This past weekend, I top 8’d the Star City Games Atlanta Open with a deck that has come to be known as Bant Rite.
But I doubt you’ve ever heard of me. So who am I? What is a boy’s name?
A boy has no name.
…besides Austin Matthews, of course.
I’m your typical person trying to balance Magic, marriage, work, college, interning… Wow, how did I get a weekend off to play Magic?
It doesn’t happen very often. I’ve played five or six GPs (never doing well in them) and only one Open outside of this past weekend, of which I lost the last two rounds to miss cash by three spots. I’m more of a PPTQ-level grinder and actually won my second PPTQ the weekend before the Open with the same deck.
So let’s talk about the deck.
Bant Rite isn’t really my type of deck. I’ve always felt more comfortable playing midrange decks, so up until a week before the PPTQ I won, I was on a Sultai midrange deck based on a Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad 8-2 deck piloted by David Mines. I top 8’d another PPTQ a couple of weeks before that with the deck (losing in the semis to Chi Hoi Yim, a fellow Alabamian and friend who also top 8’d the Open) and felt like it was a fairly underestimated archetype in Standard at that point. However, I didn’t feel comfortable enough with my matchup against the new flavor of Bant Company known as Bant Humans. So I tested out Bant Humans itself and thought it was pretty solid, though I feared it might be a little weak to BW Control, which was gaining in popularity again. So what did I think was the best way to combat both BW Control and GW Tokens, which I considered were the two best decks in standard?
Smash their Reality.
Reality Smasher dodges all instant speed removal out of BW besides Anguished Unmaking, but you’re generally happy when your opponent has to pay three mana, discard a card, and lose three life to deal with one of your creatures. The best way for BW to deal with your Reality Smasher is Ob Nixilis Reignited, so be sure not to set yourself up to lose to that card. Reality Smasher itself is fine against GW Tokens by being able to put a lot of pressure on their planeswalkers, but the best Reality Smasher shell was the newly formed version of 4C Rite, Bant Rite, which is likely GW Tokens’s only unfavorable matchup. I tested the deck out and found it was exactly what I thought it was against BW and GW. I then tested it against Bant Humans. It didn’t feel great, but didn’t feel unwinnable. The best way to overpower them is combo them out with Eldrazi Displacer and Reflector Mage. I ended up beating a friend playing Bant Humans in the finals of the PPTQ, a match that lasted nearly two hours.
The week after the PPTQ, there were multiple articles written by well-known pros claiming that BW was the best deck in Standard. That only strengthened my belief that Bant Rite was the deck I should play for the Open, but made me think I needed to change something to make the main deck a little better suited to deal with BW. I expected GW Tokens to be a pretty popular deck as well, so I had to make sure I didn’t lose any percentage points there. I boarded out Loam Dryad in almost every matchup while bringing in Sylvan Advocate, so I decided to cut Loam Dryad completely while upping my main deck Advocate count and adding a second Lumbering Falls. Ensuring that every hit on Collected Company was a threat in its own “rite” was a big factor in my success over the tournament.
What I would change:
The worst card in the deck all weekend was Cryptolith Rite. That was likely due to cutting the Loam Dryads, but I still think cutting the joke of a Bird was correct. I only had one or two games all weekend where Cryptolith Rite gave me a significant advantage. Going forward, I’d likely cut Cryptolith Rite altogether and add Dromoka’s Command, as it was great out of the board to help fight other creature decks and is also good against Radiant Flames and Kozilek’s Return. I think it deserves a slot in the main deck. Another consideration is cutting the Eldrazi Skyspawner for Tireless Tracker, but, having cut both Loam Dryad and Cryptolith Rite, it would mean that turn 4 Reality Smasher isn’t possible, which has won me many games.
Honestly, I’d probably just play Todd Stevens’s Bant Humans deck with three main deck Eldrazi Displacer.
Now onto the event itself.
I drove over with another grinder from Birmingham Friday night and stayed up testing with him until I finally decided to just avoid Grixis Control all tournament. Spoiler alert: I didn’t.
I started the day playing against BW Control, a matchup I had a good game plan against. 1-0. Then I played against traditional Bant Company, a matchup I hadn’t tested at all. 2-0. Round 3 was Bant Humans. Three close games resulted in my first 3-0 start to a premium tournament ever. Round 4 I got paired against Hugo Terra, who went on to top 8 the event. He stumbled a bit and after a few timely Reflector Mages, I was 4-0. Eventually, as many of my friends started to drop games, I was sitting pretty at 6-0. In comes Noah Walker playing my worst matchup – Grixis. After three close games he ended up taking the match. 6-1. I was able to win the next two matches to end the day at 8-1, which was better than everyone else that had driven over from Alabama.
After forcing myself to try and get an adequate eight hours of rest, I was ready to go. And by “ready to go,” I mean “ready to try and not be one of the three people on day 2 to not cash.” I win my first round and then get called to be the main feature match versus Michael Segal, another person who would go on to top 8. He was on UR Eldrazi Control, a matchup that seemed to be about even from my testing. I kept a slow hand game 1 and eventually got triple Drowner of Hope’d. Game 2, I mulled to five and, after a couple of Kozilek’s Returns and another one being flashed back from Michael casting an Ulamog, I had picked up my second loss. 9-2. I won the next round and found myself back as the feature match versus Tom Ross and his Wr Humans deck. Unfortunately, the stream was messed up, so the best they could do was record the match to post later. Fortunately, I was able to win the match in some insane games, with game 3 ending in turns and both of us having ten or so lands in play and myself at 1 life. 11-2. I win round 14 against Andrew Jessup, a well-known SCG grinder, on GW Tokens. It went just as I had written it up. 12-2 and locked for top 8. It was a surreal feeling. Gerry Thompson, on GW Tokens, had been spending his weekend crushing everyone else in the tournament and knocking out all the X-1s, which meant we would essentially be playing for glory. He wanted the 15-0; I wanted to be the one to strip him of that. Apparently, people were really hoping for a flawless Gerry victory, because the Twitter poll I checked later had him at 91% and myself at 9%. Game 1, I had a turn 4 Reality Smasher on the play, which ended up being good enough to give me the game. Games 2 and 3 were both really close, with me making a few dumb decisions and Gerry taking advantage of them. I was not to be Kingslayer after all. 12-3. Oh well.
I was on the play versus Todd Stevens on Bant Humans. I had already beaten Bant Humans twice during the tournament, so I didn’t feel like such an underdog anymore, though I was greatly intimidated by how well-dressed he was. Todd was an extremely nice guy, and encouraged me to try and start grinding Opens more. Our first game lasted a good 45 minutes or so, and game 2 was another grindy one. Our match ended with me mulling to a reasonable 6 and missing a third land drop for a couple of turns. Todd went on to the finals, only to lose to the Boss himself, Tom Ross. I ended up in 5th place.
It was a truly incredible weekend for me, and I met a lot of awesome new people. I look forward to grinding on the Open circuit more than I have been, but my next event likely won’t be until the Columbus Open in July. See you then, and thanks for reading.
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