– Duel Decks: Knights vs. Dragons
September 23, 2019
Commander [EDH]: 4.13
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
When it comes to Magic, I’ve been saying a lot of sentences recently that I never thought I would. One is: we’re just under two weeks from the release of a set with Arthurian themes. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a reason to be very, very excited.
Do you remember Knight Exemplar from the Zendikar/Scars of Mirrodin era? There wasn’t much tribal support for her in that season, but she’s the main reason to play knight decks in a casual setting. While every color has ways to deal with a 2/2, her presence changes the game state drastically. You become unable to lose in combat, immune to any sweepers short of Settle the Wreckage, and quite a lot faster in a tribe already known for having efficient creatures. There are other knights you might want to have around at around three mana – Fiendslayer Paladin comes to mind – but the global nature of the Exemplar’s abilities means they probably need to be fit around her, rather than vice versa.
I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Knight Exemplar return in Throne of Eldraine, but that didn’t end up happening. Perhaps they were afraid of overpowering the Round Table relative to other themes, or perhaps they wanted to save something. Perhaps this set is analogous to The Quest of the Holy Grail, and one day we’ll get Lancelot of the Lake and Le Morte d’Arthur . . .
With Knight tribal coming around in Throne of Eldraine, a look back at one of the more powerful Knight tribal lords is in order, right? Knight Exemplar is one such card, giving all your other Knights +1/+1 and indestructible while being no slouch in combat on its own (as a 2/2 with first strike). And, yes, this ability stacks: if you have two out, all of your Knights are indestructible, including themselves.
Knights in general are a bit oddly-positioned on the mana curve, sort of a middle-costing tribe that doesn’t “go wide” or go particularly large. There are two-drop Knights that are well and truly playable, and Knight Exemplar definitely can make them work well when you get her out on turn 3 (or on curve somehow). That leads me to wonder if there’s some kind of Aether Vial-style Knight deck that could work in Modern, but that’s probably a flight of fancy too far.
Anywho, Knight Exemplar is a solid piece to every Knight deck, even if she’s going to draw all of the removal in the multiverse onto herself upon resolution; a 2/2 that needs to be killed for the rest of your team to be vulnerable is going to die sooner than later in most games. But that’s not a bad place to be, and if you’re building Knights, consider her somewhere in your pile of cards.
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