With the Pro Tour looming and #SCGRegionals on the horizon right behind it, the biggest question in Magic right now is, “How the hell do I beat Bant Company?!” Considering almost half of the Day 2 field at #SCGBALT was playing Bant Company and it was half the Top 8, it almost feels like the answer is, “You don't!”
It's not surprising to see Bant Company come roaring out of the gates in the first few Eldritch Moon Standard events. Bant Company was already a known and proven deck, and it makes perfect use of the most obviously powerful new card in Spell Queller. Figuring out how to properly build around Emrakul, the Promised End is going to take some time and a lot of work. Figuring out to put the three-drop flash tempo creature into your Collected Company deck is almost insultingly obvious.
The truth is that Bant Company is a good deck, but at the end of the day it's really just a pile of powerful creatures and somewhat awkward mana.
The deck is very beatable, and today we are going to look at three ways to do just that.
1) Kill 'Em All
One of the most important effects that Spell Queller has had on the format is that it has made playing creature removal almost mandatory. If you allow Spell Queller to fly around and counter spells unopposed, you are going to have a very difficult time winning.
The corollary to this, however, is that if you can kill Spell Queller with any amount of consistency, Spell Queller really isn't that effective. There are times where Spell Queller can be a major liability, and blowouts are a real thing when the quelled spell jumps back on the stack in the middle of combat.
If you are looking to kill creatures in Standard, black has you covered, and while each removal spell has its downsides, they can mostly cover each other's weaknesses. This is part of the reason that you need to play a lot of removal spells— your Grasp of Darkness is a great answer to Archangel Avacyn but can't answer a powered up Sylvan Advocate; Ruinous Path can answer that Sylvan Advocate but isn't great against Archangel Avacyn.
There's no Hero's Downfall that's just good against everything in this format. You must mix and match removal, and you must have a lot of it. The best deck in the format is almost half creatures, and they use their creatures like Tireless Tracker, Duskwatch Recruiter, and Nissa, Vastwood Seer to gain card advantage. Having a pile of removal cuts off those methods of card advantage and gives you time to set up your own.
Of course you also need to actually win the game, and the best way to do this is to pair your black cards with either white or green cards. Green and white are far and away the best colors in Standard at the moment and provide the most powerful and versatile card advantage and win conditions.
The W/B Angel Control deck has been somewhat popular over the last few events, but while it's powerful, the creatures are very vulnerable to the parameters of current format. Standard is all about either playing Reflector Mage or playing a ton of removal spells, which the powerful mythic creatures don't line up well with.
The reason these decks have done so well is because of their focus on playing a ton of removal, and this slightly old-school take on W/B Control pushes that axis while also presenting essentially zero targets for opponent's creature interaction cards. Dromoka's Command and Reflector Mage are almost blank, and if you are paired with another removal-heavy deck, they'll have a ton of dead cards as well as they struggle to deal with all of your planeswalkers.
The deck also makes excellent use of Oath of Liliana, which is fantastic against Bant Company. Oath of Liliana will always kill something good, and then it will provide you with bodies to protect your planeswalkers in the midgame.
This deck still respects the Gisela/Bruna angel package but has it tucked away in the sideboard instead of as the main plan. Leaving in creature removal against a deck based around planeswalkers is a poor plan, so you get to bring in your creatures mostly unopposed.
- 4 Sylvan Advocate
- 4 Tireless Tracker
- 1 Woodland Bellower
- 2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
- 2 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
Pairing black's removal with green also has its advantages as well, as green has one of the top creatures in the format in Sylvan Advocate and some of the best card advantage as well.
Tireless Tracker and Nissa, Vastwood Seer are two of the strongest cards in Bant Company, and a huge reason why the deck can play a very good card advantage game against its control opponents. Playing creatures does open you up to your opponents' creature removal but makes it much easier to pressure planeswalkers and get on the battlefield quickly. Tireless Tracker gets large very quickly, and Nissa's ultimate is also always looming as a win condition.
Getting your card advantage from your creatures and planeswalkers also allows you to not play Read the Bones, which is good because Read the Bones on turn three is often a death sentence in this format.
As long as you are following it up with some sort of card advantage and powerful threats, piling on the removal spells is one of the best ways to get an edge against the Bant Company menace.
2) Go Huge
Another way to punish Bant Company for just being a pile of creatures is to try to go way over the top of them and ignore their plan. This has been done before with decks that utilize Zulaport Cutthroat, Nantuko Husk, and a critical mass of creatures as the battlefield gums up, but another way to do it is just the tried and true plan of playing Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger as soon as possible.
Bant Company doesn't present an overwhelming clock, and combo decks have always been a great answer to powerful midrange decks light on interaction. Of course, ramp isn't really a true “combo” deck, but it follows the same principle of trying to ignore its opponent while executing its gameplan as swiftly as possible. A Standard ramp deck should be able start playing Dragonlord Atarka or Ulamog before a Bant Company deck can present lethal damage, and Bant Company isn't well-suited to deal with such large threats.
This sort of “all-in” ramp deck has one thing in mind: stall until playing Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger as soon as possible every single game.
Not only should a deck like this crush the removal-heavy control decks of the format on the back of Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, it should be able to effectively race to Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger faster than Bant Company can present lethal damage.
The big issue is how effective Bant Company's one piece of relevant interaction is against this sort of removal-less all-in deck. Spell Queller on a ramp spell or two on turn 3 or 4 will go a long way towards making the race swing back into Bant Company's favor, and that needs to be addressed.
One possible avenue is to go back to the Traverse the Ulvenwald / Wastes / Ruin in Their Wake package, which would allow the deck to run a playset of Spatial Contortion. Because the front side of Kozilek's Return kills so few creatures in the current format and World Breaker is ineffective in most matchups, moving away from these and to Spatial Contortion and a different threat package may be the way to go.
- 2 Hangarback Walker
- 1 Reality Smasher
- 3 Dragonlord Atarka
- 1 Emrakul, the Promised End
- 2 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
- 2 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
This is mostly just an untuned sketch, but the premise shows promise. If you can make Ruin in Their Wake into a Rampant Growth, it speeds the ramp deck up by a full turn, and if you can make Traverse the Ulvenwald into a land/tutor split card, it's fantastic. Ishkanah, Grafwidow is superb at stalling the game out so your end-game can come online, and Spatial Contortion plays well with Hedron Archive to give you a way to interact with the battlefield.
Building a deck like this is very difficult, as balancing all the different aspects is quite the challenge. It also has a natural foil in Summary Dismissal. However, this is the kind of deck that can take one tournament by storm if you can get it right.
3) Out-Interact Them
At #SCGBALT, I, Kevin Jones, and Ben Friedman all took a page out of last season's playbook.
After I won the previous #SCGBALT with the first version of Bant Company, our plan for the Season One Invitational in Columbus was simply to add Eldrazi Displacer to our deck to increase the amount of interaction we had in the mirror. As Eldritch Moon Bant Company has followed a very similar path of crushing the first Open of the new format, it only made sense to run it back.
Eldrazi Dispacer also has gotten much better since last time, as its interactions with Spell Queller are incredible. Eldrazi Displacer can not only free your own spell from your opponent's Spell Queller, but you can even use it to counter their spells!
When you blink a Spell Queller with Eldrazi Displacer, two triggers are put onto the stack: the leaves-the-battlefield trigger that allows the exiled spell's owner to cast it, and the enters-the-battlefield trigger that exiles target spell. Because you must select a target to put an ability onto the stack, you can't target the spell that was previously Quelled because the trigger that would let you cast it hasn't happened yet.
Even better, if you blink a Spell Queller in response to one of your opponent's spells, the “exile target spell” trigger is not a "may" effect and they will be forced to counter their own spell! This interaction makes Spell Queller a huge liability against Eldrazi Displacer.
Of course, the question becomes, “what deck wants to play Eldrazi Displacer?”
- 4 Eldrazi Displacer
- 4 Knight of the White Orchid
- 4 Selfless Spirit
- 4 Thraben Inspector
- 4 Archangel Avacyn
Dan Jessup brewed up this interesting take on a White/Colorless Control deck, which looks to leverage the power of both Eldrazi Displacer and Archangel Avacyn. The deck also plays eight maindeck removal spells, and while they're a bit worse than their black counterparts, they are still very serviceable. Spatial Contortion in particular is a card that has done nothing but impress.
Dan spent most of #SCGBALT beating up on Bant Company decks and fell just short of the Top 8, losing in the last round. With eight maindeck removal spells, Eldrazi Displacer, and the Archangel Avacyn plus Selfless Spirit combo, this deck has an excellent Bant Company matchup. The sideboard Eldrazi package helps to shore up the control matchups.
- 4 Duskwatch Recruiter
- 3 Eldrazi Displacer
- 3 Lambholt Pacifist
- 4 Reflector Mage
- 4 Spell Queller
- 4 Sylvan Advocate
- 3 Tireless Tracker
- 1 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
Of course, sometimes you've gotta join 'em to beat 'em, and this is the version of Bant Company that I would suggest going forward. Playing the best deck in the format with good tech for the mirror is never a bad thing; just make sure you've played a lot of mirror games to have a good feel for it.
The Sky Isn't Falling
The first two weeks of this format have closely mirrored the first two weeks of the last Standard format and I expect this trend to continue. Going into the last Pro Tour, it looked like Bant Company was unstoppable, until only one copy made Top 8 and everything evened out nicely.
I expect much of the same to happen with Pro Tour Eldritch Moon.
There's too much unexplored space in Eldritch Moon and Bant Company is too exploitable to be so dominant. I expect the format to settle down and for there to be at least one or two new decks in the Top 8 of the Pro Tour.
Thankfully, because of the time zone difference, we'll have a very good look at the format before SCG Regionals this weekend!
Last week's Challenge Thursday saw me getting trolled quite nicely. The winning challenge was “(Modern) Ride it, my pony! Sacred Mesa control deck” submitted by @Gallant81Jordan.
Well, I paid the price here as well, as Sacred Mesa is pretty awful in Modern and our deck had a lot of trouble actually winning. I tried to incorporate a Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx engine to power it up, but it didn't go so great. At least it was fun to cast Sphinx's Revelation again.
This week we of course have another vote:
As always, the poll will end at 6:00pm Eastern time, and tonight's challenge will be starting at 8:00pm EST. I will be playing an entire League with the challenge deck, tweaking it a bit, and then playing another League right after.
How many wins can I get? Cast your vote and tune in to my stream at 7:00 tonight to see how it goes!