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Standard Bant Storm the Festival Deck Guide

Standard Bant Storm the Festival Deck Guide: Breaking the Midrange Paradigm

In this free Premium deck guide, learn how to play Standard Bant Storm the Festival from Chris Botelho, former Magic Pro League member! In this guide, we cover every card, an up to date decklist, matchups and how to sideboard in detail.

Tired of Standard being nothing but an endless march of swamp mirrors? I’ve got you covered. Looking for a way to avoid a similarly endless march of midrange mirrors? I’ve… got you less covered; but I can give you a deck that wins them, and that’s even better, right? Welcome to Bant Storm, the midrange deck that eats midrange decks.

Currently in Standard, midrange is the name of the game. We’ve yet to collectively discover the tools for a control or combo shell with true inevitability to exist, and as a result, there’s nothing in the ecosystem to prey on midrange decks. In turn, an enlarged population of midrange decks is a field that quickly pushes aggro to the extinction point. Whether that remains the case is a question of the future, but the status quo is clear enough: Midrange is on top, and it’s a lot of mirrors.

For clarity of context, the main midrange decks right now are Esper, Grixis, and Mono Black / Rakdos. Each of them has specific strengths that they’re trying to leverage for advantage in midrange mirrors. Esper has resilient threats that avoid or invalidate removal. Red decks get Fable of the Mirror-Breaker for some acceleration. Grixis gets efficient card advantage from Corpse Appraiser. Blue builds get catch-all tempo efficient answers in the form of Spell Pierce and Make Disappear. The Mono Black / Rakdos builds get to be faster with a clean mana base.

But they were, all of them, deceived, for another midrange strength was leveraged. In the land of Bant, in the storms of the festival, the Dark Lord Katilda forged in secret a master lever, to out midrange all others. And into this lever she poured her extra mana, her tempo, and her will to dominate all creatures. One lever to rule them all!

…Which is to say that ultimately all of the other midrange lists are fighting over advantages that are ultimately somewhat minor edges in the grand scheme of things – small efficiencies in tempo advantage, or eeking out minor improvements in card advantage. Bant, meanwhile, is looking to develop a major improvement in tempo advantage either directly through mana ramp, or indirectly by “cheating” extra mana worth of cards into play with Storm the Festival.

Individually, each of our cards is providing the same level of impact as the other midrange decks, but where they’re trying to curve out one card a turn, we’re looking to start drawing and playing twice the mana worth of cards in the same amount of time.

Bant Storm the Festival
by Chris Botelho
Buy on TCGplayer $305.36
best of 3
11 mythic
44 rare
0 uncommon
5 common
Planeswalkers (7)
Wrenn and Seven
Sorceries (4)
Enchantments (11)
Lands (26)
Adarkar Wastes
Yavimaya Coast
Deserted Beach
60 Cards
15 Cards

So let’s dig into exactly what this Bant deck is doing that puts it so far ahead of the other midrange decks card by card.

The Cards

Storm the Festival Art by Yigit Koroglu

Starting with the two cards that form the backbone of Bant’s game plan:

Mana Advantage

Storm the Festival combines card advantage and mana advantage in one package, but requires you to obey two tricky restrictions during deck construction: Don’t play expensive spells, and yet play as many permanents with mana costs close to five as you can. Luckily for Bant, it has the perfect options to sacrifice no effectiveness while obeying both of those restrictions. Midrange all stars: Planeswalkers and Grafted Identity.

Katilda, Dawnhart Prime is a mana dork of unassuming stats, and in midrange mirrors where mana acceleration is a big deal, that’s very nearly enough to be a playable card already.

However, where Katilda really shines is when in combination with the myriad other humans that Bant already wants to be playing. A board with a couple of Wedding Announcement tokens and an Anointed Peacekeeper is a fantastic way to accelerate out board presence faster than other midrange decks can keep up with, while also giving you the mana needed to refill on resources by either using a Shanna, Purifying Blade or flashing back Storm the Festival.

Even when those options aren’t around, Katilda’s own ability gives you the capacity to dump that extra mana into overwhelming the opponent with a rapidly growing swarm of giant humans – especially potent when combined with attacking with vigilant humans before tapping them to pay for Katilda’s ability.

Next we move on to the cards that keep cards flowing; the filling that makes a midrange sandwich into something more than just a tempo hoagie:

The Two for Ones

Wedding Announcement is a familiar staple from multiple standard formats now, and aside from the Katilda synergy, we’re not really breaking any new ground here. It takes a little time to get going, but the amount of resources you get out of one card for three mana here is the kind of mana to value rate that’s pulling most decks into white. We get creatures, cards, and an anthem that puts our creatures over the top of theirs.

The only caveat Wedding Announcement brings is that it’s not going to do much for you the first few turns it’s in play, and that you’ll need more than just it to avoid getting run over by decks trying to out tempo you.

Shanna, Purifying Blade on the other hand, is a new player in Standard and possibly the card that does the most to carve out Bant’s new identity. Shanna has the interesting distinction of being a card that fills two polar opposite roles and yet fills both of them excellently.

As an anti-aggression card, Shanna trades off admirably with opposing three drops while gaining you a significant amount of life, giving you that all-important time to make it to slamming your late game haymakers.

That said, she also hangs as a late game haymaker with the best of them as Bant is loaded with ways to gain life. Some sneakier than others- like giving flying to lifelinking creatures with Elspeth Resplendent, using a The Wandering Emperor downtick, or triggering Gala Greeters. Some ways are less straightforward, but just as brutal and effective – like granting lifelink to 10/10 trees, or throwing a Shanna into your opponent’s lines just to enable the second Shanna from hand to draw a fresh 3 cards.

Grafted Identity fills a familiar role that’s otherwise notably absent from Bant entirely- removal, but it fills it in an unfamiliar way.

To take a small trip down tangent lane for a moment: By and large, not a lot of decks right now give you particularly valuable targets for removal, which makes it something of a liability to run. Most permanents will either have protection that makes them cost inefficient to kill, like Raffine, Scheming Seer and Graveyard Trespasser, or else will have so much of their value split across multiple permanents or in ETBs that removing them doesn’t truly answer them – like Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Corpse Appraiser, or Wedding Announcement (at least, unless you held up instant speed removal for it before it gets off the first trigger, which tends to have a pretty high opportunity cost when they don’t actually play Wedding Announcement).

Which brings us to the glaring exception to that trend: Sheoldred, The Apocalypse. Sheoldred demands a timely answer in any situation where you aren’t capable of either killing the opponent (which Sheoldred dramatically complicates), or you gained so much life you simply no longer care about the clock Sheoldred creates (which Bant can do by building up a large lifelinker, but not in a way you can count on to show up in a timely manner reliably).

So, we have ourselves a world where the majority of threats aren’t something we want to spend one for one removal on, but where the single most played card is something we really want to spend one for one removal on. With that scene set, enter Grafted Identity. Grafted Identity gives us a way to exchange our ample go-wide tokens for our opponent’s best creature.

Since we’re actually gaining control of that creature, it doesn’t really matter quite as much that we only removed their Corpse Appraiser after it got to draw a card, or that we removed their goblin shaman to stop them from developing a treasure based mana advantage, but didn’t answer their saga that’s going to flip into a huge Kiki-Jiki shaped problem. Why? Because we just got a newly chonky creature out of it. And in that oh-so-concerning Sheoldred, The Apocalypse situation? We just got a really good freshly chonked up creature out of it.

Of course, that’s just the start of it. That’s why we’d be interested in playing Grafted Identity fairly, but where things really start to get spicy is when we start abusing the rules. If you put Grafted Identity into play off of Storm the Festival, you don’t have to pay additional costs – no sacrificing a creature required.

Even better, you don’t have to obey targeting restrictions and that means we don’t have to pay ward costs or care about hexproof. So Raffine, Scheming Seer, Graveyard Trespasser, and Tolarian Terror are all completely fair game.

The Wandering Emperor, much like its partner in crime Wedding Announcement, is a familiar role player in midrange decks that have access to White. We get removal, we get creatures, and we get the ever looming sword above our opponent’s head, threatening a combat trick to fall at any possible moment. Best of all, we get all of that (particularly the removal) on a permanent that plays along with Storm the Festival.

The only real standout notes for The Wandering Emperorin the context of this shell is that the +1/+1 counters play nicely with lifelinkers, and to reiterate the useful synergy between her -2 and Shanna.

You’ll often want to play Emperor on turn four and then do something that isn’t exile their attacking creature before damage (if you can afford to give up a few points of life). You’d often rather set up the removal spell on your turn when you can use it to draw two with Shanna, a neat and tidy little use of five mana on-curve.

Elspeth Resplendent is a card that, at the risk of finding myself preaching from a soap box, I would argue has yet to actually see the respect it really deserves. Elspeth is the distilled essence of what Midrange is all about.

She’s flexible enough to be useful in any situation, though she excels on empty or stalled out boards. She’s resilient to removal by immediately downticking to spread value across multiple permanents, doubly so when the permanent she puts into play comes with a shield counter. Finally, she pulls her weight equally well in non-midrange matches by building you a lifelinker against aggro (or downticking one into play in a deck like this with plenty of native lifelinkers) and by diversifying your threats around board wipes against control.

Elspeth should probably be getting more representation in other midrange decks, but for this deck in particular, she’s the dream card to pair with Storm the Festival and never disappoints in any remotely close game.

Wrenn and Seven is a big reach creature for our Elspeth to give keywords to that comes with a neat free planeswalker…and you really don’t need too much more than that, to be honest. The land draws are nice, since you do eventually want to flash back Storm the Festival, as are the chances to mill more of those Storm the Festival. In some wonderful scenarios, we even get to make a second giant reach beastie. But honestly, we’d be close to onboard for the creature alone, and everything after that is just gravy.

Rounding out the list of decadent midrange delights: Ao, the Dawn Sky. Ao, is in many ways, the most metagame contextual choice for this deck, and one that I would urge you to re-weigh yourself in the weeks to come. Ao provides you with a large flier that attacks well and gums up the sky in the same way that the rest of the deck tries to gum up the ground.

Unlike most of the other cards in the midrange filling for this deck, it doesn’t provide any tangential benefits until it dies. Therein lies the problem, because it needs to do exactly that – die.

As of the time of writing, it’s becoming the norm for Esper decks to play Ao as a threat, and in a vacuum, that’s a reason for Bant with its copies of Grafted Identity to play its own Aos as Esper plays a lot of removal for enchantments between Destroy Evil and Void Rend, frequently main deck.

The safest option against them is frequently to take their Ao and then immediately sac it to get the dies trigger and avoid them destroying your enchantment and regaining their creature entirely, but doing so requires you have your own Ao (who conveniently is also pretty good against that same pair of enchantment destruction spells).

However, the meta is adapting to this trend from Esper, and Soul Transfer alongside Rite of Oblivion are becoming more common choices for removal slots. When the pendulum has swung too far in favor of those removal spells it’ll be time to put the Aos back in their toy box and load up on additional copies of Wrenn or Elspeth instead. The tricky task of identifying whether or not this is the case on any given weekend I leave in your unfortunate capable hands, dear reader.

With our suite of card and mana advantage midrange paradigm breakers out of the way, that leaves us with:

The Rest Of The Stuff That Gets Us There (Wherein “There” Is “The Late Game”)

Dennick, Pious Apprentice is the most fitting card to start with, since in some respects, he’ll wind up overlapping with the above category of cards. Disturb is functionally the kind of card advantage that midrange decks thrive on, especially when combined with self mill engines like Wrenn and Seven or Teachings of the Kirin. Furthermore, Dennick’s backside is a respectable source of investigation in general, but doubly so in combination with those same self-mill effects.

That said, I’m including it in this section instead because it’s Dennick’s strengths as an on curve speed bump that really earn him his home in this list.

Many of the same praises for Shanna apply here: Lifelinking bodies are valuable in a shell that has access to repeatable +1/+1 effects on planeswalkers, as well as from Teachings of the Kirin, Katilda, and Wedding Announcement. In addition to that, Dennick’s other passive has a surprising amount of utility currently. Reanimation strategies using The Cruelty of Gix and Invoke Justice are incidentally hosed by being prevented from targeting their graveyards, and you’ll be playing against a lot of The Restoration of Eiganjo who’s second chapter provide a lot less value than their players were expecting.

Teachings of the Kirin earns my commendations for being the card of this new Standard that has most bucked my expectations. In this case, my expectations were “This is a very weak card that doesn’t do much and does it slowly”. In a sense, that’s still true, but on the other hand, it turns out not doing much is fine, as long as you’re doing just enough.

What Teachings is doing is giving us a non legendary way to stay toe-to-toe with aggressive decks so that they don’t just completely bury us with tempo. It lines up well against the popular opposing 2 drops which generally have 2 toughness and trade with a buffed spirit token, as well as with opposing 3/3 thre drops as a 2/2 spirit token and a 1/1 flipped saga. It turns out that access to that seemingly simple effect in a way that doesn’t feel very underwhelming in any off-curve context is pretty tricky outside of Black right now.

This seems like an appropriate time to touch on the subject of removal in this deck, but also in the metagame as a whole. Because what I’ve just described is typically a role occupied by cheap efficient removal spells- your Voltage Surges and your Cut Downs, possibly Infernal Grasp if you’re desperate. Outside of red and black though, those options don’t really exist right now. Fateful Absence has an unacceptable drawback in a midrange world, and Destroy Evil is an impressively versatile card- but not as an on curve option.

Which brings us to the beauty of Teachings of the Kirin. For our purposes, this is a removal spell with some tangential synergy and one singular bright, shining perk: we can proactively play Teachings of the Kirin before our opponent even plays a creature. If that doesn’t sound like the biggest deal in the world to you, then buckle up because I’m excited to chauffeur you to the realization that has most improved my performance this standard.

By and large, we’ve established that this is a format where one of the most critical axes on which midrange decks beat other midrange decks is the speed with which they develop their resources.

But the familiar reality of magic that we can often fail to remember when planning our decks is that the wheels fall off our decks pretty frequently- on both sides of the table. The nugget of wisdom contained in that realization basically boils down to: Reactive answers like removal spells don’t let you get ahead when your opponent stumbles.

The more frequently you have to sit there and not do anything because your opponent didn’t play something on curve, the more frequently you’re going to eventually lose to that same opponent who most likely has a hand stacked with late game cards.

So, those cards that serve to slow down opposing aggression, but still carry value into the mid and late game? The ones that you can still play anyway in those situations? Your Tenacious Underdog, your Bloodtithe Harvester, your Teachings of the Kirin? That’s the value that they’re giving you that spot removal spell can’t, and the midrange world is the one where that value is at its highest.

Gala Greeters is probably a confusing card to see only a single copy of, and that confusion is understandabl, because it’s the card I’ve most wracked my brain over. If anything, including it in this “stuff that gets us to the late game” section is kind of a lie, because the main problem with it is that it’s actually quite poor at that job in the sense that it’s an awful blocker. Yet, it’s only really exceptional at anything when it’s played on curve. Which, incidentally, is why we don’t want more than one of it – it’s a card you never want to see two of, because then you’re going to have to play one copy off curve.

This deck has certain desires, and one of those desires is: “It really wants one more 2 drop for curve purposes.” We could play another anti aggro card, but we’ve sort of tapped out on good ones, so instead, we opt to play a ramp card, because the deck does like ramping up to five and sive mana. The other notable option there is Rootcoil Creeper, which does have slightly better blocking stats as well as some useful synergy with flashback spells like Storm the Festival.

Ultimately, I’ve chosen to go with Gala Greeters because I think the looser mana requirements do actually matter in this deck- you’re pretty happy keeping hands with no blue mana, and that changes if you have Rootcoil in your deck. There are, however, two other benefits from Gala Greeters that I’ve grown pretty fond of.

Firstly, The Meathook Massacre is a card you spend a good deal of time dancing around, especially during the first four turns of the game. It’s pretty frequent that you make a treasure token on turn three, only to have your board wiped, and it’s actually pretty useful to have that treasure stick around to cast an earlier Storm the Festival or planeswalker instead of losing your mana ramp potential forever with a Rootcoil Creeper.

Additionally, this deck has a notable lack of good four drops it wants to play on curve, there’s just The Wandering Emperor(that’s a consequence of Storm the Festival pulling our curve toward five mana). This has the curious side effect of making the whole “turn delay” on Gala Greeters not actually hurt us as much as a typical ramp shell, since we really want to curve two drop, three drop, five drop anyway.

Secondly, the lifegain aspect of the card with Shanna is really quite useful in many stalled out board states. Note: Stack your Shanna triggers so that Wedding Announcement resolves first, then select gain two life from the resulting Gala Greeters trigger. Despite what the Arena interface may give you the impression of, this will still let you draw two cards with the Shanna trigger.

At long last, we reach Anointed Peacekeeper. Amusingly, this card wasn’t in my initial builds of the deck, or at least, not in the main deck. I call that amusing because as of now, it’s the card in the deck I would credit with winning the largest percentage of games single-handedly. I could wax poetic about how far this card has blown all of my expectations out of the water for an evening, but I’ll do my best to reign those urges in here. Instead, we’ll leave it with a short summary: The base rate on this card is that it trades equally while inconveniencing the opponent at worst. The best case “fair” scenario is that you look at your opponent’s turn three hand of two Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and a seven drop and get to blank their entire world by naming Fable.

Cutting myself off at that, we’ll pivot into talking about how this card single-handedly devours opposing midrange deck’s anti-midrange plans.

For context, let’s take a look at two pieces of tech that have been defining the ways midrange decks try to out-do one another right now. Namely Reckoner Bankbuster and Rite of Harmony. Both of these cards attempt to break midrange mirrors by drawing way more cards than opposing decks can handle, and when they’re the thing you’re “doing” to beat the mirror, you’re incentivized to go hard on them- oftentimes four copies.

However, both of them are rendered so inert by a single Anointed Peacekeeper that it very nearly functionally Extirpates every copy from your opponent’s deck (and you don’t even need to put a copy in the graveyard first)! The big difference, of course, is that they still have to draw the now nearly useless husk of a card.

It’s worth noting that Anointed Peacekeeper is somewhat unique in how it taxes both the card and activated abilities. In the case of Reckoner Bankbuster, it now costs four mana to play, four mana to draw a card, and two mana to crew to attack you or block. This also makes it an excellent answer to planeswalkers – Teferi now costs six mana to play and two mana to activate a loyalty ability.

But a word of warning: the ability tax is, for some reason, the only part of the card that affects you too. So be mindful that when you name The Wandering Emperor, yours will still cost four, theirs will cost six, but you both have to pay two to activate an ability.

So, after all of that; why only three copies? I don’t have a particularly good reason. I’ve boarded up to four copies in literally every post-board game, the only thing that changes is what I’m cutting. The best reason I can give is that it’s the prickly nature of Storm the Festival to demand that you keep your curve very specific, and I’m always either trimming Storm against aggressive decks or two drops against midrange decks.

To the enterprising reader, I leave the option of cutting something from this deck to add another Peacekeeper. As long as you don’t cut Elspeth or a land, literally any other cut has a reasonable chance of improving the list.

Matchups and Sideboard Guide

Shanna, Purifying Blade Art by Magali Villeneuve
Shanna, Purifying Blade Art by Magali Villeneuve

I’ve talked at length about the mindset for midrange mirrors, so let’s start with what I feel are the major not-really-midrange decks right now.

Versus Selesnya Enchantments

+1 Anointed Peacekeeper-1 Ao, the Dawn Sky
+3 Destroy Evil-3 Grafted Identity
+1 Welcoming Vampire-2 Teachings of the Kirin
+1 Elspeth Resplendent

There’s some variety to how these decks are built, with some versions leaning more aggressive with Kami of Transience or Generous Visitor. In those cases, bringing in the Intrepid Adversary instead of Welcoming Vampire (and cutting a Gala Greeters) can be correct.

Generally speaking though, Selesnya Enchantments is trying to go over the top of midrange decks by drawing huge amounts of cards with Rite of Harmony and playing huge amounts of cards with cost reduction and mana acceleration- pretty similar to your plan! The big difference is that they’re very dependent on Rite of Harmony, and having it taxed by Anointed Peacekeeper is brutal for them. Even if they eventually get extra mana to cast it, they’re gated by how many other spells they still have mana to cast afterwards and for flashback spells, that tax is doubly-damaging.

So our sideboard plan is mostly to maximize our ability to find Peacekeepers and utilize Destroy Evil as an efficient removal spell for Jukai Naturalist, Hallowed Haunting, and Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr. Without the perfect mix of all of those tools, their deck tends to behave like a typical midrange deck, and that’s where Bant thrives.

Versus Mono Blue

+3 Unlicensed Hearse-4 Storm the Festival
+1 Anointed Peacekeeper-3 Grafted Identity
+3 Destroy Evil-2 Dennick, Pious Apprentice
+1 Ao, the Dawn Sky
+1 Welcoming Vampire

In all likelihood, this is the worst match up going currently for Bant, though I don’t think it’s particularly unfavored even then. Mono Blue’s plan is to counter everything you do, then resolve a Haughty Djinn (or a Tolarian Terror to lesser efficacy, but generally less cost), and then keep countering everything while it makes short work of you. Their primary tool for keeping up this stream of card output is Thirst for Discovery.

It’s very challenging to beat their deck when it fires on all cylinders, but on the flip side, their deck has the nasty habit of just failing to function. The most impactful card we have post board is Unlicensed Hearse. In fact, this matchup is the only reason that card’s in the 75 at all. Their Haughty Djinn and Tolarian Terror are essentially useless without a graveyard, so if you manage to resolve a timely Hearse, they typically have no recourse. (Note: We absolutely must cut Dennick in this matchup because it locks out our own Hearse.)

Beyond that, we’re trimming costs across the board to better play around counterspells, but be cautious: They can represent lethal extremely quickly even with you at 20 life, and very few of your cards can chump block fliers. Weigh your need to put them on a clock if you don’t have graveyard hate accordingly. (Also, remember that Teachings of the Kirin being a soft form of graveyard hate can actually be relevant here).

Improving at this matchup will largely be a function of learning how to sequence your spells, since some of your spells are so much stronger earlier on (like Teachings, Wedding Announcement, and Katilda), and some are so powerful you want to maximize the chance that they resolve (like Unlicensed Hearse). The best advice I can offer from my experiences so far is that you probably ought to be jamming spells you think they need to counter every single turn. Their deck’s tendency to have nonfunctional draws is smoothed out by a mass of cantrips and Thirst for Discovery, but they often can’t smooth their draws and counter your stuff at the same time. It can be better to force them to have all the answers than to give them the time they need to find all of those answers anyway.

Versus Gruul Aggro

+2 Intrepid Adversary-1 Wrenn and Seven
+1 Anointed Peacekeeper-2 Storm the Festival
+1 Ao, the Dawn Sky-1 Grafted Identity
+1 Welcoming Vampire-1 Gala Greeters

Gruul’s just about the only truly traditional aggro deck out there right now, but that’s a mark of its raw speed to survive in a meta this hostile to aggro. As such, we’re cutting our slower cards for everything that helps us speed up our plan and slow theirs down. Welcoming Vampire isn’t a traditionally “anti aggressive” card, but in this case, Phoenix Chick is enough of a concern that we want the early flying blocker. Grafted Identity can do absurd work when stealing a Halana and Alena, Partners, but can also be a significant tempo liability when you steal a tapped creature- it stays tapped and can’t block for the turn, beware.

Your general plan is leveraging your access to lifelink creatures and your capacity to grow them. Decide when you can’t afford to block with them if you have The Wandering Emperoror Katilda accordingly.

Versus Rakdos Anvil

+1 Anointed Peacekeeper-1 Wrenn and Seven
+1 Elspeth Resplendent-1 Grafted Identity

There’s not much for us to steal in this matchup that’s meaningful, so Grafted Identity can be a bit of a liability. However, they do still have some number of Sheoldred, The Apocalypse and their lack of ways to destroy enchantments or return Sheoldred to hand means we get a pretty huge swing if we manage to nab her, so it largely stays in anyway.

The big things to note: We have lots of lifelinkers, but they typically get invalidated by the Anvil player setting up blocks with artifact creatures that they then sacrifice to Anvil. But, we can get around that by either giving our lifelinkers flying with Elspeth (or the reverse) as our primary win condition, or by taxing the Anvil activation costs with Anointed Peacekeeper so that paying two mana to sacrifice their creatures isn’t an option. Surprising, I know, another matchup where Anointed Peacekeeper is the best card.

Be mindful that they typically run far more The Meathook Massacre than other decks, and try to play around that where you can. (It’s why we’re not jumping on playing Intrepid Adversary, but more testing may indicate that’s a mistake on my part.)

Similarly, it’s possible cutting Grafted Identity for Destroy Evil as a way to remove The Meathook Massacre might be a more desirable upside for Sheoldred removal than Grafted Identity stealing her, depending on whether it looks like they might not be playing Sheoldred at all, consider a substitution.

Versus Grixis Midrange

+1 Anointed Peacekeeper-1 Gala Greeters (on the draw)
-1 Teachings of the Kirin (on the play)

We’re basically main decked to beat midrange, and Grixis is one of the few midrange matchups where the opponent has nearly no way to hate Grafted Identity out of their board, so not a lot of changes here.

Rona's Vortex is a possibility that punishes Grafted Identity pretty hard, but it’s not particularly common currently. If you suspect the opponent is on 2+ copies, you can debate subbing out Destroy Evil for Grafted Identity, but generally I’ve decided against that because they often have no valid targets for Destroy Evil other than Sheoldred, The Apocalypse (and a Fable body, as unexciting a target as that frequently is).

Note: Don’t cut Teachings of the Kirin if they’re playing Invoke Despair, though that’s becoming less common. You can try to observe their game 1 mana base to see how many non black producing lands they had to gauge the likelihood of this.

Versus Esper Midrange

+3 Destroy Evil-3 Grafted Identity
+1 Anointed Peacekeeper-1 Gala Greeters (draw)
+1 Ao, the Dawn Sky-1 Teachings of the Kirin (draw)
-2 Teachings of the Kirin (play)

Similar story to Grixis. We’re mostly main decked here, but the threat of Destroy Evil gives us a bit too much pause to keep in Grafted Identity post board. Since we need removal for Raffine, Scheming Seer and Sheoldred, The Apocalypse, so in come the Destroy Evils (which as an added benefit also hit Wedding Announcement in this matchup).

As a result, we need to bring in another five drop to cover the CMC gap Grafted Identity‘s absence creates for Storm the Festival. I’m currently bringing in Ao, the Dawn Sky to fill that, but alternatively, another Elspeth Resplendent can be considered if concerns about lots of exile removal in the meta make Ao look unappealing. (Though worth considering that Anointed Peacekeeper makes Rite of Oblivion versions of Esper very sad, and forcing them to keep those Rites in might actually be a good move.)

Note: Don’t cut Teachings of the Kirin if they’re playing Invoke Despair, though that’s becoming less common. You can try to observe their game 1 manabase to see how many non black producing lands they had to gauge the likelihood of this.

Versus Jund Midrange / Reanimator

+1 Anointed Peacekeeper-3 Grafted Identity
+3 Destroy Evil-1 Teachings of the Kirin

It can be tricky to tell reanimator apart from a non reanimator Jund package (the biggest difference typically being the number of The Cruelty of Gix and Titan of Industry), but generally speaking, they play Tear Asunder which moves us off the Grafted Identity plan regardless of whether they’re big into Titan of Industry. Furthermore, Dennick, Pious Apprentice overperforms as a way to shut down The Cruelty of Gix.

The most notable absence here against a reanimator deck is that we’re not bringing in Unlicensed Hearse. This is a decision borne of my experience playing with reanimator decks. My general feeling was that so few of my cards actually cared about the graveyard that my opponent taking the time to draw and play Hearse rather than an immediately impactful card actually resulted in me having an improved chance to win the game because they sideboarded it in.

Essentially, The Cruelty of Gix being card advantage and tutor spell in addition to a reanimation effect makes it much to ineffective to hate on it with something as linear as Hearse. Be proactive and get ahead of them on-board instead, but as a familiar word of caution: They have access to  The Meathook Massacre with their tutors, so be mindful of when you want to go tall with your +1/+1 counters on a single creature to play around that in advance. Sometimes, sacrificing a flipped Teachings of the Kirin with an attack is a good idea just to put a +1/+1 counter on another creature (or exile a critical creature from their graveyard).

Versus Mono Black / Rakdos Midrange / Aggro

This is what we were born for. Stare them in the eyes and send a message as you refuse to sideboard.

(Possibly consider Intrepid Adversary over Gala Greeters if they’re extremely aggressive, might be a minor improvement, I’m not sure, the matchup is so good it’s hard to actually figure if any individual changes are having an effect. Just don’t cut Teachings, you need it against Invoke Despair).

Versus “Control” decks playing Blue

This one’s a pretty broad category, and as part of my general lack of knowledge of a version of these decks that I would consider “Good” yet, I can’t really give concrete advice on any particular one.

As a bit of generalized advice: For decks like Temur control playing Titan of Industry game one, or Azorius Control / Midrange, beware of Hullbreaker Horror as a potential sideboard option. The only real answer you have is Destroy Evil. You want Disdainful Stroke generally against big mana late game control decks, but if that’s your only plan, then Horror’s going to make you very, very sad. Luckily, they typically have other targets for Destroy Evil, so if the over-caution there comes back to bite you, it probably won’t be the end of the world.

Your cuts here are typically Grafted Identity followed by some smattering of two drops and a storm the festival. Depending on how much you want to prioritize out-valuing them (cut two drops) or out aggroing them and not getting blown out by countermagic (cut slightly more top end).

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Chris Botelho
Chris Botelho

Professional Magic: The Gathering Player, 2022 Magic Pro League Member, Jank aficionado.
On a quest to become good at this game, even if that means making every mistake possible to get there.
Most of all: I'm hoping that helps you get better with me.

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