Puresteel Paladin is a powerful tempo and card-advantage engine. It's a 2/2 for two mana that turns a huge percentage of the deck into cantrips (cards that draw you a card). Also, once you have three or more artifacts on the battlefield, you'll be able to equip everything for no mana.
In the past, Puresteel Paladin decks have had trouble staying powerful enough in the games where they don't draw their namesake. However, Innistrad brought Mentor of the Meek into the picture and gave the deck a new angle in which it can churn out huge amounts of card advantage.
If you've been playing for a while, you'll surely remember how good cards like Bitterblossom and Spectral Procession were with Equipment. I expected Lingering Souls to be just as good, if not better. With a healthy dose of Equipment, each Spirit will require a removal spell from your opponent. In the past, board-sweeping effects would alleviate the situation and allow a control player to move on. Lingering Souls requires opponents to have two board-sweeping effects if they intend to control the game. Lingering Souls also has incredible synergy with Mentor of the Meek. You'll be able to draw two cards with each casting of Lingering Souls if you have the mana available and a Mentor of the Meek on the battlefield. Also, Lingering Souls is one of the most powerful cards in recent sets all by itself, so that's certainly a plus.
Flayer Husk is an efficiently costed Equipment that comes with a body. We're playing Flayer Husk because of its strength with Puresteel Paladin and Mentor of the Meek, but the card works surprisingly well with all cogs of the deck.
Mortarpod is an obvious inclusion. Many decks that don't even have access to Lingering Souls or Puresteel Paladin are including Mortarpod these days as an effective answer to Delver of Secrets and many other popular threats of the format. Once you have metalcraft, Puresteel Paladin lets you effectively Fireball your opponent for the number of creatures you have on the battlefield. This makes your clock deceptively fast in racing situations.
Sword of Vengeance might not be Sword of Feast and Famine or Sword of War and Peace, but it gets the job done. I needed a big Equipment so I wasn't just durdling about with Flayer Husks and Mortarpods when I didn't have an engine online. Sword of Vengeance fits the bill. If you're lucky enough to own a Sword of Feast and Famine or Sword of War and Peace instead, then you should make the swap. If I were building the deck without budget restrictions, it would likely include three copies of Sword of War and Peace and two of Sword of Feast and Famine instead of the four Sword of Vengeance and one Flayer Husk. Currently, this is a casual deck and is not Standard legal. If you acquire the other Swords you can make this deck Standard ready!
Tragic Slip is an extremely efficient removal spell. Mortarpod and Flayer Husk make it very easy to turn on morbid. Additionally, you have a lot of creatures that win the game all by themselves if left hanging around. Your opponents will be forced to use removal spells aggressively to turn on the morbid for your Tragic Slip.
I wanted six spot-removal spells, so in addition to the two copies of Tragic Slip I rounded out the deck with two each of Dismember and Go for the Throat. To be honest, I'm not sure which card is better. Go for the Throat is better against Titan decks, but playing four copies makes us incredibly weak against Tempered Steel strategies. I feel the two/two split is perfect.
Swiftfoot Boots will help protect our engines.
Faith's Shield is an efficiently costed way to protect one of our permanents from whatever the opponent might throw at it. Faith's Shield has fateful hour, we can often engineer our life total with Dismember and use Faith's Shield to effectively Fog our opponent and swing back for lethal or we can make our team extremely difficult to block and get in the final swing.
I like playing a single copy of Nihil Spellbomb in any Standard deck with twelve or more black sources of mana. I find the activated ability is almost always at least a little bit relevant and the ability to cantrip and get closer to more Puresteel Paladins is definitely worth the slot.
My favorite card in the deck is Bloodline Keeper. Think about all the interactions this card has here. Bloodline Keeper is a one-sided Howling Mine if you have a Mentor of the Meek in play. Bloodline Keeper can attack for 5 and make a token on the turn it comes into play with a Sword of Vengeance equipped to it. Bloodline Keeper with Swiftfoot Boots is an outright game-win against a lot of the decks in the format. I didn't even mention how strong the card is entirely on its own. There will be many games where a Bloodline Keeper is able to take down your opponent without any help at all.
Here's the final decklist. Remember, this is a casual deck and is not legal in Standard tournaments. If you like the deck and want to play it in a Standard tournament, all you need to do is find a solid replacement for Sword of Vengeance:
I played a few matches with the deck against the Standard decks people were playing at my local shop.
I won the roll and kept Plains, Isolated Chapel, Isolated Chapel, Evolving Wilds, Puresteel Paladin, Mortarpod, and Lingering Souls. I played my Evolving Wilds. My opponent cast a Diregraf Ghoul and I cracked my Evolving Wilds to grab a Plains. I drew Bloodline Keeper, played Isolated Chapel, and cast Puresteel Paladin. My opponent attacked for 2 and cast Gravecrawler. I drew Flayer Husk, cast Mortarpod, drew Tragic Slip, cast Flayer Husk, drew Sword of Vengeance, and attacked for 2. My opponent attacked with both creatures (I took 4), then cast Geralf's Messenger and dropped me to 12. I drew a Faith's Shield, played my land, cast Sword of Vengeance, equipped it to Puresteel Paladin, attacked for 4, and passed the turn with an Isolated Chapel open.
My opponent played a Diregraf Captain and attacked with everything. I used my Mortarpod on the Gravecrawler, cast Tragic Slip on the Diregraf Captain, blocked the Diregraf Ghoul with Puresteel Paladin, and chump-blocked the Geralf's Messenger with my Flayer Husk germ. I drew a Swamp, played it, cast Bloodline Keeper, equipped all my Equipment to Bloodline Keeper, attacked for 8, and passed the turn with Isolated Chapel open. My opponent aimed a Go for the Throat at Bloodline Keeper, but I had Faith's Shield at the ready. My opponent then brought back Gravecrawler and I made a Vampire on the endstep. I drew another Sword of Vengeance and attacked for lethal damage in the air.
It's generally fine to sideboard out the Faith's Shield, especially when your opponent sees it in Game 1. Players might play around it even when it isn't in your deck anymore.
I kept Plains, Isolated Chapel, Go for the Throat, Tragic Slip, Nihil Spellbomb, Lingering Souls, and Lingering Souls. My opponent played a land. I drew a Swamp, played my Plains, and cast Nihil Spellbomb. My opponent played a second land and cast Distress, making me discard Go for the Throat. I drew Bloodline Keeper and played Isolated Chapel. My opponent cast Geralf's Messenger, putting me at 18. I drew a Plains, played it, and cast Lingering Souls. My opponent attacked me for 3 and cast another Geralf's Messenger to put me at 13. I drew a Swamp, played my land, and hard cast another Lingering Souls. My opponent attacked with both Geralf's Messengers and I double-blocked both. With both undying triggers on the stack I sacrificed my Nihil Spellbomb and removed them from the game, then paid a black mana and drew a Mentor of the Meek. My opponent cast a Diregraf Ghoul. I drew a Flayer Husk, played my land, cast Mentor of the Meek and Flayer Husk, then paid one and drew a Plains. My opponent cast a Diregraf Captain and attacked with Diregraf Ghoul, which I chump-blocked with the Flayer Husk.
Then I drew a Puresteel Paladin, used the flashback on Lingering Souls and drew Sword of Vengeance and Swiftfoot Boots with Mentor of the Meek, and played another land. My opponent attacked with Diregraf Ghoul and I double blocked with my Lingering Souls tokens, putting two damage on the 3/3 Ghoul. My opponent had a Tragic Slip for my Mentor of the Meek, but I had a Tragic Slip and that was enough to get rid of the Diregraf Ghoul as well. I drew a Plains, played my seventh land, cast Swiftfoot Boots, cast Bloodline Keeper, equipped Bloodline Keeper with the boots, and passed the turn. My opponent conceded.
Bloodline Keeper is pretty good.
I won the roll, sent back a hand with one land, and kept Plains, Plains, Swamp, Puresteel Paladin, Sword of Vengeance, and Lingering Souls. I played a Plains. My opponent played a Swamp. I drew Mentor of the Meek, played another Plains, and cast Puresteel Paladin. My opponent played a second land and cast Go for the Throat on Puresteel Paladin. I drew an Isolated Chapel and cast Mentor of the Meek. My opponent played a third land and passed. I drew a Plains, played it, attacked for 2, cast Lingering Souls, drew Go for the Throat with Mentor of the Meek, and passed the turn, but my opponent cast Forbidden Alchemy on my endstep.
My opponent cast Black Sun's Zenith for 2 and wiped my board. I drew Bloodline Keeper and cast it. My opponent simply played a fifth land and passed the turn. I drew Puresteel Paladin and cast both it and Sword of Vengeance, the latter of which got Mana Leaked; my opponent cast Think Twice on my endstep. My opponent played a sixth land and cast Grave Titan. I made a Vampire on the endstep, then drew a Flayer Husk on my turn, cast it, drew a Plains, cast Go for the Throat on my opponent's Grave Titan, and attacked for 5 in the air. My opponent cast Black Sun's Zenith for 4 and wiped both of our boards after attacking. I drew Sword of Vengeance, cast it, and used the flashback on Lingering Souls. My opponent cast a main-phase Forbidden Alchemy and played a seventh land. I drew an Isolated Chapel and attempted to equip a Spirit, but it got Tragic Slipped; I equipped the Sword and Flayer Husk to the other token and attacked for 4. My opponent used the flashback on Think Twice, then untapped and cast another Grave Titan before passing. I drew Bloodline Keeper, cast it, equipped my Sword, and attacked for 7. My opponent aimed a removal spell at Bloodline Keeper and I made a Vampire in response. My opponent attacked for 10 (I took the damage), then packed it up because I had the kill on board.
My opponent went down to five cards and I kept Plains, Isolated Chapel, Evolving Wilds, Puresteel Paladin, Flayer Husk, Flayer Husk, and Mortarpod. My opponent played an Island and passed. I played Evolving Wilds and fetched up a Plains. My opponent played another Island and passed the turn. I drew Gruesome Discovery and cast Puresteel Paladin. My opponent cast Think Twice on my endstep, then untapped and played a Swamp. I drew a Swamp, cast Flayer Husk, drew a Plains, cast Mortarpod, drew Sword of Vengeance, and attacked for 2. My opponent used the flashback on Think Twice, then main-phased another Think Twice, played a land, and cast Go for the Throat on my Puresteel Paladin. I drew Bloodline Keeper, attacked for 1, aimed a Germ at my opponent with Mortarpod, and cast Gruesome Discovery with morbid, leaving my opponent with nothing but land in hand.
My opponent used the flashback on Think Twice and passed the turn. I drew Faith's Shield and cast Bloodline Keeper; my opponent aimed a Go for the Throat at it, but I had Faith's Shield ready. My opponent played a land and passed. I drew another Bloodline Keeper, cast it, made a guy with the first one, then attacked for 1. My opponent just passed back. I made a guy with both Bloodline keepers and flipped them, attacked with the one token I had prior, and passed the turn. My opponent drew and conceded.
The deck works really well. If you're a fan of Puresteel Paladin then I strongly recommend putting this deck together and trying it out. It's really pretty easy to acquire on Magic Online and is a great deck to play in the casual room; Isolated Chapel is the hardest card to pick up, but all the rest are fairly easy. There are a lot of interactions in the deck and it can be very difficult to play. Try a few matches for practice before finding replacements for Sword of Vengeance and sleeving it up for a Standard tournament.
As always, hit the forums or shoot me an email with questions, comments, or ideas for future columns.