It was Friday night before Grand Prix Providence and, in what has become a recent trend, I had no idea what to play. Fortunately, I had brought just about every conceivable Magic card with me so that I could play essentially whatever my little heart desired. Unfortunately, this wide-open freedom meant that I was nowhere close to landing on a deck. If constraint breeds creativity, unmitigated freedom breeds indecisiveness.
At the eleventh hour, I had narrowed down my choices to three potential options, all laid out on my hotel room bed before me.
Option number one was U/W Flash. I knew going into the event that the archetype was powerful as it had emerged from the Pro Tour as the de facto best performing deck. It was the sensible choice.
Option two was a Metalwork Colossus deck. The mostly-mono-blue list was something that I had been eyeing for a while and was keen on playing. While perhaps not as proven as the Azorious list above, it still had the potential to do unfair things that many opponents simply couldn’t stop. It was also still somewhat under-the-radar, because even though folks might knew it existed, they still might not have tested or prepared against it. Any other tournament, it’s what I would classify as the rogue choice.
The last option was the silliest. It was largely untested. It had some issues, but also had the potential to be a real sleeper in a room that wasn’t prepared for it in the slightest.
Coming off the Pro Tour, I had several regrets. I was a well of disappointment, wondering where I should go next in my Magic grinding endeavors. It was then that I received some sage advice that struck home: “Remember, at the end of it all, Magic is a game. Sure, there are prizes on the line, but there are much easier ways to make money that through tournament Magic. Don’t forget to have fun.”
These words put a lot of things in perspective for me. Sometimes you need to let your hair down–or in my case, your beard—and have a good time without focusing on the grind. With that in mind, I went with deck number three: Bantharmonicon.
Bantharmonicon by Charles League
For those that didn’t catch my last article, I briefly mentioned that I almost played a list similar to this at the Pro Tour in a moment of desperation. I had seen SaffronOlive’s YouTube video where he destroyed his competition over and over again with Panharmonicon and instantly fell in love. In another time line, my prudence would’ve had me winning the Pro Tour. It didn’t quite pan out like that in this one unfortunately, although I did net an extra Pro Point for my trouble.
In any case, ever since then I had been chomping at the bit to play a Panharmonicon-inspired list. It’s the exact type of deck I enjoy: durdly, exciting, capable of infinite combos (more on those later!), and unconventional. This was the last Standard tournament for me for a while, so why not give it a shot!
The Tournament Itself
Before I get to the nuances of this list, I suppose it’s wise to discuss how I did with it to at least justify talking about it at such length. For more on the list and how it plays, skip below.
The tournament went “ok” for me. I ended up limping into day 2 at 6-3, landing with a final record of 9-6. Not the most respectible showing, but certainly not the worst. The fact that this list even made it as far as it did is perhaps a testament to its potential, although I’m not necessarily convinced that it will ever be more than a tier 2 deck. If you’re looking to play something fun at your FNM, go for it! If you’re looking to take down a huge tournament, perhaps look elsewhere although further testing might break it wide open. Who knows.
Things started off rocky as I lost to Jake Mondello in my first round. Jake was on U/W Flash—the deck that a more cutthroat Charles should’ve been on—and I lost a close match that in retrospect I think I ought to have won. I paradoxically was both too greedy and too hesitant which proved to be my downfall. I was routinely having to discard and ended up tossing extra Panharmonicons when I should have just been playing them out as I’m not sure my opponent could have dealt with the overwhelming card advantage and tempo. I also waited too long to go for my infinite combo, getting blown out by some Spell Quellers in the process.
As it would turn out, Jake would end up being the only UW list that I lost to all day. The matchup, I felt, seemed fairly good throughout the tournament. Of particular note, the coolest play I had all weekend was against a U/W Flash opponent who went to cast a game-winning spell only to have me Displace his own Spell Queller to counter it. This interaction is an oldie, but still a goodie.
While U/W feels generally favorable, the matchup that did not seem good however was R/B Zombies. This one archetype was responsible for 3 of my losses. On paper the matchup seems fine, but time and again I fell to the undead Rakdos deck.
Beyond that the tournament is somewhat a blur. My other losses were to a Boros token list (a la the Pro Tour list) and Mardu Vehicles while my wins were to a smattering of different archetypes.
What Does the Deck Do?
The deck is fairly straight forward in many respects. Play Panharmonicon. Play value creatures. Profit. Landing a Cloudblazer already feels good. Imagine Eldritch Evolutioning a Filigree Familiar to fetch a Cloudblazer with Panharmonicon out. It’s heavenly! For those non-math experts, this has you drawing 5 cards and gaining 6-8 life depending on when the Familiar came out.
Everything in the deck gets a boost once Panharmonicon comes down. Reflector Mage’s trigger is incredibly potent. Drowner of Hope stonewalls an opponent for turns. Verdurous Gearhulk makes an army out of nowhere. And, to top it off, MVP of the list Eldrazi Displacer lets you net value turn after turn.
But there’s more!
I mentioned above an infinite combo. The full extent of it is perhaps not that obvious, so allow me to explain.
Panharmonicon plus Drowner of Hope/Eyeless Watcher makes four/six Eldrazi Scion tokens. This equates to four mana. If you have an Eldrazi Displacer on the board, you can spend three of this mana to blink said Drowner to net more tokens. Just like that, we have infinite mana.
With infinite mana and an Eldrazi Displacer, it’s not too terribly difficult to see how things get out of hand. Here are a few key ways you can use just about anything already on the battlefield to win the game on the spot.
- Verdurous Gearhulk: Make your Eldrazi Displacer (and any other creature that can attack) infinitely large, tap your opponent’s team, swing for the win.
- Filigree Familiar: Gain infinite life! There aren’t a whole lot of decks that can win through a nigh inexhaustible life total.
- Glint-Nest Crane: Alright, here’s where things get a little interesting. By blinking your Crane over and over again, you can essentially search your whole library for every artifact you have and put them in your hand. That, in itself, is awesome, especially when you consider that Filigree Familiar is in there meaning that you’ve now netted infinite life. But you want to win now! Since the list also runs some Prophetic Prisms, you can actually cast colored spells too. Notably, you can cast that Verdurous Gearhulk that your Crane found and win the game on the spot that turn as illustrated above!
- Thought-Knot Seer: If attacking for whatever reason isn’t possible, you can always win via decking with Thought-Knot Seer. Blinking him an infinite number of times means that your opponent is going to draw their entire deck on the spot due to the leaves-play trigger. You don’t even need to worry about instant-speed removal that they might draw since you can simply blink him again in response. Just as important, you can even almost certainly win through this route with just the Crane out. You’ll almost certainly draw Seer once you factor in the cards you’ll draw from your Prisms (after you cast your playset of Panharmonicons) at which point any Eldritch Evoltuion or Cloudblazer will result in getting you to the 4/4 Eldrazi to win on the spot.
I won a few games with the above methods in the Grand Prix. Through the card draw in the deck coupled with Eldritch Evolution, you’re able to find your singleton Drowner or Eyeless Watcher fairly easily. More often though, I won through just overwhelming my opponent with value (as the deck often does).
Like I said, the deck has a glaring weakness, namely that it has a difficult time dealing with aggressive decks. Under a clock, you simply can’t afford to take a turn off to cast a four-mana do-nothing. Sure, if you’re able to get it down, turning the corner often becomes much easier. Unfortunately, against decks like R/W Tokens B/R Zombies, you’re going to be clawing back into the game more often than not.
If you’re looking to play the deck yourself, my advice is as follows:
I’d likely cut one Panharmonicon from the list. Duplicates generally feel like “win more” spells, and you often only really ever need to hit one to establish dominance. It could be wrong to cut the marquee card, but I mentioned above how awkward trying to play it our on turn 4 felt sometimes. That being said, playing a Panharmonicon on turn three (off a Servant) felt incredible and like I couldn’t lose.
If I’m sticking with green, I’d like to add another Eyeless Watcher somewhere. I’d really like to focus more on the combo, and Eyeless is a little easier to get down, especially if we’re using Eldritch Evolution. Ishkanah might also be a great addition, either to the maindeck or sideboard, so long as it can net us its Delirium spiders. The 3/5 is a great way to set up a road block for aggro, so I’d likely explore that adding that in some numbers moving forward.
I’m tempted to cut green together entirely though. We can add in Hedron Crawler for the mana acceleration that we lose by dropping Servant. Going straight blue-white makes our mana significantly better and allows us to play more colorless-requiring Eldrazi more easily. I’m not sure exactly if this gain is worth losing the non-combo beat down plan that the green Gearhulk enables, but it’s an option I’d like to explore.
I’ve also thought about making the deck Esper colored. We gain, among other things, some fun ETB creatures targets like Noxious Gearhulk. Perhaps more importantly, Ever After (or something similar) allows us access to the combo even if our combo pieces are destroyed somehow. I’m not sure that adding a bunch of 6-drops to the deck is particularly wise considering the list’s issues with aggro currently, but it’s something to consider.
That’s it for this week. I’ll try to answer any questions I can in the comments (although I’m bad at that, I realize). I’d love to hear suggestions for the archetype going forward!
Thanks for reading