Back To The Red Zone: The Mirrodin White Review

Auriok Bladewarden is one of the many new temptations printed to make sure you really give Equipment a good look. The problem with these creatures in my mind is that they work against the main things I like about Equipment. Instead of just playing good guys and using Equipment to improve both their influence and staying power, including guys like this means you have to invest so many turns (and permanents) into your development that you have to question whether you’re really playing the kind of game a creature-based attack needs to be looking for.

After a very long (and sometimes painful) wait, White looks at last to have managed to get squarely back into the aggro field instead of just being relegated to control or support roles. Cards like Leonin Skyhunter, Second Sunrise, and Leonin Sun Standard all offer interesting options and potential solutions to those who miss attacking with little White guys, and that’s before we get to what may be aggro white’s biggest gain from Mirrodin: Equipment. White’s real issue as an aggro color has been its unique position of being the only color where it and both its allies all suck miserably at killing creatures dead. With the advent of Mirrodin, White doesn’t get much better at killing potential blockers – but it does get much better at going right on through them.

That’s not to say more controlling White mages will leave empty-handed either. Raise the Alarm and Sunbeam Spellbomb both offer new and useful options, as well as the new strongest-enchantment-removal-spell-ever-printed, for those that need it. All told, this set has a lot to offer White mages considering how few”White” spells have actually been added to the mix.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

Altar’s Light

So this is what it’s come to. Disenchant was always one of the reasons to at least consider White, and now even that is gone. Altar’s Light is the first real Disenchant”replacement,” but at this cost it’s going to make you wince at least a little bit. Green is now the official champion of wrecking artifacts, which means White will probably never get an anti-artifact card like Disenchant again. Given that, this is really the best you can do when it comes to artifact removal at this point, so there’s not really much to say. If you need to kill artifacts and White’s the only destruction color you have access to, this is where you have to go.


Back from Mercadian Masques, this time around Arrest shows up in the common slot, and in a Limited set where enchantment removal looks less common. This was always the anti-creature enchantment White mages asked for, keeping a creature out of combat while also preventing those crucial activated abilities from mocking you. At common, this becomes a very good card for Limited. The only problem with Arrest, as with all similar White cards, is the fact that the creature is still alive – and thus enchantment removal effectively”brings it back.” Cast at instant speed, that could mean very bad things for you, so it’s important to be a bit more cautious game 2 depending on your opponent’s colors. This problem is also likely to keep Arrest from becoming much of a Constructed card except for decks with no other real choice – but even there it will probably serve specific roles from time to time for decks that don’t have access to other options.

Auriok Bladewarden

Auriok Bladewarden is one of the many new temptations printed to make sure you really give Equipment a good look. The problem with these creatures in my mind is that they work against the main things I like about Equipment. Instead of just playing good guys and using Equipment to improve both their influence and staying power, including guys like this means you have to invest so many turns (and permanents) into your development that you have to question whether you’re really playing the kind of game a creature-based attack needs to be looking for. In this case, you’re going to have to cast the Bladewarden, some Equipment, and also a creature to use all this on. And even if you get all that going in a reasonable amount of time, the opponent can still just break the equipment or the attacking creature and you’re put significantly back on your heels.

Yes, if it all works, this can be a dramatic effect…. But I just don’t think this is the kind of game you want to be getting into if you’re a true creature deck. Stick to creatures that are good on their own, add the best Equipment, and you’ve got plenty of effect with much more reliability.

Auriok Steelshaper

I have the same problem with the Steelshaper as I listed above for the Bladewarden, except this is at least a more powerful effect. Again, my problem is one of pacing and investment – this is a lot of time and pieces to assemble, you’re more vulnerable if the key permanents are destroyed or don’t show up (this guy is pretty awful if you don’t actually have any Equipment available), and Equipment strikes me as good enough that you don’t need to reduce consistency by adding extras like this. Remember that any of that can happen due either to luck (“I just didn’t draw any Equipment”) or opponent interference (“I had this amazing Auriok Steelshaper draw, but then he blew up my Equipment”). There will be some reasonable decks using the Steelshaper, but I think people will find them relatively easy to demolish if needed.

To be clear, I do think a white weenie/Equipment archetype can be viable, I just don’t think the Steelshaper version is the best way to go with it.

Auriok Transfixer

I guess this is worth using in Limited, but it sure won’t see Constructed play.

Awe Strike

As opposed to earlier, similarly worded cards, the key to this one is that it doesn’t just work on damage to you. That’s a big difference and makes this card exactly the kind of tempo effect I tend to love in Limited. At one mana, if you can use this to kill an opposing creature in combat while saving another creature, the resulting jump in development is already enough to put many opponents into significant trouble. The life gain is nice as well, depending on just how much of a race this draft environment turns out to be, and will lend itself to several other tricks as well. This is exactly the kind of card I like to see in Limited; one which provides a subtle but great effect for the cost, and allows the user several different ways to improvise and influence the battle.

Blinding Beam

Unlike some other Entwine cards, this one is normally going to be earmarked with both sides in mind. This makes for a very good effect in Limited, and its presence in common means that White is going to have some very good tools for pushing its beatdown through opposing blockers. In Constructed, this becomes something of a Fog-type effect – and one that I’m not very impressed with. For sixty-card decks, you’d normally be better off making your guys better in combat or more directly dealing with potential blockers (or attackers), depending on your colors.

Leonin Abunas

Guardian Beast – it’s been a while! Things have changed, my friend; just as it was silly that you used to be a black creature, it’s also silly that you were ever worth the kind of trade value you pulled in back in the day. Yes, yes – I understand that now you can allow controllers to at least target their own toys, but I still don’t see you showing up in any real tournament Constructed decks except as some kind of wacky surprise gambit from the sideboard. On the plus side, you do look to be damn good in Limited, so at least you’ll have some of your former glory to remind you of the good old days.

Leonin Den-Guard

This is a good option if you’re going for the”Equipment or Die” type of approach I complained about on some of the earlier cards, and as you can probably guess I have the same complaint – namely, that this pretty terrible when you don’t draw (and keep) the Equipment. However, if that turns out to be the way to take this kind of deck the Leonin Den-Guard is one of the better options available. To put it another way, if for whatever reason you can assume the Equipment will be there, the Den-Guard is a good target from the two-slot.

Leonin Elder

Handy and irritating in Limited (since it triggers on both players), you won’t be worrying about this guy any time soon in Constructed.

Leonin Skyhunter

Now we’re talking! Is he great with Equipment? You bet! But so are most other creatures. The difference is that he’s also great all on his own. Over the sets, White has managed to assemble some very impressive two-drops, including powerhouses like White Knight and Silver Knight, Whipcorder, and now Leonin Skyhunter. The thing I like about the Skyhunter is that he adds cheap, efficient evasion to a color that’s not typically very good at getting blockers out of the way. The Leonin Skyhunter isn’t exactly one of the best creatures ever printed, but he does fit exactly into the kind of role aggressive white decks have been looking for.

Loxodon Mender

Okay, this one’s no star in Constructed. In fact, it doesn’t even seem all that great for the cost in Limited. You’ll still end up playing him at times, however, so be careful how much you badmouth him.

Loxodon Peacekeeper

This is an interesting card on its own – but once you add the reality of mana burn to the equation, it gets a lot less interesting. The drawback (and casting cost) suggest the Peacekeeper be used in a defensive deck looking for a nice cheap wall of beef to throw in the way. The thing is, if a Constructed deck is so much more aggressive than yours that you have to resort to this kind of thing, they have the option to mana burn to keep the Peacekeeper on their own side. That said, it’s still a pretty screwy card to evaluate, and I’m not at all sure there won’t be times you’ll want to consider it for Limited – a format where the aggressor and defender roles are often much more fluid. One of the more complicated cards in an already complicated set, I’m leaving the jury out for now on this one.

Loxodon Punisher

This can deal out almost goofy levels of damage if it gets going, but I still think this kind of thing is too romantic in Constructed since Loxodon Punisher is a Godawful card when you don’t have any available equipment. There are plenty of Limited decks that will be interested, but for Constructed the good Equipment looks strong enough that I’d prefer to combine it with creatures that are already good and thus avoid the various pitfalls that creatures like this are trying to lead us into.

Luminous Angel

Seven mana for only a 4/4 flier – not to mention the tokens only get made on your own turn? Somebody got robbed shopping at the super-sized creature store.

Raise the Alarm

Raise the Alarm has received some attention already, but I would suggest it deserves even more. This is a great trick that offers good bang for the investment to both offensive and defensive decks. For control decks, this represents a two mana surprise that can potentially take out 2 weenie attackers or even a two-toughness assailant, and at Instant speed. That’s already impressive, and even at”worst” in this kind of role you can still just cheaply hold off a giant monster for a couple turns while you go about the rest of your business in peace. That’s a lot of business for a”defensive” spell that can also just be used to produce two power worth of attackers for two mana (and again, at Instant speed), which means it’s rarely actually useless. Certain offensive decks which prefer to have more creatures in play than less will also be taking a look at Raise the Alarm, particularly if Leonin Sun Standard starts seeing use.

In addition to all that, even some combo decks will be eyeing this card, be it to produce sacrificial tokens for cards like Proteus Staff or perhaps just as another great candidate for Isochron Scepter. This isn’t an earth-shaking card by any means, but it’s very good at what it does and maintains its usefulness even when its primary needs have passed. This one will see tournament play.

Razor Barrier

In Limited there are so many different ways to use this card that you’ll almost always include it. It stops any targeted spell aimed at one of your guys – and, for that matter, virtually any targeted ability as well. It’s also quite handy in combat, and in Limited combat is the kind of thing you can more reliably assume will actually happen. Add to that a long list of other potentially useful effects (one of your guys got Arrested? No problem!) and you’ve got a great card that will see lots of use and force players to think twice when making decisions facing anyone with 1W available.

In Constructed, this is a more difficult card to rate since its potential uses are narrower. The main thing this seems to offer is a way to protect vital permanents from being eliminated by targeted removal for decks that have a select few permanents that really need to be preserved if at all possible, but in this environment there are an awful lot of global removal spells as well. I think you’ll see some very narrow uses for this card crop up in Constructed, but mostly this is going to see play in Limited – at least for now.

Roar of the Kha

At this cost, you can reliably assume both sides will be available – and as such, this represents an outstanding trick in Limited.

Rule of Law

Arcane Laboratory nestles into its new home on the color pie, getting comfortable in the color that now claims the ability to make rules. As with its predecessor, Rule of Law will function primarily as a check on certain kinds of combo decks and thus will see most of its play out of Constructed sideboards as the perceived need arises.

Second Sunrise

This is getting a lot of attention, and deservedly so – but it would have been a far more interesting card if it weren’t for Oblivion Stone. The ability to take a”do-over” against other mass removal is very useful however, and may help permanent-heavy strategies like Weenie-Equipment get through cards like Wrath of God and Akroma’s Vengeance. Again though, the presence of Oblivion Stone takes a lot of the toot out of this horn.

One thing I haven’t seen discussed for this card is its potential as a combo engine – any scenario that involves lots of sacrifices for profit would potentially stand to gain from this kind of effect, so I would keep this in mind as well while you work your way through the new decks and strategies of the coming format.

Skyhunter Cub

Potentially strong in Limited, I’m guessing you know where I stand on these guys for Constructed by now.

Skyhunter Patrol

Skyhunter Patrol is very strong in the new Limited and stands as just one of the many new outstanding White commons in Mirrodin. Two power for four mana won’t come close to cutting it in Constructed – but that’s not what this guy was designed for.

Slith Ascendant

Way too slow for Constructed, I’m still undecided how highly to rank this for Limited. The more reliably you can get this through the better it gets, of course – namely, if you have lots of Equipment and other such effects this is going to get better – but three mana for a 1/1 flier of uncertain usefulness is a lot to gamble on.

Solar Tide

I’ve seen this one get a lot of press, but I have to say that I don’t think it’s actually very good outside of Block Constructed (where you don’t seem to have much other choice). This will be great in plenty of Limited games, but in Constructed, six mana for one half or six mana plus two lands for both halves is just too much to pay for this kind of effect. Yes, you can potentially wipe out their team and keep yours if the circumstances are right, but most creature decks curve upward well past power two. The opposite is true as well – even decks with big creatures will normally have plenty of small ones as well to fill out their curve. It seems like the best use of this card is trying to make it as one-sided as possible, but I just don’t see it right now for Standard, particularly at this cost. Instead, I suspect this will possibly see some sideboard use for aggro white decks to get rid of select fatty threats that would otherwise be difficult for the color to deal with.

Soul Nova

Far too expensive and narrow for Constructed, this will create some dramatic position swings in Limited.

Sphere of Purity

I guess it combos a bit with Jinxed Choker.

Taj-Nar Swordsmith

That’s a lot to pay for this kind of effect, and even then you’re still probably waiting to actually activate and use the Equipment, depending on what you were able to get. That means this will be worth use in Limited (depending on your potential targets) but in Constructed it’s going to be way too ponderous to pull off in time.

Tempest of Light

With White crowned the new king of anti-enchantment, it’s time to bring back Tranquility with a vengeance. The ability to remove multiple enchantments at instant speed is very strong when the need is there, and I was always frustrated by the loss of Tranquil Domain with no suitable replacement. Enchantments have a habit of taking effect right away, so waiting around until your own turn to do anything about them was always a real drag. This was a great card to print, and one that will keep enchantment-heavy decks more honest than they’ve had to be for some time.

The real question is how many such decks would have made it past upstart Oblivion Stone, but even then I feel this is a good card to have available for players that want access to it. With that in mind, I wouldn’t be surprised if this card was specifically created so that it could be earmarked for a slot in the next installment of the basic set (9th Edition) as well.

Leonin Sun Standard

So what if you decide to ditch the heavy commitment to equipment? This little baby packs an awful lot of punch for its investment, and provides an excellent use for your mana as the game progresses. The downside is that it does nothing unless you activate it (though even the threat of activation can and will influence combat), it’s only great when you have lots of creatures and/or lots of mana, and it doesn’t do anything special in multiples. My instinct is that white swarm decks are well served by one (or possibly two) of this card, but more than that and you’re probably not getting the most out of your slots.

Note that when it works, this card can be devastating. With three creatures and six mana, you’re looking at +9/+9 total enhancement (repeatable each turn). And even if your guys die, putting out just two new creatures means you’re getting a total of +2/+2 for each two mana – which is quite good by enhancement standards. Raise the Alarm, anyone?

Again, as with several of the cards in this set, what we’re seeing is ways for dedicated creature decks to achieve more late-game power without having to stock their deck so heavily with late-game threats. The result is aggro decks which still have enough early pressure to keep other decks honest, while also having at least some chance later on rather than flipping over and dying once the mid-game has passed.

Pearl Shard

Pearl Shard is one of those cards that highlights the potential size of the divide when it comes to evaluating cards for Limited and Constructed environments. This card is amazing in Limited and will cause all sorts of headaches for players trying to get through it that aren’t able to outright destroy it. In Constructed, by contrast, this is almost pure garbage. There are so many better ways to achieve this kind of defense that Pearl Shard shouldn’t ever come even remotely close to being worthwhile.

Soldier Replica

Slightly overcosted for Limited, it gets made up for by the fact that it doesn’t tap to sac so you can fire it off right away (or when tapped) if needed, mana allowing. Out of the question for Constructed, of course.

Sunbeam Spellbomb

Pure lifegain is normally pretty dicey to rely on in Constructed, but sometimes just having the option shows how useful it can be when the need is there. The problem is what to do with the card when the need isn’t there, since life gain by definition is a very narrow resource. This is one of the better Spellbombs and, again, nicely embodies the kind of effect that makes sense on these.

Titanium Golem

Printing interesting and usable five-mana cost artifact creatures is tricky, because they have to make sure they don’t outclass the regular creatures in any one color, and yet they somehow still must have enough of an impact to be worth investing so much mana. For Constructed this is terrible, but in Limited it’s right about low par for an artifact creature these days, depending on how desperate you are for a 3/3.

Scott Johns

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