Leading up to Grand Prix Toronto this past weekend I had two decks that I really liked. The Bant deck I played at the Pro Tour has been doing very well and I knew it was still well-positioned for the Grand Prix, but the GW Collected Company deck was performing slightly better for me. The tie-breaker was that I wanted to try something new, so I went with the Collected Company deck. As it turns out, my decision was a good one as I made it into the Top 8, locking myself for Platinum for next year.

Today I'm going to talk about the Collected Company deck I played and show you how to play and sideboard with it in the most common matchups.

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The basic idea of the deck is to curve out with efficiently-costed creatures and then use Collected Company, Deathmist Raptor, and Den Protector to generate card advantage while continuing to apply pressure. We also have a handful of removal spells mainly for the purpose of removing blockers.

I chose Seeker of the Way over Hidden Dragonslayer because it fights much better with Dromoka's Command and because it's a much better creature in combat. In hindsight this may not be correct. Having more ways to Remove creatures such as Siege Rhino without decreasing your 'hit rate' off Collected Company is a very appealing option. I also like the idea of having more ways to bring back Deathmist Raptor and to keep the opponent guessing as to what my morphs are.

The rest of the deck is about where I want it to be. I prefer Courser of Kruphix over Boon Satyr because we would rather have the extra help against Red Aggro and Abzan than against Esper. I like one Warden of the First Tree because drawing two is almost always too clunky but having access to one as an extra mana sink and as a target for Den Protector is often useful at breaking a stalemate.

Elvish Mystic is one of the best cards in Standard but it is only good (not great) in this deck because our curve is pretty low and we have good two-drops. If we replace Seeker of the Way with Hidden Dragonslayer then I would go up to four copies.


The Sideboard

The sideboard has a handful of different options depending on which matchups we want the extra help against. The change I made for Toronto that cost me an even better finish was replacing my two copies of Glare of Heresy and two copies of Wingmate Roc with two copies of Radiant Purge and two copies of Mastery of the Unseen. Radiant Purge is especially good against Abzan Aggro because it exiles Rakshasa Deathdealer or Fleecemane Lion, two creatures that Valorous Stance cannot handle easily. Glare of Heresy also handles the Lion but instead of handling the Deathdealer it handles Elspeth, Sun's Champion and Ajani Steadfast (which is the new tech in Bant). Wingmate Roc is another way to combat Elspeth and to generate card advantage in the midgame against all flavors of Abzan. Mastery can likewise do it in some matchups but is much worse against Elspeth.

I might have also gone a little overboard with the Windstorms (four is a lot), none of which were ever boarded in throughout the tournament. They are primarily (and pretty much exclusively) for the Red/Green Dragons matchup. Plummet is almost always better than Windstorm against Stormbreath Dragon, sometimes better against Thunderbreak Regent, but miles worse against bees made from sideboarded Hornet Nests. Windstorm is basically the best card for that matchup, turning it from unwinnable to close to 50%. It's reasonable to ignore the matchup altogether and instead use those slots to improve your other matchups, but I felt like my matchups were already good enough most everywhere else and that it was worth it to have the tools to fight a close fight here too.

Valorous Stance is mainly good against Abzan decks because it kills Siege Rhino, Tasigur, the Golden Fang, Anafenza, the Foremost, Wingmate Roc, Warden of the First Tree, Courser of Kruphix, or a pumped up Rakshasa Deathdealer at the right moment. It can also counter a Hero's Downfall or save a creature in combat. It's basically one of our best cards against any version of Abzan, but especially against Abzan Aggro. Valorous Stance is also good against Bant since it kills Courser of Kruphix or an attacking Ojutai while also being able to save a creature from an opposing Valorous Stance or Dromoka's Command. Stance is also good against Green Devotion decks. The one matchup it's terrible against is Red Aggro.

Mastery of the Unseen is good against Red/Green Dragons because it can slowly take over a game and get you out of Crater's Claws range. It also works especially well with Windstorm because both incentivize you to pass the turn with your mana untapped. Mastery is also great against control decks, though less so now that they are playing more copies of Perilous Vault. I also board this in against Red Aggro as a life gain card and against Heroic as a steady source of colorless blockers.

Arashin Cleric is solely a concession to Red Aggro being the most played deck in the format. It sees lots of play in sideboards for this matchup just as a 1/3 body that gains life, but in this deck it is even better because it's a creature to hit off Collected Company.

Other cards I considered for the sideboard include:

Reclamation Sage
Silkwrap
Hornet Nest
Hunt the Hunter

Reclamation Sage is slightly better than Ainok Survivalist because hitting it off Collected Company is more relevant than being able to use it to bring back Deathmist Raptor. Three mana to kill a problematic permanent is also a lot more versatile than five mana, so if I were to run either it would be the Sage.

Silkwrap can kill a Goblin Rabblemaster or a Hornet Nest, though not if they cast the Nest and Roast it in the same turn. It's also a fragile answer to Abzan Aggro's creatures since they can blow it up with Dromoka's Command. I would rather play more specific removal spells that are more powerful and versatile in the matchups that I want them for, as opposed to a more fragile yet more generic removal spell like Silkwrap (or Banishing Light for that matter).

Hornet Nest can be great to hit mid-combat off Collected Company or to fight with a Dromoka's Command, or it can be a virtual blank that causes you to lose to a dragon. As with Silkwrap, I much prefer more reliable and proactive answers to the things I'm concerned with rather than a card that requires a lot of setup just to accomplish its intended purpose, even if it means gaining a big advantage when everything lines up perfectly.

Hunt the Hunter is an efficient answer to opposing Elvish Mystics and Voyaging Satyrs and can also be a cheaper version of Dromoka's Command against many of Abzan Aggro's creatures. This one is a very close consideration but I opted against it because I expected much more Abzan than Green Devotion and would rather have the extra help in those matchups. If your metagame is different and you want something extra for the green devotion matchup, I would consider running a couple of these and a couple Reclamation Sages for their Coursers and Masteries.

This is the updated version I would play tonight at FNM if I were playing:

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Now let's talk about the common matchups.


Matchup Analysis and Sideboard Guide

Red Aggro

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IN:
3 Arashin Cleric
2 Boon Satyr
OUT:
2 Valorous Stance
2 Mana Confluence
1 Den Protector

This matchup is mostly about staying alive. We have inevitability as long as we can stay out of burn range, but sometimes this means turning the corner to minimize the number of draw steps they have to find a lethal amount of burn spells. Dromoka's Command is great at countering a burn spell and basically all of our creatures are great blockers. Don't get blown out by Goblin Heelcutter or Atarka's Command. This is a good matchup, but the games can be close.


Esper Control

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IN:
1 Windstorm
3 Boon Satyr
OUT:
4 Dromoka's Command

Collected Company is our way to punish an opponent for tapping out to cast Crux of Fate. Den Protector can likewise get us back in the driver's seat quickly. A monstrous Fleecemane Lion is good as long as you have protection against Foul-Tongue Invocation. Boon Satyr can be a huge blowout from many different board states, whether flashed in as a creature on their end step or bestowed on a creature in combat. We have so many powerful cards for this matchup, though much like against Red the games can be close. Dromoka's Command is by far our worst card. Windstorm is not great but can kill Ojutai at even mana and unlike with Valorous Stance it can do so even when the dragon is untapped.


Abzan Aggro

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IN:
1 Valorous Stance
1 Radiant Purge
2 Glare of Heresy
2 Wingmate Roc
OUT:
1 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
1 Collected Company
4 Courser of Kruphix

In this matchup we are the more controlling deck, especially post-board. Dromoka's Command is one of the ways they can get far ahead quickly and steal a game from us, so minimizing its effectiveness by boarding out Courser of Kruphix is a hedge against this. Wingmate Roc is outstanding against them and matches up well against their sideboard plan if it involves Elspeth, Sun's Champion. Glare of Heresy is also great against the planeswalker or against Anafenza, Fleecemane, or Rhino. Radiant Purge should mostly be held for Rakshasa Deathdeather if possible and is a great target for Den Protector. We board out a copy of Collected Company because we board down to just 21 hits and we usually don't want to draw more than one in this matchup. We have other sources of card advantage to pull ahead. Remember to kill Anafenza before the opponent has a chance to kill your Deathmist Raptor. This is a good matchup.


Abzan Control

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IN:
1 Valorous Stance
1 Radiant Purge
2 Glare of Heresy
2 Wingmate Roc
OUT:
1 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
1 Collected Company
4 Courser of Kruphix

This matchup is tougher than Abzan Aggro, but we still have enough tools to win it. The fact that they board up to three copies of Dromoka's Command makes it really difficult to keep a Courser of Kruphix around. Our plan isn't just to win the long game against them, but we are just as good as they are at doing so as long as we can keep Elspeth, Sun's Champion in check via Glare of Heresy or Wingmate Roc.


Bant Midrange

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IN:
1 Valorous Stance
2 Glare of Heresy
2 Wingmate Roc
OUT:
1 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
4 Courser of Kruphix

If they run Surrak, the Hunt Caller instead of Ajani Steadfast, then only bring in one Glare of Heresy and instead bring in a Windstorm. If they board in Hornet Nest, then bring in two copies of Windstorm for the third game and board Wingmate Roc back out. We have the tools to hang toe-to-toe with them, though both my losses in the Swiss rounds were to this deck.


RG Dragons

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IN:
3 Windstorm
OUT:
1 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
1 Warden of the First Tree
1 Valorous Stance

Goblin Rabblemaster can run away with a game if we can't answer it quickly with a Dromoka's Command or some blockers, but blocking can prove difficult against all their Roasts. We can also just get beat down by dragons, especially Stormbreath Dragon, if we don't draw Windstorm. Hornet Nest can also create a formidable road block to our attacks. Lastly, Crater's Claws can finish us off if we don't have Dromoka's Command at the ready. As you can see, plenty of things can go wrong in this matchup, so it's important to play to one of the few board states where things go right.

The best way for things to go right is to curve out with creatures, including a third turn Collected Company, mounting a large attack into their Hornet Nest, which will get combat damage through and break their Nest to make Insect Tokens. Then when they play a dragon and try to race us, we Windstorm away all their bees and all their dragons and Defeat them with our creatures before they can recover.

Another way things can go right is if our cards just line up correctly against theirs. Maybe we have Dromoka's Command for their early Goblin Rabblemaster, then Valorous Stance or Hidden Dragonslayer for their Thunderbreak Regent, and a pair of Den Protectors attack past their Hornet Nests while a regrown Dromoka's Command keeps them from being able to use Crater's Claws or Roast effectively. We're not favored in the matchup but there are ways to win it, especially if we draw Windstorm.


Mardu Dragons

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IN:
1 Valorous Stance
1 Glare of Heresy
3 Windstorm
OUT:
1 Warden of the First Tree
1 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
3 Fleecemane Lion

This matchup is similar to the RG Dragons matchup but instead of having Hornet Nest and Crater's Claws they have Crackling Doom and Anger of the Gods (and Crux of Fate). This makes it a little easier for us because our early attacks are never brick walled by a card we can't attack into and we're never just dead to a single spell if we're at seven life without a Dromoka's Command in hand. Speaking of Dromoka's Command, it has a lot of important uses in this matchup. It can counter an Anger of the Gods or a Draconic Roar and/or it can fight a Goblin Rabblemaster. Valorous Stance and Hidden Dragonslayer can take out six of their ten dragons and our card advantage engines (Collected Company and Den Protector) match up well against their removal spells. Courser of Kruphix can also be very good against them. Stormbreath Dragon is really the one card we have to draw our Windstorm to answer unless we can mount enough pressure to keep it on defense. Fleecemane Lion is our worst card because it dies to all their removal spells and incidentally so to Anger of the Gods. And they have Crackling Doom, so monstrous is not even that good against them.


GR Devotion

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IN:
1 Valorous Stance
2 Wingmate Roc
OUT:
2 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
1 Warden of the First Tree

This matchup mostly comes down to whether we can Defeat them before the game gets out of control. Kill opposing mana creatures with Dromoka's Command is usually a good plan. Third turn Collected Company into fourth turn Wingmate Roc is basically the nuts.


GW Devotion

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IN:
1 Valorous Stance
2 Glare of Heresy
2 Wingmate Roc
OUT:
2 Courser of Kruphix
2 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
1 Warden of the First Tree

We don't really have time to durdle around with Courser of Kruphix, yet we absolutely want Glare of Heresy for their Mastery of the Unseen and/or Elspeth, Sun's Champion. This is one of our tougher matchups and ideally we would have a pair of Reclamation Sages and a third Glare of Heresy and maybe even a pair of Hunt the Hunters. At that point we would probably also have to take out Collected Company since we would be diluting our deck of too many creatures it can hit.


Jeskai Tokens

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IN:
1 Radiant Purge
2 Glare of Heresy
1 Boon Satyr
OUT:
2 Valorous Stance
2 Hidden Dragonslayer

In addition to the four copies of Dromoka's Command, we bring in three more answers to Jeskai Ascendancy. Glare also doubles as an answer to Seeker of the Way, Soulfire Grand Master, or Monastery Mentor. I haven't played this matchup much but it seems really good for us, especially once we board out our four worst cards and replace them with more answers to the opponent's most important card.


Sultai Megamorph

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IN:
1 Valorous Stance
1 Radiant Purge
2 Wingmate Roc
OUT:
1 Warden of the First Tree
2 Hidden Dragonslayer
1 Brimaz, King of Oreskos

Hidden Dragonslayer has no good targets and Warden of the First Tree is too slow. Radiant Purge can kill Sidisi, Brood Tyrant at instant speed with its enter the battlefield mill trigger on the stack. Valorous Stance can kill Courser of Kruphix or Sidisi, Undead Vizier or it can counter a Hero's Downfall or Murderous Cut. Wingmate Roc attacks past everything short of a Hornet Queen or Silumgar, the Drifting Death, each of which they only have one of, which is why I do not bring in Windstorm. Dromoka's Command is great at killing Whip of Erebos at opportune moments, usually mid-combat after they attack with a bunch of guys, opening themselves up to a pretty big blowout by having creatures die in combat, die in a command fight, and not gain any life because the whip got sacrificed. Command can create similarly big blowouts when forcing an opponent to sacrifice a Courser of Kruphix. We have the better pressure and the better answers, though any Deathmist Raptor + Den Protector 'mirror' can be tough to win if the opponent draws more copies of these cards than we do.


Conclusion

GW Collected Company is a really good deck right now. I think it's about equal in power level to Ojutai Bant, which is also still good. If GW is your speed I would recommend trying this deck out. It's lots of fun and has the tools to compete with just about deck in the format, especially the Top 3 (Red, Esper, and Abzan).

Craig Wescoe
@Nacatls4Life on twitter