So Ben Bleiweiss thinks White is in the crapper, that it has been maligned by Wizards and given the shaft in its mechanics. According to him, White is the worst color of every format, the victim of ruthless undermining from within and generally anemic in every way. He goes about examining the claims that Randy Buehler made in a February 2003 article concerning what White would and would not be doing in the future, and concludes, based on examination of the current Standard format, that the promised”goods” have not been delivered. As I understand it, there are a number of people who agree with Mr. Bleiweiss, but I’m not one of them. Want to know why? Good, you’re in the right place.
There are so many things to refute, that I hardly know where to start. Probably the best way to go about this is the same way Mr. Bleiweiss did: point by point. First up:
Mr. Bleiweiss uses this section to compare the rather underpowered soldiers and clerics of the Onslaught block to the brutally fast goblins and remarkably powerful elves of the same sets. Really, this can’t be argued. Goblins, elves, even zombies were far superior to any of White’s”tribes” in each of Onslaught, Legions and Scourge.
There’s just one problem with this. When Randy published his article, all of those sets were already mostly made.
Yes, that’s right kids. R&D actually, if you can believe it, works ahead of the sets that are being released at this exact moment. In fact, they work about a year ahead, which means that when Randy’s article hit the front page, R&D was just starting to work on Darksteel. I doubt Mirrodin was solidly into the books yet, but odds are Scourge was finished, and Legions was being wrapped up for delivery to retail shelves across the nation. If we haven’t seen those synergetic weenies just yet, perhaps this is because they are only just now making their way out of the booster packs.
Case in point: Auriok Steelshaper. In an attempt to bring the various types of creature under White’s banner together, this little fellow boosts both soldiers and the until-now-excluded Knights, while also playing well with the”please equip me” mentality White is showing. If more of the same hasn’t shown up by the time Fifth Dawn hits the streets (and from the look of some of the Darksteel cards, this seems unlikely), then you can complain, but for now let’s realize that R&D does their work long before we actually see it.
To be perfectly honest, I could use this same argument to counter every part of Mr. Bleiweiss’s article. But I won’t, ’cause I’m a nice guy like that.
Game Altering Enchantments
Actually, Mr. Bleiweiss provides a pretty good documentation of the White enchantments that have had an impact on the game in the past year. Of course, he also provides a longer list of non-impacting enchantments, so it looks like White has again been shafted, but let’s be rational. He lists eleven enchantments that have had an impact, and sixteen that have not. Forgive me if I’m wrong here, but it seems to me that if forty-one percent of the cards in a given group have a significant impact on the game, that group is doing pretty well! In contrast, thirty-two percent of the goblins from Onslaught block had an impact, and that’s giving them Goblin Pyromancer and Skirk Fire Marshal.
Mr. Bleiweiss also notes that only two of these influential White enchantments are new cards, while the other nine are reprints appearing in Eighth Edition.”‘Nuff said,” he says, and I couldn’t agree more. Aggressive reprinting of influential enchantments certainly implies a commitment to a color, at least in my mind.
Powerful Mass-Destruction Spells
Mr. Bleiweiss’s main complaint here seems to be that the latest White sweepers allow the creatures they go after to regenerate. Now really, I have to ask, how much does that matter when Wrath of God is still around and none of the tier 1 decks play Troll Ascetic, the only notable regenerator in the format? Sure, I’ll admit Solar Tide isn’t exactly a gem, but the influence Akroma’s Vengeance has on the current Standard metagame cannot be denied. When one card single-handedly destroys one of the dominant archetypes, is useful against any deck that packs permanents of any nature, and cycles to boot, that’s a pretty good card!
Incidentally, there’s a certain Darksteel card called Soulscour that might be worth looking into. Cheap? Well, no. Efficient? Perhaps not. But powerful? You bet your life.
The Best Enchantment Removal
The fact that the format is currently rife with artifacts, while enchantments are playing second fiddle certainly makes those Green cards look a lot better, and in truth, they are. However, the key here is in the title.”The best enchantment removal” is not“the most versatile enchantment removal.” White gets the cards that are best at taking down enchantments cheaply and in great quantity, and in each of the pairs Mr. Bleiweiss presents, the White card outstrips the Green card in killing enchantments. ‘Nuff said? ‘Nuff said.
Don’t Mess With White or White’s Boys
Uh… Well, Okay, you got me here. The only card I can really think of that meets this criteria is Second Sunrise. Blech. Moving on.
The Best Lifegain
Ooooooh boy. This again.
This might be a revolutionary concept, and will probably meet with some controversy in the forums, but I’m gonna tell you something. Life gain does not inherently suck. There are many life gain cards that suck, but the mechanic itself is actually rather strong. I’ll elaborate.
Any card that just gains you X life and then goes away without replacing itself probably won’t be a very good card, but when life gaining is attached to a card with another ability or some sort of board presence, it really shines. A perfect example is Exalted Angel. If Exalted Angel didn’t gain you life, goblins wouldn’t care about it. Even if it cost one less mana, goblins would not care at all. Goblins can race a 4/5 flyer. Goblins can’t race a 4/5 flyer that gains you four life per turn.
Loxodon Warhammer wouldn’t be nearly the wrecking ball it is in Mirrodin Limited if it weren’t for the life gaining. I played a game in which I actually corralled the Warhammer by trading for my opponent’s threats, while minimizing the damage with a Pearl Shard, but by the time I stabilized, my opponent was at forty. I only managed to take him down to fifteen before he drew Grab the Reins and finished me off with it. All that excess life gave him many, many turns to draw the cards he needed. Noble Purpose has won its share of Eighth Edition drafts in the same way.
Even one-shot life gain cards can be very good. Ravenous Baloth, for example, can take the steam out of an aggressive deck almost as well as an Exalted Angel by presenting a big body that also gives its controller four more points of breathing room. Those four points mean more options about what to block or not, what to counter or not, what to attack with or not. Bottle Gnomes and Spike Feeder worked the same way in Tempest Block, and the Gnomes could probably do just as well combating little Red men today as they have in the past.
Radiant’s Dragoons wasn’t a lifegain spell made good by the decent body attached to it. It was a 2/5 dork made great by the five life it came with. Ask any Living Death player which part of the card was more important.
Other Random Remarks
Mr. Bleiweiss seems to think that White needs some mechanics that are not shared with other colors. I’m not entirely in disagreement, but I would caution him to be careful what he wishes for. When a color has exclusive rights to many mechanics that are very strong, things get boring. This was the problem with Blue for so many years: it alone could counter spells, bounce permanents and (to a lesser extent, as Black had a little of this) draw massive amounts of cards, and thus was always the strongest of the colors. Wizards has”fixed” this by reducing the power of these mechanics, but I think it would also have worked to share the wealth amongst other colors.
Of course, Mr. Bleiweiss does list three of White’s mechanics that he designates as”useful:” not tapping to attack, angels, and damage prevention. I think three good, exclusive mechanics are enough for any color, and I’m not entirely sure any other color has more than that.
I would also contest Mr. Bleiweiss’s claim that without Decree of Justice, White would lose much of its current usefulness. Akroma’s Vengeance has simply too much game against Affinity to ignore, while Wrath of God and Exalted Angel still take the fight to any aggressive deck. While his claims about Type 1 and Extended may have some validity, those formats are the results of many years of cards, not just recent ones, and thus his claims regarding the current state of White can’t really be applied.
If I had to put it down to one thing, I would say that the real problem with White is an identity crisis, not a lack of power. It has strong weenies, but also cards like Wrath of God that punish weenie strategies. It packs strong enchantments, but also wants to wipe out enchantments (usually all at once, unfortunately).
While being half of one of the three current Tier One Standard decks is no cheap thrill, I think that once the changes to White are given some time to manifest, White may be able to claim an even bigger piece of the action. Of course, I could be wrong; just like you, I’m sitting and waiting for whatever comes.
Here’s hoping it’s good.