Insider Information – Soldiers in Zendikar Standard

SCG 10K Philadelphia... the first major event featuring Zendikar!
Thursday, October 1st – Kithkin are gone from Standard, and that made Cedric a sad panda. However, Zendikar is here, and the new face of White Weenie is upon us… Soldiers! Cedric examines the strategy and strength of the individual pieces. Can such a regimented beatdown force be a player in the new Standard metagame?

Zendikar is finally upon us, and boy, am I glad. Magic was very stale for the past month, and I actually stopped playing altogether. Now, with a renewed interest, I feel back at home as the grinder that I truly am.

I did go to a pre-release on Friday evening, but I quickly went 0-1 drop with five rares (two mythics) in my R/G all-good-card deck. What rares did I have?

Scute Mob!

Chandra Ablaze!

Obsidian Fireheart!


Turntimber Ranger!

And all good/playable Red and Green commons!

And as good a manabase as you can have for a two-color deck!

To say I was disappointed I didn’t win the tournament is quite an understatement.

I think this Limited format is really deep, and I cannot wait to figure it all out. M10 draft was extremely boring to me, and I am so glad we have a new format in which to crack packs. But with everyone talking about how they feel about the cards in the Limited field of battle, I’ve opted to take a different approach.

With StarCityGames.com $5000 Standard Open in Philly on the horizon, I believe talking about Standard is for the best. Now, I’m not one of those guys who will write down a bunch of decklists with no idea if they are competitive or not. That’s just not how I roll, but most of you should know that by now. I like to talk about things that I am very versed in, and White decks with no reach are my specialty. So, for all you people out there wondering if Soldiers are for real, I can clear that up for you today.

First, let’s see what cards we have available, listed by mana curve:


Akrasan Squire
Exalted is a pretty poor mechanic in a White Weenie deck. All of your creatures want to destroy your opponent, not one big guy. However, being a one-drop and a soldier gives Akrasan Squire something that Soldiers lack. Exalted could come in handy, but it is very unlikely.

Elite Vanguard
Elite Vanguard is the best one-drop that Soldiers has access to, and it is a dandy. Yes, it will be outclassed quickly, but Goldmeadow Stalwart was too, and it did its job just fine. Our list will certainly include four of these.

Steppe Lynx
Steppe Lynx is a card that makes us want to build our deck a little differently. Arid Mesa or Marsh Flats are both cards that make the Lynx a little more explosive, but they will also thin our deck of lands so that we cannot hit our later drops (Captain of the Watch) if we choose to play them. Knight of the White Orchid also becomes an option as a way to make Steppe Lynx that much better. But are all of those cards worth it?

Harm’s Way
I switched stances on this card as Five-Color Control resurged to dominate the later months of Standard. I still am not a big fan of this card, but felt it was a necessary evil to combat all of the Volcanic Fallouts and Firespouts that were running around. Now, with Firespout rotated out, and what I perceive to be a decline in Volcanic Fallouts, I believe Harm’s Way will be a sideboard card. It is still excellent against Red decks, and is probably quite good at gaining two-for-ones against the terrible vampire deck that is going to show up in the next few months.

Path to Exile
We all know how awesome it is. Nothing has really changed. Soldiers will have four, just like any other White aggressive deck.

Brave the Elements
Now this is a nice card! A counter to any targeted removal and an efficient Falter effect all in one card is a way to get me excited. As I said earlier, I was never a big fan of Harm’s Way, and this is likely to be the card to replace it. Brave the Elements does so many positive things for a White Weenie deck, and at such a low cost, that it should not be overlooked. I think this card is the real deal.


Veteran Armorsmith
A 2/3 for two mana is always a good deal, but giving each creature in your deck a defensive bonus makes Veteran Armorsmith a serious contender. One slight that I think Veteran Armorsmith has against it is how few Volcanic Fallouts are going to be played. In our previous Standard format, control decks had to play Volcanic Fallout due to Faeries. Now that just isn’t the case, due to Faeries rotating and Day of Judgment being printed. If Volcanic Fallout sees a ton of play, then Veteran Armorsmith is an easy inclusion, but I don’t think it is going to see that much play anymore.

Kazandu Blademaster
A 2/2 first striking vigilant soldier, Kazandu Blademaster is about as easy an inclusion as Knight of Meadowgrain was in Kithkin. This guy does everything you want it to for its price, and we haven’t even begun to talk about how big of a pain he is if we have an Honor of the Pure, Veteran Swordsmith, Ajani Goldmane or Elspeth, Knight-Errant in play. Sleeve up four ASAP!

Kor Aeronaut
Leonin Skyhunter used to see play in White Weenie in previous formats, and this is the same card but with three bonuses:

1.) It’s a soldier
2.) It has flying in a format where flying seems to have disappeared
3.) Its kicker looks to be relevant

Kor Skyhunter has a lot of upside. It isn’t automatically in our deck, but I’m going to need a good reason not to play it.

Knight of the White Orchid
A non-soldier, but a powerful effect nonetheless. I don’t think Knight of the White Orchid is what we are looking for here unless we are playing Steppe Lynx. As inherently powerful as this card is, I never liked it in Kithkin, and I really don’t find myself liking it here. It’s strange, as a card that does so much (finds an untapped Plains, makes being on the draw fairly irrelevant or advantageous, first strike) would be an auto include in White Weenie decks of the past. Creature types matter so much now that Knight of the White Orchid won’t see the play it probably deserves.

Honor of the Pure
No. Explanation. Necessary.

Journey to Nowhere
This card could play the Unmake role as extra removal against aggressive/midrange decks with bigger creatures than ours (read: Jund). I don’t like the fact that this card be removed via Maelstrom Pulse, but I do think Journey to Nowhere is better than Oblivion Ring unless there are problem non-creature permanents that arise. Journey to Nowhere is as good as the format allows it to be.


Veteran Swordsmith
Wizened Cenn this is not! Veteran Swordsmith occupies an odd slot in our curve. Previously, our three-drop was casting Spectral Procession, casting Glorious Anthem, or activating Figure of Destiny. Veteran Swordsmith is not as powerful as any of these three things, yet it still may find a home here. Giving our soldiers more power is extremely beneficial to our game plan, and while it may not attack as well as we would like, it is a 4/3 for three with Honor of the Pure in play. This guy is right on the fence of playability.

Spectral Procession
I’m still grieving from its rotation. It’s not funny!

Devout Lightcaster
No, it is not a soldier. And it’s a good thing it isn’t, because then it would be the perfect sideboard card. That is the only thing missing from Devout Lightcaster. This looks to be good not only against the terrible vampire deck, but also against Jund decks that opt to run Putrid Leech and Sprouting Thrinax. Keep in mind that it exiles a Black permanent, so if anyone is getting funky with Bloodchief Ascension, we certainly have an out to it.


Ajani Goldmane
Ajani Goldmane is another card that is as good as the format allows it to be. It is at its best in creature-heavy battles, but a lot of those do not exist anymore. If they do arise, Ajani Goldmane is definitely the best way to go about handling them, and slotting a few of them in your main deck/sideboard is the best course of action.

Elspeth, Knight-Errant
A planeswalker that conveniently pumps out soldiers and is outstanding against control decks, Elspeth, Knight-Errant looks to be an auto inclusion. All of its abilities are outstanding, and it is extremely difficult to deal with. I could see the price on this card going back up.

Day of Judgment
This is here for two reasons:

1.) It is very good against us, and is the new enemy. Wrath of God effects will always be good against a creature deck with no reach, but they are by no means unbeatable.
2.) If the format calls for it, we have access to a Wrath of God effect in our sideboard. Pretty neat!

Ranger of Eos
Yes, it’s a soldier. Yes, it can search for more soldiers, but here is the problem with Antoine Ruel. The soldiers you are searching for just really aren’t that great. In the past, decks had the ability to search for Figure of Destiny and Mogg Fanatic. Those both are cards that are either very threatening, or able to handle a threat. I hate to break the news to ya, but Five-Color Control decks are not exactly scared of Akrasan Squire and Elite Vanguard on turn 6 or 7. Perhaps this card is best suited for the mirror match or against other aggressive strategies, but then wouldn’t you rather just be playing Ajani Goldmane?


Conqueror’s Pledge
I’ve been quoted many times as saying I didn’t believe Soldiers was going to be a very good deck. That was until I saw this card. Conqueror’s Pledge is unbelievably good! R&D actually just printed a better Cloudgoat Ranger. Now don’t get me wrong, Cloudgoat Ranger does things that Conqueror’s Pledge will never do (fly into the red zone, block a flyer effectively), but six creatures is a lot more than four. The kicker will never happen, but that just doesn’t matter. Resolving a Conqueror’s Pledge post Day of Judgment is just so disgusting if you have any type of anthem effect on the board or in the holster. I got excited every time I cast a Cloudgoat Ranger, and I think I will get even happier every time I resolve one of these.

World Queller
Yes. Seriously. No, it isn’t a soldier. No, it doesn’t make a ton of guys post Day of Judgment. No, it doesn’t beat Baneslayer Angel in a fight. But the one thing it does is something White decks haven’t had access to since Hokori, Dust Drinker:

Mess with your opponents lands!

I can see casting this post Day of Judgment against a control deck and just sticking it to their lands for a few turns. There are many other applications for World Queller (an indirect way to kill Baneslayer Angel, landlocking opponents, dealing with planeswalkers) that will go unsaid here, but it is too powerful a card not to highlight.


Captain of the Watch


The ultimate trap card, Captain of the Watch is not good in Soldiers. Six mana is just too much to be paying for any threat in a beatdown deck. Five is only acceptable because Cloudgoat Ranger/ Conqueror’s Pledge make so many freaking creatures. I get that Captain of the Watch does a lot of positive things. I get it. But it costs one too many mana, and the fact will never change. If it costs five, it would be too good. The fact that it is properly costed is quite an annoyance, but keeps it from playability. Sorry.


Get some nice Zendikar ones if you can.

Emeria, the Sky Ruin
Entering the battlefield tapped is going to screw you over more times than it resurrecting a creature is going to win you the game. Emeria, the Sky Ruin just isn’t good enough to play in Soldiers, which is a shame because it is a really cool card.

Gargoyle Castle
I could be swayed to play one of these. It reminds me a lot of the Mutavault slot from last season, except it is worse in so many ways. Flying is a bonus, but colorless mana will probably just screw us over a lot.

Now, with all of that laid out, here is the list I am proposing:

I’m sure I am forgetting something, and someone will yell at me in the forums about it, but I cannot think of what it is for the life of me. The sideboard is not something I can fully endorse, but I believe that the maindeck listed above is pretty close to correct. I know that Elspeth, Knight-Errant should be in our 75 somewhere; I am probably undervaluing it (as usual) and should probably just cut Veteran Swordsmith.

Time will tell what is correct, but I am fairly confident that Soldiers is a real player come Standard time.

That’s it for me this week. Back to testing Extended for Pro Tour: Austin (boy, is that format a doozy!).

Cedric Phillips
[email protected]