August 19, 2016

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The Answer to Bant Company

Bant Company is one of those decks that just doesn’t go away.

Throughout the first couple of weeks after the release of Eldritch Moon, that was basically all we were seeing, and it was beginning to look like the set had done nothing to change the landscape of Standard. Though I had advocated waiting until the Pro Tour to really get a glimpse of what this format was truly about, it seems the Pro Tour itself only gave us a brief reprieve from the Green, White and Blue menace before things went back to the status quo.

The Pro Tour provided us with a whole host of new and interesting decks full of new cards from Eldritch Moon. It’s no secret that the power level of the set is sky high, and yet, it seems that no matter how we adapt our control decks, no matter how aggressive our burn decks, Bant is here to stay until Collected Company and Dromoka’s Command rotate out of the format in October.

I spent the weekend before the Pro Tour playing side events at Grand Prix Montreal trying desperately to find something that could fight Bant. Through many failed attempts, and many conversations with other Canadian Pro’s we were able to come up with something in concept, and spend the rest of the weekend tinkering around with new ideas.

 

Blue Black Zombies

Creatures (23)
Cryptbreaker
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
Voldaren Pariah
Haunted Dead
Stitchwing Skaab
Prized Amalgam
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

Planeswalkers (4)
Liliana, the Last Hope

Spells (9)
Dark Salvation
Collective Brutality
Grasp of Darkness

Lands (24)
Sunken Hollow
Choked Estuary
Submerged Boneyard
12 Swamp
Island

At this point, this is likely something you’ve already seen. At least one other team played something similar at the actual Pro Tour, and one other considered it as well. What you may have noticed though, is that this deck all but completely disappeared post Pro Tour, and that is slightly perplexing to me given how much Bant there is out there.

I tend to look for proactive decks in new formats, and this deck accomplishes that for the most part. Generally, you’re a lot safer and more likely to win games through tough competition if you’re actively advancing the game and presenting the threats rather than trying to answer everything that your opponent is doing. And this deck has that in spades. Starting as early as turn one, you have threats that not only push your game plan but provide you with card selection and card advantage in addition to gumming up the board with the relentless dead (no, not the card).

Another perk to the deck is how resilient it is. It’s very easy to wear your opponent down when all of your threats just continue to return from the graveyard turn after turn and repeatedly generate card after card off of Cryptbreaker. I kept trying to fit Relentless Dead into the deck because it fit the theme, but I just wasn’t happy with anything it was providing and the payoff just wasn’t there. You would invest tons and tons of many into it every single time it died, but would rarely find yourself getting ahead on board for your troubles, it was just providing more of what the deck was already doing for a significantly higher cost and it didn’t even have a meaningful board presence, as a 2/2 these days doesn’t go very far. The redundancy would have been nice to have, but between the Haunted Dead, the Skaab, and Liliana, it didn’t appear to me as though the deck was short on power heading into the long game against any opponent (unless those opponents were casting Emrakul, which is something I didn’t give enough credit to).

Voldaren Pariah is truly the standout card of the deck. It might not seem like much and it may appear very situational, but nothing hits quite as hard as losing your entire board full of creatures you’ve invested a lot into and having your opponent just bounce back immediately with his undying threats. Not to mention the 6/5 just sitting there mocking you for playing such a fair game of Magic. I wasn’t initially sold on this card, it took a lot of time to really play with it and tinker with some of the card slots in the deck to make it all click and work so cleanly. Don’t underestimate this card.

The deck might seem relatively straightforward, though I tend to think it’s reasonably difficult to play optimally, when all of it’s pieces are working it truly feels like the most powerful deck in the format. Recurring threats from the graveyard and undoing all of your opponents hard work with a single Voldaren Pariah activation. Jace and Cryptbreaker team up quite effectively to generate card advantage that quickly bury your opponent when unanswered which happens very frequently against Bant decks that try to swarm the board in the same way that this deck does.

All that being said, in a field where Bant Company isn’t the most played archetype, the deck is simply too weak to fight through Emrakul, the Promised Ends and Kozilek’s Returns. It relies very heavily on having it’s enablers do some early work in order for the deck to start chugging along. In your best games, the deck is putting 10+ power worth of creatures spread across multiple bodies into play within the games first few turns, and in your worst, you are casting four mana 2/2’s and three mana 3/3’s with no abilities, which is quite unexciting.

The reason Bant wasn’t dominant at the Pro Tour was because it was difficult to know just how people planned on attacking it. When you enter an event as the deck to beat, it’s difficult to identify exactly how people are going to try and fight you, and Bant players (for the most part) didn’t have the required information to make informed decisions on their sideboards. Because of where we’re at right now though, it looks like Bant is once again on the rise, and for that reason I think you can make a strong case for wanting to play a deck like this to combat it. They quite simply don’t have the tools to effectively fight on the axis that this deck fights on.

Overall, it looks like Bant is here to stay, if you’re playing a smaller event in which you can expect to face Bant a handful of times, I couldn’t recommend this deck more for you to play as you will most definitely have all the tools at your disposal to beat them up. You will struggle against the Emrakul and other Liliana decks in the format, but that is going to be one of the costs that you’ll have to be willing to pay in order to gain such a huge advantage over the best deck in the format.