Two weekends ago, I played Bant Company in Standard to a Top 8 finish at GP Costa Rica. While I am by no means an expert on this particular archetype, I feel that it is worthwhile to go over my build and to explain how I choose to sideboard in the various matchups.

To start with, here’s the list I played.

Bant Company

I think Bant Company is the best deck in the format at grinding. It can out-grind nearly any strategy. The longer a game goes with Bant Company, the more resources it tends to end up with. That’s a result of cards like Jace, Nissa, Tireless Tracker, Duskwatch Recruiter, and Eldrazi Displacer providing enormous amounts of action and value. Sometimes it’s turn 10 and you have 6 Clues in play, a full grip, and a pretty solid board state. Thanks, Tireless Tracker!

While Bant Company may be the best deck at grinding, I don’t believe it is actually the best deck. I think it has good matchups against a large part of the field, but I think it’s at best 50/50 against GW Tokens, and likely a little bit worse than that. The first 4 turns of the game are extremely important for both decks and oftentimes, winning the die roll wins the match. I think GW might be a little bit better at playing on the draw in the matchup, which gives it a slight edge.

GW Tokens has a good matchup against a lot of those same decks that Bant Company does and has also won the last 3 Standard Grand Prix and the Pro Tour. It would be silly to argue that Bant Company is a better deck, but there are certain metagames, like a field heavy with BW Control decks and Bant Humans, where I would want to play Bant Company as I believe it has a stronger matchup against those decks.

I think the key to playing Bant Company is to play conservatively. There aren’t too many matchups where the Bant deck is the beatdown, or at least not in a traditional fashion. Bant Company may be the aggressor against a deck like BW Control, but even then, it’s still important to play conservatively and not to get blown out by cards like Languish. I’ll often sit on a card like Collected Company if I have a good board presence already and wait to use it post-Languish or avoid casting it into a Hallowed Moonlight.

This list is basically a “no-frills” list. It doesn’t play any of the situational cards that other lists like to play. Instead, it only plays the best cards for every role and plays the most copies of those cards. I think having the most powerful cards at every possible axis of interaction is frequently the best way to build decks. Perhaps powerful isn’t the right word, as cards like Archangel Avacyn are certainly powerful. Perhaps a more apt description is that this list has the most efficient cards to handle the job they are there for.

Sideboarding

Sideboarding with Bant Company is interesting because frequently, you change how you sideboard on the play and the draw, something that other decks don’t get to utilize as much (with less flexible cards overall). You can also mix up how you sideboard a lot based on what you expect to see from your opponent or how you expect them to sideboard. Frequently, there are about 62-64 good cards for any given matchup so you aren’t locked into an exact sideboard plan and can shift some cards around.

Mirror Match

Out

In

On the draw, also sideboard:

Out

In

On the play the goal is to get out ahead, use that advantage to fire off advantageous Dromoka’s Commands and control the pace of the game. On the draw, play defensively and try to set up blowouts on Tragic Arrogance.

Mono-White or WR Humans

Out

In

On the play:

Out

In

On the draw:

Out

In

Bant Humans

Almost exactly the same sideboarding plan as the Bant Company mirror, except I would never side out Lumbering Falls (I’d just not bring in Nissa instead). I would also bring in a Declaration in Stone on the play over the Nissa.

It’s possible that more Declarations and more Tragic Arrogances should be sided in, even on the play.

BW Control

Out

In

Collected Company gets a bit worse here when you drop down to only 23 hits, but it’s important to have all of these spells in the deck. Ojutai’s Command is a great source of advantage and hits things like Kalitas, Thought-Knot Seer, Archangel Avacyn, or Linvala, the Preserver. Negate is probably the best card vs. them and Declaration is a good way to avoid getting wrecked by Secure the Wastes, Ormendahl, or Kalitas.

Grixis Control

Same plan as BW.

Cryptolith Rites Decks

Out

In

On the draw:

Out

In

GW Tokens

Out

In

On the play:

Out

In

On the draw:

Out

In

It might also be right to bring in Negate in some number. This is a matchup on which I am still unclear exactly how to sideboard. On the play you want to curve out and do your normal thing, which is usually good enough to win. On the draw, you have to try to play catchup, and Tragic Arrogance can do that. Ojutai’s Command is great against Avacyn on the play, but weaker on the draw when you don’t always have the luxury of setting up that snare.