by Shawn Massak

Playing Magic is cathartic for me. Sure, it’s also stressful and insanely difficult to consistently make the optimal plays, but cathartic all the same. The Wednesday night ritual of coming home from work, grabbing my bag, and heading to Pandemonium provides a much needed break from the eight to four grind—not to be confused with the 8-4 MODO grind. On this particular Wednesday I had spent much of my work day in a restraint, a nonviolent physical hold, with a student with severe emotional and behavioral issues. Though I don’t like the idea of ever going “hands on” with another human being, sometimes these things are necessary, as a last resort, to protect them and yourself during a destructive episode. Despite the fact that I am keeping people safe, it doesn’t make restraints any less draining, physically or emotionally, and I turn to Magic as a way to escape; the mental challenges Magic provides help to offset the sometimes real battles I face every day at work.

Now that I’ve sufficiently bummed everyone out, let’s talk about the deck I played this week:

Bant Pillow Fort 2.0

Creatures (2)

Spells (33)
Abundant Growth
Assemble the Legion
Blind Obedience
Detention Sphere
Mana Bloom
Oblivion Ring
Sphere of Safety
Verdant Haven
Sphinx’s Revelation
Supreme Verdict
Lands (25)
Breeding Pool
Cavern of Souls
Glacial Fortress
Hallowed Fountain
Hinterland Harbor
Sunpetal Grove
Temple Garden

Sideboard (15)
Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
Jace, Memory Adept
Rest in Peace
Ground Seal
Sensory Deprivation

Bant Pillow Fort is fun for people who enjoy watching their opponents count their lands, realize they can’t attack due to Sphere of Safety, and pass the turn with an audible sigh. Luckily, I am one of those people. I even have a Hanna, Ship’s Navigator prison-style EDH deck to prove it. After cutting the Ajani’s Chosen and Agoraphobias from the main, the deck seems to at least be competitive, though certainly not tier one. Bant Pillow Fort is a reasonable choice for FNM if your meta is mostly aggro decks, especially those that don’t run answers to Sphere of Safety in their mainboards: Gruul Aggro, Naya Blitz, and Mono Red are all favorable matches. Pillow Fort seems okay against Jund in that most of their removal is dead (Putrefy, Mizzium Mortars, Tragic Slip, and Doom Blade don’t have any effective targets), and most of their threats can be answered with the deck’s eight Oblivion Ring effects. The downside is that Rakdos’s Return and Bonfire of the Damned can still get you, even at a healthy life total with the fort successfully assembled. Despite Pillow Fort’s reasonable number of okay match-ups, American Midrange is basically unwinnable, which is bad because the deck is very popular right now. (Editor’s Note: The recent success of Kibler G/R seems to have a good chance at changing this.) UWR is able to counter anything that matters in the match-up and can burn you out even with Sphere of Safety in play. It all adds up to a really rough time.

Another phenomenon to consider in deciding to play—or not to play—Bant Pillow Fort, is the amount of sideboard slots currently dedicated to enchantment removal. Bant Hexproof was considered by many to be the deck that gained the most from M14, and many people adjusted their sideboards accordingly to deal with the idiotic uninteractive deck. Ray of Revelation, Golgari Charm, Acidic Slime, Wear // Tear, and even War Priest of Thune are ready to come in after game one, much to the chagrin of Hexproof pilots, as well as Pillow Fort enthusiasts. Even if Hexproof is hated out of the meta completely, people really hate losing to that deck and will probably maintain a few sideboard slots just in case Ethereal Armor is pulled out of a pile of draft chaff and put on an Invisible Stalker.

Without any further ado, let’s talk about the games I played this week with the deck at Wednesday Night Magic at Pandemonium Books & Games.

Round 1—Scott with Naya Midrange (2-1)


I played Scott the first week of writing Ensnaring Cambridge and know he is on Naya. While I think the match-up is favorable game one, I imagine Scott has Ray of Revelation just waiting in his sideboard to two-for-one me out of the game. Game one, I won the die roll, elected to play first, and mulliganed down to six. My six was reasonable, and I spent the first few turns playing Abundant Growths and a Verdant Haven, while Scott played Voice of Resurgence into Domri Rade. Though Voice of Resurgence is extremely problematic for many control decks, Pillow Fort can mostly ignore the wonder stag since we don’t interact on their turn and most of our removal takes care of Voice without leaving a token. Going back to the game, I sent Domri to after-school Detention Sphere, while he played a Boros Reckoner, which also headed to the bad kids club. On turn five I was able to land a Sphere of Safety, which meant that he had to tap out in order to attack me. A few turns later I played an Aetherling which ended the game in three attacks while I sat at a healthy ten life. The board state at the end of the game looked like this:


Pay nine to attack?

-2 Assemble the Legion
-2 Mana Bloom
+2 Terminus
+2 Nevermore

Game two started off much like the first, I played enchantments and stuck a turn five Sphere of Safety. However, Scott followed up my SoS with a Ruric Thar and while I had an Oblivion Ring for it, I still took six and went to 12 life. The following turn Scott played Ray of Revelation which freed his Ruric Thar and flashbacked to destroy my Sphere of Safety. The game ended quickly after.

Game three, I hit a crucial Terminus to send his team of guys to the bottom of his deck. From there Scott flooded out, I named “Ray of Revelation” with Nevermore, and proceeded to smash with an Aetherling. At the end of the game the board state looked like this:


Round 2 —Jon with American Midrange (0-2)

I also played Jon the first week of writing this column, where I joked that if he were a Magic card, he would be cast with swamps. While Jon is a really nice guy and a much better Magic player than myself, I took a picture of him to illustrate what I meant about him possessing a kind of dark essence. This picture just confirmed my suspicions that Jon was in fact a vampire:


No seriously, he’s a vampire. I didn’t just take this picture after the fact because I was worried he would think it was weird.

Game one, I actually thought I had a shot. I had a Cavern of Souls on Shapeshifter and slammed Aetherling with the additional mana up to blink if necessary. Unfortunately, I couldn’t effectively race with Jon chaining Sphinx’s Revelations and hitting me with a Restoration Angel and a spirit token from Moorland Haunt. Since I was weary about actually putting a clock on him, I pumped Aetherling to an 8/1 when I should have been a little more conservative. I put myself in a position where he could kill Aetherling with two removal spells, he had them, and the game was finished.

– 2 Blind Obedience
– 1 Mana Bloom
– 2 Sphere of Safety
+ 2 Jace, Memory Adept
+ 3 Negate

My plan post board was to just jam enough threats that one had to resolve, especially with negate back up. Things didn’t go as planned.

Jon countered:
Turn 3 Verdant Haven
Turn 5 Assemble the Legion
Turn 7 Sphinx’s Revelation
Turn 8 Sphere of Safety
Turn 9 Sphere of Safety

Since a few of these counters were flashbacked off Snapcaster Mage, he was able to whittle away my life total with Tiago Chans in Megaman outfits (seriously though, he looks like Megaman). The game was over shortly after.

It is possible I misplayed here by running out threats into counters early in the game, however, UWR is the better control deck, and even with some counter back-up I can’t imagine I would win the long game.

Round 3—Steve with Kalonian Jund (1-2)


Saying Steve was on Jund is a little misleading as he played a GR midrange build splashing black for Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch. This spicy number sought to smash face with a hasty Kalonian Hydra via Exava or Ogre Battledriver. Oh yeah, and he also played maindeck Ruric Thar, which explains why he named “warrior” with Cavern of Souls in game one.

I managed to pull out game one even after he attacked me for ten with a battledriven Hydra, thanks to Supreme Verdict and a timely Sphere of Safety. Despite the fact that Steve drew approximately one million lands, his lack of pressure allowed me to attack with Super Morphling a few times and win the game that way.

-2 Mana Bloom
+2 Terminus

I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to take out here but with Mana Bloom being the worst of color fixers, it seemed like the easiest swap. It’s also possible I want Nevermore to preempt a Ruric Thar or a potentially devastating Kalonian Hydra, but I couldn’t quite figure out what should come out. In retrospect, siding out Assemble the Legion was probably correct, as I have fewer red sources without Mana Bloom and have Aetherling as a more resilient, albeit mana intensive, threat.

Game two, Steve lead with turn one and two Arbor Elf, then played a turn three Burning Earth, but did not play a third land. I had one Detention Sphere in hand, tanked for a little bit, and targeted Arbor Elf instead of Burning Earth. My thought process was that it was better to double Stone Rain him than to immediately deal with Burning Earth, which I had plenty of answers to and could kind of play around with Verdant Haven. He immediately drew lands and I never drew an answer for Burning Earth.

Game three, I felt pretty good when I miracled a Terminus to wipe out most of his board and played back to back Sphere of Safety. Unfortunately, the game went a little long before I found an Aetherling and he was able to double Golgari Charm my enchantments (a Detention Sphere with a Hydra underneath and a Sphere of Safety). I watched in horror as he paid nine mana to attack me for lethal with a 16/16 Kalonian Hydra while I had Assemble the Legion and Aetherling on board. Seriously look at this board state:


16 points of damage hurts a lot, even though a fort of pillows.

Round 4—Patrick with Mono Black Control (2-1)


Even though I couldn’t get any prizes with a 2-2 record, I opted to play out the last round for the sake of the article. Luckily, Patrick was an awesome opponent who was playing a Mono Black brew that had the Demonic Rising / Mutavault interaction.

I lost game one where I kept two lands on the draw and didn’t see a third until he had a Liliana ready to ultimate.

– 2 Blind Obedience
– 2 Sphere of Safety
– 2 Supreme Verdict
+ 1 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
+ 2 Jace, Memory Adept
+ 2 Negate
+1 Nevermore

Game two, I had a flawless victory where I used Tamiyo to tap down any relevant threats and played Oblivion Rings if things looked to be getting out of hand. When I ultimated Tamiyo, Patrick asked me, “Do people usually scoop when you have a Tamiyo Emblem?” I confirmed that I had lost very few games after obtaining an emblem and he picked up his cards. It was at this point that I realized that Tamiyo is just not that good in this type of deck if the goal is to ultimate the walker. The ultimate seems much better in a control deck with a bunch of instants and sorceries that you can recycle and is mostly just kind of awkward in a deck that reclines back on its pillowy enchantments.

Game three, I won. That’s pretty much all I remember and unfortunately my notes just say “Nighthawk” on them.


Luckily, I have a picture of the final board state:


I Oblivion Ringed some things, Detention Sphered some things, and then made Eugene Harvey tokens with Assemble the Legion.

I ended the night by finally trading away my foil Modern Masters Dark Confidant that I had opened a few weeks ago in a pack also containing regular Dark Confidant. Let me know in the comments if you would do this trade:

1x Foil Dark Confidant
1x Foil Cryptic Command (also Modern Masters)
1x Prerelease Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

3x Verdant Catacombs
3x Liliana of the Veil
1x Vendillion Clique
and a few foil throw-ins for my pauper cube
1x Rift Bolt
1x Kodama’s Reach

Though I matched my record from last week, 2-2, the deck felt a million times better. It just so happens that a million times better for a deck that initially had Agoraphobia in the main, is still pretty far from being a tier one—or even tier two—deck. If I were to move forward with this archetype, I would retool the sideboard. Sensory Deprivation never came in once, Rest in Peace and Ground Seal are a bit redundant, and three Negates are probably one too many. Since the deck can reliably cast spells of any color, within reason, it’s probably worth considering playing cards outside of the normal Bant sideboard options. However, I’m not sure any amount of reworking will make for a salvageable UWR match-up, so for now it should stay at the kitchen table, at least until Theros comes out and potentially adds enough playable enchantments to make the deck less dependent on Sphere of Safety. A guy can dream right?

As for next week, I’ll be playing a sweet Grixis Control list similar to what Joel Larsson played to a top sixteen finish at SCG Worcester last month. See you then!

At age 15, while standing in a record store with his high school bandmates, Shawn Massak made the uncool decision to spend the last of his money on a Seventh Edition starter deck (the one with foil Thorn Elemental). Since that fateful day 10 years ago, Shawn has decorated rooms of his apartment with MTG posters, cosplayed as Jace, the Mind Sculptor at PAX, and competes with LSV for the record of most lifetime Islands played. When he’s not playing Magic, Shawn works as a job coach for people with disabilities, plays guitar in an indie-pop band, and keeps a blog about pro wrestling.

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