I wrote this article before Javier Domínguez previewed Fervent Champion, an aggressive one-drop that improves nearly all of the decks below. As a deck-building exercise, think about what you would cut to make room for the Champion. Happy brewing!
The release of Throne of Eldraine will be more impactful than the typical set. On top of all the new cards it will add to Standard, the rotation out of Ixalan Rivals of Ixalan, Dominaria and Core Set 2019 will happen simultaneously. Eldraine heralds a big change to the format and a whole new world of possibilities as well.
Probably the most impactful change is one that isn't immediately apparent: the mana. Ixalan and Dominaria gave us a full ten color combination dual land cycle of Glacial Fortress and friends. These paired with the Ravnica shock lands to give us powerful manabases that could easily support two and three colors without any additional work.
Last week, though, Mark Rosewater confirmed something a little unexpected: there is no dual land cycle in Eldraine.
Now, it's certainly possible that this is a cheeky answer, and we'll end up seeing a cycle of tri-lands supporting each of the tribes, but it is not apparent that there are all that many tribes outside of Knights in Eldraine. We also have more evidence that the set is going to incentivize mono-color decks through keywords like adamant or powerful all-hybrid or all-mono-colored mana costs for cards.
For now, I'm assuming that what we're going to have to work with is pretty barebones compared to what we're used to:
Essentially, every two-color combination has access to four shock lands and four Guildgates. The enemy color combinations have the Temples, very strong lands in their own right, while the allied color combinations have… Guildgates that gain 1 life. Those aren't quite as impressive at all. And of these, only the shock lands enter play untapped. Overall, there aren't a lot of good ways to get untapped mana outside of taking a fair amount of damage from shock lands, playing colorless lands, or just registering basics.
That is, unless you're interested in something more tribal:
While this is a fairly innocuous card that likely only has one home, the weakness of other manabases has me thinking that this land is likely to be a defining card of the new format. For starters, even if it is a tri-land, there is no requirement that a deck playing this use all three colors. White-red, white-black and black-red are all combinations that tend to be aggressive, and aggressive decks are hungry for untapped lands right now.
Currently we don't have all the cards in the format, so we're stretching in a few places. Whereas many of the two- and three-drop Knights are actually reasonable cards, a card like Weaselback Redcap currently makes the cut solely on the basis of saying "Knight," giving it a leg up on every other one-drop. Embereth Skyblazer also feels a little bit like a pipedream, but both evasion and the mana sink would be worth it if it survives the turn.
Embercleave is likely to go hand in hand with Tournament Grounds, as the card is an easy way to fix the mana for both it and the color white, which will be better at going wide to give Embercleave a discount. Crystal Slipper also could fall into a similar vein, where Tournament Grounds casts the card easily and timely.
That said, even in aggressive decks, the Temples are a lot of incentive to "skip" turn one and opt instead for stronger turns two, three and four. Meanwhile the one-drops are currently lackluster, and feel a bit unnecessary beyond just having some options in case they're needed. And we are currently exploring what a tri-color land can do.
Venerable Knight continues to make the cut despite looking like a Savannah Lions mostly on the back of playing Worthy Knight and Tournament Grounds, so that the deck has uses for it both on turn one and later on. Murderous Rider // Swift End does a decent amount of work in the deck if it goes heavier toward black, but relying on Tournament Grounds for black sources in this deck means that it is often going to be a 2/3 lifelink that synergizes with the other creatures.
It's also possible to do something like this:
Worthy Knight should remind everyone of a similar white two-drop from the previous Standard, and conveniently many, many of the more playable Knights that we currently have access to are multicolor cards that feed both of them. The ability to go wide quickly is actually pretty impressive here, with twelve two-drops that generate 1/1 tokens in some fashion. All that's missing is some sort of payoff worth playing, but there isn't much in the way of general anthem effects other than The Circle of Loyalty. Corpse Knight working both directions is intriguing at least, but I would like to avoid playing it if possible, as the card is pretty unimpressive without support.
There's also one big one-drop Knight that is worth considering.
A defining card of the last Standard, this gives us extra incentive to go heavier into black instead of red and white, despite how many solid options for Knights there are in white-red currently.
This deck feels one good one-drop away from good enough. Venerated Loxodon fell by the wayside in Standard, but 9 power for zero mana is a lot. Murderous Rider's Adventure lets us eschew dedicated removal and instead play a split spell Hero's Downfall / Syr Tolarian Scholar, which means that the deck can overload on creatures and incentivizes going wide. Foulmire Knight // Profane Insight and Order of Midnight // Alter Fate let the deck grind, and Smitten Swordmaster // Curry Favor gives the deck a clunky form of reach. All that's missing is the ability to speed up the clock juuuust a little and reliably deploy Venerated Loxodon on turn three.
If there is another one-drop previewed in either black or white, Temple of Silence probably falls out of the deck. In the meantime, I'm leaving it in, but mostly as a way to utilize a land drop later if the deck starts stalling out. Worthy Knight gives some incentive to hold on to one-drops anyway, especially with Venerated Loxodon. Worthy Knight on turn two followed by a one-drop and a two-drop or two one-drops allows us to still play Venerated Loxodon on turn three, despite not having a turn-one play.
With so many cards left to be previewed, and rather poor options in Standard for our mana right now, I'm continuing to watch for Knight cards to be released every day. Aggressive strategies are exactly the sort of thing that takes week one Standard by surprise, and with a big tournament in Philadelphia coming up, I'm looking to secure victories for my team. What would be more fitting than a win with the Tournament Grounds itself?
Nick Prince is a competitive Magic player and member of the L.A. Gayming Society leadership team.
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