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 Post subject: Bant manipulation
PostPosted: Fri May 31, 2019 9:10 am 
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Sam Black wasn't kidding when he said it's the most powerful deck in Standard. I cast a Mass Manipulation for 6 (!) in my most recent league, prompting an instant concession.

Introduction
Bant manipulation is a deck that plays mana ramp into casting multiple Mass Manipulation and Hydroid Krasis as a way to go "over the top" of the opponent. It does some of the most powerful things in Standard, and has tools to answer most situations. I distinguish Bant manipulation from Simic manipulation (same strategy, drops white) and Bant ramp (GWb, which is mostly a Selesnya deck splashing for Hydroid Krasis).

I find the deck strong, with reasonable matchups against most decks and incidentally squashing all the fun decks that people try to play. I'm confident that a strong Bant manipulation list will reach 5 wins in Traditional Constructed (where the competition is weaker) more often than not.

Bant manipulation vs. Simic manipulation:
- With Bant, you have a weaker mana base. You might get all checkland hands for example, and might be forced to shock yourself sometimes (which can potentially also reveal that you're holding Frilled Mystic). You also have fewer forests for Nissa ultimate. You do not however have fewer green/blue sources, since the difference in manabase is simply switching some Forests for Temple Garden/Sunpetal Grove, some Islands for Hallowed Fountain/Glacial Fortress, etc.
- With Bant, you get a few powerful additions: Teferi, Time Reveler stops opponents from countering your spells (huge, since getting your 12-mana Mass Manipulation blown out by Dovin's Veto feels awful), Shalai, Voice of Plenty helps beat Thought Erasure (although Tamiyo does the same thing), and Lyra Dawnbringer / Trostani Discordant / Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves can have applications in various matchups as well.

Bant manipulation vs. Bant ramp:
- Here the difference is mostly what ramp payoffs you have. The big advantage of Bant ramp is that you can cast Finale of Glory on an empty board and be quite effective. Finale is also perfectly playable at 4-5 mana, while you can't even cast Manipulation. Further, Manipulation is not easy on mana costs; you might need your Paradise Druid/Incubation Druid to survive, which they might not.
- You also have Trostani & The Immortal Sun, which variously destroy certain decks.
- The big downside is, unless you cast Finale for 10+, they're just 2/2s and can be easily stonewalled. For example they can't even attack an enemy Nissa. You are also busted by Kaya's Wrath & Cry of the Carnarium.
- I like the Manipulation version more because Mass Manipulation is just really good if you can afford it.
- One thing to note is that if you can cast Finale for 10+, you can probably also cast Manipulation for 4+, which is probably going to win the game anyway.

For reference I used this 75 to reach mythic:

4 x Llanowar Elves

4 x Paradise Druid
4 x Incubation Druid
4 x Hydroid Krasis
2 x Entrancing Melody

4 x Teferi, Time Reveler

2 x Shalai, Voice of Plenty
3 x Mass Manipulation

4 x Nissa, Who Shakes the World

5 x Forest
1 x Island
4 x Glacial Fortress
4 x Hallowed Fountain
4 x Breeding Pool
4 x Hinterland Harbor
4 x Temple Garden


Sideboard:

2 x Thrashing Brontodon
2 x Negate
1 x Spell Pierce
2 x Ixalan's Binding
1 x The Immortal Sun
2 x Entrancing Melody
1 x Mass Manipulation
2 x Biogenic Ooze
2 x Lyra Dawnbringer


Core cards:
I believe these cards are core, and you shouldn't run fewer than 4x in your 75.

1. Llanowar Elves, Incubation Druid, Paradise Druid - mandatory ramp cards. If you want even more ramp you have Growth Spiral which is a much better late-game topdeck than Llanowar Elves & Paradise Druid too. However I would avoid running Growth Spiral instead of these mana dorks, because attacking enemy planeswalkers is important. Plus, sometimes you just won't have more lands to play Growth Spiral with.
2. Nissa, Who Shakes the World - Nissa does a lot for the deck. Untapping with her is huge because you can easily cast a Manipulation for 2+, or a Krasis for 8+. She also generates hasty attackers (with vigilance too) that can kill many enemy planeswalkers if they tick down. She's pretty close to a must-kill for the opponent.
3. Hydroid Krasis - Krasis is one of your best ramp payoffs. Gains life, generates value even if countered, flies, etc. It's not as good as Manipulation if you are losing badly, but in other situations it's the best card you can draw.
4. 26 lands. It's possible to go to 25 or 27 if you know what you're doing, but I would start with 26.
5. Entrancing Melody - this is the best card you have against aggressive strategies, but it's dead in some matchups. It's up to you if you want to run all of them main or put some in the sideboard. If you badly need space and are meeting control deck after control deck you could trim to 3 copies, but again: this is the card you most want to see against a variety of aggressive strategies.
6. Mass Manipulation - there's a genuine argument to have only 3 of this, but I would also start with 4. It's one of your best ramp payoffs and can dig you out of most situations.
7. Teferi, Time Reveler - a big part of the reason you're running Bant. Single-handedly wrecking counterspells is a big thing, and he provides tempo as well (which is also great since your deck wins the late-game against most decks). Four copies is standard.

Other cards
You can consider some of these cards in your 75.

1. Shalai, Voice of Plenty vs. Tamiyo, Collector of Tales - More on these two later. Whichever you run, 2 copies is the standard, although I can see running three if you mix the two.
2. Frilled Mystic - it's an inherent 2-for-1 that also has a decent amount of power (for attacking planeswalkers and threatening the opponent's life total). If you're ahead on the board Frilled Mystic is often decisive. Do remember you can pick up Frilled Mystic with Teferi which is pretty ridiculous. Frilled Mystic works best with other cards that you can cast at instant speed if the opponent doesn't play into your counterspell, in particular Incubation Druid & Chemister's Insight.
3. Chemister's Insight and Finale of Revelation - Card draw. More on this later.
4. The Immortal Sun - opponent has Teferi, Sarkahn, Kasmina and Karn in play vs. your empty board? For The Immortal Sun, that's no problem! I've been in super deep holes, then jam this card and opponent concedes at once. It's not easily removed either: Thrashing Brontodon, Bedevil, Despark, and Hostage Taker are the most common ways to remove the Sun, and even if opponent has them, they probably don't have 4 copies (especially in maindeck). With Sun on the battlefield superfriends decks are of course invalidated, and most midrange decks are also in trouble. However, it is a 6-mana card with effectively no enters-the-battlefield ability. If it's answered, you suffer a significant tempo loss. If you run this card, 2 copies in the 75 is common.
5. Ripjaw Raptor - a powerhouse against any deck relying on burn spells to remove creatures (Jeskai planeswalkers, monored and Phoenix). This also auto-draws vs.Legion Warboss and Goblin Chainwhirler. Simic versions tend to run 4x, but you might want fewer because with Bant you have other powerful options.
6. Lyra Dawnbringer - same as above, she's also effective against Feather decks and anything that's mostly grounded (such as Selesnya). A problem is that as a WW card you might not have the mana to cast her on curve.
7. Trostani Discordant - mostly for the mirror. It could seem that Trostani is good against e.g. white aggro decks, but be warned, Entrancing Melody is also huge in those matchups and Trostani will nullify your own Melodies. Melody is usually stronger than Trostani, especially since you probably already have 4 copies of Melody but not 4 copies of Trostani. Note that Trostani only rescues creatures, not planeswalkers - you can still Manipulation your opponent's planeswalkers freely with Trostani on the board.
8. Ixalan's Binding - unconditional removal if you need it. Prison Realm is mostly similar, but doesn't hit The Immortal Sun and doesn't have the secondary effect (which is important in some matchups). The one extra mana cost is something you can afford to pay more often than not.
9. Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves - dumps a fair amount of power, gains some life, removes a creature, is resistant to removal. She's at her best against aggressive decks, but competes with Lyra.
10. Negate & Spell Pierce - to sideboard against control. Although Dovin's Veto "sounds" better, you run Negate because you can play Nissa, +1 on a Breeding Pool, and still have Negate mana available.
11. Biogenic Ooze - this is a generically good card. However it's also not especially good against anything, and it's poor against certain cards (e.g. Shock, flyers, Deafening Clarion. I tend to think of Ooze as a never-dead-always-okay card that's also a hedge against Trostani, because it's one of the few ways you're beating Trostani in a fair fight.
12. Thrashing Brontodon - against some decks against which you need to get on the board quickly it's an okay blocker, against others it's your enchantment & artifact removal.
13. Baffling End - if you desperately need to remove creatures. There're only a few creatures for which you want this card: Runaway Steam-Kin, Thief of Sanity, Goblin Electromancer and Benalish Marshal spring to mind. Warning, there's a good chance you have problems producing the white mana to cast this on turn 2.
14. Carnage Tyrant - have not played with this card myself, but I've seen it being played. Generally an anti-control tool that forces opponent to sweep.
15. Deputy of Detention - another card I've not played, sounds good in practice especially against decks that don't have cheap removal (such as the mirror, white aggro).

Card discussion
Tamiyo vs. Shalai
These two cards overlap a little and are different otherwise. They're both 4 mana and protect against discard spells. Beyond that:
- Tamiyo is the stronger play if she's not under pressure. Tamiyo on an empty board is significantly better than Shalai on an empty board. The 3 damage is often irrelevant (unless you are attacking planeswalkers); your games don't come down to races.
- In addition to discard, Tamiyo protects against opponents making you sacrifice, e.g. Liliana, Dreadhorde General.
- On the other hand, Shalai completely stops the opponent from casting Thought Erasure. With Tamiyo, opponent can still cast it for the surveil & to see your hand.
- Shalai is a mana sink. This can potentially matter, although chances are good a Tamiyo activation (especially if you are ticking down) is better than sinking 6 mana into Shalai.
- Manipulation into Tamiyo rebuying Manipulation is backbreaking against most decks. There's an argument that this is win-more because after all you just cast Manipulation, but I don't agree. There's still value from pushing a game from 60% win to 90% won, and that's something Tamiyo can do but Shalai cannot.
- When you are under pressure, Shalai is much better than Tamiyo. In fact in certain aggressive matchups, Shalai is absurd (especially monored) while Tamiyo is actively poor.
- Having said that, there're also a lot of semi-aggressive matchups where Shalai just isn't very effective either. For example against White aggro, Shalai isn't a particularly good blocker. She blocks Arclight Phoenix, but not Crackling Drake (unless you sink 6 mana, but you typically can't afford that against the Phoenix deck). Of course, Tamiyo is also bad in these matchups.
- In the mirror, Shalai protects against Mass Manipulation. With Shalai on the board your opponent can still cast Manipulation, but there's only one target. Tamiyo is vulnerable to Manipulation, but is also effective in the mirror, because games often come down to who casts the last Manipulation and Tamiyo is effectively another Manipulation.
- Shalai provides hexproof to the rest of your creatures & planeswalkers, which can be incidentally very powerful (e.g. vs. The Elderspell).
- Shalai dies to Kaya's Wrath, Tamiyo does not.
- Incidentally, Shalai is buffed by Lyra (if you're running her).

I'm of opinion that if you know you're going to play against control decks, you want Tamiyo, but in a more wide-open metagame you're better off with Shalai since she's more consistent. You could however run Tamiyo in the sideboard if you have space.

Card draw
This concerns Chemister's Insight & Finale of Revelation. Part of the problem with ramp decks is that if you draw the wrong half of your deck then your deck doesn't work. Card draw solves the issue of "what if I draw all the ramp and none of the payoffs". Chemister's Insight also plays well with Frilled Mystic, since if opponent doesn't play anything into Mystic you can play Insight instead. However card draw is rather win-more because if you can afford to use mana on drawing, you're probably not under pressure, and if you're not under pressure you're probably winning. Control decks also run card draw, but you don't work as well with card draw because you don't have sweepers like they do. You stabilize by playing Melody & Manipulation, and if you managed to do that and still not be under pressure, you're probably winning.

I'm of opinion one should not run these cards unless one is using the Sam Black version (which goes all-in on resolving a big Manipulation with both Tamiyo & 27 lands). If we look at published lists, typically only the Simic versions run these spells. Bant versions have more generically good cards that can replace the card draw, although I admit I sometimes find myself hoping for these spells when I flood (of course, there're also times when I mana screw and would very much not want to see these cards either).

Land count
I mentioned earlier 26 lands is the starting point, but recently there've been decks going down to 25. I have yet to try this. A danger with 25 lands is that it becomes more difficult to board out mana dorks, which you might want to do in some matchups because they're not effective (e.g. against control decks, when they're vulnerable to sweepers).

Sam Black wrote in his article that he's confident 28 lands is better than 26. The way I understand this is that in his preferred list, he has both 3 copies of Tamiyo and 2 copies of Finale of Revelation. If you're running these then you want more lands because these two cards dig for Manipulation, which is superb with all your mana. However the real question is whether you can durdle for so long. If you're under pressure then both Tamiyo and Finale are actively poor, and then Sam Black's version of the deck might not work very well.

General sideboard plans
I'm not confident in some of these sideboard plans, and I doubt anyone is, because nobody has enough sample size and there're many different ways to build certain decks which also demand different sideboard plans.

Note sometimes you don't sideboard much because your mainboard plan is so strong.

MonoR
+ Entrancing Melody, Ripjaw Raptor, Shalai, Thrashing Brontodon (answers Experimental Frenzy), anything that gains life
- some Mass Manipulation (to lower curve), Tamiyo, slow stuff that don't win the game quickly (e.g. The Immortal Sun, Frilled Mystic). If you still need more room 3-mana Teferi is also not particularly good since most of their cards have ETB effects, and you can cut some 1-health mana dorks as well because of Chainwhirler, or even a land (especially on the draw).

With Shalai on the board, Chandra can only ping herself and you can freely attack into her. Without Shalai on the board I usually ignore Chandra unless she's about to ultimate - attacking her is painful. The turn you cast Shalai, you can usually feel safe not blocking with her, because as long as she's in play the red deck effectively has no reach (Chainwhirler still does 1, though). Untapping with Shalai often makes your position very solid. Do remember she can still die to Lava Coil & Fight with Fire.

Tolsimir & Lyra are also very effective in this matchup. If you ever untap with Lyra, strongly consider attacking - gaining 5 life is huge.

MonoW
+ Entrancing Melody, Brontodon, Lyra & Tolsimir, etc. Deputy of Detention permanently answers all their tokens. Ooze is acceptable but not great - by the time you play Ooze, 3/3 blockers probably aren't sufficient.
- some Mass Manipulation (to lower curve), slow stuff that don't win the game quickly (e.g. The Immortal Sun, Frilled Mystic, Shalai if you have better options), some Nissa because 3/3s don't match up well against their threats.

Plan is simple, steal all their stuff until they run out of gas. Do consider that sometimes you'll want to trade your mana dorks with their 1-drops just to keep a possible Loxodon off the field. You bring in Brontodon because their removal is enchantment-based.

Esper
I'm grouping them together because Esper control and Esper hero are kind of blurring together.

+ Anything grindy, such as Tamiyo, all your Mass Manipulations, Negate & Spell Pierce, The Immortal Sun, Carnage Tyrant.
- Entrancing Melody (you can keep some against the hero versions, but against control, right now, expect them to have no creatures at all postboard until proven otherwise), anything that's vulnerable to 1-to-1 removal (e.g. Lyra). You could board out a few mana dorks because you can expect them to have Kaya's Wrath and Cry of the Carnarium postboard. If so take out Incubation Druid because you need the other two to attack their planeswalkers.

If you see Thief of Sanity then keep in some Melodies, or Trostani if you have her (this works also against Hostage Taker). This is a matchup in which you don't want to play out all your lands because you might need something to discard to Basilica Bell-Haunt.

The Esper matchup has felt pretty even to me, although it's very possible either side snowballs the game quickly. Tamiyo is better than Shalai in this matchup, and Shalai's actively embarrassing against 3-mana Teferi, but you still need to keep Shalai in if you're running her because she stops Thought Erasure and is not easy to kill (among the commonly-played removal, only Kaya's Wrath & Vraska's Contempt kill her permanently).

I'm unsure about whether Ixalan's Binding is good in this matchup. I'm leaning no because it can after all be bounced by 3-mana Teferi, but it's also one of your few ways to immediately kill an opponent planeswalker and hedges against Thief of Sanity.

Remember in this matchup that you can +1 Nissa but not animate a land (because they die to Kaya's Wrath), something you might want to do if there's no planeswalker to attack. Also remember that there's a good chance they have Command the Dreadhorde in their deck, so if you can, pressure their life total. Even a few points of damage might be crucial.

Jeskai planeswalkers
+ Anything grindy, Ripjaw Raptor, Negate, The Immortal Sun, if you have more space add Lyra (they can't easily remove her, although they can bounce her).
- Entrancing Melody, some mana dorks for the same reason as against Esper, Biogenic Ooze (dies to Clarion the turn it comes down). Shalai is not effective as well, especially if you see Lava Coil.

Do remember that any deck with sweepers can seriously punish you for animating Nissa lands.

Bant ramp
I hope you have anti-Trostani cards, because otherwise you're in serious trouble.

+ All your anti-Trostani cards. Ooze, Carnage Tyrant, Lyra even Ripjaw Raptor are all cards that can win you the game through a Trostani. The Immortal Sun also works. I usually bring in some Negate as well both to counter their Nissa and big Finales.
- Entrancing Melody (if no Trostani, these are some of your best cards, but if there is a Trostani they're just dead), some Manipulation (you can still steal planeswalkers, but if no planeswalker & opponent has Trostani they're also dead). Shalai is not good but you might not have alternatives, and she does fly over their mostly-ground deck.

I'm unsure again about Ixalan's Binding. It can potentially permanently answer Trostani and also hedges against The Immortal Sun, but they also have 3-mana Teferi to bounce it. I'm also unsure about Tolsimir - being able to kill opponent's mana dorks is a big deal, and you're usually happy to trade the token for an enemy Nissa land, but she's nullified by Shalai and isn't effective otherwise compared to other 5-drops (Ooze, even Lyra).

Bant manipulation
Hard to tell how to sideboard here. It's obvious what cards are good, not nearly as obvious what cards to board out.

+ Entrancing Melody, Mass Manipulation, Tamiyo, Negate, Ixalan's Binding, The Immortal Sun
- Biogenic Ooze; it's not bad, it's just not as good. You could shave some Frilled Mystic especially if on the draw. Beyond that I don't know what to sideboard out. If you have ideas let me know.

Aggressively take their mana dorks with Melody if given the chance; not only does that make your payoffs stronger, it makes theirs weaker. Remember too that Melody takes Krasis for 2 mana regardless of how big it is. Ixalan's Binding might not sound that good, but I've been on the receiving end of a binding on Krasis/Nissa. Suddenly half my ramp payoffs are gone, and it feels awful. It's true Binding on Nissa can be (temporarily) negated by 3-mana Teferi, but I'd have to draw Teferi and it's coming back the turn after anyway. Binding also answers The Immortal Sun in a situation where you don't want to play Brontodon.

Shalai has the odd property of sometimes being great and sometimes being really bad. If opponent has Mass Manipulation then Shalai is huge - no matter how much mana opponent has he can still only take one card. But Shalai is also one of the most lucrative Entrancing Melody targets, and is vulnerable to Teferi bounce to boot. I don't know.

Don't know about Spell Pierce as well. Sometimes it's great, but when both players are generating this much mana it becomes dead really fast.

Boros Feather
Weird matchup. I initially thought it was great because Entrancing Melody is absurd against them, now I'm not so sure.

+ Entrancing Melody, Ixalan's Binding, Lyra (they can't easily remove her), Ripjaw Raptor
- Shalai, Ooze, some Nissa, some Manipulation (to lower curve)

Their deck needs Feather to beat you; if they don't draw her or you Ixalan's Binding/Entrancing Melody her, you're usually in good shape. Take out Shalai because although she's an okay blocker, dying to Reckless Rage is a major problem.

Bring in Raptor because it's hard for them to remove, plus they often sideboard in Legion Warboss against you. Not sure about Tolsimir; she kills Dreadhorde Arcanist but she's not particularly effective otherwise, and missing the kill on Feather is a problem.

I'm not sure about boarding out Nissa, but it kind of makes sense because they have no planeswalkers for you to attack, and they can attack into Nissa very well (even if their creatures don't fly, it's risky to block with your Nissa lands because they probably have tricks). Likely wouldn't take out all four copies of Nissa simply because she synergizes so well with your deck, but taking out ~2 copies makes sense. Also not sure about taking out some Teferi. On the one hand he looks great - shuts off combat tricks and their creatures are vulnerable to bounce. On the other hand you're likely to be behind on the board, in which case he's poor. I genuinely don't know. If you have ideas let me know.

Dreadhorde
+ Mass Manipulation, Negate, Entrancing Melody, The Immortal Sun
- Shalai, some Teferi

Here's yet another deck I'm not sure how to sideboard against. It's clear what cards are good, but not so clear what cards to take out. Shalai is definitely poor, but beyond that it's hard to say what to cut. Teferi is great tempo against them, but not that effective otherwise. The Immortal Sun mostly wins the game if it resolves since they can't remove it and half their gameplan revolves around planeswalkers.

They seem to have stopped playing Massacre Girl, although if you see that card you probably want to cut some mana dorks.

The plan is to take all their creatures and counter the Dreadhorde, though it's often not lethal even if they resolve Dreadhorde because Manipulation "counters" it. If you see both explore creatures and 4x Teferi, consider cutting Frilled Mystic as well because it'll be hard to attack Teferi off the board.

Nexus
+ Thrashing Brontodon, Negate & Spell Pierce, Tamiyo
- some Hydroid Krasis, Entrancing Melody, anything that costs a lot of mana that doesn't win the game quickly (e.g. Shalai). Potentially cut some Mass Manipulation as well.

Bant versions have a hugely easier time against this deck because of Teferi. Post-board you focus on never letting them untap with Reclamation, and just beat them down otherwise. Depending on whether you see planeswalkers from them (Narset, Tamiyo, Nissa) consider cutting Manipulation as well.

Gruul
+ Entrancing Melody, Lyra, Ripjaw Raptor
- Frilled Mystic, Shalai, Teferi (?)

It's very possible they snowball you out especially with Domri, but you can also steal all their stuff and grind them out.

I'm not convinced that The Immortal Sun is a worthy inclusion here because they're pretty fast. In the same vein you want all your counterspells out. 3-mana Teferi is less effective than usual because they have a ton of haste creatures. Shalai is not good because she doesn't block well, and you can expect them to have Lava Coil postboard.

Phoenix
+ Ixalan's Binding, Lyra
- Frilled Mystic, some Nissa

Binding on their Crackling Drake is huge because they can't remove it and it's the main way they win. Aside from that if you see Electromancer you can consider bringing in kill spells (Baffling End, Tolsimir although it's pretty slow). Nissa is not so good because the lands can't attack well, and you can't block their flyers well either. Although he's not at his best, you still need Teferi because they still play counterspells, and he's devastating against Finale.

Try to cast Krasis at 4 or (preferably) 5 power so it lives through Lava Coil & can trade with their Drakes.

Although as ever there's a small sample size issue, I'm pretty confident this is a bad matchup. The fact their heavy hitters fly is bad enough, but they can also bring in Entrancing Melody which is a strong card vs. you. If you really hate this deck, you could bring in some anti-flyer cards e.g. Forced Landing, Kraul Harpooner.

Grixis
+ Negate, Tamiyo, Carnage Tyrant. The Immortal Sun is still okay, but they have Bedevil which answers it efficiently.
- some mana dorks (gets worse against their sweepers), some Teferi (?), some Entrancing Melody

Play around sweepers and steal their planeswalkers. Be careful with the Dispersal half of Discovery//Dispersal since it's one of their few ways to permanently kill your stuff. if you see Disinformation Campaign, consider Ixalan's Binding. I'm actually not sure if Binding is good enough against their deck regardless because they can't easily remove it. Teferi is not as good as normal because there isn't much to bounce. You probably don't want all four copies of Melody either, unless you see Thief of Sanity, Nicol Bolas, the Ravager and God-Eternal Kefnet.

Tips

- During mulligans you're looking for ramp. I'm in favor of mulliganing most 7-card hands that don't have acceleration. Exceptions are if you already know the matchup and are holding haymakers, e.g. if you have 2x Entrancing Melody against white aggro (and the mana to cast them). I'm generally happy to keep lands with ramp but not payoff.
- Be careful about which lands you animate with Nissa because animated lands are vulnerable to removal (especially Deafening Clarion). Don't animate blue lands if you only have 3 blue sources because you need UUUU to cast Mass Manipulation. As long as Nissa is on the battlefield, you can still cast Mass Manipulation with 3 blue lands, but not if one of them dies.
- On the other hand, animating a Forest (which includes green shocklands) gives you an extra mana. Be sure to factor that in with your calculations. It's possible you won't be able to use the extra mana this turn, but you don't have to feel bad about that if you have other Forests to animate (you can only animate one Forest per turn anyway so you don't lose anything on the big Mass Manipulation/Krasis turn).
- Your Nissa animated lands have vigilance. Don't forget to attack with them simply because there's often no drawback to doing so. However you can potentially lose mana. The sequencing that gets you the most mana is tap, animate, tap again; you can't attack if you do this.
- Especially early in the game, consider simply not casting spells so you can adapt Incubation Druid. For example with a board of 3 lands, Druid and Llanowar Elves, you are almost surely better off adapting the Druid than casting a Krasis for 2 & hitting for 1 damage with Llanowar Elves.
- You can block with Incubation Druid, then tap it for mana to adapt it.
- Later in the game, consider adapting Incubation Druid and then tapping it for mana on the same turn. Adapting effectively costs 3 mana in that case.
- If given the choice, you usually want to play Paradise Druid before Incubation Druid on turn 2. This is so you get a guaranteed use, plus the possibility of attacking a planeswalker for damage. Exception is vs. Goblin Chainwhirler.
- Think before attacking with Paradise Druid. Even if you have nothing else to do, it's possible the hexproof is more important than 2 damage. As a ramp deck your matches seldom come to races; if the opponent killing your Druid means you can't cast Nissa the turn after, the 2 damage is very much not worth it.
- Count your mana before casting a big X spell. Remember to factor in Nissa animates, Nissa's passive, and potentially The Immortal Sun. I still get this wrong quite often (after playing a lot of games with the deck) so no shame if you get it wrong too. In the worst case scenario, tap your lands and count the mana before casting the spell.
- Don't just sink all your mana into Krasis. An important line in a postboard game against control decks is, sink all but two mana, just in case you draw Negate. Also, there's no much difference between an 8/8 Krasis and 10/10 Krasis. Consider you might have to discard if you draw too many cards.
- If you're running Tamiyo, considering ticking down with her the turn you play her. Mass Manipulation into Tamiyo rebuying Manipulation is crushing against most decks.
- Remember an adapted Incubation Druid + land cannot let you cast Frilled Mystic.
- Check the way Arena taps lands for you, because they're often subpar. For example to cast Nissa you want to tap your Llanowar Elves, but the autotapper will tap your green lands.

"Original text"


Last edited by Banedon on Tue Jun 25, 2019 6:44 am, edited 10 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 02, 2019 1:06 am 
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I've experimented with the deck a little bit and agree on very many points.

I am actually trying out the Bant version; the main selling point for me is that Teferi protects Mass Manip against counterspells so you don't need Frilled Mystic maindeck (I'm with you that the card doesn't fit here).
That's also my main diference from Juza's Bant list: Instead of the Frilled Mystics I'm running land number 27 (1-of Memorial of Genius) and two Growth Spiral (the deck was running 0 beforehand).

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 02, 2019 10:16 am 
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Agree - getting your 12-mana Mass Manipulation countered by Dovin's Veto is a bad feeling. You can work around it, but the tempo loss is still dramatic, especially if you're being beaten down by a Thief of Sanity (a card that's really poor against Teferi too). Will try the Bant version next.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 03, 2019 5:25 am 
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Okay, tried some Bant and not a fan. The white cards aren't bad, but the damage to the manabase is huge. Now I regularly I have to do things like use Nissa's +1 on a white source with the risk of opponent killing the land -> stranding all my white cards, or similar for the UUUU Mass Manipulation. Straight Simic has its problems, but it'll have to do.

Speaking of which I think I understand better why people are putting Frilled Mystic into their decks. The point is: you have free slots, and what else are you going to run?

More ramp? That fills your deck with even more air.
Biogenic Ooze? It's not great in quite a few matchups. Serviceable, but not great.
Ugin? As mentioned in OP, it's not a particularly good card either.
Tamiyo? It's an okay card but not universally applicable. There's a good chance 3 copies is too many.
Ripjaw Raptor? This card's actively embarrassing against some decks, such as anything with little Teferi.
4th Entrancing Melody? Same as the above, it's dead against some decks.
Finale of Revelation? Too many of this card is also dangerous because usually you are mana constrained, not card constrained. 2 copies might already be pushing it.

I'm confident that if the deck could play e.g. 6 Hydroid Krasis, it would. But as it is there's a big gulf in quality between the best ramp payoffs and everything else, and at that point, one might want to run Frilled Mystic. The deck is I think still a work in progress, more thought needs to go into how to minimize the bad cards.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 04, 2019 1:02 am 
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What about Jadelight Ranger? Hits your land drops when you need them, bins your manadorks lategame

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 04, 2019 7:36 am 
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Worth a try, using this list at the moment but can potentially switch out some cards:

4 x Llanowar Elves

4 x Paradise Druid
4 x Incubation Druid
1 x Growth Spiral
3 x Entrancing Melody
4 x Hydroid Krasis

4 x Mass Manipulation
1 x Tamiyo, Collector of Tales

2 x Biogenic Ooze
4 x Nissa, Who Shakes The World

2 x The Immortal Sun

4 x Breeding Pool
4 x Hinterland Harbor
1 x Memorial to Genius
10 x Forest
8 x Island


Sideboard:

1 x Tamiyo, Collector of Tales
4 x Negate
4 x Thrashing Brontodon
4 x Ripjaw Raptor
1 x Entrancing Melody
1 x In Bolas's Clutches


- Oozes maindeck since it's at least reasonable in most matchups. Putting it maindeck saves some sideboard space. Some Oozes in the 75 would be at least a hedge against Trostani, too. Together with Krasis (they should be weak to flyers) and The Immortal Sun, this deck should be reasonably good against Trostani without being gimped in other matchups.
- One Growth Spiral because I had one free slot and just wanted some kind of filler. It was this or the 28th land. It's possible Finale of Revelation is better, but I already have a lot of mana sinks and rarely have the mana to do everything I want.
- Two The Immortal Sun which is more a trial than anything. I have 5 planeswalker cards but Tamiyo isn't crucial, Nissa's passive continues to work, and like with Selesnya tokens, it should be the case that even with my own planeswalkers turned off, if the Sun sticks I'm going to win. The cost reduction on spells should matter with all the X-spells as well.
- One argument against TIS, mentioned by Martin Juza, is that it makes your Mass Manipulation worse. I'm unconvinced. Since their planeswalkers aren't a threat anymore, you can aim your Mass Manipulation at their creatures instead. Worst case scenario, you can still take control of their planeswalkers since they're not going to win unless they answer the Sun, and once they do they also unlock all their planeswalkers (now under your control).
- In Bolas's Clutches is here as a backup mind control effect that happens to hit planeswalkers. It's effectively the same as Mass Manipulation for 1, which does happen a fair amount. I'm not maindecking it though because plenty of decks can kill enchantments (Mortify) or at least stall it (little Teferi). One copy both for space reasons and because it's legendary.
- This deck would be so bad if it weren't for Teferi, Time Reveler. Without that card, counterspells would be playable, and this deck would be in trouble.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 04, 2019 11:10 am 
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Inmoral Sun makes no sense IMO

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 04, 2019 5:34 pm 
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Immoral Sons :D

More seriously, what makes you say that? The Sun's +1/+1 effect isn't at its best here, but the other effects are still there, and drawing two cards a turn gives inevitability. I just played my first game where the Sun mattered, and it was more or less the only card that could've won the game - against an Esper opponent with two Teferis and who had just cast Kaya's Wrath during my attack step. Other 6-drops like Mass Manipulation or Ugin would've helped narrow the gap, but opponent 1) was so far ahead and 2) had answers e.g. The Elderspell in their list. Of course I can't draw conclusions based on only one game, but still. I can see it as being a potential liability though. Against opponents with Hostage Taker I'd probably sideboard it out. Aside from Hostage Taker what other artifact removal is there? There's Deputy of Detention, but that's not as threatening because they can't cast the Sun for themselves. There's Dovin's Veto of course, but other more specialized answers such as Thrashing Brontodon would be dangerous to sideboard in against this deck simply because there aren't targets otherwise.

On another note it seems like Mortify has fallen out of the meta. In the same game against Esper control, I searched up the latest lists and it seems like there isn't a single Mortify in the 75. Actually boarded in In Bolas's Clutches against that, still might not have been a good idea because of little Teferi & big Teferi. I also brought in the Clutches against a Nexus deck, didn't notice it can actually steal Azcanta the Sunken Ruin.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 06, 2019 7:13 am 
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Two quick notes, In Bolas's Clutches is crap. I thought there'd be more decks without enchantment removal, but it turns out many, many decks have ways to remove it: Assassin's Trophy, Deputy of Detention, little Teferi, big Teferi, Ixalan's Binding, etc. The only mainstream deck that seems fully vulnerable to it is monored, and it's not a good sideboard card there for obvious reasons. That gives me one free slot in the sideboard which I'm currently using Pelakka Wurm for, but conceivably Carnage Tyrant is better.

Also trying out Simic Locket in place of the Growth Spiral in the above list, no opinion on it yet.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 06, 2019 7:42 am 
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Immoral son turns off Nissa’s triggered ability... sure you can still ramp but IME -playing against this deck- more often than not Nissa steals the game by jamming up the board with 3/3’s and protecting her self.
Growth Spiral sounds more consistent.
EDIT: I HATE THIS DECK!!
I´m seriously considering Trostani in my proliferate deck just to counter Mass Manipulation… PLAY YOUR OWN DAMN CARDS!!!
:P

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 10, 2019 7:41 am 
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Problem with Growth Spiral is that using it when you have no lands in hand (happens quite a bit) is depressing. Also I'm not so convinced about Nissa's +1. Turning lands into creatures means you die horribly to sweepers, and blocking with them means you have less mana available the next turn. Don't get me wrong, Nissa is a good card, but I think her static ability wins more games than her +1 (although her +1 is critical in e.g. attacking opponent's planeswalkers).

A few more thoughts on the deck as well:

- The Bant version has placed highly in several tournaments now. Examples:

https://www.mtggoldfish.com/archetype/s ... 6334#paper -- uses Finale of Glory as win con, has Trostani & The Immortal Sun
https://www.mtgtop8.com/event?e=22155&d=349933&f=ST -- more conventional deck with Simic Manipulation base adding white for the standard stuff (Shalai, Tolsimir, Teferi)

Conversely the Simic version doesn't seem to have top finishes. RIP.

- I suppose a big part of that is because Simic has two massive weaknesses: it's weak to counterspells, in particular Dovin's Veto, and it's unable to remove enemy creatures. Many of the creatures don't matter or can be answered with Entrancing Melody (only 4 copies though), but facing the likes of Hostage Taker and Runaway Steam-Kin is a major problem.
- I gave Bant a try and although I think the mana issues are solvable, running Bant also means you lack raw power. The Immortal Sun is a much stronger ramp payoff than Tolsimir if you don't need to remove something. So is Biogenic Ooze. Tamiyo has much higher upside than Shalai, etc. I will probably keep trying different Bant lists though. It seems intuitive that there is more room to improve in Bant, while the Simic lists are at the point of maxing out in performance.
- Finally Simic Locket is, eh. It's very rare that the casting cost matters (it effectively only costs two as well, since the turn you play it you can tap it). However actually cracking it for cards is just as rare. That means it's effectively just a ramp spell with all the standard positives (doesn't die to sweepers, not easy to kill) and negatives (can't attack planeswalkers). I doubt it's better than the twelve standard mana dorks, but if one is running more ramp than 12 cards then sure.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 12, 2019 7:15 am 
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Ok, spent some time playing Bant ramp (https://article.hareruyamtg.com/article/27544/?lang=en). This list is different in the sense that it just gives up on the heavy UUUU requirement for Mass Manipulation, and runs Finale of Glory as a win con instead.

Overall I'm not impressed. It feels like it plays too many weak cards. For example against Rekindling Phoenix and Crackling Drake, Shalai is weak as hell. Trostani isn't usually good either - she hoses other Manipulation strategies, but the effect just isn't powerful enough standalone and without other synergies (sure she buffs your mana creatures of which you should have a few, but those aren't exactly creatures you're happy to trade away). And then there's Finale of Glory, which is certainly reasonable - for four mana it can put 4 points of power & toughness on the board, and they're vigilant too. However they are just 2/2 tokens. You still can't attack into e.g. an enemy Nissa, and while they can't attack either, it's not like you are winning after casting the Finale. Comparatively you would be so very happy indeed to cast Mass Manipulation on that same Nissa. Finale for 12 or more is very likely to win you the game, but for that same 12 mana you can also cast Manipulation for 4, and that's also going to win you the game.

It is possible I'm having these issues because the meta in Traditional Constructed is quite different from in ranked; however not being able to beat up on fringe decks isn't reassuring.

Having said all that I do think Bant is the way forward for the deck. The weaknesses are too pronounced otherwise. It's just a question of tuning the lists.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 14, 2019 8:30 am 
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Tried Bant again, and crashed again. I can't explain it very well but for some reason the deck just doesn't work as well for me. It's possible I'm just bad with the Bant version, also possible it's because the Bant version dilutes the deck from its core purpose.

Take Shalai for example. Why is it here? Presumably because it gives you hexproof, which improves your monored matchup. It also helps against Thought Erasure decks. However against everything else, Shalai is just bad. She's not unplayably bad but she's still just a vanilla 3/4 flyer that doesn't do much. Playing Shalai onto an empty board is just not as powerful as playing Tamiyo. And then there's 3-mana Teferi, who's the biggest draw to Bant. Again he's not actively bad, but he doesn't advance your gameplan either - he just stops the opponent from interacting. That makes him sort of like Negate & Dovin's Veto, which are not cards this deck would maindeck.

Honestly Bant Manipulation is reminding me of Sultai Nexus from last season. Sultai seemed like it would be great, with Ritual of Soot to help keep you alive and Thought Erasure to stop opponents from stopping your combo, but it turned out awful, because neither card actually helps you win - they just help you to not lose.

idk.


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 16, 2019 1:46 pm 
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You've read this?

I took the list from Martin Juza for a very short spin and it seems fine. The only white card in his MB is Teferi, which costs you some copies of Chemister's Insight / Growth Spiral, both of which are lackluster these days. Teferi fills a hole in the 3-drop-slot so you get something in between dorks and super-expensive finishers.

I didn't craft the Rares from his SB, so instead of the three Ripjaw Raptors and Entrancing Melody #4 I went with 2 Shalai and 2 Thorn Lieutenant. 11/15 SB-cards are for RDW anyway and these cards fill that role, too. Not sure if the Raptor is even better than Shalai there, I doubt it. Oketra would be another option, but you have to respect Rekindling Phoenix vs RDW post-board and before you get to a large enough Krasis, a Shalai can make a difference. Though I'd try and maintain her hexproof static and live through 4 a turn from the Phoenix.

What non-RDW decks are you having trouble with?

Not that I could be of great help with ~2-4 hours a week of game-time :D


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 17, 2019 7:32 am 
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Yeah I read it. It's nice to have landed on the best (?) archetype in Standard before it broke out like that. I'm totally behind Bant as well for reasons given above: Bant fixes the deck's biggest weaknesses, and the deck has some free slots. Cards like the ones you mentioned - Chemister's Insight & Growth Spiral - aren't bad, but they're absolutely filler. I think you're spot on with how the white cards fill gaps in the curve as well.

Ripjaw Raptors are, as far as I can tell, sideboard cards vs. monored and Jeskai planeswalkers. They are also acceptable against white aggro. I'm not a fan of Thorn Lieutenant since the 2-drop slot is already heavily crowded, and this card is only worth the sideboard slot against monored (it's not even a haymaker there). I'd sooner have Baffling End against monored to be honest, since killing the Runaway Steam-Kin is a big deal. I would certainly run as many Shalais & Raptors as I have space for postboard against monored; Shalai simply does so much in that matchup. As for Oketra, she definitely doesn't deserve a slot - that card is for midrange decks; in this one, you want cards to sink mana into, and your 5-mana+ cards are already so damn impressive.

About bad matchups, RDW isn't that bad actually because the sideboard cards are so strong. The single worst matchup is probably Phoenix simply because their creatures fly. Against the others ... it comes down to who executes their plan better. I don't dislike the matchup against any of them, but don't get the feeling any of them are very favored either.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 20, 2019 7:51 am 
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I tried Bant yet again and this time it's working well. Can't really figure out why, maybe I just got better with the deck. I've also put two copies of Frilled Mystics back in. Being able to hold up Frilled Mystic - a counterspell that can't be countered by Dovin's Veto to boot - to protect a winning position is a nice option to have, plus I've won several games with Teferi picking up Frilled Mystic already.

Might update OP into a full primer one of these days.

The archetype is extremely strong. https://www.channelfireball.com/article ... 1558684368 Check that out - the win rate is by far the highest, at 64.4%.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 20, 2019 9:46 am 
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Just wanted to chime in on the topic of SB-considerations regarding Thorn Lieutenant and Baffling End.

I can follow your logic that I'd rather get rid of a Steamkin than put a Thorn Lieutenant in front of it. But if you also say "we don't need more 2-drops" then why not replace Baffling End with one of the other white exile options:

a) Ixalan's Binding: pro: hits more targets and also prevents future Steamkins; con: more expensive and in case of removal Steamkin comes back
b) Conclave Tribunal: pro: hits more targets; con: potentially more expensive and removal -> Steamkin comes back
c) Prison Realm: pro: hits more targets, scry; con: more expensive and again removal -> Steamkin comes back

So while Baffling End is the only one that kills Steamkin for good (they can only get a 3/3 collateral back), RDW doesn't run Enchantment-removal. And then I would expect the ability to hit PWs and Phoenixes to be big game.

This is all just theoretical - no games during the week ;)


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 Post subject: Re: Bant manipulation
PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2019 3:54 am 
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Reached mythic, OP updated but lots of question marks and I am not sure how to sideboard in a lot of (most?) matchups.


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 Post subject: Re: Bant manipulation
PostPosted: Wed Jun 26, 2019 2:24 pm 
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This may not be relevant, but I'm surprised you're not using wilderness reclamation. I've been using a build that is sorta like simic nexus without the nexus...I just try to abuse all the extra mana from wilderness rec and then play sorceries like mass manip or finale of glory on my opp's end step. Being able to untap after a big mass manip is the only way I would consider using the card, but hey, if it got you to mythic power to you.

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 Post subject: Re: Bant manipulation
PostPosted: Wed Jun 26, 2019 3:17 pm 
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niatpac wrote:
This may not be relevant, but I'm surprised you're not using wilderness reclamation. I've been using a build that is sorta like simic nexus without the nexus...I just try to abuse all the extra mana from wilderness rec and then play sorceries like mass manip or finale of glory on my opp's end step. Being able to untap after a big mass manip is the only way I would consider using the card, but hey, if it got you to mythic power to you.


Wilderness Reclamation is only good if you can basically cast your entire deck at instant speed to make use of the absurd amounts of mana that multiple untaps give you. This does absolutely not apply here, as even with a Teferi out you still have WAY too many too important cards you cannot play at instant speed (Nissa, Teferi, Krasis, manadorks (which are another huge detriment to Reclamation, since Reclamation doesn't untap those)).

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