After a decent, but disappointing day 1 at Grand Prix New York a couple of weeks ago, I’m back on the PPTQ grind. With my next two SCG Invitational invites locked, the SCG Tour has taken a back seat to my work toward the Pro Tour, my ultimate goal. The past few weeks have seen me wavering on my faith in the Bant Company deck. If you’ve been following the format, you’ve noticed that it’s waned in general in favor of decks that are just better than it.
The pillars of standard right now can be grouped into three overarching archetypes, the G/W Tokens decks, the G/B based Cryptolith Rite decks (including the 4 color combo deck, the BG Aristocrats deck, and the 3 color eldrazi deck), and the B/R based control decks (your Grixis/Junds).
Obviously there are other decks in the format that see a decent amount of play. B/W Control, random Eldrazi decks exist, Humans variants of multiple flavors, and the BG rock decks with Dark Petition. They’re all pretty good, but I keep getting pulled in the Bant Company direction. There’s just something about quality creatures that gain a lot of advantages around the edges that appeals to me. Whether the advantages are in the form of card advantage with Tireless Tracker, Duskwatch Recruiter, and Nissa, Vastwood Seer, or in the form of tempo with Bounding Krasis and Reflector Mage, the deck is a lot of fun to play and win with.
However, it’s not very well positioned if you look at the high level metagame. The matchups against the Cryptolith Rite decks and Tokens decks isn’t great, and while the deck has a decent control matchup, it’s really not that great of a matchup. Since the Bant deck isn’t focusing on going wide, and is just making big threats, the strength it has against the Languish and Radiant Flames decks is that it can play around those cards better than any other deck in the format probably.
While I feel, and many people will agree, that Bant is in a poor spot right now in standard, there are few other decks that interest me. And that’s the issue I think with a metagame as wide open as this. Playing with planeswalkers and tokens doesn’t really appeal to me, and losing to Languish isn’t something I like, so I’m not a huge fan of the Tokens deck or the Cryptolith Rite decks, and trading one-for-one isn’t something I’m looking to do either, so I don’t really want to play with B/R decks. If there was some deck that played the green cards from the Bant Deck, the Tireless Trackers, the Nissa, Vastwood Seers, and the Duskwatch Recruiters, but also was able to battle the Tokens decks somehow, I’d jump on that train quicker than a guy racing to jump on a train.
For now though, or at least last weekend, I decided to play Bant for a PPTQ. One of those “play what you know” things, you know? It may not be the best in a wide open field, but I’d try my hand at letting my skill carry me through the rounds. So me and my teammates shipped up to Kearny, NJ for some standard action. This is the list I played:
I felt alright with this list. You’ll notice the biggest change is the absence of Archangel Avacyn completely from the 75. I played two of her maindeck at the GP the weekend before. She was unimpressive. She did allow me to win a single game the whole day, but she also sat in my hand for at least three games throughout the day at the GP. Either I was unable to cast her because of the double white in the cost, and the poor three color manabase was unable to support it on time, or there were just better things to do. I also felt gross every time I pushed her with a Collected Company.
Another couple of reasons, is that five mana is pretty hard for me to hit in general sometimes with the deck. I’ve lost a ton to mana issues over the last few weeks. I would get stuck on three or not get past four mana and just sit there with this really expensive, not so great in this deck card in my hand. I also sideboarded her out A LOT. Avacyn is really bad against decks with instant speed removal, which is pretty much any deck thanks to Dromoka’s Command plus all of the black spells that are out there.
I replaced her with Ojutai’s Command. I’ve always been a fan of this card. It plays really well against a lot of things. It feels like Collected Company number 5 and 6 sometimes, and plays well with the tempo strategy of the deck. It also handles some difficult cards for the Bant deck, like Thought-Knot Seer when your opponent is on the draw, Reality Smasher, Goblin Dark-Dwellers, Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet when your opponent is on the draw, Dragonlord Silumgar, Dragonlord Ojutai, some of the combo pieces in the Rites deck, and even Archangel Avacyn herself. Plus it almost never rots in your hand. You can just cycle it if you want. I think it’s a lot better in the deck than Avacyn.
Back at the PPTQ, 51 players signed up. We were in for a long day here. Let’s get to our battles.
Round 1 – Arthur on B/R Dragons.
I’ve played Arthur before. He’s a nice guy, as are 95% of the people I play against in Jersey. I love playing in New Jersey, and I honestly can’t wait to move back there in the future from my little haven in Northeast PA, but until then, I’ll be a tourist.
Game 1, I lost to me having 5 blue cards in my hand, and never drawing a blue source. He’s just able to play all of his spells, and I’m not.
As an aside, this is one of the reasons I don’t want to play this deck anymore. You can just lose to yourself a lot of the time.
Games 2 and 3 weren’t even close. They were real Bant Company games where I got to flash in creatures at the end of his turn, I was drawing multiple cards per turn off of Nissa, Sage Animist putting lands into play for my Tireless Tracker. This is when the Bant Company deck hums, and this is when it’s the most fun to play.
After game 1, I thought that was just how the day was going to go. But it was actually just practice for me to get out of my own head and bounce back after a loss. I’m proud of myself that I was able to come back after a discouraging game 1.
Round 2 – Jose on Bant Company.
Another reason to not play this deck, the mirror is miserable. I feel that it’s typically decided in the early turns of the game. Game 1 was really the only game we actually got to play. At one point, I was at one life, but was able to manage his threats, and once I had a Nissa, Vastwood Seer churning through cards, and Jace, Telepath Unbound flashing back Collected Companies, there was really no way I could lose.
Our uninspired games 2 and 3 saw me drawing no more than three lands, followed by Jose drawing no more than three lands.
All in all, this round is the exact reason I don’t want to play this deck any longer. The mirror is just a gross mash of unexciting, clogged board states, or it’s the deck losing to itself because you just don’t draw mana to cast your spells. Alas, we got ahead in this one, so I’m more than happy to start my day at 2-0.
Round 3 – Pat on Bant Humans.
So Pat is a sweet North Jersey area grinder. He’s the guy I lost to in the finals of my first PPTQ with Abzan Control back in the day, and he has had my number ever since. I do enjoy playing him though, and I know what he’s on. I’ve not practiced against the deck, but I saw it did well at GP Tokyo, and was picking up in popularity online.
Game 1, I’m able to aggressively attack him down to 1 life, and then we spend a couple of turns building our respective boards. At one point though, my Duskwatch Recruiter finds me a Bounding Krasis, and I’m able to use it at the end of his turn to push through the final point of damage after tapping down one of his blockers.
Game 2, the signs of me missing reps against this deck shine, as he’s able to use Ojutai’s Command to counter one of my plays, while getting back a Thalia’s Lieutenant. That was a really gross interaction. He was just able to make his whole board of Knight of the White Orchid, Duskwatch Recruiters, and other humans absolutely huge through this interaction. I can’t crawl back in, and his guys are just bigger than mine.
Game 3 is more of me losing to cards I have little experience against. This is when I’m at my worst. This was the first time a Dragonlord Dromoka had been cast against me while I was playing Bant Company. I allowed it to resolve, not remembering that I couldn’t cast spells during Pat’s turn. He pointed that out when I tried to Collected Company at the end of his turn. I wasn’t able to crawl back in, I had to use a Tragic Arrogance to clear his Dragonlord, and after that he was able to flood the board, having Thalia’s Lieutenant pump his guys out of range so that my guys couldn’t do anything effectively.
2-1. Round 3 is always difficult for me for some reason. It’s most likely a mental thing, but I do find that if I go 3-0 ever, I place very well at that event. However, most times I end up losing my round 3. Gotta work on that.
Round 4 – Justin on 4 Color Rites Combo.
I feel like Justin didn’t really know his deck too well. The games were very quick in my favor. I won it in two. I’ve practiced this matchup a lot. I know that I have to kill Eldrazi Displacers and Zulaport Cutthroats on sight with either Dromoka’s Commands or Reflector Mages, and also want to hold a Dromoka’s Command for any early Cryptolith Rites. However, his blocking on my attacks was a bit cavalier. One of the ways they can beat the Bant deck among the multitudes of lines is to flood the board and win with a Westvale Abbey. He was throwing his creatures right in front of mine for no value, which cut that line off for him.
Round 5 – Kris on B/W Control.
This is one of the reasons I love the Bant deck. Sorcery speed control decks just get eaten alive. Game 1, he never gets past his third land drop, and while I have to play around a Hallowed Moonlight and his Grasp of Darkness and Ultimate Prices, I eventually just overpower his mana.
Game 2 kind of goes the other way. I’m stuck on two lands for a while, but he allows me to flip a Duskwatch Recruiter, which lets me cast my Nissa, Vastwood Seer for 2, get a forest, and I draw my forth land shortly thereafter. He attacks me for a couple of turns with a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, but by this point, I’ve made a ton more land drops, and have a Tireless Tracker that’s big enough to one shot his planeswalker.
After that, I just take the game over. I think that single Tireless Tracker drew me 6 cards that game. One of my favorites.
I’m in 6th place, and I can get jumped if I draw in the final round and the three people below me that are at 11 points to my 13 win their matches. However, I know my opponent is on the B/G Aristocrats deck, which I’m not excited to play against. It’s supposed to be a poor matchup, so I draw in the final round.
Final standings go up. DAGGERS! Ninth place on breakers. Maximum punishment. Ugh, what a bad feeling I get in my belly, even now that I think about it. Hindsight is 20/20 of course, so obviously I wished I played the last round, but given the matchup, and where everything was situated, at the time, I felt my decision was fine.
My opponent from round 3, Pat, ended up winning. Which means that he and Michael Derczo each have a 100% conversion rate to win a PPTQ when they beat me in the tournament. Some ESPN stats for you folks!
I felt the deck I played was fine. I feel like I played ok in the matchups I knew of, and had an overall good day. Obviously I’m a bit disappointed, but whatever, it just wasn’t my day in terms of tiebreakers. There was actually a bunch of bant company in the room. Going forward though, I think I am going to try the four color Cryptolith Rite deck. It feels a bit like Rally, which I played, and only stopped playing because I didn’t want to just play mirror matches. Now that this combo deck is decently positioned against other Company and G/W Tokens decks, I think it might be the right choice if I get the cards for it in time.
Also, I started streaming on Twitch! You can watch me on Twitch.tv/timbeef, and follow me on twitter @bachmanntim for when I go live!
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