Hope Eternal—How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bant

Last Friday I decided to dip my toe back into Standard.  The metagame seemed sufficiently open, and we have the cards, but the real motivation is that GP Atlantic City is around the corner.  In case it’s not apparent, Atlantic City is fairly easy to access from Brooklyn.  Since the format is going to be Standard, it seemed like getting some reps in before the tournament would be a good idea.  For FNM I ended up playing Red Deck Wins.  It is cheap and dirty, and when it worked it was swinging for a huge amount of damage by turn four.  Unfortunately, it was very susceptible to bad draws, and I got absolutely rolled over by a Bant control player.  Neither of these things are particularly enjoyable for me.  As a result, I changed my game plan, and for Sunday Standard I sleeved up the enemy.  I gave in to Bant Control.  And I loved it!  This is the list I’ve been running:

Creatures (11): Angel of Serenity x2, Augur of Bolas x3, Restoration Angel x2, Thragtusk x4

Spells (23): Azorius Charm x2, Detention Sphere x2, Farseek x4, Jace, Architect of Thought x2, Sphinx’s Revelation x4, Supreme Verdict x4, Tamiyo, the Moon Sage x1, Terminus x2, Think Twice x2

Lands (26): Cavern of Souls x3, Glacial Fortress x4, Hallowed Fountain x4, Hinterland Harbor x4, Island x4, Sunpetal Grove x3, Temple Garden x4

Sideboard (15): Detention Sphere x1, Dispel x2, Erase x1, Jace, Architect of Thought x1, Loxodon Smiter x1, Ray of Revelation x1, Rest in Peace x3, Sigarda, Host of Herons x1, Syncopate x2, Terminus x2

Sunday Round 1: Dylan, Bant Humans

Dylan is like me: more at home in Modern and Legacy than in Standard.  Still, I was dreading being paired against him for the first sanctioned round playing a new deck.  Luckily for me, it turns out that my version of Bant Control is really good against aggro decks!  Game one Dylan took me down to 3 with a series of Rancored humans, which I kept wrathing away with Supreme Verdict and Terminus.  The Rancors kept piling up until I finally managed to stabilize on the back of an Angel of Serenity and a Sphinx’s Revelation.  Then it was on to game two.  I sided out Think Twice and Jace (as he seemed less good against Dylan’s few Rancored dudes), and brought in the third and fourth Terminus, the third Detention Sphere and my singleton Erase.

Game two was more challenging.  Over the course of the game Dylan did 35 points of damage to me, and I resolved two Sphinx’s Revelations and two Thragtusks.  Eventually I got there on the back of my beast tokens, ending the game at a paltry four life.  But I saw the Erase early and it probably won me the game; if it had stuck around I have no doubt that he could have done an extra four points of damage to me.  Dylan was bummed that he lost in round one, but he was at least happy that he lost to me.  Considering Dylan has given me some of the most heartbreaking defeats I’ve ever experienced, I’ll admit I took a small degree of satisfaction in this victory.

Win, 2-0

Sunday Round 2: Brook, Azorius Humans

Brook is another player who had recently given me a bad beat.  The weekend before we met in the 1-1 slot in the last round of a Return to Ravinca draft, and despite talking about how bad his deck was, he beat me in two games.  Afterwards, he marveled that he had beaten me with such a bad deck.  It was a faux pas.  Anyway, He started out the game with War Falcon into Knight of Glory, and started to beat down.  I bought a few turns with Jace, both providing a target other than my face and shrinking his team on the offense.  Jace quickly died, but he bought me time to find two Supreme Verdicts.  Even so, Brook took me down to five life before I cast a six point Sphinx’s Revelation, followed by a Thragtusk and an Angel of Serenity to clean up the game.  This time I sided out Think Twice and Azorius Charm, as Brook was attacking with armies instead of single buffed dudes, and sided in Detention Sphere, Jace and the two Termini.

Game two was less close.  An early Farseek let me jump ahead of his curve, and I managed to resolve both Jace and Tamiyo in this game.  As a result, Brook spent a lot of his resources on killing my planeswalkers, and I never dropped below 18 life.  I did learn that Lyev Skyknight can detain planeswalkers, which is pretty cool, but resolving a succession of three Thragtusks sealed the game.  Sublime Archangel was a scary card, and at one point it let him snipe a Tamiyo I thought was out of the danger zone, but he just couldn’t fight through eight wrath effects.

Win, 2-0

Sunday Round 3: Dana, Kibler’s Gb Aggro

Dana happens to be my partner.  Every once in a while we get paired up, and it’s always a less than ideal situation.  We share the same card pool, I am the one who physically puts her decks together, and even the most hard fought battles often end up leaving one of us less than thrilled.  In this case, I had been paired down, so between the store points and this being the game that would lock in my first GP bye ever, Dana scooped to me.  Instead, we went and got lunch.  However, we had tested the matchup fairly extensively the night before.  Basically, the matchup is in my favor, but she gives me more trouble than most decks.  Several of her creatures live through my Supreme Verdicts, and it’s rarely profitable to block Predator Ooze or Lotleth Troll.  Still, I have six mainboard solutions to these cards in Terminus, Detention Sphere and even Azorius Charm, which is more than many decks can muster up.  Also, the deck she’s playing isn’t fast so much as it’s inevitable, and Bant Control wins the inevitability game with its life gain and draw engine.

Win, 0-0

Sunday Round 4: Seth, Flooding Reanimator

Seth’s a friend, and I was again paired down, so it was in both our benefits for him to scoop to me.  For fun, we played it out, and it turned out to be the most challenging games I played all day.  Game one was epic.  I survived three waves of Angel of Glory’s mass resurrection.  Seth did 21 points of damage to me and I wrathed away two of the waves and got rid of the third with Terminus.  This turned out to be a mixed blessing, however, as he managed to combo off after drawing the final card in his library… a Zealous Conscripts that had been tucked to the bottom earlier in the game.  He swung in with a bunch of gigantic creatures, and I couldn’t even block because of the deathtouch bound Staticasters.  I sided out the charms, Think Twice, and my planeswalkers in favor of the Rest in Peaces, Termini and Syncopates, and then it was on to game two.

Game two was a blowout, and it didn’t hurt that Seth had to mulligan to five.  I kept a seven that was light on lands but had two copies of Rest in Peace.  I resolved the first one on turn two, and he hit it with Ray of Revelation before I could find countermagic to protect it.  Since Rest in Peace has a triggered ability, I had to be very careful as to when I played out the second copy, so that he couldn’t just flash back his Ray in response.  Finally, he tapped out to set up his combo, dumping both pieces into his yard off an Izzet Charm and a Faithless Looting.  I played my second Rest in Peace, and from there it was just a matter of mopping up.

Game three we went to time.  We had gotten maybe three turns into the game when time ran out; we kept playing for a bit after this, since Seth had already scooped to me, but it didn’t seem like it was coming any closer to a resolution.  I played out a Rest in Peace and exiled a bunch of cards in his graveyard, but he played Ray of Revelation after he had dropped enough lands to pay for the Syncopate he had correctly guessed that I had.  It was fun set of games, and Chronic Flooding is a surprisingly powerful engine to get cards in the graveyard.

Win, 1-1-1

Having done well with the deck on Sunday, I decided that I would venture out and play it again at Tuesday Night Magic at the Twenty Sided Store.  So, I packed up my deck and trudged over to Williamsburg, to see how it turned out.  Unfortunately, I went into this tournament unaware of Reid Duke’s weekend win with a version of the deck, and as soon as I told anyone that I was playing Bant Control the next question was invariably whether or not I was on his plan.  I was not.  As you will see, that bit me in the final round.

Tuesday Round 1: David, RB Midrange

It has gotten to the point where I do not know precisely how to categorize all of the different variants of the Red Black decks.  What I do know is that David was playing the version of the deck that had burn, Falkenrath Aristocrat, and multiple copies of Thundermaw Hellkite.  That card is good!  Unfortunately, these matches were not particularly close.  Game one I hit two early Farseeks, which let me cast Terminus after he played Aristocrat, and then I had a Detention Sphere for his first Hellkite and an Angel of Serenity to handle his second one.  He got me down to five life, but then he scooped to a large Sphinx’s Revelation.  I sided out Azorius Charm and Think Twice in favor of Terminus, Jace and Detention Sphere, and then we went on to game two.

Game two started out closer and ended with David in a much worse place.  I kept a hand with a Supreme Verdict, confident that the wrath effect would save me from any early aggro.  Unfortunately it was not to be, as I had forgotten the deck brings in discard from the sideboard for this matchup; an early Appetite for Brains took my Verdict and left me struggling.  I dropped from twenty life to a paltry four over the course of three turns, but a Thragtusk, followed by a Revelation into a second Thragtusk, let me end the game back up at twenty.  Angel of Serenity again proved to be an amazing finisher in games like this; she managed to clear away stalled board states to let me swing in for lethal.  After reporting we played a few more post-board games to test them out, and he took the first two of them.  One of those games I lost due to a misplay.  I mistook a Hallowed Fountain for a Glacial Fortress, and the two life I had to pay to play it untapped put me at lethal in the late game.  It gave me an appreciation for how tight that match-up can get.

Win, 2-0

 

Tuesday Round 2: Li, American Flash

So, you all know Li!  He’s a great opponent to play against; his play is tight, he tends to run interesting decks, and he’s conversant in many formats.  This matchup, however, strained that.  The first game was a slog.  Li hit me for 24 damage over the course of the game, and I still won at 28 life.  One of those hits was for twelve damage off a Runchanter’s Pike, and even letting it through didn’t manage to drop me below twenty life.  In the end, Li cast a ten point Sphix’s Revelation with eleven cards left in his library; I had exhausted all his answers, and he just wanted to get to the next game with as much flair as possible.  I sided out Terminus, Azorius Charm and Think Twice in favor of Detention Sphere, Jace, Dispel and Syncopate.  Terminus seemed bad because of all the countermagic Li was running, but I kept in the Supreme Verdicts because I needed to have some way to clear out his Restoration Angels, Augurs and Snapcasters, each of which was more than deadly when holding a Pike.

Game two was a stomping!  Only, it was me being stomped this time.  Unlike the card that’s played in Legacy, in life Turnabout is fair play.  Li landed a Jace, Memory Adept against me and milled me for ten cards.  I had the Detention Sphere, but he just played a second copy and kept milling me.  Unable to beat through his flashy defenders with my sorcery speed removal, I died to mill and we went on to game three.   This one was equally lopsided; I kept a hand with a Thragtusk and a Cavern and proceeded to draw two more copies.  Triple Thragtusk beat down got there in turns, and it was sealed when Li scoured away the Supreme Verdict that was his only out for the draw.

Win, 2-1

Tuesday Round 3: Eli, BR Zombies

Eli was playing a classic Zombies build, which is still very strong!  Again, my four Angels proved to be all-stars.  Game one an Angel of Serenity cleared the field for me to knock him down to five life, and then after he killed that I flashed in an end of turn Restoration Angel to reset Thragtusk and get an extra attacker to keep me at lethal.  I kept the usual plan of siding in Terminus, Detention Sphere and Jace, and we went on to game two.  In game two he knocked me down to three life at one point, and the only thing that saved me was Angel of Serenity clearing the Blood Artist and Messenger off the board.  I drew a Thragtusk before he drew burn, and that basically ended the game.  The match was over pretty quickly, so tested several games pre-board, with him on the play.  He won half of them off blisteringly fast starts, but I managed to win the games where he faltered or where I got ahead of him on curve with a timely Farseek.  All in all it was a fun round, and informative!

Win, 2-0

Tuesday Round 4: Tim, Reid Duke’s Bant Control

So, in case you haven’t heard (which is reasonable as I hadn’t), Reid Duke’s Bant list is tuned for the mirror.  It has fewer wrath effects, more counterspells, and it wins the mirror through two maindeck Nephalia Drownyards and two copies of Overgrown Tomb to turn them on.  It was miserable.  I do not really think a recap would be helpful; we both cast several copies of Sphinx’s Revelation and Thragtusk, only he wasn’t attacking my life and I was attacking his.  He beat me in two frustrating games.

Loss, 2-0

Now, having played the deck in two tournaments and doing well in both, I still think I want to bring this deck to the GP.  However, I really need to work on its matchup against the Drownyard version.  I don’t want to play that version myself; I had some problems with the mana that I don’t want to compound by playing a land that is functionally green only, and I think I prefer my colorless lands to be Cavern of Souls.  But clearly I need some sort of way to deal with being milled out, since my only losses involved decks milling the heck out of me (or in the case of Seth, himself).  I am leaning towards Elixir of Immortality.  The life gain is relevant, and I don’t use my graveyard so it’s probably better that those cards get back into my library.  I am considering playing two of them in favor of the Think Twice, which I always sided out and never regretted, but then my instant/sorcery count gets a bit low for Augur.  And Augur was a great card!  I’ll figure it out, though.  Mark my words!

Still, with the notable exception of the mirror, I found the deck a lot of fun to play.  I love grindy decks, and this one delivers.  And that’s how I grew to love this ridiculous, bomb-filled deck.

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Comments
6 Responses to “Hope Eternal—How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bant”
  1. Li Xu says:

    More recent versions of Bant have done away with Angel of Serenity to win the mirror, since a few Augurs, Thragtusks and a singleton Restoration Angel are usually enough to hold off the aggro decks by themselves. But geez, I can’t imagine playing more than four rounds with the deck, it can get pretty draining.

    • thejlina says:

      It’s just so good! I mean, it won me a lot of games… but you may be right, those games might have been won in a few more turns if I wasn’t running the Angel. I plan to tweak it and try again for FNM… maybe I’ll run two Elixirs in place of the Angels, to keep my instant and sorcery count the same.

    • Zac Clark says:

      After playing it all day today. I think it’s very strong… I also kind of want to jump off a building. HA If you need a hug or something around round 5-6 let me know. I’m sure you’ll be x-0 though and riding high.

      • thejlina says:

        Aww, thanks! I don’t have the faith yet, but I am certainly going to try! I bet one of us is going to make it to day two, though, and I don’t think it will end up being me. Which is totally fine, I love me some side events! 🙂

      • Li Xu says:

        I think this bit from Sam Black is relevant, I think it’s from an article he put up on SCG:

        This led to a realization:

        When playing aggro, a deck will feel worse than it is; when playing control, a deck will feel better than it is.

        I’m talking about feelings, so this won’t apply to everyone, but I think, based on the reasoning, that it should apply to a lot of people.

        When playing control, you spend a lot of time winning. If you lose, the game is over fairly painlessly in the first few turns, but when you win, you establish control and get to keep pulling further ahead over a very long game. When you win with aggro, the game is over in a few minutes, and when you lose, you sit there feeling helpless, hoping to draw several of your few powerful spells in a row to steal a game you’ve fallen behind in, which feels miserable.

        If you choose a deck based on the amount of time you spend winning rather than the number of wins you get, this can lead to skewed deck selection.

      • Matt Jones says:

        I kept rereading this part of black’s article. I like it too.

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