Deck Tech: Bant Hardened Scaled with David Phelps

Posted in Event Coverage on November 1, 2015

By Corbin Hosler

Unlike some of the other deckbuilders we've featured today, David Phelps doesn't have a world class resume. He has been on the Pro Tour, hasn't made the Top 8 of any event larger than Friday Night Magic, hasn't been considered among the game's elite or competed in the World Championship.

But he has found success at Grand Prix Indianapolis with what is essentially a deck he brainstormed up in the week leading up to the event. With an intentional draw in Round 14 to move to 12-1-1, he's nearly a lock to advance to the Top 8 with a deck of his own design.

Anxious to see what the fuss was about, I walked over to one of his matches early in the day only to witness the following: With a Hardened Scales, Servant of the Scale and Den Protector in play, he cast Dromoka's Command, putting two counters on his Den Protector and fighting the 2/2 Servant with another creature. After it traded in the fight it leased three counters to the Den Protector, which then attacked and — thanks to its being essentially unblockable now that it had nine power — quickly ended the game.

Welcome to the power of Hardened Scales.

Grand Prix Indianapolis isn't the first time the deck has shown up in Standard, but Phelps' deck looks different than anything that preceded it. Take, for instance, the fact it's Bant colors (white-blue-green) rather than the typical green-white. The reason for the added blue mana? One innocuous instant that completely changes the way the deck plays out: Stubborn Denial.

Crackling Doom is a big problem for this deck, and the white spells we were playing before like Valorous Stance or Feat of Resistance didn't help with that problem,” Phelps explained. “So a friend and I sat down to figure out how to solve those problems, and Stubborn Denial does that. It also makes a joke out of board wipes and can even stop a Gideon or Sorin from resolving. This deck can get under just about everything, and once you have a board you just sit back on Stubborn Denial and it's really hard to lose.”

The Stubborn Denials took a deck that already possessed tremendous raw power and gave it the resiliency it needed. Now the ever-growing Managorger Hydra (one with 17 counters was spotted on Phelps' side earlier today) will no longer go down meekly to a well-timed Crackling Doom.

David Phelps stormed through Grand Prix Indianapolis with his Bant Hardened Scales deck, and was in a great spot to make Top 8 heading into the final round.

The innovations don't stop there. Out of the sideboard comes Evolutionary Leap, another seldom-seen card that vastly improves Phelps' matchup against the controlling decks. The interaction between Evolutionary Leap and thopters left behind by Hangarback Walker means that Phelps' opponents are hard-pressed to keep up the flow of creatures once it begins.

It may have started as a brainstorming session with a friend, but for Phelps — who has never finished better than 6-3 at a Grand Prix — it's now a breakout Standard performance that is likely to carry him to the Top 8 in Indianapolis and to the Pro Tour after that.

Bant Hardened Scales — David Phelps 

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