Ian Barber (YoungProdigy on Magic Online) finished in the Top 4 of a Standard Magic Online PTQ earlier this week with Mono-White Aggro. GhostXEmpire (@nerd_gazm) has since been streaming with it on Twitch and went 5-0 in multiple leagues, beating a wide range of decks including Golgari multiple times. Both players believe the deck is very strong and a good choice right now. Who am I to argue against such evidence and sound logic to back up someone's claim that white weenie is the best? Today I'm going to talk about YoungProdigy's updated list as well as how to play and sideboard with it.
The deck is fairly straightforward. You play out a bunch of small creatures and then pump them using a variety of anthem effects. Benalish Marshal pumps the whole team, Venerated Loxodon pumps the creatures that you convoke to cast it and History of Benalia pumps all your Knights, including the tokens it creates. Pride of Conquerors is basically the surprise anthem to win combat or finish off the opponent. I wouldn't play more than one as we usually cannot afford to let a card like this sit in our hand the whole game. One copy is manageable, but multiples will cause problems. We want to have a high-threat density to apply pressure early and often. There is only a very small space for a finisher card like this. It's possible it is supposed to be Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants since that card would fill a similar role, but for now I'd recommend sticking with the tried and true.
For basically the same reason for not wanting too many Pride of Conquerors, you also don't want too many removal spells in a hyper aggressive deck like this. But you need a handful to get rid of one or two problematic permanents over the course of a game. This deck runs three copies of Conclave Tribunal and one copy of Baffling End. There are more removal spells in the sideboard, but that is all the space the deck can afford for non-threats.
One of the best cards against this strategy is Goblin Chainwhirler. Fortunately, that card has dropped off considerably since rotation. On the draw it can hit most of our early threats, but when we're on the play we can often stick an anthem effect first, whether it be Benalish Marshal or Venerated Loxodon. If your opponent leads with Mountains, you can also slowroll some of your one-drops and then deploy them all at once the same turn you cast Venerated Loxodon since you can use them to convoke to cast the Elephant. This takes away the opportunity for the opponent to kill our creatures with old whirly boi.
One-drops are key to this strategy since you really want to get on the board starting from the very beginning. That is why we don't play the Memorial in the deck – tempo is just too important so we play 11 one-drops. Dauntless Bodyguard is basically a Savannah Lions on the first turn that also gets pumped by History of Benalia since it is a knight. Later in the game the bodyguard can come down and protect something else. Benalish Marshal is generally the creature we most want to protect, but really protecting anything with the Knight is free value.
Hunted Witness is Doomed Traveler 2.0. The token doesn't fly, which makes it a slight downgrade, but it's still a lot of value for a one-drop. It's the creature we are most willing to give up to the chainwhirler since we only lose half the value of the card when the front half dies. It is also a really good chump blocker in a race situation. Given the amount of anthems we have in the deck, it usually doesn't remain a 1/1 for long. This often forces the opponent to trade a creature or a spell for it, yielding a straight up 2-for-1.
Legion's Landing is the other one-drop. We have tons of cheap creatures to transform the enchantment, which then provides us extra mana to resolve any of our bigger spells if we happen to have a land-light hand. If our hand is not land-light, then it provides a way to make us of the extra mana by producing tokens. And the anthems in the deck make those tokens legitimate threats.
Adanto Vanguard is really good against most decks other than Red Aggro. Pretty much any matchup where paying where life is manageable, this card will shine. Against decks relying heavily on sweepers that deal damage or destroy, this is an all-star. It's pretty bad on defense, but excellent on offense.
Knight of Grace improved a lot with rotation because of the prevalence of Golgari. Being able to dodge black removal when from being not that relevant to very relevant. Knight of Grace was already powerful with its knight synergy with History of Benalia, but in the current metagame it has gotten even better. Remorseful Cleric doesn't often get sacrificed for value, but sometimes graveyards are relevant. Most of the time it is just an efficient two-power flying creature.
Let's now talk about some of the most common matchups and the sideboard strategies YoungProdigy used to nearly win the PTQ.
A lot of Golgari decks are becoming inbred to win the mirror, which seems correct in the current metagame filled with Golgari. This trend is good for us because our strategy is to go underneath and beat them before they get to enough mana to resolve Finality. Tocatli helps because it shuts off some of their key creatures such as Ravenous Chupacabra. Ajani also plays the same way that it does against control decks here by letting you overextend into their sweeper without actually overextending into it. In other words, it keeps the pressure on without committing another creature to the board to get wiped away by their mass removal spell. I might consider bringing in the Ixalan's Binding too if you suspect they have Doom Whisperer.
We have a reasonable amount of resiliency to sweepers between Dauntless Bodyguard making something else indestructible, Hunted Witness making a token when it dies, Adanto Vanguard gaining indestructible and History of Benalia being a token maker. Ian made a good point about Veteran Loxodon generally not being what we want to do in this matchup since it makes us more vulnerable to Wraths and also causes us to miss an important attack when we convoke it. I still think it's better than Knight of Glory since the Knight is basically just a Silvercoat Lion in this matchup, which is pretty abysmal. I could be wrong on this though because it does still get pumped by History of Benalia and having a low curve might prove to be more important than having an Elephant in the late game. And Baffling End is the most obvious first cut to make in the matchup.
Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants does a similar thing in this matchup that it does against Golgari, allowing us to continue applying pressure to the board without overextending into a sweeper. It's also a way to recur Bounty Agent to deal with a problematic permanent such as Lyra Dawnbringer, Niv-Mizzet or Search for Azcanta. It is quite an upgrade in this matchup from Knight of Glory. Ixalan's Binding and Sorcerous Spyglass are mostly answers to Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, but the Binding also doubles as an answer to the big legendary fliers. Izzet Control with drakes is similar to this matchup, but Adanto Vanguard is even better there.
In this matchup, we basically overhaul our strategy. Instead of trying to race the opponent with Savannah Lions, we protect our creatures from Goblin Chainwhirler while being the "little bit bigger" strategy that generally trumps aggro mirrors. So we board out a lot of our most vulnerable creatures and bring in life gain, cheap removal, and ways to gain card advantage. Use Baffling End on Steam Kin first.
Use removal on their Angels and force them to make trades in combat to keep them from being able to convoke their spells.
With enough anthems in the format and the shear strength of History of Benalia, this strategy is a much more formidable force to be reckoned with than might appear at first glance. If I were to add another color it would probably be red for Aurelia or Heroic Reinforcements since you get the eight dual lands in Boros colors, making Benalish Marshal just as easy to resolve as it is in mono-white. Green would be the other option, but there isn't really much we want to splash from green. If were to go the Selesnya route, we would probably have to play a heavier green component for things like Lkanowar Elves, which would like mean not being able to support Benalish Marshal. It could certainly still work, but the anthems are the main purpose of the deck. So my inclination is that mono-white is probably the best version of this archetype. The numbers and sideboard strategies may still need some adjusting as the metagame continues to evolve, but I think Ian pretty much nailed it. Great work!