Ikoria has shaken up standard. Many of the strongest decks from Theros Beyond Death have fallen out of favor because of the power of the companions of Ikoria. The most significant casualty is traditional Mono Red Aggro. The deck was a Tier 1 force during Theros season, but with no new cards from Ikoria to help the deck it has fallen out of favor.

With traditional Mono-Red Aggro no longer a significant player in the format, true aggro decks have all but disappeared from standard. Control, combo, and mid-range decks fill the top tiers of standard now with little room for aggro decks because of these decks ability to steal creatures from aggro decks or simply destroy their creatures out with board wipes or spells like Deafening Clarion. The problem that Mono-Red and other aggro decks face is the sheer number of ways that these decks can turn a winnable game into a guaranteed lose.

As many of you know, I prefer to play straight forward decks, so for the last couple of weeks I have looked for an aggro deck that had the power to take on the top tier of decks. What I found was a forgotten deck from early in Eldraine Season: Mardu Knights. The deck had and still has problems keeping up with Mono-Red decks, but with Mono-Red falling out of favor the space for Mardu Knights exists.

My initial thoughts for a Mardu deck was to build it around General Kudro, but that version of the deck was to slow to compete and it did not have much resilience against decks with multiple board wipes or other ways to disrupt the decks game plan. Enter knights from Eldraine as a solution to the speed and resilience problems the deck had. Below is my current build of the deck. It uses Lurrus as a companion for long games to rebuild after a board wipe. Most of the time, Lurrus is an unused piece because the deck does not need it to win.

Mardu Knights Ikoria, Scott Trepanier

Companion (1)
Lurrus of the Dream Den

Blacklance Paragon
Corpse Knight
Fervent Champion
Inspiring Veteran
Knight of the Ebon Legion
Skyknight Vanguard
Stormfist Crusader
Venerable Knight
Worthy Knight

Fight as One
Unbreakable Formation
Heartless Act

LANDS (22)
Blood Crypt
Godless Shrine
Sacred Foundry
Savai Triome
Tournament Grounds

Apostle of Purifying Light
Dire Tactics
Drill Bit
Embereth Shieldbreaker
Lurrus of the Dream Den
Unbreakable Formation

All the creatures in the main deck are knights. This means that the buffing ability of Inspiring Veteran affects all the creatures in the deck. Getting him down on turn three leads to explosive turn three that typically leave my opponents with around 10 life. The other keep creature in the deck is Worthy Knight. Worthy Knight gives you a 1/1 human token each time you cast a knight. Typically, I have four or five human tokens by the end of most games. This lets me deal extra damage and have creatures to use as throw away blockers to prevent opponents from getting in significant amounts of damage.

My typical game plan is to play Venerable Knight on turn one when possible because he is a good attacker on turn two. On turn two, my ideal play is Worthy Knight so I can start adding tokens on turn three. Most decks do not have a way to deal with Worthy Knight, so when it hits the battlefield it typically sticks around long enough to help win the game.

When I do not have Worthy Knight, I like to play Fervent Champion and Knight of the Ebon Legion. This works well with Venerable Knight in play because the +1/+0 that Fervent Champion gives to a knight typically leads to four damage that gives Knight of the Ebon Legion a +1/+1 token. When you can get these creatures out, playing Inspiring Veteran on turn three or four leads to damage mounts up quickly.

What makes the deck resilient is Fight as One and Unbreakable Formation. These cards can protect some or all your creatures from dying. Fight as One gives a human and/or a non-human +1/+1 and indestructible. This can also be used as an offensive tool to add a couple of extra points of damage. Unbreakable Formation gives all your creatures indestructible and vigilance plus a +1/+1 counter when you cast it on your main phase. Casting Unbreakable Formation in the mid-game gives a safe attack that can cause lethal damage. Both cards provide protection to your creatures which the deck needs given the amount of removal in the format.

The final piece to the deck is Heartless Age. It allows you to kill a creature that does not have any counters on it or to remove up to three counters from a creature. Having a way to kill large creatures your opponent controls is key in the mid-game, so you can continue attacking with your creatures. I considered other options, but the mana requirements or limitations of the card made them less desirable. Dire Tactics is a good second option, but the requirement of a white and a black mana makes it more difficult to cast. That is why I have it as a sideboard card rather than in the main deck. With Lurrus decks popular in the format, Legend’s End might be a good option because it can exile multiple copies of a creature that has a mana cost of two or less.

In my play testing, I used the deck to move through Platinum and to diamond three on Arena, so far. What makes the deck very promising is how well it has performed against Yorion, Sky Nomad decks. In these match-ups, I’ve won more than 75% of the time because I can usually close out the game by turn five or six. It has performed OK against Mono-Red decks with a win percentage of a little over 50%. Against Lurrus decks I have won about 60% of the time. The version that I have the most problem with are the ones using Priest of Forgotten Gods.

The decks that presented the most problems are the Rakdos Sacrifice and Fires of Invention decks. Radkos Sacrifice presents problems for the deck because all the creatures naturally have two toughness or less. This allows Mayhem Devil to pick them off one my one with the Cat Oven combo. Jeskai Fires ability to deal damage with Deafening Clarion and have its own creatures unaffected regularly wipes the board. Also, Teferi, Time Raveler takes away turns and allows Jeskai players to cast Shatter the Sky on your turn. Usually when this happens, the game is over.

Mardu Knights could be a player in the format. Right now, the aggro space in the format is mostly open. This deck has the power and the resilience to be a viable option in the format. I think as the format continues to quickly adjust, Mardu Knights will see more play as the Control, Combo, and Mid-range decks took for ways to defeat each other.
Until next time, good luck finding your win condition!