Today I am going to share with you the 8-planeswalker white weenie deck I piloted to a 13th place finish at GP Chicago this weekend. I am then going to talk about several of the recently spoiled M15 cards and how I expect them to fit into white weenie.
Here is the list I ran at the Grand Prix:
If you want to see the deck in action, check out my Round 8 video feature match against Japanese pro player Yuuta Takahashi (Monoblack Devotion), who ended up finishing in fourth place in the tournament.
Overall the deck was pretty strong, though I think it over-performed a bit and was a handful of cards off from where it should have been. The biggest omission was Celestial Flare. I lost a game to Jund Monsters because I couldn't deal with Stormbreath Dragon. A single Celestial Flare would have reversed the result. I later lost a game to Blood Baron of Vizkopa where again a single Celestial Flare would have been enough. Celestial Flare is also an overall decent card against decks running either of these cards as you can use it to kill an early Sylvan Caryatid if they try to get greedy and block (as they usually do), or it can kill a Nightveil Specter or Lifebane Zombie that is blocking or chipping away at our life total. You can also kill a Desecration Demon with it in a pinch or on rare occasions blow out a Pack Rat or a Polukranos, World Eater. So I would add probably three Celestial Flare to the sideboard, cutting the Pithing Needle, Banisher Priest, and a Fiendslayer Paladin.
The other change I would make is to add a Spear of Heliod to the Sideboard. It's great against Golgari Charm and Drown and Sorrow, two cards that are seeing a lot more play recently in response to the rise of Monored Aggro decks. I would likely cut another Fiendslayer Paladin to make room for it.
The main deck was strong. It starts out with a lot of pressure and then wins the midgame fights with Brave the Elements and the two Planeswalkers. It also has six banishing effects to clear out blockers, get rid of Master of Waves, and nab Nightveil Specter to keep black decks low on Gray Merchant devotion. Against green decks it has the Gideon + Ajani combo to break through for 20 damage in one hit, or it also has Cavalry Pegasus to get the team past all the ground blockers. Keep in mind Gideon is also a human, so he can ride a Pegasus or be thrown into the air by Ajani.
Post board we get Last Breath and Banishing Light to further combat Master of Waves since each of those cards also deals with Nightveil Specter, Frostburn Weird, and generally any card in their deck. I would run four Last Breath, four Banishing Light, and four Banisher Priest in that matchup if space permitted. And as good as these cards are, Brave the Elements is our actual best card against Blue Devotion. It counters their removal, makes our guys unblockable, or lets us win combat fights in the rare cases where they arise. We're usually just attacking past each other though.
Against black decks they bring in a ton of removal, so it would be nice to have access to Spear of Heliod to force them to fight us on a one-for-one basis instead of being able to clean things up with Drown in Sorrow. Without being able to rely on a sweeper, we are at a pretty big advantage since our threats cost significantly less than their removal spells. We also have trumps ( Brave the Elements) and ways to replicate our threats (Precinct Captain and Brimaz, King of Oreskos) to weaken Devour Flesh. Cavalry Pegasus is our worst card here since half their creatures fly and a 1/1 for two is not great value, but it's still a body. We also have eight Planeswalkers that really tax their four Hero's Downfall, forcing them to use Thoughtseize to get rid of a walker instead of a Brave the Elements or a Banishing Light. The matchup is close and maybe even favorable, despite it looking bad on paper.
Against the Green Devotion decks we want the one Reprisal for their Polukranos, and we want Banishing Light for Garruk, Caller of Beasts. Ajani and Cavalry Pegasus allow us to fly past their defenses for damage or to kill a Garruk the turn after they play it. Brave the Elements can also do this for a turn or it can protect our team in response to a Polukranos monstrous trigger. Just make sure you allow the monstrous to resolve and then respond to the trigger after they choose their fight targets. Otherwise if you respond to them activating the monstrous ability, they can monstrous it again in response and still kill your creatures since the first attempt at becoming monstrous hasn't resolved yet. Also remember that, in addition to Gideon, Mutavault is also a human and thus can ride a Pegasus in the air.
Fiendslayer Paladin comes in against red aggro, black aggro, and Boros Burn. Don't make the mistake of bringing it in against black devotion. It is a supbar threat in that matchup and our three-slot is already overfilled. If you bring it in, you'll be sitting there with a hand full of three-drops, which plays perfectly into their plan of killing everything individually. Side out Banisher Priest in this matchup since it is a liability to have on the battlefield when entering combat. Banishing Light is great though. Brimaz is also great against the black decks or any deck aiming to kill all our stuff post board.Changes with Magic 2015
There are quite a few interesting options in M15 that I would like to say a few things about. Some are role players and others would move the deck in a new direction. In no particular order:
Stoneforge Mystic offered something that white decks rarely get: card advantage in the form of a tutor effect. As a result, it proved to be one of the best white cards in Standard history. Squadron Hawk was yet another white card with a similar ability and likewise saw rampant play in Standard. The effect on Heliod's Pilgrim is very similar in power level to that of Stoneforge Mystic (pre- Batterskull), albeit with one glaring drawback: it costs three mana instead of two. This makes it noticeably worse than the hawk or the mystic, especially since the three-slot is already by far the most contested spot on the curve in white, competing with Brimaz, King of Oreskos, Banisher Priest, Banishing Light, Ajani, Caller of the Pride, and Fiendslayer Paladin.
If somehow Heliod's Pilgrim proves powerful enough to earn a spot in the deck, he has a very strong supporting cast. For starters, he works very well in conjunction with Hero of Iroas since both cards are interested in Auras. Some one-of tutor targets will likely also include Mortal Obstinacy to combat enchantments and either Ordeal of Heliod or Gift of Orzhova against red decks. You would also likely run a copy of Pacifism and potentially Arrest. Holy Mantle could find a place in the deck, though Gift of Orzhova would likely be sufficient at satisfying the "needs evasion" or "needs to increase size" demands. Debtor's Pulpit is also a convenient answer to Stormbreath Dragon and Blood Baron of Vizkopa and Heliod's Pilgrim can get any aura, including "enchant land" auras such as the pulpit.
The card is powerful and if it had cost two mana I would be 100% advocating this card as the best card in the set. As is, I like it a lot but it will likely only be played in a dedicated Hero of Iroas deck.
This one was a staple in Soul Sisters and Martyr of Sands decks and may have a place in current Standard. We don't have Soul Warden, but we do have Soul Mender and a variety of other recurring lifegain cards such as Path of Bravery and Fiendslayer Paladin. Ajani's Pridemate fills an important role as it is one of few ways to leverage life gain into an actual advantage. It's unclear whether all the pieces will line up with this one, but the existence of this card at least opens up the possibility for white weenie to move in that direction.
Exalted was a great mechanic back in the Boros deck I played to a fifth place finish at the World Championship last year. Sublime Archangel was admittedly the main exalted engine in the deck but Knight of Glory was a great second turn play in the deck, immediately pumping my one-drop on the second turn. Kinsbaile Skirmisher accomplishes that same effect on the second turn, boosting a Soldier of the Pantheon or Dryad Militant to a 3/2. Unfortunately the bonus only lasts for one turn, so this one is unlikely to see play outside of 40 card decks.
Wall of Essence
At face value, this card is worse than Nyx-Fleece Ram, but in the current metagame I believe it will see more play than the sheep. The problem with the sheep is that when it blocks a creature it gets hit by a Lightning Strike or pumped out of combat by Titan's Strength, netting you zero life gain. Wall of Essence will die to the same removal spells and will block everything in the red decks just the same. The difference is that Wall of Essence will leave you with a few extra life points. Of course the tradeoff is that it's slightly worse against the Boros Burn deck because it really only holds at bay Mutavault and Eidolon of the Great Revel. Nyx-Fleece Ram does the same but also gains you a life per turn. I could see the two potentially working alongside each other out of the board, although Fiendslayer Paladin is likely still better. In any event, it's a card to consider since it's close to being the best albeit not quite the best option against red decks.
Avacyn, Guardian Angel
White Weenie decks don't typically go up to five mana, and even if they did, Archangel of Thune and Dictate of Heliod are probably better options than this. If this card sees play, it probably won't be in a white weenie deck.
Although on the surface it looks neat, in reality it doesn't solve the problems it would need to solve to make up for its narrow effect. Banishing Light is much less conditional and Celestial Flare solves the problems you would need a card like this to solve ("protection from white" creatures). Since this spell targets, it essentially does nothing worthwhile for constructed.
This one is interesting. We no longer have Chameleon Colossus to pair with this, but we do have Brimaz, King of Oreskos. I doubt this will make it into the top tier three-drops to consider for white weenie, though I would keep an eye out for a white Siege-Gang Commander type soldier card to push this into the realm of playable. Soldiers currently seem to be on the rise and something being pushed, so I would probably set the line around 25% for this one to see play at some point in the next two years. With the current soldiers in the format, however, it's probably closer to 5%.
Return to the Ranks
This is an interesting value card. It allows you to recover your creatures from a board sweeper (except Anger the Gods) or from a flurry of removal spells. Both these scenarios are common from the most played deck in the format (Monoblack Devotion) since their plan A involves sweeping our board with Drown in Sorrow and their plan B involves killing all our creatures individually with removal spells. I don't see it as much of a main deck card though as there are enough matchups where our creatures don't die frequently enough to merit holding it in hand all game (e.g. Green Devotion, Blue Devotion).
Soul of Theros
The effect is powerful, but six mana is a bit too much. I can't imagine wanting to run this over Elspeth, Sun's Champion even in the scenario where we want a six-mana card.
This card is really interesting. I've been wishing for a Doomed Traveler lately, given the prevalence of Devour Flesh, and this card does a reasonable impression. It's a little slow outside of the removal-heavy matchups, but the effect it generates is significantly more powerful on average than, say, Blind Obedience. When we also take into account anthem effects and the fact that the spirits fly, the card is certainly tournament playable. The bonus of being able to enhance other spirits may come into play with a card like Spirit of the Labyrinth, Keening Apparition, Obzedat, Ghost Council, or one of the bestow creatures (Hopeful Eidolon or Eidolon of Countless Battles). In some fantasy world Phantom General may even see play in conjunction with this card. It may take a Lingering Souls or a Spectral Procession to make that happen though.
Warden of the Beyond
The flavor on this card is neat, but a conditional Loxodon Smiter is not really that impressive considering the mana is good enough in Standard right now to splash green for actual Loxodon Smiter. If the payoff were higher, I could see this one being playable in a boros deck with Banishing Light, Banisher Priest, and Chained to the Rocks. As is, I doubt it will see any play.
I was very close to playing Fortify in my deck this past weekend. It buffs my team by two-power and it effectively counters a Drown in Sorrow or Golgari Charm. This one costs a mana more, so I doubt it will see play, but the instant speed team bonus is certainly a thing to keep on the radar.
Alright, so I'm assuming this is the one everyone has been waiting for me to talk about, so let's slow down a bit and discuss this in some extra detail. First off, the card is pretty awesome and I would put it about on par with Ajani Goldmane. The +1 ability will be relevant for getting a creature through in combat, winning races, and getting out of burn range against the red decks. It's a maindeck worthy card that gives us game against red and also protects us from black sweeper effects (Golgari Charm and Drown in Sorrow) with its -2 ability. The sweetest part about its -2 ability, however, is how it interacts with Elspeth, Sun's Champion. Let me explain:
If you have Ajani on the battlefield when you cast Elspeth, then you +1 Elspeth to make 3 soldiers and then immediately -2 Ajani to make the soldiers into 2/2 creatures. Already a pretty sweet turn, but next turn it gets even better! The following turn you -2 Ajani first, making the soldiers into 3/3's while also adding yet another counter to Elspeth. Elspeth will then have 7 loyalty and you can already ultimate her! That means, at minimum, you are attacking with 15 power worth of flying soldiers the turn after you play Elspeth! Granted the correct play will often be to wait a turn so that you get three more Soldier Tokens and can also keep both your planeswalkers around, but the fact that the two in tandem can combine to Threaten such an immediately powerful effect, even from an otherwise empty board, definitely demands attention. I didn't think it would be possible to top the Ajani, Caller of the Pride + Gideon, Champion of Justice combo among white planeswalkers, but Ajani Steadfast + Elspeth, Sun's Champion may have done exactly that.
Raise the Alarm
Ajani is the flashiest new white card, but the one I am personally most excited about so far is Raise the Alarm. It solves most of the same problems that Doomed Traveler would solve (see Devour Flesh) and it also works really well with anthem effects. One anthem effect in particular that I think Raise the Alarm will work very well with is Obelisk of Urd. Let's talk about that one next.
Obelisk of Urd
I see this as the new Tempered Steel. Hall of Triumph and Spear of Heliod are fine cards, but they are a bit overpriced for just a single pump. Honor of the Pure was perfect because it only costs two mana. Dictate of Heliod is powerful but five mana is a lot to ask from a weenie deck. Obelisk of Urd is essentially a Dictate of Heliod with a discount when you're short on lands, which is exactly the time you want the discount! It's a little difficult to conceptualize, so let me break it down into two scenarios:
Scenario 1: You are a bit flooded and light on threats, so you pay somewhere between four and six mana to play it and it is essentially equal in power level to Dictate of Heliod. But keep in mind this scenario is the time when Dictate of Heliod is at its best. Dictate is terrible when you are light on lands and can't cast it. So in the scenario where Dictate is good, Obelisk is also good.
Scenario 2: You are light on lands and heavy on threats. In this scenario Dictate of Heliod is bad because you can't cast it. Obelisk in this scenario, in contrast, is still good because even if you're stuck on two or three lands, you can tap out, tap all your creatures, and still cast it! So it's good even in the scenario where Dictate of Heliod is bad!
The one restriction with Obelisk is that in order to maximize it you need all or most of your creatures to be of a single creature type. Mutavault works great with it regardless of what type you choose. Insofar as white weenie is concerned, the creature types that are most relevant are: Humans, Soldiers, Spirits, and Cats. Brimaz is a cat soldier and many of white's best creatures are human soldiers. Spirits are probably a dead end right now but it sounds like more may be on the horizon in future sets.
Here is the soldier deck I've been working on:
In addition to the cards mentioned so far, there are also Battlefield Forge and Caves of Koilos. These are especially important for white weenie because it means we now have 12 untapped dual lands for each of the enemy colors plus four temples if we choose to include those. Shock lands, Mana Confluence, and now pain lands make splashing for cards like Mizzium Mortars, Lightning Strike, Boros Charm, Ultimate Price, or Athreos, God of Passage quite easy.
Next week I plan to talk about aggressive strategies of all different colors, focusing on what the enemy pain land cycle does to improve them (hint: Elvish Mystic is great!). It's possible that this plan will change a bit as more cards get spoiled. Spoiler season is always fun and M15 has more stuff than I expected with the potential to radically change Standard.
What card(s) are you most excited about from M15 that you would like my opinion on?
Craig Wescoe@Nacatls4Life on twitter