Gambling On Plains: White Weenie In Pauper

Alex Ullman, who was a part of the Community Team that won the 2009 Community Cup Challenge, goes through White Weenie’s evolution in Pauper. Find out how you can succeed with this cheap to build Pauper deck.

Have you ever won a bet?

Winning is good, of course, but winning a bet, especially when you know you’re right…is something special. I was a sophomore in college during the poker on ESPN boom, so I would play games with the guys on my floor.

I rarely won those bets.

But in Magic, I have won a few—none greater than the one detailed in this thread.

For those of you who are familiar with the term TL; DR, the summary of the thread is this: in the early days of competitive Pauper, white was underplayed. I was an advocate and took up the challenge. I ended up building an aggressive white deck constructed on a mana curve. The guiding principles of the early builds were as follows:

  • Beat the best decks. Mono-Black Control and Red Deck Wins were both popular early choices (this was before the rise of Goblins). Cards like Order of Leitbur and Aven Riftwatcher were bullets against these strategies, effectively starting those games sideboarded—in the early days, this was a huge edge. The bonus was that these cards were not dead in other matchups; Order could brawl with the best of them, and Riftwatcher acted like a slow Corrupt.
  • Mana to damage ratio. In the early times, White Weenie was the best deck at converting mana into damage. Shade of Trokair could end games all by its lonesome and for a while was the best one-drop in Pauper. In 2008, the ability to turn one mana into one damage was huge. Order of Leitbur also filled this role, albeit at half the efficiency. Razor Golem was key as well, being well above the curve of other commonly played creatures and a stellar blocker.
  • Great answers. White can take out just about anything. Oblivion Ring and Unmake meant that White Weenie could deal with any threat. White also had the best sideboard options against most decks (more on this letter) and could easily beat any non-combo deck.

With all these things going for it, what prevented White Weenie from becoming a dominant force? The two biggest factors were: it could not beat everything at the same time, and it had no game against Storm.

First, against Storm white had very little chance. Yes, white had answers to both Grapeshot (Prismatic Strands, Benevolent Unicorn, Standard Bearer) and Empty the Warrens (Holy Light, Prismatic Strands, and more recently Suture Priest), but Storm could easily answer these preventative measures (via counters, Flaring Pain, cheap bounce, or removal).

What made matters worse was that white’s answers were slow compared to those employed by black (Duress followed by persistent discard), and they were standalone—the answer had to be present, or without it white had little chance. This was only exacerbated when Storm started running Goblin Bushwhacker as a way to "win now."

Recently, as Storm waxes and wanes White Weenie acts inversely. Suture Priest has had a big hand in this change. The addition from New Phyrexia makes it very difficult for a Storm pilot to win via Empty the Warrens, and the life gain aspect puts a small wrench in the plans of Grapeshot. This has helped, but it’s still an uphill battle.

Second, white can answer everything but not all at once. Back in 2008, the metagame was incredibly diverse (to some extent more so than it is today). While there were a small number of top decks, the spread of played decks was higher. While White Weenie could metagame for a few key matchups, going against a diverse field was far more difficult. As the metagame has coalesced in the past year, White Weenie has become a constant presence in Magic Online Daily Events, demonstrating the deck’s staying power.

The White Weenie of today is drastically different. In those days, it was an aggro deck pure and simple. The goal was to deal twenty as quickly as possible, and over time the deck adapted cheaper removal (Sunlance, Temporal Isolation, Journey to Nowhere) to help clear the path. When Goblins came on the scene, however, WW became far too slow by comparison to be the beatdown.

Instead, it morphed over time into a midrange aggressive strategy, playing similar threats but making a few key changes. The first was a shift from mana to damage ratio to value creatures. Kor Skyfisher and Squadron Hawks are not just creatures—they are sources of card advantage. Skyfisher could be used to filter mana and play extra threats, put a fresh counter on an Icatian Javelineers, or reuse the kicker on a Kor Sanctifiers.

Squadron Hawk, though, was the start of the White Weenie resurgence. Without any true card draw, WW had to rely on whatever came off the top. Coming back from behind was often a struggle. While Skyfisher helped somewhat, the Hawks gave the Plains wielder a card they actively wanted to draw in their opening seven because it meant more cards. This was a foreign concept before, and changed the way White Weenie was built.

First, the more decks adopted Bonesplitter. While it was never rare, the presence of Hawks made the piece of equipment more common as it provided a one-drop and made one Hawk a legitimate path to victory. This, in turn, led to a shift away from Shade of Trokair and towards Guardian of the Guildpact. Shade was no longer as impressive as the deck was no longer of the straight beatdown variety, and Guardian provided a substantial threat in the late game that could carry a Bonesplitter with grace and potency.

The decline of MBC and targeted removal meant that Order of Leitbur was no longer a strong inclusion—without Tendrils of Corruption everywhere, the pump knight lost luster. Instead, Loyal Cathar took the slot. The transform bear serves a similar function—negating removal—while also providing a form of card advantage. It is this new batch of white value oriented creatures that have provided a shot in the arm for the archetype.

Loyal Cathar does so many things for White Weenie. First, it’s on curve for power; it can swing for two on turn 3(or four thanks to the axe). It also stays back to block against Goblins and Infect. Sure, any creature could block, but Cathar comes back as a beater and a card. Unlike say, Doomed Traveler, Unhallowed Cathar is an actual card, meaning it can be returned with Kor Skyfisher and then be replayed on the front side. This is no avalanche of card advantage, but it’s significant nonetheless—one Cathar could act as four cards with the help of a Skyfisher (this is sounding an awful lot like a Squadron Hawk).

The only other "must runs" in current White Weenie are Benevolent Bodyguard and Razor Golem. The former is a one-time Mother of Runes, but it does that job oh so well. It forces an opponent to have one more removal spell than they would otherwise need, carries equipment, and when drawn late can allow a threat to sneak past defenses. The Bodyguard is at its best in a format full of removal and should be a constant presence as a one-drop.

Razor Golem is just a good creature. Like Cathar, it pulls double duty. Unlike Cathar, it’s far harder to kill. Playing a Golem back on turn 4 in conjunction with another two-drop will often establish a dominant board presence that can start to punch through enemy defenses. It also does a fine job of dodging Lightning Bolts.

White Weenie will usually run spells that clear the path or win the game. Most common are Journey to Nowhere and Unmake, allowing its army of "just creatures" to make it to the other side. Occasionally Sunlance will make a maindeck appearance when other white decks are at a nadir, but that does not happen very often. When Storm and Infect are at a high, Prismatic Strands is a smart call for the maindeck. This Fog can buy two turns, but it usually only needs one since White Weenie tends to win on the crack back. Prismatic Strands is fairly easy to predict, as WW will rarely ever want to leave mana up on turn 3 when it could be laying threats.

There are a few flexible creature slots. For one-drops, most decks will run Icatian Javelineers. This proto-Fanatic does a fine job of picking off a Goblin, a Glistener Elf, or a Delver of Secrets. It can also block and trade with a two-toughness creature and be rebought with Skyfisher. Doomed Traveler is another option to be paired with Benevolent Bodyguard, and it shines when the metagame is filled with the cheap removal of decks like Mono-Black Control and U/R Post. Gideon’s Lawkeeper or Goldmeadow Harrier are seen as one-ofs at times, helping to mise wins against decks that run a few key threats. These tappers are fragile and often will not last to the point when they’re needed to do their jobs.

Because it has such an abysmal game against Storm, WW has taken to devoting some number of maindeck slots to fight the deck. The two creatures most often seen are Standard Bearer and Suture Priest. Bearer is fine against Infect and Grapeshot (against Infect all the pump has to be aimed at the Flagbearer), but WW is good at blocking. I prefer Priest, as it makes Storm work far harder to win (extra spells with Grapeshot to fight lifegain or finding a way to kill it before going for Empty the Warrens). While expensive, Suture Priest can often create an incremental advantage in long games.

Finally, at times when Affinity is at a high, White Weenie will run some number of Kor Sanctifiers. A fine blocker (holding off Frogmite), it’s also easily reused with Skyfisher and can occasionally blow up a nasty Myr Enforcer. Sanctifiers falls out of favor when Affinity decks load up on creatures with metalcraft like Carapace Forger.

My current list looks something like this:

This deck can be purchased for about $12.00 here on this very site.

  • On the one Gideon’s Lawkeeper: When I saw it in lists, I was a little surprised. I thought that any other one-drop would do a better job. Then I played against an Ulamog’s Crusher and realized how great it can be.
  • Guardian of the Guildpact is a fantastic creature, but three were too many main. Ideally I would run two and a half…but that’s just not possible.
  • 3 Journey to Nowhere and 2 Unmake: With Kor Skyfisher, Journey becomes a "what scares me now" style of spell, able to be rebought when something more dangerous comes along. The fact that it costs two means that starting on turn 3 the deck can play out a creature and removal. Unmake can take out any threat, but it costs too much to be anything more than a two-of—you want to play out threats, not spend a full turn removing one.

White Weenie is a midrange aggro deck. Unlike the original version, which was a straight up beatdown number, the current version is more capable of grinding out wins. Before, the best card to see in your opening hand was a Shade of Trokair—it represented a fast clock. Currently, the card most likely to make me pump my fist is a Squadron Hawk. It’s very hard to lose a fair fight when a threat is played every turn (and they make good speed bumps against Infect). This is the fundamental change in the way the deck plays: the last threat will kill them dead, not the onslaught of creatures. In most matchups, White Weenie wants to outlast—the only one that is a true race is Storm.

White also has some of the best sideboard options available in Pauper. One Circle of Protection: Red can stop Rolling Thunders all day, and Circle of Protection: Black can throw a huge wrench into a Mono-Black Control deck’s day. Dust to Dust, while slow, can absolutely wreck Affinity. Aven Riftwatcher and Lone Missionary are the best kind of life gain—the kind that can trade with a Goblin. Sunlance and Prismatic Strands both find slots here when they get squeezed out of the maindeck.

The sideboard is going to be largely determined by the event in which you are playing…and I don’t mean the metagame individually. Pauper two-man queues online are largely random, and if you want to grind them, it’s best to overload your sideboard for your terrible matchups. While the decks here are varied, the grinders will often run decks that are fast wins so Storm, Goblins, and Affinity are common.

Daily Events online conform more to the metagame. The best bet for crafting a 75 for these events is to watch the trends from the previous two days of Daily Events and try to guess what’s coming next. These events tend to have waves of popular decks, with a certain stack dominating for a day or two at a time.

Magic Online Premier Events require more preparation and guess work. The decks are likely to skew towards the best available options (U/R Post, Goblins, Storm, and Delver Blue), so prepare accordingly.

White Weenie is an interesting deck in Pauper. It’s not a true aggro deck but rather wants to grind out games and win with the last monster standing. Its creatures do a good job of staying alive, and the deck is a contender due to the fact that each digital card acts like two (or more). If you want to get into Pauper, starting on mono-Plains is a good bet.

Keep slingin’ commons-


SpikeBoyM on Magic Online

An Introduction to Pauper

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