As you now well know, many members of Team SCG are playing Bant Control. What you might not know is that all of them are! For the first time, all 17 players are locked in on the same archetype at the Pro Tour.
So how did they land on this particular archetype? I sat down with Brad Nelson to figure it out.
“Testing started with everyone in ‘free play,’” Brad explained. “Zvi on a Zvi deck and Sam on a Sam deck. I started as ‘the enemy’ and I liked where the Sphinx’s Revelation decks were.” The mythic rare is one of the defining cards in San Diego, so that’s no real surprise. Their brews sounded far more interesting! “Zvi worked on a Dark Simic deck and Sam on Hidden Strings combo. They were cool decks, but there wasn’t enough time and the metagame punishes inconsistent decks.” Looking around, the success of G/B/W disruptive decks and the Florida G/R/W certainly echo that sentiment.
Still, Zvi’s deck showed a lot of promise. “Dark Simic was the most promising deck until we all got on Bant.” The shift to Bant began with Brad’s flight out to test. “When I landed, I was really into U/W/R, but I found that Voice of Resurgence was way more powerful than even I thought—and I thought it was insane. The deck just didn’t perform against Selesnya, which was enemy number one.”
Brad moved on from the deck, abandoning it when he failed to get that matchup up to snuff. “I saw an old shell of a Bant deck from RTR-GTC Block, and ported it over. I cut all the bad cards and added Voices.” The 2/2 changed the game significantly. “The thing Bant does is have the best Jaces in the format. We can protect our Jaces and defeat theirs—Voice and Smiter force their Jaces to tick up or die, and ticking up is the worst thing to do in the control mirror.” That gave Team SCG the room to lean on the card advantage of Jace, while their Esper opponents were on the back foot.
Voice didn’t stop there. “Against aggressive decks, you can throw out guys and tick down Jace safely. It puts them in an awkward spot where they often have to decide between attacking you or Jace.” With a potent two-drop, Bant started to look sweet. “Bant plays a really good game starting on turn 2. If aggressive decks stumble, you can be aggressive. Supreme Verdict isn’t the end-all, be-all—you have to interact with them before that.” Now, Bant could—it didn’t have to worry about Rootborn Defenses, Golgari Charm, or Boros Charm ‘countering’ Supreme Verdicts. It could just play Voices and Smiters to match their game.
“That’s where I was at, with a very tap-out version of the deck, and everyone on the team was just not interested. Once Reid, Zvi, Chapin, and Finkel gravitated toward the deck, Syncopates and Plasm Capture made it into the main.” Brad had initially excluded counterspells, preferring a midrange strategy, but these teammates had seen their power. The Plasm Captures especially were an incredible addition, making the Esper matchup a complete blowout. “If you put pressure on Esper, force them to react in the early game with Voice or Smiter, then Plasm Capture just wins the game.”
Frequently, the Bant deck leans on these early creatures for incidental damage. The Esper player can’t commit a defense to the board that early, and they usually wind up casting Supreme Verdict, Jace, or an early Revelation. Plasm Capture on any of those cards—even the Supreme Verdict—is a massive mana advantage that turns into a tempo advantage. “You play Fish until you counter the one pivotal spell that matters… then play Aetherling!”
A turn 5 Aetherling with mana up is nearly impossible to defeat in the format.
“Once Chapin and Duke were on this deck, the correct shell got built and the deck was unbeatable,” Brad admitted. The team went to work honing the numbers, cutting the chaff, and arrived at the configuration that is serving them so well.
Overall, Team SCG’s Bant Control deck did about 60% on Day 1, a fine rate across 17 players. Only Gabriel Nassif went undefeated, with five players behind him on four wins.