More Bant, More Value, More Bacon

Some people just have no respect. As if it weren’t enough that Jay Lansdaal, that young upstart, had to go and steal my name (well he modified it but it is still clearly an indication that he wants to be me), he also had to go and steal my next article out from under me. For shame, Jay. FOR SHAME. Now I have to ruthlessly mock you in this very column by tearing your deck to shreds and improving on it immensely. Oh you will be mocked, and it will be utterly without ruth.

The Idea

When writing my article on the Gods of Born of the Gods, I was instantly inspired by Ephara. She seemed to have a ready-made place in the fringe Bant Flash deck that was getting some buzz at the end of last season, and that deck had always interested me. [card]Prime Speaker Zegana[/card] might be my favourite guild leader from RTR block, combining my love of giant dudes with my love of drawing cards. If you’re going to let me play her AND at instant speed to boot, I am going to be all about it.

It wasn’t until I started writing about the much-maligned Karametra, however, that I realised she might actually be good. She’s a lot more subtle than Mogis or XenaGod, but you’d expect that from a God in those colours. Putting lands in tapped at the end of my opponent’s turn really seems powerful though, and when we’re drawing cards from Prime Speaker and Ephara it would be preferable if we drew “DI gas” as the cool kids say.

The Deck

What does this deck want to do? We want to cast things on the opponent’s turn, we want to ramp and we want to draw lots of cards. As a side effect we want to gain life and go big fast. These are all things that the Bant shard excels at doing, and we have a decently deep pool upon which to draw.

Jay wants us to play with [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card], touting its ability to play defense and get you through land clumps while gaining you life in the process. Of courser I considered it, but dismissed it out of hand as “worse than [card]Oracle of Mul Daya[/card].” I am now prepared to admit that this assertion, while accurate, was the wrong approach to take. It’s not TRYING to be Oracle in this deck, it’s playing a different role and it does that commendably. He’s in.

Since we’re already plotting a course to Kruphix, we might as well listen to what his/her Prophet has to say. This card is insane if it resolves, not even needing the traditional “if I untap with it” caveat of many creatures. Giving our creatures flash works wonderfully with Ephara, and untapping them all AND our lands helps out with Karametra, defence and of course being able to cast more stuff. I like casting more stuff.

Before we look at more of my choices, let’s see what Jay wants to do:

[deck title= Bant Value by Jay Lansdaal]
[Creatures]
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Courser of Kruphix
3 Ephara, God of the Polis
3 Polukranos, World Eater
3 Archangel of Thune
3 Prophet of Kruphix
2 Prime Speaker Zegana
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
1 Selesnya Charm
4 Detention Sphere
2 Kiora, the Crashing Wave
3 Sphinx’s Revelation
[/Spells]
[Lands]
4 Breeding Pool
4 Forest
2 Hallowed Fountain
1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
4 Temple Garden
4 Temple of Enlightenment
2 Temple of Mystery
3 Temple of Plenty
[/Lands]
[/Deck]

The first thing to jump out at me is [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card]. Jay even mentions the synergy with [card]Archangel of Thune[/card] and that Prime Speaker is a creature version of Revelation, but then only runs 2 Prime Speaker. We do not need Revelation in this deck. I instead want a third Zegana, and I want 2 copies of [card]Horizon Chimera[/card]. Not only does it have flash, enabling you to draw off Ephara without [card]Prophet of Kruphix[/card], it also gains you 1 life per card drawn, making even better synergy with [card]Archangel of Thune[/card]. Without Ephara or Prime Speaker shenanigans, Horizon and Archangel give you a free [card]Gavony Township[/card] effect every turn. I’d buy that for a dollar.

Kiora is an interesting choice. On the one hand she gives us more use out of the Courser, but she also reduces the impact of the Courser as we will sometimes end up drawing the land on top in order to play it. I can see the reason it’s in here as a 2-of, but since I want to play Karametra and I see more upside there I think we’re making that change. I want to say that 2 of the GW God will be correct eventually, but as I have yet to play with her I will start with a singleton. The other Kiora can become a third [card]Horizon Chimera[/card].

Mana dorks seem absolutely necessary. With only one three-drop, [card]Elvish Mystic[/card] might be less valuable than [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card] which can both ramp us to 4 on turn 3 AND fix our mana. The addition of Ephara to the deck means that late draws of mana dudes aren’t totally dead. I want to cut one Mystic to bring in an extra card: [card]Fathom Mage[/card]. I know it seems horrible on the face of it, but she does allow us to win the game almost immediately with Archangel and [card]Horizon Chimera[/card], and almost every creature in the deck will evolve her.

Speaking of Ephara, I don’t think we need 3 copies. I might be wrong there but she isn’t essential to the deck. Playing the one Karametra will let us thin the deck more to find one of the two Ephara, so I’m OK cutting one for now. Instead I want a second [card]Selesnya Charm[/card]. The card is very versatile, letting us get an instant-speed 2/2 if needed (possibly drawing a card off Ephara), giving trample to a giant Prime Speaker or taking out an opposing God. Running just one is somewhat understandable with all the cards Jay wants to draw, but I can easily foresee a game state where we need to use it to exile something like [card]Erebos, God of the Dead[/card] before we can win the game.

One thing we lose with the departure of [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card] is a mana sink. Do we really though? We have [card]Polukranos, World Eater[/card] to throw mana into if we need it, and we’re hardly lacking in spells to cast. A possible spot we could use to shore up this lack is the [card]Detention Sphere[/card] spot. I am loath to cut them in a world of [card]Pack Rat[/card]s, but they are the lone card in the deck that doesn’t synergise with the plan. Possible substitutes include [card]Boon Satyr[/card], [card]Ghostblade Eidolon[/card], [card]Loxodon Smiter[/card] or even [card]Nimbus Swimmer[/card]. We’d like to get something in here that helps devotion for Ephara like D-Sphere does, and right now nothing is jumping out at me. Let’s leave the Spheres for now, with the understanding that they might be clunky but necessary. I’d be leaning to 3 [card]Boon Satyr[/card] and a [card]Ghostblade Eidolon[/card] if I were to make the change, maybe 2 of each to give me more devotion for Ephara.

I’m not sure I understand why Jay is running Nykthos. We’re in a three-colour deck and are unlikely to need the big numbers Nykthos can produce. In a deck that has some hefty colour requirements later in the game, I don’t want a land that can do nothing at times and might not help me cast the spells I need it to cast. We’ll go ahead and make that a third [card]Hallowed Fountain[/card]. While I accept the need for untapped green mana in the early game, this substitution does nothing to change that number. With that change made I want another green source as a scry land, so I will cut one [card]Temple of Enlightenment[/card] for a [card]Temple of Mystery[/card]. I might be too heavy on the white with the changes I’ve made, but that requires testing.

So what we’re left with is a load of synergy that draws cards, plays lands, gains life and grows our own huge creatures. Like many creature-based decks we are a little soft to a sweeper, but sandbagging a couple of threats in hand can help us rebuild quickly with the Gods still in play. Here’s my revised list:

[deck title=Kevin Bacon in FlashBants by Chris Lansdell]
[Creatures]
3 Elvish Mystic
4 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Courser of Kruphix
2 Ephara, God of the Polis
4 Polukranos, World Eater
3 Archangel of Thune
3 Prophet of Kruphix
3 Prime Speaker Zegana
3 Horizon Chimera
1 Fathom Mage
1 Karametra, God of Harvests
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
2 Selesnya Charm
3 Detention Sphere
[/Spells]
[Lands]
4 Breeding Pool
4 Forest
3 Hallowed Fountain
4 Temple Garden
3 Temple of Enlightenment
3 Temple of Mystery
3 Temple of Plenty
[/Lands]
[/Deck]

The Sideboard

Jay left out his sideboard, but mentioned some ideas: more [card]Selesnya Charm[/card], [card]Unravel the Aether[/card], [card]Nylea’s Disciple[/card], [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card] and [card]Mistcutter Hydra[/card]. I really like most of these, though I am not a fan of [card]Nylea’s Disciple[/card] here. With the lifegain and the good defensive creatures we already have I am not too concerned about aggro decks. Instead I want to shore up our control matchup, which means something like [card]Rootborn Defenses[/card] to join with Voice and Mistcutter. [card]Skylasher[/card] is possible if mono-blue stays powerful and it has natural flash to boot. I also really like the possibility of [card]Mystic Genesis[/card] in the board, simply because the steep price is offset somewhat in this deck AND it puts a big dude into play.

The Unresolved Issues

Do we have enough game-winning threats? Right now we can combo out, start swinging with Gods or go ham with [card]Archangel of Thune[/card], [card]Prime Speaker Zegana[/card] and [card]Horizon Chimera[/card]. Polukranos is also a legitimate threat. [card]Boon Satyr[/card] would be a nice addition here but I’m not sure he is better than anything we would cut to play him.

What is the correct number of creatures to hold back in case of a sweeper? I think this varies depending on whether you have Ephara, Karametra or both in play, but knowing when to push your opponent into having one and when to play around it will be a skill to master.

How bad are the Spheres here? In the current metagame I really can’t see a way to cut them but they are definitely the least synergistic part of our list. I wish I thought the list could support [card]Banisher Priest[/card], but it’s just not good enough even with its ability to yank a [card]Mutavault[/card] with a [card]Prophet of Kruphix[/card] out. It can’t shut down other problem permanents, requires WW early in the game and is a lot easier for decks like mono-black to remove.

Do we need [card]Nylea, God of the Hunt[/card] here? Providing trample to everyone is a powerful ability, and she provides another mana sink while also seeming to be easy to turn on. Again though she would require a cut, and although some shaving might seem possible we’re already all over the place with our numbers.

Does [card]Garruk, Caller of Beasts[/card] fit here? Half our deck is drawn by him, he can drop a Prime Speaker into play without worrying about a counter

The Conclusion

Jay and I were on similar wavelengths, though we had some differing ideas on utility spells. My version is clearly superior, but that’s only to be expected by someone who spells his name wrong. Keep trying young grasshopper, you’ll build a good one yet.

All Banter aside, Jay had a flash of brilliance with this deck and I look forward to trying my tweak of the list. Brew on!