Retreat To Coralhelm

Think Battle for Zendikar is irrelevant for non-rotating formats? Wrong. Pro Tour Champion Ari Lax tires endlessly to find the right list for the combo that may define the $5,000 Premier IQ at #SCGIndy!

Everyone seems to be talking about these two:

Tap my Knight, sacrifice a land, get a land, untap my Knight. Tap my Knight, sacrifice the land I got, get a land, untap my Knight…

There’s been a lot of brief mentions of the new Modern landfall combo from Battle of Zendikar, but not a lot of exploration. I get it, Standard
has the big spotlight because it has the biggest shift and there’s so much to explore. So many more new cards are potentially relevant, and so many gaps
have been left by old cards leaving.

Given how many relevant things are going on in other formats, trust me when I say I wouldn’t waste my airtime if this wasn’t also big. Knight of the
Reliquary plus Retreat to Coralhelm has potentially huge applications for Modern.

The combo is very Splinter Twin-esque. Play a creature that doesn’t die to Lightning Bolt, untap, play an enchantment, win the game. You lose the whole
secrecy/fear aspect of Deceiver Exarch having flash with this combo, but you gain something else big.

Knight of the Reliquary is just a good card. I’m not talking “I guess Pestermite beating for two wins games” or “Splinter Twin on Snapcaster Mage might win
a game” good. Knight is actually a card people were playing without access to Retreat to Coralhelm as a real threat in Modern. It’s not even like Retreat
to Coralhelm is that bad either. An enchantment that scrys as part of your combo is real nice.

That’s scary. When your combo is just play four mediocre pieces with four good cards, you start dipping into decks that can play normal Magic very well
until they get a window to combo off. Unlike Splinter Twin which does this with answers, a Knight of the Reliquary deck can do that with threats. Retreat
to Coralhelm even plays a role in these games by letting you tap blockers or, with a fetchland on your opponent’s turn, even tap attackers.

Let’s assume you want to play four of each combo piece to start. It’s possible that you only want three Retreat to Coralhelm similar to how most Grixis
Twin or Temur Twin decks only play three Splinter Twins, but that’s to be determined.

What else do we need?


Similar to Scapeshift being a “one card combo” that requires you to have a certain number of Mountains in your deck, Retreat to Coralhelm requires you to
actually have Plains or Forests to sacrifice with Knight of the Reliquary.

We want to one shot our opponents with the combo, so you really need twelve lands you can put into your graveyard. Looking at other Knight of the Reliquarydecks like Company Zoo as the blueprint for fairer versions and Twin decks for the more traditional combo shells I expect 22 lands
to be the final count, leaving us the ability to play four non-sac-able lands as a Knight of the Reliquary package.

Let’s start with the eighteen lands going to the graveyard. These can either be Plains, Forests, or lands that sacrifice to immediately find Plains or
Forests. Each Plains or Forest in your deck pairs up with a fetchland to add two damage, regardless of whether it is in deck (Knight up fetch, sac to fetch
it) or on the battlefield (sacrifice it for a fetch, can sacrifice fetch even if you run out of lands). The later of these means that each time you fetch
before comboing off is an extra damage you deal assuming you have another fetch to find.

What happens if you don’t get to play a fetchland before going off though? In that case, playing less than nine Forests or Plains means your chain ends
before you hit a 20/20 Knight. Fortunately, nine lands to fetch translates to one extra of that land type over the stock eight in a Zoo list. So far so
good, as that’s a minimal concession to make on your mana.

Do you want a Dryad Arbor? Arbor protects your Knight from Liliana of the Veil in a pinch, but more importantly, can be untapped with Retreat to Coralhelm
for additional mana. Wanting to do that is likely deck dependent, as you can’t fetch the Arbor up mid-combo and do it, but it’s worth exploring.

Alternatively, part of the chain can be a Ghost Quarter. Pull up an extra fetchland, pull up a Ghost Quarter, Ghost Quarter your own fetch to find a basic,
keep on trucking to lethal. Considering that you probably wanted a Ghost Quarter in one of the utility slots anyways, that seems like an awesome
compromise. That brings us back to the stock eight fetchable lands necessary to execute your combo.

The drawback here is that there is now a situation you can’t full combo: having a Forest/Plains stuck in hand. Extra lands on the battlefield can just be
sacrificed to a Knight activation, but your hand is inaccessible. If your Ghost Quarter is in your hand or stuck tapped, the same situation occurs. These
all seem like corner cases, especially as your opponent going to eighteen life off their own mana negates the issue and is something that already works for
Scapeshift in many matchups. It’s even more of a corner case when you think about the fact that fetching pre-combo, Noble Hierach’s exalted, or just
attacking also work to add to your damage count. I can see a world where this scenario or needing to deal 21-22 damage comes up enough to warrant the extra
sac-able land, but that’s more of a post-testing decision.

There’s another decision wrapped into this: How much life does it take to combo off? If you want to deal the full twenty with eight sac-able lands, you are
going to have to take eight damage to put your fetchlands into your graveyard. The whole earlier fetches thing saves you activations on the combo turn, but
you already paid the life up front for those so the end result is the same. You can cut fetches for sac-able lands to reduce the life cost, but this makes
your mana worse (fetches make any color you could want) and makes your fair Knight of the Reliquary worse. Considering how important it is to fetch twice
before playing a 4/4 Knight to beat Lightning Bolt, I don’t want to cut very far into the twelve fetches that Company Zoo has.

Of course, when do you want to deal the full twenty? Earlygame, at a point where you probably have the life to spare. The times you combo off lategame at
lower life totals are times where you have likely traded blows and the baseline twelve damage from all eight sac-able lands plus Ghost Quarter plus a 2/2
base for Knight should be enough. Even if it isn’t, you can probably afford the four or so life to chain fetchlands and pseudo-Hatred them out. The
exception is against Burn, but that’s an issue we can work out when we get to it.

Moving onward to the “utility slots.” As mentioned above, I want some number of extra fetches there to support Knight of the Reliquary. If I run the full
tweleve from Company Zoo, that’s 21 of my lands already locked up. Can you get away with one utility slot? Let’s actually look at the options. As a side
note, I was shocked when Gatherer showed me that there are only 300 non-basic lands in Modern. I feel like there should be more in almost fifteen years of

I looked at ways to force Knight through before I realized that every fetchland you cycle through taps a blocker. Knight up fetch, untap Knight. Fetchland,
Retreat to Coralhelm taps their Tarmogoyf. Worth noting that I thought of this land due to the floating mana from each sac-able land.

This is a spell, not a land, but as per above you can use your floating combo mana on it. I can’t imagine why you would need to, but you can.

Okay, so maybe your opponent has a protection from blue or hexproof creature. Trample is a way to break through. Unlike Rogue’s Passage, Kessig Wolf Run is
a good enough Magic card that you may want to Knight it up when you aren’t comboing off. The downside is that it takes an extra color, but your last
sac-able land could easily be a Stomping Ground. This also lets you combo off for more than twenty damage if you have life to put your shocklands onto the
battlefield untapped and pay for actual pumps.

Assuming you tap three fetchable lands to cast Retreat to Coralhelm, you can generate five extra mana when comboing. That’s three bonus damage when
filtered through Wolf Run, which means you can cut even further into your saccable +land count if you want. Of course, adding a Stomping Ground does the
opposite of that already, so I’m really skeptical the scenario ever lines up where Kessig Wolf Run lets you cheat on deck construction.

If their Slippery Bogle or Gladecover Scout is too big to trample over, this will force you through, though admittedly the cases that happens and they
don’t have too much life to kill thanks to Daybreak Coronet are few and far between. It also protects Knight if it untaps and you can even leave up
protection midcombo with a fetchland up.

There are no creature-lands in Company Zoo partly because entering the battlefield tapped is annoying. Celestial Colonnade might be good enough to change
that, but there’s a question of if you will get to the six mana to activate this land in a timeframe that matters.

See previous discussion on this card. Card is kinda a combo piece and just generally good in the format. You may even want a second one.

Can easily be better than Kessig Wolf Run as a fair value land, though that is more if you aren’t fetching it with a Knight that you wanted to give trample
to start with.

I’m pretty sure this doesn’t change any of the combo math on how many lands you need. If you need a bit more damage, you can end the chain on a fetch for
+1 damage, and this saves a life relative to that. Most likely too narrow to be worth it, and there are better things to do than cycle a land if you are
tutoring with Knight. Attacking and killing them comes to mind as one of them.

If your Knight is already on the battlefield to find this, you don’t need to give it haste. In theory, if it dies, then you play a Retreat, then you play
another Knight, you would want this effect, but that seems super narrow.

Cool way to get back a combo piece, except you can’t find it if you don’t have a Knight of the Reliquary already going. Same goes for Mortuary Mire. Not

Oh yeah, this one. Company Zoo doesn’t need a basic Mountain to fetch as the reason for basics is to play around Blood Moon, which makes Mountains, whereas
this deck may need an Island to cast spells in that spot. You don’t need to cast Retreat to Coralhelm through Blood Moon, as you can’t combo for much when
all your shocks and fetches are Mountains, but if you want access to other blue cards, this is a nice one. There is also the added bonus of having a
painless land to find against Burn which, given the blue spells I want to play, is likely a very good thing.

Looking at everything, the mana I would use for a Bant list at this point is:

2 Breeding Pool

2 Temple Garden

1 Hallowed Fountain

2 Forest

1 Plains

4 Windswept Heath

4 Misty Rainforest

4 Flooded Strand

1 Ghost Quarter

1 Island

So… basically the Company Zoo manabase with an Island over the Kessig Wolf Run. We put a lot of thought into it, crunched the numbers, and this is what
shook out. No seriously, for once I’m not being sarcastic when I use that line.

With approximately half the deck locked up in the eight combo pieces and 22 lands, it’s time to start digging for spells.

First issue: Are there ways to make Retreat to Coralhelm good without a Knight on the battlefield? To Gatherer we go, this time for creature that {T}.

This plus a bounceland or Oboro, Palace in the Clouds plus Retreat to Coralhelm is infinite landfall. A second Retreat lets you scry tutor your deck
similar to Viscera Seer. I’m not really looking to fit either of those non-basics into my deck in sufficient quantity to make this happen.

The bread and butter backup combo with Retreat to Coralhelm. Untapping a mana accelerant on each landfall builds a pseudo-Lotus Cobra. Your deck can likely
support more five-drops than normal as a result, but even then this isn’t a real backup combo. More of a cute trick.

Turbo-looting is a great way to find a combo, though your total number of loots pre-flip remains the same unless you untap Jace in response to the flip
loot with a fetch. Jace, Telepath Unbound is also an insane Magic card. That said, the best cards to recast with Jace are Inquisiton of Kozilek and
Thoughtseize, at which point you are stretching the manabase of your deck. Also, turbo-looting is much less exciting when you realize you are giving up a
scry for each loot. Hooray minor upgrades on landfall triggers!

Blocks Etched Champion. Very good in fair deck semi-mirrors. Definitely interested in this one as an option when it grows to fight a Tarmogoyf at double
time. I just wish there was a good way in Bant to kill your own Hangarback and make a Thopter army.

You can go almost full on Survival of the Fittest here, only there isn’t a Basking Rootwalla to make it really easy to rebuy a ton of Vengevines. Is there
some Body Double + Necrotic Ooze combo I’m missing that might work out a little better? This also exposes your deck to graveyard hate a little more, which
is worrisome. Note that Jace does not do this, as he is very content to turbo-loot in the face of a Rest in Peace.

Somewhere between Jace and Fauna Shaman. This likely pushes the deck super far down the graveyard line in a bad way that makes it into a shaky degenerate
deck that just loses to hate instead of a deck that can brawl that also contains a sleek combo.

Okay, this one didn’t show up on the search, but it turns out that there’s another mode on Retreat to Coralhelm. Tapping blockers is right up this card’s

The Stomping Ground for Kessig Wolf Run also brings a friend! I have a lot of memories with Kiki Pod of blowing people out with Restoration Angel or
Deceiver Exarch untapping this card. This is more of a sideboard option as it doesn’t affect a lot of matchups, but I’m happy to have access to it.

Looking at 800 cards on Gatherer fries your brain sometimes. Or maybe I’m turning into a Frog too. Ribbit.

Okay, enough math and search digging for one day. Let’s get to some potential lists.

What if we build the deck as a Twin style combo deck?

The numbers here are pretty close to Patrick Dickmann’s Temur Twin list from Pro Tour Born of the Gods.
Sixteen creatures, only three of which don’t brawl (Noble Hierarch versus Deceiver Exarch). Dickmann had 21 lands and 23 spells compared to our 22-22, so
we are shorted one removal spell. We also get to play the super cool Bant Charm in the Electrolyze slot and that card is always really impressive whenever
I get a chance to cast it in this format.

There’s still a few things I’m not a huge fan of going on here. All of the maindeck threats use the graveyard, so all of people’s anti-Grixis graveyard
hate is going to cause problems. The Geist of Saint Trafts in the sideboard are supposed to sidestep this, but I think the deck is a little short on ways
to push them in. I have a sideboard Elspeth, Knight-Errant as part of this. It’s possible that should just be a sideboard Gideon Jura or Gideon, Ally of
Zendikar as a different big threat. It’s also possible that you want Rhox War Monk in this package to give you a bit more action against Burn, which is now
way more powerful than when Dickmann created this shell. It’s also possible that there should just be Hangarback Walker somewhere in here, as per above.

The mana also has some weird things going on. There are four lands that don’t cast Cryptic Command because I don’t want to overload on duals. The deck also
feels like it wants a land similar to Desolate Lighthouse. Unlike Zoo, you aren’t super committed to bashing with Knight of the Reliquary, so you may get
into defensive positions where you are grinding value. Of course that land comes out of the spell space, and I have no idea what there is in these colors
that does that, so…

I also wanted to play Thought Scour over Gitaxian Probe, but hitting a sac-able land or Ghost Quarter with it messes up your combo math. Odd stuff, but it
may be less relevant than I think it is.

One cool idea: Unlike true Twin, you can play Eternal Witness, which helps “dig” for your combo with Thought Scour. There may be an Eternal Command style list with Aether Vial in the mix here.

Yes, this deck and the last deck are similar enough that I basically copy-pasted the sideboard. No, I don’t care about Stony Silence plus Aether Vial. I
would much rather just KO Affinity and not worry about it.

Yes, three Aether Vial. I never want to draw multiples.

Let’s move away from a blue base emulating Twin. What if you just slot some Knights and Retreats into a Collected Company deck?

Collected Company offering up an instant speed Knight of the Reliquary is pretty awesome, letting you randomly Twin out people. Literally randomly is the
problem, but those few times it happens are pretty awesome.

Note that unlike Naya Company you only have four one mana instants, so Tarmogoyf is pretty loose. Despite the tension of wanting to exile and rebuy your
own stuff, I have Scavenging Ooze and Eternal Witness together to replace some of the two-drop punch lost there.

There are only three Retreats in this deck. You are not really a combo deck, just a Bant fair deck that was looking for a little more raw power and found

I have absolutely no desire to get Lantern or Affinity’ed out. I’m not even sure the seven pieces of hate I have is enough to really prevent that, but
that’s life.

If you want to splash red, you can get a little more aggressive.

This deck is really pushing the limits on how many creatures you can trim to before Collected Company starts looking bad. There’s a lot of trimming to fit
everything, like the fourth Path to Exile going, as you have Retreats to tap down larger threats.

Note the Izzet Staticasters in the sideboard over Grim Lavamancers. Part of this is the whole Retreat to Coralhelm combo letting you go machine gun crazy,
but it’s also just really awkward to have Knight and Lavamancer in the same deck.

Yes, those are sideboard Blood Moons in our “can’t combo through Blood Moon” deck. If Amulet of Vigor ever gets banned, you can cut them.

The one thing I have yet to explore here is the black base I mentioned earlier with Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and Inquisition of Kozilek. Here’s a semi-Jundy
list to start:

As you can kinda tell, the mana here is a bit of a disaster. We are base U/B that has to play a ton of Forests and Plains to support a splash G/W card. I
had to add an extra land not for actual mana count reasons but because you need 23 lands to play a Watery Grave, Island, and Swamp to make fetching work
right and still combo count.

You do get to do some cool Rock things here though. Siege Rhino is a real nice “doesn’t care about Relic of Progenitus” threat, though I’m not actually
sure it’s the best. Or even better than Geist of Saint Traft still, which was really awesome in the Zur deck with discard spells a couple years ago.

As you can tell by all of these lists, I really like Meddling Mage as a generic combo answer in the format. Even more so when I get to set it up with an
Inquisition of Kozilek aka build your own Cabal Therapy.

I have no idea if the double black sideboard cards are even reliably castable. The Dromoka’s Command is also a weird sideboard concession to beating
Keranos, God of Storms, and Blood Baron of Vizkopa is another “beats a Relic” threat that tested well for Pro Tour Fate Reforged and is now definitely
better than Batterskull or Sword of Light and Shadow due to Kolaghan’s Command.

The lack of Kolaghan’s Command in all of these lists could be a real issue for them grinding through fair mirrors. If there’s any potential non-starter
issue here, that’s it. This list may need to play Lingering Souls so it can play a different game against the Grixis decks. Or Hangarback Walker. Or
honestly both.

As for the last options, I’m not even going to try to put together a list. I’m just going to walk through some cards and let imaginations run wild, because
honestly, the list would basically be the same thing.

So, there is one other deck in the format that has historically shared the Witch-Maw Nephilim colors.

Let’s just ignore losing to Relic of Progenitus for a moment. We can go all the way back to the first ever Gifts Ungiven + Unburial Rites list from Worlds
2012 where Jesse Hampton paired it with Knight of the Reliquary as his beatdown threat of choice. We have multiple really powerful earlygame setups that
are fairly compact, letting us build a deck that is eight cards for Knight-Retreat, seven cards for Gifts-Rites plus monsters, and a bunch of cool value
nonsense and answers to bridge the gap.

Oh cool, we now have a tutor that can find both halves of the combo… and anything else. We can even Bring to Light for Gifts Ungiven and tutor for tutors
that find tutors and…

Oh, I guess Luis already

wrote about this on the official Wizards site last week

, admittedly without also splicing in the Knight of the Reliquary combo. Why am I not surprised?

If we are on the topic of Bring to Light and hybrid combo, Scapeshift comes to mind. There is a nonbo with Knight wanting fetches and Scapeshift generally
staying away from them, but there might just be a way to also fit nine Mountains into our eight Plains/Forest deck and go no-black double combo here.

Or we can go back to an old favorite. You don’t need Mountains if your two-card combo is ScapeshiftPrismatic Omen. Prismatic Omen also changes the Knight
combo a bit as all your lands are now Plains or Forests. Wargate finds both halves of the Knight combo. It costs a lot, but Retreat to Coralhelm lets us
make that mana with just a Noble Hierarch.

Hopefully, the core point here has been made over and over again. Knight of the Reliquary plus Retreat to Coralhelm is flexible. It’s an eight-card combo
package like Splinter Twin that includes a card that is straight up good to begin with. There are some mana concessions to make, but they are pretty
minimal compared to normal Modern manabases for decks in the same colors.

Say what you want about the set, but Battle for Zendikar still means business.