Here is the thing: I’ve saved talking about this deck for awhile, mostly because I think it is one of the more powerful choices for Regionals and I like to save the better decks (and Rogue decks) for later, if possible. The thing is that I think people are severely underestimating this deck, and I would like to bring it back into the limelight.
Anyone who read Antonio De Rosa’s analysis of the deck should understand why the deck is very good. However, I think many people have been scared off from this archetype, due to the overabundance of decks abusing Skullclamp – namely Ravager Affinity and Goblin Bidding. (There are others too, but I am not going to worry about them.) The fact is that Mono-White is as good as it ever was; it just needs to adapt a bit. It got really inbred against control with lots of Mindslaver and Eternal Dragon action. Everyone and their brother was boarding in Scrabbling Claws for awhile… and the metagame turned anti-control… and then Skullclamp was printed to compound the problem.
Myth: Ravager Affinity is the nuts.
Those of you who were in Kobe already know this is a myth. In block, Ravager Affinity was handily defeated by several decks. If you would have asked me two months ago, I would have been just like you, swearing up and down until my face was blue that Ravager Affinity was just too fast to handle… it just would always play an”I win” card and do exactly that.
But it did not win… Red Deck won. Ok, it wasn’t RDW, but it certainly was very, very Red.
The point is that Standard is a more Affinity-unfriendly environment due to Akroma’s Vengeance. Goblin Bidding can do things that are almost as degenerate. They are ways to stop Affinity cold. People might preach that Darksteel Citadel, Ravager, and Welding Jar are enough to survive a Vengeance, but those people just haven’t tested enough. 95% of the time, it is still game over.
Kaput. Pack it in. You’re finished.
You see, it is not only Akroma’s Vengeance that you must battle as Ravager Affinity, but also Wrath of God, and the rest of the deck – you know, those fifty-two cards that are also not too shabby against you either?
If I were playing a Mono-White Control Deck, I would be much more afraid of Goblin Bidding than an Affinity deck of any sort. If they aren’t going to stop your Vengeance, they will just lose much of the time. Don’t get me wrong, statistically speaking, they could go on a good run and kill you before you blink a few times, but overall I’m not worried about the matchup. Read my Ravager Affinity article and you will see more on this.
A properly built Mono-White deck can really put up the numbers against this metagame. Sure, they will draw a few cards off of Skullclamp, but you are going to generate lots of card advantage with your Wraths and your Decrees. You will slow the game down while developing a ridiculous mana base. Many Mono-White decks use Cloudposts, Urzatron, or both in conjunction with Temple of the False God to make a large amount of colorless mana. This mana is great for casting and using Mindslaver as well as Decrees of Justice and plopping out Eternal Dragons to fight.
In short – they win the small tactical card advantage battles. You drop the nuke and win the war. They fight with tanks, infantry, and land mines. They shoot from the trenches. You fight with smart bombs and cruise missiles. You are fighting a whole different sort of war – mass forces moving at their base elements. Petty damage doesn’t concern you, but card advantage and the dance, or threats and answers do.
They have Skullclamp, you have Mindslaver. Which is the more powerful effect? Mindslaver… it is the mana cost that balances the equation, like all things in Magic. The trick is to take the mana out of the cost. By controlling the game and keeping your life total high, you can make use of the more expensive cards like Mindslaver and Decree of Justice. I don’t care how many Goblins you have, Twelve Soldiers (or six Angels in case of Goblin Sharpshooter) will do the job. The colorless mana lands like Cloudpost, Urzatron, and Temple aid greatly in this process.
Some people have been experimenting with Mono-White builds that use cards like Damping Matrix and/or Culling Scales in the maindeck. Personally, I think this is a waste of space, but it can slightly improve your numbers against Affinity and Goblins, while sacrificing a lot against the other control decks. It is sort of nice to have a card that will slow down the beats for a turn or two, but having more cards in your deck that die to Vengeance and do not really get at the heart of why you lose, is a bad way to build your deck.
I mention these cards only to be thorough in the analysis of the decktype, but if I were you, I would at most playing Damping Matrix in the sideboard (it is good enough versus Affinity and you might as well bring it in against Goblins if you have it), but don’t expect it to win you games – it is not a silver bullet by any means. The Scales are slow and clunky, but allow you to actually target various things for removal. This is not that great, since you were probably going to kill everything on the table in the next turn or two with a Wrath or Vengeance. Yes, you can target Skullclamp with Scales, but at that point I would rather have Matrix anyhow.
Here is a decklist that illustrates the various things you can do with the deck:
4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower
3 Secluded Steppe
4 Renewed Faith
4 Exalted Angel
4 Eternal Dragon
4 Weathered Wayfarer
4 Akroma’s Vengeance
4 Wrath of God
4 Decree of Justice
2 Gilded Light
You can also run cards like Tower of Fortunes and actually activate it. This says something bold: there will be mana generated, and a lot of it. Now there may be too much colorless mana in this build of the deck, but I wanted to illustrate the use of all the mana cards. Many Mono-White decks only use either Cloudposts or the Urzatron and not both. I personally think that the Urzatron is better than the Cloudposts.
The Weathered Wayfarers are some of your most important creatures in the deck, since they help you fetch up the missing Urzatron pieces or more Cloudposts. You can also snag a few Secluded Steppes out of the deck for some raw card advantage. It is usually advantageous to stay lower on land than your opponent if possible while you have this guy out, since you can usually generate much more mana off of fewer lands… however, don’t expect them to play more than four or five lands, since most decks aren’t engineered to go higher than that.
The plan is rather straightforward. Kill their stuff. Stay alive. Gain life from Renewed Faith and Exalted Angels. Make them over commit their cards to the table… then Wrath or Vengeance them all away, follow up with Dragon – rinse, wash, repeat. Finish the job with a Mindslaver or a super-sized decree. Against the control decks you will have little to do with your creature removal and the game goes straight to Eternal Dragons and who has more mana to Decree and Mindslaver with. It is agonizing to say the least.
This matchup is blazingly slow… this matchup is a race of sorts, though watching snails race is more exciting. The winner is usually the player who can produce more mana, thus Mindslaver more. They have counters for your Mindslavers (and Gilded Lights, most likely) but you have more threats overall. Keep in mind you can use Gilded Light to counter a Mindslaver activation. Just bide your time and cycle your Decrees as if they were Fireballs (cycle at eot, attack, then watch them die to Wrath). Keep in mind that they can counter your Decree with a Decree of their own. After sideboarding watch out for Stifle – it is probably their best answer to everything in your deck. You can board in Scrabbling Claws to help deal with the Dragon, and more Gilded Lights for Mindslaver.
This matchup is really nice for you. Slide is not really a control deck, but rather an anti-creature deck. They do not really have to proper tools to fight a real control deck off. Their best defense is Astral Slide on an Angel. Just use Akroma’s Vengeance to destroy the Slides if need be, but once you get a Mindslaver down there will not be much Slide can do to stop you. I would not worry about sideboarding much in this matchup. Better to dedicate your slots to the other control decks.
The debate rages on… but I feel that Mono-White can overcome in this matchup. Just watch out if they are playing Goblin Bidding, since there is no real way to stop the Bidding/Sharpshooter combo. This is the type of deck where you want to hard cast those Renewed Faiths and keep those Angels swinging. If you take enough control of the game, even a Bidding won’t save them. If they spend all day Clamping all their creatures, they might not be fast enough before you can Mindslaver them, especially if they have to take time off to kill your Weathered Wayfarer. You won’t beat them all the time, but I think this matchup is about 50/50 overall, assuming you keep a good stock of sideboard hate.
This hate can be anything from Silver Knights to COP: Red to Damping Matrix. Personally, I don’t like the Damping Matrix against Goblins… it will shut down the Bidding combo (besides the giant attack part of it), and Goblins are almost happy you drew that instead of a card that could hurt them more. Still, it’s great versus Affinity and based on that merit, it deserves slots in the sideboard, so you might as well bring it in for this matchup – its better than Gilded Light at least…
Zombies are like cockroaches. You keep on stepping on them and they just don’t go away. However, like cockroaches, if you step on them hard enough, they will eventually die. For those of you who don’t enjoy the picture I am describing here, just Wrath until they stop attacking you. Then Mindslaver them, then Decree them, or Angel, or whatever. It really doesn’t matter. I don’t think Zombies (in the traditional sense) have any shot at defeating Mono-White with any regularity. They are like a suicide aggro control deck that can have game versus the whole metagame, but never really a high winning percentage. If you are still really afraid of them for some reason, plop a Karma or two in your sideboard and watch them squirm.
G/R is supposed to be good versus Mono-White – however, G/R isn’t good versus anything in general…they can stall you on land on a very rare occasion, but since you have so many, its very hard. They have to kill your Wayfarer or they might as well concede. The most likely scenario that would make them win is if they killed all your White mana, stopping a Wrath long enough for them to kill you. That is one good argument for the non-Urzatron/Cloudpost version. One or the other should be enough accelerator lands anyhow with Temple of the False God added. If you are still afraid of this deck for some reason, throw in a few Sacred Grounds and breathe easy.
So for those of you who have paying attention to me describing the two various build of Affinity will recognize Ravager Affinity and Control Affinity. Against Ravager Affinity you might just lose.
It happens, don’t cry about it.
But for the games that you don’t just lose, you will probably want to hard cast your Renewed Faiths and cast Akroma’s Vengeance. Once you cast the Vengeance, they can kiss it all goodbye, no matter what. Your entire goal should be to live long enough to make this happen.
Against the control version, you will have more time, but you will have to keep an eye out for Broodstars with Lightning Greaves. Also, keep in mind that your Vengeance will probably be countered by Override, Mana Leak, or some other nonsense. It might be worth waiting until you have nine mana in order to play around Mana Leak. Since Control Affinity is slower than Ravager Affinity (by a lot) this is a plausible plan much of the time.
Sideboarding in Damping Matrix is amazing versus the Ravager Affinity, but mediocre against Control Affinity. Besides that, there isn’t much that you can Sideboard in that will make a big difference. Culling Scales is a new card that people are trying to combat Skullclamp. I’ve had positive experiences with the Scales, but I have not had enough of them to recommend playing them maindeck. They would be good against Affinity and Goblins (the two weak matchups), so they certainly are worth a second look to anyone who is thinking about playing this deck.
Vs. Mono-White Mirror
First of all, start hating your life. Then take a nap. Then wake up and take your turn. That’s what the mirror of this feels like. At least with a Slide on Slide mirror match, there are complicated rules things happening to keep you interested. But anyone who played Onslaught Block Constructed after GP Detroit will recognize the control on control mirrors that rivaled the monotony of The Deck mirror matches seven years ago. In general, use the same strategies as detailed against U/W, but without the fear of being countered. Just trade threats and try to gain a mana advantage. Be the last person to fall asleep and you will probably be the winner.
Mono-White is a very strong choice for Regionals. If you want to play it, be sure to play it a lot beforehand to become comfortable with all the matchups, understanding the important factors in all of them. Also, bring something with a lot of caffeine to keep you awake, and be prepared to complain about manascrew when you have ten mana. Only White decks could produce such irony…