This weekend is the M15 Prerelease which means that we only have one short week before we're allowed to play with this exciting new set in Standard. Today I'm going to talk about one of the cards in the set that screams "build around me": Preeminent Captain. This little kithkin is back and I'm looking forward to brewing with him.
You may remember Preeminent Captain from Lorwyn Block and while he looks pretty awesome now, he wasn't really exciting back then. There was a lot of hype about this guy when he was first spoiled. He was a great answer to Counterspells and could enable some explosive starts, but Preeminent Captain was in the same format as Cryptic Command and Bitterblossom. Even worse, Cruel Ultimatum and Volcanic Fallout made the White Weenie strategy barely playable in Lorwyn/Shards Standard. Needless to say this guy was not very good and didn't make a huge impact on the format.
I was a little skeptical about this guy when he was first spoiled but the more I think about it, the better he seems. One key difference with White Weenie strategies in this format as opposed to Lorwyn Block (besides the absence of Cryptic Command) is that in this format the heroic keyword exists. Heroic decks were pretty popular at the block constructed Pro Tour in Atlanta a few months ago but we very rarely see them in Standard outside of FNM. The problem is that in Standard most of these heroic creatures are pretty easy to deal with and it's very likely for heroic decks to get blown out by two-for-ones or worse, Supreme Verdict. What Preeminent Captain does to help with this is allow you to not only get around Counterspells but also cheat on mana. This guy allows you to put creatures into play for free, tapped and attacking. That means that not only will your opponent be unable to stop you from getting a free creature, but you will have all of your mana untapped to do what you want with. That could mean combat tricks such as Titan's Strength or Battle Cry, but also something like Boros Charm to ensure that your opponent's Supreme Verdict will do nothing but destroy his own guys.
The downside of Preeminent Captain is that you are limited to putting only soldiers into play. While we would love to get free Stormbreath Dragons we're going to have to settle for little hoplites. After a quick Gatherer search there are actually a lot of really good soldiers that aren't seeing any play in Standard but are worth giving a second look with the existence of Preeminent Captain. Here are just a few:
Spark Trooper Viashino Firstblade Foundry Champion Daxos of MeletisFabled Hero
There are many soldiers including Brimaz, King of Oreskos and Tajic, Blade of the Legion that have triggers when the creature attacks, but it's worth noting that if you put any of these creatures into play with the Captain, they will not get their trigger. They have to be declared as attackers for their ability to trigger as opposed to being put into play attacking.
Stanislav Cifka made Top 8 at Pro Tour Journey into Nyx with a lightning fast RW Heroic deck and I think his list is a great starting point for a Standard deck with Preeminent Captain. Here's the deck for those of you who didn't follow the Pro Tour coverage:
Now some of these creatures are a little on the mediocre side but remember this is Block Constructed, not Standard, so he did not have access to better creatures like Boros Elite or Dryad Militant. This is a dedicated heroic deck so all of his spells target his creatures and therefore chose not to play any removal or mass pump effects like Spear of Heliod. Our deck will have heroic creatures but will not be as nearly as heroic focused as this one.
Here is my take on a RW Soldier Heroic deck.
I began by cutting the Satyr Hoplites and Favored Hoplites. The cards don't do anything on their own and take a decent amount of work to set up. However, Phalanx Leader and Akroan Crusader stayed because they have amazing synergy with each other. For that reason I also added Precinct Captain to the deck. Both Precinct Captain and Akroan Crusader make creatures and Phalanx Leader does a pretty good job at pumping them up.
Brimaz, King of Oreskos was an easy inclusion in the deck. He is at the top of the curve and is just insane against some strategies. He is a soldier himself and can be put into play with the Captain, but as I've previously mentioned, you won't receive a cat if he is put directly into play. Plus, a 3/4 is just big. He's the biggest and most resilient creature in the deck and definitely worth the inclusion.
Spark Trooper is a card that I wished saw more play in Standard. It received some hype back when Gatecrash was released but let's face it, this guy is no Ball Lightning. However, with the addition of Preeminent Captain he is totally worth a second look. The problem with Spark Trooper is that there was no surprise. You would have to tap four mana to play it and in a RW aggressive deck, that's your whole turn. With the Captain putting it into play for free, it opens the door to more possibilities. You will still have mana available to protect it from removal, or even better, give it double strike with Boros Charm.
One thing that I feel that the list needs some work on is the heroic enablers. There are only twelve of them which is just a few too many. I would love to play at least four more but with Preeminent Captain in the deck, we really want to maximize on creatures. While I think Dragon's Mantle is a great card in this deck, it is a little rough on the mana so that is why I chose to cut it. We have eight lands that will damage us just to activate our Dragon's Mantle and five lands that can't activate it at all.
The deck's sideboard, which I didn't build due to not yet knowing what the format is going to look like, will surely include more heroic enablers such as Ajani's Presence to stop removal and Ordeal of Heliod to help race against aggressive decks. I also really liked Cifka's addition of Fall of the Hammer in his sideboard. It triggers your heroic creatures and kills an opposing creature for just two mana. The card is nowhere near as good in this deck as it was in Cifka's deck because we only have one creature that gets pumped when you target it, but if you play more of an "all in" style of heroic with hoplites and Hero of Iroas, then Fall of the Hammer is definitely worth playing.
One card from M15 that has some serious potential in this deck is Hammerhand. There have been plenty of cards before this one that disallowed your opponent to block such as Firefist Striker and even Frenzied Goblin that got its own reprint in M15, so this card doesn't look all that special at a first glance. It does however trigger heroic and give your creature a small bonus in addition to making an opposing creature not block. One thing to keep in mind when playing this card is unlike heroic creatures where all you need to do is target it to get the bonus, with Hammerhand the spell actually needs to resolve for the creature not to block. If you're worried about removal then you do have the option to target your opponent's creature with the spell. They will likely choose to not kill their own guy in response unless they really can't afford to have the spell resolve. Although Hammerhand has its downsides it's still pretty good at least as a sideboard card against decks that want to block your creatures.
Here's another take on a Preeminent Captain deck. Instead of having a solid heroic theme, this deck is more of a traditional soldier tribal deck and relies on Preeminent Captain more than the heroic deck did.
This deck is practically Monowhite Soldiers with a small splash for Boros Charm and Spark Trooper. As I've said above, I think the synergy between Preeminent Captain, Spark Trooper, and Boros Charm is really good. In this deck you even have Brave the Elements for additional protection. It's also worth noting that every creature in this deck is a soldier and can be put into play with Preeminent Captain. I would have loved to include Daring Skyjek in this list and while it should be a soldier, it's sadly a human knight.
There are a mix of two Hall of Triumph and two Spear of Heliod in the deck. The pump effects work very well with our token-making creatures and you will always want at least one every game. The 2/2 split is because these cards are legendary so drawing multiples of them can be awkward. With two of each, you will usually draw one in a game but you're less likely to have a dead card in your hand if you draw multiples.
Obelisk of Urd is something that seems like an auto-include in a tribal deck such as this one, but I think that both Hall of Triumph and Spear of Heliod are better. The Obelisk costs six mana, which is uncastable in a deck with only 21 lands. But it does have convoke, so it can be cast for much less mana. While it has convoke, do you really want to tap your creatures to get this artifact into play? You won't be attacking the turn this enters the battlefield and you will probably lose out on the same amount of damage that the Obelisk grants you. The upside of the Obelisk is that it makes your guys huge. +2/+2 is a significant bonus and when the tokens you make are 3/3s, the damage adds up quickly. Regardless, I'd rather tap three mana and make a Glorious Anthem and be able to attack right away. It's possible that I'm greatly undervaluing the Obelisk. Losing out on an attack seems ok when your follow up play after Supreme Verdict is an 8/3 lifelink haste creature. Also, who is Urd?
This white weenie deck plays zero removal spells. You want to play creatures and attack every turn and you will rarely want to mess up your tempo by killing a guy. Brave the Elements, while not removal, is the spell that you'll need to get past all of your opponent's blockers anyway. You will want to play some removal in your sideboard for things that you just can't deal with, like Master of Waves for example, and Banishing Light and Banisher Priest (sadly not a soldier) are both great inclusions.
Another thing worth noting is that there is no Temple of Triumph in this list. With Battlefield Forge being reprinted, temples are not necessary for fixing and in a deck as fast as this one, you would rather take damage than have your lands come into play tapped. Having no temples will give you a decent advantage over decks that have temples, especially midrange decks. Most decks these days take about three turns to do anything because they are usually playing temples on turns one and two. This deck is capable of punishing those slower draws.
One downside of this White Weenie deck is that it pretty much folds to decks playing Supreme Verdict. Unlike a Monored deck that plays additional reach like Lightning Strike or Magma Jet or a Monoblue Devotion deck that has card draw, this aggro deck does not have a good way to recover after a Supreme Verdict. The deck is usually not fast enough to win before turn four, and sandbagging creatures in an attempt to play around Verdict is usually a losing battle. Your only hope is to have a Boros Charm or Ajani's Presence out of the sideboard, or to follow up with a Spark Trooper if they are at six or less life. Mutavault helps a lot as well. Of course it's possible to beat Esper or UW Control but the matchup is not in your favor.
That's all I have for this week. I'm pretty excited about Preeminent Captain making a comeback and I hope he actually sees some play this time around. White Weenie has always been a solid strategy and I think this guy only makes the archetype better. Thanks for reading and good luck at the prerelease this weekend!
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