One Deck at a Time - Bant NoCo
I have found it daunting to attempt to write about the meta, the state of Duels, the outcomes and results of tournaments and similar subjects. I often don’t know where to begin, and when I attempt to write I hate my work and end up deleting it. So today, a different approach. I am going to attempt to write about just one deck.
The deck I have been playing the most since Eldritch Moon came out two days ago is a Bant creatures deck that I am calling NoCo because it doesn’t have Collected Company (CoCo for short). CoCo has been the foundation of this deck in Standard, we have most of the creatures but not the signature spell. That is a big deal, as CoCo is what makes the deck unfair. This deck is far from unfair, but it does have a ton of creature quality and that is good enough to try making a Magic Duels deck around.
EDM Bant NoCo
Watch the deck in action - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agtqq7nL7L8
A Bant creature list that uses tons of value critters, a tempo game and a flash game to drive opponents nuts.
How to Play
I am writing an article about this at https://www.hauntedflower.com/blogs/duels-diaries
2x Sylvan Advocate
3x Duskwatch Recruiter
3x Lambholt Pacifist
2x Tireless Tracker
2x Spell Queller
3x Reflector Mage
3x Bounding Krasis
2x Thalia, Heretic Cathar
1x Nissa, Vastwood Seer
1x Gisela, the Broken Blade
1x Archangel Avacyn
2x Elder Deep-Fiend
2x Declaration in Stone
2x Collective Effort
1x Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
1x Tamiyo, Field Researcher
2x Prairie Stream
2x Lumbering Falls
2x Canopy Vista
2x Hinterland Harbor
2x Glacial Fortress
2x Sunpetal Grove
4x Evolving Wilds
To view this deck go to: https://www.magicduelshelper.com/decklist/details/e599559d-f414-46f4-b19a-494226b2b0b2
Created using Magic Duels Helper: http://www.magicduelshelper.com
Yeah, I am playing twenty-six lands in my deck full of two and three drops, and it is because this deck needs all three colors. Things go downhill quickly when the deck list lacking a color, and I try not to keep hands without all three. While the deck doesn’t have a lot of five and six drops, you certainly want to hit at least your first five land drops so that you can cast a creature and hold up Unsubstantiate or cast a two-drop creature and Collective Effort in the same turn. We load up on the various dual lands and Evolving Wilds, and that leaves us vulnerable to hands that suffer from having a lot of lands that enter the battlefield tapped. Try to plan to at least hit your three drop on time, the deck has lots of them and the three-drop creatures can catch you up as long as the hole isn’t too deep.
Sylvan Advocate - Obviously the best two drop we have in Duels. We also have two Lumbering Falls to pump. It is worth noting that friendly shards like Bant and Esper only get access to two manlands, but enemy shards like Mardu and Abzan get access for four manlands. It matters.
Duskwatch Recruiter - Another good reason to run lots of lands is to get plenty of activations off Duskwatch. Good early or late, and the flipside makes for fun shenanigans with your flash creatures.
Lambholt Pacifist - This card is at it’s best against Human aggro decks and when you have flash cards in your hand so you can flip her on turn three. When given the choice of flipping her or casting a sorcery-speed three drop creature, you usually want to play the creature.
Unsubstantiate - I had to warm up to this card, but I have. This deck can stall if it doesn’t get a few big hits in for damage. Unsubstantiate keeps that blocker out of the way or that sweeper from happening for another turn so you can land some punches.
Declaration in Stone - This card is at it’s best in aggressive decks and tempo decks, and it is a great removal spell to have here.
Thalia, Heretic Cathar - This card won’t do much to lands in Duels because most of those lands already enter tapped, but God help the Evolving Wilds player. Where Thalia shines is when your opponent is relying on creatures or tokens to block. So far she has been good, not great, but this is a card I think you have to play against to understand how it affects your decisions.
Nissa, Vastwood Seer - It’s NIssa. You need her around to have some late game planeswalker punch, but she isn’t quite in her element here. It is also too bad she finds a Forest, as double green isn’t very important.
Tireless Tracker - Card is nuts, if you don’t know by now I’m shocked. In this deck the Tracker does what he/she always does, give you some game going long. The opponent is often compelled to use removal on Thalia, Duskwatch and such so that Tracker can come out after the dust clears and start getting you ahead on cards.
Spell Queller - Another pretty awesome card, but don’t try to counter Planar Outburst with you. You will have sad times. It is often right to play this as an ambush for a two drop or just as a flash damage threat if your opponent isn’t giving you something to counter. This is a deck that needs pressure on the field to be at its best.
Reflector Mage - This deck really needs this card. It helps the deck recover from slow starts and plays the tempo game perfectly. Reflector Mage and Unsubstantiate make all kinds of annoying plays possible.
Bounding Krasis - The fish lizard is still really good. It gives you a play after flipping your werewolves, it ambushes opposing creatures, it helps you kill planeswalkers and opponents. Good stuff.
Collective Effort - I didn’t warm up to this card for a while. Then I had a very painful experience. I was playing White Humans vs White Humans, I had a renown Councils Lt, Always Watching and my opponent had three little dorks. My opponent played Effort and killed my 4/3 Lt., my Always Watching, and pumped his board. Woah. Collective Blowout. I have been noticing how often my midrange and control builds need to stop enchantments, particularly Sphinx’s Tutelage which never seems to go away. When you play this card for one mode, it is a fine card. Three mana to kill an enchantment or big creature is fine. Things I have killed with Effort include Woodland Wanderer, Gisela, Avacyn, Bellower, Tutelage, Evolutionary Leap, From Beyond, Fevered Visions, Angelic Destiny, Always Watching, Imprisoned in the Moon, and a lot more. And that doesn’t even count mode number three - permanently pumping the team, including tokens. Take that Always Watching. If I can break it down, using this card for one mode is fine, using two modes is very good, using all three is busted.
Gisela, the Broken Blade - This card is really good if it goes unchecked. Much like Tracker, she comes down after the opponent has tried to fend off Duskwatch and Thalia, and hopefully she sticks. You can also cast her and attack with your Lambholt Pacifists the turn you cast Gisela.
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar - This card is good. Yeah, more in depth analysis, I know. There isn’t a big different in how to use Gideon in this deck vs other creature decks. If you are about even on the board, make a Knight. If you are ahead, plus and attack. If you are behind, consider making an emblem right away if there is a chance Gideon will die.
Tamiyo, Field Researcher - Wow, this card. If you are ahead, just use the minus more. Tapping down the blockers and pushing more damage is horrible for the opponent because they will have a hard time attacking Tamiyo with two creatures tapped down and pressure coming at them. Of course, I expect most of the time players will be plussing her because drawing cards is awesome, and I can’t blame you. Remember if you have a vigilant Sylvan Advocate that you can draw a card when it attacks and when it blocks.
Archangel Avacyn - This card thrives in the flash game this deck enjoys. The opponent doesn’t really know what five untapped mana means. Avacyn? Spell Queller? Fish Lizard? Or this next card…
Elder Deep-Fiend - The big finale, this card also thrives on the flash game and helps you set up the breakthrough attacks. This Bant deck used to struggle if the board got gummed up, relying on cards like Whirler Rogue to break through. Elder-Deep Fiend does the job perfectly. While many of the creatures in the deck don’t scream “EMERGE ME” like a Pilgrim’s Eye might, I have been successful at Emerging in response to a removal spell and that has gone great.
Cards I am not playing -
Imprisoned by the Moon - I think I am best off when I can attack through and kill my opponent’s planeswalkers with the help of Krasis, Reflector Mage and Thalia. As for large creatures, we have the Krasis and Mage as well as Collective Effort, Declaration and Unsubstantiate. I tried Imprison for a few games and it felt clunky, and I don’t want to cut more creatures or lands for it. If you really need the effect, I could see you pulling one Unsubstantiate for it, but don’t blame me when you can’t stall a Chandra boardwipe.
Hanweir Militia Captain - I tried this lady, and she lead me into too many sweepers. The glut of three-drop creatures means you won’t have four creatures until turn five, plenty of time for the opponent to set up a sweeper or find a removal spell. This card doesn’t do enough on its own.
Bygone Byshop - This is one cut that may be wrong. Almost all of our creatures trigger it, so it also reads as a must kill. In the end, it came down to this or Thalia for me, and I picked Thalia, but maybe there is another option. Nissa? Maybe the 26th land? I can’t bring myself to do it now, but if I did something wrong with the deck this may be it.
Always Watching - We don’t want too many anthem effects, 25 creatures is as low as I want to go there and we have Collective Effort which is better for this deck.
Angelic Destiny - A part of me wants this card, but if it doesn’t resolve we out-tempo ourselves. It has plenty of vulnerability to Reflector Mage, Unsubstantiate, Anguished Unmaking, Declaration in Stone and instant speed removal, so I fear it sets me up for failure. I might be overly pessimistic here.
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy - Not enough spells. I need my creatures to have power on them.
Nissa, Voice of Zendikar - Too hard to cast on turn three. Note that Collective Defiance is more of a turn five spell. Even if I do cast her on time, I need to do more to the board then make an 0/1, and I have Collective Effort for anthem effects. One may argue that more anthem effects can’t hurt. This deck isn’t a swarm deck, there are only eight two-drops and no one-drops. When the anthem effects pump, it is usually only two or three creatures, not four or five, and that makes a big difference.
Woodland Wanderer - I don’t want to invest too much mana in my threats in a world of Murder, Collective Effort and Reflector Mage. I almost cut Gisela for these reasons, but she packs so much punch I have to keep her for now.
Whirler Rogue - I find that Deep-Fiend does this card’s job better, and I can’t find any cuts I want to make for her.
Woodland Bellower - Because the mana curve is stacked with threes, I usually have a pair of three drops to cast on turn three, which is a lot of what Bellower feels like. However, the pair of three drops are often more versatile than Bellower because you can cast them earlier. Bellower often drops more power and toughness, but my creatures are good at getting around large dumb animals.
Results - My win-loss ratios with the deck are close to this -
iOS - 6/10
XB1 - 8/10
The deck is fun, interesting and somewhat tricky to pilot. The biggest issue is that the deck feels average in most matchups. Vs White Aggro, it the matchup feels favorable but not by much. Vs Superfriends, it is very draw dependant but it also feels like a close matchup. I like the control matchup as long as I don’t get stuck running into an Outburst. Vs Ramp, I love my matchup as long as I have a decent amount of pressure in my opener. All of the matchups feel winnable, but not by a lot. The deck stumbles on mana and sometimes struggles to find a keepable hand, and that is just the nature of three color decks with the lands we have. I don’t think I would run it in a Duels tournament, but I will enjoy playing it.
Other directions this deck could take -
Bant Humans. Throw in Thalia’s Lt, Militia Captain, other awesome Humans and you can likely make a good Bant Humans deck with more creatures and more Anthems. I think you want to cut Fish Lizards, Spell Quellers, Sylvan Advocates, Unsubstantiate and Nissa and try to have about 30 creatures and more anthems.
Bant Walkers. Take out Thalia, Unsubstantiates and Pacifists and put in Oaths and more Walkers and perhaps a few Outbursts and you have a pretty feisty Superfriends list. I am just not convinced it would be better than Abzan or Mardu.
The End Credits -
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