Editor's Note: Last weekend, Steve finished second in the Magic Online Championship Series playoff with this deck, which qualifies him for the 2017 Magic Online Championship. Congrats!
Bant Knightfall has always seemed to me to be an intriguing choice in Modern. It's the kind of deck you don't expect to do well in Modern, but Eli Kassis pioneered the archetype and has put up consistent results with the deck. After all, it's a midrange creature deck low on interaction and on the bottom of the of the "is this broken?" spectrum. However, combing through results as I tend to do, I discovered a new and successful version. The biggest difference between this list and Eli's is the implementation of a relative newcomer, Spell Queller. Nathan Smith added Spell Queller to the archetype finish 12-3 at Grand Prix Dallas, and Magic Online user Hyper (also possibly Nathan?) piloted the deck recently to a 7-1 finish in a Magic Online Championship Monthly tournament. This implementation clearly provides much-needed interaction that was previously lacking.
Seeing new cards incorporated into Modern decks is always quite refreshing. You don't often see new cards being played right away, but rather a slower trickle of innovations including some cards printed in the last year or so. It takes a leap of faith to begin testing newcomers in Modern, as the decks you face are extremely tuned and not very forgiving.
I like Spell Queller in Modern a lot, particularly in conjunction with Collected Company. Many of the more powerful Modern combo decks lack the proper removal to deal with Spell Queller. Even decks that have removal are liable to lose tempo or get stuck behind a Selfless Spirit or Spellskite. Just like in Standard, Spell Queller and Collected Company synergize greatly while remaining outstanding on their own. The ability to find a counter as well as two threats can be simply insurmountable. Not only that, but the combination creates a rough situation for the opponent. Do you tap out a play a spell directly into Spell Queller mana, or do you hold up removal in case a Collected Company resolves? Spell Queller also provides additional protection to your Knight of the Reliquary. All in all, Spell Queller gives you that little extra bit of extremely positive interaction as well as protection. Combine that with painful mana bases and few creatures that block it in the air and you have an extremely powerful creature.
Spell Queller is great and all, but don't mistake it for the best creature in the deck. Knight is your route to victory in many games, and Spell Queller works with Spellskite and Selfless Spirit to ensure you can ride that Knight to victory.
Bant Knightfall benefits from the bannings in Modern, and not just because none of its own cards got banned. Some of the fast creature combo decks are a bit slower and less powerful. Not only does this aid Bant in defeating these strategies, but there is a bit less emphasis on beating these decks, which potentially means less removal, a great benefit to Bant Knightfall. I'm still wondering how widespread play Fatal Push will see and the potential impact that may have on Modern, since this deck is certainly soft to the card.
After a bit of testing, I decided to run this for the MOCS playoff, possibly my most important Modern event of the year, as the winner of the MOCS qualifies for the World Championship. I felt that many top players would pilot true fair decks, such as Grixis Control, Jund, Abzan, Bant Eldrazi or Nahiri Control.
I knew that Bant Knightfall could be tuned in order to accomplish this, and I have felt pretty comfortable against the non-Tron combo decks of the format with the counters and clocking or comboing the opponent with a Knight of the Reliquary.
I decided to shave a bit on the Retreat to Coralhelm, as it's one of the worst cards against fair decks since your Knight won't remain in play for long. Even if they do, you will win in short order so generally won't need the Retreat. I replaced one Retreat, Vendilion Clique and Courser of Kruphix with Tireless Tracker, a card I always thought should see more Modern play. Cutting down on Retreat also increases the potency of Collected Company, and I was doing well with the deck with zero copies of Retreat for a good while. Knight plus Tracker will win you the game on the spot against any midrange or control deck similar to Knight plus Retreat, and does it in a way much better against removal. I still wanted one Retreat, as it's important to have that unfair flare I like to have in any Modern deck. Knight and Collected Company itself provide that power mostly by themselves, but it can be nice to "Splinter Twin" people.
Understanding the power of this deck is difficult through theory crafting; I mentioned that I always wondered how people managed to win with this deck, but after trying it for myself I found Bant Knightfall is versatile, disruptive and powerful in its own right. On top of that, your three-drop threats win you the game when they go uncontested, providing you with some of those "free wins" you always hear to be so coveted in the Modern format.
- Steve Rubin