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Silvestri Says – White Out

Last week I asked readers what deck they’d like to see this week’s article focused on. The three most popular choices ended up being Birthing Pod, WU Humans and Wolf Ramp. Well despite Birthing Pod winning out there’s not a chance I’m actually writing an article about the deck. Sorry, but I would rather focus on decks that can win and outside of the occasional Bant Pod popping up in a top eight there’s no known successful build. If I knew how to make a Pod strategy that could win a larger tournament I would share, but until that point comes or someone has a reputable build I’m not going to waste time with it. Instead I want to focus on two strategies I have confidence in and believe will continue to be successful up ‘til Worlds.

WU Humans

I talked about WU Humans off and on for the past month and was impressed at the quick clock they could put on opponents while being able to board into a more controlling position for G2/3. Once Wolf Ramp became the top deck in the format I wasn’t surprised to see it pick up in popularity despite largely staying the same from States. This is because some people correctly figured out that [card]Mirran Crusader[/card] and [card]Hero of Bladehold[/card] are two of the best cards in the format right now. Both are very threatening to Wolf Ramp and with help can threaten to kill opponents in just a few swings and without a removal spell at the ready Control decks are quite dead. [card]Dismember[/card] losing a lot of play in the metagame means very few ubiquitous cards are around to stop Hero, every deck largely only plays a set of answers and cannot get help from their sideboard.

To top it off, WU Humans gets a lot of value from [card]Moorland Haunt[/card], which initially was pegged as the best of the utility lands thanks to the fresh memory of [card]Squadron Hawk[/card]. Now it finally gets to live up to expectations and help battle against any grind deck in the format. You’re playing WU Humans for [card]Mirran Crusader[/card], [card]Hero of Bladehold[/card], [card]Mana Leak[/card] and [card]Moorland Haunt[/card]. Right now these cards are great in almost every single match and the ones you’ll be leaning on if you fail to win with a quick curve-out. Other notable cards are [card]Shrine of Loyal Legions[/card] and [card]Angelic Destiny[/card] which both have the potential for a complete game swing given sufficient time and opportunity.

So let’s look at the nitty-gritty of the deck.

[deck]4 Champion of the Parish
2 Doomed Traveler
3 Elite Vanguard
2 Fiend Hunter
3 Geist of Saint Traft
4 Grand Abolisher
4 Hero of Bladehold
4 Mirran Crusader
3 Angelic Destiny
4 Honor of the Pure
3 Oblivion Ring
4 Glacial Fortress
1 Island
3 Moorland Haunt
12 Plains
4 Seachrome Coast
SIDEBOARD
2 Batterskull
3 Dismember
4 Leonin Arbiter
3 Shrine of Loyal Legions
3 Timely Reinforcements[/deck]

[deck]4 Champion of the Parish
2 Fiend Hunter
4 Geist of Saint Traft
4 Gideon’s Lawkeeper
4 Grand Abolisher
4 Mirran Crusader
4 Angelic Destiny
4 Honor of the Pure
4 Mana Leak
3 Sword of Feast and Famine
4 Glacial Fortress
3 Island
3 Moorland Haunt
9 Plains
4 Seachrome Coast
SIDEBOARD
2 Celestial Purge
1 Divine Offering
2 Fiend Hunter
1 Moorland Haunt
2 Shrine of Loyal Legions
4 Sword of War and Peace
3 Timely Reinforcements[/deck]

These two Humans decks were in the top eight of GP Hiroshima by Takahiro Shiraki and Rin Satou respectively.

Creature Base:

Initially I was very disappointed in [card]Doomed Traveler[/card] as it was frequently, ping one, chump block or suicide it to get a real attacker and man I wish I had a real [card]Cloud Sprite[/card] in White. As it turns out that’s juuuust enough to be good in this format, since you need a certain amount of one-drops to curve correctly and you don’t have more [card]Elite Vanguard[/card]s to pick from. [card]Champion of the Parish[/card] is clearly the winner, but people need to remember just how bad this guy is on his own. [card]Gideon’s Lawkeeper[/card] fell out of favor from States, but honestly I’m pretty at how much work the Law does in aggro mirrors. In a way it feels a lot like limited where if you can keep their best attacker or blocker tapped down at the expense of a mana, you’ll end up way ahead in any fair fight.

My general preference:

[card]Champion of the Parish[/card]

[card]Doomed Traveler[/card] (barely)

[card]Gideon’s Lawkeeper[/card]

[card]Elite Vanguard[/card] (Sometimes are we want is to bash for two)

After some unexciting one-drop options it turns out the other creature options are far more interesting to go upwards in curve. Well soon anyway, sadly at the two-drop slot you have the following options:

[card]Grand Abolisher[/card]
[card]Accorder Paladin[/card]
[card]Phantasmal Image[/card]
[card]Leonin Arbiter[/card]
and [card]Shrine of Loyal Legions[/card]

One of the biggest things people seem to miss is the fact that there are almost no good two CMC creatures (With the huge exception of [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card]), meanwhile the spells and artifacts at two mana are ridiculous for the cost. Think about how many and which two-drop creatures you’d willingly play in a deck and the short list provided above is nearly all of them. [card]Leonin Arbiter[/card] is more of a sideboard card then an actual playable and [card]Accorder Paladin[/card] has a fair share of faults and is largely playable on curve concerns. [card]Phantasmal Image[/card] isn’t typically a two-drop unless it copies [card]Champion of the Parish[/card] and past that has limited applications in an aggro deck due to its fragile nature. [card]Shrine of Loyal Legions[/card] is a great card right now, but is still slow and still gets hit by stray [card]Ancient Grudge[/card] and [card]Naturalize[/card] type spells in post-board games.

My point is that you can get away with no two-drop creatures in the deck and still have success with it although it does weaken a certain slice of hands where aggression is the main benefit. With such weak options at our disposal though it may be the best course of action to just skip the two slot though and jump up to the money cards. If you do go with a two-drop however I would suggest [card]Grand Abolisher[/card] as the amount of annoyance it can cause for a two-drop is quite impressive.

The creatures that really make the deck tick are [card]Mirran Crusader[/card], [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] and [card]Hero of Bladehold[/card]. Any good list should have some combination of these in your 75 and [card]Mirran Crusader[/card] and [card]Hero of Bladehold[/card] in particular are among the best cards in the format. While Rin Satou chose to overload on Anthems and various pumps, I can’t recommend running less than three [card]Hero of Bladehold[/card] in your deck. While she will die a lot before getting to do anything, whenever Hero gets an attack in you’ve practically won the game already. [card]Hero of Bladehold[/card] is one of the biggest threats in the format and demands answers from opponents, exactly the kind of card these types of decks like having around in contrast to the usual array of grizzly bear.

General Hand Discussion:

One of my most common wins on Magic Online against WU Humans are people who keep hands like 3 lands, [card]Honor of the Pure[/card], [card]Oblivion Ring[/card], [card]Hero of Bladehold[/card] and some other three or four. Sometimes [card]Oblivion Ring[/card] is a [card]Mana Leak[/card] instead, but the common factor is the first pressure card they play is going to be on turn three at the earliest and sometimes turn four. These hands are pretty miserable if the opponent can kill or trump your first threat because you have just so much time to implement your own gameplan. What does that hand beat on the draw even if we assume the 3-drop is a [card]Mirran Crusader[/card]?

Unless your opponent is also keeping absolute garbage or a hand they would only keep in a control mirror, these hands are an easy way to throw away a game despite having some interaction with the opponent. Against aggro opponents they can jump ahead in the life-race and force the issue of playing a turn three answer over a threat. If the opponent is playing control and has an average hand then they’ll be in even better shape as they can just sit around for multiple turns durdling without issue. Eventually you play a threat or two, they get dealt with and you swiftly are punished by having a hand with a couple of answers and nothing to do with them.

Obviously the hands that let you curve out are the ideal, but when discussing hand strength I much rather have a land light threat heavy hand or a hand that is banking on the opponent not being on [card]Day of Judgment[/card] or [card]Black Sun’s Zenith[/card] then one of the middling hands. The deck doesn’t contain enough control elements to ride one creature to victory and your utility land only functions if you’re steadily losing creatures. You have to bank on certain things breaking your way or you’ll keep hands that feel OK but don’t actually accomplish all that much. This logic can be applied to GW Tokens / Humans as well, you really need to consider the overall goal of the hand you keep rather than just checking if you have some sweet cards in it.

Matches:

Wolf Ramp (G/R and Dungrove)

You have a favorable match against ramp on the back of your two superstar creatures and the back-up plan of throwing out a couple of weenies and [card]Mana Leak[/card]ing the first real spell your opponent plays is a legitimate plan B. On the draw though, you absolutely have to take into account the idea of a turn two [card]Dungrove Elder[/card] and a turn three [card]Solemn Simulacrum[/card], Garruk or other creature. This puts a serious crimp into any aggressive plans you may have and [card]Dungrove Elder[/card] playing defense for a few turns can make it very difficult to win without evasion creatures. Just be careful what cards you decide to rely on when going the beatdown route!

Past that any tips I have are straight-forward, be aware of [card]Beast Within[/card] at all times when attempting to resolve [card]Angelic Destiny[/card] or attack with an [card]Oblivion Ring[/card] in play and the opponent is representing it. Don’t keep [card]Mana Leak[/card] heavy hands and expect to get there because you can play a [card]Mirran Crusader[/card] somewhere in there. Too many people lean on a very limited counterspell suite and miss the point of being a Fish deck in the first place. You need to make sure the pressure comes first and then delay their plan, trying to stop it wholesale and then clean up is a control deck’s plan, not yours.

UB Control:

Don’t be afraid to over-extend onto the field as most UB lists only run 1-2 maindeck [card]Black Sun’s Zenith[/card] and [card]Ratchet Bomb[/card] is slooooow against anything other than a hand full of one-drops. Don’t play around [card]Mana Leak[/card] unless you’re absolutely sure you can afford too. Giving them free turns with this deck is a great way to lose games where you otherwise would have the advantage. Besides, what exactly is playing around Leak getting you? Resolve a sweet 2/2 instead of a [card]Hero of Bladehold[/card]? Congrattttttttts. Accept that you are a dog in this match when you don’t have [card]Mana Leak[/card] or see a [card]Moorland Haunt[/card] and just go for it whenever you can instead of trying to play around cards they might have.

RDW:

I don’t even think this is a deck anymore for many players, but as long as red has [card]Shrine of Burning Rage[/card] I’ll worry about it. In general the match is dependent on what the red player is trying to accompish, controlling your board or just trying to goldfish you out of the game. Some cards break the mold like [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] in which they’re reduced to blocking, by contrast the rest of the deck however is quite roastable. If they follow this route then it largely becomes a question of whether you have a [card]Moorland Haunt[/card] or enough annoying creatures (Geist and Hero) to force them to expend all their resources. Thankfully many red builds can’t choose this option since they don’t nearly have enough removal to pull it off.

If they try and race you then the only card to really look out for game one is the occasional [card]Geistflame[/card] if you’re trying to resolve [card]Angelic Destiny[/card]. Otherwise if they want to engage in a straight race, you can fight that kind of battle and win it most of the time. Do remember that sometimes you want to chump earlier than you would in other matches purely because of [card]Brimstone Volley[/card]. Saving a few points of life ahead of time could save you when they’re counting on you being forced to block so they can get their Morbid trigger. In general any creature you run maindeck or boarded that has a butt of four or larger is going to be quite helpful and [card]Mana Leak[/card] isn’t worth keeping in post-board.

GW Tokens / Humans

If anyone has a better plan other then hoping the opponent doesn’t draw a [card]Garruk Relentless[/card] or [card]Elspeth Tirel[/card] I’m all ears for it. You don’t have enough evasion creatures to really go in on them as a plan and you don’t have as many relevant cards as them. Your only real advantage is that you can buy a bit of tempo by countering a 4-drop instead of having to tap out to answer it. Good luck!

Moving onto the second deck, this will be less of a full breakdown and instead a look at the newest (and possibly best) variation on Wolf Ramp.

GW Ramp

[deck]4 Birds of Paradise
2 Viridian Emissary
3 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Acidic Slime
4 Primeval Titan
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
2 Garruk Relentless
3 Garruk, Primal Hunter
2 Beast Within
1 White Sun’s Zenith
2 Gideon Jura
3 Day of Judgment
2 Oblivion Ring
2 Green Sun’s Zenith
4 Rampant Growth
7 Forest
2 Mountain
2 Plains
2 Ghost Quarter
2 Inkmoth Nexus
2 Kessig Wolf Run
4 Razorverge Thicket
4 Sunpetal Grove
Sideboard:
4 Mirran Crusader
1 Garruk Relentless
3 Celestial Purge
2 Naturalize
2 Thrun, the Last Troll
3 Timely Reinforcements[/deck]

There are two primary advantages this has over the tried and true GR version of Wolf Ramp.

1. [card]Day of Judgment[/card] is a real card and good against the mirror, while [card]Slagstorm[/card] is only good very early in many matches.

2. Getting to sideboard [card]Mirran Crusader[/card] or [card]Hero of Bladehold[/card] is a real big game in a format where two decks are soft to those cards. Even better that you have [card]White Sun’s Zenith[/card] which breaks any long-game in your favor and only [card]Army of the Damned[/card] comes close to matching it. [card]Timely Reinforcements[/card] is also nice against all those pesky G/W and U/W Aggro decks popping up all over the place and any remaining red players that are scraping it out in the early rounds.

The downsides? You lose out on [card]Dungrove Elder[/card] from the mono green variations, which is a bit of a downer considering just how good that card is. As for the original GR version, there’s no relevant loss otherwise unless you really loved having [card]Ancient Grudge[/card] in a field that moved away from artifacts. Basically white feels like a strict upgrade with the only downside being your mana base gets slightly rougher which is of little consequence in a deck with allied color lands, four [card]Rampant Growth[/card] and [card]Solemn Simulacrum[/card]. What you gain on the other hand is quite important and in fact makes you better in just about every single match-up.

So why not just play G/W Wolf Ramp and demolish the field? Well see the main difference is that [card]Day of Judgment[/card] gives you a fighting chance against [card]Mirran Crusader[/card] and quick aggro curves. Just because you now have real weapons against them doesn’t mean you’ll see them every game or that your mid-game necessarily beats theirs. Trying to beat a [card]Moorland Haunt[/card] and a sandbagged [card]Angelic Destiny[/card] is no small feat if you don’t have removal in hand. [card]Primeval Titan[/card] can’t really race unless you just throw all of your [card inkmoth nexus]Inkmoth Nexii[/card] in the way, which removes that as a valid kill later in the game. One of the only real downsides about the mana is that you lose out on extra [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card] as blockers, so winning a race with the smaller threats plus [card]Kessig Wolf Run[/card] is that much harder.

As far as matches are concerned, you lose some percentage against control strategies due to the increase in removal slots and lack of additional big creature threats. In a field full of UB Control and Esper Control I’d definitely be concerned about my threat density and how well my threats actually stood up when in play with the exceptions of [card thrun, the last troll]Thrun[/card] and [card]Mirran Crusader[/card]. However the hit you take in game one for those matches doesn’t compare to the overall gains you get against any base white aggro deck and in the mirror where you have more than [card]Beast Within[/card] to interact with opposing permanents. If the metagame ends up meshing with Magic Online and follows the arc of the SCG Opens then I suspect GW will be the most popular permeation of the deck.

This deck in on my short-list of choices for SCG Vegas this weekend and I’m really impressed at how much white adds to the deck.

Before signing off I just want to take a moment to apologize to anyone who hasn’t gotten a reply from me over the past two weeks or so. I had a personal matter that took up a good chunk of my free time lately so when I wasn’t actually working or trying to get games of Magic in to write my articles I was spending it with family. So if you sent me an e-mail and I didn’t get around to responding, I did at least read it and plan to replying to everyone in due time. Some things in life just take precedence.

I’ll be in Vegas this weekend for the SCG Open and I hope to see many of you there!

-Josh Silvestri

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