(Editor’s Note: Nick Eisel is currently suspended from playing in sanctioned tournaments. He has not been compensated for this article. The details of his writing arrangement can be found here.)
Somehow we always end up here. We have gone from the absolute worst environment for a Blue/White draft deck (triple-Onslaught), to one where it is one of the top archetypes. It seems that no matter what you do, the archetype will eventually prevail in any format, even if it turns up in different forms.
We started with Sparksmith, Wellwisher, and Lavamancer’s Skill, and playing against a Blue/White deck in the triple-O format meant only one thing: They opened at least two rares in those colors. I would go as far to say that the deck was on par (or worse) than Green/White, which is historically the worst color combination to draft.
When Legions was released, things got a bit better because there were a few answers to the problem cards in Willbender, Echo Tracer, and Deftblade Elite. Things weren’t ideal yet by any means, but the deck started to see some play.
Now we look at where we have come today, with two of the top three commons in Scourge being Blue and White (and Zombie Cutthroat is the other top common, which is also fine in the deck). The archetype went from being avoided like a coming plague to something players force in hopes of a bounty of Dragon Scales and Rush of Knowledges.
Traditionally, Blue/White is the control archetype, along with Blue/Black, but in this format that is simply not the case. U/W decks in Onslaught Block only know how to do one thing: Put the opponent on a short clock with tons of cheap fliers. U/B decks don’t even really exist in their usual state, with the only ones popping up being the mono-black decks that splash for Rush or Echo Tracer some other gamebreakers.
So how did this happen? If I had asked you before Legions and Scourge were released if you thought Blue/White would be one of the top archetypes by the end of the block, you would have probably asked me if I was crazy. But again, it has happened, as the deck seems to dominate every draft format at some point in time.
I’m not going to dwell on the annoying fact that these two colors seem to be able to overcome any set of obstacles in draft formats. Instead, I’ll give a complete guide to drafting one of what I believe is the format’s top two archetypes. The pros are forcing it for a reason – and it’s not because they like the artwork on Islands and Plains better than the rest of the lands.
I think the best way to do this is to give the pick order for each set followed by comments and what to do in certain situations, so lets try that. By the way, we’re talking Blue/White Soldiers here, not any other crazy type of archetype, as that is far and away the best way to draft U/W – as well as the easiest.
As always, we’re only reviewing commons for our purposes – and yes, I realize it is good to also add in uncommons, but that’s a lot to remember and commons come up far often, so I’m sticking with this for now. Anyway, the first five are pretty self-explanatory, with only the best creatures topping Piety Charm and Choking Tethers.
After that, we have what I think is the only close pick in this set: Glory Seeker vs. Mistform Dreamer. A lot of people have told me that they take the Dreamer higher, so let’s evaluate the differences and see where we stand on the two cards. In terms of being tribal, the only difference is that you can’t Amplify anything with the Dreamer, since you can simply change him into a soldier for all of the other cards. So the point of contention becomes a two-drop bear versus a three-drop flier – and personally, I prefer the 1W 2/2 since there are plenty of fliers to be had and the three spot is always crowded to begin with. Dreamer is also taken out by all of the things that plague a one-toughness creature like Crown of Suspicion, Spark Spray, and so on. Anyway, I admit that it’s close, and I can see justifying either side of the coin.
Even though this is by far the worst set for your colors, you have to be diligent in cutting them off in order to reap the benefits of Legions. Taking a card that is lower quality than the bomb red card you are seeing is perfectly okay, as the red gets far worse later on and your colors both get top commons for the rest of the draft.
Echo Tracer is widely regarded as the second-best common in the set, so no buts about it here. Daru Stinger can easily fluctuate down the list if you have a lot of Mistforms and not too many soldiers, though right below Tracer is usually where you pick ’em.
Seaswift and Elite is close, depending on how many ways you have to pump Elite and put them in”The Abyss.” Most of the time though I take the flier, with much chagrin. Going down the list we see the testament as to how aggressive this deck actually is. We all know Keeneye Aven is a better card than Wingbeat Warrior, but somehow Wingbeat gets picked over it. The reason is simply speed and tempo, and the extra toughness on Keeneye are not as relevant to the extra mana he requires. Beat down in the air, and do it fast – that’s the name of the game.
The same goes for Aven Redeemer, who would rather be attacking than using his ability in this deck, although you can make a case for it… And if you are drafting a more controllish version, he certainly jumps up a lot on the list.
This set is where you start getting the bread and butter for your deck, with loads of quality fliers, provoke guys, and two broken commons in the Stinger and Tracer.
Rush of Knowledge
Raven Guild Initiate
That’s a lot of power in the top 4. Rush of Knowledge is Scourge’s Sparksmith or Timberwatch Elf, and the number of games I’ve cast is and lost is seemingly small. If you need testament as to why Dragon Scales is so good, go read my Scourge White article. As for the rest, it’s pretty self-explanatory as to I’m not a real fan of Frozen Solid, but I will play it. The blue commons are lacking after the top two, with only Initiate, Solid, and Shield being something to put in your forty. The rest of the white commons have already been explained in-depth in my Scourge White article, so go check that out if you haven’t – although I have warmed up a little bit to the Cutthroat since then, as you can see in this list.
This archetype is the real thing; you either draft it or be prepared for it, because everyone else will be.
I’d like to let you know what’s been going on, as I haven’t had adequate time to write in the past few weeks. I’m caught up with work and other goings on, and I assure you I have at least four other articles that I know I’m going to write at this point, and I should get around to doing that very soon. Expect an article on the other top archetype in the block soon – but before that, I have a different article that I wanna get done. See you soon.