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Against the Odds: The Circle of Loyalty (Modern)

Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 289 of Against the Odds. Normally, we play really bad, janky (but unique and fun) cards on Against the Odds. Today, we're switching things up by playing one of the best cards from one of the best sets in Magic's history. That's right, it's The Circle of Loyalty time! As you might remember, when Crim and I were reviewing Throne of Eldraine, we put The Circle of Loyalty on our top-10 list over things like The Great Henge and Embercleave. (In fact, The Circle of Loyalty was exactly one slot behind Oko, Thief of Crowns, which came in at #8 on our list.) Well, today, we're going to find out if the artifact can live up to its hype in Modern, backed by a ton of Knights! Is The Circle of Loyalty as broken as it looks? Have we officially solved Modern? Let's get to the video and find out in today's Against the Odds; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: The Circle of Loyalty

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The Deck

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There's really only one way to play The Circle of Loyalty: Knight tribal! Because our namesake artifact gets a cost reduction based on the number of Knights on the battlefield, we need to get three or four tribe members on the battlefield to really power it up. At five or six mana, The Circle of Loyalty isn't really all that playable. But if we can get some Knights on the battlefield and reduce its cost to two or three mana, it suddenly because a very powerful anthem effect, not just pumping our team but also giving us a way to make more Knights if we happen to flood out.

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The most powerful thing our deck can do is get The Circle of Loyalty on the battlefield on Turn 3, which requires us to play a one-drop on Turn 1 and two more one-drops on Turn 2, giving us enough Knights to make our third land drop and play The Circle of Loyalty for just three mana. As such, we have a ton of one-drop Knights in our deck, ranging from the hasty Fervent Champion to two small Knights that can grow if we can dump some extra mana into them in Knight of the Ebon Legion and Student of Warfare

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Backing up The Circle of Loyalty are a bunch of other ways to pump our Knights. Inspiring Veteran offers a two-mana Knight lord. Knight Exemplar is a three-mana lord but with the huge upside of making our other Knights indestructible, which means if we can get two Knight Exemplars on the battlefield, we essentially can lock all non-exile removal out of the game, making our team indestructible forever. Finally, we have History of Benalia, which not only makes two 2/2 Knights over the course of a couple of turns but also pumps them with its third lore counter, potentially allowing us to get in one huge Knight alpha strike to close out the game.

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Speaking of pumping our Knights, we also have a Coat of Arms, which isn't just on flavor for a Knight deck but also can add an absurd amount of power to the battlefield, with each of our Knights growing equal to the number of Knights on our battlefield. Let's say we get four Knights in play. Coat of Arms will pump them each +4/+4, which is a ton of power and toughness for five mana.

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Rounding out our deck are a few utility spells. Smitten Swordmaster gives us a way to gain some life against aggro with its Curry Favor mode and potentially can kill our opponent with direct damage if we can get enough Knights on the battlefield. Worst case, we can run it out as a 2/1 lifelinker for two, which isn't exciting, but it is a Knight, so it can help reduce the cost of The Circle of Loyalty and benefit from our lords. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar happens to make Knight Allies, giving us a repeatable way to add on-tribe bodies to the battlefield, a big attacker, and another anthem, if we choose to ultimate. Finally, Path to Exile helps to keep our opponent's threats in check, allowing us to stay aggressive with our The Circle of Loyalty–pumped Knights.

The Matchups

By far the hardest matchup for The Circle of Loyalty is combo. Our deck can put a lot of Knights on the battlefield and pump them into huge threats, but it doesn't really have a way to stop our opponent from going infinite on Turn 3 or 4. And even our best draws usually aren't fast enough to race. On the other hand,  we have a decent shot against aggro and midrange thanks to our resilient creatures, lords, and—of course—The Circle of Loyalty

The Odds

The good news is that we did win a couple of matches with our deck, ending up 2-3 overall. The bad news is that our namesake card The Circle of Loyalty actually killed us more than it killed our opponent. In the games where we drew The Circle of Loyalty, it often got stuck in our hand since we couldn't keep enough Knights on the battlefield to reduce its cost. In our last match, we cast The Circle of Loyalty instead of draining our opponent with Smitten Swordmaster, and we ended up losing as a result. For being the best card from one of the best sets in Magic, The Circle of Loyalty was surprisingly mediocre in our deck. 

Vote for Next Week's Deck

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Next week's episode will come out right in the middle of Modern Horizons 2 spoilers, so let's play some Modern! But which card should we build around? Click here to vote!


Anyway, that's all for today. Don't forget to vote for next week's deck! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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