I seem to have mixed up my numbers last week.
Die Zusammenkumft moderators Oliver Daems and Benjamin Rott, a.k.a. Teletubby, topped the German Dülmen’s Best list, based on Top 8 performances in that tournament. However, the list was based on performance since January 2000 and not January 2002. My apologies to the duo for the inadvertent typo.
Also, last week’s column was #57, but mistakenly labeled #49.
Also, Luke Twigger from England wrote in to report that he piloted Suicide Black to win the 26-man UK and Ireland Type I Championship at GenCon UK last week. He also wrote to say that it was the first time he ever played Type I, though he checks out the Net literature on the format.
I don’t have the specifics, but Luke went old-school with Zombies, and felt they were the effective weenie in the tournament he won.
The Ancient Favorite
White weenie is one of the game’s oldest archtypes, embedded in the collective Magic psyche since Arabian Nights. From a deckbuilder’s perspective, the concept is simple but elegant… And from a flavor perspective, nothing fires the RPGer’s imagination more than the idea of leading a gallant band of knights, clerics, soldiers, angels and pegasi under the ironic dual-influence of Crusades and Allah.
White creatures get +1/+1.
Army of Allah
Arabian Nights common
All attacking creatures get +2/0 until end of turn.
Beyond old-school casual play, White Weenie has an impeccable pedigree, and has been a force throughout the history of Type II.
In 1996, Tom Chanpheng and his famous misregistered White Weenie was all that stood between the Necrodeck and the World Championship title. White won.
In 1998, Matt Linde took a deck of shadows, en-Kors and the Empyreal Armor/Cataclysm combo and won the US Nationals. Brian Hacker took a similar deck and reached the semis.
In 1999, Kyle Rose took the US Nationals with Waylay White.
In 2000, Kai Budde took Pro Tour Chicago with a near-mono white Rebel deck – and everyone knows what Rebels did in the months that followed.
White weenie was a force in Extended as well. In the format’s earliest days, Randy Buehler took the North American Extended Championship with an early”White Necro” or Land Tax/Scroll Rack-based deck, with Firestorm and red burn in place of surplus creatures.
In 1999, Justin Gary took a White Weenie with a red splash and placed in the Top 8 of the Extended portion of the World Championships. The 1998 US National champion previously Top 8ed with a similar deck in Pro Tour Rome ’98 – amidst unrestricted Tolarian Academies and Time Spirals.
1) The guy who wrote about Butter Knives isn’t frustrated by the cost of certain Type I staples. He’s frustrated because he tried to play the format without studying up, and expected to do well on the first try. (Imagine yourself going to a Limited PTQ without even reading the spoiler lists.)
Among other things the”archetype” he named gives him away.
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Emerald
1 Sol Ring
1 Strip Mine
4 Dark Ritual
4 City of Brass
4 Underground Sea
2 Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author]
Butter Knives was the black-based deck played by Chris Pikula in the 2000 Sydney Invitational. It’s best defined as a slower Suicide Black variant that splashes for a handful of other tricks.
Does that sound strange?
Well, it was played exclusively by Chris Pikula in that Invitational and a handful of people on the MTGNews Type I forums.
In other words, for all practical purposes,”Butter Knives” does not exist in Type I.
Remember, the Invitationals can generate funny metagames because there are only three rounds per format and players can figure out what they’ll go up against. You might guess that Chris figured that Duress + Hymn would do well against control and Juzam was a hedge against Sligh, or read his report and figure he was pressed for time and threw together whatever else he could find to go with the Hymns. (Chris ended up paired against Yoshikazu Ishii playing Sligh, Trevor Blackwell playing Zoo and Alex Shvartsman playing an abomination that vaguely resembled aggro. He didn’t go up against a single control deck, and Lightning Bolts creamed his Negators leaving him at 2-1.)
Then you can guess that some MTGNews regulars just took the decklist without thinking about the context… Bingo, instant nonexistent archetype referred to in Rosewater’s mailbox.
If you want to tell people why you don’t play this or that format, fine! But do it intelligently… How would you feel if I started ranting about how Booster Draft is just an excuse for Wizards to make money by forcing people to drool over lousy cards?
2) It’s true that you have a competitive and a casual range of the Type I spectrum, and the latter is far more important in Type I than it is in any other format. Casual Type I players also have very different needs.
I think it’s dangerous, however, to ignore natural links between the two. For example, a lot of these so-called casual players enjoy reading about”The Deck” and how it plays, and adapt”competitive” archtypes to their metagames and cards on hand.
To say that the casual people wouldn’t care about the competitive possibilities is a dangerous assumption for a developer to make.
3) I maintain my reservation about anointing a”Type I National Champion” without a Type I tournament network of any sort in place. You could simply have three dozen people show up at or live near whatever venue is picked, and hand some title to one of them. It makes for a great press release, but I don’t think it’ll add much to Type I strategy or to the format in general.
But we don’t have a Type I network?
Well, yeah – which is why I think something simpler like official side events and an option to run Type I FNM tournaments would make a bigger impact than a single hyped tournament.
Hell, unlike, say, Worlds, this”Type I Champion” could theoretically win the tournament without even playing Type I before.
4) I do wish Rosewater would tell us what assumptions he kept in mind when designing his”Type I cards” for Bacon. It’s not a bad idea, but if you have the wrong assumptions about the format, you might not be helping.
Thinking up the White Weenie backstory
Since White Weenie is a personal favorite of so many people, myself included, I felt I had to take it up in The Control Player’s Bible. I hit up the”Type I Paragons” mailing list for decklist suggestions. There are so many tricks available, and I asked if I should demonstrate using mono white, white/red, or the minor blue splash for Meddling Mage.
Matt D’Avanzo and I figured the Mage was it without going into aggro/control. We wanted more one-drops after Savannah Lions, and he proposed Mother of Runes while I wondered if the more recent Ramosian Sergeants (with Steadfast Guard) might be entertaining.
Though I hate to admit it, the archetype that faced off with the Necrodeck in Type II and the original Academy in Extended is simply one of the worst aggro decks you can build in Type I.
(Caution: Remember, this is the aggro portion of the Bible. Blue/white builds that tend to aggro/control are a bit different. Of course, that’s another column.)
Here’s the feature match:
00:03:22 – — Basti says: ”Go easy on me.”
00:03:22 – — Rakso says: ”Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war”
00:03:53 – Rakso drew 7 cards.
00:03:55 – Basti drew 7 cards.
00:04:02 – Rakso says:’keep’
00:04:05 – Basti says:’I am playing White Weenie!’
00:04:10 – Rakso says:’I accept your concession.’
When facing a white weenie aggro deck, all a control player has to do is remember that many of the archtype’s strengths are ironically irrelevant, a bit like green’s.
Strength #1: Best weenies in the game
When you talk about weenies in Type I, nothing beats the White Weenie original:
The big problem is that while White Weenie has the best one-drop in the game, it’s the only good one-drop in terms of power-to-mana ratio. Red and green have comparable one-drops, but they have a broad enough pool to form a deck around. And when it comes to Turn 1 drops, you have to have the right color of mana on Turn 1 – meaning you’re ill-advised to have them in three different colors.
The Lions are more of the exception, and White’s strength has traditionally been in the two-drop department. Randy Buehler says that white should get the best weenies, and this has been historically true in many senses. Take a look at White’s classic two-drop:
Protection from black. First strike.
Where green, according to Randy, should be getting a Grizzly Bear and Red should get something even worse like Ironclaw Orcs or Goblin Raiders, white weenies always got free abilities for the same price. And from Order of Leitbur to Soltari Priest, these freebies dominate combat:
Protection from red. Shadow
So what’s wrong?
Well, look at the key word: Combat.
Competitive Type I has a lot of creatureless control and combo decks, and if the other guy doesn’t have blockers, your combat abilities are all dead weight. First strike, shadow, and damage redirection just don’t kill the opponent any faster. Protection from black is at least relevant against The Abyss… But that’s just against one deck.
Type I aggro is all about speed, and white weenies have all the frills except the one that really counts: Broken power-to-mana ratios.
Corollary to all this are the mana curve issues when too many of your best cards are two-drops. You have a slower development, and may have unused mana on Turns 1 and 3. This isn’t new to White Weenie players, but the concept was recently applied to analyze Nantuko Shade in Sucide Black.
When playing”The Deck” against a white creature base, you face far less pressure compared to the usual aggro decks. Against mono white, you don’t even have to worry about the random burn spell, Giant Growth, or splashed Psionic Blast to screw up your math.
You can comfortably use your life total as a buffer and only need to start worrying when he plays a third creature. You can even let him and then Balance with confidence, since he plays his hand out slower. Once you play and protect an Abyss, you just focus on the built-in protection from black creatures and wait for the Morphling he can’t kill.
Barring mana screw or gross incompetence, this is easier to accomplish against White Weenie than against any other credible aggro archtype, and more so after sideboarding.
Swords to Plowshares
Remove target creature from the game. Its controller gains life equal to its power.
Less recognized but no less important is the class of spells unique to white:
Destroy target artifact or enchantment.
A deck with Swords and any of the countless variantions of ‘Chant can theoretically remove any nonland permanent in the game and clear the way for the weenies.
In practice, you end up with an inherent contradiction.
Aggro decks have to exploit the early game, devoting every resource to getting the opponent to zero and quickly. Whatever utility they pack still deal damage, like Gorilla Shaman in Sligh and Elvish Lyrist in Stompy. Even removal and combat tricks like Lightning Bolt and Giant Growth can hit a player.
In contrast, White Weenie’s more powerful removal is nonetheless reactive, and doesn’t directly contribute to ending the game faster. While that Seal of Cleansing might be gold once The Abyss drops, it’s a useless card till then.
Understandably, the problem is even worse with Swords to Plowshares, since most control and combo decks don’t present targets.
These two spells and Balance make up the crucial white support component of”The Deck,” but aggro White Weenie can’t use them with the same flexibility. I call this the”Parfait Problem,” where mono white doesn’t have the deck manipulation to bring its powerful removal to bear as effectively as might be expected.
Thus, white weenie is forced to run multiples – saddling an aggro deck with the problem of potential wrong solutions – or forego some of its best weapons.
Now imagine running White Weenie without Swords to Plowshares or a Disenchant effect. Other aggro decks don’t, but White Weenie doesn’t have diverse damage sources like Sligh or raw speed like Stompy.
And it seems how it’s forced to cope only compounds the problem.
It’s not so hard to apply this. White Weenie simply has powerful removal for everything but the hand, the mana base and the stack – which are, incidentally, the key areas the more dangerous aggro and aggro/control archtypes disrupt.
And you have to further note that the value of Disenchant has decreased over the years. Disenchants no longer hit most combos and locks – with Abyss in”The Deck” as the big exception – and the ability to go up to eight to ten Disenchants has lost its value.
Strength #3: Strongest tricks
Looking back, White Weenie has used some of the most powerful global effects in the history of the game.
The problem is that none of them are particularly dangerous compared to the much simpler damage-to-the-dome approaches of the other aggro decks.
At the beginning of your upkeep, if an opponent controls more lands than you, you may search your library for up to three basic land cards, reveal them, and put them into your hand. If you do, shuffle your library.
1, Tap: Choose any number of cards in your hand and set those cards aside face down. Put an equal number of cards from the top of your library into your hand. Then put the cards set aside this way on top of your library in any order.
“White Necro” is Type I White Weenie’s most notorious trick… But especially after the restriction of Mox Diamond, it’s had its problems outside casual play. The”White Necro” deck Randy Buehler played that won the early North American Extended Championship had only twelve weenies, plus two Gorilla Shamans. Eric“Danger” Taylor explained that it was necessary because you couldn’t afford too high a”creature density” after you”go Necro.”
Thing is, Tax/Rack demands a more tedious setup time than the real Necropotence, and you have a much slower aggro deck in the meantime for the simple reason that you’re not drawing creatures. And to put it briefly, combo decks can win well before White Weenie goes Necro, control decks can counter or kill the Scroll Rack, and other aggro decks can simply stop playing land and not activate the Tax.
And again, with Mox Diamond restricted, the setup became far more tedious. Other attempts at card advantage end up diluting the aggro nature of the deck, too.
Though White Weenie fanatics might disagree after the restriction of Necropotence, EDT also once commented,”Land Tax decks have never worked in Type I. Land Tax is as broken as Necropotence in 1.5 or 1.x, but in Type I you have so many different ways to refill – Windfall, Wheel, Yawgmoth’s Will, Bargain, Necro – that the power of the Tax/Rack to draw three cards every turn isn’t enough when everyone has Moxes and it’s hard to guarantee you will have less land. It seems like you should be able to win with it, but so far nobody has been successful.”
These enhancers are dead if you have no creatures on the table, and with the efficient removal in Type I, you don’t want to let him take out two cards with one removal spell. Against control, they also encourage you to overextend and make mass removal like Balance more punishing. Simply, a control deck just ignores Crusades and focuses on keeping the creatures out of the game.
No matter how impressive Empyrial Armor looks at first glance, it suffers from the same problem: More often than not, a control deck can respond and kill the target creature, or even Misdirect to its own Gorilla Shaman.
Destroy all lands.
Each player chooses from the permanents he or she controls an artifact, a creature, an enchantment, and a land, then sacrifices the rest.
Now these are incredibly powerful global effects – but they come with a pricetag of four mana. If you disrupt with Duress, Hymn to Tourach, and Sinkhole, you pummel a control deck before it even sets up.
If you use these bombs, though, you’re likely to run into the counter the control player saved, help the aggro opponent, or lose to the combo deck with these still in hand.
If you try to force bombs through a counter wall with Abeyance, well, you need even more mana, right? Worse, this is apparently the best white card White Weenie can side in against control.
Urza’s Saga rare
If you control a creature, damage that would reduce your life total to less than 1 reduces it to 1 instead.
Urza’s Saga rare
All damage that would be dealt to you is dealt to enchanted creature instead.
Powerful effects… But again, not particularly relevant against control and combo, right?
I love these in casual play with Paladin en-Vec – but that doesn’t count, either.
From here, I think you can see a pattern (oh, and Moat, Humility and Wrath of God don’t go into White Weenie, either). Too many of these powerful tricks just don’t add much to an aggro strategy – in fact, some of the same tricks have been far more successful in the mono-white, creatureless Deck Parfait control deck!
Come on… I’m sure you get the drift by now.
Most aggro White Weenie (again, leave aggro/control out of this for now) decks exhibit the same above strengths and weaknesses. Don’t get cocky – a Turn 1 Savannah Lion and Turn 2 Soltari Priest still kill. Still, you face a slower attack and few truly dangerous tricks, and have as good a chance as you’ll ever get against a well-tuned aggro deck.
Even against versions that splash, the script is largely the same, and you just have to adjust for added tricks (including those from the board… Matt D’Avanzo voiced that the best white weenie build he could come up with splashed for Meddling Mage and Back to Basics in the sideboard – so that it could board into a deck with Back to Basics and fifty-six other cards to distract the control player).
The funny thing about decks with splashes is that they end up wanting to rely on the white component less and less, since the deck gains more speed or flexibility as other colors make cameo appearances (and artifacts, even). Of course, most key white weenies have double-white mana costs, limiting one’s reliance on other colors.
The White Weenie player may well end up wanting to throw out the White Weenie creature base in the first place, and keep just a handful of key white support spells like Swords to Plowshares and Seal of Cleansing.
rakso on #BDChat on EFNet
Forum Administrator, Star City Games (http://www.starcitygames.com/cgi-bin/dcforum/dcboard.cgi)
Featured writer, Star City Games (http://www.starcitygames.com/php/news/archive.php?Article=Oscar Tan)
Author of the Control Player’s Bible (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/bdominia/files/ControlBible.zip)
Type I, Extended and Casual Maintainer, Beyond Dominia (http://www.starcitygames.com/cgi-bin/dcforum/dcboard.cgi?az=list&forum=DCForumID89&conf=DCConfID19)
Proud member of the Casual Player’s Alliance (http://www.casualplayers.org)