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Convertible Commander: Adriana, Captain of the Guard


Adriana, Captain of the Guard
One of the great things about Commander, and Magic in general, is it can be anything to anyone. If you want to grind the Pro Tour, playing the best decks at the highest levels of Constructed, get down with your bad self. If you want to hang out with your friends in your living room with some pizza and see what rares you all just opened in the packs you got this week, get after it. We can push hard, hang out, play fun decks, play griefer decks, care about winning, care about having fun -- the sky is the limit.

Traditionally, there are three styles of decks (assuming one is trying to win the game): Aggro, Control, and Combo. I argue there is a fourth -- Mid-Range, which tries to play valuable creatures and spells at higher casting costs than Aggro but not control the board -- but detractors point out that mid-range decks tend to be slower Aggro decks or Control-lite decks, so I suppose that's up for discussion. If those are the three basic archetypes, though, where Aggro attempts to close out the game as quickly as possible, Control attempts to put the game solidly under the pilot's control until the deck wins however they'd like, and Combo tries to assemble a specific group of cards to create an unbeatable situation, it feels like much of Commander has become slow Aggro (or Mid-Range) with Combo a common part of the decks. Heck, game-winning combos are championed by nearly everyone in the Commander universe: competitive players like them because they win games, and casual players like them as long as you don't tutor for them and let them happen naturally because they can end a game which has gone on too long.

After last week's attempt at a true Control deck, I wanted to move to an entirely different space. Because the opposite of Control is Aggro, I thought it would be fun to build one, and a good way to do that in Commander is with a tribe. An aggressive tribe which has just gotten a bunch of new love is Knights, and Adriana, Captain of the Guard looks like she might do a good job of helping them along.

Adriana, Captain of the Guard -- Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

Knight Exemplar
Knights have never been particularly good in Commander. The lack of multiple lords is definitely part of the reason. Knight Exemplar is the only real lord for the tribe (though Márton Stromgald helps), while tribes like Merfolk and Elves have roughly 47 each. There also haven't been many generals which really serve them. Adriana is obviously helped by Knight Exemplar when we have it, but more importantly, she helps all our other knights get big when they attack through Melee. With three creatures attacking three different opponents, that's Overrun territory (granted, without the trample). Stick Helm of the Host on Adriana and multiple Melee works out to+6/+6 for every attacking creature. On knights, which tend to have things like First Strike, that should work out pretty well.

We're not terribly expensive here. We've got a few high casting cost cards, but most of our creatures are reasonably priced, so we're not going to ramp, we're just going to hit our land drops. 40 lands is the Standard for that, so that's what we've got. Most of our lands help fix our colors, but note Slayers' Stronghold and Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion, both of which can surprise an opponent who's not paying attention.

We're going to attempt to win with a boatload of knights and some anthem effects. Most of our creatures are knights, with a few exceptions. I usually try to stick closer to the tribe, but this one needs some outside help. The Archetypes (Aggression and Courage) offer advantages too good to ignore, Iroas, God of Victory is the same, and War Falcon is just too on-theme to ignore. Odric, Master Tactician isn't a knight, but he should be, letting us dictate how the combat unfolds. Mostly, though, we're playing knights of different stripes, and all of them have some set of abilities. Then we're going to stick some anthem effects and hope we get our paladins big enough to win with them. Benalish Marshal is an Anthem with armor. Shefet Dunes gives a one-time boost. Call for Unity is really flavorful, Cathars' Crusade is a killer, Glory of Warfare and Crescendo of War help us on offense and defense, and Berserkers' Onslaught and True Conviction both give Double-Strike, with the Conviction adding Lifelink to that. Kinsbaile Cavalier gives Double Strike, and Kwende, Pride of Femeref turns all our First Strike -- and there's a lot of it -- into Double Strike, so either can make for a really nasty turn. Hero of Bladehold and Hero of Oxid Ridge both do a nice job of pumping the team and giving benefits which can pay off.

We've got a few answers in Wear // Tear, Oblivion Ring, and Fumigate, but the hope is we don't have to answer problems -- we just play enough threats to win before anything becomes too much of a threat. That said, White gives us some of the best answers in the game, so as this deck gets tested, there are a lot of options to slot in if more removal is needed.

We've got a small equipment package to help our little dudes do good work. Loxodon Warhammer gives a dude Trample and Basilisk Collar and Gorgon Flail grant Deathtouch. Both Trample and Deathtouch are really effective with so much First Strike kicking around. Elspeth, Knight-Errant is a knight, so she shows up in multiple iterations, plus Gideon, Ally of Zendikar makes knights. The new History of Benalia, which should probably be played strategically rather than right when it's drawn, can set up a truly amazing attack. In other words, try to set up a massive attack with it rather than just drop it for lack of anything better to do!

There's an argument for a couple of cards like Waves of Aggression and Savage Beating to have a second combat phase. Because Melee stacks, the first phase might clear the way for a game winning second phase with enormous creatures. If you can use one with Helm of the Host on your commander, it could be an awesome turn. If you're feeling particularly frisky, you could run Aggravated Assault and Sword of Feast and Famine to go infinite. Then again, running an infinite combo is a choice, and not one we have to make in every deck.

I'd also like to point out Tajic, Blade of the Legion. He's a soldier, not a knight, but if you're not being a purist, a 7/7 Indestructible for four is really good. I skipped him for flavor reasons, but no one would judge, and his armor is pretty darn knight-like.

That's pretty much it. Play knights, pump 'em up, and roll (ride?) in to crush your opponents. To convert, there's a new pair which make Knights even more interesting.

Sylvia Brightspear
Khorvath Brightflame

Sylvia Brightspear and Khorvath Brightflame partner up only with each other, but when they do, they make quite the pair. We keep our color identity and Khorvath helps out our knights a lot by serving as the Vampire Nocturnus the tribe really wants. Flying and haste will put a bunch of our team into the red zone much faster and make them more likely to connect, which creates a much more decisive plan of attack. Meanwhile, Sylvia is a knight herself who's going to benefit from having Khorvath in play. But Sylvia brings her own fun by giving all the dragons we control Double Strike. So let's add some dragons to the party!

We're going to cut 10 non-land cards. To keep our creature count high enough, we probably don't want to cut more than five of our knights, which means we're going to have to pull from other areas. Probably best to cut a few of the anthem effects (maybe the more expensive ones) and perhaps the Fumigate, along with the high-cost token makers (Gideon's Phalanx, I'm looking at you). We're also going to swap out 10 Plains for 10 Mountains, because we're going to need a higher concentration of r to cast all the dragons. Just because we're not ramping, it might be a good idea to cut 8 Plains and figure out two more non-lands to cut, but it's going to get hard, because a couple of anthem effects are still going to be important to keep the knights relevant on the battlefield.

One virtue of this Optionboard is the simple way it creates a very different game. Adriana is going to play like a swarm Aggro deck, with lots of little dudes getting pumped up by external effects and attempting to overwhelm our opponents' defenses. Sylvia and Khorvath are going to team up to make a much bigger, heavier, mid-rangier deck, where we hold the field with our little dudes, getting in occasional damage and blocking as necessary, until our massive dragons can start screaming in with Double Strike to wreak havoc on our enemy life totals. Of course, with a different draw, Adriana will pump up only a few massive knights, giving them all indestructible and beating away at our opponents. Meanwhile, Khorvath can make it so our knights have a constant Eldrazi Monument, so we're still swarming, just in the air. Each game will play differently despite the tribal nature, and depending on use of the Optionboard, will change the experience even more. (One thought: just change commanders. Keep the knight-only tribe but put in both Sylvia and Khorvath at the helm so Khorvath's ability will be available all the time. Or just add a couple of dragons as a late-game possible punch! The options are quite varied with this set-up.)

How would you do Knight tribal? Have you ever done a double-tribe deck? If so, what? Please let us know in the comments!

In the meantime, go get your valor on. With dragons. Should be fun.

Thanks for reading.

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