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The Rise of Nova Bant

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If you saw my video last week you probably heard my discuss at length how Simic Nexus is a great deck and how I was planning on playing it for SCG Richmond. For most of the week leading up to the event I just worked on solely Nexus. On the drive up to Richmond on Friday afternoon though a Harlan Firer posted in the team chat about a Bant Flash deck he saw Frank Moon playing. Harlan tagged me because he of course knows of my weakness of three color garbage piles. Unfortunately I spent all my time prepping with Simic Nexus and I was not to be dissuaded from the work I put in.

So of course I put the deck together on the drive up between what we had in the car and what the team’s sponsors could bring to us. Fortunately it didn’t take long and we easily had two copies for myself and Harlan.

The original list had a main deck that was fairly clean but the sideboard was a mess. We discussed what we thought our worst matchup was going to be, Azorius Aggro, and tuned our sideboard toward that matchup. We didn’t expect the Red matchup to be that bad, but more on that later.

What we did know was that Nexus and Esper Control were slated to be quite popular and this deck absolutely dunked on those matchups. This deck really plays to my strength in leveraging a midrange strategy that can play at instant speed and lock folks out. Curving a Teferi, Time Raveler into a Vivien, Champion of the Wilds is pretty much the end of the game against those decks.

While a bit late I don’t think the Bant Oketra (herein known as Nova Bant) deck will be out of the format by this time this article goes around.


God-Eternal Oketra
This is the version (more or less) that Harlan and I used to Top 8.

The biggest benefit to playing this deck is that it was completely unknown. It was hard to know exactly what to play around and week 1 with new planeswalkers it was easy to leverage a lot of advantage. To compound on this, the deck was exceptionally good. Against Midrange mirrors it was easy to bury them with Oketra and against the slower Esper and Nexus decks you had the tools to keep pace with any of their card advantage while laying on the pressure in the form of creatures. As I mentioned previously, flowing a Teferi into a Vivien is lights out for your Esper opponent. SCG had technical problems otherwise I would link my massacre of Edgar and Dylan in the Open with the Bant deck. While the matchups certainly are losable, you’re highly favored.

Despite being a known quantity now, I don’t think the deck loses much. While the deck list is out there, players will be rushing to make sweeping changes in an attempt to beat Red and the mirror. The deck is mostly customizable being a creature deck and so I expect lists to be playing some oddballs as a way to battle through the rise in popularity of this deck. The power level is high enough I don’t think having the decklist known is a detriment. Most players upon seeing Bant colors can have a good guess as to what cards they can expect to see in your 75.

Oketra is the card that truly makes this deck a scary monster. It’s also one of the only gods that are good in multiples. Playing a second one creates a free 4/4 and lets you tuck the second Oketra to continue replaying it over and over. The deck is exceptional at utilizing the mana dorks due in large part to Oketra. For most creature decks, the games tend devolve into a point where haymakers will matter the most and nothing is going over the top of Oketra and Hydroid Krasis.

Gideon Blackblade
The Red matchup is awful. Your deck is slow and clunky so oftentimes you’re unable to put up a good fight. With a painful mana base it’s hard to come back in any game where you fall behind. Shalai is one of the best cards in the matchup but there needs to be more than that. The Wanderer feels like a good place to start as combined with Shalai it can effectively lock out the Red deck from beating you. Another card we considered was Gideon Blackblade. Not only is it a threat that must be dealt with, it can also give Lifelink which is a needed utility on a cheap creature. Fortunately, Gideon is also of use in other matchups so it isn’t a dead card.

In terms of updating there are a lot of options but the one that has sparked the most discussion is the inclusion of Wildgrowth Walker and the Explore package. The upside is it makes your Red matchup slightly better and the downside is it makes your other matchups worse. Well, at least on the surface. The Bant deck is designed to take advantage of the bountiful synergies therein. Shredding those synergies means you’re trading out what makes the deck great against the good matchups. The reason the Explore package is good against Red out of the Sultai decks is because those decks play Find // Finality. Without a way to re-buy your creatures you will often find yourself playing out Walker and hoping to dodge a burn spell or not progressing your board to pick a spot to attempt to gain some life. The Red decks are forced to interact with your creatures early and often which gives you time to set up a way to make a massive Walker. The downside of not having Find in your deck amplifies the concerns with the Explore package. Trying to play Tamiyo, Collector of Tales just doesn’t fill the role and trying to play Find just for one half is far off the deep end. Obviously you’re more than welcome to play whatever list you want, but if you’re looking to play the explore package play it in a deck it’s going to be good in (Sultai or the Golgari combo deck).

The biggest issue Harlan and I experienced would likely be the mana base. Twenty-four lands felt a little too low even with eight mana dorks and the color requirements are tight. Between the White sideboard cards and my desire to play Gideon Blackblade I’ve added a fourth Glacial Fortress. Having more lands means you’re more likely to function without a mana dork draw and adding more White sources ensures you’ll be able to cast your spells on time.


At this stage I would take this 75 to my next open (possibly Syracuse this weekend!). I think the shell plays well together with the tools available and the sideboard Prison Realms and The Wanderer pair well against the Red deck while Prison Realm also offers game against other Midrange decks. The only card I’d be considering besides Time Wipe to beat the mirror would be Entrancing Melody, but I’m unsure how hard it is to cast or if it matters when it’s so impactful. If you have any questions be sure to tweet at Harlan@HarlanFirer) or me (the other guy who Top 8ed).