Over the past weekend, I saw a lot of people complaining about Bant Collected Company. Some even went so far as to compare it to Faeries and Caw-Blade. To be fair (though why would I want to be that?), it did put up some dominating numbers, but the format is still new. While the deck is clearly tier one and likely to stay that way for a while, it’s also mostly built from older cards and is fairly easy to port into the new format. Its success was predictable.
As the format develops, people will figure stuff out and it should get closer to the rock-paper-scissors metagame that people are used to. There will be some Bant in the Pro Tour Top 8 (playing the “best deck” is never a bad call), but there will also be decks that abuse its popularity, and the meta will be more diverse than this last weekend.
I can’t share lists from my Pro Tour prep, and I’m not the right person to write a primer for Bant. What I can do is offer some analysis on 3 lists from last weekend that have proven they can compete in a field of Bant and Humans.
Jacob Bard, 12th place at the SCG Open
Wow, now there’s some spice. The most striking bit of technology in this list is Lambholt Pacifist, which does consider itself when deciding if it can attack or not. I have seen it suit up in Limited before, but haven’t considered the implications of “pump my Pacifist” in Constructed. Here, Dromoka’s Command and Nissa, Voice of Zendikar are ways to start attacking with it as early as turn 3, and there are plenty of “natural” ways of turning it on as well with Sylvan Advocate, Avacyn, and so on. Heck, just having a 2-mana 3/3 body seems reasonable enough in this metagame, as it’s another creature that matches up well against Savannah Lions and early-game Sylvan Advocates.
Let’s take a second to reflect on how Lambholt Pacifist is not very good at the whole pacifism thing. “I’m all for nonviolence, unless my bigger friend is around. In which case, I’m going to bloody you up a bit.” This character has emotional issues.
It’s also interesting how the only stats difference between Lambholt Pacifist and Lambholt Butcher is +1/+1. I’m taking it as a sign that even a little power (and toughness) corrupts. Stay small, friends!
Getting back to the list, with 7 planeswalkers and Deathmist Raptor recursion, the deck is set up to grind. Nahiri is mostly a value ‘walker, but it does a good job of turning on delirium for Traverse the Ulvenwald (which has a fancy little bullet package of its own), and it can also loot away Deathmist Raptor to recur later, which is a trick that Bant players have been doing with Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy for a while now. Post-board, Nahiri can turn on the one madness card in the list in Avacyn’s Judgment.
Nissa does a lot of work, here. Aside from turning on random Pacifists, it also gums up the board and makes sure your creatures are larger than the opponent’s. Imagine a Sylvan Advocate mirror where yours keeps growing, and then your pumped-up double striking manlands start swinging for serious damage.
I’m not sure how much I like this deck, or whether or not it’s a good option for the Pro Tour. What I do know is that it’s exciting.
Dylan Hand, 7-1 at the SCG Invitational
This deck attacks the format by killing every single creature in play, drawing a few cards, and then killing more creatures. Secure the Wastes gives the deck some power, turning on Westvale Abbey and combining with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. It features a reasonable 2-color mana base, including the best creature land.
Normally, Evolving Wilds would be strictly worse than Forsaken Sanctuary, since Sanctuary can tap for both white or black and the deck has a lot of color requirements. But Wilds puts a land in the graveyard, which helps for the delirium on Descend upon the Sinful.
Speaking of Descend upon the Sinful, it’s a noteworthy piece of technology that has started to pick up some buzz recently. Sure, it exiles cards like Hangarback Walker and Deathmist Raptor, and unlike Planar Outburst it doesn’t get blown out by Avacyn, but the most important thing is that it deals with Ormendahl, Profane Prince.
And despite all the answers, Ormendahl can still win games against BW sometimes. Level 0 of Westvale Abbey is simply activating it, sacrificing your board, and hoping the opponent doesn’t have a Declaration in Stone or some such answer. This is an easy way to lose the game, and not the type of risk you want to take when you’re already winning on-board, so most people prefer to attack with their creatures and hold up Abbey to spit out more tokens or respond to a Languish, leading to frustrating situations where you slowly lose to some small creatures despite holding a Languish in hand (sometimes you can beat this by combining the Languish with a removal spell like Declaration in Stone or Stasis Snare, but even a Grasp of Darkness or a second Languish works).
Descend upon the Sinful solves that problem because if they respond, then Ormendahl is still exiled, and all they’ll be able to do is pay a life to make a 1/1 at your end of turn. On top of all that: value 4/4. Who doesn’t like a good value 4/4?
This list is remarkably similar to a list I was working on for the Pro Tour. As recently as last week, it was my main choice, and if I audible for some reason, it’s what I’ll turn to. Thanks to Dylan’s finish, I feel fine talking about it since it’s public information.
Joshua Dickerson, 1st place at the SCG Open
One of only two ramp lists in the Top 32 (with no lists 7-1’ing or better in the Invitational), and it’s constructed a bit differently than what you’re used to seeing. That’s no accident.
My first thought when I saw this list was that there weren’t enough red sources. If you’re relying on Kozilek’s Return as a sweeper against the blisteringly fast Humans deck, it needs to come down on turn 3, and with only 4 red sources and maybe Oath of Nissa to find them, that’s not going to be consistent enough.
But when you look at the deck as a way to take full advantage of Jaddi Offshoot, the whole package makes a lot more sense. Every single ramp spell puts lands into play, and the basic idea is that Jaddi will buy time against the aggro decks so that you can set up. A turn-3 Kozilek’s Return isn’t going to happen often, but it’s also not the plan.
It makes even more sense when you consider that the first casting of Kozilek’s Return isn’t even good versus Bant Collected Company, but the flashback from the graveyard is borderline game-ending. Making sure that your top end can actually end the game is key in that matchup (you could otherwise drop a World Breaker or Ulamog, get it tapped down by a Krasis or something, and end up swarmed). Overall, everything appears to work here, even with 4 measly red sources for Return.
It’s difficult to say if this build will still be a solid choice for the Pro Tour. One of the reasons Joshua was able to spike this Open was by tuning for Humans and Bant Company, and ignoring lesser-played matchups like the ramp mirror. With only 2 real threats, the list is especially weak to Infinite Obliteration. A couple of Void Winnowers in the sideboard might be a card to look to as both a trump in the ramp mirror and as a way to diversify threads for Obliteration, though if Bant Company really is Caw-Blade and the meta doesn’t change much, then this 75 seems great.
That’s all for now. I wish I could write more—but I have a flight to catch.