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26 Decks in a Year, Episode 20 — Bant

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If there’s one thing I’ve learned in doing this column, it’s that there are a lot of different ways to approach Commander. Varying personalities all have their chances to shine. This is different than most other formats—when you play Standard at Friday Night Magic, your goal normally is to beat your opponents. If that isn’t your goal, you’re doing something really unusual, and people will most likely be confused. The same is true for a Draft or Two-Headed Giant tournament. Build the best, most efficient, most consistent deck you can, and beat your opponent.

Omniscience
Commander requires no such devotion to winning. It can be a goal, yes, and most decks should have a way to win, but it doesn’t have to be the point. We can build around a theme or tribe just because we like it. We can attempt to assemble a crazy combo of our own creation, requiring eight cards and no disruption. We can attempt to control the game or simply aim our deck at one opponent and attempt to kill that one person.

Enter my new friend Laurent, from Paris.

Laurent told me about a genre of music he thought would be a great theme for a Bant deck: European power metal. I’ll let him explain:

It's full of stories about knights and warriors and angels fighting dragons and demons and dark gods to save the world and the princess and the treasure—how can that not scream Bant? Hey, looking at some albums artworks, I'm even pretty sure that they had an influence in the way some artists depicted Bant in the Alara block.

Some of these bands have done incredible stories covering multiple albums. The Emerald Sword Saga is a five-album epic by the band Rhapsody of Fire, telling the story of the Ice Warrior and his quest to defeat the Dark Lord Akron.

Laurent said he’s been thinking about building a Commander deck with this theme and has a box with more than three hundred cards in it with ideas. As he and I talked about it, the idea of a Cube has come up (with an opposing B/R Cube of course), but in the meantime, let’s accept the challenge. Let’s create our own fantasy epic every time we pick up this hundred-card stack.

Jenara, Asura of War

Our story can begin one of many ways. Perhaps we start at a lonely Seaside Citadel, where a White Knight dreams of following the Path of Bravery. Along the way, our hero seeks an Angelic Benediction to aid him in his quest. As his quest continues, he visits the local soothsayers, the Skyward Eye Prophets, who teach him the Simic Charm to return a fierce dragon back to the tempest. His Righteous Cause is joined by a Sigiled Behemoth, giving our knight strength in his battles while defending the borders of our kingdom. His piety is such he can summon Bonds of Faith to contain his enemies as he charges valiantly into the heart of his opposition through the Dueling Grounds.

Sphinx of Magosi
Or maybe we begin with our general herself, the angel Jenara, Asura of War. She is looking over the Thornwood Falls and the Selesnya Guildgate when she notices, far in the distance, gathering armies of neighboring kingdoms, bent on destruction. She calls on her allies, the Thistledown Liege and the Giltspire Avenger, to aid her in her battle against the assembling forces. She banishes a demon into the Mystifying Maze and visits a Kor Cartographer to help her gain more power. As enemies grow, Jenara visits the Sphinx of Magosi, who teaches her how to summon the Soul of Zendikar and gives her the fabled Moonsilver Spear, calling to her side flights of angels.

Our story could start with an army of our own. A Knight-Captain of Eos could be joined by an Intrepid Hero and a Dragon Hunter. As they band together in glorious companionship, Messenger Falcons bring them good news: A Sublime Archangel is on their side, hovering overhead to help them in their goal. As a horde of goblins approaches, Angel of the Dire Hour swoops in at the last minute to save them from their fate at the filthy hands of the creatures. A Righteous Aura protects them from spells hurled by forces unseen in the distant mountains—until the Sphinx of Uthuun delivers to them a Sigil of Distinction. The Knight-Captain is given the honor and approaches the enemy, striking with deadly force in his Finest Hour.

Or we could simply head Into the Wilds and tell the Fable of Wolf and Owl. Our furry and feathered friends could be led by Anthousa, Setessan Hero, seeking revenge with her Sword of Vengeance. A Northern Paladin can help by banishing the forces of darkness, while a distant Sky Hussar forecasts counsel in the form of charms and the strength to Brave the Elements. We could visit the Obelisk of Bant and search for the Crown of Empires, Scepter of Empires, and Throne of Empires. Our tale could end in Glory as our army rides fearlessly past our enemies’ defenses and destroys the evil wizard behind it all in a single, decisive attack.

The first thing to know about this deck is the cards were chosen by how well the names fit the theme. Once I had a long list, I decided on the following curve: forty lands, four 1-drops (Sigil of Distinction went here as a 0-drop), nine 2-drops, thirteen 3-drops (including Jenara), twelve 4-drops, ten 5-drops, eight 6-drops, and four 7-drops. This can be a really good way to cut down a big pile of cards into a hundred-card stack; a reasonable curve helps a deck work well, and it forces you to cut all across mana costs so you don’t wind up with a hand full of 7-drops or have nothing but 2s that don’t do anything late in the game.

Ajani, Mentor of Heroes
This is the first deck I’ve built for this series that caused me to feel severely limited by the budget. There are so many great cards that want to go in here! We want Elspeth and Ajani (Ajani Steadfast, especially, would be amazing, and Ajani, Mentor of Heroes has a great name for the deck). Laurent suggests a lot of Legendary creatures (the heroes you summon to help fight for your cause), and any Equipment with Sword in the name is super-flavorful. I had to cut a number of things on cost alone, and as it was, there isn’t much fixing in the lands. (There are good ramp/land-tutor cards we could run with great names—Farseek and Journey of Discovery come to mind.) However, because there were three of us working on this (Laurent, my editor, and me) and we all came up with cards worth considering, I’ve created a Google document so anyone can go see what we came up with. I recommend looking through this list if you want to try something like this; if ever there’s been an example of a deck that should be personalized to the player’s style, it’s this one. This could be a thrown-together deck in the hour before Commander night or a multi-year creation, lovingly crafted with the perfect cards no matter what the cost. My editor believes there’s an exalted Knight deck. Heroic could be another way to go. Or skip mechanical themes altogether and just build your own deck filled with your favorites, ready to start building your epic stories. (I’ve also included the deck as Laurent built it—with no budget—so everyone can see how unique each deck can be.)

Because that’s what we do with this deck. Be creative as you spin the tale of your undaunted heroes. Use the names of the cards as you craft their journey, and make it glorious, whether it ends in success or failure. A valiant death is just as honorable as a righteous victory, and singing the song is more important than winning or losing.

I’m very curious what you think of today’s episode. Is this kind of deck interesting? Is a deck the point of which isn’t to win something you like? More importantly, what other things have you done with Commander? Have you built your own story deck? Or something else? Please tell me!

Chivalrous adventures of good triumphing over evil make for great stories. Now go forth, valiant knight, and create your own glorious tale!

Total cost: $74.74


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