This is the first article of my new column entitled The Wescoe Connection. I wrote a tournament report for Pro Tour: San Diego last week that can be found here. In it I covered the process leading up to the deck’s creation, reasons for card choices, and 12 rounds of match play with the deck. I also included a link to the deck tech video that was done on the deck, which for ease of reference can be found here. This week I will go over what changes I would recommend making to the deck in light of the post-San Diego metagame, along with strategies and sideboard advice for some of the major matchups you should expect to face.
Here is the updated version of what is being called Tricked-Out White Weenie:
The changes are pretty minimal. I moved the Day of Judgments to the sideboard and the Oblivion Rings to the maindeck. And in the sideboard I replaced the two copies of Relic of Progenitus with a fourth Kor Sanctifiers and a third Luminarch Ascension. Lastly I cut two of the Devout Lightcasters for two Journey to Nowhere.
On my flight out to San Diego the four Oblivion Rings were maindeck, and it was not until after I got the venue that I made the decision to run two of the Day of Judgments maindeck. Lots of players were playing aggressive White Weenie decks and Knight of the Reliquary decks, and there was a rumor going around that the Japanese players were playing an Allies deck and had bought out all the dealers of the Allies cards. This ended up being a Red Herring and they all played Jund, but these three factors taken together was enough to convince me to run the Day of Judgments maindeck. There was also a significant surprise factor that is no longer present now that everyone knows the decklist. In fact, there is a good chance people will play around Day of Judgment in game 1 even though the deck does not run it anymore.
For the sideboard, I ran two copies of Relic of Progenitus for a number of reasons: they stopped the Crypt of Agadeem deck, they countered an Open the Vaults, and they countered unearth effects in the Red deck. Nobody succeeded with the Crypt deck in San Diego, we already have sufficient disruption against Open the Vaults, and Mono Red is already our best matchup without them. So the Relics got cut. Also, I went down to two Devout Lightcasters because Jund decks are sideboarding out Sprouting Thrinax, which means Putrid Leech and Broodmate Dragon are basically the only targets for it versus Jund, and Vampires did not perform as well as expected. I want the additional Kor Sanctifiers because they are great in almost half the matchups: Mirror, Naya, Open the Vaults, various other decks. I also wanted the extra Luminarch Ascension, since the Chapin Control deck is on the rise and there is now room in the sideboard for it. Finally I added two Journey to Nowhere as a way to counter the Jund strategy of â€˜going Green’ by relying on Beast Tokens and Great Sable Stags to block Kor Firewalkers and White Knights.
As far as matchup analyses are concerned, I find it most instructive to focus on the key interactions of the matchup, important cards, and general strategies. Where appropriate I will offer sideboarding advice, but I should urge you to go with the strategy you think will work best against your specific opponent instead of just blindly implementing my suggestions.
Based on the results of the Midwest Masters Series this past weekend, as written about in Adrian Sullivan recent article here, most Jund players are using Simon GÃ¶rtzen’s deck, or a close approximation to it. The general strategy against Jund is relatively simple. Ideally you want to curve out with creatures: Steppe Lynx into White Knight into Kor Firewalker into Elspeth, Knight-Errant, and then finish them with Dread Statuary or Sigil of Distinction. Keep these things in mind: If you lead out with Steppe Lynx on the play and only have one fetch land in hand, it is better to play Plains and attack for two and then play a White Knight. This way if they cast Putrid Leech on the second turn, you can play the fetch land and attack past the Leech with both creatures. Also, when possible, do not run multiple Kor Firewalkers out. Make them cast Maelstrom Pulse on it as a one-for-one before casting the second. If possible, you want to play around Blightning by holding at least three cards in hand until you are able to cast your Elspeth, Knight-Errant. Usually I try to set up a situation where I can +3/+3 a creature and attack in such a way where if they commit to killing Elspeth on the following turn, I can attack back with everyone for lethal, and if they don’t commit to killing Elspeth, I can kill them with another +3/+3 the following turn. Lastly, keep an eye out for Terminate on Sprouting Thrinax to get three Green Saproling tokens to block your protection from Black and Red creatures. If you expect multiple Malakir Bloodwitches, bring in 2 Day of Judgment. Otherwise the following is pretty standard:
In this matchup you want to apply early pressure with creatures, then start removing their blockers with Oblivion Rings and Path to Exiles, and finish them with +3/+3 activations form Elspeth, Knight-Errant. After sideboarding they will bring in Cunning Sparkmages and the additional Equipment spells. So what you want to do is make sure you win the Equipment battle with your Kor Sanctifiers. Furthermore, the Journey to Nowhere should give you more ways to remove key cards like Knight of the Reliquary. The matchup is really close, and Elspeth, Knight-Errant is the most powerful card. As long as they do not get the machine gun combo active for more than a turn, or blow you out with card advantage from Bloodbraid Elf and Ranger of Eos, the matchup should be close. Both decks have the potential for blowout draws or to go long in an attrition battle.
This matchup is all about tempo in the first game. You want to cast creatures and start attacking while removing their blockers. Unless they are running Bant Charm maindeck, your equipment spells are really good against them, making your attackers large enough to fight past their blockers. After sideboard I would recommend morphing into a pseudo-control deck. Negate is their only way to stop Day of Judgment, and there is a decent chance they do not even bring that in against you (though they probably should). The matchup is interesting because you each can only win via combat damage. Fortunately most of their cards are one-for-ones, while many of ours generate card advantage, or are at least cheap, efficient ways of negating their large threats. Oblivion Ring, Path to Exile, and Journey to Nowhere are all amazing cards in the matchup. You can kill multiple Jace, the Mind Sculptors with a single Oblivion Ring by bouncing it with Kor Skyfisher. Be careful not to get blown out by Bant Charm after sideboard. Remember, it can remove a creature or kill an equipment spell.
Aggro White Weenie
If they are running Elite Vanguard, Honor of the Pure, and Brave the Elements, then you are essentially the control deck. Your cards are more powerful than theirs since yours are a little bit bigger. Don’t be afraid to Path to Exile a first turn Steppe Lynx if they are attacking for 4 with it. In general, you want to fetch Basilisk Collar and use it to start gaining life to put yourself out of range for an alpha strike with Brave the Elements. If you have multiple Elspeth, Knight-Errants in hand, it might be a good idea to attack in such a way that they can attack and kill Elspeth instead of attacking you. If you can get them to burn a Brave the Elements in the process, the second Elspeth will likely do them in. After sideboard, Day of Judgment is your best card. They have no choice but to overextend into it since their plan is basically to kill you with an all out attack under Brave the Elements. Hold a removal spell back for Emeria Angel if possible (preferably Oblivion Ring, since that can also kill an opposing Elspeth). Kor Sanctifiers come in to combat opposing Oblivion Rings and Honor of the Pure.
In the mirror you start out in a race situation and it often ends up being an attrition battle. After sideboard you bring in Kor Sanctifiers to win the battle of Oblivion Rings and equipment. DO NOT BRING IN DAY OF JUDGMENT! That card is garbage against you and will not help you advance your board or hinder theirs in any meaningful way. It is important to identify in game 1 whether you are up against the mirror or against the aggro version, since Day of Judgment is your best card against the aggro version and your worst card in the mirror.
U/W Chapin Control
You are much better against this deck than some of the more aggressive version of Mono White, since you have more cards advantage and reach. Elspeth, Knight-Errant and Stoneforge Mystic provide card advantage while your other creatures apply pressure. The early threats will force them to cast Day of Judgment, and then you will have a reload option in the form of Elspeth, more creatures in hand, and Dread Statuary. You usually want to fetch Trusty Machete first in this matchup since providing the addition pressure without over-committing creatures to the board will force them to use their removal spells prematurely and then have to find more. There are a couple of neat tricks in this matchup. One is casting Oblivion Ring on their Everflowing Chalice and then bouncing the Oblivion Ring with Kor Skyfisher. This will essentially remove all the counters from the Chalice. Also if they cast Jace, the Mind Sculptor on you, you can target it with Oblivion Ring. Then if they cast another Jace you can return the Oblivion Ring so that the Jaces kill each other and you are left with an Oblivion Ring in hand. It is hard for them to deal with an active Elspeth, particularly if you have Trusty Machete and/or Sigil of Distinction in play to make the tokens an immediate threat. Also, Basilisk Collar is usually going to be your last equipment spell to fetch, but don’t think it does not serve a purpose. If they cast Iona, Shield of Emeria on you, Basilisk Collar will allow you to continue attacking past it. They will likely bring in Baneslayer Angels against you, so you want to leave in some removal spells. I prefer to leave in two Paths, since those can also kill Celestial Colonnade.
This matchup is all about staying alive. Kor Firewalker is the nuts, but does not guarantee victory. The general strategy is to always keep mana open for Path to Exile when you have it, usually targeting a Ball Lightning or Hell’s Thunder, but sometimes a 5/5 Plated Geopede. You want to fetch a Basilisk Collar early and get it active. The only creature I usually attack with in the early turns in Steppe Lynx. Don’t be afraid to block a Hellspark Elemental with Kor Skyfisher. You will win the long game. Their only chance to beat you is to get you into burn range with early damage and get you before you can take control of the game with Basilisk Collar. Once you have begun to stabilize, the plan should be to attack with a single, large, lifelinked creature. This is usually one where a Sigil of Distinction and/or jumped via Elspeth, Knight-Errant. This way you can play around things like double Ball Lightning or whatever. If they are burning your creatures, you are probably winning, and cards like White Knight require a burn spell since first strike shuts down half their offense. Keep an eye out for Stone Idol Trap and Unstable Footing after sideboard. The Kor Sanctifiers aren’t particularly good, but they are better than Oblivion Rings in the matchup.
This match can be tricky. Both of you have the tools to beat each other and oftentimes it comes down to who draws the right cards in the right order. You want to play around Gatekeeper of Malakir by casting as many creatures as possible before running your White Knight onto the table. Trading damage is better for you than trading creatures because once Malakir Bloodwitch comes down, your window for killing them gets narrow. At that point you hopefully have a White Knight on the board with an equipment spell or two attached to it. You can race them with a 4/3 Lifelink White Knight and just use your removal spells on their Vampire Nighthawks and various other problematic cards. The neat thing about Elspeth, Knight-Errant is that 5 counters is just big enough to stick around past a Bloodwitch hit, so not only does she essentially prevent two Bloodwitch attacks but she also amplifies your board position and/or your clock. Keep in mind that Dread Statuary is colorless and can attack into Bloodwitch and kill it. Even better is if you have an active Elspeth on the board and are able to attack with a 7/5 flying colorless land. Just don’t get blown out by Tendrils of Corruption.
These are most of the main decks you should expect to encounter in the present metagame. I will be happy to give additional advice in the forums if you have specific questions or advice on other matchups. People are likely not packing much hate for the deck yet, nor will you likely face many mirror matches. I believe this is the case since, despite the deck’s performance in San Diego, it is still a bit under the radar. I attribute this fact to the following reasons: (1) Boss Naya, U/W Control, and to a lesser extent Mythic Bant have overshadowed it as the â€˜new toys’ of the format, (2) White Weenie decks are generally perceived as less skill intensive and having less options than other decks, despite neither of these facts actually being true about this specific deck, (3) The deck was not piloted by a group of high profile pros and so its success was based on a small sample size, but perhaps most importantly (4) decks than run Trusty Machete are bad.
See you at the StarCityGames.com Open weekend in Indianapolis — Good luck!