Before Wednesday Night Standard was set to begin, a few people came up to me to ask what I was playing this week. At this point, many of the regular basement dwellers at Pandemonium know about the article series, and have witnessed me playing some pretty goofy decks. I am excited when people ask me, because I like to talk about Magic and am humbled by the fact that people are actually interested in Ensnaring Cambridge, or interested in what a scrub like me is playing on a random Wednesday in August. Maybe they are just being polite, but there seemed to be some genuine interest in how I did with Burn at the Stake or my sideboarding strategy with UW Midrange. Regardless, I undoubtedly disappointed everyone who asked me, “What are you playing this week?”, when I looked down at my feet, sighed, and said, “Bant Auras.”

Despite the fact that many in the Magic community vehemently dislike the non-interactive nature of the deck, I can honestly say that I benefited from playing it. I imagine this will raise some hypothetical eyebrows from my hypothetical reader, who would say something like,“But wait, Shawn, what could you have possibly learned from slapping some pants on Geist of Saint Traft or throwing an Armadillo Cloak on an Invisible Stalker? Did you learn how Ignotus Peverall felt when he first donned the Cloak of Invisibility which would later allow Harry Potter to screw around at Hogwarts without being detected?” Then I would say to my theoretical Magic playing J.K. Rowling fanboy, “Well dude, Bant Auras requires smart decisions on mulligans and an understanding of the ways in which your opponent could interact with you, especially post board when any number of cards could come in to ruin the pants party in variety of different ways. Playing this deck forced me to play a different game of Magic, and anticipate how I could be interacted with instead of how I could best interact with my opponent.”

Since I was making a concerted effort to momentarily leave my Magic wheelhouse by playing Bant Auras, I figured I would also attempt to try something new regarding my eating habits as well. My girlfriend suggested we try a juice cleanse, a three day fast where you replace all your meals with juiced veggies and fruit. While I wasn’t excited to get off my usual diet of pizza and beer, I figured that it would be good for me to live without anything processed or fatty even if it was just for a few days. I did my best to get through the days with kale, apple, ginger and gazpacho juice but couldn’t handle not eating anything for dinner. So I got through three-days replacing two meals with juice. At the end of it, I didn’t feel any better, and the only thing that really resonated with me at the end of the three days was that I should probably go back to the gym, because that sucks significantly less than juice. At the end of the day, this is still an important realization, so I guess it’s probably still worth it to try new things, even if those things are playing Bant Auras and trying a juice cleanse.

Anyway, let’s get to this week’s tournament report. I played Raymond Tan’s winning decklist from GP Kitakyushu:

Bant Auras

Creatures (18)
Gladecover Scout
Avacyn’s Pilgrim
Invisible Stalker
Geist of Saint Traft
Fiendslayer Paladin

Spells (17)
Ethereal Armor
Spectral Flight
Unflinching Courage
Ajani, Caller of the Pride

Land (22)
Breeding Pool
Cavern of Souls
Glacial Fortress
Hallowed Fountain
Hinterland Harbor
Sunpetal Grove
Temple Garden
Sideboard (13)
Celestial Flare
Detention Sphere
Feeling of Dread
Mending Touch
Ray of Revelation
Spell Rupture

For people like myself who like to look at things by converted mana cost:


Round 1—Ryan with Jund (0-2)


Two weeks ago, Ryan also smoked me during round one when I was playing Burn at the Stake. I am currently 0-2 lifetime against this beautiful man and his Farseeks.

Game one, I mulliganed an all enchantment hand into Avacyn’s Pilgrim, two enchantments, and three lands. This is a risky keep for sure, and with the benefit of hindsight I should have went to five. The pilgrim is just too fragile against a deck filled to the brim with removal; the mana dork dies to Abrupt Decay, Doom Blade, Dreadbore, Mizzium Mortars, Putrefy, and Tragic Slip. Sure enough, turn one my Pilgrim slipped and met his tragic demise. I drew a bunch of lands while Ryan killed me with Huntmaster of the Fells and Thragtusk.


-3 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
+2 Mending Touch
+1 Detention Sphere

I figured that since the Pilgrim died to just about everything, even relying on him solely as an early mana producer seemed ambitious and I sided him out in favor of ways to survive Bonfire of the Damned and blockers as well as a miser’s Detention Sphere for Liliana of the Veil.

Game two, I had to start off with another mulligan, but kept a hand with Fiendslayer Paladin, lands, and pants. My paladin was immediately binned thanks to Liliana, and even though I was able to Detention Sphere the planewalker before it made me start discarding, I was never in this game. My only other play was a Geist of Saint Traft which was Bonfired into oblivion.

Round 2—Cici with UWR Midrange (2-0)


Game one, I resolved an Invisible Stalker but Cici Syncopated my follow up Unflinching Courage. She added a Geist of Saint Traft to her side of the board and I added one to mine—we had a race on our hands. I pulled ahead relatively quickly after playing Ajani and making my Geist bigger than hers.I attacked with Geist, only to have him chumped by an Izzet Staticaster, who is pretty mediocre otherwise in this match-up. Cici managed to get me to two life after another Geist hit but didn’t have the burn to follow it up and I had her dead on the board.


-2 Simic Charm
+2 Mending Touch

I figured Cici would board in some amount of Supreme Verdicts and I wanted to be ready for it. While Simic Charm has some utility in this matchup by being able to Unsummon a Thundermaw Hellkite, I would rather have the card that allows me to blank the mass removal spell for the low price of one green mana.

Game two, I kept a one lander and drew disgustingly well:

T1—Avacyn’s Pilgrim
T2—Peel land and play Geist of Saint Traft
T3—Spectral Flight on Geist, swing for eight
T4—Play Ajani, minus three to give Geist double-strike and attack for 12

For the record, I am aware that these types of games are why people hate the deck.

Round 3—Jake with Simic Evolve (2-0)

This was Jake’s first tournament and he was playing a budget Simic deck he had put together after playing a few Gatecrash drafts.

Game one, I was surprised when my double Rancored Gladecover Scout was ambushed by a Shambleshark. Luckily I was able to follow it up with everyone’s least favorite invisible human, and suit him up with two Rancor and an Ethereal Armor. Jake played a Cloudfin Raptor and a Renegrade Krasis but he was dead to two Stalker swings.


Nothing. This is not me being cocky here, I have no idea what else might be in Jake’s deck or what he could potentially bring in, so I leave my deck as is.

Game two, I kept a pretty loose hand with two check lands, three Invisible Stalkers, and two Spectral Flights. Jake punished my slow hand with a Renegrade Krasis into Crowned Ceratauk. I was forced the following turn to Simic Charm his Crowned Ceratauk to make sure I didn’t take too much damage and chumped the no-longer-trampling Krasis with an extra Invisible Stalker. I managed to draw well again and gave my flying stalker some Unflinching Courage; the lifelink turned the race in my favor and after two attacks I once again ended the game.


Afterwards I wanted to tell him that tournament Magic mostly wasn’t like this, you know with stupid auras and all, but instead we talked about good vegan places in the Boston area, which was a conversation I was way more into after drinking nothing but juice that day.

Round 4—Stephen with Jund Aggro (2-1)


Stephen is one of my favorite people to play against at Pandemonium. He is a really tight player—recently coming in second place at the SCG open in Worcester—and a really gracious opponent who is willing to talk through the lines of play after the match is finished as well as supply some pretty entertaining commentary during the games.

Game one, I draw this seven:


After keeping a similar hand round one, I decided that I needed to ship this back. While Stephen is on the Domri Rade plan, and has fewer removal spells than the Jund Midrange deck, if he had any way to deal with my Pilgrim, I handily lose the game. I kept a hand with Invisible Stalker and some auras but quickly fall victim to his horde of Flinthoof Boars and Huntmaster of the Fells.


-2 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
-1 Ajani, Caller of the Pride
+2 Feeling of Dread
+1 Fog

Because this match-up is so creature dependent, and likely to come down to a racing situation, Feeling of Dread and Fog definitely come in. In retrospect, I like taking out the last copy of Avacyn’s Pilgrim to bring in the second Fog.

Game two, Stephen mulled to five and kept a one lander with Arbor Elf. While I kept this hand:


I don’t like keeping hands with no enchantments, but I assumed that with Feeling of Dread, I could stall the game if necessary in order to draw into some auras. Stephen was able to play out a Flinthoof Boar the following two turns, his second land was nowhere to be found. I was able to draw an Unflinching Courage and after tacking it on to an Invisible Stalker, I was able to end a pretty non-interactive game over the next several turns.

Game three, the game came down to a pivotal turn where Stephen played a post combat Falkenrath Aristocrat in order to block Geist of Saint Traft wearing Ethereal Armor and a Spectral Flight. He would be able to block the Geist, make his Aristocrat indestructable, and have enough damage on the board the following turn to kill me with a hasty Thundermaw Hellkite. Luckily, I had a Simic Charm to remove the blocker and crash through for more than lethal.

The final boardstate looked like this:


At the end of the night, I felt that I was rewarded for playing a “real” deck, but also that I had made reasonably good decisions regarding mulligans and playing around potential hate. While I still feel the need to apologize for playing Bant Auras, especially against people I like, I can understand the appeal of playing this deck. While I myself have accused Auras of being “idiotic” in the past, after tonight I can understand that though the deck has a very straightforward plan, it is not devoid of meaningful decisions during game play.

I don’t think I will change the list going into next week. I picked Tan’s list initially because I wanted to see how the deck operated without Voice of Resurgence and wasn’t in love with the Increasing Savagery found in some other lists. While Voice leaving behind a token is valuable in many aggro strategies, it is not a good candidate to be suited up because it is still vulnerable to almost all the removal in the format. Increasing Savagery is certainly a beating but costs four mana which is a lot in a deck that tops out at three and only plays 22 lands. So yeah, sticking with Tan’s list, I’ll report back next Wednesday on how the deck fares for week two.

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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