Coming back from Grand Prix Birmingham where Riley and I animated the coverage booth, it was fairly obvious that red decks were dominating the format. With six Goblin Chainwhirler decks in the Top 8, you had to be prepared to beat Mountains at the Pro Tour. So I started looking for new things and unsuccessfully brewed a few decks, never being really satisfied. At some point, I had to clean up my Magic Online deck library to delete all the failed attempts at breaking the format.
I stumbled upon one of the decks I showcased a few weeks back, Mono-White Approach, that I hadn't deleted yet. Interesting. I remember not liking The Immortal Sun in the deck, the only real source of card advantage. If only there was another colorless source of card advantage...
You know where I'm going. Karn, Scion of Urza was a shoe-in for this deck.
Karn does pretty much everything this deck wanted. It provides a relatively cheap source of card advantage that you can defend fairly easily, especially with Fumigate. This deck always has use for extra lands to activate an Arch of Orazca and play a spell on the same turn. It serves as a win condition as well since the Construct Tokens have the potential to grow fast alongside the Treasures made by Treasure Map and the other artifacts in the deck.
Karn finds your Approach faster, one of the reasons there are only two in the main deck. It digs for the first one, and when you play it, it's not unusual to be able to play it again (the same one) on the following turn. After you cast it, activate Karn (two cards), then on the following turn, draw for your draw step, activate karn again (5 cards deep), sac a combination of Treasures with a Treasure Cove and Relics and cast the Approach again if you have enough mana.
Or you can use the other addition to the deck, a card I already mentioned as one of my favorite lands: Zhalfirin Void. It can scry down one of the six cards you have to get rid of to find the Approach. The reason why I love this card so much is that it's basically an Opt that cost zero mana to cast and don't occupy slots in your deck as you'd play four lands instead anyway. The deck was vulnerable to draws poor in action or when you couldn't find your fifth land for Fumigate. It now has access to free library manipulation, making it the most stable deck I got to play in the format.
Last but not least was the addition of Seal Away. The deck was also lacking in early removal (Glint-Sleeve Siphoner and Bomat Courier were problematic). Baffling End had its limits – it couldn't deal with Hazoret the Fervet or Glorybringer and you had to match them with Cast Out or Ixalan's Binding. No more.
There you have it, the newer, nicer, better, stronger version of a deck a lot of people loved already. And guess what? It's designed to beat red decks.
First let's break down the strategies of the two different red decks you'll be facing in the next few weeks: Mono-Red and Black-Red.
Mono-Red will beat you down early with fast creatures then overextend or play its heavier spells to push the last few damage and put you at burn range to finish you off. Black-Red will have sensibly the same strategy, although a little slower with creatures and vehicles that most decks will have trouble dealing with.
Mono-White Approach has the tools to beat both decks.
Against Mono-Red, the early white removal (Baffling End and Seal Away) will take care of the early beaters. If you manage to cast a Fumigate, it's mostly game over. Their long-term Game Plan is to eternalize Earthshaker Khenra or get through with Hazoret. Unfortunately for them, unless you killed a Khenra with a Fumigate, it will likely be exiled. As for Hazoret, you should be able to keep it from damaging you too much thanks to Cast Out and Seal Away.
Both creatures can be partially neutralized by Sorcerous Spyglass. I agree, it's not the best way to deal with them, but since you have the Spyglass in your deck you might as well put it to good use. It prevents your opponent from activating the eternalize ability of the Khenra or the discard ability of the God. Once you stabilize the board, you'll have access to life gain with the Orazca Relic and Approach of the Second Sun to make sure you get out of burn range.
Against Black-Red, the Game Plan will be different. You still deal with the early threats with Seal Away and Baffling End – these two cards are the best answers out there to Scrapheap Scrounger – then Ixalan's Binding will lock them out of their late Game Plan if you play it on a Chandra, Torch of Defiance or a Rekindling Phoenix.
The only threat that's hard to handle is Heart of Kiran (it's immune to both Seal Away and Baffling End). For that, you have more expensive answers (Cast Out and Ixalan's Binding) – not the best in terms of mana efficiency here, but also Invoke the Divine and Sorcerous Spyglass. Depending on if they're running Abrade or not, you'll be safe from the vehicle for a little bit.
-1 Gideon's Intervention
-1 Karn, Scion of Urza
-2 Treasure Map
-1 Sorcerous Spyglass
+1 Gideon of the Trials
+1 Invoke the Divine
+4 Walking Ballista
-2 Sorcerous Spyglass
-2 Ixalan's Binding
-1 Invoke the Divine
-1 Treasure Map
-2 Karn, Scion of Urza
+1 Gideon's Intervention
+4 Regal Caracal
+4 Walking Ballista
Note that depending on the version you play against, the ins and outs may vary and the above guide just aims at giving you some direction.
Both matchups before board are very favorable. The strength of Black-Red is that it can switch to a more controlish deck full of hand disruption and planeswalkers.
If you don't change to a creature plan, you'll have a tougher time dealing with the planeswalkers. Regal Caracal and the tokens can be quite vulnerable (and also don't work very well with your own Fumigates). They keep or add Abrade after board and most likely keep their Chainwhirlers, so there's a chance the Cats don't survive. So our best option is to at least bring Walking Ballista, which are great to deal with Bomat Courier and Thopter Tokens and can pressure the planeswalkers.
There's an argument for Lyra Dawnbringer, but it's just not great. At least, not here. Once they're aware of your sideboard plan, they'll keep their Unlicensed Disintegration and have a soft target in the Angel. They usually keep them "just in case," and you want them to stick to their hands as much as possible. So you spend five mana in the hope to have an easy win, just to have it die and lose three life. It also dies to Doomfall, which is a shame.
To play around your Ixalan's Binding, Black-Red will try to diversify its threats. Gideon's Intervention won't be as good after board. However, Mono-Red doesn't have the luxury to do that and will suffer from both Ixalan's Binding and Gideon's Intervention. They're both four-drops, so you don't want to have too many of them, but Gideon's Intervention naming Hazoret will protect you and your Karn from its attacks and activations. If you're afraid of Chandra, you can pre-emptively name the planeswalker so it can't be played at all. Gideon's Intervention protects you from the two damage of her +1 ability, but doesn't keep her from providing mana or making the emblem (which will eventually kill you).
-4 Seal Away
-3 Baffling End
-2 Approach of the Second Sun
+4 Regal Caracal
+4 Walking Ballista
+1 Gideon of the Trials
+1 Ixalan's Binding
+1 Sorcerous Spyglass
+2 Gideon's Intervention
+1 Invoke the Divine (if needed instead of an Ixalan's Binding)
The plan against control is to take out all removal for threats and more versatile spells. You don't want to rely on Approach of the Second Sun against counters. Walking Ballista provides a safety net against Glint-Sleeve Siphoner.
I really liked the deck, and it took a lot for me to drop it a couple of hours before deck submission to pick a deck I hadn't played a single game with (Blue-Black control). The problem was the White-Blue control match is very hard. I tried a lot of different options, the best one being capping out on Gideon's Interventions and Sorcerous Spyglass to keep them from playing Teferi and/or Cast Out. Sometimes it worked, but you're a big underdog in game one and time was becoming an issue to win two games in a timely manner. History of Benalia didn't do enough either. Against inexperienced players, the strategy works. At the Pro Tour, it would have been a little harder.
The matchup against black-green decks boarding in lots of Nissa and Vraska, Relic Seeker was a nightmare after board that I couldn't find a reliable solution to (even though it's not unwinnable). Sorcerous Spyglass could hold for a bit, but if you don't find your Approach of the Second Sun fast enough they would dismantle your defences with a combination of Naturalize and Thrashing Brontodon.
It is also very possible that my testing was biased and that my win rate against these decks dropped as soon as my teammates knew my list. I couldn't win a lot of White-Blue Control matches in real life, but I actually rarely lose them online.
So if you expect a lot of Mountains, this deck is what you need. If Control and Black-Green become popular for some reason, it's probably better to stay away from the sun. If you find a way to beat these decks, played by good players, keep me posted!