Bant Spirits at GP Vegas

Chris Cornejo Modern

A couple of weeks ago, the Magic world descended on Las Vegas for a Triple Grand Prix Weekend. I was there, and had a blast playing in the Legacy and Modern GP’s. As an Event Coordinator for Mox Boarding House Seattle, I usually Judge Magic events four or five days a week, but rarely get to play myself – so when the opportunity to play in some of the largest events around came about, I leaped at the chance.

I ended up with a record of 11-4, placing 157th out of 3,403 players at the Modern Grand Prix – by far the best I’ve done at a tournament of that scale, and good enough to sneak into the money. Hallie, our editor, asked if I’d be willing to write about my experience at the GP and the deck I played. So, here we are.

I played Bant Spirits – a bit of a departure from my usual style of hardcore control. But I knew that I was planning on playing a brain-burner of a deck in the Legacy GP (U/B Landstill…it did not go well), so I wanted a deck that would generally give me a little more time between rounds to recover and whatnot for the Modern tournament. I do not think myself any kind of expert on the deck – I don’t really get to play often enough for that, so take anything I say with a grain of salt.

Here’s the list I ran:

Creatures:
4 Drogskol Captain
3 Geist of Saint Traft
4 Mausoleum Wanderer
4 Noble Hierarch
1 Phantasmal Image
4 Rattlechains
4 Selfless Spirit
4 Spell Queller

Spells:
4 Collected Company
4 Path to Exile
1 Steel of the Godhead

Lands:
2 Botanical Sanctum
2 Breeding Pool
1 Cavern of Souls
3 Flooded Strand
1 Forest
1 Gavony Township
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Horizon Canopy
2 Island
2 Misty Rainforest
1 Plains
1 Razorverge Thicket
2 Seachrome Coast
1 Temple Garden
2 Windswept Heath

Sideboard:
2 Disdainful Stroke
2 Eidolon of Rhetoric
1 Engineered Explosives
1 Fracturing Gust
2 Gaddock Teeg
1 Kataki, War’s Wage
1 Kira, Great Glass-Spinner
1 Rest in Peace
2 Stony Silence
2 Surgical Extraction

I was originally planning on running three Misty Rainforests and one Island, as well as another Rest in Peace and a Unified Will in the sideboard in place of the Surgical Extractions, but I forgot to check the deck before I packed for the trip, and had to make do. In the end, having the extra Island worked out well – I did miss those two sideboard cards, though. I don’t know that they would have changed much of anything, but who knows?

Anyway, I’m not going to bore you with super granular details about every match, so here’s how I did against the other decks I faced (I had two byes from a Last Chance Trial the day before, so I only played thirteen out of the fifteen rounds):

Grixis Shadow: 2-1. I think Bant Spirits has a decently favorable match-up against the deck du jour, as there’s enough density of redundant threats to weather a storm of early discard – and a top-decked Collected Company can make up for all the Thoughtseizes and Inquisitions right quick. The fact that all my threats (except for Geist of Saint Traft) can fly over their Death’s Shadows and Gurmag Anglers makes racing a viable strategy. Selfless Spirit is also an all-star, protecting my board against Anger of the Gods quite ably. I never ended up siding much in – usually just Rest in Peace to slow down their Anglers and make their Snapcasters feel very underwhelming; Engineered Explosives to kill multiple Death’s Shadows; and Kira, Great Glass-Spinner to make their one-for-one removal pretty bad. The one match I lost was mostly due to not being able to draw enough gas – I ended that third game with nine lands in play.

Affinity: 2-0. Both matches ended up going to three games, but this didn’t really feel like a fair fight after sideboarding. Game one in both matches was ugly for me, but games two and three felt pretty one-sided. Stony Silence and Kataki are potentially backbreaking enough for Affinity to deal with, but the one time I cast Fracturing Gust just felt mean.

Ad Nauseam: 2-0. Mausoleum Wanderer is an all-star in this matchup, especially if you can land a Drogskol Captain to beef up its power. It also helps that my sideboard has nine cards that I can potentially bring in (the Strokes, the Eidolons, the Teegs, the Stony Silences, and Kataki if you’re feeling spicy). The Paths come out immediately, along with Phantasmal Image and Steel of the Godhead – I usually sided out the Township and a Selfless Spirit as well to make room for all the hate.

Bant Eldrazi: 1-1. This felt like an even match-up – we can both disrupt our opponents with our creatures, allowing us to develop ridiculous clocks. Kira does a good job out of the board, making opposing Eldrazi Displacers way less cost-effective, but Disdainful Stroke is the key – the match I lost was due to greed, as I opted to add to my board on turn three rather than hold up a Stroke, and was immediately punished when they resolved a Reality Smasher. Success for me in this match-up is entirely reliant on me developing my threats faster, so a turn three Smasher is really bad news unless I have an answer immediately, which I did not.

Dredge: 1-1. I made one big punt that for sure cost me at least a game in the match I lost against Dredge – I just plain forgot that there was a Conflagrate in my opponent’s graveyard, and therefore didn’t take a Selfless Spirit in addition to a Spell Queller off a Collected Company in response to Life from the Loam (I took a Rattlechains instead). Lesson learned – always check the graveyard. Other than that, this match-up feels somewhat dependent on the Great Random Number Generator – if their first dredge or two can get the ball rolling, it can be hard to keep up. I really missed the second Rest in Peace in the sideboard, although the Surgicals did fine in its place.

Abzan Shadow: 1-0. The match-up felt pretty similar to Grixis Shadow, but with the bonus that Rest in Peace and/or Engineered Explosives hoses Lingering Souls. My opponent admittedly had a terrible draw in the deciding game, flooding out hard, but if anything, this configuration of Shadow felt slightly more in my favor than against the more popular Grixis version.

G/W Hatebears: 0-1. This felt more lopsided in my opponent’s favor than any other match-up I’ve played with the deck. An active Aether Vial is bad news, as it renders my Spell Quellers relatively useless, and they just have way too much threat density for my four Path to Exiles to deal with. And while all my creatures tend to work well together, most of their creatures are pretty good beaters by themselves. At least the person I lost to made my tiebreakers phenomenal – I played against this deck in Round 4, piloted by Craig Wescoe.

The deck felt good, and can pivot reasonably well to fit whatever role it needs. It can play disruptive control, tempo, or pure aggression, switching between the three on a dime when called for. I’m sure more practice (and remembering to bring the right sideboard cards) would’ve helped. I might cut the Steel of the Godhead – it only really affected one game (in the Abzan Shadow match), and usually was among the first cards I sided out. It could definitely have a spot in certain metagames, but at the very least, I think it moves to the sideboard. And, as always, Collected Company feels like a completely unfair card – there were multiple occasions where I would CoCo into Spell Queller plus Drogskol Captain in response to a spell that would swing the game in my opponent’s favor.

Unless Modern gets shaken up in a big way, I’ll probably be on this deck for a while. I don’t usually get out to Grand Prix that often, but if you go to the next one up in the Pacific Northwest, I’ll probably see you there.