Knightfall’s Past And Future

Eli Kassis has found himself with a trademark deck! Today he talks about the archetype and introduces himself as we head towards Modern at SCG Atlanta!

Hello everyone! Welcome to my first article for Star City Games. I’m a Magic veteran of 24 years. I started playing the game in the fall of 1993, just as Unlimited was leaving and Revised was coming out. I made my first Pro Tour at the age of 13 in 1996 and my love for the game only grew from there. I’ve competed in over a dozen Pro Tours with roughly six cashes and made three Grand Prix Top 8s and fifteen SCG Tour Open Top 8s. In my non-Magic life, I’m a Licensed Mental Health Counselor for the state of New York and I’ve been doing that for about seven years now.

But Enough About Me!

The deck I’m discussing today is Bant Knightfall, one that I’ve been given much credit for. I actually did not invent it, though in May 2016 I made the Top 8 of Grand Prix Charlotte with the first iteration of the deck. Bant Knightfall is a Modern combo/aggro deck that uses Knight of the Reliquary together with Retreat to Coralhelm to abuse landfall and finish off your opponents in one swing.

The big key to Bant Knightfall is Collected Company. This card can be either your best friend or an unforgiving enemy. To play Collected Company, your relevant creature count (Birds of Paradise doesn’t count) needs to be around 24, which can be very hard to achieve in the Modern format where you are combating a diverse array of decks in the metagame.

Catching double Knight of the Reliquary off a Collected Company will feel like it’s Christmas all over again, but likewise, hitting two Birds of Paradise will feel like a bully just stole your lunch.

Mackenzie Doyle recently finished in second place at an SCG Invitational Qualifier with an iteration of my favorite deck. After the list, I’ll talk about some of the things I liked and didn’t like about his version, and what we might want to try out in the new Modern metagame.

I stated we wanted 24 creatures to optimize Collected Company. This would be my first complaint in this list: our creature count is at 28, but Birds Of Paradise and Noble Hierarch are not ideal hits, so really our count is at about twenty. Qasali Pridemage was actually in my first Grand Prix list as a three-of, but since then it has dwindled more and more. Do we really need artifact or enchantment destruction in the maindeck in Modern anymore?

Well, there are decks like Affinity, Hexproof, and Ad Nauseam in the format. However, my argument would be that, in order to be effective against those decks, we would need a higher count of those effects to consistently bring them to the table effectively. Is the right answer to increase those numbers to combat such a small percentage of the field? Probably not; this seems like a job for our fifteen-card sideboard. Granted, in Modern a sideboard is usually pressed for space, as the format is more diverse then probably any format has ever been in the history of the game.

I don’t have many other complaints about this list besides Tireless Tracker, which I’ve found to be a win more card. It’s not very effective at helping this decks weaker matchups and it may be a little too mana-intensive for the speedy format that Modern is. The third copy of Retreat to Coralhelm may also be a bit much when the card doesn’t combo with too much else in the maindeck. It is, however, sweet to utilize with Izzet Staticaster out of the sideboard, allowing you to machine-gun down even the bigger creatures as you untap your Izzet Staticaster to use it again and again in the same turn.

This list is very close one I usually run; the sideboard runs the same distribution I’ve successfully run into two Grand Prix Top 8s with this deck. It has two planeswalkers to help with the grindier matchups, a smattering of graveyard hate for Dredge and similarly themed decks, and a plethora of countermagic to combat the combo that exists in the format as well as control, finishing with more “hatebears” designed to increase your likelihood of representing resistance successfully off a Collected Company.

This deck’s weaknesses traditionally have been Eldrazi Tron, Kiki Chord, and TitanShift. Fortunately, Kiki Chord is not really a deck anymore and TitanShift occupies a very small margin of the field. Unfortunately, Eldrazi Tron is a big contender and a popular deck. Cards like Ceremonious Rejection would help immensely versus them while increasing your success ratio against decks like Affinity and old-school Mono-Green Tron builds.

However, bringing these cards in reduces your Collected Company creature count as well. I’ve played this deck long enough and through enough variants to identify two options. Option 1: you can play all the best sideboard spells and just sideboard out your Collected Companies (the best card in the deck!). Option 2 is to play creatures that simulate these spells’ effects so you can maximize the effectiveness of the cards already in your deck and still combat your weaker matchups. Commit to one option or the other; if you go in halfway, it will not work out well.

The SCG Invitational-winning Modern deck was Death and Taxes by Brian Coval, who also happens to be a great guy if you ever get the chance to chat with him at an event. His decklist looks like this:

This deck does a great job at battling Grixis Deaths Shadow, but can have difficulties battling a deck that goes big or wide like Knightfall, Affinity, Counters Company, or Eldrazi. It does a good job at having explosive starts and inhibiting the opponent from progressing their battlefield as much.

Anyone that knows me knows I like a good brew. My thought was that we could combine the cards between this deck and Knightfall to make a deck that was good against both of their weaknesses. The problem is we have to account for the negative interactions; if we want the land destruction and Leonin Arbiters, we have to cut some copies of Knight of the Reliquary and Retreat to Coralhelm.

Here’s my rough draft that we can crowdsource and keep working on:

That’s my starting point. I have only done one competitive League with it so far, but I had a 4-1 start. I am looking forward to experimenting with it more and seeing where I end up.

I plan on reading the comments for great suggestions from you all and hopefully including them in my next article as I develop this brew more and more toward a Tier 1 competitive Modern Deck. Thanks for reading, and see you at the SCG Tour in Syracuse in August!