Going into the World Championships, my best form of testing was playing as much Magic Online as I possibly could. With other obligations at home I wasn't able to grind out a ton of games until I arrived in Seattle on Monday, two days before I would be submitting my two Constructed decklists. The World Championships is not only the biggest tournament of the year, it is also the tournament I had to rely the most on myself. It took locking the door of my hotel room and not sleeping, playing deck after deck after deck, to finally arrive at a Standard deck I liked. That deck was Bant Spirits.
I was pretty sure that a Collected Company deck could be built in a way it was favored against the various Emrakul, the Promised End decks. However, I was not particularly interested in either of the commonly played Bant decks. Traditional Bant Company is an extremely strong deck but some of the games are incredibly long and drawn out. In the swiss rounds, that match ends in a draw. Although Brian Braun-Duin beat Bant Company twice, he outplayed both of his opponents; the Bant Humans/Bant Company matchup favors traditional Bant Company.
I played a deck that nobody saw coming. I picked up Bant Spirits a couple hours before submitting my decklists, and based off just a handful of games it seemed strong enough to play, even in the most high-stakes tournament Magic has to offer. The deck plays primarily at instant speed, forcing opponents to try and play around all of the possible cards in your deck, which is almost impossible. The deck also attacks primarily in the air, which gives it an edge in Collected Company mirrors. This is the deck I played to a 3-1 finish at the World Championships in the Standard portion of the event:
The creature base includes typical hits like Spell Queller and Reflector Mage. Any Bant Company deck in Standard should play four copies of Reflector Mage. The ability to interact with an opponents' board is very important, and there are only so many deck slots that are not Collected Company hits. Spell Queller is especially powerful in this deck because once you are able to exile a spell with it, there are multiple ways to protect the Spell Queller from dying.
Selfless Spirit sees play in traditional Bant Company, but it is even better here because the creature type is relevant. It can save a Spell Queller, or all of your creatures for that matter, and it is the best way to flip Archangel Avacyn. It is okay to have a couple of creatures in the deck that aren't Spirits and Archangel Avacyn has definitely proven her worth.
There are the signature Spirit creatures in this deck that get better the more Spirits the deck plays. Rattlechains is a two-power flying Spirit with flash, but it can also give a Spirit hexproof in order to save it from opposing removal. It gives all of your other Spirits to gain flash; Mausoleum Wanderer gets much better when it can be flashed in as a sort of surprise counterspell. Mausoleum Wanderer can do a ton of damage for a one-mana investment and stop opposing removal. A lot of the time, mass removal spells like Tragic Arrogance are too slow against a Mausoleum Wanderer.
Nebelgast Herald seems underpowered at first glance, but it is actually very good here. This deck races opponents well, and tapping down an opposing creature can be the difference in a race. This comes up a lot against other Bant Company decks. There will also be times when Collected Company is able to find two Nebelgast Heralds and tap a whopping four creatures of the opponents. This is the most underrated card in the deck, but also is in many ways the most important one as well.
I wanted to make sure this deck was solid against the B/G Delirium decks with Liliana, the Last Hope. This deck does play a lot of one-toughness creatures, but at the same time, it does have game against the scary black Planeswalker. There are a variety of ways to stop it from entering play, not only with Spell Queller, but also with Clash of Wills. Ishkanah, Grafwidow is a similarly annoying creature to deal with, but Ojutai's Command is a great answer to that. Selfless Spirit being able to prevent Kozilek's Return is also very important. This deck can come up with answers to just about any threat the opponent might come up with.
There is only one maindeck green card: Collected Company. The mana isn't great, so having too many green cards is a liability. Tamiyo, Field Researcher is a super powerful card that can be brought out of the sideboard, but it requires all three colors of mana. The deck can't support more green sources.
Going into the World Championships it was super important to know exactly what the deck wanted to do after the first game. Having a way to win a longer game is important if the opponent boards in sweepers.
-2 Clash of Wills
-1 Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
+2 Tamiyo, Field Researcher
+1 Declaration in Stone
This is a matchup where you don't need to do too much after sideboard. The matchup is definitely favored for Bant Spirits, though it is important to gain a tempo advantage early in the game if possible. During the World Championship in games I went 5-2 against traditional Bant Company, though the Human version is a bit more difficult. Spirits' lategame is not as strong as the other Collected Company decks', so Spirits are the aggressor. The race is usually in favor of the Spirits deck, but expect Tragic Arrogance after sideboarding.
-2 Archangel Avacyn
-2 Clash of Wills
-1 Nebelgast Herald
+2 Tamiyo, Field Researcher
+2 Summary Dismissal
+1 Learn from the Past
It may seem weird that the sideboard plans against Bant Company and Temur Emerge look so similar, but it really is just about having answers to the way decks can attack you after sideboarding. Summary Dismissal is a straight-up answer to Emrakul, the Promised End; since this deck has flash creatures, when the opponent is attempting to cast a spell you can either counter it if it's a game changer or just let it resolve and play more creatures to create a faster clock. Remember that Summary Dismissal also prevents triggers from any errant Kozilek's Return. Learn from the Past has the potential to be a huge blowout and makes it a lot more difficult for the Temur deck to get to delirium in time.
-2 Archangel Avacyn
-1 Ojutai's Command
-2 Nebelgast Herald
+3 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
+1 Clash of Wills
+1 Spectral Shepherd
I try not to ever fall below 24 Collected Company hits, which means there isn't a ton of wiggle room when it comes to sideboarding. You want threats against the black control decks that don't die to Languish, so Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is the perfect card for these matchups; it's really hard to deal with unless they immediately follow up with a Ruinous Path. Tamiyo, Field Researcher doesn't come in because then there would be too few creatures left in the deck. Spectral Shepherd may look peculiar but it can bounce one of your creatures in response to a removal spell. Also you can cast Spell Queller, put the trigger on the stack to exile the opponents' spell, and then bounce Spell Queller, exiling the opposing spell permanently.
There are some cards in the sideboard that haven't been mentioned here but there are such a wide variety of decks in the format that I wanted cards that are good against decks that aren't heavily played. For example, the worst matchup for Bant Spirits is Mono-White Humans, so I wanted Tragic Arrogance and the spot removal spells to interact with their cheap creatures. Having a lot of different cards in the sideboard can also keep opponents guessing and provide you with more options. Essence Flux, for instance, is a card I will board in if I don't think the opponent expects it.
Standard's rotating soon, but Bant Spirits has been overlooked, and is one of the best decks. The pressure it puts on the opponent in the air leads to lot of easy wins. Beyond those easy wins, Collected Company is a powerful card that can bail you out of tough spots. I tend to keep a lot of hands with the deck; some openers have shaky mana, but it is correct to keep and hope to get there. I look forward to playing this deck while I still can.
Thanks for reading,