Today, Preeminent Captain only really sees play in Commander decks which revolve around a Soldier Tribal theme. Despite a lack of competitive play, before the reprint, he was still a pretty valuable card from Morningtide. The reason for this lies in the power of his ability.
Preeminent Captain is a 2/2 Kithkin Soldier that costs 2W to cast. Not only does he have First Strike, but whenever he declares an attack, you may put a Soldier creature card from your hand onto the battlefield tapped and attacking. This could even be an additional Preeminent Captain, although you won't get the ability from the second Captain until he next declares an attack himself. Still, this is an extremely powerful free summon. On a three mana creature, that's pretty absurd value.
Let's see what a Top 8 Standard deck from 2008 with Preeminent Captain looked like:
4 Horizon Canopy
4 Rustic Clachan
4 Cenn's Tactician
2 Field Marshal
4 Goldmeadow Harrier
4 Goldmeadow Stalwart
3 Kinsbaile Borderguard
4 Knight of Meadowgrain
2 Mirror Entity
3 Preeminent Captain
4 Wizened Cenn
Non Creature Spells (7)
3 Oblivion Ring
3 Burrenton Forge-Tender
2 Gaddock Teeg
2 Patrician's Scorn
4 Tormod's Crypt
Obviously, this White Weenie Kithkin deck runs a lot of Soldier creatures, the only exceptions being Knight of Meadowgrain and Wizened Cenn in the mainboard. Kithkin decks often ran two copies, if not three, of Preeminent Captain to speed up the assault of an already pretty effective aggro deck. While he was a complementary piece, he allowed the deck to have some very explosive turns, especially when you got two or even all three on the battlefield at once.
So, considering he was pretty good in this and pretty much every kitchen table deck that was focused on Soldiers, how would he fare in the future?
Preeminent Captain and Captain of the Watch
While they were never in Standard together, Preeminent Captain and Captain of the Watch have been linked ever since the latter Soldier was printed in the Magic 2010 Core Set. She'd be printed again in the Magic 2013 Core Set and also in the Duel Decks: Elspeth vs Kiora. Even though they rarely saw competitive play together, they have obvious synergy that has made them fine pals.
Captain of the Watch is a whopping six mana to cast (4WW) but her abilities are worth the cost. She's only a 3/3 herself, but this Human Soldier gives all other soldiers you control +1/+1 and vigilance. Vigilance means that your Soldier creatures don't have to tap when they attack, meaning they can stay open to block or tap for abilities. She also brings three 1/1 Soldier tokens into play when she enters the battlefield.
While Preeminent Captain's ability brings the Captain of the Watch into play tapped and attacking, this is OK. We're bringing in a six-mana creature into play for FREE after all, along with her tokens and a +1/+1 boost to Preeminent Captain and any other soldiers you control. The vigilance won't be a factor until the next combat, but that's OK. Cheating Captain of the Watch into play is enough reason to run her, after all.
Even though Captain of the Watch barely saw any Standard play, she DID see Legacy play. Albeit, it was limited, but as you can see from this 2014 Magic Online Legacy Daily list, she did so with her partner in crime, Preeminent Captain!
Legacy White Weenie – DaPokPok – 11/11/2014 - MTGO Legacy Daily
4 Ancient Tomb
4 Cavern of Souls
1 City of Traitors
3 Aven Mindcensor
4 Captain of the Watch
1 Commander Eesha
3 Daru Warchief
4 Enlistment Officer
1 Gustcloak Savior
2 Longbow Archer
4 Preeminent Captain
4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Non-Creature Spells (12)
4 Chalice of the Void
4 Chrome Mox
4 Suppression Field
1 Aven Cloudchaser
2 Dawnbringer Charioteers
3 Holy Light
1 Null Rod
2 Oblivion Ring
3 Rest in Peace
2 Thorn of Amethyst
Only Aven Mindcensor was not a Soldier in this deck, and you weren't going to want to put Mindcensor into play tapped and attacking anyway. This deck takes Preeminent Captain to the best of his ability, giving you lots of card advantage. Enlistment Officer comes into play searching up another Soldier. Daru Warchief pumps your Soldiers and makes them cheaper to cast. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben slows down your opponent's non-creature spells. And even in Legacy, putting a six-mana Soldier into play along with three tokens is just extremely powerful, not to mention those tokens are 2/2 with just the Captain of the Watch on board.
While this deck is pretty great on paper, it never really took off into major tournaments. It was a well-built deck, though, and it really displays the true power of the combo between Preeminent Captain and Captain of the Watch.
Preeminent Captain in Magic 2015 Standard
With his reprint in Magic 2015, Preeminent Captain came into a Standard environment where it seemed he should play a role. There were a ton of playable Soldiers in Standard right then. Granted some of the best Soldiers available at that time, Precinct Captain and Loxodon Smiter, were soon rotating out of Standard. Still, Theros block is chock full of them, especially those with Heroic. As it would turn out, Heroic decks would still be good for awhile.
Brimaz, King of Oreskos was the best Soldier in Standard, by far. Along with him, there were a bevy of other playable White Soldiers which included: Akroan Skyguard, Archetype of Courage, Boros Elite, Favored Hoplite, Hero of Iroas, Soldier of the Pantheon, and Vanguard of Brimaz. If you wanted to go Red/White, there were also Akroan Crusader, Akroan Hoplite, and Battlewise Hoplite as solid Heroic Soldiers.
Also, for a short time before his Standard rotation, Spark Trooper was be a nice little 6/1 surprise with trample and lifelink to throw into play. Yeah, he's a soldier! There were also a couple of interesting Legendary Creatures, Anax and Cymede and Daxos of Meletis, who also appeared to be Soldiers that would benefit from having Preeminent Captain around.
White Weenie and Boros Aggro decks were already pretty good, and having a tool like Preeminent Captain to accelerate the board state seemed like it could push these decks even further up the competitive ladder., With all of the pump spells available in Standard to keep your Captains alive, you were going to potentially get a few free creature summons out of this guy.
Pro player Melissa DeTora offered up a couple of pretty solid decklists that featured Preeminent Captain on TCGPlayer back in 2014. There was a Red/White Heroic list and a Red/White Aggro list which is featured below.
R/W Aggro – Melissa DeTora
4 Boros Elite
3 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
4 Dryad Militant
4 Precinct Captain
4 Preeminent Captain
4 Soldier of the Pantheon
4 Spark Trooper
Non Creature Spells (12)
4 Boros Charm
4 Brave the Elements
2 Hall of Triumph
2 Spear of Heliod
4 Battlefield Forge
2 Mana Confluence
4 Sacred Foundry
Oh, yeah, Dryad Militant is a Soldier, too. This is a great list. Unfortunately, while Red/White Aggro decks, both Heroic and not, enjoyed competitive success, they left Preeminent captain behind. Why is that?
There are a couple of fairly easy explanations. The Standard rotation did knock out a lot of great Soldiers from Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash. Even then, though, there were still plenty of Soldiers left for Preeminent Captain to throw into play. But, were any of them worth it? Unlike in the old days, there wasn't a tribal deck like Kithkins that Preeminent Captain could accelerate with explosive plays.
The best thing that Preeminent Captain could put into play after the rotation of Spark Trooper was Brimaz, King of Oreskos. One of the best parts of Brimaz is that he brings a 1/1 token with vigilance with him when he attacks. Since he comes into play without declaring an attack off of Preeminent Captain, he was basically a 3/4 vanilla when he first entered play. Sure, it's worth putting him into play, but without the token, he becomes considerably less valuable.
Also, because he didn't really benefit Heroic decks, most players didn't see a benefit to including him. Boros Aggro was definitely a deck, too, but people decided they'd rather play a double strike creature like Fabled Hero in the three-drop slot rather than Preeminent Captain who, while a fine creature, didn't really fit into that Standard environment. He proved to just be a bit too slow and his payoff just wasn't enough.
It's too bad, because Preeminent Captain is a great card that needed a reprint for quite a long time. Of course, people played him Standard, but not with great success. He simply didn't find a chance to play a competitive role.
But with the Modern format becoming a thing, would he find his way into a deck into the relatively new Modern metagame?
Preeminent Captain in Modern
The short answer when it comes to Preeminent Captain in Modern is no. Preeminent Captain doesn't see competitive play in Modern. At least, not yet.
Soldiers are a tribe that continue to get support set after set. Knights are the better tribe in Modern, though, since they have the powerful Knight Exemplar as a Lord. Soldiers don't really have anything like that. But, a Soldier deck in Modern is certainly playable, if not super competitive.
In Modern, Preeminent Captain has powerful allies in Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Brimaz, King of Orekos, and even Precinct Captain (who creates a token when he deals combat damage to a player, so he works well with Preeminent Captain.) Of course, you have the old standby of Captain of the Watch. Even in the fairly quick Modern format, if you manage to declare an attack with Preeminent Captain putting Captain of the Watch into play, that's pretty tough to answer.
The reason a deck that centers around abusing Preeminent Captain is so difficult to build in Modern is that Lightning Bolt and Anger of the Gods are around. He simply won't last long enough to really do a lot. Captain of the Watch has a similar problem, being a 3/3, and she had to deal with Lightning Bolt when it was in Standard with her in Magic 2010. The only way that you can make this deck work is to have lots of +1/+1 buffs. It's doable, certainly, but Field Marshal certainly isn't enough and the other best Soldier lords aren't Modern-playable.
If there's a really good Soldier Lord printed in the future, then yes, a deck with Preeminent Captain could at least be a fun deck that could win at some local Modern tournaments.
Overall, Preeminent Captain is a primarily casual card. In that capacity, he's plenty good. He serves a role in Commander decks like Darien, King of Kjeldor and Odric, Master Tactician, who play a lot of Soldiers that Preeminent Captain can accelerate into play. He's a pretty good creature who can do some fairly unfair things if the right creature is printed. He'll need to have a better play than Captain of the Watch to make it in today's Magic, but for what he is, Preeminent Captain is a darn good Soldier who's already enjoyed his day in the sun.
Will he rise again? Only time, and the printing of more cards, will tell.
How would you use Preeminent Captain?