The War Report: Budget Knight Tribal

Keeping with the Dominaria theme I have going this week, I thought I’d share another brew that came from my session over the weekend (buying a box will do this to you). Despite there being a bunch of legendary creatures in the set, most of them didn’t appeal as a full on general. Many of the legendary creatures that I pulled from the box went into the 99 of other decks, where their support was most needed. Ditto for the legendary “others” (artifacts, sorceries, and other cards deemed legendary). However, there were a select few legendary creatures from the set that inspired me to create something new, regardless of if that new brew would be competitive or not. Like the new buy-a-box promo commander build that I wrote about recently, this was one of the new creatures from Dominaria that I wanted to build a deck around. First of all, I’m a sucker for the Orzhov color pairing, and have a bunch of experience building decks with it. Second, I’ve built nearly all of the old school tribes from the original sets — and Knights finally have some legit support. Finally, I’m rather good at building budget to mid-tier decks because you can find busted interactions on any budget, but you can’t combo off on turn 2 or 3 for $150 (current Card Kingdom pricing is sitting at $134). Let’s get to it, shall we?

Aryel, Knight of Windgrace isn’t a lord in the traditional sense. Lords initially started out as a sub-type of Creature, but were classified as Lords. Lord of Atlantis and Goblin King are early examples of this (they are also good examples of early tribe support). Landwalk abilities are pretty much a thing of the past, but a lord giving creatures they share a type with +1/+1 is still a standard ability for most. In this instance, Aryel doesn’t fit the lord moniker so well but she does have plenty of the Knight keyword in her rules text along with being a Knight herself. Like a good 2-color commander, she has an ability that requires white mana and another that requires black. Being able to pump out 2/2’s with vigilance isn’t that bad of an ability (and if you were playing this in the Brawl format it’s probably more busted), but more importantly for a black and tapping a few other knights you can destroy creatures at will. Removal is already strong in this color pair, but I feel like this should be an aggressive, creature-based deck. It turns out that there has been some attempt by Wizards of the Coast to provide support to the tribe, and given that you have access to nearly the entire back catalog of cards you can finally smash enough of them together to make a serviceable deck. I’m happy that Wizards has been focusing on giving some of these forgotten tribes support, and hope that they continue to do so because the tribal theme is pretty fun to build around. Let’s take a look at some of the creatures I’ve included and the reasons why.

Bear with me here, there’s a lot to take in. First off, there are some legendary knights around that we want in this deck for various reasons. Some of these knights have life link, so there’s some fun things we can do with our life total, like destroying permanents by paying life with Vona. Elenda can also make a ton of tokens if she gets big enough before dying. I’ve included an equipment sub theme and a ton of lord effects to beef up the mostly 2/2 squad we’ll be running. There are tutors for various things, like using Thalia’s lancers to pull out one of the legendary knights, or Knight of the White Orchid to get extra mana. There’s a pair of Knights with shadow that essentially can’t be blocked but can be pumped after blockers are (not) declared. Another pair gets +1/+1 depending on the amount of lands opponents control (admittedly weak if not playing against anyone playing White or Black). Other synergies include Archetype of Courage and Kwende, the former giving all creatures First Strike and the latter giving them all Double Strike. With the right amount of ramp, you can get a pretty solid army going. But you’ll need some help to do so.

I’ve added all the tribal goodies like Coat of Arms and Vanquisher’s Banner, but also included many of the anthems from recent sets (or recently reprinted). Lastly, a duo of Planeswalkers that can create further Knight tokens to beef up our already solid army. That’s really all this deck wants to do, is make a ton of 2/2’s and then beef them all up to 7/7’s and wreak havoc. Boardwipes will probably be an issue, but so be it. You can’t win ’em all, right? You can see the full decklist here.

TWR: The Value Proposition – Dominaria

The official release date for the newest Magic: The Gathering set, Dominaria, isn’t until April 27th (this upcoming Friday) but because I pre-ordered a box of the set, I was able to pick it up this past weekend during the pre-release events. This isn’t the first time I’ve purchased a box, as when I was newly returning after a decade-plus break I picked up a box of Aether Revolt, which was the first set to release after coming back. In hindsight, Aether Revolt probably wasn’t the best set to buy a box of, mainly because it was before several changes took place. I should also notate that this box was a gift from my wonderful girlfriend who spoils the shit out of me. Thanks my love!

There are a few things that are different this time around. The standard rotation changed up a bit over the course of the last year, where the sets that are rotating out take longer to happen. Wizards also decided that instead of multiple split up sets during the course of the year (like the Kaladesh/Aether Revolt and Amonkhet/Hour of Devastation cycles) there will be larger sets a couple of times a year and the return of the Core Set. This means that Dominaria is a larger set than Aether Revolt was (269 cards as opposed to 184) and as a result the break down of cards that I received was more favorable. This was also the first time that you could pick up a pre-ordered box during the pre-release window, and getting cards early is always great (that’s the main reason why I usually go to the pre-release in the first place). A discount was given for pre-ordering a box this time around as well as the buy-a-box promo card being exclusive and unavailable in packs.

The card itself isn’t the most amazing thing in the world, but Wizards has been exploring different concepts lately, like adding keywords to spells. Giving your red damage dealing spells lifelink is an interesting idea, as is giving your white lifegain spells a small damage dealing component. Boros has been weak in EDH for a long time, and though I don’t think this magically makes things all better, it’s still a Boros commander I wouldn’t mind building and will likely do so. If nothing else it’s a cool card to have in the collection and I’m glad I got the box as I managed a bunch of great pulls! Since I broke down the box I purchased last time, I felt like I should do so again just to make some comparisons and sate my own curiosity. Here’s the numbers for Dominaria:

Multi-color:

2 Mythic Rare
4 Rare
15 Uncommon

Colorless:

1 Mythic Rare
5 Rare (1 foil)
13 Uncommon (1 foil)
37 Common

White:

1 Mythic Rare
4 Rare
18 Uncommon
63 Common (1 foil)

Blue:

1 Mythic Rare
5 Rare
14 Uncommon
64 Common (1 foil)

Black:

3 Rare
14 Uncommon
61 Common

Red:

4 Rare
12 Uncommon
66 Common (1 foil)

Green:

4 Rare
13 Uncommon (1 foil)
65 Common

Miscellaneous:

36 Tokens
14 Non-Basic Lands – Woodland Cemetery, Sulfur Falls and Cabal Stronghold
37 Basic Lands – 1 foil Island
1 Buy-A-Box Promo – Firesong and Sunspeaker

So comparing this box to Aether Revolt, we can draw a couple of conclusions. Both contained 540 cards but of those I ended up with different numbers. Tokens and Basic lands will be the same, though I ended up with 7 foils as opposed to 5 the last time. I also opened up more Mythic Rares this time, with a total of 5 instead of 3.  I guess the trade off there is that I ended up with less rares this time, 29 compared to 34. Overall though I feel like the value of this set is better than the last few, though I’m not speaking monetarily. From a gameplay perspective I jammed a bunch of great cards into existing decks, and have already brewed up two decks helmed by Dominaria commanders and still want to build Firesong and Sunspeaker as well. Speaking of money though, I earned back about half of the box price with one card and that turned out the be the most valuable card in the set. I’ve been really lucky when it comes to this stuff, and had a good feeling going into this deal. That’s not to say that I got every card that I wanted, there are still a handful I’ll have to buy singles of but I think I made back the cost of the box at least, and that doesn’t always happen (definitely didn’t happen with Aether Revolt!). Like I did the last time, I’ll just share my Mythic Rare pulls now, but I’ll have some more articles about the builds I’m making with the new cards soon enough.

Mythic Rares:

Of the Mythic Rares in the set, I got a few of the good ones. Jhoira is a pretty busted card, but my roommate has already built a deck around it and didn’t pull it during the pre-release so we’re going to be doing a trade. He did pull the Weatherlight as his Mythic Rare though, so we’re trading those straight across. History of Benalia is a card that spiked due to its viability in Standard, so it’s value is pretty good. I slammed it into a new brew. Karn, Scion of Urza was the most valuable card in the set and I found a place for him as well. Darigaaz is one that I’m not using and probably won’t. I could slam him into the Prossh deck I’m building due to being on color but it’s just an expensive card and not very synergistic. Lastly, Naru Meha is a new Wizard lord that I’m throwing into my Inalla build just because it has a nice ETB effect and will buff my other wizards so why not?

Overall I feel that this was a good buy. There are so many great cards in this set that buying a box is a sure bet and if you’re playing the paper game, you probably should get one while you can. They have amazing and busted uncommons in this set so the power level is absurd. I’d buy another box if I didn’t already have mostly everything I want. Highly recommended and worth every penny!

The War Report: Dominaria Spoiled

Magic Open House for Dominaria is this weekend, and that means that spoilers have been coming out over the course of the month. Prerelease is the following weekend, and I’ve already preordered a box of Dominaria, so I will be able to pick it up at that point. The official release is the weekend after, and I assume these cards will be making their way in to Magic Arena soon as well. Since spoilers are complete by now, I thought that I’d offer some of my thoughts on some of the great cards that are coming, and show off some of those that I’m looking forward to the most (through the EDH lens of course). This has become a thing around here, so I’m sure you understand where this is going. Let’s get started!

Multi-color:

The Planes walkers for this set are clearly Teferi and Chandra with a showing by Jaya as well. Teferi is busted in some of his other forms, but these ones are so-so. Probably decent for superfriends, and his oath definitely goes in that style deck. Nearly all of these creatures could be a commander in their own right, but I feel like most will slot into decks that I already have built (or have brewed). The simic merfolk will slot right into Kumena, for instance. The Orzhov Vampire will love to hang out with Edgar Markov, and though I won’t use all of these cards in decks at the moment, most are pretty good additions to particular deck styles, so I wanted to showcase them. I know if I pull any of these they will either see play or be traded away for other cards that I need, but I’m impressed with amount of Legendary creatures that are in this set, along with most of them being pretty powerful in their own right.

White:

Besides the new Historic keyword, we’ve also got Sagas, which are a legendary enchantment type. They do a series of things for multiple turns, and there are only a few that I find useful, one being the Fall of the Thran, mainly because it’s an Armageddon but you’ll get some land back (particularly good if you can remove opponent’s graveyards from play before they get the land back). There’s finally an Angel lord, and I’ll slot that right into Kaalia. Danitha also will slot right into Sram since she fills a void for making equipment and auras cheaper and that’s something a Voltron commander wants. There are some great cards here that can potentially beef up a number of decks out there.

Blue:

There are probably more blue cards that I could showcase but these were the few that really stood out. I’m finally building an Inalla deck (from the C17 precon) because of the dean above — he’s basically a Panharmonicon on legs that interacts with Wizards, and wizard tribal works best with Inalla. There a couple new counterspells here as well that are pretty decent, and the Master Wizard is great for spellslinger decks!

Black:

More goodies for black, including more removal and a pretty decent Saga. I’m really loving the Demonlord for kaalia and the Knight is a potentially awesome commander, particularly due to one of the lands coming out in this set helping mono black make big mana which you’ll need for that kicker cost. Otherwise there’s some good card draw and value for the color in this set.

Red:

Red is typically pretty meh regardless of the set, but that Chandra isn’t bad, and I’m seeing some good Goblin options for Krenko. The Chainwhirler is a nice board wipe on a stick (against token decks) while the Squee reprint is a nice addition as he doesn’t really ever die. Sure he doesn’t do much else but he can help recover from wipes. Also a new version of lightning bold for Wizard decks is pretty good too.

Green:

I wasn’t too impressed with the options in green in Dominaria. There are some interesting cards but nothing that makes me want to create a new brew and nothing that really slots into decks I build. However, green has been ramping in power for the last few sets so perhaps it’s time it took the back burner for a while. Multani is good in landfall decks, and a new Naturalize that also nets you a land on the battlefield is pretty much a new staple.

Artifacts/Lands:

There are some awesome artifacts in this set, I’ve highlighted some of the best here. A reprint of Gilded Lotus is a nice boon and will likely bring the price of this staple down a bit. A new Mox is also important for decks that need artifact ramp. I love that new wall, and will throw it in my janky wall deck. The blad and the Weatherlight are both going in Sram for me, and both are very good in that regard. I’m also happy to see them reprint more of the “have” lands, another set of those is good for budget mana bases. Lastly, Cabal Stronghold is a great addition to any mono black deck — it’s not as good as Cabal Coffers, but it’s still definitely worth a slot and I’m going to try and brew something in the color after I get my hands on the new cards.

Overall I think this set is better than the Ixalan block by a mile. Despite enjoying that set and seeing Dinosaurs and Pirates becoming viable tribes and also enjoying the new Merfolk and Vampires, it just wasn’t all that exciting. This set excites me and sort of resets the EDH meta a bit, and I look forward to opening up the box when the time comes to see what I get. I’ll try and do a post about that when the time comes similar to the post that I made back when I bought a box of Aether Revolt. Until then, happy gaming all!

TWR: Dominaria, Legendary Focus and Brawl

The next main set coming out for Magic: The Gathering is simply called Dominaria. The original plane from the beginnings of MTG, we have finally come full circle back to where it all began. Spoilers for the set were “accidentally” released a bit early, but we’re now in the official spoiler season for the set, and with it there have been some themes revealed and other special announcements.

The set releases on April 27th, featuring 269 new cards with a heavy focus on the Legendary super-type. Traditionally the word Legendary appears in front of the type of card you are playing with, and 99% of the existing Legendary cards are either Creatures or Planeswalkers (as the new legendary Planeswalker rules errated all existing Planeswalkers to be legendary). There are some legendary lands and artifacts, but that was the extent of it. This is important to EDH players like myself, as Legendary Creatures are the only ones able to be the Commander of your decks. With Dominaria, there was promised to be at least one Legendary card per pack, though they also added some additional types, like Legendary Spells. They have also added a new keyword called Historic, which now affects several types of cards. Legendary cards, artifacts and another new type of enchantment called a Saga. Sagas are like most enchantments, they are paid for and hit the board until they are dealt with, but they have an ETB trigger, then upkeep triggers that do different things. It was also announced that pre-orders for booster boxes have started, and the price is very tempting at $85 a box. The Buy-a-Box promo this time around is also an exclusive, meaning you can’t get the promo card anywhere else, which is a first. Here’s the card:

It’s not the most amazing card ever, but it is a new commander in boros which is sadly under-represented in most cases. I like the ability to make spells have lifelink, and I think I might actually brew a deck for these minotaurs. The added bonus of being able to Lighting Bolt creatures or players every time you gain life from a spell is nice too.

Another recent announcement had to do with a new format that Wizards is trying to start up. It’s called “Brawl” and it’s an EDH variant. Normally I get excited when I read about EDH variants but most of them are officially supported by Wizards, and thus they don’t get cards printed specifically for them. Kitchen table rules are a thing though, so we’re seeing Wizards themselves trying to add their own twist on the format. Here’s the rule breakdown:

  • Each player’s deck is exactly 60 cards. Other than basic lands, no card may appear in a deck more than once. Each card must be legal in the Standard format; cards banned in the Standard format can’t be played in the Brawl variant.
  • Before the game begins, each player designates one legendary creature or planeswalker card in their deck as their commander. This card begins the game in the command zone and the other 59 cards are shuffled up.
  • The mana symbols that appear on your commander dictate what cards may be in your deck. Mana symbols that don’t appear on your commander can’t be in the deck. For example, if the Dominaria card Firesong and Sunspeaker is your commander, your cards may have R, W, both, or neither, but no B, G, or U symbols may appear anywhere in your deck. This includes the card’s text box as well as its mana cost; for example, Pride Sovereign from the Hour of Devastation set can’t be in your deck if your commander has only G in its cost and rules text.
  • Each player begins the game at 30 life rather than 20. If you’re playing a multiplayer game (which we recommend for Brawl!), each player draws seven cards again on their first mulligan and the player who plays first draws a card on their first turn.
  • As long as your commander is in the command zone, you may cast it from there. Doing so costs an additional two mana for each time you have cast the card this way this game.
  • If your commander is countered or leaves the battlefield, you may put it back into the command zone instead of putting it anywhere else it would go.
  • The Brawl variant has no other rules for playing, winning, or losing the game. Have fun!

Here’s what I like about it: You can use normal everyday Planeswalkers as commanders for your Brawl decks. Under normal EDH rules you can only use the ones that have “this Planeswalker may be used as your commander” as your general. I’d actually be for this change in normal EDH myself, as there are a ton of Planeswalkers that are all Legendary now and that would open up a slew of new commander options.

Here’s what I don’t like: Everything else. Having a limited card pool just like Standard sucks. I moved away from Standard because I didn’t like the fact that you couldn’t play with the 25 years worth of cards that are out there. I also don’t like decks that are sub-100 cards. These decks will be 60 cards, and that’s not enough in my opinion. I’m even more turned off by the decks you build for pre-release events that are only 40 cards. I also think that this could potentially fracture not only the EDH crowd but also the Standard crowd… I mean we have a shitload of formats already I don’t think we need more. You can see the whole Brawl article here, but that’s my two cents.