The Mono White deck has been getting some recent play online. Scourge has only been out for a couple of weeks, but already there is a buzz developing around the decktype – and yet I’ve seen a lot of radically different deck lists and philosophies: What I’d like to do is break down the possibilities for Mono White and give the reader the tools to build a better Mono White deck.
I had never played a Mono White deck competitively in my life; I had always thought of white as boring. Yet after some playing and analysis, I honestly believe that Mono White could emerge as one of the top three or four archetypes in OnBC.
To begin with, there are four basic builds that any given Mono White deck can have. One, however, is significantly worse than the other three. I’ll list them below, and go into detail. See if you can spot the weaker one.
Soldier Deck – In OnBC, you can expect a lot of tribal decks to be played. As the Mono White tribe is, oddly enough, soldiers, expect it to see some play. The key card here is probably the new Daru Warchief. The various Warchiefs each will help make a case for their tribe to get more play. You can play two-drop cards like Catapult Squad. You have several early drops – Deftblade Elite and Frontline Strategist are nice choices.
White Weenie – This deck relies on quick creatures just like the soldier deck. However, it can play better creatures because it is not tied to a creature type. It sacrifices the power of soldiers for consistency.
Mono White Control (MWC) – This deck also plays with white creatures, but does so in a much more controlling way. Larger creatures and more removal are the hallmark of this decktype. Expect to see more creatures than its Odyssey Block black cousin.
Mid Range – This decktype is geared for some aggro and some control. It may sport several of white’s powerful two-drop creatures, and also some of its higher end stuff as well. Expect a good smattering of control as well.
Hopefully, you see that the soldier deck just does not hold up its end of the deal. This is because a lot of white best creatures are Angels, Elementals, Clerics and Knights. As such, any soldier deck has to play worse creatures in order to try and have nifty effects. That’s just not a good deck philosophy.
The remaining deck could be classified as one of the remaining three types: Fast, slow, or middle. However, each will play some removal, each will play some bigger creatures, and each will probably want to stock up on two drops. As such, the difference in nomenclature between the three types is probably more academic than anything else.
Since each white deck will have very similar card choices, let’s take a careful look at those choices, eh? We’ll start with the creatures:
Although there are ostensibly more one drops, the five below are really the top line choices. And even then, there are two I don’t play in any of my builds.
Deftblade Elite is either the top one-drop or the second-best one-drop based on your deck. It is, however, the best one-drop in combat. It also keeps annoying X/1’s from getting played until taken care of. No one slaps down a Sparksmith when their opponent has a Deftblade Elite out unless they have removal. Because it also has value in both the beginning and end games, the Elite is a solid choice for your deck.
An interesting trick. It has several uses beyond its fog ability. Namely, it can make someone kill it as fast as they can if played as your first morph. After all, if a white deck drops a morph on the third turn, what do you fear it is? Once you’ve fogged or had the Strategist killed, it loses its surprise factor. Additionally, because its real ability is useful only as a morph trigger, it forces the Strategist to be played as a morph too much, making it more of a three drop than a one-drop. And the three spot is a fairly crowded place to be. Loses out in the numbers crunch
In block, white has several choices for enchantment removal, but no sweeping removal choices. If you want a Tranquility effect, here is your baby. Additionally, if you want the ability to take out enchantments main, this is probably a better choice than Wipe Out. (Well, except it’s completely and utterly screwed if your opponent has a Lightning Rift out or removal, thus ensuring that you cement losses to Slide – The Ferrett) None of the one-drops are crucial to a deck, and the Cleric can certainly replace them if you need a weapon in an enchantment-heavy metagame.
Honestly, the Planar Guide is not my cup of tea. I just don’t like the idea of hoarding mana for an effect that you might not ever need. It costs four mana. I’d rather be playing stuff than sitting on extra mana. And these white cards will take mana, I can assure you of that.
Your Wayfarer will do several things to make you happy, and thus challenges for the title of best one drop. In many builds, he is the only one drop. First of all, the Wayfarer is a one way ticket out of Mana Hosed Land. That alone is fairly valuable. Secondly, he can provide an avalanche of cards with the land type. Any card advantage is good. Thirdly, you can fetch the cycling lands in your deck – and thus the Wayfarer can essentially draw a card for WW.
However, I do think that the Wayfarer is a bit over-hyped. He probably won’t help much if you are going first. Not unless you skip a mana drop early or something. He really only has the potential to shine in half of your games, then. And in those games you still need to draw him and use him. Plus, opponents aren’t just blindly slapping down more land for you to continue to use the Wayfarer. A good opponent will kill the Wayfarer, or stop at your number of lands, just in case you have one coming. As such, it is not as game shifting as some make it out to be.
Historically, two-drops have been the backbone of Mono White decks. Soltari Priest and Soltari Monk were the workhorses of their day. Order of Leitbur, White Knight, and Order of the White Shield also did their duty. Onslaught Block may have the strongest two drops we’ve seen in white since the glory days. Let’s take a look
Beacon of Destiny
Generally, white expects its two drops to have two power, or else they just don’t see much play. Beacon of Destiny tries to circumvent that rule by having a pretty good ability. However, most white decks would rather be dealing damage, not preventing it. Also, the Beacon has to tap to use its ability, thus further hurting it as an attacker. It’s more like an Enchantment that you sacrifice to use but that can be destroyed with burn.
With a one toughness, the Catapult Squad appears to be weaker than most of its two-drop kin. It tries to make up for that with a nifty ability – tap a pair of soldiers, deal two to something in combat. White decks will engage in combat, that’s for sure. However, that one toughness is pretty harsh. It dies to Spark Spray, Rain of Blades, a cycled Death Pulse or Slice and Dice… Which just doesn’t cut it in white decks when compared to its friends.
Ahh, it’s like the prodigal son has returned. We’ve had White Knight before, but it wasn’t an amazing creature until it was paired with the two drop Order. Now, instead of a fragile and mana-hungry Order, we get a second White Knight. And it’s even better this time around, what with goblins all over the place. I mean, somebody has to smack red around, right? One of the best choices for a two-drop available.
If you have a lot of cycling cards, the Champion could be pretty good. Also good if you are playing Astral Slide. However, if you are not, it just loses out to the Knights and Whipcorder.
The ability to tap stuff, possibly even lots of stuff, is very interesting to me. However, it’s really only good in the battles against other aggressive decks. Against something like Beasts, for example, it becomes a significant liability. What are you going to do, keep tapping a Wirewood Elf?
I have yet to determine the”true” value of the True Believer. Sometimes you go up against a red deck packing burn and it forces one burn spell away. That’s often enough between a win and a loss. He’s big enough that you can throw him into the fray. However, many decks will simply ignore his ability, and at those times, you’d rather have a Stoic Champion. So, I guess that I have determined the actual value of True Believer. It’s just not very reliable.
As the standby of white in block, the Whipcorder comes with a lot of things to recommend it. It can lock down a big nasty defensively. It can tap a blocker offensively. It can serve like a star. And it can morph, forcing your opponent to throw critical removal at it expecting an Angel underneath. Against a deck with light removal, baiting it out with a 2/2 cannot be overstated. It also has a cheap morph cost, so you can surprise your opponent with it late.
The old standby stands up very well here. The White Knight and Silver Knight are good even if your opponent is not playing the color(s). After all, Glory Seeker is good tempo in this screwed-up environment. That makes a first strike 2/2 for two even better. You will simply dominate the ground for several turns with a Knight or two on your side.
There are basically two types of three drops – those that must be played with three mana, and those that can be played with other mana (morphs). We’ll take a look at the normal three-drop group first, then peer into the world of the morph drops. You’ll notice that after all of that drama at the two spot, the three spot is rather light.
Although the Glowrider has a very interesting ability for some decks, the overall creature-oriented nature of the block combined with the relative low stats on the creature result in a substandard choice.
Probably your best flyer choice in the three-drop area. You could try morphs Aven Liberator or Wingbeat Warrior; however, for Constructed purposes, it seems like the simple, mana-light Harrier is probably the way to go… If you even want a flyer, that is.
A great body that can really mug up the ground wars. With some mana open, an Inquisitor can shut down anything from Contested Cliffs to the ground game. Highly useful, especially in the mirror to ward off first strikers. However, it requires a serious mana commitment.
A morph creature that can kill an enchantment with ease. It just disappoints in the combat area. Although it does have a large defense, it disappoints as an aggressive creature all around. Nova Cleric has two less toughness for much less mana. (And can’t be used the turn you cast him when you’re in trouble – The Ferrett)
The official Queen of White has arrived. Let all who are arrayed before her radiance and glory wonder at her seductive nature – how she will pull people in and cause them to include her in any deck that plays white whether fast or slow or otherwise.
Once you get to a certain level of mana, the viable creatures taper off. Sure, many of these cards are good in limited, but in constructed, you need more bang for your mana buck.
Ah the power of a card that affects more than itself. If your creature selection is cleric heavy, then this becomes a possibility. For example, suppose that you run four Weathered Wayfarers, four True Believers, four Daru Sanctifiers or Nova Clerics, then all of a sudden this becomes an interesting choice. However, if you happen to be running that many clerics, maybe another four-drop would be more worth your time….
The problem with Dawn Elemental is simple – since it costs four white mana, you have to be playing a straight white deck. Well, welcome to an article on Mono White. 3/3 flyer for four mana? With an amazingly useful ability? Yes please. Dawn Elemental could be the high casting-cost creature in an aggressive build or a midrange creature in a control build. But Dawn Elemental is probably the best that you are going to do with four mana in white. Possibly the best four-drop for Mono White ever.
Do you have need of a Propaganda? Or a 2/3 flyer? Maybe both for a decent enough price? If so, then have I got the deal for you! She’s a good value mana wise and a solid contributor to your defense. However, this Muse just isn’t as good against some decks.
The Big Stuff
From the five-mana spot on, there are just a few creatures that are seductive enough to see play. Let’s take a look at the best of the biggest, shall we?
Akroma, Angel of Wrath
I must be in the minority on Akroma, because I do not feel that the average white deck has space for Akroma and her eight-mana casting cost. I have a pair of copies in the sideboard for certain matches, but I just feel that an eight casting-cost creature needs to be in a deck with Attunement, Exhume, and Buried Alive. That’s not this deck.
If you are considering playing this, then that’s because it is just sexy and seductive enough to get you to want to play the Dragon. Costing one less than Akroma, this critter will get you your big flier sooner. Plus, you can fix your mana early, then recur it. Definitely a strong contender for inclusion.
Jareth, Leonine Titan
Arcanis, the Omnipotent doesn’t see much play these days. Of the other four pitfighters, Jareth is probably the one that gets the least credit. But Jareth can single handedly turn a game around. An unbreakable wall against anything and a winning condition by swinging, Jareth is simply a strong candidate for inclusion into any mono-white deck, and I’d play a single copy in even the most aggressive of decks.
If you really need plainscycling, and you either don’t own the Eternal Dragons or you need more spots, then nothing says that you can’t play the 3/6 machine. I mean, mana wise, you’d rather have Jareth, Leonine Titan, but hey, if you really need the plainscycling, then the 3/6 body is just gravy anyway.
Now that we’ve taken a look at the creatures, we need to shift gears. Sure, Mono White seems to offer us a variety of creatures. But, you have to able to support these creatures, or else everything will fall out of place. The most important adjunct to creatures themselves are the removal of creatures. As such, let’s take a look and see what we have.
Although a bit expensive for a Wrath of God, the Vengeance does double as enchantment and artifact removal. In fact, there is no targeted artifacts removal in the environment for white. You have to rely on Akroma’s Vengeance and Oblation for your artifact removal. The Vengeance is a good candidate for use in practically any deck that has the mana.
Kind of like quasi-removal. The Slide’s uses are so well documented that to repeat them here would insult your intelligence. As such, I’ll just move on.
Aurafication has got to be a bit seductive. After all, it shuts down creatures. Sorta. It costs some mana – you’d prefer it to come out earlier. But still, it seems to be an off-kilter, though interesting, choice.
If your creatures are leaning towards a certain creature type, then maybe it’s time for a Harsh Mercy. If you decide it’s worthy, I’d still recommend running it in the board, since you’ll have a dead card against Beasts and Zombies.
The problem with the Oblation is obvious. Any card you take out could come back, and it’s card disadvantage a-go-go. Still, there are some problems that white simply cannot take out through normal means. Desperate times and all that. In playtesting, I’ve used it against Lightning Rift, Ravenous Baloth, Visara, and others have all fallen to a simple Oblation. Any problem card in the format, short of Contested Cliffs, can be handled by the Oblation. Ultimately, I don’t know if it will earn a spot or not, but it is definitely a contender.
Scourge gave us enough removal that I don’t think Pacifism is worth it anymore. However, it does take care of any large beastie that you find. It is, of course, vulnerable to enchantment removal and cards like Astral Slide.
Rain of Blades
People have yet to expect a Sandstorm against them… But that may change and people will stop attacking with Sparksmiths. But, until that happens, as long as people are swinging with creatures that have one toughness, Rain of Blades is at least worthy as a sideboard card.
Wing Shards is, quite possibly, the”Card That Changed it All.” (CTCA). Before Wing Shards, the only instant removal that white had was Oblation. Before the CTCA, people looked at cards like Pacifism and called it good. Now, have to look back several blocks before we find white removal this good. Even if you only use its storm ability once in a blue moon, it’s still a good card. Usually, only the best creatures attack, thus generally making it slightly better than Diabolic Edict in a normal, creature-heavy environment like we have here. The CTCA can probably make a case to be included in any deck that can pay its price. Which are all of the decks that we are discussing today.
The Other Stuff
Sometimes, you need something other than creatures and removal in order to win. Here then, are some of the cards that might arguably see play. The occasional pet card may not make the list. But, I have endeavored to include every card that I’ve seen so far on lists for Mono White decks. Plus, I also tossed in a few that I am enamored with as well.
I’ve always found it funny that Akroma’s Blessing gets played so heavily in Astral Slide decks with so few creatures. Indeed, post-Stabilizer I’d want every card in my deck to do something valuable. Yet, I’ve still seen builds with six or seven creatures and four Akroma’s Blessings. You need creatures for this to work… And Mono White has creatures. Good in a lot of matches, the Blessings really shine in the mirror match where have no natural protections. Since its cycle cost is so cheap, it’s never that useless. Probably the most common color named is green.
Circle of Solace
Simply put, I have found the Circle of Solace to be an essential sideboard card for the Block. It can win you games against Beasts, Zombies, and occasionally Goblins. Circle of Solace is a bit mana hungry when compared to the Circles of Olde… Yet its effect is so powerful, I can’t imagine it being anywhere but my sideboard.
I just don’t think that I am a good enough player to effectively use Convalescent Care. Often I see it in sideboards of Mono White decks, and I wonder at how useful it is. Certainly I can see why it was included, and I can easily figure out which decks it might be used against. However, it just seems a bit clunky and unreliable for my tastes.
Decree of Justice
At eight mana, you have two 4/4 flyers. Anything more than that is pretty broken. And you can cycle it, which is probably the more common usage. However, I found that, in my deck, a bunch of 1/1s were rarely useful offensively. I was using it more as a really expensive Fog. I’d rather find something else for my mana than a big Fog.
Force Bubble is really more of my idea of a fun card than someone else’s. I playtested them for a while in the sideboard but ultimately replaced them with Circles of Solace. Still, it did what I expected it to do. It can allow an alpha strike as the next turn is automatically fogged. It can also stop a small etching away at your life a la Severed Legion or its friends. However, the first I found rarely useful and the second I found more reliably done by Circle of Solace.
Mobo fell out of favor very quickly, and for good reason. But block is the place to resurrect those cards that just couldn’t quite make it in Type Two. Maybe Mobilization deserves a place in your deck?
Any Slide players can tell you that nothing gave a warmer feeling to the heart better than having a Renewed Faith in hand versus red. Or any other highly aggressive deck, for that matter. You can cycle for a bit of life, but playing it for a significant life swing is pretty good. Maybe sideboard or maindeck good.
Are you playing with one creature type you? Found that your deck had a bunch of clerics in it already so you put in Doubtless One? Maybe you’d like to beef them up a bit with Shared Triumph.
Sigil of the New Dawn
First of all, I really dig the Legends-esque name. Creature renewal is pretty good, and you almost always keep mana open during combat anyways. However, this is the kind of card that does too little too late.
Instant enchantment removal that can cycle could make an argument for sideboard inclusion. It will depend on how enchantments shape up in the block. Plus, you have several other options. Oblation, Daru Sanctifier, and Nova Cleric also take out enchantments. What do you prefer?
These are the cards that can make a white deck. In fact, every card listed in any Internet Mono White deck I’ve read about is in the above analysis. These are the tools that you need to take your deck to the next level. To build a deck that rivals anything Onslaught Block can throw at you.
To finish you off, here is a deck that I split prizes with at a local store tournament. It is still raw and needs fine tuning, but I think it shows what is going on in Mono White.
4 Silver Knight
4 White Knight
3 Weathered Wayfarer
3 Exalted Angel
3 Dawn Elemental
1 Jareth, Leonine Titan
4 Wing Shards
1 Akroma’s Vengeance
3 Akroma’s Blessing
3 Windborn Muse
3 Eternal Dragon
4 Secluded Steppe
1 Temple of the False God (You have got to be kidding me – in a seventeen-land deck? Do you have some sort of guaranteed-to-live clause on your Wayfarers? – The Ferrett)
Mono White seems to be a pretty solid deck choice for OnBC. And it’s a lot of fun to play! I hope that you enjoy building your Mono White decks!