Rise of the (Bant Rites) Eldrazi
After failing to make Day 2 at GP Tokyo, I was a bit lost with what to play in Standard. Although I was happy with the Naya Dragons Ramp deck we played (Huang Hao Shan wrote about it here), the growing popularity of 4-Color Rites meant the deck was now poorly positioned as it has a very hard time beating Eldrazi Displacer and Reflector Mage.
While 4-Color Rites did seem good, I wasn’t a fan of the combo as both Zulaport Cutthroat and Brood Monitor both seemed lacklustre on their own. Between Duskwatch Recruiter, Eldrazi Displacer and Cryptolith Rite, it felt like the deck could inevitability win most games where they were able to get on board, by controlling the opponent’s creatures and out card advantaging them – hence the combo feeling unnecessary.
I also disliked just how much more exposed the deck became pre-board to matchups with a lot of removal, such as BW Control and Grixis, where I wanted to cut all the combo pieces, Loam Dryad and Cryptolith Rite.
However since I’ve had very little experience with Cryptolith Rite decks, I wasn’t sure quite how to build the deck optimally if I was to cut the combo. My natural inclination was to try an Abzan build with cards such as Matter Reshaper and Archangel Avacyn. The scariest removal spell against us is Languish, and both cards seemed well positioned to fight it - the former allows you to commit threats to the board while making their Languish less impactful while the latter lets you play around it with added emphasis on the "flash" plan alongside Collected Company. Although I was keen to try put my ideas to practice, I ended up not having to, as someone else figured it out instead!
3 Caves of Koilos
3 Evolving Wilds
1 Holdout Settlement
2 Llanowar Wastes
2 Lumbering Falls
2 Westvale Abbey // Ormendahl, Profane Prince
4 Yavimaya Coast
4 Duskwatch Recruiter // Krallenhorde Howler
4 Eldrazi Displacer
4 Eldrazi Skyspawner
4 Elvish Visionary
4 Loam Dryad
3 Reality Smasher
4 Reflector Mage
1 Sylvan Advocate
Slight Tweaks, Minor Touches
Upon seeing this deck, I was immediately impressed – Magnus Lantto and Oliver Tiu had identified the same issues I felt with 4-Color Rites and was able to create a new variant that acknowledged the key problems I thought the deck had. To further prove the deck’s legitimacy, they put up an impressive 6-2 finish between them at the Magic Online Championship Series, with one of the losses being to the mirror.
The card that caught my eye the most was the Reality Smasher in the main deck. This card has been a staple in the sideboard of 4-Color Rites and is, alongside Thought-Knot Seer, part of their transformational sideboard plan against matchups with a lot of removal spells. However, with decks such as Grixis and BW Control becoming more popular, while Humans and Bant Company continuing to drop in numbers, the card’s value has dramatically risen.
I’ve also found the card to be great against White-Green Tokens, an aspect that I think many people have overlooked, as it pressures planeswalkers very well thanks to its trample ability while also being able to attack freely into Archangel Avacyn due to its size. It’s also a great follow up to Tragic Arrogance which is one of their key cards against you. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like a great idea to play it main deck.
I am also a big fan of playing 4 Cryptolith Rite, as this deck is more mana hungry than its 4 colour counterpart. Since this version doesn’t have the combo, it looks to close games in the late game with Duskwatch Recruiter and/or Eldrazi Displacer.
Both these cards work at its best when you have a lot of mana available as you’re looking to overwhelm them either in card advantage or by controlling the board, which is much more difficult to do if you’re constrained on mana. Although drawing multiple copies isn’t great, any draw that involves it is much more powerful and this version plays more standalone creatures so I don’t mind playing the fourth copy.
So far I have made zero changes to the main deck but have made a couple of changes to the sideboard, playing the following 15 cards:
3 Dromoka’s Command
Two rules that I’ve adopted playing this deck is the same ones that Lee Shi Tian has relayed about Bant Company, which is to never go below 22 Collected Company targets and to also never board out the namesake card. I also don’t want to go below 23 targets in matchups where I keep in Loam Dryad, they tend to be matchups where you want to be proactive and keep your curve low to get on board as quickly as possible and I often don’t want to take it as a Collected Company target.
Against White-Green Tokens
Reality Smasher and Dragonlord Dromoka are both great against them as they pressure planeswalkers while being well positioned against Archangel Avacyn thanks to its sizing. Tragic Arrogance is their key card against you, and Reality Smasher and Dragonlord Dromoka are both great follow up plays to it. None of the two-drops are great in this matchup, as their creatures roadblock them effectively, but you can’t board out too many as it’s important that you’re able to curve out as the matchup is about overwhelming them by board presence.
In 4-Color Rites people often boarded in Negate, mainly to stop Tragic Arrogance, but I think in this version it’s unnecessary due to our large threats. Instead, it’s important to try to be as proactive as possible.
Against Bant Company
Reality Smasher isn’t good in this matchup due to Bounding Krasis and Reflector Mage, while the two-drop creatures are also lacklustre for similar reasons as against White-Green Tokens. Archangel Avacyn is great as it plays well against Reflector Mage and the matchup often becomes a board stall due to the high toughness of their creatures, which makes flying threats very relevant. Dragonlord Dromoka is good for similar reasons, as well as stopping Collected Company, which makes combat much easier for you.
I like bringing in Negate in this matchup as boarding out Reality Smasher means we’re much more vulnerable to Tragic Arrogance since we have less powerful follow up plays to it. As we’re boarding out the Smashers, we’re able to bring safely bring in Negate while still maintaining 23 Collected Company targets.
Against White-Black Midrange / Grixis / Black-Green Seasons Past / Other Midrange and Control Decks
The main changes I made to the sideboard from the original list was for these matchups, and I have been very happy with my changes thus far. Due to the narrow nature of removal spells in Standard, I think the most effective way to beat these decks is by overloading on diverse threats, often allowing you to blank certain removal spells they have in hand by presenting threats that require different answers e.g. Archangel Avacyn is bad against Grasp of Darkness while great against Ruinous Path, while Reality Smasher provides an opposite effect. One common trait though is all your threats are well positioned against Languish, which allows you to significantly weaken their best spell against you.
Since these decks all plan to kill your relevant creatures, Loam Dryad and Cryptolith Rite become dead draws. Due to this reason I’ve chosen to swap Dragonlord Silumgar out for Dragonlord Dromoka as I’ve found that I want the latter in all of the same matchups, and I don’t believe there’s enough black sources to support the former when you’re cutting these cards.
Eldrazi Displacer is also quite unimpressive in these matchups due to the lack of creatures they play, but I like to keep 2 copies in as it works well with Elvish Visionary and Archangel Avacyn. The 3rd Sylvan Advocate added to the board was largely to ensure I have 22 Collected Company targets in these matchups after sideboard as I definitely wanted to board out these six creatures. The Prairie Stream is a concession to support Archangel Avacyn as we don’t have enough white sources when we board out Loam Dryad and Cryptolith Rite.
This matchup is all about board presence so Cryptolith Rite is the key card. You want to dump your hand as quickly as possible and grind them out by generating advantage with Duskwatch Recruiter or Eldrazi Displacer. Always Watching is their main trump card against you and can make combat a nightmare, so Dromoka’s Command and Enlightened Ascetic are brought in post board to deal with them while also being relevant against the Silkwraps that they bring in against you.
Against Mirror Match / Rites
This matchup is similar to against other creature decks where the matchup is all about board presence. This makes Cryptolith Rite the key card, and whoever can abuse it more will likely win the game, so you want to bring in Dromoka’s Command and Enlightened Ascetic to deal with it.
Reality Smasher is poor and Archangel Avacyn is good in this matchup for the same reasons as against Bant Company. Archangel Avacyn’s flip ability is especially relevant as you can often set it up to wrath their whole board. Dromoka’s Command can often be great for this set up as you can suicide your creature with the fight ability to flip the Angel.
I haven’t quite figured out exactly which of those combination of creatures you want to board out, but I think you have to take out at least 1 Reflector Mage as you can’t decrease your two-drop count too much. I am also more inclined to keep in Duskwatch Recruiter and Reflector Mage on the play, the former especially if you think they’re going to be cutting on two-drops. If you’re unsure, just board out one of each out as you usually don’t want to draw multiples of any of those creatures anyway.
I hope you enjoyed this article and learnt more about the ins and outs of this new Bant Rites deck! Even if you don’t plan to pick up this deck, knowing how they plan to sideboard against you is very valuable information that you should definitely be aware of. If you’re planning to play this deck for a major event, I recommend you get a lot of practice in as it is relatively hard to play since there are a ton of minor interactions that come up in different situations!
Until next time!
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