Getting the cards you need when you need them is one of the fundamentals for winning a game of Magic. In a fair game of Legacy, the spells are so powerful that you have to draw the correct ones in a greater quantity and frequency than your opponent if you want to have any hope of winning. This is why one of the great things about Legacy is the various ways you can tutor for the spells you need. Everything from Infernal Tutor to Enlightened Tutor to fetchlands can ensure that you get the right cards, enabling an archetype called the “Toolbox”, a deck with powerful 1-ofs that you can fetch out to suit the situation. This week we’ll be discussing one of the more powerful Toolbox decks, NO Bant.
NO Bant, named for both the Bant shard of Alara and Natural Order, is a deck that utilizes various tutors to power out a variety of win conditions. While the eponymous Natural Order is the most famous, the deck also employs Green Sun’s Zenith, Knight of the Reliquary, and Stoneforge Mystic to enable its various methods of winning. This gives NO Bant plenty of options to make sure that they always have a backup plan.
Natural Order is easily the most famous win condition in this deck, and arguably the most powerful. By sacrificing a Green creature, you can grab a Green creature from your deck. As 13 of the deck’s 18 creatures are Green, having a sacrificial lamb for Natural Order is pretty common. While historically this has always been Progenitus as the primary target, there are times when a two turn clock is too slow. Sometimes the deck needs to win right now, often in a complex, crowded board state. Thankfully, Avacyn Restored fixed that problem in the form of Craterhoof Behemoth, the most popular Overrun effect in recent history.
The second most important tutor is Green Sun’s Zenith, capable to fetching out any of those 13 Green creatures at will. The utility of this card is spectacular, as it enables some of your smaller toolbox cards such as Qasali Pridemage and Scavenging Ooze. As well, a turn 1 Zenith can fetch out a Dryad Arbor, giving you three mana on turn 2 for a Vendilion Clique or Knight of the Reliquary. It’s worth noting that Zenith gives NO Bant the ability to run virtually any Green creature as part of its toolbox to serve any metagame. Anything from Melira, Sylvok Outcast to Sylvan Safekeeper to Dauntless Escort is fair game, so it really boils down to what your metagame looks like.
Knight of the Reliquary is not only one of the best offensive creatures NO Bant runs, it also serves as it’s scariest tutor engine. With a manabase predominantly comprised of Forests and Plains, the Knight is able to sacrifice a land to find another land, steadily growing itself into a serious threat. Another thing Knight of the Reliquary also enables is the Dark Depths/Thespian’s Stage combo to create a 20/20 indestructible flying Marit Lage token. The way this works is by having the Stage copy the legendary Dark Depths, then choosing the Stage as the copy the sacrifice to the Legend Rule. Because Thespian’s Stage doesn’t have any counters on it when it dies, you get to put the Marit Lage token into play. This is basically game over against anything without Swords to Plowshares or Karakas, and even if they have a way to exile the token, your Knight should be a colossal threat on its own.
Finally, the most popular tutor engine NO Bant uses is Stoneforge Mystic. There are some decks that just can’t handle a Batterskull or an Umezawa’s Jitte, and Stoneforge Mystic finds both of those as early as turn 2. This is especially relevant as NO Bant is primarily a creature deck, so you will usually have bodies to equip. The Stoneforge Mystic package is tried and true in Legacy and offers the deck a method of attack can just shut down opposing strategies.
Rounding out NO Bant is a collection of powerful spells to guarantee that you can dig for your combos and survive long enough to pull them off. Brainstorm and Jace, the Mind Sculptor are two of the best draw spells in Magic let alone Legacy, allowing you to dig into your deck for necessary spells. As well, because of the critical mass of shuffle effects in the deck, you get to do your best Ancestral Recall impression by essentially drawing three cards by shuffling away your unwanted cards. Additionally, Elspeth, Knight-Errant and Swords to Plowshares are great for slowing down more aggressive opponents by exiling and throwing blockers in front of quick clocks like Tarmogoyfs. This buys you plenty of time to find a solution for beating faster clocks than your own. Council’s Judgment, the most recent addition to the deck, plays a similar role to Swords to Plowshares, but works on problem permanents that you previously couldn’t touch. True-Name Nemesis and Emrakul beware, because you can now vote these format-warping monsters out of existence, giving you outs against these formerly unstoppable creatures.
SO WHAT SHOULD MY SIDEBOARD LOOK LIKE?
Because of the numerous tutor packages in NO Bant, the sideboard is largely comprised of silver bullets that you can fetch out at will to fight any specific metagame. In the example listed above, these silver bullets are Sword of Fire and Ice, Gaddock Teeg, Bojuka Bog, and Maze of Ith. Sword of Fire and Ice, which is searchable by Stoneforge Mystic, helps your creatures sneak past brick walls like True-Name Nemesis while digging you further through your deck. True-Name Nemesis decks such as UWR Delver and Stoneblade are a huge road block for NO Bant when it has to rely on the fairer game plans, so having a way to push damage through is a boon. The Sword also does a lot of work in matches that rely on planeswalkers like Jace, the Mind Sculptor, since you can bash the opponent and Shock Jace off the Sword trigger. This way you don’t have to slow down your own clock to deal with problem planeswalkers.
Gaddock Teeg is a Green Sun’s Zenith catch-all for the various combo and control matches. Teeg shuts down everything from Sneak Attack to Tendrils of Agony to Force of Will, which are all pillars of Legacy. Getting a Teeg into play as early as turn 2 can spell doom for a large number of decks; however, it also shuts off your planeswalkers and Natural Orders, so it’s usually not a bad idea to swap them out if you know you’re relying on Gaddock Teeg in the matchup.
Bojuka Bog and Maze of Ith are fantastic 1-ofs for Knight of the Reliquary to fetch out, as they are both backbreaking in their respective matches. Bojuka Bog helps stem the tide of graveyard decks like Dredge and Reanimator, as well as doing a great job of neutering Grim Lavamancer and Tarmogoyf. Maze of Ith, on the other hand, helps combat the various giants of the format, such as Batterskull, creatures equipped with Umezawa’s Jitte, and Griselbrand. These cards all require dealing combat damage to be effective, and Maze conveniently lets you remove them from combat. What makes these two particularly deadly is that Knight of the Reliquary can fetch them out at instant speed, catching the opponent off-guard and can seriously hinder their chances of winning.
Sometimes in very grindy, creature-heavy matchups, NO Bant is forced to rely on its equipment above all else. This is why there is a fourth Stoneforge Mystic in the sideboard, transforming the deck from a midrange-combo deck to a Bant Stoneblade deck. This usually happens in matches like Delver or BUG where you are interacting with their board and can’t reliably resolve a Natural Order. NO Bant also tends to bring in Path to Exile and Life from the Loam in these matches to play the resource denial game. Given the dual land-centric nature of most fair Legacy decks, Path to Exile simply reads “W: Exile target creature”. There’s no drawback! In fairer metagames I’ve even advocated playing them in the maindeck, but for unknown fields it’s definitely better off as a sideboard card. Life from the Loam is usually there to back up the Dark Depths plan, but also works well with Wasteland, setting up a soft lock by destroying the opponent’s lands every turn until they can’t cast any more spells.
Meddling Mage, Swan Song, and Humility are there to fight combo decks like ANT and Sneak and Show. Meddling Mage is an excellent preventative measure for spells that you just don’t want the opponent playing. Naming something like Tendrils of Agony can shut down ANT’s win condition entirely, and you can even name something like Force of Will to guarantee resolving a Natural Order. The utility is insane given how diverse the format is. Swan Song is also great against combo decks, as more often than not you don’t really care about a 2/2 flying token. This gives you outs to Sneak Attack, Show and Tell, and even opposing countermagic for just one mana. Humility, also known as every judge’s worst enemy, is in the sideboard for decks that center around one gigantic monster. By turning their Emrakul into a 1/1 with no abilities, you can swarm them with your abundance of creatures while keeping their board as miniscule as possible.
HOW ARE MY MATCHUPS?
Because of the variety of win conditions NO Bant has access to, there aren’t a whole lot of matches that are particularly bad. The biggest flaw to NO Bant is that removal-heavy decks such as UWR Delver can not only kill off whatever fair win conditions you try to use, they can also counter your Natural Order for a savage 2-for-1. As well, Abrupt Decay and Wasteland out of Jund or BUG disrupts three of your four win conditions, leaving just Natural Order to win. Granted, getting Progenitus into play is usually enough to do it, but these decks also run Liliana of the Veil to make you sacrifice it, so nothing is guaranteed. Finally, NO Bant tends to suffer against combo decks that can go off before they can find Gaddock Teeg. Charbelcher, Dredge, and nut draws from ANT and Show and Tell can really put a damper on NO Bant. The latter two decks are especially scary as they have Pyroclasm and Massacre to clear your board. You basically need to stick your disruption early and maintain your disruption long enough to beat them to death.
NO Bant loves matches against linear decks where they can go over the top of the opponent’s win conditions and beat them down. Fair matchups like RUG Delver and Miracles that are fairly slow to get going are hard-pressed to answer every single way you can win, especially postboard when you have more disruptive elements. Additionally, those same combo decks I listed earlier that are rough become a breeze when you can actually stick your disruption in time. It’s a dramatic difference between having the hate cards and not having the hate cards, so with proper testing and knowing the kinds of hands you can keep, NO Bant still has plenty of game against combo.
FINAL VERDICT: WHY SHOULD I PLAY NO BANT?
NO Bant offers a multitude of win conditions to suit any sort of matchup and board state. You always have options, and when you have options you have success. Attacking the opponent on multiple angles is important for fair decks to have a leg up on their opponents, and there are few decks with as many avenues of attack as NO Bant. The most important reason is that there is something for everyone. Do you want to play a Stoneblade deck? You have the package for it. Dark Depths combo? You have that too. Do you just want to smack people with 10/10 Hydra Avatars with Protection from Everything? You’d better believe you have that with NO Bant. No matter how your opponent comes at you, you’re ready with another plan. So when your opponent thinks they have you beat, just say NO!
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