The day Innistrad: Midnight Hunt released on Magic Arena, I was unpacking. This wasn’t something I’d planned to be doing when booking the moving company three months prior, but what can you do? The next day my parents came to visit, which was great of course, but meant I wouldn’t get to dive into the new Standard until they left. They did so midway through last week, which meant I had a lot of catching up to do.
I started my research where most people do these days, watching crokeyz stream. That day he was working on a Sultai Ramp deck featuring Storm the Festival. It immediately drew me in for a variety of reasons, but mainly Gerry’s recent article on the card had me excited to work on it already. Here was crokeyz’s list:
I played around with this deck, making adjustments here and there, but ultimately came to the conclusion that Sultai was a flawed Storm the Festival color combination. The black cards just didn’t seem like they jived well with what the rest of the deck was trying to accomplish, and the mana was lacking. The core idea was very impressive though.
At the core, Storm the Festival decks are ramp strategies. That’s not only because you want to cast Storm the Festival as early as you can, but also because the format dictates you should cast and/or interact with Turn 3 Esika’s Chariots. Truth be told, I’m pretty sure the duo of Esika’s Chariot and Wrenn and Seven will become very old, very quickly. Regardless, it’s the world we currently live in so we should start playing by its rules.
Creature-based ramp decks have to walk an interesting tightrope in that you need to play enough for your deck to consistently ramp two-to-four, but not too much as it can cause other unexpected problems. If your strategy solely relies on going two-to-four, you’ll end up mulliganing a high percentage of the time when you don’t have any mana acceleration in your opening hand. You also will end up with weaker Storm the Festival turns as your deck consists of too many non-payoff cards to find with the deck’s namesake spell.
Now it’s vital to have one mana acceleration spell in your opening hand when you’re on the draw in a ramp-based “mirror” as you’ll fall too far behind if they “do their thing” 1.5 turns faster than you can. That same rule doesn’t apply when you’re on the play though. You now have the luxury of keeping hands that don’t have a two-mana accelerator as long as your opening hand can interact with their two-mana accelerator or what it will be ramping into. This is exactly why you don’t want your strategy to simply be just the “rampers” and the “ramped intos,” because you’ll mulligan too often on the play. The best solution I’ve found over the years of playing decks like this is to look for cards that can bridge the gap.
Cards like Brutal Cathar are rarely that good, as they’re extremely fragile ways to interact with an opponent’s battlefield. That’s not really the story these days though, as the card has a ton going for it right now. Like I was just alluding to, Brutal Cathar is a great way to interact with an opposing two-mana accelerator. Sure they can get it back, but it’s losing value with each land that gets played. There’s also a ton of tokens roaming the streets of Standard that Brutal Cathar loves to munch on. Lastly, you can get it off Storm the Festival, which is going to be the theme for the rest of today’s article.
Now Elite Spellbinder and Reidane don’t exactly interact with an opponent’s two-mana accelerator, but they do mess up what they’re trying to ramp into. I’ve actually found both of them to be exceptional in Standard right now, and I continuously struggle with which one to maindeck and which to sideboard. These cards combine to be a great way for a deck like Bant Festival to keep more opening hands and not rely on mana acceleration as much, which greatly increases the potency of your Storm the Festivals. After some more work this past weekend, I’ve gotten to this list that’s currently undefeated outside of some bad draws against Seth Manfield on stream.
- 2 Lotus Cobra
- 4 Tangled Florahedron
- 3 Glasspool Mimic
- 3 Elite Spellbinder
- 1 Prosperous Innkeeper
- 3 Mind Flayer
- 4 Brutal Cathar
- 4 Rootcoil Creeper
At its core this list still centers around the absurd power of Esika’s Chariot and Wrenn and Seven. Outside of that though, it has a ton of robust features that allow it to expand from just being another ramp deck, and allows for more powerful Storm the Festival combinations than other lists I’ve seen being played. Let’s talk about some of those cards before we get to the sideboard guide.
Glasspool Mimic is an absolute home run in this deck. It’s a land in the early turns, but a creature when you find it off Storm the Festival. Your deck is also filled with an array of creatures that have enters-the-battlefield triggers, which sometimes makes it one of the cards you’re looking for when you cast the deck’s namesake card. Just keep in mind that it doesn’t get to see the other card you’re selecting when you cast Storm the Festival!
I’ll start by saying I’m not the biggest fan of Ranger Class, and I think that’s because I’m always playing it in decks like Gruul Werewolves where it’s just another generic threat. Sure it can be good sometimes, but for the most part it’s getting overshadowed almost immediately in any green matchup (especially when you’re on the draw).
Where this card truly shines is in the non-green matchups. There you’re wanting to bring in counterspells while also never tapping out into their counters. That’s honestly the trick to matchups like Izzet Dragons❄. If your deck is designed to slam big spells too early, then they’ll counter it and cast a Goldspan Dragon. These are the sorts of sequences you don’t want to happen, which makes Ranger Class a great card to use some of your mana on as the game develops.
There’s also a lot of Mono-Black Control❄ decks floating around which have access to Blood in the Snow. Now I don’t think these sorts of matchups are really all that difficult, but getting a Ranger Class off Storm the Festival can be a great way to diversify your threats and set up for the long games they’re wanting to play.
Fan me down, because Mind Flayer is hot! I’ve talked about this before, but there’s just something about playing a powerful card in a green deck that won’t die to Burning Hands. It’s also great at stealing an opposing Wrenn and Seven Treefolk token, allowing your Elite Spellbinder to finish the planeswalker off. This card slaps!
Lastly we have our motley crew of sideboard cards. I’ll be honest, Bant decks never really have amazing sideboards. I could go into a long spiel as to why that’s the case, but let’s just leave it at “color pie blah blah blah.” What’s important to say is that the sideboard is going to change a lot in the coming weeks because what we’re really looking for are combinations that allow for us to transition our gameplan after sideboard.
This could mean we act less like a ramp deck, or want to try to turn more into a control deck. Whatever it is, finding these plans and then seamlessly weaving them into one cohesive shell takes more time than I’ve had with the deck thus far. It doesn’t help that I’ve won almost every match I’ve played with the deck, which makes it difficult to figure out what the issues are. Maybe there aren’t any and the deck is perfect!
One more thing before we get to the guide. A ton of people are playing Malevolent Hermit in decks like this and it sort of makes sense. You can mill it over with Wrenn and Seven, which lets you cast Benevolent Geist, which means your opponent can no longer counter your best spells. Not only that, but its front side isn’t that bad and can sometimes protect your big spells or counter theirs.
All that said, I still found the card to be lackluster and continuously trimmed them from the sideboard as I found other cards I wanted to play. Maybe the card deserves a slot or two, but as of right now that’s only been theoretical where as all the other cards have proven themselves time and time again.
I always find early sideboard guides to be kind of silly as the metagame is constantly shifting. Like, I’m pretty sure the metagame will be significantly different by the end of the week. That said, there were some early tournaments on MTG Melee this past weekend, so I’ll be using those as the foundation for which decks to include in today’s guide. If things do change a ton in the next couple of days, I’ll add a bonus section for the updates on my next article that’ll come out later this week.
VS Izzet Dragons❄
I assumed this deck was going to roll over to Izzet Dragons❄ when I initially started to work on it, but to my surprise I’ve won every match against the deck. Of course it’s a low sample size, but the reality could be that the deck isn’t that good or Bant Festival has the tools to beat it. Time will tell, but for now I feel pretty confident about the matchup.
Both Mindflayer and Brutal Cathar are rather weak in the matchup. It’s one of the main reasons why I assumed this to be a bad matchup, and why I found it important to include Tangletrap in the sideboard. After sideboard though I’ve found the games to play out rather smoothly as we can typically get down on the battlefield quickly and then hold up interactive spells for their Dragons. As the game goes on they will struggle to deal with our Wrenn and Sevens as the Treefolk tokens became too big to handle.
VS Mono-Green Aggro❄
- 2 Lotus Cobra
- 4 Kazandu Mammoth
- 3 Old-Growth Troll
- 4 Werewolf Pack Leader
- 1 Briarbridge Tracker
- 1 Outland Liberator
I was pretty surprised to see such a huge spike in play from Mono-Green Aggro❄. Part of me thought some Gruul Werewolves or Gerry’s Naya Aggro deck would take this spot in the metagame, but both decks have been underwhelming. Now the dust hasn’t settled by any means, but for now this is the aggro deck of choice by the masses that we need to make sure we’re prepared.
Spoiler alert: we are very prepared. Seriously, this is a slaughter of a matchup, as we have so many great ways to interact with their early aggression and then get to follow it up with a more impressive late-game. All we really have to do is make sure they don’t push us around too much in the early turns and get a bunch of triggers off Werewolf Pack Leader.
It may seem like we don’t have that many targets for a card like Portable Hole to justify the inclusion, but you have to remember it answers Wrenn and Seven tokens as well. This card can be very nice at handling early Lotus Cobras or Werewolf Pack Leaders which can help them snowball in the early stages. When they do, they will be able to leverage cards like Blizzard Brawl, Inscription of Abundance, and Snakeskin Veil to kill us quickly. You have to keep them from building an early battlefield.
VS Izzet Turns
To the surprise of no one, Alrund’s Epiphany is the staple of a busted strategy in Standard. Seriously, this card is messed up and seems to be quickly leading this strategy to becoming the best deck in Standard. While that may be the case, I still found myself beating it four times while playing in the Standard Metagame Challenge this past weekend on Arena.
Another matchup where Mind Flayer and Brutal Cathar just won’t cut it. Since we’re effectively playing 31 lands, we can easily cut some Glasspool Mimics to make room for a more robust gameplan of just sticking some threats and holding up counterspells.
There’s really no amazing thing I can say about this matchup. Sequence your cards so you don’t get blown out by Battle of Frost and Fire, but don’t be too slow that they bury you in card advantage. Oh, and draw a Hall of Storm Giants, because that card is so good at killing them out of nowhere!
VS Gruul Werewolves and Gruul Aggro
- 4 Werewolf Pack Leader
- 3 Tovolar, Dire Overlord
- 4 Kessig Naturalist
- 4 Reckless Stormseeker
- 3 Outland Liberator
- 4 Magda, Brazen Outlaw
- 4 Goldspan Dragon
- 4 Jaspera Sentinel
- 3 Briarbridge Tracker
- 3 Reckless Stormseeker
While these two strategies have their differences, the way we approach them is almost identical. Personally I’ve found more success with Gruul Aggro, but both have felt a little weak to what the rest of the metagame is currently doing.
Similarly to the Mono-Green Aggro❄ matchup, we really don’t need to sideboard all that much as our gameplan trumps theirs. All we need to do is make sure they don’t get out ahead of us too quickly so that the power of Storm the Festival is there for us to overpower them with.
The best thing I can say here is that you shouldn’t be afraid to just cast your spells. It doesn’t really matter what you hit with Brutal Cathar, just as long as you’re tapping your mana and interacting with the battlefield. Eventually one of you will have better resources than the other, and more often than not that person will be you.
As I said earlier, these matchups are pretty easy after sideboard. There’s just not much for them to do unless we draw absolutely abysmally since we have card advantage, counterspells, and some great ways to keep them off tempo. I expect Mono-Black Control❄ to fade away here soon, but it’s pretty popular thanks to some influencers boasting about it late last week.
Well, I hope you enjoy trying out my take on Bant Festival. It’s not the flashiest deck roaming Innistrad: Midnight Hunt Standard right now, but I’ve found it has quite the powerful punch in the current metagame. Join me later in the week when I break it all over again!
Narrator: He never broke it in the first place.