People seem to like the last couple of articles about AVR draft, so I’m just going to keep the ball rolling this week with white. I have had the most success with blue-white decks, but white can also be quite good with red and green—while black-white is wildly unplayable. White was one of the most interesting colors to evaluate cards for. Some cards I considered unplayable I now rate quite highly, and vice versa. White has the best defensive commons in the format by a fair margin, but you can still draft an aggressive deck with it if you get some of the good uncommons like Goldnight Commander and Emancipation Angel. It is also notable that basically every single white rare is a first pick. My top 10 commons are as follows:
I mentioned in previous articles that I value Seraph of Dawn highly, it’s the third best common in the format after Mist Raven and Trusted Forcemage. I would not hesitate to take Seraph of Dawn over any white common/uncommon, which is very high praise. The only reasonable answers in the format to this Vampire Nighthawk are Thunderbolt, Death Wind, Bone Splinters, and Defang.
The fact that each of these cards besides Thunderbolt are high picks (and the last two not even being completely reliable answers) are just small bonus reasons why this card is so good. On top of that, it is basically impossible to dig yourself out of a losing position, so having a card with lifelink is enormous—which is part of why I love both Seraph of Dawn and Homicidal Seclusion so much. Lastly, Cloudshift is a common and quite good, and if you can set up a turn five Seraph + Cloudshift you should be in pretty decent shape. Although I recognize that it can be difficult to produce triple white on turn five.
Next up I have Moorland Inquisitor, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if you read my review of green. Two-drops are incredibly important to have if you want to be aggressive, and when facing down a Wandering Wolf the best defense is a two-drop of your own. There aren’t many in the set, so when you put a high premium on them you will have more and your opponents will have less, which is ideal. If you find yourself red-white then you want this guy even more! He’s reasonably hard to block and has great stats. He can also be quite potent in a green-white deck, as you want two-drops there and it’s easier to punch through more damage in an aggressive deck with access to Zealous Strike and Joint Assault.
Righteous Blow is at a weird spot in the format. I believe the card is powerful and should be picked highly, but knowing how to use it is something else entirely. Righteous Blow is best in a blue-white deck that is low on early game plays, and so can help slow things down alongside Defang in order to make cards like Amass the Components and Archangel easier to cast. The game goes longer and it makes them more effective, since they have a higher likelihood of being cast on an empty board.
The fact that this card is an instant is huge. It’s one of the few cards that can provide protection against certain soulbond creatures like Nightshade Peddler and Hanweir Lancer. It also works really well with first strike creatures and together you can take down bigger creatures. I also quite like that it costs 1 mana, which makes it sort of like a white Pillar of Flame which has a drawback that is easily manageable—white doesn’t really get cards that can replicate what Pillar of Flame does. Verdict: pick it highly and always play it.
Defang is a card I have mentioned earlier as something I like in a defensive blue-white deck, which I have had heaps of success with. It is basically a perfect card in this deck, as it can remove anything (thought I admit it is weak at removing Druid’s Familiar and Wolfir Silverheart). In this style deck you take Defang early and often, and will play as many as you can get your hands on—assuming you have a good number of creatures with flying, which shouldn’t be hard.
Oddly, I like Defang in a red-white deck because, besides Fervent Cathar, there really aren’t many ways to remove a large blocker. I like Defang in a red-white deck, and dislike Defang (but will still play it) in a green-white deck. The best reason I have to explain this is because the red creatures are so small that being able to stop a blocker from eating them is meaningful, whereas green can basically attack through anything and not worry. My favorite use for this is on something like Gloomwidow, Scrapskin Drake, or Marrow Bats since you get extra value reducing the power of creatures that are terrible at blocking.
Moonlight Geist is another oddball card that when the set came out I rated super high, and still continue to overrate it. I don’t have a very good reason for this in all honesty. My experience has trained my brain to react positively when I see a 2-power creature with flying for three mana. I have not been disappointed by it overall, and when I had to actually sit down and rank the white cards I’m surprised he ended up this low since I think he’s the white common I own the most of on Magic Online.
In no way is this card bad. The only pinger in the format is Lightning Prowess, and it’s a slow uncommon. I don’t often get ripped off by having it die to Ghoulflesh or Guise of Fire, so it’s weird that this card underperforms. Maybe it’s because I feel like I’m under the gun right away when my opponent casts Wandering Wolf, and I have to wait a turn to cast this and trade on an average draw. This could easily be another article all by itself, but when you trade a three mana card for a two mana card you get owned pretty hard. It’s fine to have this happen once or twice in a game, and in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter, but you want to avoid it if you can. On that same thought, if you trade one creature for another, but theirs dealt you two damage first, they are getting pretty good value there too.
Farbog Explorer is really sweet. She brick walls most aggressive starts and has excellent power/toughness for her cost. It’s a shame she has swampwalk when black is so bad in this format, but even just counting that ability as flavor text I still like the her. She isn’t particularly awesome against the green creatures, but she’s good enough, and she’s stone cold awesome against red and black.
She can be a little on the weak side in a green-white deck, because green already has a ton of playable three-drops, as does white, but that is a pretty manageable problem because you just pick the best of the two colors and change your pick orders. Plus, green-white already loves the two-drops, so those are going to get picked over almost all three casting cost cards anyway. It is also pretty nice that almost no removal in the format besides Human Frailty (an uncommon) and Death Wind (at four) can kill her, so if you can plop her down on three she’s going to be there a while.
Voice of the Provinces is another card that seems weak on the surface, but is pretty much worth the six mana price tag. It’s excellent with Peel from Reality and Cloudshift, and white doesn’t really have a ton of six-drops as-is, so one is awesome and the second usually makes the cut. The 1/1 Human you get is not totally irrelevant, since many of the red aggressive creatures have 1 toughness. Not only will this card start to help you when you are low on life or in a losing position, but the token it creates can represent a trade at times.
I like the synergy between many of the defensive white cards, and being able to stop an early assault and ramp into angels is not to be underestimated. When I’m controlling I like to play 18 lands as well, so casting the Voice of the Provinces isn’t all that unreasonable. Although these cards are not commons, I love casting the Voice with Goldnight Commander or Cathars’ Crusade in play.
Zealous Strike has quickly become one of my favorite white commons. I have it currently ranked in 7th, but I think in reality I pick it much higher. In the context of the format with the crazy-low number of instants that exist, and the ones that are good are picked at such a premium, the odds of getting blown out are just so low.
Additionally, the combination of enhancing toughness with first strike is pretty brutal. Zealous Strike can punch through almost any blocker, you rarely get value-owned, and it ends up going pretty late in drafts. I think it’s best in red-white and green-white, and I never mind having multiples. If you take anything away from today’s article it’s that Zealous Strike is awesome. You can even use it to first strike down a soulbond creature, and its buddy will be left to fight regular combat damage with no bonus.
Thraben Valiant is the definition of mediocre. I don’t love it, but I find myself playing it more often than not. Having one toughness is pretty annoying, since he gets halted by stuff like Nightshade Peddler, Galvanic Alchemist, and even dumb one-drops like Wingcrafter and Nephalia Smuggler.
I like him as a defensive creature, and I meant what I said earlier in that the best defense against two-drops is two-drops of your own. I used to start Angelic Wall religiously in my white control decks, but it only took a few times of being embarrassed by big Kruin Strikers and Wandering Wolfs to realize that Thraben Valiant is a much more effective blocker.
I’ve grown to appreciate Cloudshift quite a bit, and I’m glad it made my list so I could talk about it. Cloudshift is absolutely bonkers in a blue-white deck, since you can block and blink out stuff like Mist Raven and Gryff Vanguard.
It’s excellent in a red deck as well, since it can punch through even more damage with Fervent Cathar and stuff like Goldnight Commander and Kruin Striker. My personal favorite combo, however, is with Zealous Conscripts. You can either take one of their guys and Cloudshift it to keep it forever like a psudo-Mind Control, or you can just borrow a fatty, jam for damage, and next turn Cloudshift the Zealous Conscripts and bash for a bunch again. It’s rare to play a game where both players have normal draws and Cloudshift is a total blank, which is part of the reason I like it so much.
I did not list Angelic Wall here, because I really have started to hate it. I touched on it earlier, but it just gets embarrassed by Wandering Wolf, and sometimes Kruin Striker as well, and what kind of defensive card isn’t even good against the most commonly played aggressive creatures? It’s certainly still playable, but it’s not all that special in green-white and red-white—it’s basically only good in blue-white and if you want early defense then I’d try to look elsewhere, and save the Wall as a last resort.
Well that just about wraps up white. This weekend is Grand Prix Vancouver and if you’re reading this then you should already know my result in the tournament (if you care [unlikely]). Either way if people seem to enjoy this one as well as they did the last two, then I’ll continue on with black and red.
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