It’s Wednesday before Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica, and I’ve been locked on a deck since last week—something that hasn’t happened to me in a long time.
At some point while playing Magic Online Leagues, I noticed I was playing against a lot of White Weenie decks. The deck costs just over 50 tickets (which is currently the price of two Carnage Tyrants, two Rekindling Phoenixes or 1.5 Teferis) so at first I thought it was just a budget deck that was fast but still powerful, and that the Magic Online grinders picked it up for maximum efficiency. After losing to it a few times in a row, I decided it was time to give it a try myself.
I started with a version played by Simon Nielsen to a Top 32 finish at GP New Jersey.
I went 3-2 in my first League and wrote down my thoughts. I didn’t like Venerated Loxodon. It’s a very high variance card that’s great in your absolute best draws, but most of the time it’s not even worth it to skip attacking for a lot of damage just to put a counter on your guys. It’s terrible in your weak draws—if you are on the draw in a creature matchup, you really don’t want to tap your entire team and die on the back swing.
Knight of Grace was also very underwhelming. The only matchup where you really want it is against G/B, but it doesn’t help you against Wildgrowth Walker, and after sideboard it still dies to Golden Demise and Ritual of Soot.
I did like having a lot of 1-drops. Bodyguard is great at protecting Marshal and it’s a Knight that gets pumped by the History of Benalia trigger. White Weenie decks are traditionally weak to sweepers, but between Bodyguard and Adanto Vanguard, this deck is actually quite resilient. Adanto Vanguard can sometimes beat your Jeskai opponent on its own if they don’t have a Seal Away.
I felt like I wanted another way to pump all of my small guys other than Benalish Marshal. I did some searching, and found Pride of Conquerors, which seemed great. I added more ways to get ascend as fast as possible and increased the number of 1-drops to 22 to be able to consistently flip Legion’s Landing on turn 3.
This was my next build:
Even though some of the cards still didn’t feel great, I very easily won my next 11 matches against various decks, so it became pretty clear that I was onto something.
These were my notes:
- This deck is very good at going under everyone and taking advantage of the fact that the format is still new. People think they have time to durdle with expensive cards like Star of Extinction, Chemister‘s Insight, Carnage Tyrant, or Explosion // Expansion.
- U/R Arclight, which currently seems like the most popular deck, is a very good matchup to the point where I want to get paired against it every single round. They don‘t do anything for 2-3 turns (by anything I mean they play a bunch of cantrips that don‘t advance their board), then they play one big guy that you can Tribunal away. After board they have Fiery Cannonade, but you have Bodyguard, Vanguard, and Pride of Conquerors, which can get them really badly, especially if they are trying to kill the extra guy from the second History of Benalia trigger and play it on your turn. You are basically goldfishing against them.
- G/B is tough, especially post-board, when they get to cut some of the expensive cards that don‘t do anything, like Carnage Tyrant, and bring in sweepers. Wildgrowth Walker is the card that matters the most. Tocatli helps a lot and sometimes they just die to it. With U/R being so popular, I would expect G/B to get pushed out of the metagame, so I’m fine having a bad matchup there.
- Ajani is good against control, but I don’t really want to play a 4-mana card in the main deck when I’m trying to goldfish. Your best draws are when you draw two or three lands and a bunch of creatures that you then pump with Pride of Conquerors for lethal. Flying creatures are great against them because they ignore the small explore blockers your opponent plays in the first few turns. For this reason, Silverbeak Griffin might be a playable card if you are trying to beat G/B.
- Control matchups also feels pretty good because of Vanguard and because they don’t pressure you at all. I’ve won games when my opponent played two Clarions and two Settles because you just have all the time in the world to rebuild and once you flip Legion’s Landing it’s very hard for them to win.
- Chainwhirler is a beating but I don’t expect mono-red to show up at the PT in big numbers. I’m also fine having a bad matchup there.
- Pride of Conquerors has been very good for me and I always want to draw exactly one. The correct number to play is somewhere between two and three. You don’t want to draw two because you want to maximize your chances at getting the city’s blessing as soon as possible and anything that isn’t a permanent doesn’t help you get there.
- Between History of Benalia and Legion’s Landing, it’s pretty easy to get 10 permanents in play by turn 3-4.
- Conclave Tribunal is amazing. With so many cheap guys, it can very easily be played for free and it also gives you outs to decks like Turbo Fog. I think it’s more of a sideboard card though when you are trying to answer cards like Lyra Dawnbringer. Game 1 all I want to do is just goldfish as fast as possible.
- Dauntless Bodyguard still triggers with Tocatli in play because of the wording.
- Benalish Marshal is great and a big reason for me to stay mono-white. It wins the creature mirrors.
- We still need to figure out the correct creature configuration. Do we want flyers? Do we want to push ascend as much as possible with cards like Haazda Marshal? Is Snubhorn Sentry good enough?
This was my alternate version with more flying creatures and less focus on ascend.
I posted all my thoughts in our brewing group and other people got to work. The deck seemed to be under the radar and things were looking good, but then the MOCS happened and like five of the top 10 decks were White Weenie. The 8-0 list splashed red for Heroic Reinforcements, which in theory sounds great and lets you goldfish even faster, but in practice, it’s not as easy as it seems.
First of all, playing eight red sources just isn’t enough to consistently have red mana on turn 4. Nine is still pushing it, so ideally you want ten. But you can‘t just add Mountains to your deck with four Benalish Marshal, and Boros Guildgate sn’t something you are interested in when you are trying to play three 1-drops by turn 2. You also have to up the land count, but playing 23 lands in a deck with 20 one-drops is too big of a price to pay.
All things considered, I think Pride of Conquerors accomplishes the exact same thing (killing your opponent fast) but better. You can play the appropriate amount of lands and you don’t have to take any chances with colored mana.
We were in the process of figuring out the right creature configuration when Josh arrived. It took him maybe an hour to completely break it, as usual. What started as a joke turned out to be the biggest improvement to the deck. You know the W/B life gain deck on Arena where you always lose to the big Ajani’s Pridemate getting out of hand from all the life gain? Well, turns out it’s playable in Standard as well and it’s actually very good against the current field.
Alternatively, here’s a text version:
I am still not fully convinced that the light splash for the red sideboard cards is necessary, but it seems to be the team consensus at this moment. If I’m not playing red, I’ll have Ajani in my sideboard instead. I was beating control in the Magic Online Leagues without the red cards, but now that White Weenie seems to be on everyone’s radar, it seems likely that they will heavily tune their deck to beat it, in which case I would like to have access to Experimental Frenzy. It also seems good in the post-board games against G/B, one of your worst matchups, which pushes it over the top for me.
Some cards we are not playing:
- Hunted Witness – This card is not high impact enough. It doesn’t have flying, nor does it gain life to pump your Pridemate. Not interested.
- Duskborn Skymarcher – This one does fly, but it’s too low impact as well. I would rather play Rustwing Falcon if I was looking for another flying 1-drop because the extra toughness matters against Chainwhirler and with Benalish Marshal in play, it also survives Fiery Cannonade.
- Venerated Loxodon – Too high variance. We are trying to be as consistent as possible. It might be a decent sideboard against G/B and Mono-Red, but you want to bring in Tocatli in both of those matchups.
- Remorseful Cleric – This is a 2-drop that I tried at one point, thinking that it was a great answer to Crackling Drake, but then I learned the hard way that it counts the exiled cards as well, so it doesn’t actually accomplish much.
- Gird for Battle – I‘ve seen this card in some versions online. You should just be playing Pride of Conquerors instead.
- Lyra Dawnbringer – Some people have Lyra in the sideboard, which might be reasonable in the 23-land version, but definitely not if you are playing 20.
- Settle the Wreckage – I don’t like playing cards that you can’t use when you are ahead. Something like Conclave Tribunal is always going to be good, whether you are ahead or behind. You will always be able to advance your position with it. A lot of the time, you need just a little bit more to finish the game and if you end up drawing Settle, it’s a complete blank. Also, contrary to popular belief, it would not be a good sideboard card against decks like U/R or Mono-Blue because that‘s not the fight you want to be fighting.
- Bounty Agent – Some versions have this guy as a sideboard for Lyra. I can see it if Lyra becomes super popular, like if it was a 2- or 3-of in every other deck. But right now, it’s just too low impact to justify putting it in your sideboard. It also just doesn’t always work. It’s a fragile creature that has to stay in play for a turn. Boros Angels can still just kill it with Shock, Cannonade, or Lava Coil before they play the Lyra.
- Snubhorn Sentry, Haazda Marshal – A bit too high variance as well for my liking. Also, all the 1-drops in the deck now serve a purpose and they do it well, which is something I am very happy about. None of them make me feel like I have to play them to have a low curve. Bodyguard makes sweepers worse, Vanguard, Hawk, and Landing grow your Pridemate, and Skymarcher Aspirant has flying.
All in all, I am happy with how the deck is positioned right now. G/B is not a good matchup, but I expect it to get pushed out of the metagame by all the U/R Drakes players. Mono-Red seems to me like it’s missing a couple good early drops to be a tier 1 deck at the moment. Fanatical Firebrand is not a card I am excited to play with.
I expect the two most played decks in the tournament to be U/R and White Weenie variants, and I think we have a good matchup against both. The Heroic Reinforcements version especially functions in a way where you pressure your opponent with small guys and then they make one big attack that tries to kill you or forces you to chump block. That plan fails heavily against lifelink, where attacking you from 25 to 5 isn’t something they can afford to do when they will die on the back swing. These decks also play only a couple. Ajani’s Pridemate also grows quickly, to the point where it brickwalls all their ground guys and they only have a couple Conclave Tribunals as removal, which you want to board out in these kinds of matchups because you are always trading down on mana. So they are either forced to keep them in their deck, in which case they are playing a very medium card in the matchup, or they don‘t have an answer to it.
Your biggest trump other than lifegain + Pridemate is Pride of Conquerors. While Reinforcements is a 4-mana sorcery that always does the same thing, Pride is an instant that you can choose when and how to play based on how they block. With 20 one-drops I am also confident that we are going to be a little bit faster. With 23 lands, the other version is also way more prone to flooding.
One last thing I want to mention is that it is easy to splash green, but I don’t think it’s worth it. Between Temple Garden, Sunpetal Grove, and Flower // Flourish, you can very easily have more than enough green sources with just one Forest in your deck. The problem is that to be able to run Flower // Flourish without upping your land count, you have to cut lands down to 16-18, which is just not enough. You will have to mulligan hands where you draw Flower // Flourish as your only “lands.” You will also draw a lot of hands where you have one land + Flower // Flourish, but if that land is Sunpetal Grove, you almost can’t even keep that. Having to pay 1 mana to get a land also messes with your plan of playing three 1-drops by turn 2 to be able to flip Legion’s Landing.
If I were to play W/G, it would probably be a completely different deck. One interaction that I like is Kraul Harpooner in combination with Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants as a way to kill multiple flying creatures like Crackling Drake, Aurelia, or Lyra. Knight of Autumn is also an amazing sideboard card against decks playing a lot of enchantment removal like Tribunal and Baffling End, but it‘s pretty bad against Tocatli. I was excited about Conclave Cavalier at the beginning, but there are just too many Lava Coils being played at the moment. It is very good against Seal Away, though.
We are currently trying to figure out if Experimental Frenzy shouldn’t be a main deck card, but it seems like it is going to make your good matchups worse because it slows down your deck. The card has been compared to Hazoret multiple times during our testing, so I guess the Pro Tour will tell us if we were right or wrong. For now, I am happy to have it as a way to drastically improve my control matchup after sideboard.
I’ll submit another small article with sideboarding right after the PT, with our final 75 against the most played decks, so people have access to it before GP Milwaukee.
Thanks for reading, and wish us luck!