Time Spiral Draft – White

When Coldsnap was the new kid in town, Benjamin Peebles-Mundy brought us a definitive guide to drafting the cards. Today he tackles the White cards from the new set, providing comprehensive common pick orders for both Rebel and non-Rebel decks, notable uncommon choices, and a couple of example decklists. This is a fantastic article, the first of what promises to be an exciting series.

The past month has been a packed with school, and not too much Magic. I was playing a little Extended at a physical card shop, and a little Standard on Magic Online, both with decks everyone has already heard of (Aggro-Loam and Snakes). The Limited Magic that I was playing wasn’t too exciting either, since I already drained everything I had to say about Coldsnap, and everyone already had their ideas and opinions on RGD draft.

However, the new set has again given me something to talk about. I may have missed the Time Spiral Prerelease, but in the time following that event, CMU has drafted essentially non-stop. As of this point, we’ve blasted through over ten boxes of product in just four days of drafting.

So begins my set of articles on Time Spiral Limited. At the outset, I had planned to write one huge article, much like I did for Coldsnap. When it took me as long to write out my thoughts on White in TS as it did for me to write out my thoughts on everything about Coldsnap, I realized that I had to chop things up into smaller portions. So I will begin with White, from my pick order to some decks I’ve drafted recently.

Common Pick Order:

The first point that I want to make is that you have to evaluate Rebels outside of a regular pick order, much like Krovikan Mist and the like in Coldsnap. Each rebel’s power increases dramatically as the number of Scouts in your stack increases, and the power of the Scout is directly proportional to how many friends he can bring along. This power jump is so high that I find myself rating Amrou Scout as the best overall White common and the rest of the rebels as top picks, but I may be a little trigger-happy. No matter what I think, it’s not too rare for the Zealot and sometimes even the Doomsayers to table, so you may be able to get away with picking them much later than I think you should.

1. Amrou Scout – A 2/1 for two is something that makes a deck fairly often, but this 2/1 comes with multiple other creatures built-in. In an aggressive deck, he can find you a constant stream of tappers and evasion creatures to throw at your opponent, and in a control deck he can find you more and more creatures to trade off with your opponent’s larger men.

2. Amrou Seekers – There are many different forms of evasion in Time Spiral, from Flying to Fear to Shadow. The Seekers are essentially a fear creature, and a 2/2 Fear body for three mana is always a good bargain. The kicker is obvious: Amrou Scout can tutor him up whenever you’ve got four mana lying around.

3. Errant Doomsayers – A large number of creatures in this format are very small, which makes this ability much stronger than you might think. He won’t find too many targets against a Green deck, but the rest of the colors have only a handful of commons that won’t get locked down by the Doomsayers.

4. Zealot Il-Vec – A 1/1 unblockable for three mana isn’t the best deal around, even if there are times when you’ll be able to tutor him up. However, his pinging ability is very relevant, since the standard non-Green creature is fairly fragile. The key to the Zealot is that each additional one is much more powerful than the one before it, and the Scout can find you as many as you’ve managed to draft. One Zealot will pick off a few guys, two will get most of your opponent’s board, and three is nearly a lock. I find myself picking this card very highly, since "living the dream" isn’t too hard and it’s quite powerful.

5. Children of Korlis – The ability is very marginal, and a 1/1 for one is marginal too. Even if you have a bunch of Scouts in your deck, you won’t want to spend your activation mana to find a creature that is nearly irrelevant. Plus, if he’s in the deck just to be searched up, you might draw him accidentally, and that would be a shame.

The rest of White’s creatures are very versatile. Many of them are good both at attacking and defending, but the overall makeup of your White deck will usually lean you towards the attacking side of things. Still, the ability to shift gears well will allow you to win out of situations you would rather not find yourself in. The spells are similar; you can use most of them either to push extra damage through or to slow down the oncoming aggression. Good White decks will be able to play both as aggro and control decks, even if their primary plan is usually to attack.

1. Castle Raptors – This creature is gigantic. When he’s in defense mode, there isn’t much that can get past him. Green has a two commons that make it through, and Black and Red each have one, but outside of Shadow, the rest of the commons will either die to or bounce off of the Raptors. And when you’re on the attack, a 3/3 flyer for five mana is standard issue.

2. Benalish Cavalry – You’re going to want to have an aggressive deck to pick this guy as highly as I have him listed, but a flanking creature backed up by tricks will demand a lot of work to get rid of. If you’re in a dedicated control deck, a 2/2 for two mana won’t be everything you hope for, but it’s unlikely that you’ll have a dedicated control deck in White.

3. Fortify – Your fliers and shadow creatures will love the power side of this card when you get to kill your opponent one or two turns ahead of schedule. Your various defenders will love the toughness side when a trade-happy combat takes place. And at all points in time this card will let you trade up or dodge removal spells.

4. Cloudchaser Kestrel – Unfortunately, the best enchantments at common will most likely be your own, but you can maneuver a little to avoid blowing up your own Temporal Isolations with the Kestrel. There are a couple really spicy purples that you can hit, though, including Stormbind and Sacred Mesa. In addition to blowing out enchantments, the Kestrel’s secondary ability turns on all of the "non-Black" removal and combines with some rares (say, Pentarch Paladin) quite nicely. Oh, and it’s a Wind Drake.

5. Temporal Isolation – At first glance, this appears to be an instant-speed Pacifism. Giving shadow is essentially stopping blocks, and preventing damage is essentially stopping attacks. However, there are a few different ways to get rid of this card, such as Dream Stalker or an opposing Cloudchaser Kestrel. The real problem here is that it will also create a wall that will turn off your Zealot Il-Vec for the rest of game. If you have no Shadow creatures of your own, this may or may not be better than Fortify, but if you do it carries a risk.

6. Flickering Spirit – Activating the flicker ability is somewhat rare, since it costs so much mana. However, paying an extra mana for your Wind Drake for the potential to have an unkillable creature is something worth doing. As the game goes long and you start to be able to activate the Spirit multiple times, not much outside Errant Ephemeron, Penumbra Spider, and Castle Raptors can stop it.

7. Ivory Giant – If your deck is not heavy White, the lockdown ability won’t be too impressive. However, if you have a Rebel deck or really just a White-heavy aggro deck, the turn where the Giant comes out of suspension will usually be a game-winner. Look to combo-kill with Fortify.

8. Icatian Crier – In Black/White, the Crier will move up a slot or two, since madness is huge in a good Black deck. Still, turning late-game lands and otherwise marginal cards into Raise the Alarms isn’t a bad deal at all, even if you have to start out with a three-mana 1/1. It is also worth noting that the Crier is two-card kill with Fortify, despite the fact that you have to crank tokens out for quite a few turns to get to that point.

9. D’Avenant Healer – Both of these abilities are decent, but neither is amazing. A 1/2 body isn’t that amazing either, but since this guy does so many things, you won’t be embarrassed to include him in all but the best of the White decks. If you find yourself in a control-oriented White deck, as opposed to the standard aggressive build, he moves up quite a few slots.

10. Gaze of Justice – In all but the nearly mono-White decks, this card will usually be locked in your hand without three creatures to tap for a turn. However, in something like the Rebel deck, you’ll have a ton of creatures hanging around, and a no-restrictions two-for-one removal spell is nearly as good as you’d imagine. Even there, you need to worry about the fact that you’re turning off three creatures for an entire turn, and if you can afford to do that, why aren’t you just winning the game with a Fortify attack?

11. Momentary Blink – If you can only cast this the first time, it’s not too special. Without Blue in your deck, you’ll only run this when you have interactions with it (Mangara, Subterranean Shambler, Firemaw Kavu etc). When you do have Blue in your deck, however, the card advantage aspect becomes much more attractive, and will give many Black or Red decks fits.

12. Watcher Sliver – You certainly won’t be in the sliver deck if you’re the White drafter, but a Foot Soldiers is relatively solid at holding the fort. Unfortunately, against the actual sliver deck, you’ll just be making sure that they can safely slam into you every turn. There is also the fact that your standard White deck isn’t one that worries too much about holding the fort.

13. Pentarch Ward – Despite the fact that this card cantrips, it’s usually not going to be worth a slot in your deck. If the only way you can win is through a bomb creature that must stay in play, you might find the Ward in your deck. In every other situation, leave it on the sidelines.

14. Jedit’s Dragoons – At five mana, this creature would be much more acceptable. However, tapping out on turn 6 for a two-power creature isn’t the most impressive of plays in the beatdown color, and the control decks would much prefer their walls to be online before the game goes this late.

15. Detainment Spell – This card is something that I always like to have one of in my sideboard, despite the fact that I have never boarded it in. This probably means it’s not even worth taking for your sideboard. Oh well… it looks kinda neat.

16. Foriysian InterceptorFlash is fairly irrelevant here, since you won’t actually be able to pick anyone off like you might manage with Drudge Reavers or Viashino Bladescout. In addition, a non-flying 0/5 is definitely overcosted at four mana, even if it can block two creatures a turn.

17. Sidewinder Sliver – A 1/1 flanker for one mana is not anything to be excited about, and the risk that you’ll pump up your opponent’s entire side is just not worth it.

18. Divine Congregation – Lifegain is just as marginal as always when it’s not repetitive. Gaining ten life just isn’t worth four mana, and you can’t even use it as a combat trick.

Notable Uncommons:

Cavalry Master – A 3/3 flanking creature for four mana is very good, but if you’ve got a handful of Benalish Cavalries in addition to this guy is the real thread. Two instances of flanking is nearly unstoppable. A few Green creatures will manage to trade with a double-flanker, but nearly everything else will have one, if not zero, power. With no other flankers, this card is just below Castle Raptors. With a few, it is similar or better than the Raptors.

Celestial Crusader – The ability on this creature is all White creatures, not just all white creatures you control. Still, a 2/2 flyer that can be used as an uncounterable combat trick isn’t a bad deal at all. Depending on exactly how White-heavy your deck is, you’ll be picking this just behind Castle Raptors to just behind Cloudchaser Kestrel.

Griffin Guide – It’s no Moldervine Cloak, but creating a 4/4 flying flanking attacker on turn 3 is nearly as hard to deal with. As long as you’re careful to not run into something like Strangling Soot, the bonus Griffin that you get will also be pretty good for you. Pick this card just behind Castle Raptors.

Outrider En-Kor – The monster rebel. If you can search this man out mid-combat, it will usually be a very bad thing for your opponent, and for the rest of the game you can turn double-blocks into even trades (which is amazing when you can just pay four mana to get another copy of the man that just died). In addition, he’s a 2/2 flanker on the attack, so he’ll dominate combat on both sides. If you’re drafting Rebels, he’s better than every common except the Scout, where you will have to use personal judgment. If you’re not drafting the Rebel deck, he is approximately even with Castle Raptors.

Return to Dust – This probably won’t make your maindeck, but a lot of people will have decks where you will be able to double up on Totems or various enchantments, so it’s great to have one of these in the sideboard.

You’ll notice that most of these cards are being lined up against Castle Raptors. The Raptors are simply amazing, and if I weren’t so rebel-happy, they would get my immediate vote for #1 White common.

Sample Decklists:

The two colors that I find myself pairing with White most often are Black and Red. This is usually simply due to the fact that Black and Red have a lot of easily splashable removal, so I can build a mono-White deck that touches on another color for a handful of removal spells. Here are two decks that I’ve drafted in the past week, both in team drafts and both easy x-0s.

There wasn’t anything too special about the interactions in this particular deck; the card quality is simply quite high. The Crier and Syphon-Mage allowed me to cast Dark Withering on the cheap, and suspending a turn 2 Phthisis slowed the game down, allowing my late-game bombs to come online before I got run over. Still, when all of these interactions were missing, I just had good creatures at every slot from two mana to five mana, and a smattering of removal to keep my opponent off-balance. The one game that I lost was to a turn 5 Sol’Kanar, which my deck had few one-card answers to (the Kestrel would also have allowed Dark Withering or Premature Burial to kill the swampwalking legend).

This deck is the exact opposite of the last: it is built entirely on synergy. Nearly every game progressed in the same way all draft long, which was an easy win. The Scout(s) would churn out rebel after rebel, and the Outriders would make combat impossible for my opponent. Eventually, the Zealots would pick off anything threatening, and I would kill my opponents either with evasion creatures and Fortify or with one big Ivory Giant turn.

I believe that these two decks show one thing very well: A White deck in Time Spiral Limited is usually going to have mostly White creatures and mostly non-White spells. You’ll find that each color excels at either creatures or spells, and a good deck combines the good creatures from one color with the good spells of another. Of course, the spell colors have their good creatures, and the creature colors have their good spells, but this is still a good thing to keep in mind.

Over the next few articles, I’ll be doing the same thing for the rest of the colors, likely in order of my color preference when drafting Time Spiral. This is mostly because I don’t want to give you guys an article that doesn’t know what it’s talking about, and I will draft the colors that I like more often than the colors I don’t. Expect either Black or Red next, and Blue last. CMU is traditionally very fond of Blue, so it’s hard for me to fight over a color that I really don’t want to play.

As always, I’ll be happy to answer questions you may have over Instant Messenger, email, or the forums. Thanks for reading.

Benjamin Peebles-Mundy
ben at mundy dot net
SlickPeebles on AIM