Hello everyone! I’m Literally a Ghost That Pushes Over Candles and welcome back to The Spirit of EDH. This week we’re going to be trying to make two different tribal decks into a single, cohesive deck. Now, some commanders might lead you down this path implicitly, through supporting multiple themes or having multiple good creature types, but no commanders do so as explicitly as Sylvia Brightspear and Korvath Brightflame. The goal for these creatures is to overlap two different tribes, in this case being knights and dragons, and have a deck that is synergistic to both. Let’s take a look at the decklist I’m working with:
A Spear of Light and Breath of Fire
A split-focus tribal deck would seem like the cards either fall into the category of dragons, or of knights. However, the most powerful cards we have access to are either aiming to be the best in their category or, more precisely, aim to straddle the line between both tribes. In that spirit, we’re going to discuss the cards that Korvath benefits, the cards that Sylvia benefits, and then the cards that fit in both categories.
Before we move any further, however, I do want to make a specific call out. The most popular and arguably more consistent strategy is to make a straight red/white dragon tribal deck making use of Sylvia Brightspear and entirely ignoring Korvath. If you build your deck with a ton of fast mana, having a three-mana creature that gives all your dragons Double Strike is strong enough to win games. This does allow you to include more dragons that work best in large numbers, as well as some support cards that work much worse in a split-focus deck. I liked the idea of making a deck that is dual-focused without being weak, which I believe I succeeded in! However, if the novelty of this idea doesn’t appeal to you, take a look at the “Other Considerations” section of this article.
The Bright Spears of Sylvia
Benalish Marshal – A solid lord in his own right, Benalish Marshal isn’t looking for matching creature types. All he needs to see is a board full of creatures he can make stronger. A cheap creature provided you can hit triple white to pay for him, he comes out early to make your other knights scale better into the late game. This also doubles in effectiveness once you’re boosting creatures that get Double Strike.
Danitha Capashen, Paragon – A powerful creature bosting three keywords, Danitha makes our myriad equipment cost less. When we have a surplus of equipment, like Blackblade Reforged, Sword of the Animist, Forebears Blade, and more, her discount on bulk-equipment stores will pay off in spades.
Hero of Bladehold – One of the original one-woman armies, Hero of Bladehold benefits from both the flying and haste that Korvath can grant, making it easier for her to attack without fear of dying, but also boosts the power of all of your attackers. This comes out to be twice as good when you have Double Strike on most of the attackers affected by it! In addition, there will be games where your fast mana can get Hero of Bladehold out on turn three, or even two with Sol Ring, and will run rampant through your opponents until they can deal with it. Any creature that demands answers that early is strong enough for an inclusion.
Crimson Honor Guard – A knight that punishes anyone who doesn’t play their commander can be a powerful ally. When you have access to two commanders, Crimson Honor Guard has less of a chance to bite you, since you can play carefully with your commander tax so it never becomes unbearable. In addition, it can punish players who play with Eminence-type commanders for not playing them, speeding up your clock. When playing Boros colors, you need to be looking to end games quickly.
History of Benalia – Two knights in a storybook, History of Benalia can be the end of the line for an unprepared player. While it is, indeed, less strong here in commander than in standard, with the right opening curve for your knights, this Saga can mean the end with enough knights on board. Sure, curving out into this will never really be the end, but when played after a few knights a vigilant attack like that can set someone low enough on life that they’re unable to recover.
Righteous Confluence – Emergency life-gain when it is absolutely needed, more often than not it will be a combination of the other two options. There are some powerful enchantments in play in commander and being able to exile up to three is no laughing matter. When you’re getting rid of Mirari’s Wake, Overwhelming Splendor and Sandworm Convergence permanently for only five mana, you’ll feel the strength of this spell. In addition, you can create 2/2’s with Vigilance, which play well with Flying and Haste granted by Korvath, meaning that this card is never dead, even if you’re solid on life and have no enchantments to Erase.
Bright Flames of Korvath
|1 x Dragonmaster Outcast|
1 x Slumbering Dragon
1 x Territorial Hellkite
1 x Verix Bladewing
1 x Hunted Dragon
1 x Scalelord Reckoner
1 x Sunscorch Regent
1 x Ancestor Dragon
1 x Hellkite Tyrant
1 x Lathliss, Dragon Queen
1 x Moltensteel Dragon
1 x Ryusei, the Falling Star
1 x Yosei, the Morning Star
1 x Skyline Despot
|1 x Dragon's Hoard
1 x Sarkhan, Fireblood
Territorial Hellkite – One of the absolute scariest cards you can resolve in this deck, Territorial Hellkite is an absolute terror in the skies. A four-mana 6/5 with Flying and Haste that gets Double Strike on-curve from your first commander, this dragon will bring down life totals to zero in a heartbeat. The drawback, because of course a card like this needs one, is that it has to attack opponents at random, and it can’t attack the same opponent twice in a row. Even if you only had one opponent left, it would tap itself every other turn to make up for it. This does make it less difficult to eliminate a single opponent. Thankfully, you need to get through all your opponents to win, so you’re never moving away from your goal.
Scalelord Reckoner – While your knights might need less defending, because they’re cheaper to cast than your dragons tend to be, when you’re spending five, six or more mana on a dragon, you want it to stick around. Or at least, punish your opponents when they do go down. Scalelord reckoner gives you a Bramblecrush whenever an opponent targets one of your dragons with a spell or ability, punishing them when they have no other recourse besides removing one of your threats, and dissuading their stray removal otherwise.
Sunscorch Regent – A bigger, flying version of Forgotten Ancient or Managorger Hydra, this dragon is scarier for the ease at which it gains Double Strike. This deck is full of cards that need to be answered or they can spell the end for your opponents and this regent is one of them. This means you don’t need to resolve many threats past their removal to end games quickly. A massive dragon with Double Strike, able to gain trample from other sources, can absolutely end an opponent.
Lathliss, Dragon Queen – One of the few concessions to the late-game strength of dragons over knights is Lathliss. Each dragon you resolve after her will net you a bonus dragon, quickly filling the sky with power. She can also fire-breathe your whole team of dragons, again increased by the strength of Double Strike granted by Sylvia. If you can resolve even one dragon after her and you’ve gotten ten, if not twenty from Sylvia, power worth of fliers out of the deal.
Skyline Despot – Another card that is both game-endingly scary while offering a powerful utility, Skyline Despot grants you the monarchy when it enters the battlefield. This gives you much needed card draw in colors that need to fight and scratch for it. In addition, if you can keep your crown until your turn comes around once more, you get another dragon for your troubles, adding to your ability to either end the game or continue to defend your crown.
Brightflame Alight the Brightspear
|1 x Bastion Protector
1 x Mirror Entitiy
1 x Taurean Mauler
1 x Bloodsworn Steward
1 x Iroas, God of Victory
1 x Adriana, Captain of the Guard
1 x Blackblade Reforged
1 x Path of Mettle
1 x Forebear's Blade
1 x Heirloom Blade
1 x Glory of Warfare
1 x Path of Ancestry
Bastion Protector and Bloodsworn Steward – Having two commanders makes both of these cards stronger than in decks with only one, as they benefit all of our commander creatures. Bastion Protector making our commanders indestructible, saving them from one non-damage based board wipe. Steward gives haste, which is less helpful since Korvath has it and also grants it to Sylvia, however if we replay Sylvia without Korvath, the haste isn’t useless. In addition, Steward is also a Knight, gaining haste from Korvath as well as any other bonuses our knights get. Besides, increasing the size of both of our commanders is powerful, especially at the rate these two do.
Mirror Entity and Taurean Mauler – Two changeling creatures that gain the benefits of both of our tribes, these creatures have their own strengths. Taurean Mauler becomes massive very rapidly, becoming the same type of threat that Sunscorch Regent is. He may not have flying built in, but Korvath solves that quickly. As well, Mirror Entity might not have huge base-stats, but it is one of the easiest ways to alpha-strike an opponent. Regardless of what is printed on the cards, when you activate Mirror Entity with your two commanders out, your entire board gets Flying, Haste and Double Strike. In addition, if you can pay 6 or more mana, all of your creatures will be larger than they ever were with their base stats.
Adriana, Captain of the Guard – A knight that gives melee to all of your team helps you try to end the game quicker. In the same way that Territorial Hellkite doesn’t really have a drawback if you’re aiming to kill all of your opponents, Melee rewards this style of thinking. Spreading your damage around makes all of your creatures larger, allowing you to put out more damage in a single attack, even if it isn’t all at one opponent.
Heirloom Blade, Forebear’s Blade and Path of Ancestry – All cards that benefit you for playing tribal decks on a creature-by-creature basis, rather than overall. Heirloom Blade lets you stem the card disadvantage for losing a creature by drawing you another creature of that type. Forebear’s Blade passes itself sideways whenever the equipped creature dies, so long as you have more creatures of that type. Finally, Path of Ancestry is a Stone Quarry that scries whenever you cast a creature that shares a creature type with either of your commanders. The only creature that you won’t get a scry off of is Iroas, God of Victory, as even your other creatures that aren’t knights are still human.
The Spice Corner
Path of Mettle – One of the less thought about transform cards from Ixalan block, Path of Mettle transforms very easily with this deck. Seeing as we can grant keywords to all of our creatures, transforming into Metzali, Tower of Triumph isn’t difficult. Once transformed, we get an additional land, as well as the ability to damage all of our opponents if we have some extra mana and snipe off attacking creatures of our opponents choice. Keeping up Metzali makes attacking for our opponents very difficult, as we can destroy one of their creatures even if we weren’t the ones that were attacked. It might be only of their choice, but it is repeatable removal on a land. Its strength cannot be overstated.
Ancestor Dragon – One of not many white dragons, Ancestor Dragon helps you race against other opponents attacking back at you by gaining you life. It may not be the strongest dragon available for six mana, but the combination of the flavor of this dragon, printed only in Jiang Yanggu vs. Mu Yanling, with the ability to gain you life back without having to commit any specific attacker has proven strong enough that it never feels useless. If you’re aiming to make this deck more competitive, or simply want more room for a different dragon in your collection, I can’t hold it against you for removing it.
Slumbering Dragon – An inexpensive dragon that can’t attack or block until it has five counters on it, this threat becomes one of the most deadly Ghostly Prisons available. After only five attacks at you, you gain access to an eight power flyer that you only invested one mana into. If the only thing that it does is draw premium removal or dissuade attacks from you before it awakens, then I’d say you earned your one mana’s worth.
If you’re aiming to focus the deck down one lane, consider adding a few of the following cards for either direction: Vanquisher’s Banner, Coat of Arms, Adaptive Automoton, Metallic Mimic and Herald’s Horn. For Dragon’s themed, cards like Sarkhan’s Triumph, Dragonlord’s Servant, Dragonspeaker Shaman, Dragon Tempest, Scourge of Valkas, Utvara Hellkite, Thunderbreak Regent and Crucible of Fire. For Knight themed, Hero of Oxid Ridge, Pentarch Paladin, Valiant Knight, Varchild, Betrayer of Kjeldor, Riders of Gavony, Riftmarked Knight, Obelisk of Urd.
This deck has preformed quite well for me with split focus. Having knights to play in the early game to defend you without having as much high-variance with fast mana, as well as having late-game reach in the form of Korvath. Double Strike on a bunch of dragons is still usually how the game ends, but not every time. Sometimes your deck can simply be fast enough with your knights to end an opponent before they can set up their own plans.
So tell me, what did you think? Did I offer information you thought was helpful, raise some insights you might not have thought of, miss stuff you thought I should mention, or any other thoughts I didn’t call out? Leave a comment below to let me know, or you can haunt me directly on Twitter (@FrigglishTGhost) or spook my email (AMillionDifferentColors@Gmail.com).
Make sure you join me next week, where I’ll be talking about the living island Arixmethes, legendary leviathan of Thassa!
Until then, may the Spirit of EDH possess you with creativity.
— Literally a Ghost that Pushes Over Candles
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