2005 Championship Deck Challenge: Angry White Men

Welcome to the 2005 Championship Deck Challenge!

Welcome to StarCityGames.com’s 2005 Championship Deck Challenge, where each week some of the best writers we have square off against each other in a battle to deliver the best deck for States. Each deck must adhere to the theme for the week, and on Friday Supreme Arbiter Flores will choose a victor. This week’s theme: Build a Mono-Colored Monstrosity. Mark Young’s swipe at this theme involves one of the more common things you’ll see at States this year – attacking for two.

I didn’t really want to become the standard-bearer for White Weenie decks on Star City; that’s just the way it worked out. As soon as I saw Umezawa’s Jitte, I wanted to attach it to a Leonin Skyhunter, and the playtesting results were so interesting that I got two whole articles out of it. Similarly, even before I had seen a single Ravnica spoiler I knew that the White deck from block season would not lose much in the rotation, and so it was the first deck I was able to build and start testing.

I’ll tell you one thing, though, I hate the name White Weenie and you won’t be seeing me use it ever again. Maybe it worked five or six years ago, but so did running Soul Warden. Anyway, on to the decklist:

White Aggro v1.0

4 Suntail Hawk

4 Lantern Kami

4 Isamaru, Hound of Konda

4 Leonin Skyhunter

4 Hand of Honor

4 Umezawa’s Jitte

4 Otherworldly Journey

4 Glorious Anthem

3 Hokori, Dust Drinker

2 Shining Shoal

1 Eiganjo Castle

22 Plains

I wanted my first deck to be heavy with fliers, because the format seems prepared for ground-pounders. You have Quicksand and a new Wall of Blossoms in the format, both of which stop your men cold. Then there is the nightmarish Grave-Shell Scarab, who will kill your men with impunity, draw extra cards for your opponent, and then come back next turn to do it again. You probably knew this already, and you’ll definitely hear more about it in the upcoming weeks, but he is amazing.

In fact, a great many dredge cards may be turning up at States. The Golgari Grave-Troll is a very scary fellow; while he’s usually a 2/2 at best when you summon him the first time, his huge dredge cost ensures that he’ll be gigantic when he returns. Golgari Brownscale has a large behind and is also a life-gaining machine; both of these are terrible things to see when you’re running the small White creatures. You’d like to be able to fly over all of these poor fools.

Anyway, v1.0 was a nice deck, but some issues arose during deck construction and testing, causing me to make some changes:

1) Hunt This! I knew Hunted Lammasu was going to be awesome, but I had previously thought he didn’t give you too much against the Black/Green and mono-Blue decks, and that Hokori was a better use of your four-slots. However, he’s even more awesome than I thought. He’s the only one of the Hunted cycle who can simply block and kill the token he creates, and his gigantic body is better than White has ever had for this casting cost.

I wanted to run him, but I also had trouble giving up on Hokori. Hokori gives you a good out against just about everything; no matter what your opponent might be up to, you can always go with the plan of “establish board advantage + play Winter Orb.” In the end, I decided to split the difference between Lammasu and Dust Drinkers in the main deck, and have some backup in the sideboard. We’ll see how that works in some matchups later on.

The turning of the screw.

2) Lightning Helix is basically the awesomest card ever! Well, it’s a nice one. I’m not a big fan of using the Boros cards in my White deck, however. There are really only two cards I would consider that require White and Red mana: the Helix, and Skyknight Legionnaire. In the end, I didn’t want to make any cuts to fit these cards in, and I’m not sorry that it worked out that way. No matter how many pain lands you run, or how few cards you splash for, Murphy’s Law tells us that you’ll inevitably be color-screwed at some point. Sometimes, it’s worth risking the color-screw to make your deck that much stronger; in this case, I don’t think you need to take that risk just for a combination Lightning Bolt and Healing Salve.

That’s not to say that I’m completely opposed to the new Red or White/Red cards. I am intrigued by reviving the Kamigawa-Block W/R legends build, adding the Helix or Razia’s Purification to an already-powerful deck. If you wanted to splash any red cards into the decklists in this article, though, the only one I would recommend is Char, which kills your arch-enemy, the Clouded Mirror of Victory.

3) Suppression Field. I simply missed this card for far longer than I should have. It’s really absurd. Considering how quickly you’d like to be killing your opponents, making them pay two extra mana for activated abilities is virtually equivalent to Damping Matrix – especially since it comes down a turn earlier and additional copies are cumulative. It gets even better when you consider that most decks give themselves fewer outs against enchantments than they do against artifacts, especially since many players have The Fear of Umezawa’s Jitte.

Enter the deck box!

White Aggro v2.0 [I’d love to keep Mark’s deckname, but the database demands we call it White Weenie. Sorry, slick. – Knut]

I should note that the Jittes in the sideboard are what I like to call a “flexible” slot: it can change depending upon what kind of format you are expecting. Jitte is a nice surprise weapon out of the flexible slots; your opponents might not be expecting it if they saw Suppression Field in game 1. However, if certain decks threatened to take over the format, you might want different options here; I’ll be mentioning some options for these slots in specific matchups. Speaking of which…


I got in some games from the most popular decks from last Block season; however, I like to tinker with my decks a lot during this process so I didn’t play every game with the same White list. As a result, I won’t be dropping percentages on you; instead I’ll just try and give you the highlights and most important cards in each matchup.

Blue-based Control

A deck like Antonino De Rosa’s first-place build from GP: Salt Lake City has a very simple plan against you: Untap with Meloku in play on their side, and no Hokori in play on your side. They will stall you with countermagic, with Boomerang, with Jushi Apprentice and possibly Thieving Magpie as blockers. They’ll use their life total as a resource, figuring that if they have more than five life, you don’t have a burn spell that can touch them (because you can’t do a Shining Shoal for free with X greater than four).

However, there are a couple of problems with that strategy. One is that they probably won’t have any mass removal – Plague Boiler can go into non-B/G decks, but it’s far too slow to really worry you – so their only answer to resolved threats is Meloku. Another problems for the Blue deck was pointed out in White Weenie versus the World – If you are playing must-counter threats on turns 1-5, then even if they do have the counters, you are forcing them to make every single land drop and use all of their mana to cast countermagic, instead of drawing extra cards like they need to do.

Your strategy would be similar against some kind of U/B “milling” deck of the sort that everybody seems to be buying the cards for. The problem is that the U/B deck will have access to a lot more removal, so their odds are a lot better.

Most of all, though, you’re afraid of a U/G deck such as Mike FloresCritical Mass from block season. Although your spells have a better chance of resolving than against the De Rosa Blue deck, the presence of Forests makes up for it by accelerating into creatures that are very hard for you to handle. They can play Meloku the Kjeldoran Outpost sooner than turn 5, and Green lets them run the problematic Kodama of the North Tree.

With the arrival of Farseek, they can also be splashing for cards like Watchwolf, the Scarab, Putrefy, and possibly Moroii, while at the same time running Threads of Disloyalty to embarrass you with your own men. I do not like your matchup with a deck such as this at all.

Sideboarding against mono-Blue: -1 Shining Shoal, -2 Hunted Lammasu, +1 Hokori, +2 Terashi’s Grasp.

Against U/x splash decks, you’ll have to change things up a little bit. You might take out Hokori and bring in Lammasu against U/B decks, for instance, since they will have Hideous Laughter for you. Wrath of God is pretty useful against the U/G type decks. Just remember that you’ll want to keep in Suppression Field against any and all decks who depend upon Meloku the Ordered Migration for the win.

Mono-Black Aggro

It’s kind of a misnomer to call these decks “mono-Black beatdown,” because I imagine that just about every deck from Block season will be splashing Green for Putrefy and/or Blue for Moroii, Dimir Cutpurses, etc.

Is this the right or left bauer?

Having said that, none of those cards are an answer to your trump: Suppression Field simply destroys the Black deck. Jittes becomes a giant tempo suck, and Manriki-Gusari isn’t much better. It’s a lot harder to flip Nezumi Graverobber, and Ink-Eyes is now better off being hard-cast than ninja’ed into play. Of course, the Black players might read this article and decide to run Naturalize in their sideboards, but I have always believed that forcing an aggro opponent to sideboard spot removal for your artifacts or enchantments is a victory for you.

This match was a complete and utter blowout in favor of the White deck a couple weeks ago, but at the Ravnica prerelease, I heard about a combo which turned my head: Hunted Horror + Necroplasm. At the end of the turn when it is played, the Necroplasm destroys all creatures with casting cost zero, such as the Horror-created tokens. You knew that, right? If you didn’t, here’s more from Nathan Xaxson. It doesn’t seem like too scary a combo, but it’s nice to be aware of it just in case.

Sideboarding: -2 Hokori, -4 Suntail Hawk, +1 Shining Shoal, +1 Hunted Lammasu, +4 Wrath of God.

If they learned their lesson from Block season, they’ll be bringing in board-sweeping removal also, with Hideous Laughter. If you were really scared of this deck, you could run COP: Black in the flexible slot, but my testing suggests that there’s no reason to make such a drastic move.

The Mirror

The thing about the mirror is, sometimes they’ll have Umezawa’s Jitte attached faster than you can get a Suppression Field down, and sometimes they’ll be running Suppression Field over Jitte themselves. You don’t necessarily lose if they beat you to Jitte – if you can get a Field down, they’ll still have to pay mana for each Jitte counter removed – but you have serious problems.

This is why you have Jittes in the sideboard; you always have the option of boarding out the Fields for Jittes and fighting the battle in a different way. I suggest board out Lammasu since their own Otherworldly Journey could cause problems; if they don’t have Journey then not only should Lammasu stay in, but you should bring in the third one.

Wrath of God was always a pretty nice card in the mirror, but it becomes even more important with the Lammasu around. You actually have almost zero outs against a 5/5 flyer in the main deck other than drawing your own 5/5 flyer, which never seems to happen when you really need it to.

Sideboarding: -2 Hokori, -2 Otherworldly Journey, -2 Glorious Anthem, +4 Wrath of God, +1 Shining Shoal, +1 Hunted Lammasu (with the option of -4 Suppression Field, +4 Umezawa’s Jitte if you like)

Black/Green Control

First of all, we’ve got another misnomer here, because very few of these decks will be only two colors. There’s simply too much good stuff to splash in. White offers both the Ethereal Haze/Hana Kami lock if you want it, or an interesting win condition in Vitu-Ghazi the City Tree; Blue obviously offers Meloku the One-Man Army as well as Gifts Ungiven to search up your dredge cards. In any case, if your opponent can produce his first six land drops, his chances of winning go way, way up.

Based upon the success of the B/G Gifts deck in Block season, these decks are generally considered a bad matchup for the small white men. I’m not gonna sugarcoat it: that’s still true, especially after boarding when Hideous Laughter become involved. The good news is that Suppression Field helps narrow their advantage considerably. Bad players across the table will often keep hands that would be auto-mulligans if not for the presence of Sensei’s Divining Top or Sakura-Tribe Elder; a Suppression Field will completely dominate them in these cases. Plus, the field can buy crucial time against Meloku and Kagemaro, which can be the difference between winning and losing.

Battling these decks is a war of patience. Even if your opponent picked up the Memento memory disease on the day after Gadiel Szleifer won the Pro Tour, his Hideous Laughters can still completely blow you out. As a result, in this matchup more than any other you must be concerned with over-extension. What you’d really like to see in the opening hand is a pair of two-toughness men and a Glorious Anthem, which will often be enough to get your opponent to the single digits. If you can rip a Suppression Field or Hokori on subsequent turns, they’re in serious trouble.

Sideboarding: -1 Shining Shoal, +1 Hokori. Suppression Field is amazing against Divining Top and Sakura-Tribe Elder, but if you want to, you can try to surprise them by cutting the Fields for Jittes. You could also use the flexible slots for Blessed Breath or Bathe in Light, with the intention of protecting Hokori when the opponent tries to use Sickening Shoal to remove him, but I think this is unnecessarily fancy. Just put the pressure on them and force them to have answers both for your attacking men and for Hokori.


I’m not sure what form the Red decks will be taking. Although the cheap aggressive Red creatures obviously aren’t as good as in Extended, Goblin King still acts as a Glorious Anthem who himself swings for 2. A Boros splash, such as Lightning Helix and possibly Rally the Righteous might allow the inferior Red creatures to race their betters.

Another option is to abuse the extremely powerful Seething Song; creatures like Kumano, Hunted Dragon, and possibly Rathi Dragon are at their best early in the game. Finally, I always thought that the more burn-heavy builds from Kamigawa Block season were just awful, but they did well at certain PTQs and you have to respect that.

When playing against Red decks, you’re almost always the beatdown, because they have more removal than you do (see Who’s The Beatdown for more details; jeez, I link to that article so often that I should try to get a cut of Flores’ action). Even if you bring in Wraths from your board, you do it to give yourself outs against problematic creatures like Hunted Dragon, not because you’re suddenly taking the control role.

Speaking of Hunted Dragon, he is the one creature which I really can’t figure out. He may well be the best creature in the format; or he may be a little overrated. He hits like Rorix, but Mr. Bladewing never let opponents hit back. All you need is a Glorious Anthem in play, and suddenly the flying lizard isn’t winning the race anymore and Pyroclasm won’t clear out your tokens. Plus, there’s Otherworldly Journey to think about.

Sideboarding: -2 Hokori, +1 Hunted Lammasu, +1 Shining Shoal, definitely. From there, it depends upon what their deck does and whether or not Suppression Field is a dead card against them. If they have Kumano and Ghost-Lit Raider and such, you leave in the Fields; if not, you can cut the Fields for Wraths or Jittes. If you think you’ll need both Fields and Wraths after boarding, you can cut 1/1 flyers to bring the Wraths in (you’d prefer not to cut Glorious Anthems, as mentioned above). As with the Black Aggro, you can run a COP if you are really afraid of this deck, but I don’t know that you really need to be.

Combo decks

I’m not really sure which, if any, of the various combo decks that people keep talking about are any good. However, with cards like Early Harvest, Heartbeat of Spring, Eye of the Storm, Enduring Ideal, and Auratouched Mage in the format, I would be wary of running into a crazy combo deck at States (if only in the first two or three rounds).

Do you have any specific outs against the crazy combo decks? Not really, but you shouldn’t be thinking like that anyway. States will not be equivalent to the current Standard format, where Pentad Prism and Chrome Mox are enabling turn 2 Enduring Ideal. These decks will have to scramble to race your clock. You are the one putting pressure on them, not the other way around.

Plus, as I mentioned above, this is why Hokori is in my maindeck; even Early Harvest combo can be shafted by the Dust Drinker if you play him at the right time. If, however, you feel that you should have more outs available against the crazy decks, then I would recommend Kami of Ancient Law in the sideboard over the Jitte; the day of comboing off with artifacts is gone (for now, at least).

Sideboarding: Against Heartbeat or Eye of the Storm I would run -1 Shining Shoal, -4 Glorious Anthem, +1 Hokori, +4 Terashi’s Grasp. Note that if Eye or Auratouched Mage become really popular then you should probably replace the Grasps with Kami of Ancient Law, as there are not too many artifacts out there you aren’t already hosing with Suppression Field.

Until next time, here’s hoping you always follow turn 1 Swamp with turn 2 Hand of Honor.

This article written between chapters of “Cinnamon Kiss,” the new Easy Rawlins novel from Walter Mosley.

mmyoungster at aim dot com

mmyoungster on AIM