Banner 1.5 (1)

NOTE: Major deck description update coming soon.


Favourable Matchups: Zoo, Jund, Red Deck Wins, Gruul aggro, Goblins, Infect, UR Storm (using SB), Dredgevine (using SB), U Tron, Doran, Naya Beats, Zombies, Vampires, most tribal decks

Fair Matchups: Affinity, Bogle, Hatebears, Junk aggro, Twin Exarch, Faeries, Soul Sisters, Doran, WB Tokens, The Rock, Retrace-Loam (using SB), Living End, ETB Control.

Fair/Difficult Median: UWx midrange, Melira / Kiki Pod.

Difficult Matchups: All Suspend Decks, UW and UWR Control, Boom/Bust, Merfolk, Slivers, Delver, RG Tron, Scapeshift, UB Cruel Control, Mono-black control, Snapcaster Superfriends, Gifts Control, RUG and BUG control.

Problematic cards for knights: Lilianna of the Veil, Phyrexian Obliterator, Grey Merchant of Asphodel, Drown in Sorrow, Ajani Vengeant, Pyroclasm, Volcanic Fallout, Blood Moon, Lightning Helix, Wear // Tear, Scavenging Ooze, Cryptic Command, Mana Leak, Delver of Secrets  Flip, Iona, Shield of Emeria, Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, Restoration Angel, Restore Balance, Supreme Verdict, Steel Overseer, Engineered Explosives, Ratchet Bomb.

As you can see, the majority of difficult matches are those against control. Counterspells and sweepers are the biggest problems, next to an Emrakul/Iona/Mindslaver. To this end Cavern of Souls and Aether Vial work to mitigate the effects of counters, while Light from Within stops burn sweepers and Knight Exemplar stop destruction effects.

Generally this deck enjoys considerable success against other aggro decks, some combo decks and some midrange decks. With combo we can safely assume a high probability for losing the first round, but this can be dramatically reversed in rounds 2 and 3 after accessing the sideboard.


Versus Aggro: Stall until they run out of gas, and your firepower exceeds theirs. Press for an aggro win yourself if you have an obvious clear advantage, but otherwise keep them at bay and wait until you get an Exemplar, equipment or Sword online to command board presence. This deck transitions very nicely into midrange play against non-control decks (or anything using counterspells).

Versus Control: Difficult, but still winnable. Count on Cavern of Souls, and play conservatively. Take your time and be safe because this will be a longer game. Pay attention to their mana base. Don't expect a lot of hard counters; instead try and build up your mana base before casting major spells because you are likely to see soft/mana-intensive counters like Remand, Mana Leak, Syncopate, etc. The biggest obstacle will be getting your non-creature spells to the board, or keeping them there before they are bounced with Echoing Truth and your creatures are swept away with Pyroclasm, Anger of the Gods, or a host of other removal spells.

Versus Combo: The MB of this deck is geared for a combat focus rather than answering threats that you may or may not face (which also cannot be solved by your creature effectiveness) so don't expect to secure the first round. Knowing your meta and identifying which combo deck you are up against will make it easier. Every sideboard card has surgical precision against the right combo; choose wisely for rounds 2 and 3.

Versus Midrange: The focus here is to get Light from Within online as soon as you can and hope that it sticks, so as to put your creatures out of bolt range and increase their survivability. A horde of 4/4 first strikers will be challenging for your opponent to break. UWx midrange will likely have more burn/killspells than counters, so watch for Restoration Angel and Vendilion Clique to come swooping in. Try and determine how offensively or defensively your opponent plays; anticipate whether they will use more of a control or aggro approach from their SB in round 2. Knight Exemplar, Heliod, God of the Sun and Student of Warfare will help with board position.

It is easy to rack up incremental damage on your opponent from a few attacks + enemy fetchland/shockland effects. Never pass up an opportunity to unleash an alpha strike and finish them off!

Other Knight lists:

Modern Knights - Exalted

Modern Knights - Boros

Modern Knights - Azorius

Modern Knights - Selesnya

Modern Knights - Classic

Modern Knights - Puresteel

Brutal Vengeance

How Knights Work

The success of any knight tribal deck is dependent on the focus of its mana curve. Tempo should be synonymous with an aggro or midrange strategy. You want to end the game early, and anything drawn out past 8 or so turns is unlikely to be favourable. We simply just don't have the draw, recursion or firepower to overextend, albeit some cards like Squadron Hawk, Sun Titan and Gift of Estates can help with this.

As such, our cornerstones are numerous 1 and 2 cmc spells and even fewer 3 cmc spells (I wouldn't exceed 12, if you can help it). Your first five plays should be golden, transitioning nicely into one another and putting major pressure on your opponent. Cards like Aether Vial can help speed up your board presence, but you gamble here by drawing one late and having no other card advantage to negate tempo loss. We often see vial automatically dumped in weenie decks, but those that can't compensate with draw or attrition for dead vials are making a deal with the devil.

The deck shines in its combat effectiveness. The various tribal sub-themes in knights (first strike, double strike, colour protection, indestructibility, battle cry, tokens) give us an edge over the rabble of regular modern $$ creatures. There are various builds that take advantage of the aforementioned abilities. When I made my first pseduo-competitive knights deck, it used cards like Accorder Paladin, Hero of Bladehold and Honor of the Pure for tokens, mass damage, and alpha strikes with Brave the Elements. In modern, however, I think I have come to prefer independent, well-costed bodies with first strike than can be powered up by bigger spells once I have emptied my hand of creatures. Knights as a tribe are nowhere near Tier 1 in competitive with their linear combat approach and limited trick toolbox, so to win you must make the most out of what they specialize in: combat.

At its pinnacle, this deck can overpower opponents with double-striking, stat-boosted, indestructible badasses. Decks that produce a lot of blockers, such as UR Storm Empty the Warrens, B/W tokens and Retrace-Loam, can be problematic because of our lack of a trample mechanic. A common bane for this deck is Lilianna of the Veil, as creature sacrifice is also devastating for us. Iona, Shield of Emeria and Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite can shut us right down if they hit the board, although you are likely to encounter Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or Mindslaver and Academy Ruins before these.

There is a strong sideboard that will significantly increase our chances in round 2. Consider the impact that Rest in Peace has against the graveyard strategies of Melira Pod, Retrace-Loam, Zombies, Storm, Dredgevine, etc. If you use Leyline of Sanctity, consider how it shuts down storm, Murderous Redcap in Melira Pod, sacrifice, junk discard, etc., how Oblivion Ring and Pithing Needle are catch-all cards against specific threats, and how Wrath of God can clear a troublesome threat like Thrun, the Last Troll, or a battlefield wildly out of your control, as can happen with Pod, Tokens and Soul Sisters, to name a few.

It all comes down to your meta. Wizards hasn't provided enough cards for us to face down tier 1 lists without making some changes to hose the biggest threats we face. I may need to eventually do this myself with an inclusion of Aether Vial, despite its drawbacks. Adapt and adjust accordingly or your deck will only be suited for kitchen tables, instead of tournament tables.

Card Rationale

-- Knights

  • Student of Warfare, Leonin Skyhunter, Knight of Meadowgrain and Mirran Crusader are self-explanatory workhorses of the deck. Well-costed and efficient in combat, they constantly pressure our opponent.

  • Silverblade Paladin is a risk-reward card. Multiple double strike offers up a chance for huge damage, but the conditions of Soulbond can backfire - no inherent first strike means an opponent can trade a 2/1 or two 1/1's for him if the bond is broken. Usually wise not to attack with him, unless the way is clear.

  • Knight Exemplar is the crux of the knight tribe and considerably strengthens her fellow riders. Indestructible is a highly viable ability in Modern, providing stability in a sea of well-costed spot and sweeper removal. She is one of only two knight lords - the other being Kinsbaile Cavalier. Just remember, she is always entering the field with a giant bullseye painted smack on her forehead.

-- Utility / Removal

  • Brave the Elements and Path to Exile are versatile utility cards that capitalize on both synergy and speed, working as a glue for the deck in a multitude of offensive and defensive scenarios.

  • Knight of the White Orchid is considerable as a land tutor and a 2/2 first striking body, yet without further abilities he is the first to go in removal/sacrifice/chump blocking situations. He synergizes well with Path to Exile, allowing you to ramp as early as T2 and sort of negate the Path's tradeoff.

  • Leonin Relic-Warder is a recent and versatile addition. The likes of Vedalken Shackles, Seismic Assault, Ghostly Prison, Story Circle, enemy equipment, ETC. can break this aggro deck in half, and with the kitty we at least have an opportunity to halt their advance in Round 1. He provides an answer with his optional enchant/artifact removal, serves as a 2/2 body that gets a boost via Light from Within, and he contributes to Heliod's devotion cost.

  • Heliod, God of the Sun - Heliod fits nicely with the knight tribe as a 1-of. He is highly relevant in control matches, provides the much-needed vigilance ability and usually is ready as an indestructible 5/6 when you need him to be. Since he is a little slow, he is an easy SB swap in later rounds.

-- Support

  • Basilisk Collar - Deathtouch + First Strike allow me to one-shot anything. Essentially reduces the need for more spot removal spells. Lifelink is just icing on the cake.

  • Lightning Greaves - Because getting one of these on an Exemplar and letting your creatures relentlessly slam against your opponent's creature line without concern is extremely satisfying. Also allows you to race Pod, Rock and Jund with Mirran Crusader.

  • Light from Within provides excellent synergy with the knight tribe and simultaneously boosts creature survivability and combat effectiveness. It is an unexpected, fair, yet powerful card that creates a horde of 4/4 first strikers. This is something unanticipated in modern, providing psuedo pro-red to your creatures and letting them slaughter even the most resilient modern creatures like Restoration Angel and Loxodon Smiter. It can boost your midgame, ruin control or aggro decks, and is an easy finisher on T4 - T5.

  • Flagstones of Trokair - security against Smallpox, Death Cloud, Restore Balance, Boom // Bust, etc.

  • Cavern of Souls - a full set currently stands in for Aether Vial, ensuring knights can hit the field without being countered.

-- Sideboard Choices:

  • Disenchant - Artifacts and enchantments generally provide the most problems for the deck, next to sweepers, large creatures and planeswalkers. It is welcome firepower next to Relic-Warder versus Pod, Twin, Affinity, Tron, Bogle, Faeries, Enchant Control/Suspend, and others.

  • Kor Firewalker - The antichrist of everything red. An easy sub against RDW, UWR, Storm, Goblins, BR Vamps, and anything that uses more red than just Lightning Bolt. Combos with Heliod and Light, but unfortunately not with the knight creature subtype (i.e., Cavern of Souls).

  • Rest in Peace - The amazing, near OP white response to any graveyard-focused strategies. This shuts down the morbid trigger, Blood Artist trigger, undying trigger, zombie tribal, reanimator, flashback, Golgari guild abilities (Scavenge and Dredge), and anything non-reanimator that uses the graveyard. Extremely harmful against some combo shenanigans, including the likes of storm, retrace-loam, melira pod, dredgevine and living end.

  • Suppression Field - A unique and ruthless card that is effective against a majority of the T1 and T1.5 competitive deck archetypes in modern. It doesn't shut down activated abilities like Linvala, Keeper of Silence or Pithing Needle, but it does slow down just about EVERYTHING. This does conflict with Student of Warfare and any equipment, but it also hoses fetchlands, manlands, planeswalkers, and any enchantment, artifact or creature that uses an activated ability. This is substantial, almost enough so to warrant being mainboarded.

  • Wrath of God - Shock and Awe when used with Knight Exemplar. Wipes fields that grow out of control. It is a well-respected white card for a reason.

Noteworthy Considerations:

  • Aether Vial is one of the premier cards in modern and one of the only combat tricks available with the "fair" style of knight tribal play. It is, however, not without drawbacks: white lacks any sort of card draw, and thus we cannot offset lost tempo from drawing a vial too late or needlessly. There is only a 39.94% chance of drawing it in your opening hand, after this the odds drop dramatically and getting it after T5 is a dead draw most of the time. So using it in a list with no CA is about probability, essentially being a deal with the devil - thus running it is up to you.

  • Elspeth, Knight-Errant is a great, possible T4 finisher that puts the game on a clock. She is by far the best planeswalker for knights, but faces competition from Ajani, Caller of the Pride, Ajani Steadfast and Gideon Jura.

  • Paladin en-Vec and Fiendslayer Paladin are both little brothers to Mirran Crusader, but can have their uses against red sources. 'Vec is more defensive and probably better, but the Paladin offers lifelink and could potentially work with Light from Within.

  • Stillmoon Cavalier is great as a midrange mana sink and handles well against the commonality of white and black-based removal in Modern. His useful colour protection also chumps annoying threats. Unforuntaely, with only 1 toughness he can never be more than a singleton, and is a prime target for a host of burn spells or indiscriminate black sweeper spells.

  • Wilt-Leaf Liege is best in G/W Knights but has synergy in any aggro knights deck with its anthem. It works especially well against common junk discard like Liliana of the Veil, Raven's Crime and Blightning. Amazing with Light from Within.

  • Hero of Bladehold is a great finisher and perhaps puts the greatest pressure on your opponent next to the Exemplar. A must for any knights deck, unless a specific mana curve or strategy dictates otherwise.

  • Thalia, Guardian of Thraben isn't a knight, but does give that little extra bit of reach that we need for an aggro strategy. She is viable so long as your noncreature spells do not exceed 2cmc, and she combos with a Basilisk Collar for offensive/defensive one-shot KOs. Unfortunately, she does not work in the deck so long as Light from Within is there.

  • Brimaz, King of Oreskos, although not a knight, is a versatile beast that has his uses. He is great for stabilizing the board, and while doesn't combo with Knight Exemplar he is very durable and combat-effective, as is the knight custom.

  • Phyrexian Metamorph provides the 5th and 6th Knight Exemplar cards to make one-sided board wipes easier, but can obviously be used for artifact-cloning purposes as well. The artifact copying can be absolutely game-changing, depending on the situation.

  • Honor of the Pure is excellent with Hero of Bladehold, Brimaz and tokens, but not much else. Anger of the Gods is now the common choice over Pyroclasm, and 3/3 is not enough to escape bolt range, either.

  • Leyline of Sanctity - Instantly shuts down a number of strategies, including Storm, Seismic Assault, RDW, discard, sacrifice/suciide, Melira Pod's Muderous Redcap, recurring Mindslaver, etc. You either sub in 4 or none of these as you want one in your opening hand.

  • Faith's Shield is resourceful for targeting any of your permanents, but there are too many creatures for it to be used optimally here. Consider its defensive capacities - any deck worth its salt playing versus mono-white will sub in its enchantment hate in round 2.

  • Celestial Purge is a possible SB card that is the most efficient B/R removal out there. It stops Splinter Twin, Seismic Assault, Dark Confidant, Liliana of the Veil, Phyrexian Obliterator, and many other threats (including planeswalkers, creatures, enchantments, and animated lands).

  • Gods Willing - Prot with scry, a possible replacement for Brave the Elements.

Why is this deck named "The Western Way of War" and use an aggressive strategy that seeks a quick, decisive battle? See Clausewitz's view below:

West-East Military Strategy


Sun Tzu (Eastern way of war stereotype) argues that force should be used sparingly and as the last resort.

Carl von Clausewitz (Western way of war stereotype) argues that the use of force is often both necessary and the most effective (or preferred) method of achieving your goals. The maximum available force should be used from the outset to achieve decisive results in the shortest possible time.


Sun Tzu says that the greatest achievement is to win without fighting, to convince the enemy's forces to yield and if possible switch sides rather than be annihilated.

Clausewitz says the shortest way to achieve your objective is by the destruction of the enemy forces in a major battle. Other, non-military methods of winning are recognized but rarely effective.


Sun Tzu says extensive use of deception, including psychological war and non-violent methods. The center of gravity (pivotal weakness) is the enemy's will and alliance system.

Clausewitz says the maximum concentration of force should be used at the decisive point of engagement. The center of gravity is the enemy's army.

Michael I Handel, "Comparing Sun Tzu and Clausewitz," Masters of War: Classical Strategic Thought, 3rd ed., (London: Routledge Publishing, 2001), 22.



Updates Add

I created an account on MTGO and I am running this deck with the current build seen here. I am gonna try and run things slightly different in the sideboard, swapping Leyline of Sanctity for Kor Firewalker and Oblivion Ring for Journey to Nowhere . Time will tell if this work.

So far the deck has performed very well in the "tournament practice" category, winning about 50-60% of the time against other tournament level decks. Certainly not tier 1 play but good fun. :)

Comments View Archive

Compare to inventory
Date added 8 years
Last updated 8 months

This deck is Modern legal.

Cards 60
Avg. CMC 2.20
Tokens 2/1 Cleric, 2/2 Cat, 1/1 Soldier
Folders maybe, Stuff I like, mono colour, Favorite decks, Deck, Kinigths, Legacy/Modern Decks , Favorites, Favorite Decks, Favs, See all 161
Top rank #36 on 2013-06-09
Ignored suggestions
Shared with