There are eight great reasons to play Bant in Standard right now.
- Did You Like Azorius? You'll LOVE Bant!
- Bant Doesn't Break the Most Rules... But it Breaks the Most Important Ones
- Bant's Combos Are Sick... Even When They Don't Work
- It's Really Hard to Get Mana-Screwed
- Ha Ha, Dead Red
- Bant Has the Best Answer to Everyone
- Bant is Better Than Sultai
- In Winner-Take-All Magic, You Need to be Lucky
Did You Like Azorius? You'll LOVE Bant!
If you go back and read my Azorius primers from a month or so ago...
... They seem so gosh darn naive in hindsight.
I actually figured out a lot of what made sense the first time around; that Elspeth Conquers Death is the best; that it is the best because it fosters an environment where Teferi and Narset (and sometimes Dream Trawler) are all predictably on the battlefield, often all at the same time... So permission can be good but both permission and card drawing can be unreliable... And that the informed Magician already knows all these things so you have to assume they're all going on from both sides of the table... And you'll still have to find a way to get an advantage!
But I foolishly thought Azorius was the right shell for the ideas.
Bant makes most of the stuff Azorius makes a little faster, and it has another angle in Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath... Even more importantly, it doesn't play the bad cards. The "bad" cards being stuff like Absorb. Absorb, which is so good except any time Teferi, Time Raveler is on the battlefield; or failing that, on deck via an Elspeth Conquers Death. You know Absorb is on the spit list when you're siding a couple out against the Red deck in favor of two-mana versions.
Bant can do everything Azorius did, if you want it to. It plays Teferi. It is arguably better at playing Teferi; and against opposing Azorius-adjacent decks like Bant, Jeskai, or Azorius itself, it can be more reliable. For example, on an Arboreal Grazer draw, you can play Teferi and Mystical Dispute on the same turn to make sure it resolves. That's turn three, by the way.
Bant is worse insofar that it takes more damage from its mana against the Red deck; but it can often get some of that life back with Grazer to block, Uro gaining life while accelerating you, or a faster Dream Trawler to start racing back. I think I'd still rather be Azorius straight-up against the Red deck; but I think I'd rather be Bant in almost every other scenario.
And that's saying something, given how great Azorius was at the top of the format.
Bant is not a specialist; unless you consider playing the most actual raw pieces of mana a specialization; but it's actually quite good at a great many tasks. For example, most Bant decks at this point don't play permission main deck... But in a sideboarded game you can just have Tamiyo, Collector of Tales in play... Which means almost any single permission spell will put the opponent in lockdown.
It isn't a "life gain" deck like Mono-White, but in practice, it might play a total of 12 creatures... 10-11 of which gain life; some of which will be coming back after you kill them, thank you very much.
Bant isn't the most purely powerful deck in Standard, but it's pretty close. And-we'll get to this near the end-it has the single best answer to most of the problems in the format; a distinction it shares with few competitors.
Going to try your hand at one of these high-stakes Arena tournaments this week?
I can't more strenuously recommend Bant (or at least, not Sultai).
Sample Bant -- Standard
- Creatures (12)
- 2 Arboreal Grazer
- 2 Dream Trawler
- 2 Knight of Autumn
- 3 Hydroid Krasis
- 3 Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath
- Planeswalkers (11)
- 1 Narset, Parter of Veils
- 2 Tamiyo, Collector of Tales
- 4 Nissa, Who Shakes the World
- 4 Teferi, Time Raveler
- Instants (4)
- 4 Growth Spiral
- Sorceries (2)
- 2 Shatter the Sky
- Enchantments (3)
- 3 Elspeth Conquers Death
- Lands (28)
- 1 Island
- 1 Plains
- 3 Forest
- 1 Castle Vantress
- 2 Fabled Passage
- 2 Temple of Enlightenment
- 2 Temple of Plenty
- 4 Breeding Pool
- 4 Hallowed Fountain
- 4 Temple Garden
- 4 Temple of Mystery
Bant Doesn't Break the Most Rules... But it Breaks the Most Important Ones
Magic resources are structured fundamentally around two key symmetries:
- You draw one card per turn
- You play one land per turn
You don't need me to rattle off all the ways Bant can draw an extra card. More interesting to me is that it also breaks the second symmetry of playing multiple lands per turn.
It's hard to argue which broken symmetry leads to more broken decks; but I think that the most broken of the broken decks over time have both drawn extra cards and deployed extra mana at the same time. I'm looking at you, High Tide-Time Spiral; and also at you Dark Ritual-Necropotence. Bant is not alone in playing extra lands; but of the popular decks in Standard, it is one of the best at doing both.
Unlike the kind of advantage afforded by something like Temur, Bant doesn't need to take a ton of actions per turn once it gets going. Because it plays very powerful individual threats like Dream Trawler and Hydroid Krasis, it can exploit having more lands in play by playing "just" one big thing. That big thing will often replace itself (at least) which allows it to continue to push the advantage of having so many more fundamental resources than the opponent. The combination results in a surprisingly short clock for a deck that generally takes the role of "Control" in the Who's the Beatdown? Question.
To return to our first point, it often acts like an accelerated Azorius thanks to Growth Spiral and company; which in specific facilitates its getting a faster, and more reliable, return on card advantage.
This is consistent in almost every matchup where your threats will actually resolve the first time. And hey-you've got four copies of Teferi, Time Raveler to make that happen!
Bant's Combos Are Sick... Even When They Don't Work
One of the cards that I didn't initially appreciate in Bant was Tamiyo, Collector of Tales. I would now get very solidly behind the two copies main deck.
Tamiyo provides important "extra" value that you might not realize is already on the card. For example, it makes Doom Foretold one-sided (and in entirely the wrong way for the person controlling Doom Foretold). It provides an insane wrinkle against key competitor Sultai... If you have Tamiyo, they can't make you discard at all, and certainly can't make you discard Dream Trawler. For that matter, if they did... You can always get it back.
But that's not even what makes this "combo" so combo-riffic.
Go ahead and name Dovin's Veto.
"But MichaelJ," you might implore. "Such-and-such build doesn't even play Dovin's Veto main deck! It's only a sideboard card!"
Well then you might just get Dovin's Veto in a sideboarded game. But even main deck? Maybe you'll scare the bejeezus out of the hapless opponent by naming it. Doesn't matter.
No matter what you name, you're always fueling Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath. That's the special sauce here. You can name Uro on the front-side; or you can name something you actually want. You can name a backbreaking singleton like Narset, Parter of Veils and Uro will pay you back. You can name Elspeth Conquers Death (you know, the best) and Elspeth Conquers Death will itself pay you back. You're always making fuel, so you're getting them on both sides. That's why you can miss (i.e. "the combo didn't work") and you're still ahead. It's honestly gross. Sick, even.
It's Really Hard to Get Mana-Screwed
The deck plays 29 lands, or like 28 on the low end.
It's really hard to get mana-screwed.
Can you get flooded? It also plays 10 Temples, so some of those lands are going to translate into spells. Again, the bet here is that you don't need that many spells. You play one big one like Hydroid Krasis or Dream Trawler, and you get paid back... So you're not that likely to get flooded (at least, relative to other 29-land decks).
Ha ha, Dead Red
Patrick Chapin and I recently had a disagreement about whether Knight of Autumn was good in Bant's main deck. Is it even good against the Red Deck?
This is a card, mind you, that sees anti-Red Deck play in Modern on the reg.
I said earlier that I would rather be Azorius if I knew I was playing against Red decks... But let's be honest; if Azorius wants to beat basic Mountain, it's beating basic Mountain. You can load your deck with every Glass Casket, Devout Decree, and Aether Gust at the two, and the Red deck is just never going to get going before you drop a Dream Trawler.
But what about Bant?
I'd note that Bant can tautologically play every two -rop a blue-white deck can, and has even more options.
Let's compare some recent Bant sideboards to see:
Adriano Moscato, Grand Prix Lyon
Gotta love Moscato's anti-Red deck tools. Seven two-drop slots; almost as many as Azorius! It's important to note that even though Moscato didn't close the deal on the last Aether Gust, he had Arboreal Grazer to block.
Davide Tedeschi, Grand Prix Lyon
Tedeschi ran a couple of Aether Gusts and a trio of Devout Decrees (so fewer than Moscato)... But would also undoubtedly side in those Lovestruck Beasts. That's before even considering Heliod's Intervention!
Heliod's Intervention is interesting because it can save you from Experimental Frenzy in a pinch, catch Embercleave, or just go over the top. I'm not sure I'd always bring it in; but then again I've never devoted a sideboard slot to the card.
I think as a longtime aspiring Fire God I wouldn't be that worried about Heliod's Intervention (if they have it, they have it), would like the fact that there were fewer two-mana hosers in effect... But would likely just pack to a first-turn Heart's Desire. No one really beats Lovestruck Beast. Back in my day that card had a drawback, not a cantrip-clause.
Point being, if you want to beat Red with Bant, you will. It's up to you to play sufficient tools. If it were me, I would probably "overload" with 8-10 flexible slots, knowing that I was getting double duty out of Aether Gust and Devout Decree against Jeskai. Lovestruck Beast is just so backbreaking.
Bant Has the Best Answer to Everyone
So here's the thing: Bant isn't a specialist.
It doesn't draw as many cards as Temur. It doesn't put on the same kind of pressure as Mono-Red. All it does is race everybody; and probably in a way they can't interact with. Really only other Azorius-adjacent decks can even answer a Dream Trawler once it's on the battlefield, and the one-two (sorry, one-three) punch of damage, life gain, and g-d card drawing makes this one card the single best plan in the format.
Bant's isn't only the fastest: Alongside Tamiyo and Elspeth Conquers Death, it's the most redundant and reliable.
Bant is Better Than Sultai
With rare exception, most of the nice things we said about Bant can apply also to Sultai. And Sultai has an arguably more powerful top end with Casualties of War!
But I would encourage you to play almost anything other than Sultai.
So Bant gives you this angle of being arguably the best Dream Trawler deck. Sultai has some cards. Sultai can try to race with Uro and Hydroid Krasis (two cards, by the way, that Bant can also access). But when push comes to shove, only one of those guys has evasion and hexproof. Only one of them pushes Temur into the corner almost no matter how many extra cards they draw.
I just see Sultai as a kind of Bant-lite from this perspective. I'm sure there are some metagames where Sultai would be the better choice overall, but it's hard to imagine that being true when Bant itself is an option; and especially given how much better Bant is against the Red deck.
In Winner-Take-All Magic, You Need to be Lucky
I recently thought about the first PPTQ I won.
I played the best deck in the room; and I'm confident I played best that day. I out-played the aich ee double hockey sticks over my Finals opponent, a onetime Worlds competitor.
But if I'm honest, I won four rolls in the Swiss; which resulted in my having play every round of the Top 8. I had the best deck and I played the best and given the number of Game Twos I lost I probably wouldn't have won the tournament without those four dice rolls.
For some perspective? I went 0-2 with the same 75 the day before.
If you're going to play a winner-take-all tournament; the kind with a shiny prize at the end, I think you have to tip your had to Fortuna and assume a little luck. If you're not expecting to be lucky at all? I think you play Temur Adventures. That deck draws a bazillion cards and can do almost anything, and humiliates more opponents than it beats narrowly.
But in the real world? With sweaty hands and a Finals opponent who's also terrified they might crack?
You play the deck that can not only perform the best (or near the best)... But the one that can get the luckiest.
In Standard? That's the deck with all these powerhouses and...
You know what's better than one of your four Teferis on turn two? Teferi with cover mana on turn three?
Your one Narset in the same spot.
Better lucky than good!