Is It Bant Tokens or Green-White Control?

Posted in Event Coverage on October 24, 2015

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

“I lost to a really good deck.”

That’s how sixth-ranked Sam Black described his loss to sixteenth-ranked Shahar Shenhar. The trick here was that both were playing very similar decks. Called Bant Tokens coming off the Pro Tour weekend, Black had a different description that made just as much sense.

“When I first posted it to my testing team it was ‘Green-White Control,’” Black explained. “It was dubbed Bant Tokens by the Pro Tour coverage – an accurate name for the cards in the deck – but the blue was a morning-of-the-Pro Tour add and it does make a lot of tokens. The naming choice was interesting in that Bant Tokens is technically accurate to describe it but if it was called Green-White Control players would have a better idea of what to expect. It worked out for me though: People sideboarded thinking I’m tokens and instead I’m control cutting most of my token-making stuff.”

Top ranked Sam Black brought an innovative, and last minute, deck to his team the Pro Tour. Its power caused it to take off from there.

“It’s great and it’s different from what other people were doing,” he said. “It’s rare there’s a deck that’s this different and this powerful. You can be different and catch people by surprise but it’s rare you can do it without giving up some power. It was hidden because people didn’t know Retreat to Emeria was a good card. The deck uses all good cards but one wasn’t recognized as one, as opposed to Aristocrats that just uses all bad cards. That’s not to say Aristocrats is a bad deck just that’s it’s really reliant on synergy. This is also a synergistic deck that just uses individually powerful cards.”

With a weekend to put things to practice what did Black change for the follow up in Quebec City? “The changes that I’ve made were a result of figuring out how the deck could lose. Most of my losses came from my opponents getting under me. The direction I took was to lower the curve to negate that,” said Black. “I cut a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Secure the Wastes and Retreat to Emeria and added Elvish Visionary, Knight of the White Orchid and Archangel of Tithes. I swapped a Lumbering Falls into Canopy Vista to help pay for the Archangel. The reason for the Angel than the other four mana options is that they’re are only good when you’re at parity or ahead; Archangel of Tithes is that it gives you a good four mana play when you’re behind.”

“A lot of the strength of the deck comes from attacking from a wide range of angles. Archangel plays into that as just another very different way to attack,” Black said. “It has a ton of built-in card advantage. It’s building towards another ability with Retreat that you can just overrun someone on any board.”

It isn’t a perfect deck, however. “I don’t like exactly Warden of the First Tree and Anafenza, the Foremost,” Black explained. “Warden is big enough early that I can’t trade with it and Anafenza turns off my Hangarback Walkers. Dromoka's Command is the best card against me in the format since I have so many enchantments and creatures. I’m kinda bad against Atarka Red and Green-White Megamorph but I have a lot more card advantage against them: If I line up my removal and they don’t have a very aggressive draw I’m alright.”

Many of the players working with other options at the Pro Tour decided to opt for a Jeskai deck at Grand Prix Quebec City. That wasn’t a bad thing for Black. “It’s good against Jeskai,” he said. “People are switching to Jeskai because multiple players Top 8’d with it. Players are drawn to more Top 8 results than Standard match wins. I think that people feel the Pantheon team’s Jeskai list is a notable improvement over previous lists. Red aggro was the most played at the PT and Jeskai is the best deck against it.”

“Both decks are kinda built to play longs games,” Black continued. “Jeskai is two different decks depending if it has Mantis Riders – it’s hoping to kill someone with it – or if it doesn’t it’s hoping to kill someone as a control decks.”

What sets Black’s deck above Jeskai strategies? “Retreat to Emeria trumps long games. They can’t use a random removal spell against little Allies. After sideboarding the dynamic changes since they have access to recurring Feldiar Cub,” Black said, referring to the powerful utility of Ojutai’s Command, “but Bant has Evolutionary Leap and Den Protector. My experience has been that I can almost always outgrind someone playing Jeskai. At the Pro Tour I played against a Jeskai deck with Painful Truths. I had two cards in hand and he had seven but a few turns later I killed him. His answers and threats didn’t line up against mine – Ruinous Path against Kor Ally tokens.”

Black felt his deck was something of an anomaly in the field. “It’s weird because in Magic in general it’s best to tune deck to the way you play them,” he said. “I know this deck has a bunch of independently powerful cards. As long as those cards are in there in some form your deck will be powerful. For some it’s correct to think it’s a combo-aggro deck and others to bring it as a control deck. I can see someone bringing the same seventy-five as me but sideboard totally differently and have it be correct. At the Pro Tour I would always side out Secure the Wastes but [teammate] Justin Cohen never would. The strength is that deck can go in so many directions and that makes it hard for your opponent to predict what ‘archetype’ you’re presenting to them.”

What else was great about the deck? “The other big advantage is consistency,” Black said. “You have good mana and a bunch of early plays that smooth your draws, like Elvish Visionary. Other players are putting four colors in a deck and you stumble sometimes.”

Sam Black’s Bant Tokens

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Shahar Shenhar’s Bant Tokens

Download Arena Decklist

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