oving a theme deck can be a soul-crushing experience. In an effort to stay true to your theme, your deck is likely not as good as it could be. If you just ignored your theme and added in those Acidic Slimes, the deck would be so much better. But you can't, because it just doesn't work with the theme! You are hardcore. I respect that.
Master Biomancer | Art by Willian Murai
My theme decks are rarely that on point. I am a coward. I want to win a little too much to hold to my themes with such conviction! My theme decks tend to come together quickly and disappear just as fast. While I know many of you have elaborate theme decks that have been pet projects for years (and I hope to expand on this in a future article), my theme decks have always been pretty straightforward. The "Oklahoma!" theme deck is awesome, but my brain doesn't work that way. Like most of you with theme decks, mine run along creature-type lines.
If you don't have a Goblin deck, it is likely someone in your group does. There is that subset of players with an unnatural affinity toward Merfolk, or the player whose Elf deck gets completely out of hand if you don't deal with it immediately.
I've built all of those decks, but I want to share something a little different here. The theme deck here is not one of the dominant Magic tribes, but a smaller tribe that gives you plenty to work with, but offers a few restrictions as well: Knights.
Those of you with sharp eyes will notice that this deck is at least four years old. I built the deck right before Magic 2011 came out, so there are no cards in this deck from the last four years. We'll be fixing that in due time.
At the time, I had just picked up my fourth copy of Kinsbaile Cavalier and knew that a Knight deck featuring him was in order. I had always felt that Knights were a little underwhelming and hoped that "LeBron"1 was just what this team needed to make it into a powerhouse. I started with him and the Door of Destinies and worked out from there.
I opted for an all-white deck since I didn't feel that splashing another color was worth it. There are plenty of Knights in other colors, but at the time I had very few monocolored decks and this deck didn't feel like it was losing a whole lot staying with one color, so I stuck with it. Besides, calling the deck, "Knights in White and Black Satin" just doesn't have the same ring to it!
With a theme deck, I often like running a single copy of a card. It tends to show off the theme, bring some laughs when a less-than-stellar card hits the table, and lets me look at a wider variety of cards to determine how I should streamline the deck later on. The problem was that the deck was fun as it was, so I made only limited changes, even when several cards could have easily come out. Some of the cards that might surprise you:
Cavalry Master: The flanking subtheme in the deck was never all that exciting, but it often proved to be a surprise. Most players still don't completely understand flanking (it is only good when attacking), so many were initially surprised by how double flanking worked.2
Order of the Golden Cricket: Initially, I included it because of the mana cost, but its ability to suddenly fly was handy. It was hard for my opponents to take a card called Order of the Golden Cricket seriously, but it has done so much damage that it has proved its worth in the deck.
Knight of the White Orchid: This just didn't help as much as I thought it would. Getting a land was fine, but not enough to justify a 2/2 creature with first strike. I was blinded by the rarity and the amazing art. Unfortunately, the card just didn't hold up in games. I wanted more.
Order of the Sacred Torch: This appears to be such a corner-case card, but it did great work for me more often than I thought it would. The ability to counter black spells simply by tapping the creature has made games miserable for many opponents. It practically seems out of flavor for a Knight to do anything but attack, so the Order of the Sacred Torch is often an unwelcome surprise. Besides, it was a card that no one had heard of, and dropping it on the table, even in games where no one was playing black, proved to be satisfying.
The deck was fun to play and did surprisingly well. It played out best when you could get a two- or three-mana Knight out early. Knight of Meadowgrain was best as you could either swing for a few extra life points or sit and threaten to gain life when anyone attacked you. You only ever wanted just two Knights out at most. I would save as many as I could in my hand, as the next play would be a Door of Destinies. Dropping that with several Knights in hand was a wonderful thing. Once you had as few as three or four counters on the Door, it was time for the Kinsbaile Cavalier to hit the battlefield. Tivadar of Thorn, with four counters on the Door of Destinies, does 6 six damage, but isn't all that threatening. When you drop the Kinsbaile Cavalier, suddenly Tivadar of Thorn can do 14 damage. When you can get that kind of improvement that quickly, with only one creature, people learn to take notice.
Knights Who Say "Ni"
After four years, it is time to bring this deck up to date. There are several Knights from the last four years that are powerful cards that will up the game this deck has to offer, without taking away the glee I get dropping one Knight after the other and watching a Door of Destinies (or two!) grow turn after turn.
Mutavault: Okay, this is a cheesy add-on, and it doesn't add a counter to Door of Destinies. However, it can come down early and has no real effect on the mana base. It can be an emergency blocker and causes issues for opponents as they try to determine if it is worth it to attack. In the late game, knowing that for only one mana I can add another Knight that will get all the bonuses offered from the Door and any other creatures on the board seems worth it.
Cavern of Souls: There aren't a lot of counterspells in my group games, but this offers an insurance that my mana base can afford. I considered moving off of monocolored Knights, but decided that there are some things I can do now that I just can't do if I'm trying to make the mana work for two or three colors. Perhaps in the future this deck will become multiple colors, but for now, it stays white only.
Rebuff the Wicked: The original deck had two serious weaknesses. The first was mass removal. Door of Destinies encourages you to overcommit to make your creatures ever more powerful, but leaves you open to getting wiped out. This is a danger most theme decks have, as most of these decks involve creature armies, and protecting all of your creatures from untargeted mass removal can be tricky. The second issue was targeted removal. If I attacked with a couple of Knights, one well-placed Naturalize or Murder and my Knights could be reduced to 2/2 creatures. It was just too easy to decapitate the strengths of the deck. Rebuff the Wicked allows me to protect my key permanents simply by keeping one white mana open.
Oblivion Ring: This isn't a new card, but I went from only one copy to four, so I wanted to mention it here. Oblivion Ring deals with most permanents in play, particularly Planeswalkers. My group has seen an increase in Planeswalkers in its decks, so Oblivion Ring is gradually taking the place of Disenchant and most of my older artifact and enchantment removal.
Stillmoon Cavalier: The hybrid mana is treated as white mana in this deck, and the Knight loses nothing. The protection from white and black gives it immunity to much of the removal that could hurt it. I'm a little nervous about the 1 toughness being so vulnerable to red direct damage, but in my group, 3 damage is practically the minimum requirement for a direct-damage spell, so 1 or 2 toughness doesn't make any difference. That it can fly and/or have first strike whenever you want it to makes blocking this guy in combat a real problem.
Mirran Crusader: Quick confession: this is in the deck because I have a beautiful foil copy. Thankfully for me, it is a good Knight to boot! Only three mana for protection from black and green, and double strike? This guy doesn't even need to wait for LeBron to show up; he just charges in right away.
These Knights with protection from two colors, irrelevant of the two colors, are generally good. I like to get a little something extra with it, but when you can't be blocked by about 40% of the creatures out there, you move way up in my grading scale.
Fiendslayer Paladin's "can't be targeted by red and black spells" isn't as good as getting protection from those colors, but it is solid nonetheless. First strike and lifelink are often enough to discourage creatures from blocking it, even without protection.
Knight Exemplar: This is the big addition. Remember when I mentioned the two weaknesses of most theme decks? Knight Exemplar goes a long way toward protecting your position from untargeted mass removal. The +1/+1 to every Knight is nice, but is practically irrelevant in this deck. Getting two of these into play at the same time will make all of my creatures indestructible, forcing my opponents to have answers that are more and more particular. The Exemplar is likely more important than the Kinsbaile Cavalier now, but LeBron is what adds all the fun to the deck.
Right now, the deck lays out like this:
Theme decks are something I love! You can expect to read more about them in the weeks to come!
1: LeBron James didn't always play for the Heat. My nickname for the Kinsbaile Cavalier has stuck around longer than LeBron did in Cleveland.
2: Hint: It gets very difficult to block when your blockers get -2/-2.
Bruce's games invariably involve a kitchen table, several opponents, crazy plays, and many laughs. Bruce believes that if anyone at your table isn't having fun playing Magic, then you are doing it wrong.