(last updated 5/31/18)
Role: Disrupt and beat down
Worst cards (main): Swords to Plowshares
Best Generic Sanctum Prelate Numbers: 4, 2
Deck Strategy and Key Cards
ANT receives its name from two of its flagstone cards, Ad Nauseum and Tendrils of Agony. Generically, this deck is a storm deck. Storm is a mechanic which copies a spell for each spell played before it that turn. The player seeks to play a large number of ritual, cantrips, and tutor spells to build up storm before casting Tendrils of Agony and generating a large number of copies via the Storm mechanic. Assuming you have not gained any life, the storm player needs to cast nine spells before Tendrils of Agony to kill you. Oddly enough, the deck doesn’t always seek to cast Ad Nauseum. Based on my own experience with ANT, I’d say that it is truly a Past in Flames deck. The end result is the same, but Past in Flames provides a bit of a “cleaner” and less risky method of going off. With Ad Nauseum there are times where you reveal 10+ cards and still don’t have quite what you need; with Past in Flames, a few rituals and a tutor likely spell game over with little variance.
ANT possesses the possibility of turn 1 kills, though the deck is not built for pure speed like Belcher or The Epic Storm. Instead ANT has a fair bit of resiliency between discard and cantrips, and the deck usually spends about two turns building up a critical density of cards and making sure that the coast is clear before storming off. The deck often needs multiple initial mana sources to go off, as the rituals require black mana while Past in Flames requires red.
Infernal Tutor is one of the key cards that holds the deck together. Infernal Tutor will grab any card you need, provided that your hand is empty. While in many cases it is easy enough to just play out a string of ritual effects, Lion’s Eye Diamond usually serves as the enabler for Infernal Tutor. The idea is that you cast Infernal Tutor, hold priority, and then activate Lion’s Eye Diamond. By the time the tutor resolves, your hand is empty, you’ve gained three mana, and you get to tutor for a card of your choice!
The Matchup and Important Interactions
You are not going to race ANT without disruption. Against many decks, something as simple as a turn one Aether Vial can pose a great threat; that is not simply true against ANT. They will build up enough resources to go off somewhere between turns two and four if you don’t disrupt them. Even on your most aggressive draws, you simple can’t hope for Mirran Crusader and friends to win the games. In game one scenarios, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is usually game over. ANT is trying to win by casting nine spells followed by a Tendrils of Agony; Thalia adds a requirement of ten additional mana to that goal, which is an absurd hurdle to jump over. Phyrexian Revoker can shut off Lion’s Eye Diamond or Lotus Petal, hinding your opponent’s ability to empty their hand or produce the mana needed to go off. A Revoker will buy you some time, but it isn’t necessarily going to win you the game on its own. Note that Lion’s Eye Diamond and Lotus Petals are both mana abilities, meaning that Phyrexian Revoker can stop them while Pithing Needle cannot.
This is a matchup that often comes down to hate cards in the post-sideboard games. Ethersworn Canonist and Rest in Peace both are quite problematic for ANT. Between those two cards, Thalia, and Revoker, D&T has a high density of must-answer plays. This causes the ANT player to bring in a fair number of answers. These cards vary, but you can expect Abrupt Decay, Chain of Vapor, and Massacre in most games. The ANT player wants to punch a hole in your disruption to go off; you want to keep the ANT player off balance so that your hate bears can steal the game.
I find that it is useful to think about how I would lose once I have my first piece of hate online. Consider what happens if your opponent has each of the three hate pieces I mentioned above. Can you beat one of those? Can you beat all of them? Often you can play around Massacre by not playing out the basics in your hand. You can often beat a single piece of removal with an Aether Vial on two and a backup hate bear. Consider how you chose to extend. For example, if you have an Ethersworn Canonist in play and you have the option of playing either Rest in Peace or Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, you might be better off playing Rest in Peace, as both Canonist and Thalia would die to a Massacre.
Sanctum Prelate is devastatingly good here. On four, it shuts off both of their win conditions, Tendrils of Agony as well as the potential Empty the Warrens in post-sideboard games, while also stopping one of the best sideboard cards against us, Massacre. There will be times when playing it on another number is better, but four is probably your best number in the dark, especially in game one.
As ANT doesn’t tend to play any creatures, feel free to pull out all of your Swords to Plowshares immediately. After that, I tend to trim the Stoneforge package and a couple of the beaters. The Stoneforge package is slow and mana intensive. I don’t usually cut the Stoneforge package entirely, as getting a piece of equipment on a bear allows you to ignore Massacre and potentially Chain of Vapor.
You’ll most certainly want to bring in your copies of Ethersworn Canonist and Rest in Peace. If you are playing Sword of War and Peace, this is a great time to bring it in; ANT tends to have five or more cards in hand, meaning that SoWaP will often kill in one to two hits. Some people advocate bringing in Pithing Needle with the intent of naming Polluted Delta (remember that Pithing Needle does not work on mana abilities like Lotus Petal and Lion’s Eye Diamond). While this seems a little anemic, it is a piece of turn one interaction that may allow your other hate cards to hit the table; ANT gets plenty of turn two kills, and when they are on the play, you will appreciate any means of disruption.
ANT players have recently started to do some strange things to try and address this matchup I’ve seen players rocking a playset of Daze as a way to interact with early hatebears without a significant tempo loss. I’ve also seen lists that board in three Chrome Mox as a way to try and get under the hate. We’ll see where the dust settles on that one. In the past, Dread of Night was a popular hate card, but as it doesn’t answer Sanctum Prelate or Ethersworn Canonist, those have sort of fallen out of popularity.
I’m not unhappy to play against ANT, but the matchup is pretty close to even. Great ANT pilots will know their outs to your hate and play accordingly, though novice pilots will stumble around after the first piece of hate hits the table. Do not be afraid to mulligan aggressively here, as you do not need many cards to win, just a few useful ones. Also, I encourage you to keep track of your opponent’s mana and storm count carefully; many new pilots get a little sloppy with their math and sequencing, and that may cost them the game. I once had an opponent leave me at two life, absolutely horrified that they miscounted the storm when they still had three or four cards in hand. I had another opponent tutor up a Past in Flames when he had a graveyard full of rituals. My opponent cast his Dark Rituals before his Cabal Rituals, losing threshold and quite a few potential mana in the process. That mistake cost him the game. Make your opponent play it out, even when you are pretty sure you are dead; it’s worth the extra minute of your time.
Data as of 5/31/18
Win rate with WW D&T: 8-9 (47.1%)
Win rate with RW D&T: 4-5 (44.4%)