After I finally decided to play White Weenie in the Extended qualifiers (see last week’s article), I started playing around with a variety of decklists. Thankfully, I had almost every card for every deck I could think of. The one exception was possibly Tithe, which everyone told me was amazing. Truth be told, I didn’t even know what Tithe did, so I just kept nodding and smiling. As soon as I could, I jumped onto Oracle and searched for the card. Whoah. Good card. As people had told me, it worked even better with Mox Diamonds but was good on its own. I agreed, decided to bite the bullet and get four, and then play around with more decklists.
I’ve realized two things about White Weenie in Extended: first, there are a _lot_ of viable cards out there that can go in a mono-white, weenie-rush type deck. From the 1-cc to the 4-cc slot, there are far more possibilities than room in a 60-card deck. This means that two WW decks can have very different feels to them, and even different strategies and play-styles. Using Empyrial Armor and Cataclysm, for instance, denotes a different rhythm than a bunch of 1- and 2-cc creatures with Crusade. There’s also a question of how much utility to put in the deck; do you run Armageddons? How about maindeck Aura of Silence or Erase? How many Disenchants do you use? I quickly realized that I could built a WW deck and almost forget about the”weenie” part. There are just a lot of good utility cards to go with a lot of interesting low-cost white creatures. For some reason I hadn’t anticipated the sheer diversity of decks that could be called”White Weenie.”
The second thing I noticed was that everyone seemed to have an opinion about these choices. In fact, most people had a *strong* opinion. People were e-mailing me and talking to me, telling me that I should absolutely run 4 Armageddons, that Cataclysm was better than ‘Geddon, that Crusade was irrelevant, that I had to use Empyrial Armor, that the Masques Alchemist-guy was better than Soul Warden. The hail of advice has been non-stop, and a lot of it has been contradictory, despite long justifications for why their WW is better than another person’s. In retrospect, these strong convictions make a lot of sense; for an archetype that has survived longer than any other and seen virtually every Type 2 environment around, there is little wonder that a population exists who have playtested WW into the ground and who have won with it. It’s a deck everyone knows and many people love.
So I offer my initial decklist knowing some (indeed many) people will frown, wrinkle their brows and shake their heads. It comes with the territory, I’ve decided, when playing a deck as popular as WW. Still, I _have_ put some thought into the deck, so at least give me a chance to explain. After that, don’t hesitate to e-mail me and tell me what an idiot I am for not using Empyrial Armor. This decklist will change -and change drastically, I’m sure -as I put it through Team Purple Pepper’s playtesting gauntlet. For starters, though, here goes:
MAIDEN WW v1.0
4 mother of runes
4 soul warden
4 swords to plowshares
4 soltari monk
4 soltari priest
4 white knight
1 aura of silence
3 reverant mantra
I’m not even going to try guessing at a sideboard just yet. White has as many sideboard options as it has cheap creatures, and I usually only start thinking about sideboards once I’ve playtested the deck a little and have started to see its holes. This is an un-played deck as of yet, so the sideboard is awhile in coming. Here are my reasons for choosing this first-draft of the maindeck:
Mother of Runes: Alex Marszalowicz told me that white weenie has two things going for it: First Strike and Protection. I’m not sure I would agree with the First-Strike part -mostly because I think Shadow and utility rank as high as First Strike -but I definitely agree that one of white’s major advantages is protection from all sorts of colors. Although I haven’t been playing Magic long enough to even hold a Savannah Lions, right now I think the Mother is white’s single most disruptive creature… especially in the 1-cc slot. No one has argued with me that four belong here.
Soul Warden: A few people seem to think that Cho-Arrim Alchemist is a stronger choice than Soul Warden, largely because of the Alchemist’s ability to both prevent damage and gain life from creatureless decks. I’m sticking with Soul Warden largely because of the activation cost on the Alchemist. First, this deck usually isn’t going to have an extra three mana lying around to use for life-gaining. Secondly, the Alchemist’s ability is a tapping ability, and I would rather my creatures spend their time attacking than holding back for an ability.
Swords to Plowshares: Having a 1-cc creature removal spell is invaluable. The life-gain for my opponent is not nearly as significant as clearing away blockers for my own creatures’ continued damage. I have seen some decks use as few as 2 Swords, but I want to maximize my chances of having one early and then having another for that Morphling or Spike Weaver later in the game.
Tithe: Like I said, once I actually found out what this card did, I realized they were was good as everyone had said. Right now I’ve just replaced 4 Plains from my first decklist with 4 Tithe, and this might not be the best equation. Playtesting will help me decide the right land-Tithe balance and get me practice with a card I’ve never used.
Disenchant: Four might seem a bit excessive, but consider the best decks from Chicago: Suicide Brown, Oath of Druids, Necro, Pebbles, Rec-Sur. Against any of these decks a Disenchant will slow an opponent down at worst and win the game at best. Besides, Cursed Scroll is still around for beatdown decks, and that card makes me mad (in an envious, I-wish-I-had-you kind of way).
Crusade: I was surprised to find that some people weren’t fans of Crusade these days. It’s true that if what I said about the metagame is true, people will know to put heavy anti-enchantment cards into their decks thus neutralizing the Crusades. In my mind, the potential advantage of Crusade justifies the risk, but I suppose time will tell.
Soltari Monk & Priest: Shadow kind of scares me, actually. I realize it’s great evasion, but it also means you can’t block if need be. Still, I know the potential disastrous outcome of playing a weenie deck without a way of combating burn or Hatred. Red and black still have the best creature elimination out there, so having evasion creatures immune to their efforts make the Soltari brothers game-winners against a lot of decks. I have been sitting next to many games where a Soltari dude hits time and again, turn after turn, until the game is over.
White Knight: Probably the best 2-cc creature in white’s arsenal. I was sad when the White and Black Knights weren’t included in 6th Edition. Like the Shivan Dragon it just felt… wrong. Like WotC was violating the”fantasy guidebook” or something. I’m glad to be playing with the little guys again, and you just can’t beat a pro: black, first-strike, 2/2 for 2 mana. Especially if it becomes an un-Shockable, un-Scrollable 3/3 monster with Crusade on the board.
Aura of Silence: I won’t call this”tech” because that’s dumb, but it does seem to be a potentially tremendous way of dealing with a lot of the aforementioned best decks out there. Unlike Disenchant, Aura of Silence continues to be a problem long after it’s cast, even if it does make casting additional Crusades difficult. If I end up not running Crusades, the Aura will likely become a maindeck Serenity. Erase might also be worth putting in this slot. That’s how troublesome enchantments are in Extended right now.
Armageddon: Armageddon shuts down a lot of decks and can completely turn a game around. Cataclysm, it seems to me, is only a better choice if you’re running Empyrial Armor, and even that feels a little gimmicky to me. Besides, this deck is very land-light, so the 4-cc versus 5-cc makes a big deal. Not only does this deck run on only 1 or 2 land after a ‘Geddon, but Tithe goes a long way towards helping this deck recover more quickly than an opponent. I’m not sure how many Armageddons are best given the spell mix I’m using, but it feels right to start with three.
Reverant Mantra: This, more than the other cards, might get a”huh?” from some people. In a deck that runs on little or no mana, having a white pitch-spell is incredibly comforting. It just so happens that Reverant Mantra also can be a game-breaker against some of WW’s worst situations. It can effectively counter an Earthquake or Might of Oaks as well as providing the weenies with a final push through blockers for lethal damage. As a bonus, this also makes extraneous Disenchants or Armageddons useful in the mid- and late-game. Like the ‘Geddons, I’m starting with three with an understanding that this number might rise or fall.
Wasteland: There isn’t a mono-colored deck that shouldn’t use 4 of these against a field wrought with dual lands, pain lands, etc. Some decks run far more nonbasic lands than basic ones, making Wasteland an additional and consitent way of slowing an opponent down.
Plains: Like I said, I originally had 17 Plains pre-Tithe and then decided to substitute 4 Tithe on a 1-to-1 basis. I have no idea if this is the right call. The number of Plains in this deck is actually fairly tricky to calculate; the deck runs smoothly on very little mana, but I want it to reliably both get up to 4 mana for Armageddon and recover afterwards if necessary. Seventeen total land with only 13 Plains feels like it’s probably on the low side, even with 4 Tithe. As with everything else, playtesting will bear this hunch out.
That’s the deck.
There are some fairly obvious cards that _weren’t_ included, like: Empyrial Armor, Cataclysm, Paladin en-Vec, Glorious Anthem, Cho-Manno’s Blessing, Resistance Fighter, Warrior en-Kor, Pariah, Soltari Champion, Soltari Visionary, Worship and Wrath of God. Like I said, white has a lot of options. Most of these I didn’t include because either their effect wasn’t big enough to justify increasing the mana-curve of the deck (in other words, they were too expensive and would involve not only replacing existing cards but then taking out additional cards for more land) or because there was another similarly-costed spell I thought was better. I also didn’t bump the deck into multi-colors, which would be a pretty cool option if I have Mox Diamonds or dual lands. Based on previous experiences playtesting, I’m fairly sure most or all of the cards I’ve left out will get tried in various combinations and some will make their way into the main deck. Already I can see a hole in the 3-cc!
Space that may or may not be a problem. This is a first-draft, after all, and I’m not so cocky as to presume I got everything right in a new environment the first time around.
If all goes well, I’ll put this deck together this evening ready to clash wits with my fellow members of Team Purple Pepper this weekend. Hopefully I won’t see some glaring problem that makes me embarrassed for listing the version I’m taking on a test drive.
Constructive criticism is more than welcome, it’s requested (woah, that was a weird sentence). Please… for someone new to playing White Weenie and new to Extended, I need all the help I can get. Besides, when I flop at the PTQs I’ll have someone to blame 🙂
Good luck at the upcoming qualifiers.
Best wishes and Happy New Year!