitchen Finks for G/W?"

I have seen a lot of different Bant decks opt to play their Voices all in the sideboard. In general, I think that Voice is at its worst against Jund, Junk Reanimator and bigger Naya decks but feel that it’s great against everyone else.

I would board in Voice of Resurgence against most decks that are not midrange and the card would be an A+, and since at least half of the format is not midrange, this card seems fine to play a few main.

The deck needs two-drops, and if I didn’t play the Voices, I would probably play Augur of Bolas in that slot. Augur is probably a slightly better overall card in the maindeck, especially with the Restoration Angels; however, I would almost certainly want to have all four Voices in the sideboard and there simply isn’t room.

Augur of Bolas is also counterproductive with my sideboard plan against opposing control decks, which is to board out spells like Azorius Charm and Supreme Verdict to make room for more disruptive creatures like Acidic Slime.

Augur is a card that I would want against control but would certainly sideboard out given the low number of instants and sorceries my deck contains post-sideboard. Also, in the matchups where Augur is good, Voice of Resurgence also seems to be pretty high impact, so although you gain something it isn’t very much. The biggest upside to the Augur of Bolas is that it’s much better against midrange decks than Voice is.

The good news is that this deck is generally pretty well positioned against a lot of the midrange style decks, especially after sideboard. The Voice of Resurgences really shine against fast aggro decks and decks that play with a bunch of instants, so basically it’s a tradeoff that I decided to make in the interest of making my 75 more well-rounded, but playing Augur of Bolas is for sure a justifiable choice.


I really like Terminus as a card in general. In most matchups, if you ever miracle it you basically win the game on the spot, and it is super handy at dispatching Zombies and Voices and making an Unburial Rites player’s life pretty miserable.

I have also found that sweeper effects + Aetherling make for a pretty devastating late game against anyone who isn’t lucky enough to also have an Aetherling in play. There are enough R/G/x decks floating around that I am usually pretty happy to have more board sweepers at my disposal—and I am gleeful to miracle one!

"Playable even without Augur?"

I started with Augurs and Angels. I didn’t think the Augurs were that good, so I cut them. Then I cut the Angels because I didn’t have any Augurs to blink—for about a second. And then I put the Angels back in.

Since this Bant deck doesn’t have Augur of Bolas, it is true that the Restoration Angels are not at their best. However, they are still crazy, crazy good.

Against aggro, the ambush block is basically legendary, and the Thragtusk blink is oftentimes game over. Restoration Angel is also quite handy at blocking opposing Angels.

The Angels are probably borderline not good enough if there were only a maindeck and no sideboard, but they get much, much better after sideboard, which is where I believe they really earn their keep.

"All Slime, all the time!"

My Bant list features an Ooze-themed transformational sideboard against midrange and control. I pack the full four Acidic Slimes and Progenitor Mimics to really get the party going.

The biggest threats to the Bant deck in the format are Rakdos’s Return and Sire of Insanity. The best way that I have found to deal with these threats is simply to attack people’s lands to keep these spells offline until they don’t matter.

Slime is really awesome at accomplishing this task.

Rapid Hybridization is also a concession to Sire of Insanity. It is pretty sweet on six mana to cast a Thragtusk and then Hybridize their six-drop.

"She turned me into a newt!"

I have also experimented with Hybridization against fast aggro decks and found it to be quite good. It is sweet against bloodrush, and nailing a Hellrider before they can use it to ping you for three or four is also well worth it. The other interaction that I have found to be quite impressive is to Hybridize one’s own Voice of Resurgence to make a 3/3 and 2/2 Elemental blocker. In a pinch, it can also move a Boros Reckoner out of the way so that Thragtusk can bring the beatdown.

Last but not least:


I love Progenitor Mimic, and I am positive that I’m over valuing how good it is. Yet even if I am overvaluing it, I’m still certain that it is a very good card. Most of the time, it feels like if the opponent can’t kill it before you untap then they just lose the game.

The deck seems really well rounded and is very adaptable for whatever kind of metagame one chooses to tune it to. The version that I have here is towing the line trying to be pretty flexible against everything, but adding a few more cards for aggro could vastly improve that matchup and the same could be said for control or midrange.

I hope you enjoyed the article and that some of you will give this deck a test drive at the SCG Standard Open in Worchester, Massachusetts this weekend. It is super fun to play—I mean, what could be more fun than Mana Draining into Morphling?

Thanks for reading!

Brian DeMars