It’s funny reading Duarte Fernandes’ article about Black being weak; not because he is wrong, but because he chose to have, of all creatures, a Serra Angel pop up to denounce black. You would think that one of the other colours would get this honour, since White seems to be down in the same rut as black is.
Here’s a little bit of R&D theory from me – by theory, I mean that I’m am theorizing what the designers of Magic set out to do by making five colours.
Each colour in Magic is good at a number of things, and bad at a couple of others. For example, in the earlier days of Magic, white had access to Exile, Swords to Plowshares, Wrath of God, Disenchant, and various other removal cards. This is something that you would consider white to be good at. Now Green, it has access to poor removal, usually swatting a flier out of the air or killing an artifact with a horny monkey, but otherwise generally ignoring the enemy’s creatures and just playing its own fat. There would be what green is good at: Mana acceleration and large, powerful fatties.
White, in return, is able to remove those fatties, not compete directly with them. If you look over white’s larger creatures, you rapidly realise that white isn’t following the same mana curve as green or red is. At four mana, red gets Flametongue Kavu and green gets Ernham Djinn or another very large creature. White gets Voice of All or Resilient Wanderer – not that the Voice is bad, oh no, simply that its power/toughness does not increase along the same curve that Green or Red’s (and sometimes even Black’s) creatures do.
So white had strong removal and poor large creatures. It also had, much to my personal delight, many excellent creatures known as "weenies," which gave rise to the existence of the "white weenie" deck. This is what, for a long time, formed the strengths and weaknesses of White.
The white weenies of yore are well known for their usefulness: The Soltari shadow creatures, Paladin en-Vec, the people of Kor, the White Knight, the rebels, Savannah Lions… White’s weenies have been around for a long time and they’ve made it into many, many decks over the years. So where have all the weenies gone?
Invasion block was designed, as we all know, to highlight multicolour decks. The most powerful weenie creatures in this environment would seem to be found in the common gold slots of this block – Meddling Mage, Galina’s Knight, Shivan Zombie, Goblin Legionnaire, Gaea’s Skyfolk and so on – all cheap, potent weenies. White didn’t exactly receive a lot of great weenies in this block – the best is Spectral Lynx, but requiring black mana to regenerate practically makes it a gold card. So we can see how White’s weenies – and black’s as well – would get the shaft here.
Then we look onto 7th and… Well, I’m not even going to get into that set. During the development of 6th, someone in Wizards decided that Protection abilities were too”expert” to go in the”advanced” set 6th edition. Of the weenies I named above, the Soltari were instantly out (shadow), the paladin and White Knight both out due to protection. Rebels use a mechanic, like shadow or echo, and I doubt we’ll see them in the main set any time soon. So we end up with Warrior en-Kor being the only 2cc weenie that might get reprinted. He wasn’t, probably because damage redirection is, as well, too complex for the”advanced” sets. We still have Longbow Archer, but that’s about it.
Odyssey does contain a few hopeful weenies – Devoted Caretaker is one, an excellent little creature capable of forcing double casts on burn cards and a well-priced one-drop. Patrol Hound isn’t horrible. Beloved Chaplain is an enduring little creature…
…Okay, so white’s weenies aren’t very good.
It still has mass removal and pinpoint removal, right? Well, in a word, not really. Let’s look at white’s "removal.” Long ago we had Balance, Wrath of God, and Armageddon. What do we have now? Balancing Act, Wrath of God, and Global Ruin – only one of which really holds up compared to the power of its previous incarnations, most likely because it is its previous incarnation. Balancing Act doesn’t live up to Balance, or even Cataclysm, which it is more likely akin to. Global Ruin is interesting, but it’s more expensive and doesn’t wipe out all lands, making it less effective at Armageddon’s trick while being a bit more of a thinker’s card.
Pinpoint removal is both up and down. White remains strong at destroying opposing enchantments and artifacts as it always has: Disenchant, Aura Blast, Orim’s Thunder, and Dismantling Blow are all in Standard and all accomplish the task well. However, White’s on hard times when it comes to creature removal. What do we have these days? Long, long gone is Swords to Plowshares. Exile is gone. Reprisal is still around, but it’s never been anything more than sideboard card. To replace them we have Hobble, Second Thoughts, Pacifism … And so on. Hobble isn’t bad; I’ve seen it used well. Second Thoughts is great in limited, but tapping five during your opponent’s turn is a hard sell. Pacifism can cripple a creature, but it doesn’t stop a trick creature from tapping, and it can be removed through enchantment destruction or just bouncing the creature back to their hand.
So where does this leave White? What exactly is White really "good" at anymore? Both Black and White seem to have lost their best advantages while not gaining anything new. I wonder what R&D is planning on, exactly? I suppose we’ll see. Invasion was all about kickers, multicolours, and so on, which both Black and White were as in on as the rest of the colours. Odyssey is about single colours… Or so it seems. So where are these two colours going? White right now did receive some new effects – Shelter, Beloved Chaplain, and Devoted Caretaker all bend the ‘protection’ rules a little more, so maybe this is where White is going?
(Note: I don’t mean to say that White and Black suck. Really, mono-colour decks are a thing of the past in Standard at the moment, so it’s not much of a surprise. What I mean is that neither colour seems to be strong enough to build a deck around in Standard.)