The title comes from a joke that Rudy Brizka, Top 8 competitor at the last SCG Open Richmond, started during my stream last Monday. I pointed out how Americans love to play wacky midrange decks, especially decks that I tend to call “binder” decks, that often happen to be Bant.
Last season it was a deck with four Angel of Grace. Other times it was a collection of midrange cards that usually don’t have the tools to fight control decks or superior midrange decks like Sultai.
This time around, however, this Bant Midrange deck has gotten many cool toys from War of the Spark and it may finally be time for a Bant deck to shine in Standard again, after almost three years.
2 Forest 4 Breeding Pool 3 Glacial Fortress 4 Hallowed Fountain 4 Hinterland Harbor 3 Sunpetal Grove 4 Temple Garden 1 Lyra Dawnbringer 2 Deputy of Detention 4 Frilled Mystic 4 Growth-Chamber Guardian 4 Hydroid Krasis 4 Incubation Druid 2 Knight of Autumn 4 Llanowar Elves 2 God-Eternal Oketra 2 Shalai, Voice of Plenty 3 Teferi, Time Raveler 4 Vivien, Champion of the Wilds Sideboard 2 Deputy of Detention 2 Knight of Autumn 4 Baffling End 2 Dovin's Veto 2 Lyra Dawnbringer 1 Carnage Tyrant 2 Thrashing Brontodon
There’s a lot to talk about here. Let’s start from the top: God-Eternal Oketra.
I hated this card for the whole week during MC London preparation, because we kept opening it in Draft and it kept winning the game singlehandedly, ruining every game.
That’s what prompted me to ask the Twitter world whether Oketra was printed just to ruin Limited or if she has potential in Standard.
— Andrea Mengucci (@Mengu09) May 6, 2019
After a few days, I truly believed that God-Eternal Oketra was indeed a Standard playable card.
She is a must-answer threat that can take over the game by herself, and is game over most of the time in a midrange/aggro fight, just like The Scarab God used to be.
Unlike Lyra Dawnbringer, she isn’t easy to kill. Sure, you can Vraska’s Contempt or Deputy of Detention her, but she’ll be back in three turns, or if you happen to have Vivien, Champion of the Wilds in play, the turn after—much like The Scarab God.
Two other great additions to the deck are some 3-mana planeswalkers that completely change the way Magic is played.
Teferi, Time Raveler has proven its worth in various formats already, but nowhere more than in Standard where it can singlehandedly deal with Nexus decks and it’s very annoying for Esper decks as well.
Arrester’s Admonition isn’t a Standard playable card, but when paired with a pretty strong static ability it’s okay. In this deck, Teferi can come in handy to bounce your own Frilled Mystic, Knight of Autumn, or Hydroid Krasis to trigger the enters-the-battlefield multiple times, which happens quite often.
Vivien, Champion of the Wilds plays another role. Being able to always hold up Shalai, Voice of Plenty or Frilled Mystic is a pretty big deal. It will be very hard for your opponent to play around the correct card. Sometimes you might even have nothing, and just adapt Incubation Druid or Growth-Chamber Guardian end of turn.
Against the Wilderness Reclamation deck, Vivien is particularly good since she lets you play Knight of Autumn or Deputy of Detention in the second main-phase, which is great, and the reason why the matchup is positive.
The two lists that made Top 8 at the SCG Open had plenty of spells in the sideboard, notably Disdainful Stroke and Vivien Reid. I dislike those, as against control you want to maximize your Vivien, Champion of the Wilds, and not reduce the odds of hitting a creature. So I replaced those with extra copies of versatile creatures, and ended up winning more than I was before.
The only spells in the sideboard are Dovin’s Veto because of how good they are at countering key spells from Nexus of Fate decks, and Baffling End, because those come in against decks like Mono-Red and Mono-White, where Vivien, Champion of the Wilds come out in multiple copies.
This matchup isn’t great game 1 because most of your cards are clunky or expensive. Post-sideboard I like to cut the planeswalkers, as they don’t match up well against low-cost creatures and I like to replace them with cheap creatures.
While Knight of Autumn and Deputy of Detention aren’t particularly good, they buy you time so you can take the game over with one of your powerful 5-drops, which your opponent is not likely to have an answer for.
Remember that Shalai, Voice of Plenty protects you from being burnt out and protects your Lyra Dawnbringer, so make sure not to block with her on turn 4 since untapping with Shalai and dropping a bomb on 5 mana will usually mean the game is over.
Remember: if they have a Teferi, Time Raveler down and you have Vivien, Champion of the Wilds, you won’t be able to play your creatures at instant speed, so it’s important to pressure their Teferi. Even a 4/3 Knight of Autumn, while unassuming, could be important to present a clock.
A lot of answers for Wilderness Reclamation come in. A lot of expensive cards go out. We want to kill literally everything they try to stick on the table.
Watch out for Blast Zone, as that card is strong against your configuration post-sideboard. Rely on Growth-Chamber Guardian to deal maximum damage. Remember to bounce your own Knight of Autumn with Teferi, Time Raveler, especially to play around the aforementioned Blast Zone.
This is a good matchup. Mulligan aggressively to find one of your two very important planeswalkers.
This deck is both super fun to play, and very good. I can’t wait to play more of it!