Let's start from the beginning.
If you took a look at the Day 2 metagame breakdown for #SCGCOL, you might think the sky is falling. In reality, we've been here before. By the time #PTSOI rolled around, Bant Company was the deck to beat, but it was no longer on top. In the coming weeks, I imagine we'll see the same trend.
Most players opted for sweepers to beat Bant Company at the Pro Tour, and Languish is among the best of those. Swamps, in particular, have a plethora of great options against Bant Company, and black has frequently been the color that pops up in order to beat it.
While the champ, Devin Koepke, didn't utilize Tamiyo, he basically maximized #MTGEMN.
- 3 Duskwatch Recruiter
- 4 Reflector Mage
- 4 Selfless Spirit
- 4 Spell Queller
- 4 Sylvan Advocate
- 3 Tireless Tracker
- 2 Archangel Avacyn
- 3 Thalia, Heretic Cathar
The combination of Selfless Spirit and Spell Queller give Bant Company a nice
Skies Spirits approach, which is a good way to beat the mirror. Those, combined with Thalia, Heretic Cathar, give Bant Company way more disruption than they used to have. Bounding Krasis and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy are great cards, but they don't mess with your opponent's gameplan more than the new Spirits do.
With more white cards in the deck, it's also easy to slant the manabase toward G/W splashing blue, rather than being all over the place. Being able to cut Jace, Vryn's Prodigy at the expense of consistency is a step in the right direction. Overall, Devin's deck is well-constructed, and certainly a force to be reckoned with.
With all the new technology, and with him outright winning the tournament, this will be the deck that people copy.
There were a lot of Selfless Spirits and Summary Dismissals in the successful Bant Company decks, likely for Kozilek's Return. Well, joke's on them, I guess, since Elder Deep-Fiend either underperformed or was underrepresented.
Most played very few Tamiyo, Field Researchers, and I get that. I still think the card is hella good, but maybe now isn't the time, especially if everyone starts playing the fliers.
So basic Swamps and mass removal? It's that simple?
Having access to sweepers is key, but Languish doesn't line up well against Collected Company or Spell Queller, so we need additional help. In my black decks, I prefer to have some instant-speed answers and enough removal to take down Spell Queller. Transgress the Mind, in particular, gives you another route to fight Spell Queller and Collected Company.
Due to how popular Spell Queller is, Ultimate Price is already pretty bad. If the emerge decks ever get popular, Ultimate Price gets even worse. I recommend Grasp of Darkness as the two-drop removal spell of choice.
Removal alone won't pin down Bant Company. Eventually, their card advantage, particularly Tireless Tracker, will overwhelm you.
You're looking for two things:
1) Something that can invalidate multiple creatures.
2) Something that goes over the top of them.
Thankfully, both of the things you're looking for can be found in the same cards.
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is excellent, as is Voldaren Pariah. They are both somewhat weak to Reflector Mage, but if you have a way to make them discard Reflector Mage or additional creatures to draw out their Reflector Mages, Kalitas (or whatever else) is more likely to stick.
Sometimes, the best way to beat Reflector Mage is to play into it. I've liked playing powerful two-drops that they need to Reflector Mage, such as Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. It's the easiest way to ensure Reflector Mage isn't backbreaking.
Planeswalkers can also do the trick, but they need to be well-protected.
Collective Brutality is quite good against Bant Company. If you have something to profitably discard (Haunted Dead, Drownyard Temple, Fiery Temper), you can often take out a creature and have a shot at making them discard a Collected Company. A play like that really takes the wind out of their sails.
So, given all that, this was what I played:
- 1 Pilgrim's Eye
- 4 Haunted Dead
- 4 Prized Amalgam
- 3 Voldaren Pariah
- 3 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
- 4 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
So, why this deck instead of one of the various emerge decks I've been talking about? It's complicated, but my fixation on Haunted Dead got the best of me. Overall, I think that's a fine place to be.
Cuz, ya know, Swamps.
The deck was about as sweet as I thought it would be. Velocity and a bunch of recursion are two of my favorite things, and that's what this one is all about.
In the context of the Bant matchup specifically, I think it's good, but it's close. Cards like Prized Amalgam; Haunted Dead; Ishkanah, Grafwidow; Jace, Telepath Unbound; and Liliana, the Last Hope each encourage your opponent to overextend into Languish. Meanwhile, you're digging deeper into your deck, finding more recursive threats, and generally setting up to recur Voldaren Pariah for the nail in the coffin.
Bant Company doesn't have many bad matchups. It might have a Collected Company that misses or bad mana at times, but the deck is rock-solid. You can pick them apart with black decks, and while the Sultai Zombies deck has some of the tools, it doesn't have everything you might want if you were to build a deck specifically to beat Bant Company.
My deck was good at stalling the battlefield with Haunted Dead and Ishkanah, Grafwidow, but eventually my opponents could find a way to get through me. Thankfully, Jace, Telepath Unbound let me rebuy Grapple with the Past repeatedly, which kept a steady stream of Voldaren Pariahs coming.
If things worked out, I could win. But we could also be doing better, at least in that matchup.
I finished in 111th place, which isn't too bad for only playing seven rounds. At 6-1, I conceded to Tom Ross, then left the venue to go catch Pokmon. People have called me weird, and I get that. Why drive to a tournament if I'm just going to quit when things are going decently?
Priorities, folks. Priorities.
Right now, my priorities at any SCG Tour® event go roughly like this:
1) Get my friends into the Players' Championship.
At the end of the day, the SCG Tour® is a great place to compete, win money, and get trophies. However, the end goal is the Players' Championship. I'm already qualified, and I'd love to see my friends play in the tournament too.
This means blocking other people who could stand in their way, and, yes, conceding to them if we happen to get paired against each other. It's not ethical and it's not cool, but it's legal. Until conceding is strictly forbidden, I'm going to utilize it.
Maybe it de-legitimizes Magic as a whole, but if I stop doing it, others still will. At that point, I'm putting myself and those I care about at a disadvantage. Perhaps if enough people decide to stop doing it, then it will become uncool and I'll stop too.
Winning is fun, and depending on my mood, I'm willing to sacrifice how much fun I have during a match for the fun of winning.
Sometimes, other things are more fun than Magic.
I love money and the SCG Tour® pays pretty well, but ultimately it's not life-changing in a vacuum. Other things are more important, at least to me. If you really want to, you can always make more money.
Eh, this is obviously nice, and another point in my life, my priorities may have been different.
"Aren't you a grown man? Why are you running around enslaving virtual animals?"
You're right, I am grown. That means I get to do whatever I want. Right now, that's attempting to catch 'em all.
Through my writing, I attempt to teach the things I know on a weekly basis, but how you use that information is up to you. Maybe you want to play the deck that I play or you want to beat the people playing that deck. Regardless, I make no assumptions about what decks my readers want to play or what would be the best deck for them to play. That's up for them to decide, so I try to include information that is valuable to everyone, no matter which side of the equation you're on.
Basically, I try not to project onto others, and I appreciate that quality. It makes me a better writer and a better person. So judge me if you must, but while you do, I'll be over here living my life.
I was basically only in the tournament to concede to Tom, and since that happened, I was out.
If I could have done it all over again, I would have played a slightly different list.
(Note that after playing this decklist at Tuesday Night Magic, Tom Ross declared the deck unplayable. He went 3-0.)
Overall, just minor changes. Not playing Oath of Jace was an oversight, and it was exactly what I wanted. In fact, with Oath of Jace, it's entirely possible that you no longer have to play Grapple with the Past. From there, we could build a slightly different version of my U/B deck from last week, potentially splashing only Ishkanah, Grafwidow.
The sideboard ended up being pretty great, as did the manabase, which were the two things I was concerned about.
Here's how I'd sideboard:
You're going to win games by forcing them to over-commit into a Languish. Sometimes the game dictates that you pull the trigger on an early Languish to force a quick two-for-one in order to gain a tempo advantage, and that's more than fine too.
Realistically, you will probably have to keep in some Ultimate Prices, depending on what version they are. Either way, you can probably expect Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet to be coming in against you. If they're the Angel version, you probably want Ultimate Price there as well.
I'd like to keep the engine cards if possible. Distended Mindbender was mostly an experiment, but it played well enough off Prized Amalgam and Haunted Dead that I'd want to keep them around. Den Protector is a nice answer to many problems, especially with Liliana, the Last Hope. Going long, you shouldn't need to find an answer because you'll have access to them whenever you want.
I like the version with Mausoleum Wanderer and Nebelgast Herald, for whatever that's worth.
You're not going to beat them in a race, so don't even bother. Prized Amalgam is particularly useless here. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is a potential option because of lifelink, but it's incredibly difficult to stick.
Any other sideboard plan, you can likely figure out just from looking at these three. If the Prized Amalgams don't matter, they can go. If the removal has no targets, cut it.
Maybe Zombies doesn't strike your fancy. Thankfully, black decks have plenty of options: W/B Control (traditional or Angel-based), Sultai Control, B/R Midrange, B/U Zombies, and B/G Seasons Past.
I particularly like this deck:
Oath of Liliana seems great for protecting your planeswalkers. Having zero creatures with Liliana, the Last Hope is bold, but I like it. As with her Oath, Liliana, the Last Hope's main job should be protecting your life total and planeswalkers, and she does that admirably, even if her -2 ability basically does nothing.
Right now, maindeck Hallowed Moonlight is probably great. The last few tournaments I played (albeit with G/W Tokens), not a single opponent played around it, even in the post-sideboard games. If they don't see it coming, it can be backbreaking. It's also worth noting that one of my U/W Spirits opponents brought it in to good effect against my Ishkanah, Grafwidows.
As for now, I'll keep working on Sultai Zombies, although for #SCGBALT, I'll probably want to try a new (black) deck. Ya know, for funsies. The whole Angel thing doesn't appeal to me, but Oath of Liliana does. I'm willing to bet the whole Angel package is pretty good, though. After all, Linvala, the Preserver has always been the best card against Bant Company. Hell, it's even good against U/W Spirits.
I guess I always did have fun playing G/W Tokens...