ello and welcome to another edition of Building on a Budget. For the last two weeks I've tried to help you find the best way to warp the world. This week is Favorite Flavor Week here on magicthegathering.com. I've always been a huge fan of the tribal mechanic. Long before Lorwyn was a whisper I had been playing Elves, Goblins, Slivers, and Merfolk on kitchen tables with my friends. I always loved the concept of tribal mechanics and thought they had excellent flavor. Elves work well with other Elves and Goblins work well with other Goblins. It makes sense on a very intuitive level. Lorwyn brought tribal mechanics to a whole new level, but recently there has been a lot of talk about what tribes might survive after that block rotates out in September. A quick look at the Magic 2010 spoiler will point you in the direction of Soldiers.
A lot of my readers opened up a Captain of the Watch and got really excited about the new Magic 2010 Soldier lord. I can see what everyone is so excited about. I actually lost a match at the Prerelease when my opponent played a turn-five Captain of the Watch (thanks to rampant growth) followed by a turn six Captain of the Watch. It's clearly a very powerful card, but how can we best abuse it?
When I first saw Captain of the Watch I looked at its creature type, which seemed like it would be extremely relevant so long as Lorwyn block was Standard legal. Soldier seems like a pretty good creature type when you realize that Preeminent Captain can just put the Captain into play for free.
Many people would probably want to fill this kind of deck up with Spectral Processions and Honor of the Pure, but I want to stick with the Soldier theme and see how powerful the deck can be. I made a few lists in my notebook and ultimately decided that this seemed like a good route to go with the deck.
I'll explain each card's purpose in the deck.
Captain of the Watch: Many of you were so excited about this card that you asked me to make a deck with it. I've been extremely happy with this card in testing and I'm confidant that four of this belong in the deck.
Preeminent Captain: This is the sleeper here. You might not be overwhelmed with this card's power level in the abstract, but in this deck Preeminent Captain is just bonkers. The tempo advantage you get when you put a Captain of the Watch, Mirror Entity, or Veteran Armorsmith onto the battlefield is pretty absurd.
Elite Vanguard: Savannah Lions has always been good enough. Elite Vanguard one-ups its feline predecessor with an awesome creature type.
Veteran Armorsmith: An obvious four-of in a Soldier-themed deck. A 2/3 for two mana is a fine deal no matter how you cut it. The fact that it makes most of your team survive a Volcanic Fallout or Infest is also extremely relevant.
Veteran Swordsmith: Another obvious inclusion. This type of card really shines against control decks that you want to finish off very quickly.
Ballyrush Banneret: When I typed "Soldier" into Gatherer I was delighted to see one of my favorite fifth to ninth picks from Morningtide draft. Ballyrush Banneret lets this deck get some pretty absurd draws. I like cards like this because they let me keep more hands than usual. If I'm on the play and have a hand with two cards that cost two mana, one card that costs three mana, two cards that cost six mana, and two lands I'm likely to mulligan to a hand that actually has a chance to play its spells. If one of those two drops is a Ballyrush Banneret I can happily keep a hand like that and take the gambit that my opponent will kill the first two-drop I play and not have a high density of removal in hand.
Path to Exile: There should be little question by now as to whether this card deserves a slot in white decks. It's extremely important that our deck has cheap answers to Mistbind Clique, I don't want my opponent to fearlessly timewalk us with four mana 4/4s.
Ethersworn Canonist: This is a nice piece of tech that was brought to my attention by Cedric Phillips. The Elf combo deck has been popping up a lot lately and this seems like a really solid answer. Most of the Elf decks won't be packing any main-deck removal so you should be able to get some free Game 1 wins with your Canonist. You can do a lot more with one spell a turn than they can thanks to Preeminent Captain.
Unmake: Another solid removal spell. I really want more than four spot removal spells so we can clear the way for our Peeminent Captain. I also want to make holes in the opponent's team to attack Ajani Goldmane. We don't have the luxury of playing Ajani ourselves (because of cost restrictions), and that gives other white decks a pretty big edge in the mirror.
Mirror Entity: This is the abosolute stones here. We may not have Ajani Goldmane, but Mirror Entity actually seems better a lot of the time in this deck. If we put a Mirror Entity onto the battlefield off our Preeminent Captain and pump up the team it will probably result in a lot of turn-four wins.
I had some friends over last weekend to help me test the deck.
I lose the roll and keep Elite Vanguard, Ballyrush Banneret, Preeminent Captain, Mirror Entity, and three Plains. My opponent plays a Mutavault and passes. I draw a Path to Exile, cast my Elite Vanguard, and pass, and my opponent casts a Bitterblossom. I draw a Veteran Swordsmith, attack for 2, and cast my Ballyrush Banneret. My opponent goes to 17 during his upkeep and passes. I draw another Ballyrush Banneret and attempt to cast it, but my opponent casts a Spellstutter Sprite. I cast my Preeminent Captain and pass. My opponent plays his fourth land, attacks for 2, and passes. During my upkeep he tries a Mistbind Clique, but I cast Path to Exile to prevent the tap-down. I draw a Plains, attack with my team, and put Mirror Entity onto the battlefield with Preeminent Captain. I activate it to pump my team for four. My opponent is forced to chump-block one of my creatures, and he goes to 4. On his turn he goes to 3 from his Bitterblossom, casts a Peppersmoke to kill my Mirror Entity, attacks for 2 again, and passes. I draw a Captain of the Watch. I enter my combat phase, and my opponent taps my team with Cryptic Command. I play my Veteran Swordsmith and pass. My opponent goes to two from his Bitterblossom and scoops up his cards with no way to win.
Sideboarding: -4 Ethersworn Canonist, +2 Rhox Pikemaster, +2 Unmake
I keep Ballyrush Banneret, Preeminent Captain, Rhox Pikemaster, Unmake, Captain of the Watch, and two Plains. My opponent plays a Secluded Glen untapped, showing me a Bitterblossom. (The untapped land means he probably has a Peppersmoke in hand.) I draw a Veteran Armorsmith, play my land, and pass. My opponent casts his Bitterblossom and passes. I draw a Plains, cast my Veteran Armorsmith, and pass the turn. My opponent goes to 19 during his upkeep and passes. I draw a Path to Exile, attack with my Armorsmith, and cast my Preeminent Captain. My opponent casts a Scion of Oona during my end step. He goes to 16 during his upkeep, attacks for 3, and passes the turn with no fourth land. I draw another Unmake. I attack with both creatures and put a Captain of the Watch into the battlefield. My opponent attempts a second Scion of Oona, and I cast Unmake on the first one. My opponent takes 9 and goes to 7. My opponent draws a fourth land and casts a Sower of Temptation, stealing my Captain of the Watch. On my turn I draw a Plains and cast Unmake on the Scion of Oona and Path to Exile on the Sower. I attack with my team and put Rhox Pikemaster into play, and my opponent concedes.
I win the roll and keep Ethersworn Canonist, Mirror Entity, Captain of the Watch, and four Plains. I play a Plains and pass, and my opponent casts a Nettle Sentinel and passes. I draw a Plains, cast my Ethersworn Canonist, and pass. My opponent attacks for 2, casts an Elvish Visionary, and passes. I draw a Preeminent Captain, attack with my Ethersworn Canonist, and cast my Preeminent Captain. My opponent casts an Elvish Archdruid and attacks with his Nettle Sentinel. I draw an Unmake, attack with my team and put Captain of the Watch onto the battlefield. Elvish Visionary blocks the Ethersworn Canonist, and I cast Unmake on the Elvish Archdruid. My opponent casts a Ranger of Eos finding a pair of Nettle Sentinels on his turn. I draw another Plains, attack with my team, put Mirror Entity into play and activate it for five. My opponent dies.
Sideboarding: -4 Elite Vanguard, +4 Armored Ascension
I mulligan trying to find a Canonist and keep Ethersworn Canonist, Armored Ascension, and four Plains. My opponent plays a Mosswort Bridge and passes. I draw a Veteran Armorsmith, play a land, and pass. My opponent plays another Mosswort Bridge and casts a Heritage Druid. I cast my Ethersworn Canonist and pass. My opponent casts an Elvish Visionary and passes without a third land. I draw a Veteran Swordsmith, cast my Veteran Armorsmith (so I can attack), and get in for 2. My opponent plays another Elvish Visionary and a Sunpetal Grove tapped. I draw another Plains, cast my Armored Ascension on my Veteran Armorsmith, and attack for 6 in the air. My opponent casts a Primal Command, putting Armored Ascension on top of my library and finding a Regal Force, then plays a fourth land and passes. I draw the Plains again, cast the Armored Ascension, and attack for 7 in the air. My opponent can't find a way to deal with the flyer, and he concedes.
I win the roll and keep Elite Vanguard, Ballyrush Banneret, Ballyrush Banneret, Veteren Swordsmith, Veteran Swordsmith, and two Plains. I cast the Elite Vanguard and pass, and my opponent casts a Goldmeadow Stalwart, showing me a Wizened Cenn. I draw a Plains, attack for 2, and cast my Ballyrush Banneret. My opponent casts his Wizened Cenn and attacks for 3. I draw a Captain of the Watch, cast my Ballyrush Banneret and both my Veteran Swordsmiths, and attack with the first Banneret and the Vanguard. My opponent blocks the Banneret with Wizened Cenn. My opponent casts Spectral Procession on his turn and passes. I draw a Plains, play my land, and think for a bit before passing the turn. My opponent casts an Ajani Goldmane and pumps his team. He attacks in the air for 6. I draw another land, cast my Captain of the Watch, and attack with my team. My opponent blocks my Vanguard and Banneret with Spirit tokens and blocks a Veteran Swordsmith with his Stalwart. My opponent casts a Cloudgoat Ranger on his turn, activates Ajani, and attacks in the air for 3. I draw another Plains and pass. My opponent activates his Ajani again and attacks with his team. Before damage he makes his Ranger fly and Reinforces with some Rustic Clachans for lethal damage.
Sideboarding: -4 Ethersworn Canonist, -2 Unmake, +4 Armored Ascension, +2 Cloudgoat Ranger
I mulligan to five and keep Veteran Armorsmith, Veteran Swordsmith, and three Plains. I play a Plains and pass, and my opponent plays a Windbrisk Heights and passes. I draw an Armored Ascension, cast my Veteran Armorsmith, and pass. My opponent casts a Knight of Meadowgrain and passes. I draw a Preeminent Captain, cast the Captain, attack for 2, and pass. My opponent casts a Wizened Cenn and attacks for 3, bringing the life totals to 17-21 in his favor, then plays another Windbrisk Heights and passes. I draw a Mirror Entity, then attack with both my creatures and put the Veteran Swordsmith onto the battlefield. I cast my Mirror entity and pass. My opponent casts another Knight of Meadowgrain, casts Path to Exile on my Mirror Entity, attacks for 5, and passes. I draw a plains, cast my Armored Ascension, and attack for 7 in the air. My opponent plays an Ajani Goldmane and activates it before attacking. I take a beating. On my turn I just draw another land, then attack and kill Ajani. My opponent has another one, though, and I'm forced to concede.
I hope everyone enjoyed my exploration of the Soldier archetype. Shoot me an email or hit the forums and tell me what you'd like me to write about next!
A lot of you have been asking for the "non-budget" versions of my decks. Most decks I make are pretty much exactly how I have them configured originally barring a few lands. This time around, if you want to make the deck on a higher budget, I'd suggest playing a full four Windbrisk Heights, four Mutavaults, some Honor of the Pure, and a few Ajani Goldmane. The decklist would look like this.
Mono-White Soldiers (Higher Budget)
If Honor of the Pure seems really hard to find you can just buy the white intro pack, which contains Honor of the Pure as one of its rares.
Happy tribal brewing!