Finding the Best Blue-White Deck in Standard

Feature Article from Craig Wescoe
Craig Wescoe
10/27/2011 10:07:00 AM
submit to reddit » Print «

This is a question I've been trying to figure out for the past couple weeks, and I believe I've come up with a pretty reasonable answer, or at least considered the matter from enough angles to provide you with some well-informed reasoning (and lots of data) to help you decide the matter for yourself.

This week I'll start by discussing how I see standard post-states, followed by a discussion of what each of the various successful Blue-White decks have in common and the motivations for diverging in the ways they diverge from each other. I wrap up the discussion of Standard with my current Blue-White list.

Standard after States

Wolf Run Ramp - 21

Twenty-One. Yep, that is the number of Wolf Run Ramp decks that won their respective State (or Provincial) Championship, and this is only accounting for about 80% of the total results (some have not yet been tracked down). Out of the 54 winning decks accounted for thus far, 21 is approximately 39%. Those are Jund, Faeries, and CawBlade-like numbers! Granted it is still early and States is not nearly as reliable an indicator as a pro tour when it comes to evaluating just how good the best deck is. Nevertheless, the next best finishers were not even in the same ballpark! This leads me to believe, at least for now, Wolf Run Ramp stands alone as the sole Tier 1 deck of the format. Given this, let's consider if it's reasonable to play anything other than Wolf Run Ramp.

The following archetypes each won three, four, or five championships and were each fairly well represented throughout most of the tournaments:

Solar Flare - 5
Mono Black Infect - 4
Township Tokens - 4
UB Control - 4
Red Deck Wins - 3

An interesting thing to note is that each of these five archetypes is fairly solidified. There is not a whole lot of variation between lists. What I take from this is that if one of these archetypes starts putting up numbers of the Wolf Run magnitude, it will be due to its positioning in the metagame (which at this point pretty much just means how well it does against Wolf Run Ramp). In contrast, there was a wide variation among Blue-White decks, which suggests to me a much greater likelihood that the best Blue-White deck simply has not been discovered yet (or at least agreed upon). Unlike the above five decks, a Blue-White deck has a reasonable chance of rising to Tier 1 status for reasons other than simply being well-positioned in the metagame but instead for being the most powerful deck in the format (or tied for it).

If our goal is to figure out the best deck in the format, we can sleeve up Wolf Run Ramp and be done with the matter. This is a strategy I would recommend for anyone with limited time to play test but wants to show up with a deck that will at least not get outclassed all day, and who doesn't mind battling mirrors extensively. But if we're not content with this strategy (and I certainly am not), then we have a couple of other avenues to explore.

One other avenue to explore is to consider which of the five decks mentioned above had the largest increase in popularity (and success) relative to the previous week. The deck that clearly stands out is Monoblack Infect. It was more or less non-existent until the weekend of States. Township Tokens was also relatively under the radar until States. If you believe either of these strategies is better than their four wins suggest, it would be a reasonable decision to explore one of those decks. This is especially the case if you believe you have (or can have) a good matchup against Wolf Run Ramp.

I would not recommend pursuing Red Deck Wins, unless you are a die-hard burn mage. Historically it has been the case that red decks flourish early on in a new format before all the ‘better' decks get discovered and properly tuned. Then they tend to drop off until a particular weekend where enough people have forgotten they exist (and have subsequently been skimping on hate for red), at which point an opportune moment arises to take a tournament by storm. Then the following weekend not a single red deck does well because once again everyone has remembered its existence. Red's weekend was a few weeks ago in Indianapolis, and it's still recent enough to be on people's minds. I'd recommend putting away the burn spells for at least a few more weeks.

Those playing Solar Flare and UB Control know whether they should continue. If you're having success it is because you know the deck well and have been tuning it to your liking from the time you first picked it up. My recommendation to these players is to make sure you have enough tools to beat Wolf Run in the main as well as post-board. If you're not already on one of these decks, I would not recommend getting on now. My opinion is that Blue-Black is the stronger of the two but that both are on the decline. Going over the top of Wolf-Run requires a level of commitment that makes many of your Tier 2 matchups significantly worse. If you load up on counter-magic, what happens when the opponent plays an early attacker? If you Overload on removal, how are you beating Primeval Titan and Garruk, Primal Hunter? Sure, “that's what sideboards are for,” but I just don't see enough incentive to play either deck unless I know exactly what I'm doing in each matchup. Did I mention green creatures can't be targeted?

This leaves us with one last option to explore - Blue-White. As I said, this is the one avenue that has had reasonable success with a variety of different builds. Instead of treating each as its own distinct archetype, as deck cataloguers are forced to do, I find it more instructive to consider the major axes at play and to what extent each build utilizes such axes. By considering the matter in this way, we're in the best possible position to answer the question, “Which Blue-White build is best?” So let's now consider what these primary axes are and to what extent each of the successful Blue-White decks utilized each.

Breaking Down Blue-White

Mage Blade - 3 (Magby, Hahn, Horsley)
UW Aggro - 2 (Ceprano, Hagermanfletcher)
Puresteel Equipment - 1 (Stiver)
UW Planeswalker Control - 1 (Gillis)
UW Control - 1 (Hawley)
Geist-Blade - 1 (Jabczynski)
UW Tokens - 1 (Phillips)

If we consider the entire spectrum of Blue-White decks (not even including Solar Flare) as one far-reaching archetype, then it clearly outperformed all non-Wolf Run decks by at least double its next closest rival. It would be a bit foolish to do this, however, since for instance Puresteel and UW Control are vastly different decks. Nevertheless if we consider each of these decks alongside one another, some interesting overlaps and similarities surface. Let's do that.

Haunted Humans by John Hagermanfletcher
Finished 1st Place at 2011 States - Connecticut
Main Deck
Sideboard
4 Champion of the Parish
4 Elite Vanguard
3 Geist of Saint Traft
3 Gideon's Lawkeeper
4 Grand Abolisher
3 Hero of Bladehold
4 Mirran Crusader
Creatures [25]
4 Angelic Destiny
4 Honor of the Pure
3 Oblivion Ring
Spells [11]
2 Ghost Quarter
4 Glacial Fortress
3 Moorland Haunt
11 Plains (250)
4 Seachrome Coast
Lands [24]
Deck Total [60]


2 Celestial Purge
3 Divine Offering
2 Negate
2 Shrine of Loyal Legions
3 Surgical Extraction
3 Timely Reinforcements
Sideboard [15]





Click for full deck stats & notes!


UW Aggro by Mike Magby
Finished 1st Place at 2011 States - Pennsylvania
Main Deck
Sideboard
4 Geist of Saint Traft
4 Grand Abolisher
3 Hero of Bladehold
4 Mirran Crusader
3 Snapcaster Mage
Creatures [18]
4 Angelic Destiny
3 Gitaxian Probe
3 Mana Leak
4 Ponder
3 Sword of War and Peace
Spells [17]
4 Glacial Fortress
6 Island (253)
3 Moorland Haunt
8 Plains (250)
4 Seachrome Coast
Lands [25]
Deck Total [60]


3 Day of Judgment
4 Divine Offering
4 Surgical Extraction
4 Timely Reinforcements
Sideboard [15]





Click for full deck stats & notes!


Haunted Humans by Pete Ceprano
Finished 1st Place at 2011 States - Maine
Main Deck
Sideboard
4 Accorder Paladin
4 Champion of the Parish
4 Elite Vanguard
2 Geist of Saint Traft
4 Grand Abolisher
3 Hero of Bladehold
4 Mirran Crusader
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
Creatures [26]
3 Angelic Destiny
4 Honor of the Pure
4 Oblivion Ring
Spells [11]
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Moorland Haunt
11 Plains (250)
4 Seachrome Coast
Lands [23]
Deck Total [60]


1 Geist of Saint Traft
3 Negate
3 Revoke Existence
3 Silverchase Fox
2 Surgical Extraction
3 Timely Reinforcements
Sideboard [15]





Click for full deck stats & notes!


Mage-Blade by Billy Hahn
Finished 1st Place at 2011 States - Iowa
Main Deck
Sideboard
4 Blade Splicer
1 Geist of Saint Traft
2 Hero of Bladehold
1 Phantasmal Image
3 Snapcaster Mage
2 Sun Titan
Creatures [13]
2 Elspeth Tirel
Planeswalkers [2]
1 Batterskull
3 Dismember
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Mana Leak
3 Oblivion Ring
2 Sword of Feast and Famine
2 Timely Reinforcements
Spells [19]
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Inkmoth Nexus
7 Island (253)
1 Moorland Haunt
6 Plains (250)
4 Seachrome Coast
Lands [26]
Deck Total [60]


1 Celestial Purge
3 Day of Judgment
1 Geist of Saint Traft
1 Jace, Memory Adept
2 Negate
1 Oblivion Ring
2 Revoke Existence
1 Surgical Extraction
2 Timely Reinforcements
1 Wurmcoil Engine
Sideboard [15]





Click for full deck stats & notes!


Mage-Blade by Randy Horsley
Finished 1st Place at 2011 States - South Dakota
Main Deck
Sideboard
2 Consecrated Sphinx
3 Geist of Saint Traft
2 Mirran Crusader
3 Snapcaster Mage
Creatures [10]
3 Gideon Jura
Planeswalkers [3]
2 Angelic Destiny
1 Batterskull
2 Day of Judgment
2 Dismember
2 Disperse
2 Dissipate
3 Mana Leak
1 Negate
2 Oblivion Ring
2 Sword of Feast and Famine
2 Timely Reinforcements
Spells [21]
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Inkmoth Nexus
6 Island (253)
1 Moorland Haunt
7 Plains (250)
4 Seachrome Coast
Lands [26]
Deck Total [60]


3 Celestial Purge
1 Day of Judgment
2 Flashfreeze
1 Mirran Crusader
2 Nihil Spellbomb
3 Surgical Extraction
2 Sword of War and Peace
1 Timely Reinforcements
Sideboard [15]





Click for full deck stats & notes!


Puresteel Equipment by Greg Stiver
Finished 1st Place at 2011 States - Mississippi
Main Deck
Sideboard
2 Doomed Traveler
2 Geist of Saint Traft
3 Invisible Stalker
2 Mirran Crusader
4 Puresteel Paladin
1 Spellskite
Creatures [14]
1 Accorder's Shield
1 Angelic Destiny
1 Day of Judgment
4 Dispatch
4 Flayer Husk
3 Mortarpod
1 Mox Opal
1 Oblivion Ring
2 Silver-Inlaid Dagger
2 Sword of Feast and Famine
3 Sword of War and Peace
Spells [23]
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Inkmoth Nexus
2 Island (253)
1 Moorland Haunt
8 Plains (250)
4 Seachrome Coast
Lands [23]
Deck Total [60]


1 Angelic Destiny
1 Day of Judgment
3 Flashfreeze
2 Grand Abolisher
3 Revoke Existence
2 Spellskite
3 Timely Reinforcements
Sideboard [15]





Click for full deck stats & notes!


UW Planeswalker Control by Dan Gillis
Finished 1st Place at 2011 States - Michigan
Main Deck
Sideboard
2 Consecrated Sphinx
3 Wurmcoil Engine
Creatures [5]
2 Elspeth Tirel
2 Gideon Jura
2 Karn Liberated
Planeswalkers [6]
3 Day of Judgment
3 Dismember
2 Dissipate
4 Mana Leak
4 Oblivion Ring
3 Think Twice
3 Timely Reinforcements
1 White Sun's Zenith
Spells [23]
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Inkmoth Nexus
7 Island (253)
7 Plains (250)
4 Seachrome Coast
Lands [26]
Deck Total [60]


2 Celestial Purge
2 Dissipate
2 Divine Offering
4 Flashfreeze
2 Mental Misstep
2 Spellskite
1 Timely Reinforcements
Sideboard [15]





Click for full deck stats & notes!


UW Control by Bryan Hawley
Finished 1st Place at 2011 States - Utah
Main Deck
Sideboard
2 Consecrated Sphinx
2 Phantasmal Image
2 Sun Titan
1 Wurmcoil Engine
Creatures [7]
1 Gideon Jura
1 Jace, Memory Adept
2 Karn Liberated
Planeswalkers [4]
4 Day of Judgment
2 Dismember
4 Dissipate
1 Mana Leak
2 Negate
4 Oblivion Ring
4 Think Twice
2 Timely Reinforcements
Spells [23]
4 Ghost Quarter
4 Glacial Fortress
1 Inkmoth Nexus
7 Island (253)
6 Plains (250)
4 Seachrome Coast
Lands [26]
Deck Total [60]


3 Azure Mage
1 Batterskull
1 Blue Sun's Zenith
1 Divine Offering
3 Flashfreeze
2 Revoke Existence
2 Spellskite
1 Timely Reinforcements
1 Volition Reins
Sideboard [15]





Click for full deck stats & notes!


Geist-Blade by Mike Jabczynski
Finished 1st Place at 2011 States - Indiana
Main Deck
Sideboard
4 Blade Splicer
3 Geist of Saint Traft
1 Hero of Bladehold
3 Mirran Crusader
Creatures [11]
2 Day of Judgment
1 Dissipate
4 Mana Leak
4 Oblivion Ring
4 Ponder
2 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Sword of War and Peace
4 Think Twice
2 Timely Reinforcements
Spells [24]
2 Ghost Quarter
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Inkmoth Nexus
5 Island (253)
6 Plains (250)
4 Seachrome Coast
Lands [25]
Deck Total [60]


2 Celestial Purge
1 Day of Judgment
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Gideon Jura
2 Phantasmal Image
3 Purify the Grave
1 Spellskite
2 Timely Reinforcements
2 Urgent Exorcism
Sideboard [15]





Click for full deck stats & notes!


UW Tokens by Cedric Phillips
Finished 1st Place at 2011 States - Washington
Main Deck
Sideboard
4 Blade Splicer
3 Hero of Bladehold
Creatures [7]
4 Elspeth Tirel
Planeswalkers [4]
3 Honor of the Pure
4 Intangible Virtue
4 Mana Leak
4 Midnight Haunting
3 Oblivion Ring
4 Shrine of Loyal Legions
3 Timely Reinforcements
Spells [25]
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Island (253)
2 Moorland Haunt
11 Plains (250)
4 Seachrome Coast
Lands [25]
Deck Total [61]


2 Celestial Purge
3 Day of Judgment
2 Flashfreeze
1 Hero of Bladehold
2 Negate
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Snapcaster Mage
2 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Timely Reinforcements
Sideboard [15]





Click for full deck stats & notes!


Comparing the Lands

Puresteel and UW Aggro ran the fewest lands (between 23 and 24), followed by tokens (25) and the more aggressive blade variants (25). Then on the high end of the spectrum, the more controlling blade decks, the UW Planeswalker deck, and the UW control deck each ran 26 lands. As would be expected, the more aggressive builds ran fewer lands and the more controlling builds ran more lands. No surprise so far. The more interesting part of studying this axis is seeing exactly where each deck falls along the mana spectrum.

Also considering the lands, each build ran a full set of Glacial Fortress and Seachrome Coast (obviously), and each ran an amount of Islands and Plains proportionate to the man requirements of the specific build (again, obviously), but the key questions arose as to which ‘special' lands should be included. The two most controlling builds were split between Inkmoth Nexus and Ghost Quarter. The Sun Titan variant opted for Ghost Quarter whereas the Planeswalker version opted for a potential blocker. The blade builds would likewise opt for Inkmoth Nexus due to its ability to yield a sword, except for Magby who played 3 Moorland Haunts and no other colorless lands.

This fact attests to the strength of Moorland Haunt in any deck that can support it. Among the decks that opted to go with Moorland Haunt, the ratio of Haunts-to-Creatures was as follows:

0:5 UW Planeswalker Control (1 Inkmoth Nexus)
0:7 UW Control (4 Inkmoth Nexus)
0:11 Geist Blade (4 Inkmoth Nexus)
1:10 Mage Blade (4 Inkmoth Nexus)
1:13 Mage Blade (4 Inkmoth Nexus)
1:16 Puresteel (4 Inkmoth Nexus)
2:7 Tokens (0 Inkmoth Nexus)
3:18 Mage Blade (0 Inkmoth Nexus)
3:25 UW Aggro (0 Inkmoth Nexus)
4:26 UW Aggro (0 Inkmoth Nexus)

The control builds that ran seven or less creatures rightly opted out of running Moorland Haunt and instead ran Ghost Quarter or Inkmoth Nexus for the reasons already stated. Dedicated Tokens is an interesting position because it runs so few creatures (just Blade Splicer and Hero of Bladehold), has no good use for Inkmoth Nexus, yet values even a single Moorland Haunt activation so highly that it is willing to run multiple copies for the chance of that happening. The UW Aggro builds have plenty of creatures to fuel the Haunt (and to even fuel multiples simultaneously) and have no real reason to play Inkmoth Nexus, so their decision is rather easy. The builds with the biggest decision, however, are those running equipment, especially the swords.

Among the four Mage-Blade builds, the only one that opted to run no copies of Inkmoth Nexus was Magby, who ran 18 total creatures and Sword of War and Peace over Sword of Feast and Famine. Between Geist of Saint Traft, Mirran Crusader, and Hero of Bladehold, he was pretty dedicated to the (non-infect) damage plan, so it makes sense that he would shy away from the infect land and instead choose to max out on Moorland Haunts (I say ‘max out' because in order for the fourth to be worth it, he would need more than 18 creatures).

Jabczynski's Giest-Blade build ran only 11 creatures, so he would only realistically be able to activate the land once or twice, and not until later in the game after his few creatures died, and this also requires his creatures actually dying (and not getting exiled with Oblivion Ring or whatever). For his deck, equipping a sword to an Inkmoth Nexus for three turns in a row is a reasonable win condition whereas activating Moorland Haunt multiple turns in a row is not. Thus in his build the Nexus is definitely better than Moorland Haunt.

Hahn and Horsley followed that same logic, but each decided a single Moorland Haunt was good enough to merit inclusion in addition to the four copies of Inkmoth Nexus. It also appears they each counted the Moorland Haunt as a spell instead of a land since they each ran 26 total lands, in contrast to the 25 ran by Magby and Jabczynski. I like this a lot because even with 10-13 creatures, the utility of the first Moorland Haunt is very high as you will likely, albeit eventually, activate it once or twice or even three times. Drawing multiples would cause you either to flood (if you count them as spells) or have insufficient color-specific mana (if you count them as lands), so having 5 colorless lands, all of which provide fodder for the swords, sounds exactly right to me in these builds. Puresteel follows similar logic.

Here's a short rule of thumb: If you're running swords, run 4 Inkmoth Nexus and 1 Moorland Haunt. If you're not, then run 3-4 Moorland Haunts, unless you're running less than 8 creatures, in which case run Ghost Quarter instead. The only two decks that are failing to follow this rule of thumb are the dedicated token deck and Magby's mage blade deck.

The token deck should certainly not be running Ghost Quarter over Moorland Haunt. Rather, it should be running more creatures! Geist of Saint Traft stands out to me as the most obvious inclusion as it is the most played creature among the ten winning UW builds (in 7 of the 10), and it produces a white token when it takes (thus gaining both the enchantment bonuses). I understand the three-spot is a bit clogged as is, but this is a card I cannot see myself not playing, unless I'm playing a Consecrated Sphinx deck.

Magby on the other hand fails to follow this rule simply because he is playing Sword of War and Peace when he probably should not be. I know it doesn't have synergy with Snapcaster Mage, but Honor of the Pure still looks better in the deck than either version of the sword.

High
Mid
Low
 Geist of Saint Traft
$29.99
$13.99
$10.00
Store QTY Price  
ParaDice Cards 1 $10.00
KnightsTemplar 1 $10.93
Upkeep Draw Go 1 $10.95
JPE Cards 4 $11.45
Grants Cards 4 $11.50
Signpost Games 2 $11.54
Runningfrenzy 2 $11.59
TMVgames 2 $11.77
Two Headed Games 22 $11.87

>> View all Prices for Geist of Saint Traft <<

Store.TCGplayer.com allows you to buy cards from any of our vendors, all at the same time!
Shop, Compare & Save with TCGplayer.com! - [Store FAQ]
Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Geist of Saint Traft Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card



Comparing the Creatures

I'm a bit surprised Doom Traveler only saw play in the Puresteel build, though he is admittedly best in that archetype. With Monoblack Infect on the rise, I expect his popularity to increase. He is great at protecting your Mirran Crusader (and everything else) from sacrifice effects such as Liliana of the Veil and Tribute to Hunger. He is also a fine clock in conjunction with Honor of the Pure or with Hero of Bladehold's battlecry bonus. He can chump block a Thrun, the Last Troll or a Dungrove Elder and rebuy himself, and then Moorland Haunt can rebuy him again, essentially giving you three-fourths of a Squadron Hawk at a fraction of the mana investment. And unlike with Squadron Hawk, drawing multiples does not equate to skipping your draw step (at least not exactly).

Champion of the Parish, and to a lesser extent Elite Vanguard, are necessary evils to playing a non-Puresteel aggro build. They each are great early, and provide fuel for Moorland Haunt later, but the more I play various incarnations of Blue-White, the more I dislike both of them. We've all been spoiled by Figure of Destiny, Student of Warfare, and Steppe Lynx. The one-drops were so good and so important. Now they are so… vanilla, and incapable of getting past a blocker on their own. Gideon's Lawkeeper can help with the latter, but this just means you're playing a pile of mediocre one-drops that rely on each other to be able to do anything. White's power is centered around the three-drop, and so the last thing I want to be doing on turn 3 is having to choose between (a) not attacking with my one-drops so I can cast my sweet three-drop or (b) waiting to cast my sweet three-drop so I can use one of my one-drops to tap his blocker to get my other one-drop through for two points of damage. Doomed Traveler is the only one-drop I'm seriously considering playing in Blue-White nowadays.

Despite running two copies of Angelic Destiny, Horsley opted against running Grand Abolisher. Stiver ran one Angelic Destiny main and another in the board, and had both his Grand Abolishers in the board. Grand Abolisher is the sort of thing I'm generally happy to be doing on turn 2. On the play, he can make it such that your sweet three-drop always resolves, and oftentimes your four-drop as well (if they don't have the Doom Blade ready in hand). On the draw, he is a de facto must-counter spell since not countering him means not being able to counter anything (unless you kill him on your ensuing turn, which makes him a must-kill creature - either way makes him good). Silvercoat Lion can usually get through unscathed when attacking alongside the blocker-magnet of Saint Traft, which is a play that often comes up when you're running four copies of the legendary Spirit cleric. And once Honor of the Pure comes down, Silvercoat Lion becomes Watchwolf. And when he dies, it's more fuel for the Moorland Haunt.

Mirran Crusader, Geist of Saint Traft, Blade Splicer, and Hero of Bladehold compete for the heavy-hitter slots. There has been clamoring on twitter about Mirran Crusader possibly being the best-positioned creature in Standard right now. I began to notice the same thing as I would face Dungrove Elders and Dismembers and Beast Withins every round that I was not otherwise facing Doom Blades and Dismembers. He's not very good against red, but red is on the decline and he's an easy cut to bring in Timely Reinforcements in that matchup.

Geist of Saint Traft is just insane against everything, especially if you run Angelic Destiny or Dismember or Oblivion Ring or really any way to get him into the red zone each turn. Blade Splicer seems fine in a deck running Intangible Virtue (for whatever reason you would want to be running that card), but he is worse than the other options in an Honor of the Pure deck. He's best against RDW, but even then he usually isn't ever enough to swing a losing game into a win. I would almost always rather have a Fiend Hunter, and certainly rather have a Mirran Crusader or a Geist of Saint Traft.

People are cutting Hero of Bladehold in order to make room for Angelic Destiny, and I don't like the call. I understand that Angelic Destiny is the preferred win condition, but the residual value of Hero of Bladehold is way higher. For instance, when either four-drop sticks around you win, but when answered, Hero turns into a 1/1 (or with Honor of the Pure a 2/2) flyer, thus yielding you card advantage while an answered Angelic Destiny yields card disadvantage. Sure, it's good when your sweet three drop (Mirran Crusader or Geist of Saint Traft) is about to attack, but Hero is pretty sweet there too (though admittedly not quite as sweet). I'm not saying don't play Angelic Destiny, but 4-2 or 4-3 in favor of Hero feels better than the reverse, which appears to be the opposite of conventional wisdom right now.

Snapcaster Mage is a card I've been trying hard to make good. I think with swords his value goes up a lot, but without them, he is not worth it, and I don't think swords are the way to go with Blue-White. He's not good before turn 3 (even with Gitaxian Probe), and turn 3 is when you start getting all your sweet white spells online. I would leave Snapcaster in the other color combinations for now.

Consecrated Sphinx! Ah, yes, good old Consecrated Sphinx. If you're an aggro or mid-range Blue-White deck, I prefer Sun Titan as he can get back any number of your sweet three-drops. Realistically though, unless you're a Timely Reinforcements + Day of Judgment style control deck, you don't want any six drops in your deck. Here's a trick for when you're playing against Consecrated Sphinx. During your draw step after you draw your card, with the Sphinx ability on the stack, play Act of Aggression targeting the Sphinx. Then when the Sphinx' ability resolves, the opponent has to choose whether to decline to draw the two cards or to draw them and allow you to draw four cards. So far my opponents on Magic Online have failed the skill test more often than not, and the play has resulted in Ancestral Recall for me on multiple occasions.

High
Mid
Low
 Consecrated Sphinx
$16.78
$11.50
$7.30
Store QTY Price  
Post Board Gaming 1 $7.30
The Deck Box 1 $9.17
Big Bear Vending 1 $9.50
Runningfrenzy 1 $9.50
Meta-Gaming 2 $9.50
MTG Rock 1 $9.51
CardboardCreationism 1 $9.51
TrollandToad 6 $9.67
Cardboard Castle 1 $9.70

>> View all Prices for Consecrated Sphinx <<

Store.TCGplayer.com allows you to buy cards from any of our vendors, all at the same time!
Shop, Compare & Save with TCGplayer.com! - [Store FAQ]
Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Consecrated Sphinx Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card



Comparing the Spells

Nine out of ten of the builds ran Oblivion Ring. This is not surprising as it is an almost universal answer to anything, stopping creatures and Planeswalkers alike. Sorcery speed and the ability to get removed are both relevant drawbacks, and the fact that it occupies the most contested slot in the curve is also a bit unfortunate. Nevertheless it's in nearly every list for good reason.

Mana Leak is a card that found its way into every list except for the aggro lists and the Puresteel list. A move to Mana Leak thus seems to signal a move toward mid-range (or control). By putting down the Elite Vanguard and Champion of the Parish, you get opened up to the ability to run a spell that is fantastic at stopping the things you need to stop most: Black Sun's Zenith, Day of Judgment, Wurmcoil Engine, Consecrated Sphinx, Garruk Primal Hunter, Primeval Titan, or simply anything they play when you don't have an Honor of the Pure or Grand Abolisher for your turn 2. The card is very good in the current environment and I would not play less than 4 right now.

Day of Judgment and Timely Reinforcements are the cards that mark the transition from mid-range to control. They represent a staunch decision, “I am NOT the beatdown!” Each are great against the more aggressive decks, and Day of Judgment is certainly fine against Wolf Run Ramp, but I don't know that trying to go over the top of Wolf Run Ramp and UB Control with these tools is the best decision. Without Stoneforge Mystic or Squadron Hawk, there really isn't enough incentive to play a pure control deck. The inevitability simply is not there. Even against Solar Flare, how do you expect to grind them out? I suppose I am speaking from a position of less experience playing control in the current format than aggro, but the sweet three-drops to me are the best incentive to play white, and they are far better utilized in a more aggro-mid-range build than in a more controlling build. There is a window to go underneath all these decks and yet not get blown out by mass removal, so why waste time durdling with conditional token generators (maindeck) and board sweeps when you can be protecting your cash cow with Mana Leak or actually winning the game.

Most of the other things I have to say about the spells I've already talked about in the previous sections, so let's move onto the sideboard options.

Comparing the Sideboards

Every single deck ran some number of Timely Reinforcements in their sideboards. This is the sort of thing I was talking about when warning against playing RDW right now. Not only did they run some number, but between main and sideboard, they each ran at least 3 copies! I've attempted running fewer, and then I get paired against a red deck where all I need to do is find a Timely Reinforcements and I'm reminded just how important the card is in the matchup. Not only did the players come prepared with life gain and blockers but also with Celestial Purge. With mono black infect on the rise, I expect this card to rise even more in popularity. I generally only want two in my board since oftentimes it's Inkmoth Nexus or Phyrexia Crusader that's the problem and the Purge doesn't really do anything. Nevertheless there more than enough good targets to merit having and bring in a couple.

Divine Offering and Revoke Existence each occupied plenty of sideboard space. I have been running the split ever since Scars Block Constructed and have liked it in every Standard format since. Divine Offering is better against Inkmoth Nexus and Shrine of Burning Rage (and Ratchet Bomb) whereas Revoke Existence is better against decks running Oblivion Ring or Wurmcoil Engine. And against Tempered Steel you bring them all in and are happy about it.

Surgical Extraction, and in Jabczynski's case - Purify the Grave, saw more play than I would have expected. I suppose if you're playing a slower version of Blue-White, especially one with Snapcaster Mage, you need a way to combat Solar Flare. I'm not sure if you bring it in against Chandra's Phoenix. My intuition is that you would not want to. In the more aggressive decks, however, I see no good reason to do so. Against Solar Flare you would much rather have a Negate or a Mana Leak since that stops Day of Judgment or Unburial Rites or whatever six-drop they have while graveyard hate only prolongs your death.

Finally, Flashfreeze saw a decent amount of play. I expect this was largely a response to Wolf Run Ramp, but also perhaps had something to do with the abundance of RDW during States (compared to now). If you want to play the counter-game against Wolf Run Ramp, Flashfreeze is solid, but if you want to beat down, Mana Leak is still better because it counters Wurmcoil Engine. You have to be able to answer Thrun, the Last Troll, and if your plan is to get rid of him with Day of Judgment the turn after they play him, then you're not going to be able to counter their Garruk Primal Hunter or Green Sun Zenith for another one. Again, playing the control game here just sounds terrible to me compared to playing Mirran Crusader and watching as they frantically try to muster a respectable game plan, slowly watching as that glimmer of hope in their eye withers away.

For those interested, here is my current Blue-White list for Standard:

UW Aggro by Craig Wescoe
Main Deck
Sideboard
1 Alabaster Mage
3 Doomed Traveler
2 Fiend Hunter
4 Geist of Saint Traft
4 Grand Abolisher
4 Hero of Bladehold
4 Mirran Crusader
Creatures [22]
1 Angelic Destiny
1 Dismember
3 Gitaxian Probe
4 Honor of the Pure
4 Mana Leak
2 Oblivion Ring
Spells [15]
4 Glacial Fortress
3 Island (253)
3 Moorland Haunt
9 Plains (250)
4 Seachrome Coast
Lands [23]
Deck Total [60]


2 Angelic Destiny
1 Celestial Purge
2 Dismember
1 Divine Offering
1 Elspeth Tirel
1 Gut Shot
1 Oblivion Ring
2 Revoke Existence
4 Timely Reinforcements
Sideboard [15]





Click for full deck stats & notes!


Feel free to ask me questions about it or about Blue-White in general in the forums.

Craig Wescoe
@Nacatls4Life on twitter



submit to reddit » Print «