The Beginning – Four-Color Yorion Fires
Last weekend, I got to the semifinals of Magicfest Online Weekly Championship with Bant Control. Bant Good Cards™ was a very strong Standard archetype before the release of Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths. For the first few days of the set, the shell wasn’t discussed much, with people focusing mostly on obviously improved Jeskai Fires and Sacrifice decks. While I was searching for a deck to play at Magicfest Online, I started working on Four-Color Yorion Fires decks that sprung up at some point:
4 《Breeding Pool》
4 《Hallowed Fountain》
4 《Stomping Ground》
4 《Temple Garden》
3 《Steam Vents》
1 《Sacred Foundry》
4 《Ketria Triome》
4 《Raugrin Triome》
2 《Temple of Mystery》
1 《Temple of Plenty》
1 《Castle Ardenvale》
1 《Castle Vantress》
-Land (35)- 4 《Arboreal Grazer》
3 《Fae of Wishes》
1 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》
2 《Scorching Dragonfire》
2 《Shatter the Sky》
4 《Omen of the Sea》
2 《Omen of the Forge》
4 《Fires of Invention》
3 《Elspeth Conquers Death》
3 《Shark Typhoon》
4 《Teferi, Time Raveler》
3 《Narset, Parter of Veils》
3 《Narset of the Ancient Way》
2 《Tamiyo, Collector of Tales》
1 《Sarkhan the Masterless》
Four-color versions of Yorion felt reasonably powerful, focusing in large part around the interaction between 《Fires of Invention》 and Yorion. If you untap with 《Fires of Invention》, and you cast Yorion as your second free spell, then you can blink your enchantment and be free to still spend your mana in any way you wish. At its core a powerful interaction, it got me thinking about the card 《Fires of Invention》 and the constant success of Jeskai Fires as a top deck while all the other archetypes trying to utilize the card were falling off.
《Fires of Invention》 is obviously very powerful. Its power comes from virtually producing extra mana, when you are casting spells that are worth significantly more than what your lands allow you for. When you play Fires on curve, the biggest power spike that you get happens on your fifth turn of the game.
Jeskai Fires is built around maximizing 《Fires of Invention》 with ruthless efficiency. Partially because of the addition of 《Keruga, the Macrosage》, Jeskai doesn’t really need to play extra card advantage, instead focusing just on cards with very high immediate impact. Jeskai Fires is certainly capable of playing a longer game, but it wins plenty of games in the midgame, with their opponent still having cards in hand, but not being able to match Jeskai’s high-impact turns. As the game goes longer, and the opposing player assembles enough lands to double-spell each turn, Jeskai slowly starts losing ground. Nobody really knows what the term “tempo” means in Magic writing, but to me that term encapsulates Jeskai Fires’ game plan – surviving through the developmental turns with a bare amount of interaction, hit your opponent with the power spike on turns 4-6, hope they won’t be answer everything you play on those turns.
Now, from a Four-Color Yorion Fires deck’s perspective, as the game goes, since you utilize ramp spells you will eventually end up with enough lands in play that you’d been able to double-spell without Fires. As a control deck, with more low-impact, cheaper spells, you naturally prolong the game, inevitably approaching the point of the game where 《Fires of Invention》 turns into a liability. At that point, you rely heavily on Yorion/《Teferi, Time Raveler》/《Elspeth Conquers Death》 loops to blink your Fires every turn, which is great if things go well for you, but leaves you open to interaction, especially getting your Yorion exiled with an opposing 《Elspeth Conquers Death》 for good.
Cutting Red into Bant Yorion Control
All being said, I realized I liked the deck in general, I just didn’t like 《Fires of Invention》 very much in this shell. Cutting it came easily, as it also allowed me to rebuild a deck with one less color. Even if I’m not willing to play 《Fires of Invention》, Yorion as a Companion is obviously very powerful, and I don’t think it’s a close decision whether to run it or not in a deck like this. I’m not struggling at all to fill out my decklist with subpar cards. I wouldn’t choose to run Yorion as a maindeck card in Standard, but as your Companion, every effect that benefits from blinking you put in your deck get better because your synergy card for it will always be available. In the same vein, you can always blink your 《Elspeth Conquers Death》 at an opportune time, which makes for a very powerful 《Flametongue Kavu》 variant.
I initially tried to build my deck using cards that used to be mainstays in Bant before Ikoria – 《Nissa, Who Shakes the World》; 《Dream Trawler》; 《Hydroid Krasis》; alongside some new cards I wanted to try out like 《Neutralize》 and 《Shark Typhoon》. I quickly realized that those are two distinct approaches, effectively choosing between Bant Yorion Ramp, tapping out for expensive, sorcery speed threats every turn, or Bant Yorion Control, which still runs all the ramp cards, because they are very good on rate, and taps out a bunch, but especially post-board can play the draw-go game quite well.
《Neutralize》 is what allows for that. Most decks in Standard right now are playing expensive spells, and aggro is not really all that viable. 《Cancel》 is just a fairly powerful effect to have access to in an environment like that. The reason why we haven’t seen countermagic-heavy control decks thrive is, of course, 《Teferi, Time Raveler》 – probably the single most impactful card when it comes to shaping today’s Standard format.
Thanks to Cycling on your counterspell, it doesn’t go entirely dead if your opponent resolves a Teferi. Between 《Aether Gust》, 《Neutralize》, and 《Shark Typhoon》 being effective under Teferi’s passive, you end up being able to almost shrug it off. Cycle (2) is a little bit expensive, and you naturally don’t want to cycle your counterspell late in the game when it’s no longer costly to hold it up, so you end up actually cycling it fairly rarely, but I believe having that option in the world of Teferi is easily a bigger upside than extra benefits of 《Absorb》 or 《Sinister Sabotage》.
《Shark Typhoon》 is a card that I was impressed with, too – between being an uncounterable threat, a payoff for your ramp, fueling Uro, giving you an alternative play after passing with countermagic, and working very well both alongside and against opposing Teferis, that card does a lot.
Updated List from Magicfest Online Weekly Championship
This is the Bant list I would recommend for now:
4 《Breeding Pool》
4 《Hallowed Fountain》
4 《Temple Garden》
4 《Fabled Passage》
4 《Temple of Enlightenment》
4 《Temple of Mystery》
4 《Temple of Plenty》
2 《Castle Vantress》
-Land (36)- 4 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》
2 《Agent of Treachery》
3 《Aether Gust》
2 《Mystical Dispute》
3 《Shatter the Sky》
4 《Omen of the Sea》
4 《Elspeth Conquers Death》
4 《Shark Typhoon》
1 《Glass Casket》
4 《Teferi, Time Raveler》
2 《Narset, Parter of Veils》
3 《Tamiyo, Collector of Tales》
I talked about how Jeskai Fires wants to play its games earlier. It’s entirely about tempo. Bant has a stronger late game in the matchup. That means you need to survive. The turning point is where you can comfortably start double-spelling. 《Mystical Dispute》 is good for double-spelling early, even if they have a limited amount of blue spells to get the discount; it’s very good to have Disputes to fight back against theirs. Keeping up the three mana version to counter 《Fires of Invention》 is okay. I board in all 《Aether Gust》s expecting my opponents to have 《Legion Warboss》. Almost everyone does, although one of my opponents in the tournament used 《Lavabrink Venturer》 instead – that card is much harder to deal with, and upon seeing it I would board my last 《Shatter the Sky》 and 2-3 《Glass Casket》s for game three.
I don’t like boarding in 《Knight of Autumn》. Even though that card says the words “Destroy” and “Enchantment”, I don’t want to use a solely sorcery speed answer with little flexibility for that purpose. I had a lot of success in the matchup without boarding Knight. Their upside is the ability to hit opposing 《Elspeth Conquers Death》, so if you really want that, you can trim an 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 and more 《Shark Typhoon》s. 《Shark Typhoon》 isn’t very mana efficient, but allows you to keep up counters.
The same argument for 《Knight of Autumn》 applies, but even moreso, as I think boarding Knight in this matchup is not justifiable – actually 《Wilderness Reclamation》 is the only target for it. Postboard it’s a blue control matchup, where counterspells are crucial. 《Shark Typhoon》 is really good to cycle end of turn when both players are holding counterspells, so hitting land drops and building a mana advantage is even more important than it usually would be. 《Mystical Dispute》 should target early-game 《Growth Spiral》s; conversely, play your 《Growth Spiral》 at sorcery speed if there is no upside in passing the turn with it. 《Glass Casket》 hits both Sharks and Uros, so even though it looks like a weird inclusion, I like it. 《Brazen Borrower》 rarely shows up in Reclamation anymore, so especially game one, aggressively plus your Teferis so that they survive 《Scorching Dragonfire》s and small flying Sharks hits. Postboard it can get hit by 《Fry》.
Since 《Elspeth Conquers Death》 has no targets besides 《Lurrus of the Dream-Den》, you need to cut it, so you have to leave some medium cards. I don’t hate 《Agent of Treachery》 here, as stealing 《Witch’s Oven》 is quite impactful. 《Tamiyo, Collector of Tales》 is a good source of card advantage and a way to fuel Uro, but you need to be wary of the interaction between her and 《Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger》 – with the way Kroxa is worded, you will always take 3 damage. 《Aether Gust》 isn’t great, but will usually find a target at some point and is cheap. You can often see a Kroxa coming to make sure you hold it up. My configuration there isn’t perfect, but I find Lurrus decks in Standard to be generally quite underpowered, so I am not hugely worried there.
《Obosh, the Preypiercer》 versions are a worse matchup, as they are better aggro decks. Again I am unsure about the ideal amount of 《Aether Gust》s to leave in your deck, as most of their cards are black. Mulligan to hands with turn two plays or 《Shatter the Sky》.
《Mystical Dispute》 is okay against Jeskai versions – they have their own Disputes as well as 《Improbable Alliance》 – would rather keep 《Neutralize》 against pure Boros versions. Remember that you can opt not to activate your 《Narset, Parter of Veils》. You are mostly going to lose to a turn one 《Flourishing Fox》, so try to mulligan accordingly. If you aren’t pressured on board, it’s pretty hard to die to 《Zenith Flare》.
Thank you for reading, take care and stay healthy.