Bant is a great deck in Standard? Color me surprised!
The biggest oppressor of Standard has finally departed. Collected Company restricted deck building dramatically, and every deck looked fairly similar. Playing green, white, and blue creatures that cost 3 or less to hit with Company got old pretty quickly. There were plenty of different flavors, but all that really demonstrated was how good the Bant creatures were and how busted Collected Company has always been.
For the most part, those great creatures didn’t rotate. Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is gone, as is Nissa, but those had fallen out of favor in many of these lists anyways. The creatures that rewarded you both in the early and late game may not get the same tempo boost from Company, but they’re still around. Sylvan Advocate and Tireless Tracker both don’t mind if you draw plenty of lands, and they provide value and mana sinks for the late game.
You still have the aggressive aerial assault. Selfless Spirit offers a great power-to-cost ratio for an evasive creature that also helps against the sweepers in the format now that Languish is gone. Spell Queller still offers the incredible tempo it always has as a reasonable body with both evasion and the ability to slow down an opponent’s spell, if not stop it all together.
Reflector Mage is still the absolute king of tempo. The more people think that Spell Queller and Reflector Mage are not a big part of the format—and they didn’t appear to be in the first event of the season—the more powerful they become. When players cast more spells that walk into these cards, Bant shines.
Servant of the Conduit is a respectable body for 2 mana, attacking admirably when needed. The early ramp, however, is something that these decks have never had access to. Luckily, Company is no longer in the format, since turn-3 CoCo would not have been fun. But you still have Tamiyo, Field Researcher. In an aggressive deck that can consistently cast a Tamiyo, you’re looking at tons of card advantage and the perfect tempo card. Tapping down blockers for multiple turn cycles is really challenging to beat.
As if dealing with a Tamiyo on 4 wasn’t bad enough, look at what Bant got for the 5 slot. Aggressive green decks got the most pushed creature we’ve seen in some time. Verdurous Gearhulk is an 8/8 trample with upside. A 4/4 trample with four +1/+1 counters that effectively have haste is simply absurd. You get your spell put under a Queller, another under a Reflector Mage, and now you’re looking at a pair of 4/5 creatures, not to mention the 4/4 trampler, waiting to finish you off on turn 5. That’s without even playing a 2-drop, let alone a Servant!
One of the sweeter cards we’ve seen come out of the first Open is Blossoming Defense. It’s a decent pump spell, but it really shines in the protection role. Making sure your Spell Queller stays alive for that extra turn is awesome for a single mana, and it ends up being another great tempo play. Keeping your 4/4 to 8/8 trampling Gearhulk should end the game.
Tempo is the key to a Bant deck, and while Collected Company isn’t easy to replace, you’re still looking at some massive amounts of damage in short order. Company is gone, but Bant is certainly not!