Modern Musings: Knights of the Living Dead

Hey everyone, and welcome to another Modern Musings!  This week we are going to be taking a closer look at a card you might have never heard of: Haakon, Stromgald Scourge.  He’s a pretty exciting card with lots of potential for abuse, especially since there are a lot more knights now than when he was printed.  Now, to set the record straight, Haakon, Stromgald Scourge did see some fringe play in Modern back in 2013 with top 8s at a PTQ here and there, but since then hasn’t seen any play at all.  Today we are going to take a look at the different ways you can play Haakon.

The Zombie Knight and How to Play Him

The first thing you may notice about this card is that you can’t cast it from your hand.  While this was a fairly major drawback when he was printed, nowadays we have so many tools that allow us to put him either straight into play or into our graveyard, that it hardly seems like a drawback at all.  Let’s look at some of the different ways we can get him onto the battlefield directly:

Aether Vial is a pretty easy way to get Haakon into play, plus it rewards you for playing other 2- and 3-drop creatures, allowing you to gain some tempo.  However, you really have to commit to playing a ton of creatures to make the vial worth it.

Collected Company is another option to get Haakon, Stromgald Scourge directly into play.  As anyone that has played against this card can tell you, the tempo that you gain off of this card is ridiculous.  The ability to get multiple three-drops on turn four makes it very hard for your opponent to compete with your board.  The downside of playing this card is that you are shoehorned into a tribal deck, which is not necessarily where Haakon wants to be as he really thrives in a long, grindy game.

 

So what if we want to cast him from our graveyard?  How do we get him there? We have lots of options:

Good ol’ faithless looting is great in any deck that wants to churn through cards and put things in its graveyard.  The rough part is that you have to play red, which doesn’t really give you much else besides Lightning Bolt. There’s also maybe Burning Vengeance, but that’s probably a little too meme-y.

Liliana is, as always, probably the best option when you need symmetrical discard effects, plus there’s all the normal upsides of running Liliana.

Grisly Salvage is probably one of the best cards at filling up your graveyard out there while still getting a card out of it, as it allows you to get either a land or a creature.  Interestingly, the upside of this card is also the downside.  The upside is that if you’re playing a bunch of graveyard synergies this card could effectively draw you 3-4 cards, the downside is that you have to be playing a graveyard synergy deck for this card to be worth it, and those decks are fairly fragile because of how much graveyard hate is running around.

Life from the Loam—and the dredge mechanic in general—is really good at getting cards into the graveyard, Loam has the added benefit of being able to lock out opponents with Ghost Quarter or give you more discard with Raven’s Crime.

The Knights:

Ironically the best knight Haakon can bring back isn’t even a creature, it’s a removal spell that just happens to have the creature type of “knight” (well technically changeling, but you get the point).  This is the bread and butter of any deck with Haakon, and really what makes him worth playing.  As long as Haakon is in play then you can cast as many Nameless Inversions as you want (you still have to pay the mana).

Next up on the list of knights worth casting, we have Knight of the Reliquary coming in to synergize with any graveyard-filling that we do over the course of the game.  The idea is that he should be a very big recurring threat in our deck.

Another forgotten Standard bomb, despite his depressing stats, Stillmoon Cavalier boasts protection from both white and black, making him immune to the vast majority of removal in Modern.  He can still die to Lightning Bolt, but besides that and sweepers, there’s not a whole lot people can do about this card.

Probably the most powerful knight ever printed; Hero of Bladehold is an amazing creature to recur, forcing the opponent to deal with it every time it’s on the board or to face certain death.

Miscellaneous Good Cards with Haakon

There are some other cards that incidentally work well with Haakon, mainly cards that have to do with zombies and graveyards.

Gravecrawler works great with Haakon, because if you have both in your graveyard, then you can get both back by first casting Haakon, Stromgald Scourge and then casting Gravecrawler.  This solves the normal problem that Gravecrawler has of being cast after a board wipe.

Smallpox and Death Cloud both slow down the game considerably, which tends to favor the deck that runs Haakon (plus Life from the Loam doesn’t hurt either).

As I mentioned earlier, Burning Vengeance is one of the better reasons to be playing red with Haakon.  This card can actually get out of hand really quickly as suddenly your Gravecrawlers and Nameless Inversions turn into shocks.

The final card in this section is Worm Harvest, a card that, again, like Knight of the Reliquary, has a lot of synergy with filling your graveyard with cards.

The Decklists

Finally, what you probably came here for. Here are a couple different decklists I’ve come up with utilizing the cards we’ve looked at.

 

This deck is a Smallpox deck that utilizes Haakon to grind out the mid game and act as a finisher late game.

This is a list that won a PTQ a number of years back, I updated some of the spell choices and tweaked the sideboard, but the core essence of the deck remains the same: get Blazing Vengeance on the board, then kill your opponent with Raven’s Crimes and Gravecrawler.

 

That’s all for this week, everyone. Join me next week when we talk about lands in modern, and be prepared: we may go into some uncharted territory!

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