You Bant Touch This

This week Mark shares some thoughts about the Hall of Fame and suggests picking up Bant Control for upcoming Standard tournaments like #SCGRICH this weekend.

August 17th, 2013

Post M14: the world is a wasteland.

Hexproof and G/W Human decks are running roughshod over the format. G/R Aggro is as prevalent as ever, and Naya Blitz is still popping up. Jund and Naya Aggro continue to make up a large percentage of the metagame.

We’ve tried everything. Jund won a Grand Prix recently, but it can only hold out so long. U/W/R Flash is only a deadly weapon in the hands of LSV, GerryT, and Matt Costa. What hope do the rest of us have?

Finally, it hit me.

It’ll hit them too.

End entry.

I’m so, so tired, folks.

Eventually, you get sick to death of hearing about Bant Hexproof and G/W Humans and the effect they are going to have on the upcoming Standard metagame. Yes, Gladecover Scout and Witchstalker are totally boss, and they are going to make Hexproof a better deck. Imposing Sovereign is the cat’s pajamas and makes it so Thragtusk is just a strictly worse option than Hero’s Reunion, and Brave the Elements makes alpha striking that much easier.

Among other tools, red decks get Chandra’s Phoenix, and decks with Black now get to play Doom Blade to kill off pesky Boros Reckoners.

Aggro this, fast decks that. Abraham hit me with a wiffle ball bat.*

I hate it. I hate all the attention that creature decks have been getting, as if midrange or control builds just all of a sudden ceased to exist. They haven’t, folks, and my testing has shown an ace in the hole for your upcoming tournaments. It’s the kind of deck that’s only very good because everyone and their mother is trying to jam monsters onto the field.

But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself.

When you’re trying to attack a budding Standard metagame, you have to understand what kind of decks are out there. We’ve established that two of the most hyped decks are G/W and Bant Hexproof, and they exist because they are getting some very powerful upgrades. Junk Reanimator might take a few weeks off since Scavenging Ooze is on everyone’s radar, so it’s entirely possible that it will just become the ultimate value midrange deck. Olivia Voldaren out of Jund Midrange has to contend with…other Olivia Voldarens out of other Jund decks, so the desire to play her feels like it’s at an all-time low considering that many players are touting the superiority of Doom Blade over Putrefy, which makes it a race to play the first Olivia.

This leaves us in a strange place and needing a deck that packs answers to the spectrum of aggressive, midrange, and control decks.

A few weeks ago a member of my streaming community, Yawm0th, shipped me his list of Bant Control that he had been battling with to modest success. It was considerably different than the list Reid Duke had been championing, and at first I didn’t think it was too good.

Then I started playing with it.

It was clear that the deck was powerful, but it had a few holes in it. The draws were sometimes clunky; however, the matchup it boasted against the aggro field was undeniable. It felt about as close to unlosable as you can get without sounding like a crazy person telling people that.

For reference, here’s what he sent me:

This deck doesn’t screw around when it comes to dealing with various aggro decks, and with good reason. One of the problems I had with U/W/R Flash is that sometimes the creatures outweigh your burn. Running two or three Supreme Verdicts doesn’t give you a sure sweeper at all times against a flooded field, and those games just made me feel helpless.

I hate feeling helpless.

This Bant Control deck makes me feel like I have the most options, and Farseek is a driving force behind that. The ability to turn 3 a Supreme Verdict against a Burning-Tree Emissary hand always gave me the warm fuzzies, and Terminus is a nice way to put those uppity Junk Aristocrats decks in their place.

M14 changes things, but only in a way that makes Bant Control a better option. For months, Bant has had to take a backseat to a format riddled with Acidic Slime, Liliana of the Veil, and Falkenrath Aristocrat. Those times are about to change.

In a format filled with tons of creature-based strategies, Bant Control begins to shine in way that it hasn’t since the start of Return to Ravnica Standard, and the build Yawgm0th gifted me with is the blueprint for where I want to start.

After checking out the spoiler for M14, this is what I’ve come to:

The differences between builds in the main are very small, but the sideboard is where I feel things really come together.

Game 1 against aggro decks is simple: you want to cast a Supreme Verdict followed by a backbreaking Sphinx’s Revelation. From that point, your cards are so powerful that it’s going to be almost impossible for them to catch up from an empty board, and a Thragtusk or two can pick up all the pieces. Your game 2s have the same effect but with more redundancy: more board sweepers and more creature control.

Celestial Flare is a card I’ve been very interested in. The applications that it brings to the table against Hexproof decks are obvious and huge, but it’s the power of having six spells that you can cast in a non-Farseek hand that either Time Ebb a creature or just outright force them to sacrifice it that draws me to the risk / reward of its difficulty to cast.

Domestication is a card that interests me greatly since against decks packing Boros Reckoner it can be an absolute powerhouse, forcing them into awkward two-for-one situations (at best for them); it might prove to be a real player in the future. Stealing a Voice of Resurgence also alleviates the problem that a deck like Bant Control can have with it, taking a frown and turning it upside down.

Archangel of Thune is another new toy that I want to play with. I think that despite the fact you can’t make the most of her Township ability, you do gain an awful lot of life with Bant, and it’s not out of the question to grow her to epic proportions. A turn 4 Archangel followed by a Thragtusk and an attack is a ton of life and a short clock for your opponent. She might be out of her element, though, and further testing with her would be needed.

Of course, one of the big things that this deck has going for it is that it boards into seven total sweepers, which is ridiculously important when you’re dealing with the most hyped decks coming out of M14. With Bant Control, you see a lot of cards, and because of that luxury you should be able to see one or two ways to clear the table of your opponent’s creatures.

I hope I’ve given you a least a little insight into why I think Bant Control might be a frontrunner for your next big tournament. I have a PTQ coming up in less than two weeks, and it’s already at the top of my list.

Speaking of lists, there is something small I’d like to go over regarding the Hall of Fame.

If I Only Had a Ballot

Like most of you, I don’t have a vote this year—only a myriad of opinions.

I think the only true locks this year are LSV and Ben S; the rest I believe is completely up in the air.

I must warn you that most of my opinions are based on personal bias, but I’m pretty sure that’s how most people handle the voting process, so I feel less bad about shooting from the gut.

#1: Luis Scott-Vargas

I’ve met Luis twice and I’m sure he doesn’t remember who the hell I am, but that’s completely ok with me. Each time we met we chatted for a few minutes, and it was clear that he is one of the most genuinely nice people in the game and a true ambassador for the game of Magic. Not to sound like a fan boy, but his video series and articles were what got me back into this game in 2009 and were the driving force in me having a good time again playing the decks he recommended. As has been said before, a 100% vote has never happened, but LSV might be the first and last to hold such an honor.

#2: Ben Stark

I’m from Florida, so this vote would be obligatory if I had one.

Kidding! I met Ben for the first time at a PTQ in 2009, and we both suffered a round 1 loss and were sat at the last two tables. After dispatching of our opponents rather quickly, we talked briefly. He was so warm and funny, and afterward I walked away from our talk smiling. It was only after when my friends came up to me and said “cool, you were taking to Ben Stark” did it click with me.

I was pretty impressed with someone of such a high regard taking some time to shoot the breeze with me in such a relaxed fashion that it left a pretty big impression on me. I swore that if I ever reached any kind of notoriety in our community, I would try to follow that example, and true to form at any event I’ve ever been to that he was also at, I’ve seen people walk up to him and ask him questions or request signatures and he’s never turned a soul away. Class act.

#3: Guillaume Wafo-Tapa

Get ready. The angry comments are coming.

I am a firm believer that Wafo-Tapa suffered from some incredibly poor judgment in sharing the God Book with a friend, but the wherewithal to serve a banning and walk right into a PTQ, win it, and then battle at the next Pro Tour like you didn’t miss a beat shows the level of skill this man plays at.

His accomplishments speak for themselves, his resume is very strong, and he may go down as possibly one of the Top 10 best control players of all time. Regardless of the format, Wafo-Tapa will figure out a way to play control, even if it is terrible, and he will win with it.

At the end of the day, though, people will call his character into question regarding his suspension, but I certainly think he is on the lowest end of the spectrum for what you would hold against a person for their entire Magic career. Just my two cents.

#4: William Jensen

Baby Huey. ‘Nuff said.

#5: Chris Pikula

The Meddling Mage himself!

I feel like if I would vote for Wafo-Tapa, I have to balance my scales.

Chris is well known throughout the entire community as one of the best players from the “older” days of Magic and also as a champion of fair play. I hate Hate HATE the people that exploit the rules and outright cheat in a game of Magic. I believe Wafo-Tapa didn’t cheat and was hosed for doing something extraordinarily stupid, whereas the kind of cheating that Mr. Pikula stood up against was the kind that could have, if it was able to, would have ran rampant throughout Magic and seriously damaged the credibility of what was a fledgling game at the time.

I’ve read the same thing about Chris over and over again. A vote for the Hall of Fame for him wouldn’t just be a fantastic way to acknowledge his triumphs but would also be the key to getting him back to the Pro Tour full time, and that seems like a win to everyone with a vote that I’ve talked to.

Has today has been a two-fold experience for you?

On one hand, I hope I’ve made you think that Bant Control might be a great deck to pick up in the coming weeks. On the other, if you have a vote, I hope that you take into consideration some of the things I touched on regarding the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot.

This week I’ll be streaming with Bant Control as well as a few other decks, so be sure to check me out on my Twitch.tv channel. We always have a blast.

Good luck cracking the new Standard, folks. I’m rooting for you.

Catch ya on the flip-