Deck Tech: Bant Knightfall with Nathan Smith

Posted in Event Coverage on November 6, 2016

By Corbin Hosler

When Battle for Zendikar released, a quirky cycle of enchantments was viewed as primarily Limited fodder, with the potential to break through in Standard. Not many people thought that Retreat to Coralhelm would become an All-Star in Modern, but alongside Knight of the Reliquary that's exactly what has happened.

Just ask Nathan Smith.

"It's really nice to have a combo, but this is really an aggressive midrange deck that happens to have a combo in it," he said of his Bant Knightfall deck shortly after putting himself one win away from the Top 8 at Grand Prix Dallas. "It's similar to Abzan Company but actually has a better backup plan of aggression if you don't combo."

A midrange creature deck with a combo finish? Welcome to Knightfall.

Nathan Smith's Bant Knightfall

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The deck's namesake combo comes from the duo of Knight of the Reliquary and Retreat to Coralhelm. Playing the Knight, preferably on the second turn off a mana creature, allows the deck to then play a third-turn Retreat. From there, Knight of the Reliquary uses its ability to sacrifice a land, fetching out another land from the deck. That triggers the landfall ability on the Retreat, untapping the Knight to repeat the loop.

This interaction allows the deck to draw out all its land, growing the Knight's power by one and adding mana as it goes. The last land to come out is Kessig Wolf Run, allowing the Knightfall player to give the now-huge Knight of the Reliquary a power boost as well as trample, more than enough to finish the game in one large attack.

While the deck may have formed around the combo, the rest of it is pure value. Spell Queller and Vendilion Clique — an innovation Smith made to the deck that he lauded as a "game changer" — allows Knightfall to operate largely at instant speed, all while disrupting an opponent's game plan. Selfless Spirit serves to protect the rest of the creatures, and Collected Company conveniently ties the whole deck together and gives another instant-speed option.

Smith compared the deck to Abzan Company for a reason. Both decks feature midrange strategies while also presenting a combo finish. But while the Abzan deck is focused primarily on the combo, the Knightfall deck acts like a tempo deck that happens to have a combo available.

"Spell Queller really gives the deck an edge that Abzan doesn't have," Smith explained. "Knight is a big creature and you have a lot of flyers, which are important to clock an opponent. And you have a lot of disruption with this deck."

Smith based his list on the one that Kelvin Chew used to make the Top 8 of Grand Prix Guangzhou in August, but has made a few improvements. Aside from Vendilion Clique, he also added Tarmogoyf, lowering the deck's curve even if it means relying mainly on opponents to provide enough card types to make the ‘goyf big.

Smith's deck boasts a strong Infect matchup, with a host of interactive creatures and disruption. Knight of the Reliquary allows easy access to niche sideboard cards like Bojuka Bog, and Collected Company helps to dig deep for silver bullets like Loaming Shaman. It's not an easy deck to pilot, but it's one Smith has full confidence in given the metagame.

And with his success so far, and a possible Top 8 berth, who could argue?

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