Balan, Wandering Knight

Published November 23rd, 2020

Did you know that before a shift was made to get the product out sooner than planned, Double Masters was intended to be “Artifact Masters”? If you’ve seen the same spoilers I have, It’s pretty clear why. While not all of the set is packed with all of the cards players across formats wanted to see, they certainly delivered on the artifact theme with cards like the Sword Cycle, Mana Crypt, Stoneforge Mystic, and more.

Seeing as people are going to be cracking packs and picking up singles from the set, I thought I’d have a crack at throwing a deck together that makes decent use of some of the newly reprinted cards. I’ve also felt like brewing with mono-white lately. Since the colour has some nice equipment synergies, Balan, Wandering Knight sounded like a great choice.

The Commander

Balan, Wandering Knight is nice and simple. For 2WW, we get a 3/3 first strike that can provide its own double strike when holding multiple pieces of equipment. It also comes with an ability to help mitigate mono-white’s abysmal ramp options that lets us attach all of our equipment to Balan. At the low cost of 1W, this cat is going to be holding a ton of swords! If you’re wondering how this cat can hold all of them, I’m not really sure either. I’ve never seen a cat armed to the teeth with weaponry, but I’ve always been good at keeping the cutlery drawer shut.

The Plan

Nice and simple is the way to go here. Get some equipment down, drop Balan, and get to beating in faces. If Balan doesn’t look like the way to go, there are a couple of backup options in the decklist. Armory Automaton equips as many things as you would like from anywhere on the board every time it enters the battlefields or attacks. Puresteel Paladin’s metalcraft ability allows for free equip activations and can turn anything into a threat with enough equipment on board. Stonehewer Giant and Sun Titan provide steady advantage and Serra Ascendant is a strong, evasive attacker that pairs well with any sword. 

Rocks and Roll

Sadly, ramp in mono-white falls on artifacts to get the job done, and oh boy are they ever pricey. Ultimate Masters and now Double Masters have brought the prices down a fair bit but unfortunately, we’re going to have to shell out if we want to down anything relevant by turn 5. 

Mana Crypt, Mana Vault, Sol Ring, Mind Stone, Arcane Signet, Fellwar Stone, Thought Vessel, Worn Powerstone, and Thran Dynamo. 9 Rocks that play well into each other and ramp us into our equipment. Smothering Tithe, the handy auto-include for any white deck is a bit slower but can provide a lot of mana in the long game if it goes unanswered. 

For making consistent land drops, Land Tax, Weathered Wayfarer, Tithe, and Expedition Map find us what we need. Ancient Tomb accelerates us a bit further while Myriad Landscape and Sword of the Animist put some extra basics into play. 

For the all-important card draw, Sram, Senior Edificer, and Puresteel Paladin turn our equipment spells into cantrips. Mask of Memory and Sword of Fire and Ice give card draw when we connect. Endless Atlas is an inexpensive draw engine and the newer land Bonder’s Enclave helps us dig deeper. Land Tax with Scroll Rack draws a ton of cards when paired together. Lastly, my favourite all-around card from War of the Spark, Ugin the Ineffable does triple duty. Pseudo-card-draw tied to chump blockers, making our colourless spells cheaper and a handy removal ability, it’s a wonder I don’t see him played more. 

These Dudes are my Buddies!

Balan doesn’t come with any built-in protection, so we’re going to need some ways to keep him alive and our advantage machines like Puresteel Paladin or Stonehewer Giant alive. Mother of Runes and Giver of Runes can repeatedly give protection from colours while Selfless Spirit and Selfless Savior give themselves up for the good of the team. 

Recruiter of the Guard, Ranger of Eos, and Ranger Captain of Eos help us find these all-important utility creatures while Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle, Reveillark, Vesperlark and Sun Titan bring them back from the grave. Now it’s not so easy to get blown out by a stray Damnation or Blasphemous Act

This Tech Tree is More of a Tech Shrub

As far as I’m concerned, this list doesn’t go out of its way to be too different from others you may have seen. The only cards in here that you may not see too often are Angelic Renewal and Sevinne’s Reclamation. Angelic Renewal fits in as an additional copy of Selfless Savior/Spirit, but isn’t vulnerable to creature removal and can save a creature from cards like Toxic Deluge

Sevinne’s Reclamation is one of the best white cards to see print in the last few years as far as Commander is concerned. The number of times I’ve been saved by this thing after my opponents have burnt up their removal is too many to count. The flashback ability is pretty sneaky too and people often forget it’s in your graveyard if they haven’t checked in a while. 

Combos

Equipment + Creature + Combat Step = You Win

In all seriousness, there aren’t any infinite combos in here, just value effects and synergies. There is one little thing I would like to mention separately though, and that would be about baiting removal using Balan’s ability. Lightning Greaves works especially well here, but Swiftfoot Boots will also do. 

Players often hold their targeted removal such as Swords to Plowshares until the Voltron player attempts to equip something like their Lightning Greaves. The trick here is how Balan’s ability works. For 1W at instant speed, you forcibly equip all equipment you control to your cat commander and it works even if it has shroud from Lightning Greaves. Simply put, you can first activate the greaves to equip Balan and force your opponents to try and spend their removal. Then with the spell on the stack, activate the ability to equip everything. Balan will have shroud or hexproof and the spell will fizzle. 

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This can also be a handy way to protect some of your other creatures like Puresteel Paladin. You can feel relatively safe equipping them with greaves or boots because you can pull them all onto Balan if need be. In practice, it’s an incredibly versatile ability and has made for some great blowout plays while playing a bunch of test matches!

Conclusion

Balan, Wandering Knight was a ton of fun to build and play. If you’re looking for a mono-white deck for almost any reason, this is a great commander to consider! As always, I hope this can help serve as a starting point for anyone looking to build around this particular Cat Knight. Please be sure to let us know if you’ve given it a try, or if you have any general questions or comments. I’d be happy to hear it! Happy deckbuilding everyone.  

Article by Dr. Peace

Before starting Magic, Dr. Peace has been an active player of various card games as long as he can remember. He began playing Magic towards the end of Tarkir block where he was introduced to the Commander format by Aaron. With the Origins core set, he built his first commander and has since been brewing and building constantly.

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