Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the best deck in Standard appears to be Bant Company. GW Tokens has been taking down GPs and PTs, but the top tables are still flooded with Bant. Look at the decks putting up the most 5-0 results in Competitive Leagues on MTGO and you’ll see that Bant is the overwhelming favorite.
So what put Bant back on top?
Thalia’s Lieutenant is what makes the Human strategy so successful. As an early-game creature that can grow out of control, the Lieutenant is a formidable threat. As one of the last spells you cast from your hand to grow your entire team, Thalia’s Lieutenant is out-of-control good. With the tools to search your deck to find more copies or even bring them back from the graveyard, finding the best deck to build around Thalia’s Lieutenant is an important part of Standard.
Collected Company is still the centerpiece of the deck, and its restriction isn’t a drawback for the Human tribe. If you look at any white Human aggro deck, there isn’t a creature you would consider with a casting cost above 3. Branching into other colors doesn’t change that, either.
While many Bant Company lists run Jace, it really doesn’t have anywhere near the power it did in a world full of fetchlands. Instead, the real draw into blue is the king of tempo. Reflector Mage completely changes the complexion of the game, especially in a format with so many creature mirrors. Being able to bounce a Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and then force it into your opponent’s hand for an extra turn is backbreaking. The real power level of Reflector Mage comes from Collected Company. On end step or in combat Reflector Mage is one of the biggest swings in Magic.
Duskwatch Recruiter is another creature from the original Bant Company decks of the early Shadows over Innistrad Standard season. Recruiter provides a reasonable body early in the game, incredible card advantage in the late game, and even some acceleration somewhere in the middle. It’s not the most powerful creature in the deck at 2/2, but Thalia’s Lieutenant can help with that.
The value creatures set this deck apart. Thraben Inspector may seem innocuous, but being able to pump this thing up to a 2/3 or bigger with Lieutenant, replacing itself with another card, and bringing it back when you need additional card advantage is some real value.
The MVP of the midgame and card advantage wars is Tireless Tracker. This is another threat that every opponent will have to deal with, and it can quickly get out of range of much of the removal in the format. Fiery Impulse, Grasp of Darkness, Languish, and Radiant Flames can deal with it, but if you play it at instant speed off of a Company or later in the game, some of those may no longer be options. 4 Evolving Wilds add even more value to the Trackers.
There are only 2-3 copies of Knight of the White Orchid in many Bant Human lists, and with good reason. A 2/2 first striking Human is a decent floor, though not good enough on its own. Knight’s real value comes on the draw, and it’s a fantastic color fixer in those situations, fetching both Canopy Vista and Prairie Stream. Having fewer copies in the main deck and more in the sideboard to catch up on the draw looks like the right strategy.
Lambholt Pacifist wasn’t on my radar when Shadows over Innistrad first came out. It didn’t look like a Constructed all-star, but it has slowly crept into the format. First, it came in as a sideboard card against aggro as a 3/3 creature for 2—even if it can’t attack, it blocks super well. Then a couple copies started making it into various main decks, mostly for GW Tokens. Now the Pacifist is a staple 4-of in Bant Humans and is anything but a Pacifist. With tons of ways to make the Pacifist a 4/4 as well as plenty of instants to cast when you pass the turn to flip Pacifist, this ends up being one of the best creatures this deck can play.
The creatures are naturally the focal point of Collected Company decks. There’s a reason Collected Company is so good, and that’s solely because you can get some powerful creatures into play. Once they’re in play, you’ll need to interac, and Dromoka’s Command is the best way to do that. Dromoka’s Command is instant-speed removal, a combat trick, counters burn spells, and can kill problematic enchantments. Having access to powerful instants in a deck with Collected Company is critical, so your opponent will never know exactly what you’re up to when you pass the turn.
Speaking of which, this is the best Ojutai’s Command deck in Standard. Ojutai’s Command is powerful, but 4 mana is not cheap, and passing with 4 mana up is a poor move for many decks in the format. That’s not the case for a deck with Collected Company, Dromoka’s Command, and Duskwatch Recruiter. The 2-for-1 potential with Ojutai’s Command is awesome, as you’re consistently going to be able to counter a creature and draw a card. What puts Command over the top in this particular deck is Thalia’s Lieutenant. The Lieutenant grows out of control quickly, so your opponent will have to deal with it immediately—letting you later counter a creature, draw a card, or gain some life and get it right back.
Here’s the list Yuuya Watanabe used to capture yet another GP Top 8 last weekend in Minneapolis:
Bant Company Humans
Yuuya Watanabe, Top 8 at GP Minneapolis
This deck is a thing of beauty. The two strategies early in the season were Bant Company and White Humans. Two of the best cards in Standard are Collected Company and Thalia’s Lieutenant. Jamming it all together gives you an awesome curve, great early game, and some excellent late-game tools.
Look at cards like Thraben Inspector, Duskwatch Recruiter, and Tireless Tracker. Some of them you even prefer not to play on curve because of how much power they have as the game starts to go long. Having 1-, 2-, and 3-drops to hit off Company with that much early and late game potential is critical to the deck’s success.
There are a number of different incarnations that Yuuya alone has used to dominate Standard events recently. He finished in the Top 8 of GP Tokyo with the following sideboard while the only change to the main deck was swapping a 4th Tireless Tracker for the 3rd Knight of the White Orchid and some mana base adjustments:
An even earlier list Yuuya took to a 5-0 finish in an MTGO Competitive League played:
This final sideboard allowed him to transform his deck into more of a Bant Tokens deck.
There are many ways to construct the sideboard, so understanding the applications of each of the cards as well as what your deck does in each matchup is the most important thing.
I personally think that Yuuya has shown some incredible growth in finding the optimal build of his deck—I will definitely look at the GP Minneapolis list for my next tournament, so let’s break that one down.
2 Den Protector
Den Protector is a great value creature that can come in for the grindy matchups. If you’re going to cut a creature that doesn’t do much, such as a Reflector Mage, you’re going to want a solid creature to bring in. Den Protector isn’t the card that you “want” to hit off of Collected Company, but having more hits to have that 25-creature critical mass is still important. There are no matchups where Den Protector is actively bad, so that’s another nice bonus when you’re looking to cut cards that may not do much (these will commonly be Reflector Mages and Dromoka’s Commands in the creature-light matchups).
2 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
Same idea as Den Protector, but on a different level. Getting extra lands is awesome in a deck that can utilize the extra mana like Duskwatch Recruiter, and the card advantage potential is there. This is another great tool for the grindy midrange matchups or against control decks. These can also come in for Knights in matchups where they don’t do much, you need more creatures, and you aren’t on the draw.
3 Gryff’s Boon
In the creature matchups, you’re going to want to be able to go over the top. A weakness for decks like Bant Company is flying creatures, and Boon gives you recurring flying creatures. Slapping one of these on a Lambholt Pacifist makes for a quick clock. Even if they deal with that by having a Reflector Mage or Dromoka’s Command, 4 mana lets your Tireless Tracker go right back to the skies.
1 Knight of the White Orchid
Another creature to keep your count above 25, this is a useful tool against decks like white Humans where a 2/2 first strike can hold off a bunch of 2/1s even through an anthem effect, and will almost always come in on the draw.
BW Control, GB Control, and Grixis Control are all popular enough that you need a tool to stop their powerful spell. GW Tokens actually has few creature spells, so countering their planeswalker or powerful spell can change the game.
1 Sigarda, Heron’s Grace
I haven’t been totally sold on Sigarda in my testing as I’m not sure it’s the tool wanted against midrange decks like Company. I’ve preferred using something like Linvala, the Preserver, as 8 power in flyers and 5 life will break open a creature matchup. Sigarda can be awesome against the various control decks by giving your creatures hexproof while being big enough to survive Grasp of Darkness, Languish, and dodging Ultimate Price, so try to utilize her there. Adding more Human tokens to the battlefield is insane with Thalia’s Lieutenant.
3 Tragic Arrogance
This is a tool that can completely crush aggressive decks, but it actually has applications in all of the major matchups. It’s a useful sweeper against other Company decks, especially since you’ll often get to keep a huge threat that’s been boosted by Lieutenant, or the Lieutenant herself. Some players swear by Arrogance as an awesome tool against Company and GW Tokens decks while being back-breaking against Humans, while others like to have 0, 1, or 2 copies for the non-Humans matchups. I don’t think this one is solved by any means, but there are many games where it’s exactly what you want to draw and others where you’re essentially flooded on them. As another spell that dilutes your deck of Company hits, it’s tough to lean on this card too much in matchups where it isn’t going to win the game.
As for sideboarding against Bant Humans, there isn’t a tried and true way. The cards that interact favorably with Collected Company help, like Hallowed Moonlight, Dispel, and Negate, but none are a slam dunk. Sweepers like Languish and Planar Outburst are probably the best weapons, but the card advantage of the Human Werewolves and Company play so well against them. The power level is so high that it’s going to be tough to beat their good draws, but the deck can stumble.
At the end of the day, this is a 3-color deck. It has cards that want more lands and that sometimes do nothing without lands, so that can be a real problem. There are few actual blue sources in the deck, even when you factor in the Evolving Wilds, especially when Wilds isn’t always going to be able to get blue if you need other colors. Knight helps, but it makes lands like Forest and Island look silly from time to time.
All told, I think this is likely the best deck in Standard right now. While GW Tokens took down both Grand Prix last weekend, Bant Humans put tons of copies into the Top 8 and top tables. This is a deck you should play or be prepared to face, as it’s definitely the real deal.
Is this the future of Bant Company going forward, or will you see players still opt for the non-Humans version? And what’s the best sideboard card you’ve found both for and against the deck? Sound off in the comments!