Competitive in a Year: Building to Bant Spirits

Written by Zach Cramer on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Modern

Competitive in a Year: Building to Bant Spirits

Zach Cramer

Zach is a Northeastern Magic grinder who specializes in eternal formats. When building decks, he has a strong preference to Blue cards, toolboxes and combo decks. With a recent RPTQ finish just short of an invitation, Zach hopes to take his skills to the next level and play on the Pro Tour.

Greetings all! This week, we’re going to build towards Bant Spirits. Bant is a powerful deck with a powerful sideboard that took everyone by surprise when it initially made its way into the format. Let’s get started.

Mono Green Infect certainly does not seem very much like a Bant Spirits deck to start.The concept behind Infect is taking a threat, protecting it against an onslaught of opposing cards, and finding a critical window to take your opponent down. This is a large part of Bant Spirits. Figuring out when to play your flash threats, understanding the value of Quellers and Mausoleum Wanderers, and finding the window for your Collected Company is critical for seeing success with Spirits. You’ll notice this list is quite different than its blue counterpart in that we’ve provided some major reductions in multiple copies of Birds of Paradise over the more traditional Noble Hierarch and we’ve also lost access to ways to grant evasion in Blighted Agent and Distortion Strike. All in due time.

The key skills you’re going to need to understand in mastering Infect is going to be understanding tempo. Tempo is a big broad word that no one is very good at defining or narrowing in Magic. For the purposes of this conversation, I refer to tempo as the advantage we gain by forcing our opponents to leave up removal spells, counter magic and other forms of interaction. When you think about someone playing Black Green Midrange you think of large Tarmogoyfs, a slew of Fatal Pushes, and many Edict effects. However, if you lead on an innocuous Glistener Elf and your opponent taps out for a Tarmogoyf you can Apostle’s Blessing to gain protection from Green AFTER (please don’t give your creature protection from Green BEFORE you cast your green spells) you cast some pump spells and maybe kill them out of nowhere! However, if your opponent holds up their counterspells and removal, you can simply play out some lands, play out some mana dorks, additional infect creatures and keep setting your opponent up for an opportunity where you can take advantage of having the time to sculpt a perfect hand. The sideboard is very tame. Some Tormod’s Crypts for major graveyard decks, some Nature’s Claims and Dissenter’s Deliverance for troublesome artifacts. Dismembers for large Thing in the Ice or Tarmogoyfs and some extra infect creatures against attrition style black decks. The Sylvan Scrying is a cute addition that can easily find your most evasive infecter: Inkmoth Nexus. Additionally, you can find Pendelhaven in a pinch.

In Month 1, you’re going to pick up: 2 Noble Hierarchs 2 Breeding Pools 4 Blighted Agents 4 Spell Pierce 2 Distortion Strike and 4 Dispel to start building your way to UG Infect. The Beauty of Sylvan Scrying is that it can now find your Breeding Pools as we hunt down more fetchlands. A critical part of this series is deciding when to transition from one deck into another. The Blue cards will improve our deck once we can cast them, but, right now they are hard to find off of only 4 Fetchlands and 2 Sylvan Scrying

Month 2 offers us a bit more of a pinch 1 Noble Hierarch 1 Misty Rainforest. Both of these cards are pretty easy to slot in over a Birds of Paradise and a Forest. Additionally, we’ll pick up 2 Kitchen Finks which is sometimes used for Infect to combat Burn and grindy midrange decks, but, is also a spoiler for our next project. Month 3: Our 4th Noble Hierarch another Misty Rainforest and 2 more Kitchen Finks. Similar cuts.

In Month 4, we can purchase 4 Mishra’s Bauble and 1 Dryad Arbor along with a 3rd Misty Rainforest and have access to essentially Aaron Barich’s UG Infect deck from the recent SCG Modern Open in Philadelphia. If you’re having fun with Infect, I’d suggest purchasing these cards. However, if you’re ready for a change, it’s almost time to switch archetypes.

The cards we’re looking to buy for our next project will be: 1 Walking Ballista, 2 Duskwatch Recruiter, 4 Devoted Druid, 4 Vizier of Remedies, 2 Scavenging Ooze, 4 Eternal Witness, 1 Shalai, Voice of Plenty, 1 Post-Mortem Lunge, 1 Reclamation Sage, 1 Eidolon of Rhetoric, 4 Chord of Calling brings us to $100 for the Month and the beginnings of GW Company.

Month 5, we’ll finish out GW Company deck with 4 Collected Company, 3 Temple Garden, 2 Razorverge Thicket, 2 Gavony Township, 1 Gaddock Teeg and 1 Selfless Spirit to create:

The Tormod’s Crypts are a little bit sketchy. We’ll be updating the deck shortly, but, for now, we’re going to play with what we’ve got. This deck is going to build on a lot of our ideas in Infect. We’re still protecting threats: Devoted Druid and Vizier of Remedies make up an infinite mana combo to create an enormous Walking Ballista. We’re also utilizing tempo. Having access to instant speed tutors like Chord of Calling or the ability to create excellent boardstates out of nowhere with Collected Company forces our opponent to rein in their plays to account for ours. We’re expanding our creature package in the sideboard with some robust tutor targets to shut certain decks out of the game.

Green/White Company also lends another useful skill: toolbox creatures. Cards like Scavenging Ooze, Reclamation Sage, Eidolon of Rhetoric, Selfless Spirit, and Gaddock Teeg are important tools to shut our opponents out of the game while providing us with the ability to clock them. By the time we’ve finished learning Infect, we know how cards like Spellskite and protection spells can bolster our combo turns, but, we haven’t had much experience with having creatures that put our opponent in a bind, but, strengthen our own clock. Creatures like Eidolon of Rhetoric and Gaddock Teeg can sometimes just end the game on the spot.

In Month 6, we’re going to start building sideboard cards and acquiring our creature base for Spirits:

2 Path to Exile, 1 Selfless Spirit, 3 Deputy of Detention, 1 Hallowed Fountain, 4 Spell Queller, 1 Moorland Haunt, 2 Botanical Sanctum, 2 Knight of Autumn, 4 Reflector Mage, and 2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. This gives us the option to not just play GW Company but add in a more interactive, more tempo oriented Bant Company shell. Players can add in Knight of the Reliquary, some utility lands, and Retreat to Coralhelm and build a list that Legit MTG writer Billy Mitchell would love to tell you more about. Be warned, though, this decks will optimally need a lot more fetchlands.

In Month 7, we’ll acquire 2 Aether Vials and 4 Rest in Peace. These will move us closer to Bant Spirits.

In Month 8, we’ll acquire our last two Aether Vials, the remaining spirits (1 Rattlechains, 4 Mausoleum Wanderer, 4 Supreme Phantom, 4 Drogskol Captain and 2 Geist of Saint Traft)

In Month 9, we’ll pick up 3 Phantasmal Image and a Horizon Canopy.

In Month 10, we’ll strengthen our manabase with 2 Flooded Strand, and some more sideboard cards in Stony Silence, Runed Halo and 2 Unified Will.

Look at that! 2 months early and we’ve got ourselves the full Bant Spirits deck. Again, if we wanted to take 2 months off to build out Bant Coralhelm or Mishra’s Bauble Infect we absolutely could do that and still finish the Spirits deck by the end of the year.

At last, we have a Tier 1 Modern Strategy. Bant Spirits brings together all of the concepts we have been learning for the last year. Spirits features a disruptive deck that utilizes tricks and evasive combat to put themselves in a favorable position. Bant Spirits offers the most interaction with our opponents that we’ve seen so far. The powerful synergistic spirits package offers the ability to build up an immense board very quickly and the tricky power of Collected Company and Aether Vial means you can assemble it out of nowhere! However, the best part of Bant Spirits has to be the sideboard. The one element that has been lacking from our 75 as we’ve built to this deck is that our sideboards just don’t feel potent enough. While Spirits hits a little lighter than our previous combo decks, it offers a much more impactful post-board game. One great thing about building budget decks is that it gives you the ability to win games off of less resources than traditional decks and forces you to get creative in solving problems. Bant’s sideboard might do the opposite in that it will grant you a lot of easier wins with its crushing sideboard hate.

Let’s review: Our first deck taught us about protecting threats and optimal times to play spells. This translates to giving us a base knowledge for when to play our flash threats and when to spend resources like Mausoleum Wanderer and Collected Company. Additionally, knowing how to protect Drogskol Captain and Phantasmal Image is important to locking our opponent out with Spirits. Our 2nd deck taught us about the value of instant speed interaction. This will help us with Aether Vial and understanding how much pressure we have to offer in order to maximize the pressure of our interaction. Moreover, it gave us some reps with Collected Company. Putting all of this together will give us a great starting set of skills to start mastering Bant Spirits. From this point, you don’t need me. Feel free to browse the web and learn from Bant Spirits masters on the extra tools and tactics to improve with the deck and enhance your skills.

When the year is done, we have three distinct Modern decks and a great knowledge of what it means to take advantage of our opponents fear. I hope you enjoyed this segment of “How to Get into Modern” tune in next week for another Competitive in a Year guide!

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