The Boss Is Back: Mono-White Aggro In Standard

Tom “The Boss” Ross is back on the competitive Magic scene! That’s a great thing for many people. Perhaps no one stands to benefit more than those playing Standard at SCG Vegas this weekend! Here’s what Tom has on tap for you!

Wait… you can play Pro Tours already?

Let’s get this one out the way.

How I was able to play at Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica.

Last November I left writing for StarCityGames.com and playing on the SCG
Tour to pursue a one-year contractor position as a Play Designer for
Wizards of the Coast. At the time, I had three byes to SCG Tour Opens as a
reward for being the 2016 Player of the Year.

What I didn’t have was a Pro Tour invite. My last Pro Tour was Pro Tour Fate Reforged in 2014. This was all well and good with me, as I
made a comfy living on the SCG Tour in the meantime.

Wizards of the Coast gives a blanket compensation of Gold status for a year
to ex-employees when they reenter the outside world. I didn’t leave behind
Pro Points, but I did leave a professional career in motion. They can’t do
apples to apples for everyone. I’m sure y’all will catch me playing round
one on the SCG Tour soon enough.

Don’t you have to wait a while before playing again? Like six months or

I’m glad you asked.

Wizards’ policy is that ex-employees are eligible to play Standard and
Limited events of sets they helped develop after a three-week period from
release. Now that Pro Tours are three weeks after release, myself and
others are good to go. Hooray!

Choosing A Deck For Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica

I didn’t have a ton of time between leaving Wizards and reentering
professional play. The Pro Tour began a week after my last day. I needed to
crunch and pick something that I knew I could pilot well. I had success
with Mono-White Aggro in the past, and it was putting up good results on
Magic Online.

I bought all the physical cards I thought I would ever want. Everything
that I saw online, including fringe things like Dawn of Hope, Sorcerous
Spyglass, and Shalai, Voice of Plenty. I made a “Mono-White box.” I figured
I’ll probably play it throughout the season. I also made boxes for

My process included putting together a 60-card maindeck that looked
reasonable, solitairing it for ten or so games, changing a few cards, then
repeating. I continued this for about 200 games over the course of three
days, all while watching Magic streams on Twitch. Not a process that works
for everyone, but hey, it works for me.

Every couple hours or so, I’d fire up MTG Arena and bust a few mythic and
gold cards to build a different variation of white aggro. Boros Aggro with
Heroic Reinforcements seemed to be the hotness from the most recent Magic
Online Championship Series. A few games passed with me drawing Heroic
Reinforcements without red mana and then a couple double Clifftop Retreat
opening hands without a basic Plains. I decided that I didn’t want to
sacrifice consistency of mono-color for the power of splashing.

Don’t want ’em.

Taking two from Sacred Foundry didn’t seem very appealing either. Mono-Red
Aggro was pretty prominent and a poor matchup for Mono-White. Little white
creature mirrors were expected too, and I didn’t want to get caught on the
losing end of a race because of my mana.

So, it was settled. Mono-White. Not Boros, R/W Aggro, or Barely Boros.

Dauntless Bodyguard Snubhorn Sentry Legion's Landing Hunted Witness Skymarcher Aspirant

I wanted 20 one-drops to maximize starts with Venerated Loxodon. I also
eschewed Pride of Conquerors in favor of an all-permanent build that would
enable the ascending of Skymarcher Aspirant and Snubhorn Sentry. The deck
would produce some one-land hands that were difficult to evaluate. I’m
pretty comfortable taking the risk and letting the chips fall as they may.

I thought long and hard before not including any Healer’s Hawk, Rustwing
Falcon, or Leonin Vanguard.

I really liked how Rustwing Falcon survived Goblin Chainwhirler and could
be pumped out of Golden Demise range easily enough. I dismissed Leonin
Vanguard pretty early as I didn’t want another one-toughness creature that
I had to work for as Snubhorn Sentry was enough work to focus on.

Hunted Witness ranged in all numbers from zero to four during the process.
The final decision was that I wanted something reasonable against Goblin
Chainwhiler while protecting myself against sweepers. I thought of Hunted
Witness more as a “maindecked sideboard card.” I’d considered playing
Martyr of Dusk as a sideboard card, but it was a low-impact slot that
maindecking Hunted Witnesses solves for the most part.

Healer’s Hawk popped in and out of my lists on an hourly basis. I knew it
was good in the mirror and reasonable against Golgari. However, I hoped
that I navigate combat well in mirrors and perhaps lean a little on the
weaker manabases of Boros to cough up a stumble. Unfortunately, I lost a
mirror at the Pro Tour to Pat Cox piloting the CFB list which had the
mirror in mind. I was out-whited by one of the best beatdowners in the

I wanted something for the Mono-White mirror and stumbled upon Kinjalli’s
Sunwing. The stats seemed to size up pretty well against opponents trying
to leverage small flyers. The ability also seemed nice for races,
especially when Heroic Reinforcements was involved. Kinjalli’s Sunwing
plays well against Izzet Drakes to prevent the haste from Arclight Phoenix
and to hedge against Fiery Cannonade.

Militia Bugler is basically an anti-sweeper measure while somewhat being
additional copies of your key cards. Yeah yeah, doesn’t work with Tocatli
Honor Guard, but if the 1/3 is working then it’s probably good for you and
bad for your opponent and eventually they’ll have to remove it. Or you cast
Militia Bugler into Tocatli Honor Guard and life is great.

These have functionality on their own, but are a high-quantity, necessary
pair against Golgari Midrange, and even six total might be skimping a
little. Golgari Midrange will certainly kill your first Tocatli Honor
Guard, and the second will bite the dust eventually too, but sometimes the annoyance of shutting down their triggered abilities
from creatures is enough for a turn or two.

For the record: I don’t like Tocatli Honor Guard or Ajani, Adversary of
Tyrants in the Mono-White sideboard without the other, at least not in its
current aggressive incarnation.

Not for the faint of heart.

I was testing between nineteen and twenty basic Plains for a while. I ended
up hedging slightly for a singleton Memorial to Glory maindeck.

But Tom, don’t you always want to curve out?

I drew up opening hands with the one-of Memorial. Then a few hands with it
second from top. Then fourth from top. Drawing the Memorial to Glory when
you need an untapped land will cause most people to rip it to shreds.
However, I took the good with the bad over a sample size that I was
personally comfortable with.

The Good

  • You can not overextend into a sweeper.
  • Generally insulates against mana flooding.
  • Bodies for Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants to put counters on.
  • Two permanents for Snubhorn Sentry and Skymarcher Aspirant.
  • Good way to sink mana after sideboard when the opponent has Settle
    the Wreckage.
  • You can leave the Memorial to Glory activation up to dissuade an
    attack in games you didn’t transform Legions Landing into Adanto,
    the First Fort.

The Bad

  • You want to quit Magic when you draw it when you need untapped
    white mana.
  • Activating Adanto, the First Fort is typically better when you have
    both available.
  • It’s an eyesore on an otherwise clean decklist of twenty Plains.

I also had an alternate sideboard plan that I’d been working on, but
ultimately didn’t pull the trigger on. It would’ve looked something like

Divine Visitation is a card that’s intrigued me. Its effect is unique and
even a bit difficult to parse. Is it a gameplan or a “win-more” card? Truth
is it can be an effective sideboard card for when you want to go bigger.
Experimental Frenzy served this role in the Boros builds.

I saw people speculating on the best way to use Divine Visitation.

Legion Warboss Leonin Warleader March of the Multitudes Rite of Belzenlok Emmara, Soul of the Accord

To me, simply casting Divine Visitation with a Memorial to Glory on the
battlefield was good enough without contorting my deck too much. Divine
Visitation already works with Legion’s Landing, History of Benalia, and
Hunted Witness. It doesn’t take much to fit Divine Visitation in the
sideboard with a soft lean into other token makers to go big without
dipping into another color.

In fact, I was working on a token/lifegain deck that I really wanted to
bust out at the Pro Tour. Instead, I (cowardly) sided with proven results.

MTG Arena starter deck all-stars

As you all probably know by now, Healer’s Hawk into Ajani’s Pridemate is a
heck of a start, one capable of taking over the game of their own. My only
regret was not adopting the tech into regular Mono-White like Josh
Utter-Leyton, Luis Scott-Vargas, and the rest of their testing team did.

This cheesy lifegain/token deck plays all my favorite cards. It has the
Divine Visitation thing going on as well as elements of aggro Mono-White.

Dawn of Hope is the other lifegain payoff card along with Ajani’s
Pridemate. Luckily enough, it has a token-making mode that works nicely
with Divine Visitation. When you have enough moving parts that synergize
well something good must come out of it right? Right?

White Moving Forward

The first step I’d take is a blend of the both PT finalists decks. Check
out Todd Anderson’s piece from earlier this week for a thorough explanation

Healer’s Hawk into Venerated Loxodon is super appealing to me. I’d try to
get Dauntless Bodyguard in there over a couple Skymarcher Aspirants. I
could also believe that four Adanto Vanguard maindeck isn’t what’s needed
anymore. After all, it’s not great in the mirror nor against Mono-Red,
which is regarded as the deck’s worst matchup.

After some quick personalization doctoring this is what I’m looking at for
SCG Vegas this weekend.

I got a feeling that this weekend will be full people thinking that their
deck beats Boros. Perhaps some will go so far to say that they smash Boros. While some may be right, I think the aggressive white
base is strong and punishing, and can take a control role after sideboard
that must be respected.

Don’t just tune a deck for game 1 against Boros and call it a day. Nor can
you stuff a bunch of Golden Demises or Deafening Clarions in your sideboard
and think you’re good. If you want to be the Rock to the Scissors that is
Boros, you’ll probably need to give up some points against Paper. What I
mean is don’t pull any punches if you want to beat the aggro decks.

My next stop is SCG Vegas where I’m teaming with Jody Keith and Aaron
Barich. Maybe I’ll be playing Mono-White or Boros Aggro. Then again, Aaron
could pilot Golgari Midrange in the Standard slot after his apprenticeship
with Autumn Burchett (read
) and Jadine Klomparens (read

It’s likely the other will be on Modern Infect, but it’s not a lock. Jody,
of course, will be scooping up Legacy with whatever he likes (probably
Wasteland-ing them out).

My first game of Magic back was round 1 of the Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica. It was quite a way to dip back into the waters.
I got a feeling that #SCGVEGAS will
be less bumpy.

It’s good to be back.