I wrote last week about my enthusiasm for Knight tribal cards, and while there are a number of competitive lists that are running various Knight or Knight-themed cards (Benalish Marshal, History of Benalia), I wanted to take things further. I wanted to honor my ancestors and continue the proud tradition of my namesake tribe by building some pretty “bad” decks in both Standard and Brawl.
Building a “Bad” Deck
How good could a Knight tribal deck be? Not very, was my immediate assumption. I talked about this with some friends, lamenting how I couldn’t build a Knight deck as it wouldn’t be good enough. At this point, my good mate Duncan Tang reminded me of something very important that I think a lot of spiky, competitive Magic players lose sight of.
I remember sitting at the figurative kitchen table six years ago, getting beaten down by the mighty Vampire Interloper and Seraph of Dawn. I remember seeing Wurmcoil Engine for the first time and thinking it couldn’t be real—how could a card be so powerful? I remember playing cards because I liked them, or because they were cool—not because they were “strictly better” or metagame-crushing powerhouses that competitive Magic mandates.
From there, the story becomes a typical one. I transitioned into playing more competitive decks until I wouldn’t play a “fun” card when I could instead play a “good” card. So when I told Duncan I “couldn’t” build a Knight deck because it wouldn’t be good enough, he asked me: why? Why couldn’t I do something I wanted to do? Whose permission did I need? Which rule book or set of laws said that I couldn’t play a silly deck that I liked the look of?
These questions really provoked some thought, and the only reason I have these lists to share today is because of this interaction. I went ahead and built these decks, as I realized that I didn’t need “permission.” I know there will be readers who think this is ridiculous, for one of two reasons: those who still play with cards they like will wonder why I ever stopped, while those determined to win at all costs will wonder why I’m stopping now.
But for anyone who has ever stopped themselves from playing Magic in a certain way because they felt they shouldn’t or weren’t allowed to, or because they lost sight of the Magic that happens at kitchen tables and how sweet those early days of the game were for any new player, just build the dumb deck you want to build!
Knights in Standard
With all that said, I was still looking to make this Knight tribal deck as competitive as possible, so my spellslinging opponents at least have to put in a tiny bit of work to win their booster. Luckily, it’s not just History of Benalia that offers a high power level to the Knight tribe—Reid Duke wrote about his positive experiences with Knight of Grace and Knight of Malice. On top of that, some of Standard’s best removal is in white and black. With all that in mind, here’s the starting point for Knight Tribal in Standard!
Benalish Marshal come with some pretty stringent mana requirements. The single Scavenger Grounds is the only land that doesn’t help cast him. This means that there aren’t enough black sources to rely on double-black spells, so Josu Vess, Lich Knight and Vraska’s Contempt don’t make the cut.
The creature suite is all the best Knights in Standard at each point on the curve, in conjunction with some of the best removal in the format. There are enough early creatures to ensure the battlefield is full by the time you get to chapter three of History of Benalia, and that’s then followed with some stonking top-end. Aryel is just bonkers—a card that can both add to your board and help control the opponent’s is insane in any long game.
The 2/2/2 split of Cast Out, Seal Away, and Cast Down is something I’m watching closely. I don’t know what the best mix is, as these cards all have wildly varied utility depending on the matchup. Radiant Destiny isn’t flashy, especially as you’d almost always rather a Benalish Marshal, but having eight Crusade effects (not including Shefet Dunes!) is huge alongside token generators and efficient 2-drops.
I’ll have this deck at all future spellslinging events at the GPs I attend, and I’m looking forward to having a ton of fun with it as my opponents undoubtedly crush me with everything from Hazoret to Lyra Dawnbringer. No worries—I’ll still have a blast!
Knights in Brawl
Just like most of the Magic-playing world, I’ve loved exploring the latest singleton format. When it came to building a deck, however, there was never any doubt as to who would be leading the troops—Aryel, Knight of Windgrace is the best legendary Knight in Standard. From there, it’s a simple matter of balancing a decent curve with the best Knights in the format and, of course, not forgetting to include the all important “sweet” cards.
Commander: Aryel, Knight of Windgrace
Decent creatures and good removal form the backbone of this deck, and it’s capable of quick starts when the cards all come together. On the other hand, it transitions nicely into the late game with more engine-like cards such as Arguel’s Blood Fast, The Immortal Sun, Profane Procession, and the one and only Aryel.
A slight Vampire subtheme is necessary due to the slight lack of worthy Knights. Besides, Legion Lieutenant is as good as half a Benalish Marshal as she pumps about 50% of the team anyway. Also included is Crested Sunmare, as every good Knight requires a noble steed. On that note, I suppose Jousting Lance would be a more on-flavor inclusion than something like Blackblade Reforged. Hm. I’ll consult a flavor judge.
You Don’t Need Permission to Have Fun
Playing Magic should be, above all else, about having a good time. Exactly what that involves will differ from person to person, of course—some want to resolve Genesis Wave where X equals a squillion, some want to cast Blood Moon on turn 1, and some just want to win no matter what. There’s nothing wrong with any of that.
But for me, being able to unshackle myself from the constraints of spiky, best-of-the-best Magic for a time and instead play cards I like has been a source of enormous joy in the last little while. The decks I’ve shared today are never going to win a Pro Tour, but they damn sure put a smile on my face whenever I shuffle them up, and that’s worth something.
I know many people have never lost sight of what it felt like to discover Magic, and still slam and jam with their favorite clunkers. But for those who don’t, and would like to, you don’t need permission. Magic is about having fun. Don’t be afraid to loosen the reins and rumble with some bulk rares every now and again.