You must have said it yourself, and heard it many times, while playing Rise of the Eldrazi draft. Today, I’m not going to debate whether or not it actually sucks. Simply put, White is really bad in RoE, and that’s the way it is. However, I will explain why you should stay away from it, and I’ll highlight the situations where playing White is okay.
Let’s check the different White-based archetypes in the format:
The synergy of this archetype is pretty obvious. Most of the good creatures in both colors have a Level Up ability, you have access to the precious Venerated Teacher, Totem-Guide Hartebeest can fetch Narcolepsy, and so on.
This archetype may look pretty sexy on paper, but it has many flaws, most of which must be laid squarely on the shoulders of the Level Up ability.
Level Up is awful as far as tempo is concerned. The Black Level Up guys seem weaker, but they belong to archetypes in which tempo is less important. In a usual Black deck, you only run two or three Level Up guys, so you don’t have to pump them. They can stay back on weak defense, waiting for the moment when you have nothing better to do, and then be decisive. On the other hand, U/W usually has around five or six Level Up guys. Therefore, pumping them will often be mandatory, which means you will lose tempo no matter what, but that loss will become disastrous any time they have a removal spell, a bounce spell, or even any combat trick. The fact that you have to be tapped out most of the time means any trick is instantly spotted by your opponent. He can often deduce the exact card you have in hand by the number of mana you have kept open.
Another weakness of this archetype lies in Venerated Teacher. Make no mistake, the card is awesome in the deck. But when you try and go for a full Level Up deck, it tends to be sink or swim. Either you draw Teacher and put yourself in a great situation, or you don’t draw it and you will have much trouble compensating for your lack of tempo. You would need three copies in your deck to have over a 50% chance of draw it by turn 5, and you usually only get one or two. It is also the common you will pick the highest, which means you’ll often have to pick it over Level Up guys; your deck will end up lacking in the end. Of the UW Level Up guys, only two of the non-rares (Halimar Wavewatch and Hada Spy Patrol) help you win on their own. That’s not a great deal, considering it will often be your most solid winning plan. I choose not to count Enclave Cryptologist, as the card only means you draw more guys that you will have to play instead of leveling your guys up, or to keep in hand while you do level up your previously played creatures, making it much worse here than in any other archetype. I could also have mentioned Knight of Cliffhaven, but I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen that guy turn into a 4/4.
Furthermore, the most popular deck in the format is GRB Eldrazi, an archetype which doesn’t have much trouble providing chump blockers for your fully leveled guys. This means you’ll end up losing even more tempo against them, even if you can get 6/6 or 5/5 first strikers.
And eventually, UW loses to any good creature with an activated ability. There may not be many Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief style creatures that mean you instantly lose in the format, but if you face an Invoker, and most particularly the White Dawnglare Invoker, and Regress and Domestication will be your only answer. Those two and Punctured Light, assuming your opponent is smart enough to attack into it. You could board in Deprive or Lay Bare for game 2, but once again they would be so visible your opponent could easily play around them. Actually, it is sometimes good not to level up a guy on purpose and keep mana open depending on what you want to bluff. For instance, if you have a level 1 Wavewatch and six lands on the board, it is good to make it only level 3 and keep two Islands untapped to bluff Deprive or Heel Umbra. If you keep four mana open, they’ll expect Lay Bare. And so on.
If you want UW to work, you need to try for the Teachers, level up guys, and Time of Heroes in the first two packs. Then, the minute you realize you don’t have enough of those cards (around pack 2 pick 5 when you have 1 Teacher plus Time of Heroes, maximum), give up on the Level Up strategy and focus on efficient cards (Mammoth/Drake Umbra, Merfolk Skyscout, Frostwind/Dawnglare Invoker etc.).
One final thing considering this archetype: Emerge Unscathed is a card you must try and get, as it is the only invisible trick you can be running, and as it destroys the always embarrassing Guard Duty and Narcolepsy they play on the guy you spent three turns to pump.
White — Blue — Black — Red — Green. The pentagram of Magic colors is designed so the colors are, the more synergy they have together. There may be a few exceptions, but it mostly occurs when it fits the story-line (like in Ravnica block). And it never applies as much as it does to White/Black. This archetype has almost always been bad, if not unplayable, for different reasons. Here, the problem is that the Black guys are not synergic with the White guys at all. Black Level Up guys are too expensive to let you pump your White ones, cards like Dread Drone or Bloodthrone Vampire have no synergy whatsoever with White ones, Induce Despair rarely kills anything bigger than a 2/2 when powered by White guys, and so on.
The only thing that would push me into that archetype is to be almost Mono White after pack 1 and open Drana in pack 2. And even then…
In theory, WB and WR are archetypes that could work. The plan is simple: ally the strong White Weenie army to the removal they are missing so much. However, it is far from being easy. White doesn’t have that many good creatures, so you can’t just play Mono White plus two or three Red guys and creature removal. And the pairing of White and Red creatures underlines, just like it does in WB, the weakness in the synergy between the colors. Battle-Rattle Shaman can be good in the deck, but Emrakul’s Hatcher is nothing like the great card it should be. Just like Lavafume Invoker, Soulsurge Elemental, and Rapacious One, it is a card that is designed to fit an Eldrazi based deck, usually GRB.
Concerning WB and WR decks: I’m not saying they can’t win. After all, there are only a handful of matchups which are below a 30% win rate. However, you can’t expect your deck to be very good with this color combination. A deck, no matter if it’s Limited or Constructed, should never merely be a collection of strong cards. It should be a good mix of strong card and strong synergy. As White cards are not very strong individually, and as their synergy is pretty low in both of these color combinations, you should just forget about those two archetypes.
This archetype is definitely interesting. It is usually is based on auras, and on their synergy with Aura Gnarlid and Totem-Guide Hartebeest. Of course, this archetype shares a lot of flaws with UW, such as its difficulty to deal with Invokers and bombs, and the necessity of getting passed the key cards (Gnarlid and Hartebeest). Of course, it also has many advantages compared to the UW Level Up strategy.
First, it doesn’t run any Level Up guys (on the whole), and it is a mostly Green base, meaning your cards are simply stronger than those in a regular White deck. Next, the Green base often allows you to splash, thanks to Growth Spasm, Ondu Giant, and Prophetic Prism. This means Hartebeest will often be able to fetch Narcolepsy, and Red and Black removal spells can be easily accessed. I count Prophetic Prism as Green, as if you had the cards in any other White deck, you wouldn’t run it because of the extra lack of tempo, a lack that you can’t really afford.
The key to making a deck like this work is, of course, picking up the important cards. Alongside this, you must also pick one- and/or two-drops, so your Snake Umbras and Boar Umbras don’t go to waste when you’re not drawing any of your key cards.
In this archetype, you’ll discover cards that are great, when they are usually pretty weak. Affa Guard Hound, for instance, is easily telegraphed in a Level Up deck, but it becomes the very tricky card it should be when you play Green/White. Also, as your opponent expects you to tap out before combat in order to cast auras, they usually won’t play removal spells at sorcery speed, so you don’t even need to keep mana open on their turn.
One last option for a Green/White draft is to play a Wall-based strategy. Even though it doesn’t happen a lot, I’ve ended up playing the archetype three times, for an 8-1 total record on MTGO. Here is how I got there:
Play Green, and get an early Overgrown Battlement.
Either pick up a second copy quite early, or pick up a pair of fixers early in the draft. Receive another Battlement and start picking the Wall of Omens and Soulbound Guardians, two cards you can usually get easily as UW is not too interested in such defensive cards.
Get a third Overgrown Battlement, and then, once you know you should be able to draw one per game (as you’re going for a pretty slow deck here), start picking the Red walls (including the very important Vent Sentinel). This archetype only requires one difficult thing: getting three Overgrown Battlements. Everything else should be a piece of cake. A pair of fixers, some late picks no one wants (the walls and the excellent-in-the-archetype Guard Duty), and the decisive Warmonger’s Chariot.
Next is the question of knowing exactly when you want to go White. I’m tempted to say never, as most of these archetypes are bad. WG is cool, but it’s pretty much impossible to draft when any player at the table is set on an Aura Gnarlid/Hartebeest deck, or when someone picks an Overgrown Battlement highly in the first pack.
To be honest, even though you can end up with good White decks once in a while, I just try to avoid that color entirely. There are two reasons for me to go White. Either the draft goes weirdly (probably leading to the wall archetype), or I open one of the following:
You could actually be a little more flexible and play White in an X-Color Control deck, but I’ll come back to that in a couple of weeks.
Until next time, have a great week!