18 June 2020
Tech-Edge is a new-player friendly column featuring iterative deck-techs! Check back in two weeks to see your favorite article revisited and discussed after further experimentation during play testing!
Bant Nexus is a hybrid ramp and control deck, built to drag the game out long to generate a sufficient mana advantage to decisively win the game. This deck is perfect for anyone who enjoys playing very long, interactive games of Magic. Each game features important decisions, which rewards player skill while still being accessible to learning players, since the length of the game means a single mistake will not make or break the game.
The Bant Nexus plan is to generate ongoing card advantage with effects like Kumena’s Awakening and Jace, Wielder of Mysteries, followed by casting its namesake, Nexus of Fate, or other extra-turn effects to pile on the advantage. The deck also utilizes instant speed damage prevention spells, known as fogs, when used against creature based decks, fogs effectively function as extra turns. With Nexus I enjoyed some early success, earning undefeated records in the first two tournaments I played in. Nexus strategies have had to innovate in order to overcome its very weak matchup against Gruul aggro, due to Gruul’s ability to both put on an early clock and recover quickly after board wipes. Bant Nexus also struggles with decks like Jeskai Control which manages to go over the top of our strategy by generating more card advantage than Nexus can keep up with. The deck is able to overcome these matchups when playing more interaction, and higher quality threats.
Early game, the deck looks to cast as many mana-acceleration spells as possible, providing a large mana advantage early, allowing the deck to cast multiple spells in a turn earlier than the opponent. Cards like Wolfwillow Haven, Beanstalk Giant, and Migration Path are the type of ramping effects you are looking for. When not widening the mana advantage gap, Nexus wants to draw cards. Search for Azcanta, Treasure Map, and Thirst for Meaning provide some early card selection, which can help find the cards required to secure the midgame, such as board wipes against faster creature decks or counterspells against slower paced decks. Similar to the early turns, the midgame plan is to survive long enough and generate even more card advantage, ultimately casting a threat which will remain in play long enough to win the game.
Usually, this is accomplished with a combination of board wipes,targeted removal, and counterspells. Bant Nexus leverages these tools to disrupt their opponents ability to threaten a conclusion to the game, all the while using every lull in the action to extend mana and card advantage. For most decks, this is where the discussion of winning the game would begin, since that is generally a very important part of playing magic. That isn’t true for Bant Nexus. This deck cares very little about actually winning the game, and would prefer to sit around drawing cards all day, rather than actually win the game. By generating card advantage and presenting several threats a turn, the game will come to a favorable conclusion without much direct effort.
Nexus of Fate is the most essential card to the deck’s strategy, since casting it will often put the deck in a near unbeatable position. Nexus is the deck’s name sake, and one of the best cards to draw at almost any point in the game.When the deck is ahead, this card will effectively win the game by allowing you to bury your opponent with card advantage or leaving them without any means to end the game. At parity a Nexus of Fate cast on your opponent’s end step provides two turns to continue enacting the deck’s game plan. Or if the opponent decides to counter it, then the deck has its own turn to play out other threats while they have their shields down. Nexus of Fate is not really the best card to draw when behind, but since it provides you an extra turn to draw a card and make a land drop it can allow a small amount of time to find a way back into the game.
Those who have played standard in the last two years know all too well the power provided by Wilderness Reclamation, enabling powerful strategies like Temur Reclamation and the original Nexus of Fate deck. Effectively doubling the amount of accessible mana allows the deck to tap out to cast a board wipe, then untap to counter spells and draw cards on the opponent’s turn. Mirari’s wake is a new addition to Gladiator from Historic Anthology 3, and has already begun to show its power. It provides a similar mana advantage to Wilderness Reclamation, with additional flexibility by allowing you to spend more of your mana during your main phase. These are two of the most important cards in the mirror, since they provide the mana advantage the deck is looking for without the card disadvantage that comes from casting multiple ramp spells.
Ramp effects are the most important part of the deck, and having at least one in the early game is extremely important. Since most of the threats your opponent is going to be playing are more efficient than the answers this deck is running, having a mana advantage allows the deck to deal with threats without falling behind. Some of the best examples of ramp spells in this deck are Circuitous Route and Migration Path, since they both find two lands, compared to the one land that most ramp spells provide. They are more expensive then most of the other ramp spells, costing four as opposed to the normal two or three that other ramp spells cost, but the larger mana boost they provide make the higher cost worth it.
Board wipes are extremely important to this deck’s strategy, providing a come back mechanic against the aggressive decks that would otherwise overwhelm Nexus’s slower strategy. Because of aggro’s tendency to deploy several small threats, trading one for one with aggro will leave you at a mana disadvantage Board wipes a very important way to regain advantage in that matchup. Casting at least one board wipe early is very important against the aggro decks, and having a board wipe is often the difference between winning and losing the game. Each of the board wipes in the deck provides slightly different utility, such as Shatter the Sky costing 4 mana and Realm-Cloaked Giant also being a creature in the late game.
Counterspells provide a lot of flexibility, filling a different roll in different matchups. Against aggro, counterspells either deny the enemy threats early or follow after a board wipe to prevent the opponent from getting back into the game. Against slower control decks they help to protect our threats, and prevent the opponent from landing one of their limited selection of threats. They are critically important against combo decks, where they can prevent your opponent from resolving a winning combination of spells and keep Nexus in the game.
Card advantage is the way to win the Nexus game, accordingly effects which draw cards are a large portion of the deck. In order to better avoid disruption from the opponent, this deck generates card advantage on many different axes. Planeswalkers provide recurring card advantage throughout the game, including cards such as Teferi, Time Raveler, Narset, Parter of Veils, and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. These cards provide advantage turn after turn, without any further mana investment beyond the initial cost. Nexus runs very few creatures, but the ones that are included are consistent with the repeated advantage that the deck is known for. Dream trawler and Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath are creatures that provide advantage by drawing cards every turn, and are very difficult for the opponent to remove. The deck also includes cards such as Search for Azcanta and Midnight Clock, which provide card advantage and are difficult to deal with since they are an enchantment and an artifact respectively, card types that decks often do not include enough answers too.
The Mana Base
This deck’s biggest issue is its mana base. By playing three color decks in the Gladiator format, we accept that the mana is pretty rough. Bant Nexus plays almost all of the dual lands in its colors, ranging from the good ones, shock lands, checklands, and temples, to the not nearly as good ones, like some guildgates and the gain lands. The deck also plays all of the triomes that have at least two of the decks colors, which is four in total. The lack of consistency in the mana base informs a lot of choices that are made in each game, including mulligan decisions and which lands to fetch with ramp spells.
This deck plays all of the cycling lands, which reduces the consequence of drawing land in the late game. It also plays Castle Ardenvale and Castle Vantress, which can provide some blockers and card selection respectively. Memorial to Genius is included so that in the late game when you are running out of gas you can sacrifice to draw some extra cards. Arch of Orazca can provide card advantage in the late game, and is very tough for your opponent to stop. Field of the Dead is one of the most powerful lands in the format, acting as a win condition on its own. It provides you with both a steady stream of blockers if you are under pressure, or an endless line of threats against control. With the amount of ramp in the deck, this card will pump out about two zombies a turn, and because of how difficult it is to deal with it is one of the best threats in the deck.
For Bant Nexus, opening hand decisions are largely dictated by the available mana. The most important part of an opening hand is having reasonable mana, usually looking for three to five lands. Color requirements are also a consideration when keeping, as being unable to cast your spells is a recipe for failure. Blue is the most important color in the deck, and if your opening hand can’t generate blue it is almost always a mulligan. Green mana is also good to have early, allowing you to to cast ramp spells and find your other colors. White is the least important color in the deck, unless the opponent will require you to get to double white to cast a board wipe. In terms of spells, access to mana acceleration is super important, the deck is usually looking for a hand with at least one piece of ramp. If it is a control matchup, having some early interaction in the form of counterspells is usually very helpful because if the opponent resolves a card like Narset, Parter of Veils or Teferi, Time Raveler early the deck is in trouble. A good opening hand is very important in the aggro matchups, usually coming down to whether you have a board wipe or not as the difference between winning and losing a game.
This is a perfect hand. The lands fulfill all of the color requirements the spells need, it has early card selection and advantage with Search for Azcanta, mana acceleration in the form of Gift of Paradise, and a board wipe to protect against aggro with Shatter the Sky.
This hand is unlikely to produce a winning play pattern, given that it has no way to deal with opposing pressure and is missing green mana to cast several of its spells. If the matchup is against a control deck, then this hand meets the minimum requirements to keep, the opponent is unlikely to apply early pressure, and the game is likely to go long enough to eventually draw the required green mana. If the matchup is a creature deck or unknown then this hand is a mulligan.
In my experience, Bant Nexus has a lot of good matchups. Against control the mana advantage generated enables Nexus to overwhelm the opponent with several threats in the same turn, or play a threat with a counterspell in hand to protect against their interaction. The midrange decks are close matchups, since opponents will provide hard to deal with threats that demand a response, and follow with planeswalkers that generate value and eventually win the game. If Bant Nexus can survive long enough it will eventually generate enough card advantage to win, so surviving that long is the name of the midrange matchup. The aggro matchups with this deck are very difficult and will be tough to win, even with a well timed board wipe this matchup is still tough. Overall the combination of ramp, threats, and answers means that this deck is a contender in any matchup, and if the game goes long this deck will go over the top of almost every deck in the format.
Deck Improvements and Performance Concerns
Part of the advantage of this deck is that each version will play slightly differently and have different deck building choices. Some improvements I would look to make to this version would be to try and find a way to improve the aggro matchup, while not sacrificing much from the control matchups. This is very tough to do in a singleton format, as anti-aggro cards are often inactive in a control matchup. This deck has some performance issues, the mana base can often be inconsistent and result in more mulligans than would be prefered. It can also have problems with not drawing board wipes versus the aggro decks, but other than that this deck often functions very well, part of the reason it is one of the best decks in the format.
New player Accessibility
Sadly this deck is not very accessible for new players. It only includes six cards that are provided by the new player experience, and requires 30 rare or mythic wildcards, not including the mana base. With the mana base included, it comes to 45 rare and mythic wild cards. Thankfully some of the cards are format staples that will go in a variety of archetypes, but it is still tough to put this deck together if you are new to Arena or are free-to-play. It is possible to forgo some of the rares in this deck, in place of commons or uncommons that fill the same role, such as replacing Absorb with one of the common counterspells such as Thought Collapse.
Thank you all very much for taking the time out of your day to read this article, I hope you have enjoyed yourself. I will be writing a follow up article going in depth with some of the tougher matchups for this deck, including Mono Red and the mirror. I will also cover the new cards being released in Core Set 2021 that could see play in the deck. If you have any further questions about the archetype, feel free to message me on the discord @Archermaster24.
About the Author
I started playing magic around 2011, playing casual games with my friends. I started going to tournaments around the release of Battle for Zendikar, and have been deeply invested in the game ever since. I am mostly a limited player, but occasionally branch out and play some constructed. I am primarily a combo and control player, but I enjoy any strategy that lets me be the only one playing the game. When not playing Magic I enjoy skiing, reading, and playing the piano.
Try and get all images in the article to be the size of this Nexus, it looks good