While this PPTQ season is Modern, and that’s where my focus is for the next couple of months, I do have to pay attention to Standard at least a little bit. I have this dang SCG Invitational coming up in a couple of weeks in New Jersey, and eight of the rounds are Standard. Well, it’s a good thing then that the event is taking place after Pro Tour Eldritch Moon, and the Magic pros were able to show us what kind of cool technologies can be used to attack the format and do well.
My plan going into the Pro Tour, and summarily, the Invitational that I’m actually playing in, was to play the old trusty, tried and true Bant Company deck that I’ve been putting up decent results with for the last two seasons. Bant was the Tier S deck coming into the Pro Tour, and was the one, clear deck that any deck played at the Pro Tour was expected to beat.
After being half of the day 2 metagame in either of the first two SCG Open events of the season, it was expected to both be played heavily at the Pro Tour, and do well there. Fortunately for the metagame, and unfortunately for us Bant Company players out there, there are plenty of viable strategies to fight the Bant Company deck.
First and foremost, Bant Company was 20% of the day 1 metagame at the Pro Tour. This was both expected, as it was the most played deck on day 1, and sort of surprising, as most of the Pro Tour pundits expected it to be around 30%. However, it did throw two very skilled pilots into the top eight of the event, and had two of the five best performing Standard decks.
On the top level, this looks like a standard Bant Company deck. You have your creatures that get collected by your companies, Spell Quellers, Reflector Mages, and value creatures like Tireless Tracker and Duskwatch Recruiter, and your combat tricks like Archangel Avacyn and newcomer Selfless Spirit.
However, even for the most known quantity going into the Pro Tour, there are some pretty hefty innovations here. The first thing you’ll notice, and no it’s not a typo, is the three Fortified Village in place of the more typical Canopy Vistas. This lets your mana be a touch smoother in the early game, while being a bit weaker in the late game. This means that LSV valued getting onto the board more quickly with his Green and White spells, and put a big emphasis on playing a creature on turn 2.
The other big innovations are in the sideboard. Were Bant Company typically has some number of Lambholt Pacifist in the sideboard to deal with the aggressive White Humans decks, LSV has 3 Gnarlwood Dryad. I’m personally not sure how I like this, as yeah, while blocking with the creature is almost guaranteed to kill any creature in the Humans deck outside of a Kytheon, Hero of Akros with three mana, or a Gryff’s Booned creature flying in the sky, it is near impossible to hit delirium with this deck, which means that it doesn’t turn into an attacker too quickly, unlike Lambholt Pacifist.
The final sweet innovation is the Subjugator Angel. This is a good card against the Emrakul decks, since if they cast it on the turn that they’re controlling, they don’t get to really block with Emrakul on at least one of the turns you have, so it’s basically an uncastable card for them. It’s also good to break through glutted board stalls.
The next most played deck at the Pro Tour for Standard was B/G Delirium. This was also a known quantity going into the Pro Tour, as it had been present and performed decently at the weeks prior on the SCG Tour, but there was no real consensus build of the deck, and even after the Pro Tour, the deck has multiple different builds that different teams were on. However, there was only one player in the top eight of the Pro Tour, so I imagine that going forward, that will be the most mimicked build of the deck.
Here’s your Rock deck of the format. The curve in this deck is really sweet. Grim Flayer on two followed by Liliana, the Last Hope is a heck of a combo. Liliana also enables Delirium, and if you were watching the Pro Tour, her ultimate is the real deal. The big innovation to this deck that wasn’t truly present in the weeks previous was Emrakul, the Promised End.
Emrakul is the truth. Mindslavering your opponent was a great thing back in the day. It appears attaching it to a 13/13 body and having it cost altogether less than an actual Mindslaver plus activation is pretty insane. This was the big story from the Pro Tour in general. It seemed that Emrakul was everywhere that wasn’t Bant.
There is also the cute little Seasons Past package in the board. This is good against the midrange decks that look to go long in the format, specifically the mirror and the other Black midrange decks.
The third and final deck I want to touch on today from the Pro Tour was the one that Owen Turtenwald played to second place.
This is my favorite new deck from the Pro Tour. Owen uses Gnarlwood Dryad and Kozilek’s Return to keep the board clean, filter spells like Vessel of Nascency, Gather the Pack, and Grapple with the Past to try and get Delirium online, while finding Emrakul or Elder Deep-Fiend, and he uses Elder Deep-Fiend as kind of his intermediate ramp payoff card without being a ramp card. Elder Deep-Fiend and Wretched Gryff are also great ways to get the trigger off of Kozilek’s Return, especially at instant speed.
He’s also able to loop Emrakuls if they end up dying by getting them back with Grapple with the Past. Coax from the Blind Eternities from the board is a great defense against Infinite Obliteration. He even has a Chandra, Flamecaller to flip over to hit the planeswalker card type to reduce Emrakul by even more mana, and also as a decent defense against Spell Queller.
The Pro Tour showed us that Bant Company can definitely be beaten. But it also showed us that Bant is still a great deck. Owen had to cast Emrakul multiple times to beat Bant when he played against LSV in the quarterfinals, and he still then barely won in five games.
If I was more invested in Standard this season, if I was playing it more than just the once outside of the Invitational, I would consider either the BG Delirium or Temur Emerge decks. They both look very strong and fun to play. However, I’m going to leverage my experience and comfort by playing Bant Company at the Invitational. I think the key card that a lot of Bant Company players missed that could improve a lot of these matchups is Summary Dismissal. Outside of that, Bant is still great, and moving forward this season, you better be able to handle Bant Company.
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