From Right Field: Return of the Mack

Read Chris Romeo... every Tuesday at

Chris searches for an optimal White Weenie build for the coming Time Spiral Standard format. There’s no doubt that the ingredients are there… but in which direction does the perfect build lie?

{From Right Field is a column for Magic players on a budget or players who don’t want to play netdecks. The decks are designed to let the budget-conscious player be competitive in local, Saturday tournaments. They are not decks that will qualify a player for The Pro Tour. As such, the decks written about in this column are, almost by necessity, rogue decks. They contain, at most, eight to twelve rares. When they do contain rares, those cards will either be cheap rares or staples of which new players should be trying to collect a set of four, such as Dark Confidant, Sacred Foundry, or Birds of Paradise. The decks are also tested by the author, who isn’t very good at playing Magic. He will never claim that a deck has an 85% winning percentage against the entire field. He will also let you know when the decks are just plain lousy. Readers should never consider these decks “set in stone” or “done.” If you think you can change some cards to make them better, well, you probably can, and the author encourages you to do so.}

I fear that I’ve done more to hurt the prospect of White Weenies than anyone else has done to help them. Every block, I’m just sure that there’s this great White Weenie deck, and every block I fail to find it. Even worse, it doesn’t seem like anyone else tries to find it based on the groundwork I’ve done.

You see, I consider myself An Idea Man. A Big Thinker. A General Consultant, if you will. I’m the guy who tells you what plan you should implement going forward after I’ve done my thinking outside of the box and shifted the paradigm by realigning resources to synergistically maximize potential and efficiencies.

In other words: I say “You should do this,” and you have to figure out how, exactly, to do that.

Now, of course, I do have to do some initial investigating into the problem, and I lay the groundwork. Daggummit, though, you’re supposed to work out the details on your own. Why? Because I just don’t have the time or resources to do it for you. Besides, in the consulting business, we don’t see problems, only “opportunities.”

So, what’s the problem opportunity with White Weenie now? I don’t think there is any. Depending on how much you’re willing to spend, money-wise, you got nothing to worry about. At least, I’m pretty sure. Let’s take a look and see what we worry about.

Opportunity #1 — Wrath of God effects wreck White Weenie: This is true of many, if not most, beatdown decks. White’s biggest problem has always been how it recovers – or, rather, how it doesn’t recover – from these effects. Mono-Red Weenies, which lately has meant Goblins, recovers by just throwing burn at the opponent’s face. G/R beatdown decks can do the same. Black Weenie/beatdown like Zombies or Zombie Clerics could reanimate or recur creatures. White just gave up the ghost. It would have to draw into more creatures.

Solution #1 — Leave creatures behind after the Wrath effect resolves: Griffin Guide and Thunder Totem. Sounds like a bad 1970’s, live-action, Saturday morning TV show, doesn’t it? I can picture it now. A greasy Hollywood producer, decked out in all of his brown, polyester-suited splendor, has a eureka moment when he sees a Native American crying on a public service announcement about litter. “What with that new Earth Day thing going on and the schools teaching kids to appreciate nature and stuff, what a merchandizing bonanza!” Thus was born Griffin Guide and Thunder Totem. Thunder Totem, a wise and thoughtful but strong and unfaltering Native American shaman (think of a Lakota version of David Carradine in Kung Fu), travels the countryside righting wrongs with his eye-in-the-sky bald eagle friend, Griffin Guide. Griffin Guide and Thunder Totem have a psychic link. So, Thunder Totem sees whatever Griffin Guide sees. You know, like the drone planes the U.S. Military’s been using the past few years. Of course, along the way, Evil Agents from an unspecified (possibly government) group are trying to put them “back where they belong” (i.e. on the reservation). Thanks to help from generous strangers that they meet on their journeys, Griffin Guide and Thunder Totem are given food, shelter, and a chance to stay one step ahead of the bad guys.

Back in 2006, however, these two cards serve the purpose of helping the White Weenie player survive Wrath of God. Except in extraordinary cases, the Totem won’t even be a creature when Wrath goes off. Meanwhile, Griffin Guide, which had been giving a nice +2/+2 bonus (and flying!) to someone, leaves behind a 2/2 flying creature. Surely, we need to use those in the new White Weenie.

Opportunity #2 — Pyroclasm and Shard Phoenix wreck White Weenie: Okay, this is kind of an Opportunity #1A since Griffin Guide will protect a creature from Pyroclasm (the ‘Clasm would need some help to even kill a creature with the Guide on it). However, it really is a different problem to be addressed. Many White Weenies are X/1 or X/2 creatures. Obviously, Glorious Anthem can save X/2 creatures from Pyroclasm and Shard Phoenix since they would then be (X+1)/3 creatures.

Solution #2 — Ignore Red damage: What if there aren’t any Griffin Guides, Thunder Totems, or Glorious Anthems on board when Pyroclasm goes off? How does White Weenie recover from that? How about by not losing some guys to start with? In other words, gimme Pro Red guys (i.e. creatures with Protection from Red). The two best right now are Paladin En-Vec, whom we’ve been dealing with for a while thanks to his inclusion in Ninth Edition, and the newly reprinted Soltari Priest. Those two don’t care if you sacrifice a Shard Phoenix and cast three Pyroclasms while Furnace of Rath is on board. It doesn’t affect them at all.

Extra Bonus Grammar Opportunity: Affect is a verb. Effect is a noun. I will now use them in a sentence. “Glorious Anthem affects only your creatures, and the effect is to give them all +1/+1.”

Opportunity #3 — Beef beats Weenies: It doesn’t matter how many weenies you have if you can’t win the game. Two 3/3’s may cumulatively be better than a single 4/4, but you will lose that battle without something else on your side. For example, swinging two 3/3’s into a 4/4 gets three damage through. However, it also leaves you down to a single 3/3 while leaving your opponent with a 4/4. What you need is a way to remove the bigger guys or get around them.

Solution #3 — Remove annoying beef and swing with creatures with evasion: The best thing for White to do in combat is avoid the other guy completely. Flying is typically where White’s weenies do that. That screams for Leonin Skyhunter and Serra Avenger. Soltari Priest, of course, has Shadow, another form of evasion, maybe the best form ever. Of course, while you’re ignoring the other guy, you need to deal with what he’s been laying down. Condemn will get rid of the worst of the bad guys. The only problem with Condemn is that life translates into time against a White Weenie deck. Sometimes, it’s even essentially a Time Walk, negating an entire turn of combat for the White Weenies. Devouring Light may be a better card for the slot even if you can’t use Convoke to cast it because all of your guys are tired from attacking.

My Nana, a shy, retiring Sicilian woman who was four-feet-eight-inches tall, used to say that it didn’t matter how big you were, she could reach your knees. Once she broke your knees, you’d be her height, and then you’d be in trouble. Similarly, another way for a 3/3 to kill a 4/4 is to bring the 4/4 down to his level. Flanking does that. Knight of the Holy Nimbus to the rescue!

Opportunity #4 — Running out of gas: Weenie decks have always had the problem of what to do when they’ve played out their hands. Red, of course, learned to use Cursed Scroll. Now, it has Browbeat back. Black doesn’t even worry about that because it has Dark Confidant and Phyrexian Arena. Blue, of course, draws cards well in any archetype. What does mono-White do, though? How can White Weenie decks compete in the mid- and long-games?

Solution #4 — Thin to Win!: Come Time Spiral Standard on October 20th, White will have six cards that can draw a card. All six are cantrips: Carom; Festival of the Guildpact; Pentarch Ward; Swift Maneuver; To Arms!; and Withstand. A couple of theses are okay, maybe even good. For example, I’ve liked Festival of the Guildpact since it was printed. Early in the game, it says “draw a card for only one mana.” Later in the game, it can really mess up combat math. None of them are really great, though. No, I’d rather thin the deck in order to maximize my draws. This points me to two cards: Gift of Estates; and Flagstones of Trokair.

Gift of Estates is easy to figure out. You have fewer lands, you get to thin your deck of three Plains. That’s almost fourteen per cent of the deck, and that’s a ton. Obviously, this is not a card you want to cast right away. In fact, on your second turn, the only way this is even useful is if your opponent spent his second turn casting Rampant Growth or Into the North. A White Weenie deck would rather be casting Leonin Skyhunter or Soltari Priest on turn 2. Later in the game, though, GoE is awesome.

Conclusion: You should run something like this:

I’m sure the first thing that you noticed was the inclusion of sixteen rares. For From Right Field, this represents a problem design opportunity. As your highly paid and extremely knowledgeable consultant, I have developed a few contingency plans.

Contingency Plan #1

For the purposes of the rest of this assessment paper, I will presume that you have the Anthems and Paladins. (We presume, not assume, because to assume anything makes an ass out of you and me.) Of the Avenger and the Flagstones, I’d rather see you spend your money on the Avengers first. That transition is easy moving sideways, upwards, longways, and downways. Plus, the snozzberries taste like snozzberries. Strike that. Reverse it. What I mean is, if you can only afford Avengers or Flagstones but not both, get the Avengers, and drop the Flagstones for plain ole Plains.

Contingency Plan #2

What if, however, you got the Flagstones — let’s say you know this distributor who sells Flagstones via the Internet — but you can’t afford to get Serra Avengers, too? What replaces the Avenger?

Nothing. It simply can’t be replaced. As a 3/3 flier for two mana with no drawback — you call not being able to cast it before turn 4 a “drawback” when you’ve got fourteen other two-mana creatures in the deck?!? — she’s simply irreplaceable. The question is whether you want the flying or the 3/3 body? If you want flying, you can switch in Mistral Charger. If you like the body, try Jotun Owl Keeper. I like the Owl Keeper for a couple of reasons. First, it has a casting cost of three. Yes, that’s one more than two, but it’s also not two like almost everything else in here. The Punishment half of Crime / Punishment is bad for this deck. Second, the Owl Keeper leaves behind some nice friends when he dies, another anti-Wrath, anti-Wildfire piece of technology, a la Griffin Guide.

Contingency Plan #3: What if, however, you happen on a windfall? You get the winning scratch ticket, for example, or you win the college football office pool for the week when Purdue rolls Notre Dame like meth addicts rolling a homeless guy.

The original decklist is already pretty strong, but, in a world of Wildfire, revamped Solar Flare, and U/R Control, there are a couple of additions to consider. First, Tivadar of Thorn offers more Protection from Red, and Red will be rampant at States. Second, with Gift of Estates and/or Flagstones of Trokair, we can grab any of the Ravnica Block dual lands that are Plains. I’d use Sacred Foundry to splash Red for Lightning Helix. With this, we have a way to end the game when we stall out in combat. Helix will replace Gift of Estates since the Flagstones will act as a mini-Gifts.

Third, of course, are the lands, Sacred Foundry and Flagstones of Trokair. The key with the Flagstones is that Legendary supertype. When there’s only one Flagstones in play, you have a Plains with a cool name. When the second one hits, you get to go fishing for two Plains because they kill each other, and both abilities trigger!

A word to the wise, though. If you need mana from the first Flagstones, tap it before playing the second one. You can’t respond to (a) a land being played or (b) the state-based-effect death of a Legendary permanent. That means that if you drop the second one before tapping the first for mana, you can’t get mana from the first before it does. Too bad so sad.

Finally, we could afford to run Savannah Lions as a one-mana spell, even if carious Elves will kill him the first time around. Thus, the Donald Trump/Ted Turner/Bill Gates version would be:

Avengers Assemble

4 Flagstones of Trokair
4 Sacred Foundry
2 Quicksand
12 Snow-Covered Plains

4 Savannah Lions
4 Serra Avenger
3 Leonin Skyhunter
4 Soltari Priest
3 Tivadar of Thorn
4 Paladin en-Vec

4 Thunder Totem
4 Lightning Helix
4 Glorious Anthem
4 Griffin Guide

Other Ideas I Will Give You for Free When You Purchase One Complete Consulting Package

Did You Know: If you target Magus of the Disk with Adarkar Valkyrie before you activate the Magus, you get the Magus back in play after everything goes boom!

Did You Know: The “X” in Spell Burst is zero for a Morph spell. That means you can counter a Morph and keep the Spell Burst for 3U!

Did You Know: Certain Suspend cards like Rift Bolt and Ancestral Vision, while typically played at a time that only Instants can be played (i.e. during your Upkeep), are indeed Sorceries. So, Magnivore counts them when they’re in your graveyard!

The Completion Backward Principle

How do these play against the biggest boys? By which we mean, Solar Flare Redux, Satanic Sligh Redux, Mono-Black Aggro, and U/R Land Denial (a.k.a. ‘Vore)? Since the focus of this assessment paper/column is on budget decks, I’ll focus on the budget version. In other words:

Let me preface this presentation by letting you know that, had you purchased our Ultra-Premium Consulting Package, our crack staff of trained test monkeys would have tested this deck thousands of times against hundreds of other decks. Since you went with the Miser’s Special, you get me playing ten games against just a few decks. Also, due to both budget and time constraints, I did not play any games with sideboards. You will need to use your internal resources to shift that paradigm. Being the conscientious consultant that I am, however, I did pick what I felt were the best out there right now.

Versus Solar Flare Redux: The control suite for Solar Flare Redux is still Remand, Wrath, and Angel of Despair. The budget WW deck shrugs off Remand (it can simply recast the two-mana spells), recovers from Wrath well, and has the game in hand by the time Angel of Despair hits. Akroma, Angel of Wrath, is a tough cookie to deal with if it’s reanimated, but that’s what sideboards are for. More free advice: Devouring Light or Condemn are good against Akroma. In this matchup, the WW wins were swift and painful. Solar Flare just didn’t have time to set up. The losses were long and slow (once) thanks to WW getting too many lands and spells and not enough creatures and fairly swift (twice) thanks to reanimated Akromas. Advantage: WW, 7-3. Sideboard Considerations: Condemn and/or Devouring Light.

Versus Satanic Sligh Redux: This one surprised me. Given the heavy Red tilt of Satanic Slight Redux, I expected WW to roll over it. With Paladin en-Vec immune to the entire deck’s removal suite, save being the only creature on board when Cruel Edict is cast, and Soltari Priest untouchable by the damage spells, I expected WW to come out way ahead. On paper, it looked like an easy call. Of course, we don’t play this game on paper. Wait. I mean… well, we kinda… Oh, forget it. Anyway, it turns out that Shock, Rift Bolt, Seal of Fire, Volcanic Hammer, and Char are really good against everything else in WW. In addition, SSR has Dark Confidant, a card drawing engine for which WW has no answer. Still, thanks to a nearly endless parade of creatures, WW did come out ahead. Advantage: WW, 6-4

Versus Mono-Black Aggro: The version of MBA against which we tested had two cards that cause serious problems for this WW deck: Dauthi Slayer; and Persecute. Say what you will about Persecute being a control card and not an aggro card, but I disagree wholeheartedly. When one card decimates a player’s hand, ripping three or four or five cards, many of them creatures, that’s aggressive. As for Dauthi Slayer, we know that it must attack, but that first turn it comes down, it does a great job of blocking the Priest. After that, the WW deck has to decide whether to trade life via Shadow guys or lose the Priest to blocking. With Consume Spirit as a finisher for the MBA deck, it was embarrassing. Advantage: MBS, 7-3. Sideboard Considerations: Ivory Mask and bathe in Light.

Versus U/R Land Denial (a.k.a. ‘Vore): In my highly-trained, professional opinion, losing Eye of Nowhere doesn’t kill this deck. It was one sorcery that is easily replaced by Boomerang, Exhaustion, or both. Seriously, folks, there’s no functional difference between a 10/10 Magnivore and a 12/12 Magnivore. Both kill you in two swings. As such, I submit that ‘Vore is still one hot potato. I will admit here and now to a bit of overconfidence in regards to WW versus ‘Vore. With two creatures that simply shrug off Wildfire and one that blocks Magnivore all day long, I expected to see WW roll. Turns out that countermagic is pretty darn good. The good ‘Vore player saves the countermagic for the Pro Red team and simply blows everyone else up. However, WW is fast and has those two cards that blunt the effects of mass removal, Griffin Guide and Thunder Totem. Still, the pre-sideboard matchup was in ‘Vore’s favor. Advantage: ‘Vore, 6-4. Sideboard Considerations: Sacred Ground, Bathe in Light, and Condemn.

Conclusion: White Weenie is strong, even in the budget version. It remains to be seen what the sideboard matchups bring, but White has some strong cards for those. Only you can decide if this is the direction that you want to go moving forward outside of the bun. (I miss JMS.)

As usual, you’ve been a great audience. Tune in next week when we hear Grampa Jones say “What the hellfire is Mono-Black Aggro?!? I don’t want no Malcolm X in the Middle comin’ to my farm, stirrin’ up trouble with the milkin’ cows!”

Chris Romeo

Bonus Consultation: Turns out that I had enough time to test one more matchup with this deck: 8StoneRain.dec. Given that 8StoneRain.dec has maindeck Cryoclasm, Stone Rain, and nice removal, I expected to see it dominate White Weenie. I was wrong. WW needs only a couple of lands to function, and Thunder Totem helps. A lot. 8StoneRain.dec was able to stunt WW’s growth, but typically couldn’t stop it enough to matter. Advantage: WW, 6-4. Sideboard Considerations: Bathe in Light and Sacred Ground.