Last week I took a break to talk about the Players Championship. I felt like that article needed to be written before I forgot many of the details, or before the reader lost interest in it.
This week I’m back with my Limited card evaluations to talk about white! I honestly was surprised at the drop-off in power in this color from card to card. It starts out pretty strong with cards I actively like to have in my deck, and the bottom half comprises cards I’m never happy to run. I guess that’s why I think white is the second worst color in the set after blue.
For basically the millionth time in a row for core set Limited Pacifism is at the top of the heap. It’s hard to argue that this cheap efficient removal spell isn’t the best of the best for white, and the main draw to that color. Though I have to admit Pacifism is at its absolute weakest in this set compared to others, as not many of the creatures that it can shut off are high cost enough to make it worth your while.
Don’t get me wrong, I will always pick this card highly and play as many as I can get, but the fact of the matter is that when you play Pacifism on a creature with exalted—or even on any creature against an exalted deck—it has a minimal effect on the game. Where Pacifism fails against white decks, it still excels at killing stuff like Sentinel Spider, and some of the better uncommons and rares like [card nefarox, overlord of grixis]Nefarox[/card] and Serra Angel. Altogether, while Pacifism is weaker in this set than normal, I wouldn’t read too much into it—being a little weaker than ‘awesome’ is still pretty good.
Aven Squire is incredibly powerful, but can be a bit of a trap. Aven Squire does certain things well—like help a white deck stay aggressive—and it’s basically the perfect card for a black/white exalted deck when you try to curve out with Duty-Bound Dead and Servant of Nefarox. It helps enable War Falcon, which admittedly doesn’t happen all that often, but when it does it is quite strong.
I call Aven Squire a trap because I believe the better white decks in the format are not aggressive and win with midrange-y cards like Healer of the Pride and Griffin Protector. I’ve found that when you try to win by being aggressive in white, your hands often teeter off and your mid-game cards are really not powerful at all. You need a quick start with Aven Squire and Attended Knight (making your Squire much worse), and you usually need at least one Pacifism or Oblivion Ring to remove a Sentinel Spider or one of their good attackers. Even if you have all that, the game ends up being pretty close in a format where every other color has a good card that can win a race like Essence Drain, Unsummon, Searing Spear, or even Titanic Growth. This card works sometimes, but it’s just one of the many perils associated with white.
Griffin Protector is right up my alley. In my eyes, this card is just a 3/4 flying for four, and that’s pretty impressive. Sometimes it is worse, but sometimes it’s better too—so it’s not a big stretch to just meet in the middle when that’s what it does most often. I have had the pleasure of combining this guy with a Titanic Growth and Fungal Sprouting for the super-combo draw. It’s not something I look for, but when I’m green/white I like all those cards individually, so if you can cobble it together it is truly effective.
The best white decks have multiples of this guy, and he is the second best reason to go into white after Pacifism. He fits my play style pretty well and he’s a card that is generally undervalued—when I see him go around 5th pick I take notice and try to get into white. He might actually be the most undervalued card in the set.
I saw Attended Knight when the set first came out, and thought it was just bonkers. In actual game play it isn’t as good as I had initially thought, but he is still very good, no doubt about that. A 2/2 first strike just isn’t what it used to be when compared to stuff like Ballynock Cohort and Kitsune Blademaster which were windmill-slam first picks and basically better than every other creature that existed.
But, in this format and the cards they make these days generally, a 2/2 first strike doesn’t just shut off all offense. If an opponent is exalted that means Attended Knight will have to settle for being an excellent attacker and a terrible blocker. I like the Knight the most when used with Griffin Protector (big surprise) and I like it quite a bit with Trumpet Blast. I don’t always play Trumpet Blast, but when I do I use it with tokens.
In red/white the best ways to abuse Trumpet Blast are with Captain’s Call, Krenko’s Command, and Attended Knight. In my experience Trumpet Blast is only really a playable card if you can cast two cards in one game that produce multiple creatures. One Krenko’s Command isn’t enough to make the card work, but if you can manage two, or an Attended Knight and a Captain’s Call, then it usually works out pretty well. Keep in mind that if you need to cast two of them in a game, that means you want about 6-8 of those cards total in your deck, which is a tall order.
Guardians of Akrasa
I don’t hate Guardians of Akrasa, despite my rant about how white and exalted can sometimes be pretty bad. I like that this card is a Soldier and so can turn on War Falcon. I also like that it has a reasonable body on its own—unlike many of the other exalted creatures, you can actually block with this guy while also making your Ajani’s Sunstriker a real threat. Aven Squire, by contrast, is not known for his blocking abilities.
The Guardians is just a less all-in kind of card that helps with the exalted strategy. It doesn’t die to Chandra’s Fury and Cower in Fear like every other exalted card, and just makes a ton more sense to play in a deck that isn’t hyper aggressive. You don’t really have to pick it all that highly because it’s not a card people look at and think that they need for their deck to operate. But, in general, I’ve been happy with it.
Captain’s Call is a weird kind of card. On a grand scale it costs four mana and the best creature it produces is a 1/1, which means it’s actually at its best on an empty board or when you’re losing and need multiple blockers. That in and of itself is reason enough to dislike this card. Again, this card enables War Falcon which is worth something, and it works decently well with Trumpet Blast as I’ve explained. I like Captain’s Call a decent amount with Healer of the Pride, and it can also be sick with exalted creatures since it’s one card that can provide three offensive threats—all of this assuming you have enough exalted creatures to make a 1/1 potent and that you have the board locked up so your opponent isn’t just dealing you damage.
People always have incredibly strong opinions on Divine Verdict. When M13 came out, someone on Twitter asked me if I liked Divine Verdict or Pacifism more. Now the question may seem a bit silly, and of course the answer is Pacifism, not even close, but this does show that to the untrained eye a card like Divine Verdict does appear to be a premium removal spell.
It can kill any creature, and when both players have no cards in hand and 10 lands out it’s a pretty stellar draw. The problem becomes when you have to leave up 4 mana on turn four and an opponent can just soulread you for exactly what you have, not attack, and leave the card stranded in your hand. If I know you have a face-up Divine Verdict, not attacking basically Stone Rains four of your lands, because every turn you leave them up I’m developing my board and you aren’t.
I continually refer to War Falcon, and it’s a hard card to evaluate. I wouldn’t really try too hard to snatch up any until I was already white and it was of little cost to grab them, but once I had one or two I would take any Soldier in a close pick. One thing I kind of hate about War Falcon is he requires work to be a Wind Drake, as opposed to something like Griffin Rider from a previous core set, where once you meet his requirement he is actually awesome. I mean it’s nice that he costs less and is a better blocker, but like I said, when you look at white’s options like Aven Squire, it’s not intuitive to think that a good blocker is what you want.
Ajani’s Sunstriker, Silvercoat Lion
Ajani’s Sunstriker and Silvercoat Lion share a pretty similar ranking here, so I decided to just group them together. They are basically the same card, except if you are heavier on the exalted then you want the Sunstriker, and if your mana requirements are steeper in your second color then you want the Silvercoat Lion.
This pick is entirely deck dependent and thankfully neither of these cards is powerful enough to be an early pick, so you should have a pretty good idea of the direction you’re heading when you have to make this choice. I would say it is important to be aware of your deck’s color requirements, because you lose a lot of power and consistency when you play with Ajani’s Sunstriker in a deck that can’t reliably cast him on the second turn.
Show of Valor
Lastly, I have Show of Valor rounding out the top 10. I like this card a decent amount actually—it has a powerful effect for not a ton of mana. The only problem is that sometimes in M13 the games don’t play out like you expect them to. It doesn’t do anything when an opponent is trying to trade with a Giant Scorpion or Deadly Recluse, and it’s hard for you to just own someone with it killing a 4/4 unless you’re playing against a green deck with a bad draw or a bad player. I like that it protects from many of the removal spells like Essence Drain, Searing Spear, and sometimes Turn to Slag. It’s a solid cheap instant, but nothing to write home about. I wouldn’t usually be happy to play two of these, but the first is a welcome addition in almost any white deck.
I hope you enjoyed this rundown of white, I think it’s pretty accurate and I’m confident if you’re using this for a large event or even just to grind on MTGO it will be helpful. Looks like my timing has been pretty good as well, since I’ll be finishing up this series right before RtR comes out so I can just start it all again!
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