In Five-Color Magic, White gives you Balance, Swords to Plowshares, and Armageddon. Distinguished company, distinguished indeed. All of them, powerful in control, combo, aggro, or midgame – who doesn’t love watching a team of Mongoose, Werebear, and Terravore plump up as you blow up the world?
Online, White doesn’t give the same clout. The best spells in White are probably Decree of Justice, Swords to Plowshares, and Akroma’s Vengeance, and there’s a clear direction for that strategy. Wrath of God and other board-sweepers are undeniably powerful, but they are powerful in control. If you’re running heavy White, chances are you plan on grinding out the kind of win that would leave Weissman proud.
So, aggressive decks tend to want to sideline White. I’m not so keen on it myself – a lot of my best cards are White, or some permutation of it – but undeniably, White offers little to the aggressive deck that doesn’t want to commit heavily to it. A few bears, a little bit of utility – but if you’re not spending the time to fix your mana, you generally want something else instead.
For pure aggression, if you’re leaning heavily on Red, the solution is simple; Boros Recruit, Boros Guildmage, Master Warcraft, Disciple of Grace and Gilded Light. It sucks to have two do-nothing cantrips, but you also have a one-drop, a decent bear, and a Falter effect, none of which are terrible. In other colors, Mourning Thrull, any other Guildmage (though the Orzhov Guildmage is a shade on the poop side), and Privileged Position aren’t tragic, but the Position suffers from being a target for countermagic. Since it’s expensive, you can’t reliably force it through without losing it to a counterspell, and it’s rare in the early game that you’ll be able to drop a Position and An Actual Problem in the same turn. In the mid-game, your opponent will be in a position to counter multiple spells, or recoup some card advantage against you with sweeper effects. And even if the Position does hit… well, it’s not going to live long. Half of Orim’s Thunder may not work under a Position, but Getting Rid Of Your Five-Mana Permanent is a good enough option.
Now, the other colors made their case – with one exception – for why you want to value them over the others. White just sits around saying why not? White offers very little unique in form, but thanks to having little to call its own in the days of yore, a number of effects were retreaded time and time again to fill out space. Consider that there were three Wrath effects in Invasion Block, to go with the five or six Disenchant effects.
While this gives White redundancy, you have to wonder how much redundancy you want. I mean, you can pack a deck full of Disenchants, Wraths, and cheap dorks, but the other colors offer most of that, and other, good effects anyway. White’s offerings are pretty slim, and it’s only been in times when White has access to some truly berserk win conditions that mono-White’s been a good control strategy. Mono-White aggro hasn’t been a good strategy since it lost Armageddon, either. So why go mono-White?
Well, there are those diehards who refuse to let a concept pass into that good night. Some people will build MBC in any environment, others will build MWC, and some will constantly try for White Weenie. You have to admire their enthusiasm, really.
Also, White-X is often a fantastic strategy. White covers holes in every other color, because of its position as the third-best at a lot of things, it can form training wheels for any other color. Given the shallowness of the color, as I mentioned, white has a lot of multicolored cards or effectively multicolored cards that are simply a staple White effect with some other color’s benefit stapled on. Orim’s Thunder, Dismantling Blow, Desolation Angels and Giants – the list goes on and on.
White is the eternal bridesmaid of Magic. It’s never good except when it’s too good… and when it’s too good, it’s only a matter of time before the environment changes, because white’s view of Being Good is stifling and dull to a lot of players. Who else railed against OLS-Mirrodin-8th Standard, with its grindingly slow MWC decks?
Lee Sharpe right; for all that I complain about Green’s design philosophy, White is the color easiest to shaft out. Eternal formats really highlight the bad decisions of the past and how the present can’t adjust that, and as far as they go, Prismatic White has only one good card to recommend you go heavily White – and that’s Samurai of the Pale Curtain!
However, while White is the color that is the easiest to cut, it’s not the color that has the least pull to going mono-colored. No, for that, we’ll tune in tomorrow, obviously.