Thank you, Jack Rumpf. If you don’t know who that is, don’t worry, you will shortly! Jack indirectly supplied me with a list of 75 that I played card for card at the Pro Tour Theros Qualifier this past Saturday at the Gaming Pit to a first place finish.
The list I played was first talked about in Jack’s article for TCG Player which can be found here. I read this article the day it was posted and my sideways-card-turning brain immediately fell in love. Look at that interaction! In an agro deck! As if I needed any more massaging to ensure that this was the list I would play at the PTQ, Wil Haas made 17th place at SCG Richmond with a similar list which you can find here. My decision had been made.
It was Cloudfin or bust.
[d title="Rapid Hybridization Bant" style="embedded"]
4 Cloudfin Raptor
4 Experiment One
4 Geist of Saint Traft
4 Strangleroot Geist
4 Voice of Resurgence
2 Young Wolf
2 Call of the Conclave
2 Feeling of Dread
4 Rapid Hybridization
2 Rootborn Defenses
3 Selesnya Charm
1 Simic Charm
4 Breeding Pool
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Hinterland Harbor
4 Sunpetal Grove
4 Temple Garden
2 Dryad Militant
4 Nearheath Pilgrim
3 Ray of Revelation
2 Scavenging Ooze
4 Spell Rupture
I remember first showing the list excitedly to my friends who knew I had been dying to find any excuse to play Bant for several months. I could tell they didn’t take the list or my immediate affection for it seriously:
“You’re going to give up Jund for that list?”
“Yeah…looks cute…you only like it for the frog-lizard tokens, right?”
I won’t say that their responses weren’t justified; this is not a deck that has been widely seen (besides some online play, Jack’s success at Ohio States and Wil’s near miss of the top 16 in Richmond,) and it really doesn’t resonate until you play it or see it played, similarly to the first time you see Aristocrats in action. I can’t say this with certainty, but I am almost positive I was the only player out of a field of 200 that played any version of this deck. If you play competitive Magic, I don’t have to tell you that playing a deck that no one has seen or knows how to play against can be a powerful advantage. I really feel that this advantage was the reason I did so well with Rapid Bant.
With that being said, here’s a recap of how the tournament went down:
Round 1, Naya midrange 2-1:
This matchup is actually a little scary for me because Boros Reckoner can be pretty powerful against this deck. He won game one, and I almost immediately regretted my decision to play this deck. Game two he was downed pretty handily by a 4/5 Cloudfin and a Geist of St. Traft. Game three I got off to a fast start and had lethal on board but he dropped two Reckoners and I could no longer attack him without losing half my board. I drew a land and my hand now consisted of Rancor, Selesnya Charm and a Breeding Pool. I had a 3/3 Experiment One, 3/2 Strangle Root, and a 3/3 Frog Lizard. I contemplated dropping a Rancor on one Reckoner and Selesnya Charming it, but I decided I didn’t want to lose a creature just to get 6 damage in (he was at 11 or 12 I think.) So I played the Breeding Pool tapped and passed turn. He drew and passed, missing a land drop. At this point I decided it might be worth it to Rancor/Charm one Reckoner but I drew a Feeling of Dread on my turn, tapped both Reckoners, Rancor’d my Experiment one and he scooped.
Round 2, Gruul Aggro 2-1:
The guy I played was running Kibler’s list. I hadn’t play tested against this deck so I wasn’t sure how the matchup would go. I won game one pretty easily. Game two he played dragons on Turn 3 and 4 and put me away. Game three I Hybridized my Voice in response to a Rolling Temblor that he tapped out for, triggered evolve twice, swung for 10 the next turn after I played a Geist of St. Traft and he scooped.
Round 3, Rock Variant 2-1:
I mulled to 4 game one and flooded, won pretty easily the last two games. This was pretty a pretty uneventful match, I think it lasted 15 minutes.
Round 4, RUG Pyromancer 0-2:
This deck is the nightmare matchup with 4 Pillars in the main board. I drew well but he miracle Bonfire 4 times in the two games, and I never saw a Rapid or a Voice. I would like to test against this deck more to see what to do against it,but I think the key is to just be patient and allow your hand to develop with protection.
Round 5, Big Red 2-0:
Outraced him game one. Game two, I played a Geist followed by a Nearheath Pilgrim unpaired and would pair the Angel token off of the Geist Trigger. The life gain and feeling of dread ended up being too much for him to overcome and I took game two. He asks me if he should have sided out Burning Earth against me and I say that I think Burning Earth is pretty weak against this deck, even though it plays so many non-basics. With a short curve and a high velocity I think it’s just way too slow. He made the right decision, although he never saw a fourth land in either game so it was irrelevant.
Round 6, Rock 2-0:
I drew god hands after mulling to 6 both games and he never saw a Mutilate. Selesnya Charm is pretty good against Desecration Demon as it turns out. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good!
Rounds 7 and 8, Jund 4-0:
I had been waiting to play Jund all day, as I feel it’s a great matchup for this deck. My wish couldn’t have come true at a better time as I needed to win both of these matches to make it to top 8. The first match I was too fast for a miracle Bonfire to affect my board state on turn 3, He mulled to 5 game two and couldn’t hit a third land and I opened, Cloudfin, Strangleroot, Geist of St. Traft.
The second match was more of the same, although my opponent didn’t draw as poorly as the previous round. I had Hybridization for my Voice when he bonfired in game 2 saving my board and swinging for lethal the next turn.
After the Swiss I was the number one Seed going into the Top 8 at 7-1, as the other top seeds all drew in to the top 8. I felt I had a good chance to do some damage in the top 8 as there were 5 Jund or American decks in the field.
Quarterfinals, Jund 2-1:
This was one of the best matches I have ever played. All three games were great. We both drew well and there was a lot of great interaction. As it turns out Olivia is tough to beat, I ended up using a Rapid on her in game 2, the only time all day I used it on someone else’s creature, but the damage had already been done and I couldn’t recover. In the end he couldn’t rip a Bonfire and undying proved to be too much for his spot removal and I overcame a Thragtusk to take game 3 on the back of a Cloudfin.
Semi Finals, American Control 2-1:
He beat me game one as I just couldn’t draw into any threats. Game two I got off to a fast start and resolved a Geist of St. Straft on Turn 3. Took him to 8 the next turn and passed it back. He plays Supreme Verdict which I countered with Rootborn defenses. I show him the Selesnya Charm in my hand and he scoops. Game three was pretty interesting. He never drew into a Sphinx’s Revelation and my resolved Voice of Resurgence proved too much for him to deal with when it produced two tokens. I was able to overtake two Restoration Angels with a 4/5 Cloudfin and 3/3 Elementals, holding back a Spell Rupture in case he did draw the Rev, thankfully he never saw one. We shook hands and I was ready for the finals!
Finals, Gruul Aggro 2-0:
She had a really fast aggro deck that got me low pretty quickly but the evolve triggers (which I missed two of,) proved to be too much. Besides Flinthoof Boar she never resolved anything bigger than a 3/3 so when I hybridized a voice for a 3/3 and a 4/4 turning my Experiment into a 4/4 and blocked her board she couldn’t recover. I saw my hand game two and realized immediately that it was the nut hand. Turn one Cloudfin, turn two Experiment, turn three Voice. She swings into my board, I hybridized my Voice and 4 evolve triggers a Frog Lizard and an Elemental token later I had won the PTQ.
Rapid Bant is certainly strong, and to be honest there isn’t much I would change from Jack’s List. It has insane matchups against the heavy hitters Jund and American Control and it outraces the Kibbler/Gruul/RDW aggro decks. I haven’t played it against Bant Hexproof, but according to Jack’s article it’s not a terrible matchup post sideboard, and game one is 50/50.
Playing this deck was a complete meta-game call where I was expecting a lot of Jund and American (which there was,) but after going 11 rounds with it, I really think this may be one of the best positioned decks in the format at the moment.
Where decks like Naya Blitz and RDW can get hosed early from Bonfire for 2 or Rolling Temblor, Rapid Bant shows a resiliency to these wipes and spot removal that is more impressive than I thought when I first saw the list because of Rapid Hybridization. Make no mistake it IS the key card in this deck.
While Rapid Bant is a little shaky against Pillar of Flame, unless it’s a deck that runs the full set, you’re typically fine. Most players won’t use it on a Cloudfin game one (unless they know what shenanigans are about to ensue,) and as long as you leave yourself some protection (Rapid or charms,) you’re in the money.
The only changes I would make to this list after playing with it would be moving one Rootborn Defenses to the sideboard, replacing one Ray of Revelation, and adding one additional Simic Charm main deck. Rootborn was good, but they were often dead cards in game one and I sided them out every match except for one against American Control in the Semi-Finals. The deck outraces Bonfires, so I just don’t think more than one in the main is necessary. On the other hand Simic Charm was incredible for me all day and I was constantly wishing I had more than one. It was probably the only non-creature card I never even thought about siding out regardless of the matchup.
If you plan on picking up this deck to test, one thing you must be aware of is that you MUST mulligan aggressively. I think I only kept a seven card hand 4 or 5 times out of the 27 games I played with it in the tournament, and mulling to 5 is not uncommon. The deck can supply ample pressure with only a few cards, so make sure you have a clear line of play the first two turns to at least build some board presence and you should be fine. The most important thing when deciding on whether to keep hands is to realize that it’s much harder to draw into a blue source than a green or white one. If you aren’t going to be able to protect your Voice or undying creatures with a Rapid when you cast them because you don’t have a blue source, the hand is probably not worth keeping.
I’m excited for this deck going forward. I can’t wait to make some tweaks and test it out and I hope to see more people playing it soon.