Javier Dominguez locked in myself and Marcio Carvalho to team up for Grand Prix Liverpool a long time ago, which offered a great chance for me to earn my first GP Top 4.

Marcio decided to play Hardened Scales very early on, so the only question was what Javier and I were going to play.

Initially I was going to play Humans, but after yet another bad result in GP Atlanta—four of my teammates also did poorly with Humans—we realized that the deck just wasn’t good anymore. Since PT Rivals of Ixalan, every deck has gained something, whereas Humans fundamentally stayed the same, and in Modern that just won’t fly.

It was time to try something new, and after some pretty bad results with B/R Hollow One and Dredge, I tried Bant Spirits. It was my kind of deck.
I played around 15 Leagues, and while at first I was trying to revolutionize the deck by cutting Aether Vial and adding Birds of Paradise, I soon settled down and decided to stick with the stock version, starting with the one Peiyuan Zheng used to win GP Atlanta.

I only changed two things in the main deck:

  1. The first one was to cut Cavern of Souls for an extra fetchland. Cavern of Souls was originally played by Ondrej Strasky in his winning list at GP Stockholm, but control decks were very popular back then, whereas now they are diminishing. Also, post-sideboard you have a lot of white non-Spirit cards that you want to be able to cast, and mulliganing hands with Stony Silence and no white mana is pretty rough.
  2. I swapped a Path to Exile for a Reflector Mage. While I like Reflector Mage and I totally understand his addition to the deck, I still think that the best ratio of the two is three Path to Exile and two Reflector Mage.
    I’ve found Reflector Mage underwhelming in the mirror match because of Aether Vial and Drogskol Captain, whereas Path to Exile could be much more effective. Path to Exile is also much better at dealing with recurring threats, such as Arclight Phoenix and B/R Hollow One threats, and is much better versus Storm and Sai, Master Thopterist.

So this is the deck list I submitted for GP Liverpool with a record of 9-4.

Bants Spirits

Andrea Mengucci, 40th place at GP Liverpool

I took the liberty of changing some slots in the sideboard too. Hardened Scales and KCI are, in my opinion, two of the best decks in Modern, and I feel that playing only two Stony Silence is just wrong, I chose to go up to four because of how important it is in those matchups.

While I was hating Worship at first, I saw how important it was in some matchups (Burn, Humans, Bogles, Dredge) and even if you don’t board it in that often, it might just win you some games (which it did in round 8, and that allowed me to advance to Day 2).

We had a rocky start at 1-2, but then things started getting better and I won my next five rounds, and so did the team. Day 2 wasn’t great, and we ended up 9-5 in 40th place.

Marcio did fine with Hardened Scales, whereas Javier did pretty badly with U/R Phoenix. I think the deck is bad, and it’s just one of those trends that afflicts Modern from time to time. Whenever a cool card comes out, a lot of people brew with it, and some of them might even win some big event. But then the deck is just bad and the trend goes away. This happens every set, and now we see it with Arclight Phoenix in U/R Phoenix.

I believe if Javier had played straight-up U/R Control and replaced his Gut Shots and Manamorphose with real cards, he would have done much better.

Sideboarding

Humans

Out

In

Although I believe Humans to now be obsoleted Spirits, it’s still very popular, and that’s good news for you since it’s a favorable matchup. You have more lords than they do, so your board can get very large quickly, and you have the ability to turn the corner much faster since your creatures fly and are usually unblockable.

Hardened Scales

Out

In

Hardened Scales is a tough matchup. Game 1 you are unfavored, then you get better post-sideboard.

I saw some people board in zero Rest in Peace and some people bring in three. While I do believe it’s not great, I still think that it might help you in situations where you don’t draw Stony Silence, and shutting off their ability to use Modular or to create Thopters with Hangerback Walker is relevant. The card is still somewhat situational and you never want to draw two copies, so it’s fine as a one-of.

At first I was boarding out Mausoleum Wanderer and keeping in Aether Vial, since they have Walking Ballista and you want to cut the creatures that die too easily to it, but then we saw how important it was to protect your Stony Silence from a Nature’s Claim, and even a Power Sink for 2 is enough sometimes, since they can’t pay the mana with Darksteel Citadel or Mox Opal.

Tron

Out on the Play

In on the Play

Out on the Draw

In on the Draw

I played against Tron two times at the GP and did not drop a game. That’s mainly because of how unstable their deck is, rather than a testament to the favorability of the matchup.

The matchup is much different on the play than on the draw. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is very good on the play and not that great on the draw, especially since you are also boarding in a bunch of spells and that could hurt you. Stony Silence also gets a little bit worse, and you don’t desperately need to draw it.

Overall, I think it’s an even matchup since you can play at instant speed, but you don’t have a ton of interaction. Hope that they get lucky elsewhere.

Bant Spirits

Out

In

The mirror match is all about who draws more lord effects. You also need to be good at counting to race. Attacking is usually not great when both players have large boards because it’s easy to put together profitable double-blocks. Selfless Spirit does a good job in those games.

Worship won’t be incredible, but again, needs to be answered by a Knight of Autumn, or can buy you enough time to get back into the game and win it. Reflector Mage isn’t at his best either, mainly because of Aether Vial, but later in the game you can find yourself facing a bunch of Drogskol Captains and you can’t bounce anything other than Noble Hierarch.

Jeskai

Out

In

This is supposed to be a good matchup, but when I played against Jeskai at the GP I got demolished by five Terminus in two games. You might be a favorite against the version with just a couple of sweepers in the form of Supreme Verdict, but the combination of Terminus paired with Lightning Bolt and Electrolyze is just too much to overcome. You need a turn-2 Geist. That’s the recipe for success.

KCI

Out

In

You board in 14, and most of these cards shut down their deck entirely. Sai is the way they can get out of all this sideboard hate, and that’s why I like to keep all my Path to Exiles in.

Golgari Midange

Out

In

I faced two Golgari Midrange and did not drop a game. I chose not to board in Rest in Peace because it would only shut off Tarmogoyf and Scavenging Ooze, but I would versus Abzan if I see Lingering Souls.
Collected Company is extremely hard for them to deal with. So are some of your threats and the tempo advantage that you gain with them.

Grixis Shadow

Out

In

I went 1-1 against this deck at GP Liverpool, but I felt that my win was due to my opponent not drawing that well, whereas in my loss I got demolished by GP Champion Mattia Rizzi (with this very same deck) after a flurry of Thoughtseizes and Kolaghan’s Commands.

Rest in Peace is a beating and you should really plan to draw it if you want to win this matchup.

I loved Bant Spirits, and while it’s not THE best deck in Modern—that title is for KCI—it’s the best choice if you don’t have time to learn a new deck in Modern and like to play fair Magic.

Now it’s time to fly to Barcelona, where I’ll be playing in the best Magic event of the year: the World Magic Cup!

Will Italy make the Top 8 for the fourth time in a row? I certainly hope so. Tian Fa Mun, Mattia Basilico, and I will do our best to make that happen!