Going into Round 12, here is what the matchups at the top 12 tables looked like (the order jumbled up to protect the players who are battling for the spot in the Top 8):
- 4-Color Company vs. Bant Company
- White-Green Tokens vs. Black-Red Control
- Bant Company vs. Naya Midrange
- Black-Green Seasons Past vs. Grixis Control
- White-Black Control vs. Red-Green Ramp
- White-Green Tokens vs. White-Green Tokens
- White-Green Tokens vs. Jeskai Dragons
- Black-Green Aristocrats vs. White-Green Tokens
- Red-Green Ramp vs. White-Black Eldrazi
- Grixis Control versus White-Green Tokens
- White-Black Control vs. Esper Control
- Bant Humans vs. White-Green Megamorph
And because the coverage team loves readers like you, we're sorting out that data into something you can read more easily.
|Black-Green Seasons Past||1|
As expected White-Green Tokens continues to lead the charge, a deck so resilient that it was able to withstand whatever was thrown at it. Expect to see a copy or two to make it to the Top 8.
The rise of control decks, as well as decks to prey upon them, have increased dramatically, as can be seen by the plethora of control decks that across the top tables. Jeskai, Esper, Orzhov, Grixis, Rakdos are all able to assume the role of the control player.
The demise of Mono White Humans hasn't been exaggerated. It would seem like its either fallen in popularity, or got beaten into oblivion. Because of this trend, Declaration in Stone won't be expected to be as prevalent, and one player even went ahead to modify the White-Green Tokens deck into the traditional White-Green Megamorph deck. Undoubtedly, that was a move to beat the control players who sometimes have problems against recurring Deathmist Raptors.
Two weeks ago, Bant Company was the deck to beat and an auto-inclusion in any Standard gauntlet. However, on Saturday morning, Yuuki Ichikawa unabashedly shared with me that "it is a bad deck now". The prediction held true, and we only saw two copies among the top two dozen.
Going into Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad, the leaders in the polls were Mono White Humans and Bant Company. Clearly, this isn't the case today. What happened along the way, and what do we need to do for these two strategies to shine again?
Yuuya Watanabe has the solution.
Well, a certain genius going by the name of Yuuya Watanabe has found a way to ensure both decks' survivability.
"Mono White Humans is bad, and Bant Company isn't very strong. So maybe it's time to mix things up!"
With so many creatures in the Bant Company deck already Human, all Watanabe needed to do was remove the non-Humans and replace them with Thalia's Lieutenant and friends. To maintain the aggressiveness of the deck, Watanabe went one step further to improve his Collected Company and lower his curve even further.
So why was he all so "hush-hush" yesterday?
Watanabe explains to me that there is a lot of surprise element and it is vital that nobody knows how to play against him. He shared with me that a lot of players made a lot of mistakes against him, because they didn't see Thalia's Lieutenant coming, or they simply played around Archangel Avacyn, a card that he wasn't even playing.
"Sometimes, in the Company mirror, they think they can hold back their creatures to block. Then I untap and cast Thalia's Lieutenant, hold up Dromoka's Command and completely screw up their combat math. Sometimes, they think they can race, but Thalia's Lieutenant shortened the clock by one turn or killed my opponents outright. It was important for me that I kept it low-profile, sorry that I couldn't share it with you guys yesterday!"
Archangel Avacyn is very strong, yes. But according to Watanabe, it is so obvious to read when your opponent has it. You keep five mana open and pass the turn and even the worst player can expect to see it coming. Because of this property, another of Watanabe's conniving tricks is to bluff the Archangel Avacyn because even the best of players can be fooled by it and simply pass the turn with no attacks, or to attack with fewer creatures. Against control decks, they might be afraid to drop Chandra, Flamecaller or pull the trigger with Radiant Flames.
Either way, Watanabe profits.
Now that he has two or three spots freed up, he's managed to find some space for space for Thraben Inspector and Knight of the White Orchid. By doing so, he has achieved two things. Firstly, all the creatures in his deck would have become Humans, and secondly, every creature in his deck has become a live hit via Collected Company.
"Jace, Vryn's Prodigy is also not very good in Bant Company. I want to be attacking and putting pressure."
This logic is undeniable.
When paired against a control deck, you'd want to assume the role of the aggressor and Jace isn't going to be quite an impressive beatstick. Lambholt Pacifist is a great replacement, because it not only combos very well with Dromoka's Command and Thalia's Lieutenant, it also has synergy with the deck's namesake Instant, simply because you can pass the turn in order for it to transform.
"It's like playing with 8 Tarmogoyfs in Standard. The strength of Tarmogoyf is that it adds a lot of power to the board for just 2 mana. Lambholt Pacifist feels like it is almost always 4 power for 2 mana. Thalia's Lieutenant is the same, also around 4 power or more for 2 mana. This should be the way to play Bant Company, because it is an "attacking" deck at heart. Why else would you play Reflector Mage or Bounding Krasis if your primary game plan is otherwise?"
Watanabe shares the "secrets" of his deck.
The deck functions very much like a Mono White or White-Blue Humans deck, and yet has the ability to play like Bant Company as well.
You can kickstart with Thraben Inspector, and follow that up with Duskwatch Recruiter or Lambholt Pacifist. A turn three Thalia's Lieutenant allows you to attack for six immediately, and the ensuing Collected Company, will more than likely net you two more Humans to grow Thalia's Lieutenant with. It even retains the roots of the traditional Mono White Human decks, since Watanabe has Gryff's Boon and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar in the sideboard!
What do you think of Watanabe's approach?
Don't assume that Bant Company or Humans is gone completely, because you can count on it that someone will always try and reinvent the wheel.