White Weenie is the deck to beat in Standard right now. It comprised half the Top 8 in Baltimore last weekend. Everyone's been talking about Mono-White Humans, U/W Humans and G/W Humans. Today I'm going to tell you how to beat these decks.
And if you're on the White Weenie side I'll also tell you how to adapt to the expected hate.DECKID= 1263620
Shaheen Soorani and Ali Aintrazi played a similar Esper Dragons list in Baltimore, but they didn't know Humans would be as popular as they were. Now that the metagame is more clearly defined and we know that we can't skimp on hate for Humans, I made a few changes with the Human tribe in mind.
From Shaheen/Aintrazi's SCG Baltimore list I replaced four Evolving Wilds with a fourth Prairie Stream, fourth Shambling Vent, second Plains and fourth Swamp. I also moved two Transgress the Mind and the fourth Painful Truths from the main to the sideboard, replacing them with a fourth Foul-Tongue Invocation and a third and fourth Languish. This is how I would want my main deck to look if my goal is to win the opening game against the Human decks.
The way the matchup plays out is that the Humans swarm the battlefield early with one-drops and two-drops. Meanwhile the Esper deck's plan is to setup for a fourth turn Languish. This will usually be a three-for-one, but will leave the Esper player low on life. They'll then have to use Foul-Tongue Invocation and Ojutai's Command to regain life so they can keep casting their spells such as Painful Truths and Anguished Unmaking.
Casting Languish is a necessary step but is not sufficient by itself for winning the game. The Humans deck can usually recover from the first sweeper and put the control deck back on the ropes a turn or two later. The second Languish is usually backbreaking, but a lot of the time a combination of Foul-Tongue Invocation and some dragons or Planeswalkers will also seal the deal.
The versions of Humans that go higher on the curve for Archangel of Tithes, Dragonlord Ojutai, and/or Archangel Avacyn is less likely to lose to the second Languish but more likely to lose to slower draws involving more individual removal spells. For instance, if Esper casts Languish and the white deck then taps out for Archangel of Tithes on the following turn, Esper can play Ob Nixilis Reignited, killing the Angel and stabilizing the board without the need for a second sweeper. The Mono-White Humans list tends to instead follow up with two or three more creatures, making the Ob Nixilis line much less effective.
Regardless of which version of Humans I'm running, I don't want to face an Esper deck that packs the full playset of Languish and Foul-Tongue Invocation. Those cards are a nightmare to beat!DECKID= 1263621
Another deck that was popular this weekend that technically is not considered a White Weenie deck, despite running Knight of the White Orchid, is the Black/White Wasteland Strangler deck that I played all of last season. The game plan of the deck is to control the board early while simultaneously playing out threats and then turn the corner in the midgame and win with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar or Archangel Avacyn.
The list that finished in the Top 8 in Baltimore had reasonable game against the Humans decks, but my list is much more focused on making it sure it beats them.
I run the full playset of both Silkwrap and Declaration in Stone. This keeps the early game from getting out of hand. It also provides us with eight turn 2 setup cards for a third turn Wasteland Strangler. That's a really tough opening for any Humans deck to keep up with since the Wasteland Strangler can then block and trade with a third threat. Then on the fourth turn Gideon, Ally of Zendikar can make a token to block yet another creature while also protecting himself long enough to slowly take over the game with a steady stream of tokens.
Archangel Avacyn is a way to eat yet another attack, including Dragonlord Ojutai. Anguished Unmaking and Duress are our ways to deal with Always Watching, though oftentimes we just kill all their guys and leave them stranded with nobody left to watch. Hangarback Walker and Knight of the White Orchid can also be formidable blockers early that can keep us from falling behind.
Post-board we bring in Felidar Cub as an additional answer to Always Watching and also to Stasis Snare or Silkwrap if they run those. I don't want to face this version of B/W Midrange if I'm playing Humans. It's a steep uphill battle that only gets harder as the game progresses. They could even run Languish in the sideboard if they choose to go that route, which would make things even more difficult. My version instead runs more cards for the control matchups since we have so many cards main deck that are bad against control (Wasteland Strangler, Silkwrap, Declaration in Stone, etc).
While Esper Dragons and B/W Midrange can be very difficult matchups for Humans, neither is as bad as our worst matchup.DECKID=1263622
Radiant Flames and Languish have been the two scariest cards to face from the Humans side, so I wanted to build the "nightmare" matchup deck to see just how bad it is. Let me be the first to tell you, it's bad. Fortunately nobody seems to be playing this type of deck, at least not yet.
The game plan is to spend the first couple turns setting up our mana via Evolving Wilds, Oath of Nissa, and Traverse the Ulvenwald. Then on the third turn we want to play Radiant Flames, wiping the Humans board before any of their creatures can grow large enough to survive the sweeper. Then on the following turn we Languish away their attempt to rebuild from the Radiant Flames. This should leave them crippled and barely able to muster any pressure. That's when we rely on cards like Ultimate Price to take care of their last threat or their larger creature such as Archangel of Tithes.
The Planeswalkers and Dragonlord Atarka are the ways to close out the games while also dealing with the final threat. Nahiri, the Harbinger can get rid of Always Watching and/or kill an angel or dragon after it attacked once. Ultimate Price can likewise kill just about anything short of Dragonlord Ojutai. Sorin, Grim Nemesis and Ob Nixilis Reignited will put the game out of reach in a hurry while Chandra can take care of Dragonlord Ojutai and everything else (except Archangel of Tithes, which the other walkers can handle). Dragonlord Atarka can also kill and block anything from the Humans decks and you can search for the dragonlord with Traverse the Ulvenwald or with Nahiri, the Harbinger.
If you expect a lot of Dragonlord Ojutai in your metagame, you can replace Ultimate Price with Foul-Tongue Invocation and you can move the third Dragonlord Atarka to the main to be able to more reliably gain the life from the Invocation.
This deck is basically a nightmare, especially for the Mono-White Humans list since it runs eight sweepers that can efficiently wipe the Humans board clean. Then it also has Planeswalkers and Dragonlord Atarka to keep the Humans from ever being able to get back into the game post-sweepers. Your Humans opponents definitely will not want to face you if this is the deck you're running.
How Will Humans Fight Back?
After the first week of Shadows Over Innistrad Standard, the White Weenie Humans decks put up such an impressive showing that now they have a giant target on their foreheads. I expect the Invitational this weekend to be filled with White Weenie decks just like last week, but this time I also expect there to be more hate. Control decks are beginning to know what they need in order to beat the little white creatures. I expect even more copies Languish, Radiant Flames, Silkwrap and in general a much more prepared field.
So this begs the question, "How will Humans fight back?"
G/W Humans has Dromoka's Command to combat Radiant Flames. You can prevent all damage from the spell while also choosing whichever other mode is most useful. This will likely be the mode of putting a counter on one of your creatures. Dromoka's Command is also very good in the mirror as it forces the opponent to sacrifice their Always Watching or Stasis Snare.
Eerie Interlude has been the answer of choice to Languish for a lot of the Humans lists and I expect that to remain a popular answer. The problem is that you have to apply enough pressure to the board early such that you can't really afford to leave your mana untapped on the third turn. Otherwise you'll sacrifice too much tempo and lose to opposing draws that don't even contain a sweeper. In order to continue the pressure for an extra turn without overextending into the sweeper, I expect more people to play Vryn Wingmare.
Vryn Wingmare is not a Human but it's an evasive threat that adds pressure to the board while prolonging an opposing sweeper for an extra turn. It also has the added benefit of prolonging Collected Company for an extra turn, which can be huge again that popular matchup.
Some of the U/W Humans decks are running Negate as an answer to Languish and Dispel as an efficient answer to Collected Company. I expect these trends to also continue, but I expect more Clash of Wills to pop up. That card essentially performs the same function as Negate on a pivotal turn while also being flexible enough to counter a Planeswalker or Dragonlord in the matchups you would bring it in to stop Languish.
Clash of Wills also works nicely with Reflector Mage. You bounce their important creature and attack them. Then the following turn they won't be able to replay it because of the Reflector Mage ability, so then on your following turn you can hold up Clash of Wills mana to counter it when they replay it that turn. I expect this situation to come into play against Dragonlord Silumgar, Wasteland Strangler and Goblin Dark-Dwellers since decks running Languish will also run these types of creatures too.
Only time will tell if Humans will be able to fight off the hate and maintain their dominance of Standard. They are forcing the metagame to adapt, but now they must adapt themselves.
Craig Wescoea href="https://twitter.com/Nacatls4Life">@Nacatls4Life on Twitter