For some inexplicable reason modern science may never truly understand, I have a fascination with the Knight creature type. Ever since my attempt to break Standard with an exalted deck featuring both Knight of Glory and Knight of Infamy (to my great shock, the deck was utter garbage), I’ve hoped and wished for a viable Knight tribal deck. We’re not quite there with Dominaria, but there’s one Knight in particular that has already begun to make his presence known.
Traditionally, “lord” effects necessitate strict deckbuilding requirements around tribal cards—Lord of Atlantis is only good when buffing various fish, and there are no such tribal restrictions with Benalish Marshal. Rather, he comes with a deck building requirement of another kind: his triple-white casting cost more or less mandates a mono-white deck, or at least something close to it.
The payoff, however, is very real. Crusade-type effects have, historically, had their place in aggressive creature strategies, and now we have a walking, talking crusade that attacks and blocks while also powering up the team. Even within the first week of Dominaria’s cards being out and about, we’ve seen the Marshal put up the numbers—let’s have a look at some of the decks this mighty Knight is enabling!
AngledLuffa, 5-0 in a Competitive Standard League
AngledLuffa put together one of the most straightforward, no-frills aggro decks you’re likely to see. Everything from the eight Savannah Lions to the three Pride of Conquerors shows you this deck has a single, streamlined game plan. In recent months, white aggro decks have maintained a presence on the periphery of real success in Standard—Adanto Vanguard has already shown us what it’s capable of in decks like this. Now, however, a multitude of very strong additions from Dominaria have given new life to the archetype, and it all starts, of course, with Benalish Marshal.
The other new Dominaria cards have a lot going for them, and this is even without my personal Knightly bias. Knight of Grace is a tidy little threat—immune to Fatal Push, Cast Down, and Vraska’s Contempt, and very difficult to profitably block when pumped up. History of Benalia, however, is the real haymaker. This card is insane, and when uncontested will unload a huge amount of damage on an unwary opponent. It even pumps up Dauntless Bodyguard, Knight of Grace, and Benalish Marshal!
I’m in love with the neatness of the 3-3-3-3-3 sideboard, although Solemnity seems very slow against various energy decks. I’d be looking to strengthen the list against Red-Green Monsters, and—specifically—Rekindling Phoenix. Perhaps including some copies of Seal Away? The only other confusing card is Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle. With History of Benalia and Silent Gravestone being the only historic cards, it’s a weird inclusion and could be upgraded. perhaps Shalai, Voice of Plenty is a better fit, as she’s excellent even without the activated ability.
ufter101, 5-0 in a Competitive Standard League
Another wizard looking to take names with Benalish Marshal and History of Benalia is ufter101. While this list has a lot in common with the previous one, there are some key differences that will give games—and matches—a very different texture. Here, ufter101 opts for a slightly slower and less explosive approach in order to bolster the late game, leaning more heavily on cards like Adorned Pouncer and Oketra the True to close out games. Unsurprisingly, both are truly excellent in conjunction with Benalish Marshal!
While this deck still has a very aggressive bent, it’s able to play a drawn-out game much more convincingly. Of particular note is the sideboard, which enables a transition to a pseudo-control deck! Boarding out cheap beaters in favor of planeswalkers, Angels, and sweepers is bound to catch people off-guard, and in order to support the higher curve, there’s the 23rd land in the board.
While I like how tricky you can be with transitional sideboard plans, I wonder if this deck is trying to do too much. It’s always excellent to be able to catch an opponent with their trousers down by effectively switching decks for game 2, but it seems to me that this list is spreading itself a little too thin. I understand that Fumigate is a lot less punishing when you have Adorned Pouncer and Martyr of Dusk in play, but it’s even less punishing when you have no creatures out at all. As it’s not possible to cut all creatures from the deck, I’d be looking at cards like Settle the Wreckage as a replacement.
JeanClaude11, 5-0 in a Competitive Standard League
We’ve seen Mardu Vehicles maintain its position at or around the top of Standard since Vehicles were first introduced in Kaladesh, and the general core of the deck remained relatively unchanged. The biggest upheaval was when the last rotation occurred and the deck lost mainstays such as Thraben Inspector. Now, however, JeanClaude11 is showing us the way forward for the Vehicles archetype, and pleasingly, it features a playset of Benalish Marshal!
There are a lot of light but nonetheless important synergies at work here. Token producers work well with the Marshal, as well as turning on Toolcraft Exemplar. In particular, Sram’s Expertise is an excellent followup to a Benalish Marshal, given it will generally flood the board with a minimum of 6 power, and any Vehicle cast using the Expertise’s rider will have no end of crew. Heart of Kiran may not have Gideon, Ally of Zendikar to crew it any longer, but Gideon of the Trials and Karn, Scion of Urza fill that gap nicely.
The black splash is very light, as indeed it ought to be with a triple-white card. The only lands that don’t produce white are the two Scavenger Grounds, with the black cards relying on Isolated Chapel and Concealed Courtyard. Eight black sources isn’t much, but to include more would mean relying on Forsaken Sanctuary —I don’t think any of us want that.
This is just the beginning of Dominaria Standard, and already Benalish Marshal is putting in work. As a rusted-on fan of the Knight tribe, I’ll be keeping a close eye on what he gets up to next!