18,000 Words: White Weenie – Fiends

Welcome back to another installment of 18,000 words, in which I once again pay off the debt I owe society, word by word. This week, we’re looking at Christophe Lippert’s Fiends and Joachim Hoh’s White Weenie.
Word-O-Meter: 2500/11900 Words (21% Complete)

Welcome back to another installment of 18,000 words, in which I once again pay off the debt I owe society, word by word. Before we get started this week with the grand festivities, I’d like to clarify a couple of issues for some of you readers out there.

When it came time for me to pay the piper on this friendly wager, I decided that it’d be a lot more interesting for all involved if my articles were written in context of why certain cards didn’t see play in Extended. I’m not trying to push upon you that white is the best color in Extended (it is), or that everyone should play white in Extended (they should). I certainly wouldn’t put subliminal messages in parenthesis (yes I would).

Anyhow, the point I’m trying to make is that to liven up this whole column, I figured to explain what decks I expected to see certain cards appear in, and why they didn’t appear. Last week was Fluctuator week, so I explained, 100 words per card (a little over that, to be exact), why Fluctuator didn’t see play at PT Houston and what a Fluctuator deck may have looked like, had it seen play.

Some of you didn’t like that.

Well, this week I’m going to present to you a look at white weenie, set review style. You love em, you hate em. I hate em, I’ve written em before. I asked Ferrett to set up a poll so you, the reader, could vote on which style you preferred. Here’s how that conversation went:

Me: Ferrett, I’d like to set up a poll so readers could vote which style of writing they preferred.

Pet Store Owner (brandishing gun): Boy, if you don’t get the hell out of here and stop harassing my rodents, I’m gonna fill you full of buckshot!

Ha! See how original my jokes are? Long story short, there shall be no poll due to financial considerations (I have no finances). Instead, I ask that you take the time to post in the nifty StarCity forums with your vote:

A) Essay Style (Fluctuator Article)

B) Set Review Style (This Article)

It’s as easy as that!

(For those who don’t know, the forum link for this article can be reached from the top of the article, near the title of the article).

Kai Budde wrote a great article for the Sideboard about a week ago about Fiends circa GP: Reims. I’d like to note that no less than four cards that didn’t appear at PT: Houston in my original list made the top eight at an 833 person Grand Prix Reims:

I felt vindicated by the results of Reims. Two white weenie decks made the top eight. How many Oath in the top eight? Zero. Aluren? Zero. Reanimator? Zero. The Rock? Zero. Angry Hermit Part Two? Zero. Sligh? A bajillion and a half.

“But Ben,” many have protested,”you’re talking about a tournament where any schmoe can enter. It’s like a giant PTQ! Those results don’t count, compared to the Pro Tour.”

Hogwash. I completely concede that there is a higher average quality of player at PT Houston compared to GP Reims. On the other hand, take a look at the players entering day two, in order of their finish after round nine (the last round of day one):

DISCLAIMER: I’m not 100% familiar with all the foreign players out there. If I’ve horribly omitted someone who should be on this list, I apologize ahead of time. Please e-mail me at [email protected] and let me know that I’ve left someone dear and special off, and I’ll do my best to remember them next time a list like this comes around. *DISCLAIMER*

1st: Patrick Mello

2nd: Dirk Baberowski

3rd: Bram Snepvangers

4th: Raphael Levy

5th: Christoph Lippert

10th: Manuel Bevand

31st: Ruud Warmenhoven

33rd: Victor van den Broek

34th: Christophe Haim

36th: Anton Jonsson

39th: Olivier Ruel

40th: Reinhard Blech

41st: Amiel Tennenbaum

44th: Sam Gomersall

47th: Marco Blume

49th: Some guy named Kai

55th: Antoine Ruel

56th: Nicolas Labarre

That reads pretty close to a ‘who’s who’ in European Magic folks. But we’ll see how White Weenie does this coming week at GP New Orleans. Mayyyybe it’ll do well, mayyyybe it’ll fail horribly. More people are going to be playing it than ever before, though. That’s gaining a little respect, having people take the deck to a tournament.

I suppose we should start with this week’s cards at some point. This seems like an arbitrarily good place to begin.

Nova Cleric: At worst, Nova Cleric provides a 1/2 body for one mana. This alone makes it an interesting choice to play against Lackey Sligh – they must spend their first turn burning it out of the way, else their Lackey can’t hit. Sligh, however, won’t have that hard of a time getting rid of a two-toughness creature. At best, Nova Cleric serves as an on-board deterrent against opposing enchantments.

One of the greatest weaknesses of white weenie is susceptibility to Pernicious Deed; with a first-turn active Nova Cleric, you’ve forced a Rock or Oath player to hold back their board sweeper until they’ve got enough mana to both drop and activate. In addition, it potentially kills Oath of Druids, Engineered Plague, and Aluren.

Exalted Angel: You’ll hear it again and again-white scoops to Pernicious Deed. The Angel provides an attractive option to the white deck: A fourth turn 4/5 flyer that effectively is Deed-proof. Most black decks are not running spot removal (such as Dark Banishing, Vendetta, or Snuff Out), instead opting for Diabolic Edict. With the vast quantity of one- and two-drops available to white weenie, it’s not hard to get Edict protection for a face-down Angel. On the fourth turn, it suddenly becomes a huge monster which swings the race two ways in your favor. While it most certainly won’t survive against Sligh without help from Absolute Law or Mother of Runes, it can be fast enough to race in the games it does survive.

True Believer: Another solid weenie which didn’t see play in Houston, but has been growing in popularity since. It prevents you from being burned out by Sligh while on the table (since they must kill him first to target you), while halting Duress, Diabolic Edict, Cabal Therapy, Erratic Explosion, and other forms of player targeted nastiness. 2/2 for two is par for the course, and probably where white has the biggest glut of two-drop utility creatures in the format. What’s the right mix of Meddling Mage, Whipcorder, True Believer, Soltari Monk, Soltari Priest, and Spectral Lynx to fit into a deck? Without Empyrial Armor, it’s hard to make an argument for the shadow creatures, leaving more play time for this cleric.

Devoted Caretaker: What’s the difference between this creature and Nova Cleric? Both give you the same body for the same mana, but this little guy shines against Sligh. Unlike the Onslaught creature, the Caretaker can stop all forms of direct damage on this side of Cursed Scroll, plus play turn one Lackey blocking duties. While not as exciting as Mother of Runes, the Caretaker can serve a purpose against most spot removal (stopping Topple and red burn). Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the broad utility of Nova Cleric (hosing the key enchantments of several decks). While it seems like this would be a better deck choice against Sligh than Nova Cleric, it’s significantly weaker against The Rock, Aluren, and Oath.

Phantom Nomad: Anther solid two drop for white, but unspectacular. In a Sligh-heavy metagame, doesn’t this seem like a usable card? Your opponent would have to kill it twice (burn it after you blocked a two-toughness creature), which Sligh can certainly do – but can the red deck afford to lose tempo and cards that early in the game? Phantom Nomad seems to be a little too defensively oriented two power two drop – most of its benefits come from being able to block twice (against Spiritmonger or Sligh) and not from being able to attack as a 1/1 after being blocked once. On the other hand, a lot of white decks played Divine Sacrament or Crusade – and with one of those enchantments out, the Nomad becomes immortal as far as damage goes.

Benevolent Bodyguard: Mother of Runes numbers four and a half through six. The Mother undoubtedly is good – but how about as a one shot creature? On the plus side, the Bodyguard can both attack and give a creature protection from x… But on the down side, it’s a one-time effect. You can’t stuff a white weenie deck with too many one drops, since they aren’t as offensively oriented as red, green or black’s one-drops (which all have multiple two-power one-drops). Ah, for a Savannah Lion! (Note: This note and the proceeding sentence were not counted as part of the 100 words for this card). Ramosian Sergeant plays a double role in most white decks – it not only fetches multiple Whipcorders with impunity, but also takes the bullet for most Diabolic Edicts. Since this guy doesn’t stick around after use, he’s probably not good enough to see play in the current Extended. It might be better if suddenly Jokulhaups or Earthquake become good, but I don’t see either one of these happening just yet.

Suntail Hawk: What if the white deck went pure offense? This 1/1 flyer is, ironically, the best offensive creature white has to offer in the one slot right now. This explains why most white decks are based around utility, tricks and card advantage (Rebels, Mother of Runes, Spectral Lynx, Meddling Mage) and not pure beatdown. Could this compete with Jackal Pup, Goblin Cadets, Carnophage, or Sarcomancy? No. Could you build a deck with multiple Crusades and other creature pumping effects to make even 1/1 guys like this one work? Probably not, since you’d be dead to shadow creatures and/or burn before you even got going. However, should Legions (or a later set) add better beatdown creatures to white, the Hawk might become a playable option.

Battle Screech: Four power in flyers for four mana and three tapped creatures. While the Screech certainly doesn’t present itself as an exciting option when hard-cast, someone might have developed a flashback-based design for Houston which utilized this card. I certainly didn’t expect to see it get played in any established archetype. U/G Madness has risen to respectability in Extended the past few weeks, so perhaps there’s a place for W/U madness as well – problem is, there doesn’t seem to be very much to discard it to in the format. In addition, who wants to tap three creatures to make two 1/1 flyers if it’s played from the graveyard via Entomb or (more likely) Quiet Speculation?

Devout Witness: Compare to Nova Cleric. Two more mana to get into play, and only one more power. While Nova Cleric can sit in wait, keeping nasty enchantments off the board, the Witness will usually come down after said enchantments (Oath/Deed/Aluren), making it about one to two turns too slow when drawing, and even speed to one turn slow when playing. To its advantage, this spellshaper both can be reused, and can destroy artifacts. Cursed Scroll can kill Devout Witness. White has better answers in this format (Seal of Cleansing, Disenchant), making a vulnerable Grey Ogre a less than appealing option. Perhaps it might be passable if Tinker ever became playable again.

Soltari Visionary: Much of the same problems as Devout Witness, except that added evasion gives the Visionary an offensive punch. Need to kill Oath of Druids? Sorry, but the turn you spent casting the Visionary allowed the Oath player to get a 10/10 Cognivore into play. Need to kill Aluren? Sorry, they drew infinite cards in response to you plunking down the Visionary for free. About the only problematic enchantment this card is good against is Pernicious Deed – except in the mirror. Most white decks aren’t running shadow creatures right now, which allows the Visionary to gank Seal of Cleansing (if for some reason it’s on board), Worship, Crusade, Divine Sacrament, Engineered Plague, and Parallax Wave (or at least force a use-it-or-lose-it situation). The Visionary seems passable against a slower deck (such as the Rock or the White on White Mirror) but inferior to other choices when you need to kill an enchantment now.

Pegasus Stampede: Here’s an interesting card. Of all the cards I’m discussing today that haven’t seen play yet, this seems the most likely candidate. The Stampede allows you to trade resources – in this case lands for creatures, multiple times a turn. Just had your board cleared by Deed? Sac a few lands, put three Pegasi into play. Next turn, drop Divine Sacrament, swing for nine, game. With decks that play the Sacrament, this serves the dual purpose of getting you threshold. Let’s face it – aside from Flooded Strand, Hoh’s deck didn’t have many ways to reach threshold. This card, as a single copy, might add a little bit of staying power to white decks after a board-clearing. I don’t think I’d play multiples, but perhaps this has a place in the sideboard against The Rock?

Sacred Guide: I didn’t expect this to see play at all, but it was a part of several PT LA three white weenie decks from way back when – during the Tempest Block Constructed tournament that Dave Price won, in which only Tempest, including Cursed Scroll, was legal, so it made my list. If it didn’t remove cards from the game when sacrificed, it might have been Hermit Druids numbers five through eight in Angry Ghoul. Probably not, since it doesn’t get the Mountain you need to fuel the haste end of the combo. I guess it could chump block for a turn and get you a replacement card, but that doesn’t seem too strong for the loss of tempo you’d incur (turn 1 cast, turn 2 activate, turn 3 first real play of the game).

That’s it for this week! Remember, please post in the forums and let your opinion be known! Do you want this in essay format (more of a ‘big picture’ explanation such as in week one) or card review format (like this week’s, taking cards out of context but giving each more attention)? Let your voice to heard!

Next week, we’ll take part two of a look at White Weenie – the creature enhancers. After that, I’ll spend some time examining GP New Orleans, and finishing up my look at White Weenie decks.

Ben Bleiweiss

[email protected]

(P.S.: Feel free to e-mail me with thoughts, comments and questions. I don’t bite.)

Cards covered this week:

  1. Battle Screech
  2. Benevolent Bodyguard
  3. Devoted Caretaker
  4. Devout Witness
  5. Exalted Angel
  6. Nova Cleric
  7. Pegasus Stampede
  8. Phantom Nomad
  9. Sacred Guide
  10. Soltari Visionary
  11. Suntail Hawk
  12. True Believer

Word-O-Meter: 2500/11900 Words (21% Complete)