Remember when players were declaring History of Benalia the real deal and one of the best cards in the set? Or that Benalish Marshal was looking pretty solid? After a week of the new Standard, that read is looking spot on.
The W/W deck gained so many new tools that work well with existing cards that it was almost certain to be a player, at least early on. What I didn’t expect was the sheer amount of variation we’ve been seeing in all the lists. We’ve seen normal WW lists, Vehicle based, tri-color splashes, Knight Tribal, Vampire Tribal, and everything in between. Today I want to focus on the two lists I’ve seen and played the most.
This is a deck from yoman5, who got on board early and streamed many of his leagues with the deck. Here’s a good example if you want to see how the deck plays and learn more about sideboarding. His match record with the deck is 24-4 over MTGO Leagues, and while some of that is running over the usual week 1 brews, most are real matches. My personal record with the deck is a far less impressive 10-5, but still solid on the whole.
This iteration of the deck is so strong for the same reason Mardu Vehicles was an absolute scourge on the metagame last year. Toolcraft Exemplar curving into Scrapheap Scrounger, like Servos into Benalish Marshal, creates a ton of pressure. Toolcraft itself gets in for more damage than any creature in the format and any deck that can take advantage of its 1-drops later in the game (see Legion’s Landing) has a huge edge. Pride and Shefet Dunes, along with Vehicles post-board, mean even when the 1/1s are useless, they can accumulate and eventually overrun the opponent.
Speaking of the pump effects, Shefet Dunes is one of the more best swing cards in recent memory. Your opponent can rarely directly interact with it, and unlike other pump effects, it isn’t dead in multiples since it’s a land as well. Meanwhile, Sram’s Expertise into Benalish Marshal is an incredible tempo play, pumping out immediate damage while also setting up alpha strikes for the next turn. It certainly makes Settle hurt a whole lot less.
Finally there’s Pride of Conquerors which, throws me every time because just when I start to think it’s a win-more, you cast it and you win a game that no other card could’ve won. It is very easy to get the city’s blessing with a token heavy draw and if your opponent doesn’t have sweepers, it often just ends the game on the spot. I’ve raced decks like Mono-Green Aggro and G/R Monsters by simply building up my board, turning it sideways and casting Pride for 14 extra damage. It also dominates mirrors where your opponent just loses their entire board if they’re forced to block and you have it, or if they go all-in on Shefet Dunes and you trump it.
The Vehicles package is one of the more misunderstood aspects of the deck, and post-board you play a lot closer to Mardu Vehicles than a normal aggro deck. Often you’ll be shaving creatures and pump, and adding in answers and more resilient threats. Attacking with just Heart or Harvester is often correct in post-board games, despite the potential tempo loss. The main way you lose to decks like U/W Control or Esper is to walk into Settle the Wreckage and then a second sweeper. Vehicles protect against Fumigate and can force out Settle early. Learning when and where to commit Servos and other 1/1s to the attack for extra chip damage is an important skill.
Skysovereign is here because it dominates creature mirrors and clocks well. Lyra can trump the big boat, but outside of that, Flagship picking off multiple threats is hard to beat for W/W, U/R Wizards (surprisingly close to real), and base-green aggro. This is especially relevant when so many decks are going wide or playing sorcery-speed answers to Lyra post-board that don’t touch the boat. Of course, that goes both ways. For example, Lyra is far stronger against mono-red because Abrade exists.
As far as sideboarding goes, here are some thoughts from Yoman on it:
“The Vehicles plan is the air force plan—evasive damage that can’t easily be dealt with. It can be very good in pseudo mirrors (the B/W midrange or Karn versions), though I don’t bring in Heart of Kiran in Sram’s Expertise mirrors. Hearts are good against the Seal Away decks, while Harvesters and Lyras are your air force against red. Bring in the enchantment removal versus decks like U/W Control, which rely on Seal Away, Cast Out, and Ixalan’s Binding style cards. The same goes red/red black/white midrange that also have Harvester or other artifacts.
For cuts you often want to trim or cut Legion’s Landings altogether when the bodies don’t matter, you can’t flip it, or both. On the flip side, you only cut the Sram’s Expertise when you’re versus U/B Control and purposely shaving down your curve if they’re bigger/you see U/B taplands, or versus GPG when you want to just go full fast (All Vehicles, cut everything that’s over 3 mana, trim a land).
Against U/B midrange only bring in Binding—Harvester is better than Thopter Arrest against them. Bring in Lyra unless you see Contempt game 2.
All the 2s in the deck are trimmable, and the trimming plans are harder for me to articulate since most of those plans go by feel and my understanding of my opponent and their deck.”
There are plenty of ways to build the deck effectively though and I’ve got my own take on it. This one is substantially closer to the Mardu roots due to the inclusion of a very well-known companion to Toolcraft Exemplar.
Yes, Bomat Courier is back and better than ever. Well, OK, maybe Courier is just decent. It provides a friend to turn on Toolcraft Exemplar a little more often, can swap out some garbage for a fresh two-three cards, and cycles in the late game. Being able to buff it up on turn 3 means that it can often keep attacking if you were on the play, and people are so scared of you seeing more cards that you can force favorable 1-for-1 tradesl, which keeps your Marshal and Scrounger safe.
One of the biggest differences in the sideboard is my inclusion of Gideon’s Intervention to hedge against Settle the Wreckage and Lyra. It has some other uses, but it’s primarily there to shut those cards down. Fumigate is too slow to stop you from winning the game, so just messing with their other best anti-aggro cards is a huge issue for U/W Control.
One thing I’ve messed around with but haven’t fully explored is going deeper on splash sideboard cards. I’ve had Duress and Hazoret and both were reasonable, but the mana wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be. If you’re willing to commit to a few more artifacts, the 4th Spire, and one or two other color lands, you can definitely make it work. The same goes for dropping a color altogether and just playing, say, a vanilla Scrounger (besides Spire), which leaves you a much more reasonable 10-12 sources to use for board cards.
No matter which way you take it, the deck has a ton of room to grow.