It's a little before midnight, and you've just driven five hours from the Shiels' sanctuary to a hotel in Somerset, NJ. You must have switched decks ten times in the car: Jund, U/W/R Flash, Prime Speaker Bant. Nothing exciting. Nothing new. Meanwhile, Chase Kovac raids your box for Boros Reckoner and Ash Zealot as you look on enviously. His decisions are made already—it can't be that easy. Time is now the enemy, so you do what any indecisive player would do. You pick up your phone and text Gerry Thompson. Why? You're playing Bant Flash.
It took me a little while to realize why I was so drawn to the deck. I've been playing U/W/R Flash for the better part of this season. To precisely no one's surprise, I haven't played a match since Return to Ravnica was printed without Restoration Angel and Snapcaster Mage in my deck. That said, I feel like my U/W/R lists have devolved over the past few months. Gone are the days when you could rely on just Restoration Angel and Sphinx's Revelation to win games. The deck now plays sorcery speed threats like Boros Reckoner, Thundermaw Hellkite, and Aurelia, the Warleader to close things out. At the same time, the Standard format is increasingly flush with expensive and punishing high-end threats, which make tapping out a dangerous proposition for any blue deck.
I wanted to return the Flash deck to its U/W roots and play Unsummon and Rewind. Unsummon is fantastic against expensive and resilient creatures, particularly Angel of Serenity and Falkenrath Aristocrat. Searing Spear just doesn't cut it anymore—even three-drops typically come in frustrating packages like Lingering Souls, Loxodon Smiter, and Boros Reckoner.
Enter Advent of the Wurm.
This card is exactly what I was looking for. It hits hard and provides defense. By virtue of being an instant for Snapcaster Mage, it even increases your threat density without sacrificing slots for interaction. Most importantly, it presents the opponent with a dangerous ultimatum: cast your spells into open mana or watch the game slip away from you. Quickly. Add Rewind to the equation and you've got yourself a potent strategy.
I still had some reservations about the deck before going to bed, so I looked to Adam Snook for advice. How do I beat Lingering Souls? How can I race them if they keep chump blocking my Wurms? "Read Advent again. Those Wurms have trample..." I went to bed easy after that.
I registered this 75 the following morning:
I'll be the first to admit that this list has its flaws, many of which I realized only a couple rounds into the tournament. Before I elaborate on the changes I want to make, I'll talk a little bit about the strengths of the deck and what went right.
For the Open, I included four Voice of Resurgences in my sideboard. I think Voice is a great card, probably the best card in the set and one of the best they've printed in a while. In particular, it's rare for a two mana card to be so strong against both aggressive and controlling decks. However, in the context of this Standard format, I don't think Voice is particularly strong against the green midrange decks that populate the metagame. Voice is outclassed quickly by large green creatures on a cluttered board, and most of these decks have little interest in casting spells on your turn. For these reasons, I relegated Voice to the sideboard.
The first round I played really demonstrated the power of Voice of Resurgence. I mulliganed to six in game 1 against a U/W/R opponent who quickly ultimated a Jace, Architect of Thought while I missed land drops. I briefly thought about conceding in response, but I wanted him to see how bad Pillar of Flame was against my maindeck. In game 2, I resolved a turn 2 Voice of Resurgence. He played a Think Twice on his second turn and Searing Spear on his third, which I Dispelled. When turn 4 came around, my opponent played Snapcaster Mage and tried again to Spear my Voice. Restoration Angel came down on my side, and that point I had my opponent in a hard lock.
If he casts a spell on my turn, I have Rewind to counter it and a new token to apply pressure. If he casts a spell on his turn, I can counter it and then make a Wurm Token, putting him in the same predicament a turn down the line. As the game played out, my Restoration Angel attacked for the win by itself while my opponent squirmed in his chair with a handful of bad options.
A number of rounds later I played against Edgar Flores, who was playing Esper Control. We started game 3 with very little time on the clock, but I was able to land a Voice of Resurgence and then a second, protecting them multiple times from Edgar's sorcery removal spells with my own Unsummons. By the time Edgar managed to deal with the Voices, his life total was low, his mana was tapped, and his spirit was broken.
Thought Scour may seem innocuous or maybe even obvious in this decklist, but it deserves a conversation of its own. I've often argued with Dave Shiels and Gerry about the merits of Thought Scour in U/W/R Flash, but I do think it belongs in Bant. One reason for this is the way the mana base is structured. The deck has a ton of powerful four-drops that are important to cast on curve, which makes hitting your fourth land drop immediately more important than in other Flash decks. The ability to Snapcaster a Thought Scour on turn 3 allows you to both add to your board presence and cantrip to hit a land drop instead of having to fall slightly behind by flashing back a Think Twice.
In addition, Bant Flash has no "hard" removal spells beyond the two Selesnya Charms, so Azorius Charm plus Thought Scour provides another permanent answer to troublesome creatures. In general, I like the fact that Thought Scour and Unsummon are one mana spells that give you something to do on "odd" turns in a deck with spells that mostly cost two and four. Moving forward, I would definitely play four.
What Went Wrong
I finished the Standard Open in 12th place after going 8-2 with the deck. My two losses were to traditional B/R Zombies and Jund Aggro, which were two of the most aggressive decks I faced. These matches exemplified some of the deck's inefficiencies and demonstrated to me how dangerous it is to miss your fourth land drop in aggro matchups, which was the primary cause of my game losses.
Before I played any games with Bant Flash, I was overly concerned about my control and G/B/W Reanimator matchups. Without an endgame trump like Harvest Pyre or Nephalia Drownyard, I thought that I may struggle against decks like Esper. I failed to understand the impact of both Advent of the Wurm and Voice of Resurgence in that matchup, and I believe now that the Psychic Spiral and maybe one of the counterspells in my sideboard were unnecessary.
I also chose Supreme Verdict and Trostani, Selesnya's Voice (in addition to Voice of Resurgence) as my anti-aggro cards, which was a clear mistake. The deck already has enough strong four mana cards against beatdown decks. My losses occurred when I fell behind early or failed to get to four mana at all. Anything cheaper on the curve would have been better—Loxodon Smiter, Augur of Bolas, or the fourth Unsummon to name a few. I could see playing additional Renounce the Guilds, though they can be slightly awkward when you bring in Voice or by being conditional if you need to cast something on turn 2.
An updated version of the above list is as follows:
This build of the deck focuses a bit more on the inherent strengths of the deck by making it more tempo oriented and lowering the curve slightly against aggro. The count is still very high for Augur of Bolas (26 spells), so adding a third to hedge against aggressive decks doesn't seem like a bad choice. Progenitor Mimic is an interesting alternative to Clone, but my experiences against G/B/W Reanimator were that Acidic Slime is one of their primary plans against you, so having a Clone effect at four instead of six seems important. I played a game against G/B/W Reanimator at the Open where both I and my opponent had Acidic Slime trigger on our own side at least three times.
My experiences in the Open led me to cut the maindeck Dissipate for a second Syncopate. While Dissipate is a stronger card, Syncopate functioning as a two mana spell is even more important in this version of Flash. It allows you to leave Snapcaster plus Syncopate up along with Advent of the Wurm and generally fits better on the curve while also being easier on colored requirements.
The premise of my previous list is that Voice of Resurgence is not a maindeck card. However, I believe the card is powerful enough that it may inevitably deserve a spot there, especially if the G/B/W Reanimator and other midrange matchups are as good as my experiences so far have indicated. My "big picture" ideas for the deck moving forward are to maindeck Voice of Resurgence and add a Runechanter's Pike package, which is traditionally a great win condition against the midrange decks where Voice is less impressive.
The following list feels like it may be right to me. History has shown that when blue tempo decks hit a critical mass of powerful and versatile creatures near the low end of the mana curve, they really begin to shine. Here is where I would start:
This deck has even more of an ability to kill out of nowhere with the addition of Runechanter's Pike. Pike is awesome with Voice of Resurgence because you force them to interact on your turn if they want to live. In addition to the thirteen ways to make instant speed creatures, Voice leaves behind a guy to suit up with Pike if they play a sweeper effect of some kind. I also really like that this version of the deck frees up space by maindecking what was previously a four-of in the sideboard. I don't even know what to do with all the extra room yet.
Moving forward with Standard, I see myself playing Bant Flash for the foreseeable future in one form or another. The deck is powerful, tricky, and resilient. The aggressive elements punish decks for being inefficient, opponents for making mistakes, and sorceries for being sorceries all without sacrificing the ability to go long against Sphinx's Revelation and Thragtusk decks.
I'd also like to add that it feels great to write another article after a long hiatus. I plan on playing a ton of Magic in the coming months and hope to share my side of the narrative with you all beginning with Pro Tour Dragon's Maze in just over a week. Here's hoping that I and the other members of Team SCG can follow up Tom Martell and Owen Turtenwald's awesome performances at the last Pro Tour.
Thanks for reading,