Bant Lands Evaluation

Introduction

I launched the Competitive Lands Project at the beginning of this year. It is designed to showcase Legacy Lands from a competitive perspective. You can learn more about this initiative via this article or this introduction video.

Season 1 is now complete and I focused on playing and tuning Bant Lands for the entire season. I have played the deck in 6 Prelims on MTGO and it’s now time to draw some conclusions. But before we start with that here are the hypotheses that I had when I started this season.

  • I was worried about playing against the Blue-Zenit deck with RG Lands and my hope was that Swords to Plowshares would help in this matchup.
  • I did not think that Planeswalkers would be popular and I was hoping that Constructs + Pithing Needle would be enough to combat walkers. Karn in particular felt horrible to play against but I was not predicting that card to be heavily played.
  • I did not think that I would miss Punishing Fire against the Tribal decks but this remained to be seen.
  • Flusterstorm is the only card that I can think of that is good against TES, Show & Tell and Doomsday, and I expected Bant Lands to be better against spell based combo decks.
  • Elvish Reclaimer felt great in the meta but I did not think that I would have room for Urza’s Saga and Reclaimer in the same deck. For reference here are examples of my initial Bant Saga Lands and Bant Reclaimer Lands decklists.

My Results

I played 24 Legacy Prelim matches and won 19 of them. This is a win rate of +79%, against excellent opponents, and is way over my expectations. I am of course super happy with the result. I want to add a caveat to the metashare and winrates posted in this article as they are based on very small sample sizes. I don’t think that we can draw too many conclusions based on these numbers without also taking into account how the matchup felt when I played them. My deck did in fact feel strong against both fair and unfair matchups. I had a healthy mix of spell based and permanent based hate vs combo and when I had a good draw I felt almost unbeatable (even against hard matchups). 

The table below shows my results split per archetype. It also shows the metashare that I expected vs the metashare that each archetype realized.

ArchetypeRealized MetaExpected MetaMy Score
Daze25%27%5-1 (83%)
Karn21%5%3-2 (60%)
Control17%21%3-1 (75%)
Graveyard13%14%2-1 (67%)
Depths8%4%2-0 (100%)
Dark Ritual8%6%2-0 (100%)
Brew8%2%2-0 (100%)
Tribal0%11%

Daze Decks

I expected Daze decks to be 27% of the winner’s meta and my prediction was spot on as I played against them in 25% of my matches. Bant Lands felt very strong vs the Daze decks (even stronger than RG Lands). My removal cost 1 mana so my deck is lean and this matchup is all about gaining a mana advantage. I am not going to write a detailed matchup guide here but I did write about Lands vs Delver before and, although that article is a bit old, the basic concepts and strategies still apply today.

I went 4-1 against UR Delver and 1-0 against Jeskai Murktide to a combined winrate of 83%. I cannot really complain about that. My strategy in these matches was to try to stay ahead on mana and (when I could) play in a way so that I would not lose to Ragavan or Murktide. This went well and the only match that I ended up losing was when my opponent had Karakas for my Marit Lage in both game 2 and game 3.

Here are some quick notes on playing against UR Delver.

  • They have 0 answers to Marit Lage in the main and 3 answers in their sideboard (1 Karakas and 2 Submerge). This means that Marit Lage is very safe in G1 but it gets riskier in the post sideboard games.
  • Shadowspear is a game changer in this matchup and it completely takes over any kind of race. Shadowspear + Construct can often race even a Murktide.
  • It’s better to be proactive than reactive and this is why I like Elvish Reclaimer and Endurance so much in this matchup. Your opponent will have many cheap threats and just overloading on one for one removal is risky. Reclaimer can play defense but at the same time help us work towards a Marit Lage or Constructs + Shadowspear.
  • Their best cards are Ragavan, Wasteland and Murktide. Turn 1 Ragavan (blanks our Wastelands) into turn 2 Wasteland (blanks our Dark Depths and Saga) can make it difficult for us to win (especially if we are on the draw). Murktide kills in just a few turns and it can mice some wins for our opponent if they also have a timely Wasteland for our Maze of Ith.   


I only played against UR Delver once on camera and it can be found here.

Karn Decks

Going into this experiment I said that I wanted to “dodge” the Karn decks. I only expected Karn to take up around 5% of the winner’s meta and I thought that it would be very hard to beat a resolved Karn with Bant Lands. I ended up playing against Karn decks 21% of my matches so this prediction was completely off. Part of the reason that my prediction was so off is that I had labeled 8-Cast as Urza’s Saga instead of Karn going into this experiment. It turns out that 8-Cast decks have started playing Karn so that was a mislabelling from my side. But on top of this various blue Painter decks started popping up in January and these decks all played Karn.

I went 1-0 against 8-Cast, 1-0 against Bomberman and 1-1 against Painter and 0-1 against Mystic Forge. This gave me a combined record of 3-2 and actually a positive winrate against the matchup I wanted to dodge. It turns out the matchup is not as bad as I had feared. Here are some quick notes.

  • Needle on Karn makes these matchups alot easier and I will blind name Karn with my needles.
  • Shadowspear beats Sai, and Shadowspear is a big part of the reason why 8-Cast is a favored matchup when they don’t draw Karn.
  • Marit Lage can still mice some wins in 2022.  

I played against Karn decks 3 times on camera and you can find them here.

Control Decks

I expected Control decks to take up 17% of the winner’s meta and this prediction was a bit low as I ended up playing against Control in 21% of my matches. Going into this project I was fearing the Blue-Zenit deck, and this deck was in fact the contributing factor for me choosing to play white over red removal. It turns out that the Blue-Zenit deck is currently only the 3:rd popular Control deck online and the current split is something like 50% Uro Piles, 40% Jeskai Hullbreacher and 10% Blue-Zenit. Punishing Fire and Pyroblast seems very good against Jeskai Hullbreacher and it is not clear to me that Bant Lands is the best configuration for this meta. 

I am also not sure that Bant Saga Lands is actually favored vs Blue-Zenit. I played against McWinSauce on Omnath Pile (that is like Blue-Zenit on steroids) and it did not feel good. I only felt that I won the game where my hand was good and their hand was bad and this is not where I wanted to be vs blue control. Blue-Zenit gets a lot easier for a Lands list that is centered around Elvish Reclaimer, Flagstones and Uro though. It turns out that when we want to then we are the best ramp deck in Legacy, and I believe that my match against mei0024 in Episode 7 highlights this.

I went 3-1 vs the Control decks and this is a good result in my opinion. I feel that the Uro Piles are the easiest of the Control decks as they can have a real hard time killing me on time if I handle Uro. My overall strategy against Uro Piles is to get the Stage + Saga online and eventually find Karakas via an Expedition Map or Crop Rotation. They will now spend their cantrips and card draw looking for something like Dress Down. If they find it then the game goes and if they don’t find it then they lose. But even when they do find Dress Down they are still on a route to lose the match because now the entire match revolves around time and they will be behind on the clock as they have many more game actions to perform each turn. I think my match against Bant Control in Episode 2 shows this pretty well.

I played against Control decks 4 times on camera and you can find them here.

If you want to learn more about Lands vs Control then I recommend that you read my in-depth article about the matchup.

Graveyard Decks

I expected Graveyard decks (Reanimate and Madness) to take up 13% of the winner’s meta and this was spot on as I ended up playing against these types of decks in 14% of my matches. Reanimate won the Showcase Qualifier Event in December last year and it was on everyone’s mind when I started this project. I think having access to white removal really helps against Reanimate as (even with 3 Endurance) it can sometimes be hard to stop them from reanimating a creature and Archon of Cruelty is non-legendary so it cannot be bounced with Karakas. Having Swords to Plowshares as a clean answer to Archon will win some otherwise unwinnable games against Reanimate. I think my Bant Saga Lands has a healthy mix of permanent and spell based hate and I feel comfortable playing against Reanimate with this configuration.

Madness is an interesting matchup that reminds me a lot about Hogaak. It is more explosive but it lacks the combo finish with Altar. Historically the Lands strategy has been good against these “go wide” types of Graveyard decks as Tabernacle, Bojuka Bog and Marit Lage are all great in the matchup. I also think Bant Lands is favored vs Madness and I went 2-1 in the matches that I played against them.

Elvish Reclaimer is an absolute all star against Graveyard decks and if we get to untap with him then it feels hard to lose. He dodges all the artifact and enchantment hate that Reanimate plays, and he puts them in a difficult spot because they won’t have many turns to find an answer before he finds Dark Depths and Thespian’s Stage. Reclaimer also acts as an extra Maze of Ith against Madness, and he will find anything that we need from Tabernacle to Bojuka Bog and Dark Depths. I absolutely love a proactive card that can play defense!

I played against Graveyard decks 3 times on camera and you can find them here.

Tribal Decks

I didn’t face a Tribal deck (Elves, Goblins or Death & Taxes) in any of the Prelims that I played. However, I did manage to get a testing session in with EronRelentless. We tested Bant Saga Lands vs Reclaimer Elves. My goal with the session was to figure out if Punishing Fire is needed to reliably beat Elves. 

My strategy in the pre board games was to keep a hand with light disruption (Swords or Tabernacle) plus a turn 3 Marit Lage. This went really well as I won both pre board games. Shadowspear was surprisingly good here as a way to Trample over Endurance. 

My strategy in the post board games was the same as in the pre board games but I also had the option of landing Spheres and Tabernacle to completely prison the Elves player out. I went 2-1 in the post sideboard games, and the only game that I lost was one where my hand was filled with interaction but no clear path to victory. 

I think this demonstrates that Punishing Fire is not needed to beat Tribal decks. What about the Death & Taxes matchup? I have tested this before and found that Urza’s Saga beats everything that they do outside a turn 2 Stoneforge into Kaldra. This means that maximizing Saga every turn and saving our removal for Stoneforge (or the Kaldra gem as our removal exiles) should be good enough. Post sideboard we can even destroy the Kaldra itself with Force of Vigor if we activate Shadowspear to make their permanents lose Indestructible. 

My testing session against Elves can be found here.

Dark Ritual Decks

I expected 6% of the winner’s meta to be on spell based combo (Storm or Doomsday) and this was pretty accurate as I ended up playing against these decks in 8% of my matches. Bant Lands is well suited to face these decks after sideboarding. We run a healthy mix of permanent based and spell based hate. For example against Doomsday we have the following relevant interaction:

  • Spell Based
    • 3 Endurance
    • 3 Flusterstorm
    • 4 Crop Rotation (for Ipnu).
  • Permanent Based
    • 1 Thran Foundry (+4 Saga to find it)
    • 1 Ipnu Rivulet (+7 ways to find it)
    • 4 Sphere effects + Wasteland

We also have a pretty decent clock with Constructs, Reclaimer and Marit Lage. It’s very hard for Doomsday players to build a pile that can beat Ipnu Rivulet and I therefore find that Lands have inevitability in the matchup. Unless we die on turn 1 or turn 2 then we will be able to find Ipnu and lock up the game. But if our opponent rushes then they play into our spell based interaction and can get destroyed by a timely Flusterstorm or Endurance.

I went 1-0 vs Doomsday and 1-0 vs Ruby Storm to a nice 100% winrate against this historical bad archetype. You can find my matches below: 

Other Decks

I played against “other decks” in 4 of my matches. I went 2-0 vs Cloudpost and 2-0 vs Lands. There is not much to say here really other than that Urza’s Saga has given us a new route to victory against these Crop Rotation decks. Saga is a safer kill than Marit Lage and I ended up going for that route in most games. I also think Prismatic Ending was excellent against Lands as a cheap way to remove a Mox Diamond or Exploration or Marit Lage.

You can find my matches here.

Conclusions

It is time to draw some conclusions from the experiment with Bant Lands. As I wrote in the introduction 24 matches is a very small sample size but when tuning magic decks we need to draw conclusions based on incomplete data as there is just not enough time to get large datasets. My conclusions here are therefore based on magic theory and backed up with the games that I have played these last few weeks. 

Hypothesis 1: I was worried about playing against the Blue-Zenit deck with RG Lands and my hope was that Swords to Plowshares would help in this matchup.

Conclusion: I don’t think that Swords to Plowshares is enough to swap the Blue-Zenit matchup. Sure, it helps but they are still favored against Bant Saga Lands. If we want to beat these decks then we need to play their game i.e. we cut Saga and play Reclaimer, Flagstones, Uro and Field of the Dead ourselves.

Hypothesis 2: I did not think that Planeswalkers would be popular and I was hoping that Constructs + Pithing Needle would be enough to combat walkers. Karn in particular felt horrible to play against but I was not predicting that card to be heavily played.

Conclusion: Planeswalkers were more popular than I had expected. Control decks started playing T3feri (that is amazing against Urza’s Saga) and Narset, and the Karn decks were more popular than I had anticipated. Constructs plus Needle do a decent job at combating walkers though. I love that Needle can shut off a walker before it hits play and this ensures for example that Karn won’t be able to tutor for Ensnaring Bridge before getting killed. I did play some Leagues with RG Lands (with Spellbomb instead of Needle) and I missed having access to Needle in these Leagues. It even turns out that I had a positive record vs Karn decks with Bant Lands. Punishing Fire would improve the situation vs walkers though and it seems good vs the deck with Narset, T3feri and Hullbreacher.

Hypothesis 3: I did not think that I would miss Punishing Fire against the Tribal decks but this remained to be seen.

Conclusion: We can beat Tribal decks with other strategies than recurring Punishing Fire. 

Hypothesis 4: Flusterstorm is the only card that I can think of that is good against TES, Show & Tell and Doomsday, and I expected Bant Lands to be better against spell based combo decks.

Conclusion: I felt favored vs spell based combo (including Doomsday) with Bant Saga Lands. Game 1 is awful but in the post sideboard games then we have a healthy mix of spell and permanent based hate, and we have plenty of tutors to find our hate. We also have a decent clock to back this up.

Hypothesis 5: Elvish Reclaimer felt great in the meta but I did not think that I would have room for Urza’s Saga and Reclaimer in the same deck. 

Conclusion: Elvish Reclaimer was the card that impressed me the most in Season 1 of Competitive Lands. He is great vs Daze decks and any deck that does not run removal (Elves, Madness, 8-Cast, etc). If we can protect him with Flusterstorm then he can also do major work against control decks ramping us towards Field of the Dead with Flagstones.

Next Season

I will be taking a break from the Competitive Lands Project while I plan Season 2. We just had a B&R announcement where Ragavan got the axe. I have posted my thoughts on what this menas for the Legacy meta, and I hope that you will come back and watch Season 2 when it starts in a few weeks time.

Thanks for reading!

Season 1 Recap

Here are all Episodes in Season 1 in case you missed something.

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