Mardu Knights at Red Bull Untapped 2020

Lee Shi Tian

Lee Shi Tian

Introduction

Hello Hareruya fans,

I just finished in the top 16 of the first International Qualifier of the Red Bull Untapped 2020 series – a tournament with over 4000 players in it! – with Mardu Knights (Standard). Currently, Standard is flooded with Jeskai Lukka decks and I don’t want to spend my time playing infinite mirror matches. The week before, Obosh Red broke out at the MagicFest Online Season 2 Finals and proved that 80-card decks may not be always consistent enough to beat aggressive strategies.

Glass CasketAether GustDevout Decree

However, I was worried that 《Yorion, Sky Nomad》 players would be well prepared for the matchup with cards like 《Glass Casket》, 《Aether Gust》 or 《Devout Decree》. I decided to search for another aggressive deck and saw Pro Tour champion Wyatt Darby streaming with Mardu Knights.

Lurrus of the Dream Den

The deck performed like a normal aggressive deck and had 《Lurrus of the Dream Den》 as a Companion to recover from opposing interaction. After playing for a couple of hours trying different cards, I settled with this list.

Decklist: Mardu Knights

Card Choices

Here, I will explain the card choices for the build.

Creatures

《Fervent Champion》, 《Venerable Knight》, and 《Knight of the Ebon Legion》

Fervent ChampionVenerable KnightKnight of the Ebon Legion

These twelve 1-drop knights are the best 1-drops in the format and each have effectively 2 or more power. This is a reason I like this deck compared to the random 1/1s in Obosh Red.

《Worthy Knight》, 《Inspiring Veteran》, and 《Blacklance Paragon》

Worthy KnightInspiring VeteranBlacklance Paragon

These are the 2-drops with the best abilities. 《Worthy Knight》 can generate extra bodies. 《Inspiring Veteran》 can pump up the whole team. 《Blacklance Paragon》 can help race or trade up with opposing blockers. Having a flash threat also lets you recover from sorcery speed sweepers.

《Rimrock Knight》 and 《Smitten Swordmaster》

Rimrock KnightSmitten Swordmaster

These are not typical choices. The reason I like these two cards is due to the Adventure spells only costing one mana. As I said, I would like to curve out as much as possible; sometimes we draw only one 1-drop and are not able to utilize all of our mana by turn 3. 《Rimrock Knight》 and 《Smitten Swordmaster》 give us extra chances to do so and push extra damage. We really want to close the game as soon as possible facing all the Yorion decks.

Spells

《Fight as One》 and 《Dire Tactics》

Fight as OneDire Tactics

《Fight as One》 is the most efficient protection spell in a format overshadowed by Yorion. It is very hard for our opponent to play around it when the opportunity cost for us is holding up one mana. 《Dire Tactics》 is the best removal available in the format. Removal in the format is not very important, however, and we also have 《Rimrock Knight》 and 《Blacklance Paragon》 as combat tricks, so I settled at just two copies.

Mana

《Tournament Grounds》 and Shocklands

Tournament GroundsBlood CryptGodless ShrineSacred Foundry

We are playing 1-drops in three different colors. I believe I do not need to explain these.

《Savai Triome》

Savai Triome

This card gives us all the colors. It looks bad as it comes into play tapped in our aggro deck. But you know what is worse than tapped lands? Not being able to cast our spells at all. I do not really like it and tried to cut it, but the problem of color screw came up very often after that. If you think flooding could be a problem for the deck, you could try cutting one of these and playing 22 lands.

Fabled Passage and One of Each Basic Land

Fabled PassageMountainPlainsSwamp

If you look at my Jeskai Ascendancy list in Top 8 of Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir, I already applied this little lesson; playing 1 of each basic land and fetchlands reduce the terrible situation where you draw two of the same basic. If you do not want to question yourself with why this deck’s mana base is so bad, stop playing two of the same basics.

Cards I Dropped

《Skyknight Vanguard》, 《Stormfist Crusader》, and 《Corpse Knight》

Skyknight VanguardStormfist CrusaderCorpse Knight

These cards have the same problem: they put too much pressure on the manabase. We are playing a 3-color aggressive deck and do not have the luxury of a fetch-dual manabase. I want to maximize the chance to curve out and reduce the chance of being stuck with gold cards in hand. I always emphasize the importance of being able to cast your spells and so I decided not to play any of these multicolored spells.

《Unbreakable Formation》 and 《Call of the Death-Dweller》

Unbreakable FormationCall of the Death-Dweller

Three mana is simply too much for a situational spell. I want to curve out normally and decided to cut these entirely. They could be good in various situations, but they are not good in every situation and I would rather have a consistently solid card instead of a conditionally broken card.

Gameplay Tips

#1: Check the Colors of Your Lands and Spells

It is very common to draw only one source of any given color but also have multiple spells of that color. In these cases, you want to prioritize casting the spell with the color you’re short on. Sometimes sequencing this way may lead to missing 1-2 damage short term, but being able to cast all of your spells should cover those losses.

#2: The Lurrus Turn

Lurrus is a very important play against mass removal. After you force mass removal from your opponent, you can start getting cards from Lurrus. This way you demand another answer from your opponent or Lurrus will net one more card each turn. It means you will normally need to play your 《Savai Triome》 as your fifth lands. Facing spot removal decks, you will try to get out all of the removal before casting Lurrus. The good news is that your deck has powerful creatures and it is not really hard to do this. You also have 《Fight as One》 to protect Lurrus, which can always lead to a blowout.

#3: Ask Yourself if You Can Play around Mass Removal

Not all hands are able to beat mass removal. Sometimes you need to play in the way that closes as many windows as possible. Facing open mana against Yorion decks, it could have 《Shark Typhoon》, 《Omen of the Sun》, or 《Omen of the Sea》 into 《Shatter the Sky》. However, they are playing 80-card decks and they are not always able to draw their sweepers. You could check out my gameplay from the Red Bull Untapped event (Day 1 / Day 2). There are lots of cases we have to commit and simply hope opponents do not have mass removal. This is how the format works and you need to be able to swallow it when you take the beat this way.

Sideboard and General Rules of Sideboarding

I am not a sideboard guide guy, but here are the general rules of sideboarding. In general, I want to maintain my noncreature spell count at 6-8 spells. If I bring in too many spells, I don’t mind cutting some copies of 《Fight as One》. When I board out creatures, I will board out 《Rimrock Knight》 (against creature deck) and 《Smitten Swordmaster》 (against spell deck) first as they are weakest there. If I bring in lots of Red creatures, I will start cutting 《Rimrock Knight》 due to mana concerns.

《Duress》

Duress

I picked 《Duress》 over 《Drill Bit》. On the draw, you will need to discard 《Omen of the Sun》 by turn 2 against Yorion. You can only cast 《Drill Bit》 by turn 2 with help from a 1-drop. 《Duress》 can work with 《Savai Triome》 and sometimes acts as a turn 1 play when you do not have multiple 1-drops. You bring it in against spell decks like Jeskai Lukka and Temur Reclamation.

《Despark》, 《Dire Tactics》 and 《Dead Weight》

DesparkDire TacticsDead Weight

Extra removals for aggro matchups. After losing to Obosh Red, I kind of want to add one or two 《Mire’s Grasp》 which answers 《Anax, Hardened in the Forge》 and 《Bonecrusher Giant》. 《Despark》 is mainly for Temur Flash and Jeskai Fires.

《Unchained Berserker》

Unchained Berserker

《Teferi, Time Raveler》, 《Yorion, Sky Nomad》, 《Omen of the Sun》, 《Deafening Clarion》, 《Glass Casket》, 《Flourishing Fox》, 《Valiant Rescuer》 and friends.

《Apostle of Purifying Light》

Apostle of Purifying Light

《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》, 《Cauldron Familiar》, 《Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger》, 《Mayhem Devil》, 《Lurrus of the Dream Den》.

《Embereth Shieldbreaker》

Embereth Shieldbreaker

《Witch’s Oven》, 《Stonecoil Serpent》, 《Lucky Clover》, 《Heraldic Banner》, 《Glass Casket》, the 0/4 wall from 《The Birth of Meletis》.

Not sure if anyone is going to bring in 《Grafdigger’s Cage》 against us – I think it is wrong to do so, but if they do, you could board 《Embereth Shieldbreaker》 in. It is a two-for-one anyway and at worst you can just cast it as a 《Goblin Piker》.

Conclusion

If you really want to have a card-by-card sideboard plan, you could check out my Twitch channel here. I believe understanding the game plan and sideboarding accordingly is the best way to learn. Train up your logical and independent thinking and don’t blindly follow sideboard guides!

Until next time

Lee Shi Tian (Twitter / Twitch)

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Lee Shi Tian

Lee Shi Tian Lee Shi Tian is a super star from Hong Kong. He has 5 PT top 8s and 10 GP top 8s with 1 trophy and is well known as a Modern specialist. He is an outstanding player but also well known as a great community leader for Asia. Lee and his squad "Team Mint Card" made a lot of excellent results one after another at pro scene. His impressive results and contributions were rewarded and he was elected Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame 2018. Read more articles by Lee Shi Tian