2's a Company, 3's a... Gossipmonger?

by Zen Takahashi on 21 April 2016, Thursday

Zen Takahashi

2's a Company, 3's a... Gossipmonger?

 

Town Gossipmonger

 

Hello everyone!

 

After a defining performance by Humans and Bant Company at SCG Baltimore on the first week of this new standard format, many were wondering how players would react in the second. At SCG Columbus, these two decks were able to further extend their success, with Mono White Humans taking down the Invitational while Bant Company dominated the Standard Portion of the Invitational, as well as the Open the next day, with 20 of the Top 32 places taken by Bant Company.

 

Needless to say, Humans and Bant Company are the clear decks to beat, and most likely be the two most highly played decks at the Pro Tour. In this article, I will go in depth as to what makes these decks successful, as well as some ideas on how to beat them!

 

 

Humans

 

 

Gryff's Boon  Reflector Mage

 

The two most popular variants at the moment seem to be Mono White and Blue-White. The former is much more aggressive and down to the ground with a lower curve and more Gryff’s Boon. The latter is slower but has tools to compete in the mid-game more with cards such as Reflector Mage and Bygone Bishop. It also gets access to sideboard options that are better equipped to beat hate cards, like Negate and Dragonlord Ojutai.

 

Negate Dragonlord Ojutai

 

Historically, we often see an aggro deck have success in the first week of a new Standard format. This is largely because players have had less time to tune their decks, often preferring to play powerful yet expensive cards which these fast aggro decks can punish. They do this by getting on board much faster and by playing to a more cohesive and straightforward game plan. These aggro decks then define the pace of the format, adding to the deck building rules that the other decks must follow.

 

After Humans’ dominant performance in the first week, it was clear that the streamlined manabase and it’s very aggressive curve of creatures allowed the deck to be able to create a board presence much faster than any other deck. This means that for any archetype to be successful, it has to be able to interact early in the game. Whether this is in the form of small creatures or cheap removal, you could no longer expect your opponents to spend the first couple of turns setting up their mana, as we saw in the previous standard format.

 

 

 

Bant Company

 

On the other hand, the three color decks have much worse manabases than before, leading to some awkward sequencing of lands. Often these decks aren’t able to interact until turn three. As explained above, the Humans deck punishes these decks as they are not able to interact early enough to have the time to deploy their spells. These decks may have a great selection of high end cards, but most cease to be able to cast them before they’re dead. Though it’s a two color deck, GR Ramp has also struggled to find success for the same reasons, as it lacks enough ways to interact early while also trying to play their game plan based around casting expensive spells.

 

Collected Company

 

The one exception thus far has been Bant Company, the other defining deck of the format. Bant Company has avoided the fate of other three colour decks by having great catch-up mechanisms in the form of Reflector Mage and Collected Company. These two cards allow the deck to catch up to the aggressive draws, with a plan to then stabilize in the mid-game with more powerful cards and eventually take over. Humans’ draws are fast enough that this is often still not enough, but Bant Company has been the flagship three colour deck that can at least compete against Humans’ aggression.

 

Usually these week one aggro decks fold to powerful sideboard cards as they have a relatively one dimensional game plan. This was the case last standard format, where Atarka Red’s success quickly diminished once people were prepared with cards such as Arashin Cleric and Radiant Flames.

 

Westvale Abbey Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

 

However, Humans looks to prove to be different from the norm, as it has been able to fight through hate quite well thus far. This is because of the diversity of threats in white, as well as Westvale Abbey, which allows the deck to attack from multiple angles. Decks that look to go slightly bigger on the ground can find themselves losing to Always Watching or Westvale Abbey, while midrange decks hoping to win with sweepers may be at the receiving end of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.

 

Going wide with tokens has also been a common strategy to beat aggro in the past, but that gets negated by the presence of Declaration in Stone. The Blue-White version is even more resilient, getting access to cards such as Negate and Dragonlord Ojutai, which almost makes cards like Languish feel non-threatening.

 

As the other deck to beat, Bant Company is the premier midrange deck of the format. Largely similar to its predecessor from the last standard format, the deck is a collection of the most resilient and powerful creatures in its colours, with Collected Company to top it off, providing an unfair amount of tempo and card advantage.

 

Reflector Mage Bounding Krasis

 

While the Humans deck determines the pace of the format, Bant Company influences the mid/late-game spells that are played in the format. Planeswalkers and expensive, sorcery-speed standalone creatures are poor unless in the right shell, as they’re poorly positioned against cards such as Reflector Mage and Bounding Krasis.

 

On the other hand, large flying creatures that are resilient to Reflector Mage are great, like Archangel Avacyn and Dragonlord Ojutai. This is largely why we haven’t seen a big impact by cards such as Reality Smasher, as while they’re good in a vacuum, they’re poorly positioned against this deck.

 

A selling point of Bant Company is its "flash" game. Between Bounding Krasis, Collected Company and Ojutai’s Command, the deck is able to largely operate on the opponent’s turn. This forces the opponent to have to make decisions about what they think the Bant Company player has and play to it, which the Bant player can thwart by casting the spell they didn’t play around.

 

Cryptic Command Mistbind Clique

 

The Bant player essentially gets to respond accordingly to the decision their opponent chooses to make, while the opponent has to make decisions with much less information. This was an interaction that used to come up a lot when playing against Faeries; you had to decide whether to play around Mistbind Clique or Cryptic Command.

 

Playing around one often lead to being punished by the other. In Bant Company’s example, attacking into their open mana could lead you to being blown out in combat by Collected Company or Archangel Avacyn, while tapping out for a threat could meet an Ojutai’s Command. The Bant player gains a lot of leverage by being able to decide how to respond and represent certain spells, forcing the opponent to play around the wrong cards.

 

The deck has a powerful mid-game with Reflector Mage and Collected Company, while having great sources of card advantage with Duskwatch Recruiter, Tireless Tracker and Nissa, Vastwood Seer, giving it great late game inevitability. With the rotation of Dig Through Time and the reduced presence of Painful Truths, no other deck has proven to be able to keep up with the card advantage that this deck can generate.

 

Fighting this deck is very difficult, as the deck can fight well at every point of the game. As explained previously, it has efficient ways to catch up in the early game while having a mix of creatures that are all great in the mid-game. Reflector Mage and Bounding Krasis can create a lot of tempo that your opponents can often never recover from before you overwhelm them. In the late-game, this deck has the best card advantage generating tools. While the deck is mainly all creatures, its ability to play at instant speed reduces the utility of sweepers such as Languish or Tragic Arrogance as they can play around it very well but also utilize counter spells such as Negate in post sideboard games.

 

 

 

Fighting it with Esper Dragons

 

Bant Company and Humans have relatively different game plans; Humans looks to win as quickly as possible, while Bant Company hopes the game goes long as no other deck can compete with its card advantage. However, if we can find some similarities, we might be able to come up with a strategy that can fight in those places to give us a shot. Here are some similarities we can observe:

Languish

 

  • They are both weak to Languish, especially pre-board.

  • They are both good against opposing Planeswalkers. Humans can finish one off before it makes an impact, while Bant Company can flash in some creatures to take it out when you least expect it.

They both have ways to efficiently use their mana even when they’re not casting spells. Humans has Tireless Tracker, Gryff’s Boon and Westvale Abbey while Bant Company has Duskwatch Recruiter and Tireless Tracker.

 

Duskwatch Recruiter Tireless Tracker

 

Based on these observations, this is a deck that I think has potential and would want to try out:

 

Based on Ali Aintrazi’s list from SCG Baltimore, this is a deck that incorporates Languish very well. A common mishap that I’ve witnessed so far is that many players are putting Languish into their midrange creature decks which includes creatures such as Sylvan Advocate or Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. Languish is often quite poor in decks like this, as if you choose to commit creatures to the board, your Languish loses a lot of value, while not casting anything means they can play around it.

 

While control decks are fine with the latter, as they have ways to generate card advantage so the game going long favours them, these midrange decks tend to have much less card advantage, so the Humans deck can just hold its threats and prepare to fight the long game. While Dragonlord Ojutai does die to Languish, the context is different, as you have no creatures that get in the way of a turn 4 sweeper.

 

This deck is looking to fire off a Languish on turn 4, then follow it up with a Dragon, which will be too much for most opponents to handle. Since this deck also has a much better late-game than these midrange decks, it can cast Languish more aggressively if necessary and can punish opponents if they play around it too much and don’t commit to the board.

 

I prefer Dragons over planeswalkers as choice of win conditions because of point two and three.

 

Both decks are good against planeswalkers, so looking to win with cards like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Sorin, Grim Nemesis can be a liability. I also wanted to cut down the number of counterspells as these decks can spend their mana in the mid-late game without casting spells and still get ahead.

 

However this meant that I would need to incorporate a relatively resilient win condition that I wouldn’t have to worry about trying to protect. Dragonlord Ojutai fits the bill perfectly, as it plays well against Reflector Mage and Declaration in Stone. In the last Standard format, you couldn’t get away with only four counterspells due to the presence of Crackling Doom but now playing more than that I feel is unnecessary. Though the Bant Company deck can Collected Company into Reflector Mage on your turn, this is fine as you’ll often be able to follow up with a Languish and completely wipe their board.

 

Foul-Tongue Invocation Hangarback Walker

 

Similar to Bant Company, this deck has a great catch-up mechanism against Humans’ aggressive draws with Foul-Tongue Invocation and Languish. The former is especially great right now as Hangarback Walker is on the decline. These two cards should be able to keep you alive for long enough until you start deploying your Dragons and take over the game. By choosing the Dragons as our win condition, we’re able to be much more aggressive. This reduces the threat of Westvale Abbey as they have less time to draw into enough creatures to set it up, especially after we’ve cast our first Languish.

 

Painful Truths

 

Against Bant Company, our suite of removal spells are well positioned against their creatures. Since they don’t have a very aggressive clock, we can reliably cast our Painful Truths which helps us find the necessary removal.

 

Although they are able to generate a lot of card advantage themselves, it is largely in the form of creatures so as long as we can keep them off the table, we should be able to beat them on card count. Dragonlord Ojutai is also great against them, as their creatures size poorly against it, often making it difficult for them to attack into it. We also largely ignore Reflector Mage and Bounding Krasis, which heavily reduces the threat of their tempo game plan.

 

However there definitely are some issues with this deck though that may not make these matchups as favoured as I’d hope them to be. As explained earlier, the Humans deck has a variety of sideboard options available to be able to fight out removal suite-cards like Westvale Abbey and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar are good against us.

 

I am hoping that Foul-Tongue Invocation and Dragonlord Ojutai are good enough to handle these cards, but it could still provide the deck with some trouble. Anguished Unmaking is a bit of a catch all for these threats, and I’ll likely keep it post board even with the life loss.

 

Dig Through Time

 

Bant Company may also be quite tough, due to their card advantage. The old Esper Dragons deck had Dig Through Time so once the game went long, no other deck could really compete as they started chaining Digs. However this new version has much less card advantage, relying heavily on Painful Truths. Bant Company’s card advantage sources come mainly from its creatures, so hopefully we are able to kill the creatures before it starts generating too much card advantage, but if one of them goes under our suite of removal spells, it could easily beat us even in the later stages of the game. Collected Company is also a busted card and if they draw multiple copies of it, it would likely be hard to win regardless of our draw. Still, I am excited to try this deck out and like the initial idea of it!

 

Hopefully this has provided you with a good understanding of the key decks to beat in this fresh Standard format. With the new PPTQ season starting around the world as well as the Pro Tour this weekend, be sure to be prepared against these decks.

 

Although I do believe the format is defined going into the weekend, it is likely to be shaken up at the Pro Tour as the best players around the world take a crack at Standard. Like many of you, I’ll be spending the whole weekend glued to the screen watching the coverage, and can’t wait to see what new decks will arise! Hopefully this time next week, we will have new decks to try and figure out how to beat 

 

Until next time!

 

Zen Takahashi

@mtgzen on Twitter




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