Monday, 28 June 2010

Guest Article: PTQ Win with Next Level Bant, by Mick Edwards

By Mick Edwards

Having missed out on my chance to play Standard at a more competitive level this year (since I was auto-qualified for Nationals), I was quite worried that the format would have changed to 'whoever has the most expensive mythics wins'. Unfortunately I was a little right. Fortunately for me, fellow Team Leeds member (or maybe he's Team York or something) Chris Vincent was unable to attend the PTQ and kindly offered to lend me some of his mythics. Here is the list I decided to play:

4 Celestial Colonnade

5 Forest

2 Island

4 Misty Rainforest

1 Plains

4 Seaside Citadel

1 Stirring Wildwood

3 Sunpetal Grove

3 Birds of Paradise

1 Borderland Ranger

4 Noble Hierarch

4 Sea Gate Oracle

3 Sphinx of Lost Truths

4 Vengevine

4 Wall of Omens

3 Elspeth, Knight-Errant

2 Gideon Jura

3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

2 Oblivion Ring

3 Path to Exile

2 Celestial Purge

2 Day of Judgment

2 Meddling Mage

3 Negate

2 Linvala, Keeper of Silence

2 Oust

2 Sphinx of Jwar Isle

Since the PTQ was at Fanboy 3 in Manchester, as well as begging for cards I was also begging for a lift. Kindly Kenny Hall offered to drive via Leeds to pick me and Fu Sheng-Wong up. In the car Kenny told me that riding in his car would bring luck since the past 3 lifts he had given had been a winner and two finalists - I apologised to him and Fu explaining that I would be the one to continue that streak with a win. Fu joked about not bothering to register in that case.

About the deck:
Some of my many reasons for playing this deck were:
Elspeth + Path <3 (editor: it's true, Mick goes to bed with these and Figure of Destiny)
Lots of card draw means more consistency and combined with BoP/Heirach means less mulligans
Brian Kibler won a GP with a similar list
It has the option to play aggro or control depending on the match up (editor again: Mick only plays aggro)

Changes/Unusual Sideboard options:
I decided the Ranger + Scute Mob was good, but not as good as Sphinx of Lost Truths, therefore I cut the Ranger package to make room for an extra Sphinx. This also allowed me to play an extra BoP as a turn 1 mana guy is the ideal start and accelerating into a turn 3 planeswalker is key to winning alot of match ups.
Mythic seemed like the 'deck to beat' and an argueably stronger choice, and my sideboard reflects this with Ousts, Linvala and Day of Judgement. Meddling Mage can also be good against mythic as they have have little removal so it's often like a much better Thought Hemorrhage.

When we arrived at the event and met up with some other members of Team Leeds I realised I needed a 4th Vengevine. I spoke a bit to Seb Parker who told me he had just been hunting around for Vengevines and struggled to find a few so I decided to buy one and quickly scribbled down a decklist in time for Round One.

Round One: Grixis
I won the dice roll and accelerated into a turn 3 Vengevine to bash for 5 as he did nothing until turn 3 when he made a Nighthawk. I decided not to play a turn 4 planeswalker and opted to O-ring his Nighthawk and continue the beats. On turn 4 he Earthquaked away my team so when I dropped 2 creatures to get back vengevine that was pretty much game.
Side: -4 Wall -1 Sphinx LT +2 Purge +2 Negate +1 Sphinx Jwar Isle (I think)
Game two went a similar way from my side: turn 3 Vengevine but with a turn 4 Jace (using +2 to get to 5). I also managed to turn 2 Purge his turn 3 Specter which was nice. Then on his turns 5 and 6 he cast Blightning twice killing Jace and stripping me of my hand. This confused me a little as I had expected him to board Blightning out, but in this game it was surprisingly effective against me - although it didn't matter as that had given me enough time to get beats in with the Vengevine.

Round 2: Aaron Copping with Grixis
Aaron also came with us in Kenny's car so I knew he was Grixis so I was pretty confident after how round one had gone. These games went quite different to round one but ultimately his deck's spot removal wasn't enough to keep up with the many many threats I made. In game two I think he got stuck a little on awkward mana too.

Round 3: UW Control
I dont really remember this round, only that it gave me great confidence that the Bant deck crushes control decks :D
Side: -4 Wall +3 Negate +1 Sphinx Jwar Isle

Round 4: Ben Scoones with Naya Conscription
I knew Ben was playing some kind of Conscription deck so was a little worried when he won the dice roll. He made turn 2 knight but I had turn 2 O-ring. Then he didnt really do anything while I quickly ended the game. I later found out he had triple Sparkmage in hand and was stuck on red mana.
Side: -4 Wall -1 BoP -1 Ranger -1 Sphinx +2 Oust +2 Linvala +2 Day of Judgement +1 Meddling Mage
Game two I had what I thought was the god draw with turn 3 Linvala and Planeswalkers. However, since he won the dice roll he got to play his turn 3 Linvala first, meaning I was mana screwed and he had the win before I could get an answer to Linvala or a 4th land.
I game 3 I made a misplay (in hindsight) that cost me the round. Although it was game 3 I hadn't seen any red yet (though he might have played a Ravine in game 2) so I assumed he was a more conventially mythic deck but with a splash. So when I made a turn 2 Meddling Mage I named 'Baneslayer Angel', then immediately regretted it. Baneslayer Angel is usually one of the best cards to name against Mythic as it comes down easier than Sovs, but changes the board to make it very dificult to win through giving them the time to get the Sovereigns/win. However, most of the less conventional Mythic decks dont even run Baneslayer. After he played turn 3, 4 Sparkmages and turn 5 Blodbraid into sSarkmage he ripped apart my mana (and Mage) and I quickly realised I had named the wrong card.


Round 5: Turbofog
This round was quite a slog and one I'd had no practice against with Bant so wasn't sure if it was a good match up or not. Fortunately game one I was able to go ultra aggro with Vengevines, which seemed the best way to win.
Side: -4 Wall -1 Gideon +3 Negate +2 Meddling Mage
Game 2 I was able to get some advantage by discarding double Venegvine in my cleanup, but made yet another Meddling Mage blunder by naming Angelsong. The correct card to name against Turbofog is Time Warp and he proved it by 'going infinite' casting 4 Time Warps (+1 with Twincast) then discarding Emrakul to shuffle them back in. I conceded to get chance to play a third game.
Game 3 I managed to win in the first game of extra time. This time I named the right card with the Mage, he even cast Angelsong in response this time (expecting me to name the Song). I confused everyone a bit by calling for an oracle wording on Angelsong (since my oponent was using foreign cards). I was 99% sure I knew the wording on Angelsong, but knew where was one fog effect that meant you could still attack planeswalkers. Checking these things costs nothing and the judges are there to help (editor: quite right. also, it's Safe Passage).

Round 6: UW control
As with Round 3, this deck crushes control in general. In game two I even played for the long game and managed to keep all three planeswalkers so there was nothing he could do.

Round 7: ID
As I was 5-1 at this point I gladly excepted the ID. My oponent was 5-0-1 so technically could have played to try and knock me out. I was glad of the spare hour to go for a Burger King to celebrate making another top 8 at Fanboy.

Quarterfinals: Some Scottish guy (not Guy) called Andy with UW control
For some reason he thought I was playing red (he said it was the red sleeves). Then I managed to confuse him further with a start that looked like it could have been Naya/Mythic. Eventually I lost game 1 because I played too aggressively, being too careless with my planeswalkers when I probably could have used their card advantage for victory.
Side: -4 Wall +3 Negate +1 Sphinx Jwar Isle
I got a fairly fast win and he 'punted'. This caused him to get really annoyed at himself to the point of slamming the table in anger. The Situation: I had lethal on the board including a manland (I think it was Borderland Ranger + Elspeth). He had 6 lands (1 was Tectonic Edge). He made Gideon and made me attack it, so I O-ringed
Gideon and swung for the win. Aparently he could have played Jace instead and bounced the ranger and blown up my wildwood so I can see why he was annoyed.
He never really gained control in the 3rd game as I just played threat after threat. When he knew was dead he tried to claim I had tapped my mana wrong to make a Gideon I shouldn't have. This annoyed me as I had made special care to show clearly which mana I was using for what as I knew it was a mistake that could easily happen. Fortunately a judge had been watching the whole time (and many other people), but the guy even had the cheek the argue with the judge and claim that the judge hadn't actually seen!

As the our game in the Quarters took longer than the other three, Amar Dattani (my semis opponent) had seen how the game had ended and told me that I could have as much time as I wanted to relax before we started. This was very nice of him as he had probably been waiting around for some time.

Semis: Amar Dattani with Naya Conscription
The first 2 games were fairly straight forward. He had a great hand game one and flattened me with a giant BoP. Game two I had Linvala to help me out, followed by a Sphinx and a Gideon which I used to make his 2/2 Knights have to attack into my bigger flyers :D
Game 3 was much more close. He made no play until turn 3, and had a similar multiple Sparkmage hand to Ben in round 3. I also had a slow hand, too many tapped lands (and him shooting my mana guy) meant that my first real play was Day of Judgement to get rid of the Sparkmages. He followed up with another Sparkmage (from a Bloodbraid I think) so was quickly able to deal with my Elspeth. A second Day of Judgement from me allowed me to begin to stabalise on 3 life since his Bloodbraids + pings had been adding up. I then drew mostly card draw so gave him a worrying amount of time to topdeck a Sovereigns to finish end the game. I eventually Ousted a Linvala to buy me the time to win. After the game he flipped the top card to reveal Sovereigns so the Oust really made the difference.

Finals: Tom "End Boss" Harle with Next Level Bant
Game one took a long time and Tom made me realise I may have been too hasty to dismiss Ranger of Eos as he used 2 to gain huge army that eventually swarmed round my team which was about half the size. Before the game I had decided not to board in Day of Judgements but based on how game one had ended I quickly changed my mind.
Side: -4 Wall -1 bop -1 Sphinx +2 Oust +2 Linvala +2 Day of Judgement
Game two I won by being able to stick and protect more planeswalkers, I was slightly surprised by Toms sideboard choices though as he had brought in Deprives, Negates and several Jace Beleren. I personally don't like bringing in counterspells in against this matchup as it doesnt suit the way I play the deck and I find the Bant deck has a lot of solid creature based threats that Negate obviously doesn't answer.
Game three I kept something amazing like 3 land, Heirarch, Oust, Jace, Elspeth while Tom was not so lucky. He mulled to 6 before playing turn 1 Scute Mob.
Although I expected the game to end quickly in my favor, since he got stuck on lands. However while I was making planeswalkers he was answering them with Deprives, Negate, O-ring etc. On Turn 8 I cast Day of Judgement + Gideon to put him further behind on mana, Then he finally started drawing lands, but this meant he had stopped drawing his answers so I was able to kick Sphinx of Lost Truth for the win.

Editor: Mick didn't supply an ending so I assume he's very happy to have won the PTQ and wishes all members of Team Leeds, and to a lesser extent the other readers of this blog, luck in their future PTQs to join him in his trip to Amsterdam. Mick's too cool for real endings.


  1. Excellent write up and good fun to read :)

    I really am standing in the shadow of giants in Leeds!

    Dan H

  2. it's really interesting to see how you boarded and what you think the matchup's about. personaly i think it's all about planeswalkers and card advantage since the deck has so many good answers to monsters anyway. i wouldn't have boarded out the sphinx and would have probably brought the other two and counters in too. Taking out sea gate oracles most likely. Tom

  3. Yeah, like I said, I never intended to board in Day of Judgement for the mirror but I felt it would allow me to get ahead on mana since it wouldnt be expected. I spent a long time deciding the 6th card to take out and I think I made the wrong choice in the end. I wanted to take out something at the high end since I was bringing in 4 four drops but it should probably have been a vengevine instead of a Sphinx.
    I admit that I hadnt tested the mirror as much as I would have like but I'd found I was always holding Negates at the wrong time.
    It surprised me how effective Jace Beleren was though, I dismissed it as a sideboard option as I didnt think I needed more against control. I forgot it would be good in the mirror.

    Also, Rob, whats wrong with ending with 'the win'.