To be completely honest with you folks, I kinda hate writing about my Standard decks. I always feel like some sort of traveling door-to-door saleswoman; practically begging someone to let me in the door so I can display my wares. Even worse; at least door-to-door saleswomen get paid for grovelling like that. In my case I'm writing for a free blog with about a thousand regular readers at most. Perhaps more germane however is the fact that if you as a reader are looking for "hawt new Standard tech" you really shouldn't be trolling random Mtg blogs but rather devouring top 8 deck lists from SCG opens, GP-level events and Pro Tours. These decks win multi-hundred person tournaments for a reason and to tell you the truth the vast majority of my successful builds aren't all that different than the decks you can find making the cut at these events. As such, I typically find myself ignoring Standard altogether here on the blog unless I feel the deck I'm playing is significantly different than the run of the mill netdeck version you can find basically anywhere. Obviously since you are reading this and I am writing it, I feel that is the case with this deck.
this deck by none other than Seth Burn. Frankly, there is a lot to like about this build in the context of the format it was created for. Namely it has an incredibly strong game 1 against both Rakdos Zombies and Jund Mid-range; the two accepted "big bad wolves" of the early post RtR-Standard format. For the exact moment in time that it was designed this deck is literally almost perfect. The problem of course is that by the time I got my grubby little paws on it and started testing that moment in time was over; the metagame had shifted firmly towards grindy mid-range decks with Thragtusk or lightning fast aggro decks built around Geist of Saint Traft. This didn't mean that Jund and Zombies were dead per se, but they were no longer popular enough to ensure that simply beating "them" would lead to winning tournaments. More perplexing however was the fact that the deck wasn't actually all that good at winning "grindy" Thragtusk mirrors. While cards like Jace, Garruk and Sphinx's Revelation showed promise I discovered that the vast majority of the time both players would bounce non-trampling ground-pounders at each other until someone cast an Angel of Serenity that wasn't answered. Since the match hinged on such a limited number of cards there were a number of games where I simply didn't draw my "mirror breakers" and my opponents did. Finally even rock solid match-ups like Jund and Zombies were started to become more difficult post sideboard. Jund players began running Appetite for Brains and Rakdos Returns to answer Bant's card advantage while Zombies began boarding in multiple "Threaten" effects to simply steal your 5 power beasties and bash you with them. After a solid week of tinkering and losing in the top 8/top 4 of my local store's Gameday events I finally accepted that the deck as presently constructed was "yesterday's news".
this article on Manadeprived.com. To be completely fair this deck was much more in line with how I felt a good Bant deck should look as the format evolved. It's much faster than the previous deck, maindecks 4 copies of the cheapest mirror-breaking card in Standard (Geist of Saint Traft) and is generally less confused than the Montana build. In short rather than jamming half of a control deck with half of a beatdown deck, Bianchi has chosen to be a strong beatdown deck with "some control elements". This strategy is basically right up Scott's alley and after some minor threats he convinced me to read all of Alex's well-written article there on the spot. As I read through the article and poured over the card choices it suddenly dawned on me why I disliked virtually every Bant deck I'd seen online. I turned towards Scott and said simply "it's too confused sir." Scott demanded an explanation and by way of careful interrogation helped me verbalize my issues with "traditional" Bant midrange:
- Too many of the cards argue with each other. If this deck were a high school student, she'd be the emo chick who listens to Dead Can Dance while cutting herself. Whether we're talking about the inclusion of counterspells in a ramp deck full of 4, 5 and 7 casting cost cards, the general inability of it's big finishers to actually finish or the sheer insanity of running 3-6 sweepers in a deck trying to beat down with 5/3's these builds have serious "focus" problems.
- Depending on the build, the mana base for this deck is genuinely horrible. Either you're trying to run Jace, Garruk and Angel of Serenity in the same deck or you're dropping Cavern of Souls/Gavony Townships into builds with multiple greedy non-creature spells that all want to come down as soon as possible on the curve. This is literally a recipe for disaster in the current "go over the top" Standard.
- The decks generally lack a clearly defined path to victory. This once again speaks to the lack of synergy in the build to some degree but it's actually much deeper than that. It's hard to win games when you're tucking your own finishers under your library or drawing dead Sweepers/Counters when all you need is some more "action". This deck wants to see it's cards in a very specific order and when they come out of sequence you generally sit around sulking about it until you die.
- 40 minute game 1s. I really don't feel this bears much explaining. This deck's finishers are traditionally pretty horrible at actually finishing; you've got 5-6 flyers and a bunch of guys who don't trample. It's virtually impossible to finish 3 games in 50 minutes versus a competent mid-range opponent with the Montana States build for example.
4x Centaur Healer
3x Geist of Saint Traft
3x Restoration Angel
2x Sigarda, Host of Herons
2x Armada Wurm
Spells - 19:
4x Azorius Charm
3x Cyclonic Rift
2x Selesnya Charm
3x Detention Sphere
3x Jace, Architect of Thought
Lands - 25:
4x Hallowed Fountain
4x Temple Garden
4x Hinterland Harbor
4x Glacial Fortress
3x Sunpetal Grove
- Play lands while simultaneously "Time-walking" your opponents with Az Charm and/or Centaur Healer/Restoration Angel if he attacks before you're ready to allow it.
- Cast the best creatures in the entire Standard format for 2-4 turns; pausing only to play a Jace, Architect of Thought if necessary.
- If cards like Traft, Sigarda and Armada Wurm haven't already killed your opponent play your 7th land and bounce all of his permanents back into his hand; sometimes at Instant speed!
- Turn your guys sideways into his empty board and kill him
- "Why haven't you included a sideboard?"
3x Loxodon Smiter
1x Geist of Saint Traft
2x Acidic Slime
2x Rest in Peace
2x Sphinx's Revelation
The Caverns, Smiters, Geist and Tusks are for control decks that run counters and sweepers. The Acidic Slimes are there to kill Kessig Wolf's Run. Rest in Peace attacks both Snapcaster control decks and Reanimator. Finally Sphinx's Revelation is there to win mid-range mirror matches that drag too long; think of them as Cyclonic Rifts #4-5. I should also mention that there are no SB cards for aggro decks in here because your deck should already beat the holy crap out of aggro. You can always bring in the 2 bonus Tusks if you absolutely must have additional answers.
- "Why are you only running 2 Thragtusks in the main? Isn't it the best card in Standard?"
- "Bitch, have you ever even read Time Walk? How do I timewalk with Azorius Charm?
- "Doesn't this deck just snap lose to Control?"
- "Why did you choose Armada Wurm over Angel of Serenity?"
- "Is Cyclonic Rift really the best card in Standard?"
- "Why Selesnya Charm? Can I replace those cards with counterspells?"
- "Why didn't you answer my question?"
Well gang, that's about all the time we have for today. When I original sat down to write this article I expected it to be about 2 pages long and take roughly 3 hours to complete. Roughly 9 hours and 8 pages later I'm still not sure I've gone over all the important details. Unfortunately tired eyes and sore fingers will not be bargained with and so I bid you adieu for the time being. Before I go however I'd like to thank Scott MacCallum, Tommy Liu and Jeremy Skelton for all the deck ideas I stole from them when constructing this deck. I would also like to thank Alex Bianchi for his wonderful article on Manadeprived.com that helped me finally crystallize what I felt Bant mi-range decks were missing in the format. Until next time then; always remember that it's extremely easy to kill an enemy mage when your board is full of fat, broken monsters and his is comprised only of lands. Ciao folks.