I’m going to admit that this was one of the tougher upgrades to build for. It isn’t because Bant isn’t a powerful color combination – the combination of control elements from blue and white with the mana acceleration of green (along with all the Simic goodies in the format) can make this combination incredibly potent.
Unfortunately, the card pool available for our wildcard upgrade doesn’t quite support it at it’s most powerful archetypes. But, I think this upgrade presents not only a good balance within the card pool, but also creates a fun deck that combines big creatures with plenty of powerful plays. Without further ado, let’s get into the deck tech!
As usual, let’s first take a look at the original list for reference:
The original list looks to balance between flying threats and some minor lifegain synergies, using card draw from the new player cards to affect some resiliency to spot removal and board wipes. While there are definitely weaknesses in this strategy, when the deck gets rolling, it can be difficult to stop. Unfortunately, without access to more rare and mythic wildcards to push the deck towards a dedicated lifegain strategy and a general card pool that doesn’t quite support a consistent fliers theme, pushing into either of these archetypes with small upgrades just doesn’t quite work.
I tried a few different strategies to bring the deck in line (including attempting a straight Simic build) but none of them quite felt right for the color combination. In the end, I decided to shift the main theme of the deck a bit to focus more on big creatures and counter synergy. This strategy made the deck not only hit its stride with more powerful creatures to close out the game, but also made it much more fun to play.
With all that said, let’s unveil the 5 common and 5 uncommon wildcard upgrade to our Bant Counters and Monsters deck:
This new version of the deck includes the following wildcard additions:
- Migratory Greathorn
- Dreamtail Heron
- Blink of an Eye
- Sentinel’s Eyes
- Pouncing Shoreshark
- Honden of Seeing Winds
- Banishing Light
- Skyrider Patrol
The new deck focuses much more heavily on resolving large creatures or creating them by adding +1/+1 counters and proliferating. The deck’s focus moves away from being heavily White and Blue, and pushes much more firmly into a Simic deck with a white splash. By adding fight cards and a mutate suite, this also opens the door for cards like Season of Growth to become much relevant as a card draw and selection option. Overall, the deck focuses more on resolving large mid-late game haymakers while using early-game utility creatures to hold the line and accelerate to your end-game plans.
The main upgrades we’ve added is a fairly comprehensive suite of mutate creatures. Most of them are included for their utility, but also help in making early drops more relevant as the game goes on.
Dreamtail Heron and Vulpikeet help add evasion (in the form of flying) to creatures that might otherwise spend their time on the back lines. Migratory Greathorn offers a combination of ramp and early damage. In the early game, it can essentially be considered a 3/4 with haste if it’s used on an existing creature, letting you accelerate some early damage or deal with planeswalkers like Teferi or Narset that come down on turn 3. Pouncing Shoreshark is a great tempo play, and at instant speed can very easily mess with combat math. Finally, Parcelbeast is (somewhat) unique in that it works well simply casting it on its own, rather than for its mutate cost. This allows it to be held back for use as repeatable ramp and card draw.
One of the hidden gems of this upgrade, Skyrider Patrol helps you grow your creatures into significant threats while also providing them much-needed evasion. While mutate isn’t a significant part of the deck’s structure, being able to re-trigger Sharktocrab or cheaply upgrade your Incubation Druid shouldn’t be underestimated.
Sentinel’s Eyes exists to add some additional utility at common. It works well for card draw in conjunction with Season of Growth or Parcelbeast. It can also be added to Paradise Druid to create a hexproof threat that works very well as a base for a mutate stack.
While not strictly there to help with the monsters plan, we’ve added some additional options to help control the board. Blink of an Eye adds some additional tempo tools to the deck, helping either clear blockers or reset troublesome planeswalkers. On the defensive, it can save creatures from spot removal or board wipes (especially if you have a good-sized mutate stack going). Banishing Light helps shore up the deck’s fairly glaring weakness to game-ending planeswalkers like Liliana and Chandra, but also helps for dealing with basically any troublesome permanent.
The final odd-card out addition is the Honden of Seeing Winds. This card was added with the recent Historic Anthology 3, and adds some much needed card draw that isn’t normally supported at uncommon. Because the deck relies so heavily on creatures and tempo, being able to draw two cards per turn helps make sure that you can recover from board wipes and disruption.
Moving away from the initial upgrades, let’s take a look at some rare and mythic wildcard options that can help push up the deck’s power level.
But first, let’s talk about land bases and what is probably the best investment of a rare wildcard in any singleton format: Fabled Passage. This card is useful in nearly every deck you can create for Gladiator. This is the card I advise you craft before any other rares. While it’s not the most exciting card in the world, it does wonders towards improving two and three-color mana bases, especially within these budget decks. For this deck, I recommend removing one Plains to make room for Fabled Passage. Your next rare Wildcards for this deck should go towards building your Bant land base, but these additions don’t need much in the way of explanation.
Lands disclaimer aside, if you’ve covered your mana bases, there are a few rare and mythic cards that can significantly improve the deck.
In its current version, the deck has a few great game-ending cards, but needs more to really push it over the edge. Most of the creatures that are going to do that exist at rare and mythic.
For our rare wildcard, we’re looking to add our old friend Dream Trawler. While it’s not a green beater, as a way to end games it’s probably one of the single most powerful ways to do it in the format. Drawing cards, gaining life, and being incredibly difficult to remove makes it hard to find a more powerful option.
Our mythic option breaks the mold of previous recommendations because it’s not so much a way to end the game as it is one of the strongest utility cards for green, creature-focused decks. The Great Henge does three things this deck wants to do: ramps your mana, draws you card, and makes creatures better. While the card itself won’t end the game, it’s a good signal that you’re going to be able to find the tools to do it soon.
If you’ve got more wildcards burning a hole in your account, here are a few more options to consider to further improve the deck:
- Llanowar Elves
- Illysian Caryatid
- Leafkin Druid
- Druid of the Cowl
- Omen of the Sea
- Prison Realm
- Migration Path
- Beanstalk Giant
- Thrashing Brontodon
- Chart a Course
- Circuitous Route
- Tatyova, Benthic Druid
- Ashiok, Dream Render
- Agent of Treachery
- Zetalpa, Primal Dawn
- Leyline of Abundance
- Carnage Tyrant
- Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate
- Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
Finally, let’s take a look at a version of this deck style without any wildcard restrictions:
Bant is a powerful color combination, and you can take this deck in several different directions. Whether you stay with the big monsters theme or prefer the control style the colors can offer, it’s hard to go wrong with this color combination.
Next week, we’ll be taking a look at our final list and see how we can take our Jund decklist to the next level! Have a topic you want me to explore after this? Let me know in the discord or the comments.
See you in the Arena!