Budget Legacy – White Weenie

Grand Prix Columbus - May 19-20, 2007! Countdown to Grand Prix: Columbus! Christopher Coppola presents a new version of this classic deck for Legacy, and discusses how it can better answer the faster combo decks in the format.

Grand Prix Columbus - May 19-20, 2007!

White Weenie has had success in many formats, but it varies widely in the specific cards it uses. This deck is most successful against Aggro, and since there are several strong Aggro decks in Legacy, this is an appropriate choice. White Weenie also has some good strategies for beating other decks, and uses a flexible sideboard.

I. Strengths and Weaknesses

In Legacy, several factors combine to support this deck, mainly the large available card pool, the standard curve used throughout the format, and the creature-centered nature of it. White creatures naturally excel in this area of the game, and there are some amazing support cards in color for this strategy. Many Legacy decks do not abuse the available acceleration and opt not boost their mana curves, choosing instead to pursue the most efficient cards at the typical cost. White’s threats are just more efficient, and so this deck has an advantage against all creature-based strategies. The available support cards are also very good on their own, resulting in a highly synergistic deck.

One of the most underrated cards in the format, Umezawa’s Jitte, is very well used in this deck. It is supported by cheap creatures that can activate it early, which is the way the card should be used. All of its abilities are relevant, even against Combo, since the lifegain is good against decks that deal finite damage, and the removal ability is good against a few decks that rely on creature-based combos. Other than those two categories, the only other relevant combo deck relies on milling you, and that deck is slow enough to be much less threatening, especially after sideboarding.

Another techy card that allows this deck to generate massive card advantage is Cataclysm. This card is a perfect fit for this strategy. It is so good because your main offense will remain in place, while your opponent will probably not be in a position to take advantage of it, and lose cards that they need to execute their strategy. It is also devastating if it takes out an opponent’s manabase late in the game.

This deck uses Ancient Tomb, one of the strongest cards in the format, to power out this disruption. Ancient Tomb makes using equipment much easier, and this deck definitely makes the best out of it. The manabase is very consistent, and overall the deck’s high threat density and efficiency will generate a reliable early game offense.

However, White Weenie is still typically weakest against combo decks. It must focus on supporting its attack step, which leaves it vulnerable to strategies that win the game through other means. There are some good tactical answers to Combo available, but they cannot totally shut down the Combo strategies, and so they are only used to delay it until this deck can deal enough damage to win. Despite these limitations, I have constructed a build that has cards with specific applications against combo decks.

Only the Orim’s Chants and the Umezawa’s Jittes should be tough to obtain.

II. General Strategy

This deck has a very efficient mana curve: sixteen spells that cost one, fourteen that cost two, four that cost three, and four that cost four, although the Cataclysms can also be cast on turn 3 with Ancient Tomb. The equip costs of one and two are also relevant when planning your curve.

The basic strategy of this deck is to set up a fast offense with a creature on turn 1 or 2, a piece of equipment on turn 2 or 3 (maybe even equipping it), and then cast Cataclysm to semi-reset the board around turn 4. Following that, the deck just abuses the efficiency of the creature / equipment combo to overcome your opponent’s remaining permanents. This is a pretty strong strategy when Cataclysm resolves.

Against most decks, casting Cataclysm as soon as you are able will wreck their manabase and remove the advantage they have been building up over the course of the game in terms of color-fixing and creature offenses. With only one creature left on the board, they are unlikely to be a match in combat for your creature plus the equipment you have cast. Playing from this position is heavily in your favor and will generate an even bigger advantage.

Turn 3 is the turn that requires the most decision making, because there is only one actual three drop, Razor Golem. You will have many options on how to spend your mana, but by this time you should know what your opponent is doing. If you are setting up to cast a Cataclysm, don’t put more permanents into play than you have to. The threats and disruption in the deck work very well together, so using turn 3 to equip your creature and disrupt the opponent with either Swords to Plowshares or Orim’s Chant is the best play in that situation. Another good play is to cast and equip Mask of Memory, which may end up finding you a Cataclysm by the end of your next turn (that is an additional four cards). You can still equip after you cast Cataclysm, but be sure you will have enough mana to do that.

If you don’t have Cataclysm or are not going to cast it soon, then you should play all of your strongest creatures and begin using your equipment every turn. Mother of Runes can ensure that your equipment does the job you want it to, and also protects your offense from removal.

You may also want to consider holding land in your hand if Cataclysm is a relevant card, because when you draw it and cast it you will want to recover normally. Typically Cataclysm results in an unbalanced board position, but against other decks with a low curve and efficient cards, building your manabase again may be necessary.

Against decks with strong artifacts of their own, you may not want to cast Cataclysm early in the game. For example, Aether Vial allows Goblins to continue their strategy much as they would have with the two or three lands destroyed by Cataclysm. In this case, that extra mana would have benefited you more. Since your creatures are so good against them anyway, you should wait to cast Cataclysm until it will significantly shift the board position in your favor. You are likely to win the game without it, because your creatures are bigger, have or can get protection from Red, and are backed up by Swords to Plowshares and Umezawa’s Jitte.

Mask of Memory helps you draw you into the cards you need, but other than that the deck must rely on attacking and blocking to create card advantage. Against decks where this does not significantly interact with the opponent’s strategy, you will either have to stop early threats instead of casting your own (Combo), or diversify your threats and use disruption to force through key cards (Control, Aggro-Control). In either case, you will have to play your creatures more conservatively.

III. Sideboarding

After sideboarding, the strategy of the deck against combo is this: answer the relevant plays with one of the decks one mana cards on the first turn, and then cast permanent disruption on turn 2. Tormod’s Crypt is relevant against a few combo decks, and for zero mana, may buy you one or two turns, which is just what this deck needs. The one-mana answers to combo are Orim’s Chant (which is also maindecked, and well worth the effect), Mana Tithe, and sometimes Swords to Plowshares against creature-based combo. On turn 2, you want to be casting Samurai of the Pale Curtain or Glowrider if you can, or just another one of the cheaper answers. If successful, this strategy should buy you enough time to deploy your own offense and buy even more time. If you survive, you can also cripple their manabase with Cataclysm.

It is important to have knowledge of the way the Combo decks work if you want to disrupt them. None of these answers are comprehensive, so you will have to read your opponent and play intelligently if your disruption is going to work. If you are going to play this in an environment with a significant amount of Combo, I recommend reading about those decks and finding out the weakest parts of the combo chain. Generally, you should just disrupt whatever your opponent does early in the game, because you want to buy as much time as possible to cast the better disruption you have, but knowing what your opponent is going to do next will always help you stop the most important card.

Control decks will come into this matchup with some advantages, but they will have to predict your strategy in order to succeed. You have speed, but they have mass removal, so it is a race to deal damage. Your threats are cheap and they will be forced to spend resources answering them. If you can distract them with this, they may not be prepared to answer your Cataclysm. However, they will have to choose between that and protecting their life total, and your creatures are not easily answered without mass removal. Mana Tithe makes this even more problematic, as they won’t want to endure another activation of Umezawa’s Jitte or Mask of Memory, so they may tap out and walk into it, or not have enough mana available to stop both Orim’s Chant or Mana Tithe, and Cataclysm. There are some strong enchantments in the format that can cause headaches for Aggro decks such as this one, and Control decks use them, so Disenchant may also be a very useful answer to bring in.

Aggro-Control decks are diverse, but the sideboard cards are still useful. Mana Tithe is good against hand disruption and permission, and Tormod’s Crypt has obvious applications against creatures that benefit from the graveyard. Cataclysm is weaker overall, but especially in the early game, as these decks also play a mix of threats and disruption, so they will be in a similar position as you when it resolves. It is best when they have disproportionate amounts of threats and mana, so play carefully and look for a good opportunity to use it. Umezawa’s Jitte is excellent yet again, and is something you should use to make your opponent play as conservatively as possible. Protecting this card should be your central strategy if you resolve it.

Aggro decks are the easiest matchup, and as such there is not much use of the sideboard. Your creatures are probably better in combat, and getting an active piece of Equipment will only further your advantage. Cataclysm is very good here, as they are not likely to have answers for it, and at the same time are largely defenseless after it resolves.

IV. Modifications and Conclusion

One advantage of this deck is that there are many cards in the card pool with very similar roles, but that may be much stronger against different archetypes. Substitutions can be made and the deck will work very similarly. I encourage anyone who plays this deck to consider cards of similar cost and measure their functionality against that of those used in the deck. Depending on the metagame, it might make a big difference to alter the threats or disruption to answer particular decks more effectively. The mana curve might be the strongest aspect of the deck, so that shouldn’t be altered too significantly.

White Weenie has some very good matchups in Legacy, and it runs some cards that are universally strong and that work against all decks. However, the combo matchup is problematic, and even with significant sideboarding it is vulnerable to faster decks. With significant knowledge of the opponent’s deck, the answers become better, but at best they can only buy this deck time to deal more damage. Even with a lot of practice, you will have to accept a worse combo matchup in favor of beating all the creature-based decks.

Christopher Coppola
Machinus @ various websites and email servers

Grand Prix Columbus - May 19-20, 2007!