0-11.

That was my recent record in Grand Prix.  I went 0-5 Day Two of GP Oakland, after starting 8-1, and then 0-3'd the next two GPs.  Needless to say, this was a bit frustrating.  What got me out of this slump?

Well, as the title suggests: White Weenie.

I finished in 10th place of Grand Prix Albuquerque, losing for Top 8 to eventual champion and fellow ChannelFireball writer Owen Turtenwald.

Here is the deck I ran:

Lately, I’ve been using Google Docs to collaborate on decks, and I’ve found it to work great.  I’m sure it could get unwieldy in a large group—I don’t think all of TeamCFB could use it in our discussions—but for 4-5 people it is quite useful. Here is an example of this week’s use, with comments from LSV and me:

Screen Shot 2013-11-27 at 6.53.02 PM
Click for big.

As you can see, I considered  the merits of any card that seemed like a possible fit for the deck.  What I ended up playing was a little different than the doc, and also the deck I played in this video.

Before I get too into the nitty gritty, let’s talk about why you’d even want to play this deck.

Why You Should Play White Weenie

“[card]Brave the Elements[/card] is a messed up card.” -LSV

Yep, that’s pretty much it.  A lot of the creatures look like dogs**t, but that doesn’t matter.  What matters is that everyone is playing mono-colored decks, so Brave lets you alpha for the win.  Oh also, it counters their removal before that.  And screws up combat in small creature mirrors.  Not bad for one mana.

The other big reason is Mutavault.  [card]Mutavault[/card] isn’t as dumb as Brave in the deck, but is just an objectively powerful Magic card.  You run multiple battalion guys, and [card]Mutavault[/card] lets you trigger battalion earlier and more consistently.  It gives you increased resilience to sweepers and edicts.  And it makes it hard for you to get flooded, given your already low land count.

Aside: I will keep basically any nonland card on top of my deck with Temple in the early game.  Flood is an easy way to lose, and your cards are largely all the same.  No need to be greedy.  Obviously it is fine to dig for a Brave or Ajani in a board stall later in the game.

You are best against Esper/UW, since you can apply a lot of pressure quickly, and are resilient to [card]Supreme Verdict[/card].  If they don’t have Verdict, they are likely just dead already.  If they do, you can counter it with [card]Boros Charm[/card], or be left with an Ajani/Spear in play to pump your next wave of guys.

Not many people play control decks right now, but luckily you are also strong against Mono-Blue Devotion.   Your creatures are more aggressively-costed than theirs, and [card]Banisher Priest[/card] is close to a straight-up removal spell against them: killing a 3/4-drop they just spent a turn to cast, while adding to your board.  Also good against them: [card]Brave the Elements[/card].

Mono-Black is a closer matchup, though I still feel favored.  Of course having a lot of spot removal is good against you, though on the plus side it all costs as much or more than what it kill, meaning you can still get ahead on board.  I ended up 3-1 against Mono-Black in the tournament, and have beat it quite a lot on MTGO.  The matchup could certainly get harder if people decide to play tons of [card]Shrivel[/card]s.

Why You Should Play These Specific Cards

Some of the card choices are obvious, so I won’t go over everything, but here are some of the considerations

[draft]Boros elite[/draft]
Vs.
[draft]judge's familiar[/draft]

I don’t like either of these cards, but you do want a critical mass of 1-drops.  When testing this deck for Pro Tour Theros, I started with Familiars, but kept shaving them to try other options because they were so useless.  The ability honestly does nothing.  Maybe if the format’s Wrath were counterable—but it isn’t.  I wasn’t totally enamored with Elite either, but at least it does something.

I know it probably seems like a 1/1 isn’t providing a lot to pressure them early, which is the point of playing so many 1-drops.  But with [card]Mutavault[/card], it is a fairly common scenario to go turn 1 [card]Boros Elite[/card], turn 2 another guy and [card]Mutavault[/card], then turn 3 attack for 7-8.  Also, a lot of games end up in board stalls where you Brave for the win, and Elite is always a 3/3 there.

[draft]imposing sovereign[/draft]
Vs.
[draft]azorius arrester[/draft]

[card]Precinct Captain[/card] is clearly great, and Skyjack is mediocre but does a lot of damage.  So really it comes down to [card]Imposing Sovereign[/card] vs. [card]Azorius Arrester[/card].  From talking to Ben Lundquist and Patrick Sullivan prior to the tournament, Arrester sounded like the clearly superior card.  My testing didn’t show this, so I decided to do a 2/1 split favoring [card]Imposing Sovereign[/card].  After playing 12 rounds, I believe [card]Azorius Arrester[/card] is just not very good, and you should play 3 Sovereign.

The argument for [card]Azorius Arrester[/card] is that you aren’t going to play either of these 2-drops before your other 2-drops, and you want something that affects the board later in the game.  This makes sense on paper, but is often not how things play out.  First of all, it is fanciful to believe your hands will always be so good that you have multiple 2-drops to choose from on turn two.  Many times you’ll just have to  play whatever you have, and clearly Sovereign is better on turn 2 nearly always.

This logic also assumes Sovereign is bad late, which is inaccurate.  If you play it on turn 3/4, you are preventing your opponent from affecting the board with a creature on their turn.  It also makes you far less susceptible to flash creatures like [card]Boon Satyr[/card].  Sovereign lets you be proactive in preventing a guy from blocking—pressing your advantage, rather than sitting in your hand waiting for them to cast a guy to use it on.

[draft]ajani, caller of the pride[/draft]
Vs.
[draft]spear of heliod[/draft]

I’ve gone from a 3 Spear/2 Ajani split in early PT testing, to 2 Spear/3 Ajani last week, to 1 Spear/4 Ajani now.  Ajani is just better than Spear.  All of the abilities are very powerful (even the ultimate, which you can threaten against control).  The jump ability will often let you punch through that last bit of damage, and getting to potentially do that twice in a turn by playing a second copy of Ajani is huge.

You normally will not jump turn 3 unless you have a [card]Precinct Captain[/card], but that play does let you build an army quickly.  This is particularly good if you happen to have Spear in hand, or against removal-heavy decks like Mono-Black.  (Obviously don’t turn 3 jump into untapped mana versus removal-heavy decks.)

[draft]banisher priest[/draft]
Vs.
[draft]frontline medic[/draft]

[card]Banisher Priest[/card] is the best card in your deck in several matchups, and pretty much always serviceable, except against control.  The only time where I’m really looking for [card]Frontline Medic[/card] is against green decks, since all of their creatures are bigger and it lets you attack into them.  But Priest just removes the creatures there.  Against control, Medic is better, since Priest has no targets, but does far less than you’d think.  LSV told me he’s basically never cared when someone cast that against him while he was playing Esper.

I didn’t expect too much control—certainly less than the combined everything else—so [card]Banisher Priest[/card] seemed like the better call.  You could do a 3/1 split and play a Medic if you like, but I didn’t miss the card.

A couple notes on [card]Banisher Priest[/card]:  Always be very aware of how bad it is for you if they have removal when attacking with a Priest in play.  Sometimes you will have to attack with less to test the waters, or not at all.  Also, against Blue Devotion, you should save Priests for [card]Thassa, God of the Sea[/card] and [card]Master of Waves[/card] if at all possible.  You bring in other removal to deal with the rest of their creatures, but Priest is the only answer to those problems.

The Sideboard

[draft]boros charm[/draft]

The stock lists run all four of these main, but I’m not sure if I want any outside of the sideboard.  You do sometimes win games by burning your opponent out, or create some blowouts in combat with indestructibility, but you really only want [card]Boros Charm[/card] in your deck against sweepers.  Decks with maindeck [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] and [card]Anger of the Gods[/card] are few and far between right now, so I don’t think you need a playset of [card]Boros Charm[/card]s main.  That being said, Charm is incredible against those decks, so you do want all four copies in your 75.

[draft]gideon, champion of justice
burning earth[/draft]

These are for control.  I think [card]Burning Earth[/card] might be better against Esper, but it is awful against U/W, so I didn’t want to play too many copies.  Gideon is good against both as a threat that you can play into [card]Supreme Verdict[/card].

[draft]electrickery[/draft]

Electrickery is great against fast aggro decks: the mirror, the 1-drop red deck Tom Ross has been advocating, and the B/R deck that won GP Santiago.  It doesn’t do much of anything against a more traditional red aggro deck, but oh well, you can’t have it all.  It is also a reasonable answer to [card]Master of Waves[/card].  Sure, it doesn’t kill the actual Master, but getting rid of all the tokens is usually good enough.

[draft]mizzium mortars
pacifism[/draft]

These are mostly just additional removal to clear the way for your guys against other creature decks.  I am not sure what the exact split should be, since they both have their advantages.

The main purpose of Mortars is to kill [card]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/card], which is a giant beating against you.  However, Esper has dipped in popularity, so this might not qualify as a reason to play the card.   Other nice things about Mortars: it turns off devotion, is better in the mirror (Brave makes [card]Pacifism[/card] fall off), and can kill [card]Pack Rat[/card], if you’re lucky enough to have a red source that early.

[card]Pacifism[/card] is of course better against bigger creatures, most importantly [card]Desecration Demon[/card].  It is also a much better answer to [card]Boros Reckoner[/card], which is one of the best cards that people can sideboard against you.

[draft]glare of heresy[/draft]

[card]Glare of Heresy[/card]  is for the mirror and control, though I think you can cut it.  In the mirror, you could just as easily side in Mortars for most of the same effect.  Basically, you just want cards that kill [card]Precinct Captain[/card], since that is the most important/hardest to deal with card.  Having a way to kill [card]Detention Sphere[/card] is fine against control, but in retrospect I don’t think it is better than just leaving in whatever proactive card you took out, since your cards are largely the same.

[draft]spear of heliod[/draft]

Spear comes in in any matchup where you think they might have mass removal for 1 toughness: [card]Electrickery[/card], [card]Shrivel[/card], and [card]Golgari Charm[/card] all crush you.  Almost all of your creatures are X/1, so it is impossible to just side out the guys that are susceptible.

[draft]fiendslayer paladin[/draft]

As you might expect, [card]Fiendslayer Paladin[/card] is very good against the red (or R/B) fast aggro decks.  Your plan against those decks is basically to trade resources until you can get a Fiendslayer in play, then ride it to victory (sometimes this requires the help of Ajani or Spear).  You do not want this against just any black or red deck—it is not good against our red devotion deck from Pro Tour Theros, for example.

LSV suggested that I perhaps should’ve sided Fiendslayer in against Owen’s Mono-Black deck.  I don’t think that is right, because you can’t overload on 3s, and you want all of your other 3s against them.  As bad as [card]Banisher Priest[/card] is against removal, it will let you push damage through for at least a turn, and that is often all you need. But it is possible Fiendslayer is good/better against them, so I’d like to test it.

A Succinct Tournament Report

Here is what I played against in the tournament:

Byes 3-0
R(W) Devotion 4-0
Mono Black Devotion 5-0
Mono Black Devotion 6-0
R(W) Aggro 7-0
Mono Blue Devotion 8-0
Boros 8-1 (Similar to WW, but red two-drops, [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card], and [card]Chained to the Rocks[/card].)
R(W) Burn 8-2 (Similar to the MOCS-winning deck.  Had maindeck [card]Anger of the Gods[/card]!)
Blue Devotion 9-2
Black (splash White) Devotion 10-2 (Had [card obzedat, ghost council]Obzedat[/card] and [card blood baron of vizkopa]Blood Baron[/card].)
G/B Kibler 11-2
Mono Black Devotion 11-3
UWR Control 12-3

These results are fairly representative of how the matchups should go.  You are good against Mono-Blue and a slight favorite against Mono-Black.  A pseudo-mirror where they have [card]Chained to the Rocks[/card] was, of course, bad for me—as was a deck that was all removal and [card]Anger of the Gods[/card].  UWR is probably a bad matchup, given that they have [card]Izzet Staticaster[/card] after board.  My opponent stumbled on mana game one, and game 3 I drew Spear on the play to negate Staticaster.

Wrap-up

This was the third time in a row I lost when playing for Top 8, and it is admittedly getting frustrating.  But at the same time, I’d just lost 11 Grand Prix matches in a row, so it's hard to not be happy with 10th place.  Oddly, this was my first Grand Prix Top 16, finishing in 17th/18th other times I lost for Top 8 and won the last round.

Results aside, this was one of the best GP experiences I’ve had in awhile, so kudos to Sunmesa for a well-run event.  The online registration was easy.  The tournament started promptly.  Their personalized online pairings page should be the standard.  The event was actually in the advertised city, which affords you a lot more meal options than say, GP Office Park in Chantilly (DC).  

If I had a Standard tournament tomorrow, I’d play the same deck, swapping the Arrester for a third [card]Imposing Sovereign[/card].  Though, I would still like to figure out a better sideboard plan against Mono-Black.  If you have any suggestions, please let me know in the comments!

Pat Cox
@wildestnacatl on Twitter