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Bant in Atlantic City

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This past weekend, I drove up to New Jersey to compete in Grand Prix: Atlantic City. From my previous experiences with Standard, the only decks I seriously considered playing were W/U (with or without the R) Flash, and Bant control. Esper control was clocking in at the third slot, but I didn’t really feel comfortable with any of the lists I found. I also wasn’t quite sure which direction to take Bant or what to expect.

Fortunately, Reid came to my rescue on Thursday evening. I believe Reid spent some time playing Standard the week before on Magic Online, and he arrived at the following list:

I liked the look of the list, but a few things bothered me slightly. I had previously found Amass the Components to be extremely lacking for me, as was Augur of Bolas. Jace, Architect of Thought seemed like a better Amass the Components to me, and it was also integral in winning Jace wars. You do need some plays on turn two, but I felt fine having four Farseek, two Augur of Bolas, and three Azorius Charm to either speed up mana or interact with opposing creatures in a meaningful way.

I also decided I wanted a Jace, Memory Adept in my main deck as well as an Elixir of Immortality. This and a few other changes led me here:

First thing’s first: Yes, this is sixty-one cards. The effect of a sixty-first card, especially in a deck like Bant, is very minimal. In a lot of the games, you see about twenty or more cards, and especially in blue mirrors or against midrange decks, you would like to be drawing to Jace, Memory Adept to deck your opponent faster. Continuing to the last minute of the player meeting, I couldn’t decide what to cut, and I only realized the correct cut in Round 10 of the Grand Prix: Elixir of Immortality was unnecessary (and a bad Game 2 and Game 3 card) because in a lot of post-boarded games, you cannot rely on Sphinx's Revelation against Jund midrange or basically anything that is a slower deck that has red and black. With Sphinx's Revelations becoming an unreliable plan in Game 2, Elixir of Immortality loses a lot of its power (in the go-infinite aspect part of the deck).

Tournament Review

Sphinx's Revelation

  • Rounds 1–2: Byes
  • Round 3: Win against Walker, Max
  • Round 4: Win against Waller, Ozzie (with W/U/r Flash)
  • Round 5: Loss against Bilz, Dean (with Jund with Grimoire of the Dead and Staff of Nin)
  • Round 6: Win against Rohr, Josh (with B/r aggro)
  • Round 7: Win against Tompkins, Scott
  • Round 8: Win against Wiper, Charles (with Jund with Liliana of the Veil boarded)
  • Round 9: Win against Ross, Ryan (with War Falcon white weenie)
  • Round 10: Loss against Neiman, Luis (with B/r aggro)
  • Round 11: Win against Pardee, Samuel (with U/w Flash)
  • Round 12: Win against Cleveland, David (with five-color Angel of Glory's Rise reanimator)
  • Round 13: Win against Ngo, Kiet (with Jund midrange)
  • Round 14: Win against Boccio, Matthew (with Naya splashing Rakdos's Return in the main deck and sideboarding Conjurer's Closet)
  • Round 15: Loss against Leverone, Ryan (with Jund midrange with Thundermaw Hellkites)
  • Round 16: Draw (into Top 32) with Ochoa, David (with Bant hexproof)

Overall, the matchups all felt relatively good for me. The losses in Round 5 and Round 10 felt unavoidable except in deck-building. That is, I did not really expect a lot of B/r aggro, although apparently, there was a resurgence of it by a New York crew including Zac Hill (formerly of R&D) and Zvi Mowshowitz. They chose to play a build with Crimson Muckwader as an additional good 2-drop.

The Round 15 loss was a heartbreaker since it was essentially a match to see if either of us could break the Top 8 of the tournament. In Game 3, I had a very tough decision to make:

My board: Five lands (including two blue sources) and a 3/3 Beast token.

My hand: Jace, Memory Adept and Tamiyo, the Moon Sage

His board: Four lands (including Cavern of Souls naming Dragon), Huntmaster of the Fells, and Liliana of the Veil with 2 loyalty counters. (He missed one land drop so far this game.)

What’s The Play?

Jace, Memory Adept
Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
Cavern of Souls
Huntmaster of the Fells
Liliana of the Veil
Thundermaw Hellkite

What I should have done: First, attack Liliana of the Veil with the Beast token. If he blocks with Huntmaster, I’m more than fine with that, and then I can play Tamiyo and tap his Cavern. If he doesn’t block, I can play Tamiyo and tap his Huntmaster of the Fells or the Cavern of Souls.

What I did: Play Tamiyo, the Moon Sage to tap his Huntmaster and attacked his Liliana. He untapped, played a land, and played Thundermaw Hellkite to kill my Tamiyo. I didn’t really have any good recourse to the Hellkite—especially after a Slaughter Games on Sphinx's Revelation.

After that disheartening loss that was completely my fault, I intentionally drew the next round against the swingy deck of Bant hexproof (in David Ochoa’s hands).

Looking Forward

Going ahead, I would make a few changes:

Elixir of Immortality is not necessary, and you really want Supreme Verdict against Bant hexproof, which should be on the rise after its showing last weekend. Having more planeswalkers helps you grind people out even after a Slaughter Games has resolved. Jace, Memory Adept can (and often should) serves as a 5-mana Phyrexian Arena. If you expect a lot of mono-red (similar to Ari Lax’s list), you might want to make room for a fourth Rhox Faithmender and some number of Centaur Healers.

All in all, I still highly recommend Bant control for anyone who is looking to play a control deck in Standard. It is flexible and can be tuned to be good against whatever matchup you are looking to play against.

I welcome any comments or criticism here or on Twitter @jkyu06.

Thanks for reading again!

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