General Medicine: Feudalism is Great
Welcome back to the doctor's office! Here at General Medicine, we practice EDH general medicine - I take your submitted deck, give it a spin through the EDHREC tech, add an analysis of my own, and produce a deck that is hopefully a souped-up version of the one submitted. This week, we're taking a look at reader Michael's Knight deck, helmed by none other than Aryel, Knight of Windgrace!
Pound-for-pound, Aryel, Knight of Windgrace is a pretty fantastic creature - a four mana 4/4 with vigilance and two relevant abilities with synergy between them. The first ability is perhaps the most relevant, since it takes a lot of Knights for the second one to kill anything noteworthy in this format. Still, it's a very nice option to have, and since both Aryel, Knight of Windgrace and her tokens have vigilance, they can attack and still tap to use either ability during combat.
As I've stated in my articles before, vigilance is a very underrated ability in Magic. It's especially powerful in a multiplayer environment, where you're defending against three opponents rather than one.
Knights in EDH
'Knight' as a creature type is as old as Magic itself. Debuting in Alpha with Black Knight, White Knight, and Northern Paladin (though at the time the latter was a "Summon Paladin" and not a Knight specifically). At time of writing, there are over 230 Knight creatures in the game in total. Despite this, Knight tribal has never been very popular in our format. As of now, there are 265 Knight decks registered to this site, meaning that the tribe is less popular than Spiders, Birds, and Rats, all of whom have over 300 decks registered, and very far from the true heavyweights of the format, such as Zombies (over 4000 decks), Dragons (over 3500 decks), and Elves (over 3100 decks).
There is a reason for this. Until the printing of Aryel, Knight of Windgrace, there hadn't really been a proper Knight tribal commander. Before, players used creatures like Queen Marchesa, Adriana, Captain of the Guard, and Rafiq of the Many to helm their Knight decks. The latter two are indeed Knights, but they don't really add to any tribal functionality, and the former is on-point when it comes to flavor, but isn't a Knight herself and doesn't care whether or not her underlings are dubbed.
What Knights do have going for them are two very excellent "lords" in Knight Exemplar and Kinsbaile Cavalier. Dominaria recently added Kwende, Pride of Femeref to the mix, who does a fair impression of Kinsbaile Cavalier since many Knights are blessed with first strike.
Aside from these excellent creatures, there are a lot of other cards that are pretty powerful in the early turns of the game. Knights have a lot of creatures on the lower end of the CMC curve. There are great one-, two-, and three-drops available to them - however, this is a format where everyone does crazy splashy things, with giant creatures swinging against decks that try to combo off as quickly as possible. Knights can struggle to compete in that environment, but we're going to give it our best shot!
Perceived Power Level and Actual Power Level
I'm going to be upfront and say that I too have built an Aryel, Knight of Windgrace deck. I've been able to test it for a couple of nights in my local meta, which is quite cutthroat but not really "competitive." Thus far, the deck has more or less performed on par with my expectations - which is to say, not that well. It's foolish to expect more than 25-30% wins in this format anyway, but it's always nice to have a fighting chance. In my deck, I've gone pretty hard into the Knight tribal, but I've also made use of a hidden "big black mana" strategy via the cards Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, Cabal Coffers, and big spells like Torment of Hailfire and Debt to the Deathless. The idea is to steal victory after people have spent their resources defeating the more 'obviously powerful' decks around the table. Here is a link to my decklist, for reference: click!
Call it the reverse "Rafiq problem". We can use this to our advantage - if our deck has a low perceived power level, specifically one lower than our actual power level, we can fly under the radar for the first turns of a game, then transform a seemingly harmless board state into a truly threatening one. Knights have more than one way of doing this, and we'll get to that here soon.
Michael sent in this decklist:
Feudalism is Great
Decklist on deckstats: Click!
As it stands now, in Michael's own words, we've got a deck that is 'part-Knight-tribal-part-tokens, with a small sacrifice-for-value-theme.' I will try to keep this intact, though the deck does feel a bit disparate at times. As usual, I won't tinker too much with the mana base, but I will say this: a deck like this will need any and all dual lands you can get your hands on! With cards like White Knight, Black Knight, Necropotence and Benalish Marshal, it's likely we won't be able to cast all of our spells within the first few turns, even if we kept a seemingly land-heavy hand. Orzhov Signet is deceitfully bad in Aryel, Knight of Windgrace - or rather, it's not as awesome as Signets usually are.
We are missing some card draw in our list as-is. Like my own version of the deck, Michael has wisely chosen to add Necropotence. This is probably the very best card in the deck, since it's crucial to help us rebuild after a board wipe. We're also a bit low on ramp, though that is less of an issue than in other EDH decks, since the curve is so low.
The EDHREC Take
As far as budgetary restrictions goes, Michael has a neat budget of $350 to spend on his deck, and we're at about $200 right now. As such, I won't be suggesting anything too crazy when it comes to expensive cards, though as usual any black deck could benefit from Demonic Tutor and Vampiric Tutor if there's room in the budget for them.
EDHREC's Rec Function suggests several good Knights for the deck right off the bat, and most of them are fairly cheap. Kwende, Pride of Femeref and Danitha Capashen, Paragon out of Dominaria are both pretty good in the deck. The former makes for a passing faux-Kinsbaile Cavalier since we have so much first strike in the deck, and the latter is a pretty decent early drop with solid keywords and Equipment synergy. Knight of the White Orchid is a fantastic early drop that helps ramps our mana, and Knights of the Black Rose can help with some card draw. Thalia's Lancers, Bloodcrazed Paladin and Silverblade Paladin are all also great and definitely belong in the deck.
The Doctor's Take
There are a couple of cards on the more expensive side which I want to include in the deck. Most notably is Gideon, Ally of Zendikar which is fast becoming my favorite card in my own deck and fits like a glove in this one as well. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar churns out 2/2 Ally Knight tokens, and though they don't come with vigilance, they're Knights and they're tokens, so they fit twice into our deck's themes. Similarly, Call the Bloodline can make 1/1 Vampire Knight tokens for us at the price of one mana and one card a pop. That's a pretty steep price, all things considered, but we're dealing with a deck with some reanimation, meaning we can use discard effects to our advantage.
A card which has really over-performed for me personally is Eldrazi Monument. Giving the entire team indestructible is very powerful (as we know from Knight Exemplar) and the +1/+1 and flying makes the team incredibly difficult to deal with. I've had too few games with the deck so far to truly recommend it, but in the games where I've cast it, it's been quite swingy, and I've had no issues paying the upkeep cost thanks to all the token-producers in the deck. Five mana is on the expensive side, but then again, we're dealing with a deck full of cheap creatures, so we can afford a few more expensive spells.
Lastly, I can wholeheartedly recommend Phyrexian Reclamation, perhaps my very favorite card in the format. It's excellent at almost any point in the game, and a very effective way to reuse our creatures over the course of the entire game. Since there are so many sacrifice effects in the deck, we can probably make good use of it here as well.
The Ins and Outs
For Michael's deck, I would make the following changes:
Cards like Thran Dynamo are fine in EDH, but we don't really have any huge spells to cast with all the extra mana. While Darksteel Ingot's indestructibility is a nice feature, I prefer Commander's Sphere's ability to sacrifice and draw a card. Loxodon Gatekeeper and Blind Obedience are both fine cards as well, but while it's nice to keep our opponents from casting creatures and immediately blocking with them, we have no real way of capitalizing on their tapped status. I've also chosen to cut some of the creatures that did too little to be viable, perhaps most controversially Black Knight and White Knight. Their Protection is nice, but at the end of the day they're just too small to be useful in this format, and cards like Knight of the White Orchid are simply much better. Rootborn Defenses is a nice trick to respond to a board wipe, and might well be justified in some metas, but considering the token we'll Populate will most likely be a humble 2/2, we can do better.
In place of these, I've included many of the cards already discussed above, as well as Student of Warfare - a rather excellent 1/1 for W if you ask me. I've also added Sword of the Animist, which can be found via Steelshaper's Gift and will solve any and all mana problems if it sticks around for a couple of combat steps. Righteous Confluence is a pretty strict upgrade to Call the Cavalry and a very nice card in the deck as well; it's nearly impossible to cast without getting card advantage, and exiling something like Xenagos, God of Revels while creating two Knight tokens is well worth the extra mana.
In the "Other Options" section I've chosen to include cards that are pretty expensive but would fit the deck perfectly, such as Demonic Tutor, Herald's Horn, Vampiric Tutor, and History of Benalia. There are also a few cards that I couldn't find room for. Vona, Butcher of Magan is a cool card, and she's been fine the times I've cast her myself, but not powerful enough in my meta to always warrant the five mana. Mirror Entity is technically a Knight and can work as a huge Overrun, but would probably need some re-tooling of the mana base to be truly effective. Radiant Destiny and Door of Destinies are good anthem effects, if more are needed.
The Final Iteration
We've ended up with this decklist:
Link to the decklist on deckstats: Click!
As it stands, I've tried to keep the deck's themes intact, adding mostly to the Knight synergies while also giving the deck more things to do late game. I hope Michael will take some of my advice to heart, and have a lot of fun running down his opponents with this newly-upgraded knightly horde!
Did I miss out on any cards? What cards would you consider for the deck yourself? Leave a comment below, and help Michael with his deck!
Do You Want Your Deck Featured Here?
General Medicine is a bi-weekly column where I take a look at your EDH deck, run it through our own EDHREC analysis, add some twists and turns of my own, and present your deck with an analysis for the world to see, right here on this site! Sounds exciting? Want your sweet brew featured (as in, picked apart, analyzed, and written about – it’s not as scary as it might sound!) in my series?
Here’s what you do:
- Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and make sure you include the following:
- An easy to read decklist. Links to the usual suspects (TappedOut, Deckstats, etc.) are fine.
- A short description of your deck – how does it play? How does it win? What are your favorite cards?
- A short description of where you want to go with the deck – is it competitive? 75%? Casual? Are there any budgetary restrictions in play?
- If needed, a short description of your local metagame – are there any decks you’re looking to beat?
- Sign it with your name, but let me know if you want to remain anonymous or use an alias.
- Hold on to your Krark’s Thumb and hope that I will choose your deck!
- So far the response have been awesome and I’ve been getting a lot of submissions. If your deck isn’t featured in the very next article, fear not, it’s still in my log and I might get to it into the future!
- If your deck is selected, I will be keeping a copy of your deck as well as my take on it on my EDHREC deckstats profile. Let me know in your submission if you want to opt out of this practice!
I am not using some sort of first-come, first-served policy, I am choosing the most interesting deck, and I am also looking at the best write-ups! Make sure you read the submission guidelines above, and take your time when writing me your e-mail; the better the write-up, the higher the chance I pick your deck! And if you’re not picked next time, fear not – I will be keeping any unused lists and write-ups in my log, from which I will pull the nuggets every other week.