The State of Modern: Knightfall, by Alex Hamilton

When we were in the planning stages of this project, I originally wanted to do Jeskai Control. But it was already claimed, so I had to go to Plan B.

Plan B is actually Plan CC: a Collected Company deck. I started playing Knightfall on a whim the night before the CTQ at Evanston Games and Café in April. I was locked into playing Bant Eldrazi, but I started looking at lists and said “Let’s spin the old CoCo wheel!” I really enjoyed playing the Bant CoCo deck in Standard and this had many of the same elements, except it let me go back to my roots and play one of my favorite cards ever: Knight of the Reliquary.

Before you go any further, a warning: This deck is very difficult to build.

The Deck

For those of you who don’t know how the combo works, I will explain it. The combo gets very easy if you have a mana dork in play, but one is not required.

Step 1: You need a Knight of the Reliquary without summoning sickness

Step 2: Play Retreat to Coralhelm.

This next part might look easy but it is quite difficult to mess up. You also need a decent amount of life to do this; you will probably be paying around 10 life to get in the full 20 damage.

Step 3: Sacrifice a Forest or Plains to get a fetch land to get another Forest or Plains. Rinse and repeat until you have enough mana to make a Kessig Wolf Run pump lethal. Then get Kessig Wolf Run, pump all of your floating mana into it and swing for the fences.

Note: If you have a mana guy, each fetch land you get generates a mana. This is because it counts as two untap triggers from Retreat to Coralhelm. You can get cute and stack untaps on Knight, but that really doesn’t do much. These untaps can also become tap effects if you need to get rid of some pesky blockers. If you have seen some past flash creatures you should keep a fetchland in the barrel to tap down those quick buggers.

Now the deck itself.

This thing is really … really … really tough to build. I have played this in a few events with multiple builds and I still think the lists I have been playing are really missing something. With a format like Modern it is impossible to predict which silver bullets you will need for any given tournament.

Many of the random one-ofs here and there are just my personal preferences. But, customization and flexibility are the things that will draw people to CoCo decks.

With all the caveats out of the way, this is what I would play in an event tomorrow.

Wolf Run Knightfall, by Alex Hamilton

The Untouchables

Knight of the Reliquary

Please for the love of whatever deity that you pray to, do not cut this card. This is your heavy hitter, your Lt. Commander Data. She does everything you need her to do.

I have seen plenty of people just jam her out on turn two with no lands in the graveyard against a red deck. Please do not do this. Sometimes I will see people using a die to keep track of her P/T. Please do not do this, either. It is easy to get a failure to maintain game state penalty if you accidentally forget to change the die when a land enters your graveyard. If your opponent puts a die on your Knight, then politely say no and move it to the side.

Spell Queller

Because of the absence of Lightning Bolt these days, this spirit pulls its weight. It is the reason I was drawn to the deck. It is so good against many different decks in Modern and it can be pretty common for Grixis Shadow to blow their fetches and not be able to turn on Revolt, so that means it can be hard for them to kill this with Fatal Push.

Collected Company

While you may find yourself trimming one or two copies of this every now and again during sideboarding, cutting it from the deck just changes the deck. Obviously you cannot have a Collected Company deck without Collected Company. Normally I will cut one of these if I am boarding in a lot of non-creature spells.

Mana Dorks (Noble Hierarch & Birds of Paradise)

These cards right here help us accelerate out our Knights and fix our mana. Sometimes being a four-color deck with specific color requirements can be annoying, and these dorks can help smooth out our mana situation.

I normally prefer only 6-7 of these kinds of creatures. However, because you have Wolf Run and Gavony Township, top decking them later in the game isn’t too bad.

The flex spots

Everything else.

This might seem like a cop-out, but honestly this entire deck can be changed up. I have seen dozens of variations while doing research for this deck and all of them seem good; it really just depends on personal preference. If you want to buy a ticket on the value express include some Eternal Witnesses. If you want to take to the skies and protect your creatures play a pile of Selfless Spirits. If you want to play Reflector Mage, go for it. The options are endless; just please make sure you know why every creature is there. If you do not, then find out, because if you don’t know what role each creature is supposed to fill, it could end up costing you a match.

The mana base

10 Fetch Lands

You need between 9-10 of these to make sure you can combo or otherwise just make Knight large. I tend to favor fetching forests early on, so all of the fetches in this deck can go get a forest.

Utility Lands (Horizon Canopy, Gavony Township, Ghost Quarter, Kessig Wolf Run)

Because of the ability of Knight to tutor for any land, you want to have some juicy targets for the ability. You could play more than one, but some of these lands have high diminishing returns. Horizon Canopy would be the most plausible to have more than one copy of, but I would rather play a Ghost Quarter.

Shocks & Basics

I don’t want to say much about these because I think it’s self-explanatory why you need Forests and Plains. (So you can sacrifice them to Knight.)

Some people have been adding Botanical Sanctum to the deck. While it may seem like a natural inclusion, I’m not convinced it fits in the deck. You need a critical mass of Forests and Plains to sacrifice to Knight, and when you start adding lands that don’t go into your graveyard and don’t sac to Knight I think you diminish some of her power. If you would like to play one Botanical Sanctum, then many people cut a fetch.

The Sideboard

This is another part of the deck that is highly customizable. You really can’t play Rest in Peace or Relic of Progenitus because of your own Knights. Surgical Extraction is your friend. I have seen people play Yixlid Jailer and Orzhov Pontiff, but they just stretch your mana way too much.

Unified Will is one of your best sideboard cards. Bring it in against most decks if you think you will have a bigger board than them. I am playing a 2-2 split between Will and Negate. I am not sure if that is correct but I just get weary of conditional counters, so call it hedging.

The rest is up to you. This is a place you might want to put your Reflector Mages or maybe you want to go big with Elspeth. Honestly, it is up to you.

If you put in a lot of non-creatures then do not feel bad taking out 1-2 Collected Companies; just don’t take out all of them.

It is not uncommon to board out some number of Retreat to Coralhelm. In the majority of matchups, I will take out one and sometimes both. I normally do this against decks I don’t think I will be able to combo out or if they have a lot of removal.

Good Matchups

Storm

This matchup is very simple. You have Spell Queller, which is insane against their deck. Just Queller their Gifts Ungiven or Past in Flames. This is a matchup where I value Selfless Spirit very highly. Protecting Spell Queller is very important.

Other Midrange Decks

You are favored on raw power because of CoCo, but sometimes you will whiff and those times it will cost you the game.

Death’s Shadow

You are slightly favored in this matchup, but you can only be very favored against if you are playing some of the hard lock cards. This matchup plays around you playing a big Knight and resolving a good company. I normally like to board in Worship against them because I realized Grixis has very little to no way to deal with this card.

Bad matchups

Affinity

This might not be as bad as I think it is, but I do not think I have beaten this at all. The majority of your creatures are three-drops and they are a lot faster than you. Etched Champion is one of the best cards in their deck, and once they suit it up you are in for a world of hurt. This is a matchup I would want a Spellskite for, because sometimes you just need a colorless creature.

Burn

Again they are a lot faster than you. If they have a creature draw you might have a chance. If you are on the play and they don’t draw a lot of Atarka’s Commands, the matchup gets much better. I have been boarding in Blessed Alliance and Eidolon, but I still think this matchup is tough.

Lightning Bolt and Searing Blaze are great against Queller, so it does seem difficult to justify leaving up that three mana. Sometimes you will get to play a Company, get two Knights and kill them fast.

This matchup is not unwinnable, but it is one that you have to play very tight. This could be a place where our sideboard shines, but I’m not sure you devote more than 3-4 slots to it.

Tron

When I say Tron I am more talking about the traditional Ugin versions. That card is a beating against this deck. Make sure to pace your threats. Board in Stony Silence and some counters, then hope it is enough.

Gameplay

I always like to make sure I have a mana creature in my opening seven. Try to minimize damage and use fetches early so that your Knight gets big quick.

The majority of your Companys will have obvious decisions, but occasionally you will get the really tough ones. Just make sure you take a second and really think about the implications of the creatures you choose, because choosing incorrectly could cost you the game. Because of the customization of this deck it is impossible to say “oh well, when you have these cards always take them.” Sometimes you want to take a weird card because it plays into your plan better than the normally good card.

An interesting thing you can do with Retreat is stacking the scry effect. If you have a fetchland, you can do this: with the landfall ability on the stack, sacrifice your fetchland to build two instances of scry 1. You normally do this if you are digging for a specific card.

Wrap-up

I started playing this deck because it has an insane amount of power. When Company is a 10, it is a hard 10, but when it is bad it is a hard -43. This deck can do a lot of silly things, and that is why you should play it. If you like playing Company decks with a light combo then this is the deck for you.

While this may be difficult to build, WOTC will always print better creatures with a CMC under 3, which means CoCo will get better and better over time.

Have fun slinging, and I hope you can quell that Shadow that looms over all of us.

Alexander Hamilton is a grinder from Chicago who is well-known for his love of Legacy. However, if there is a competitive event in any format in the Chicagoland area, expect him to be there playing Magic and making terrible puns, and not necessarily in that order.

 

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