Four White Weenie Brews for Standard

Feature Article from Craig Wescoe
Craig Wescoe
3/8/2013 10:02:00 AM
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For the past two weeks I took up the task of trying to brew the best White Weenie deck in Standard.

Last week I discussed my first work in progress entitled ‘Boros Champions.' The basis for the deck was to take advantage of the powerful synergy between Ajani, Caller of the Pride and Gideon, Champion of Justice. An uncharacteristically high number of players who played the deck after reading the article have reported positive results with it.

I have since continued tuning the Boros Champions list while simultaneously working on three other decks that have shown early promise. Today I would like to share these three decks with you, along with the changes I have made to Boros Champions since last week. Each deck is tournament ready in its current form, though the discussion following each deck points out potential ways for improving or at least customizing the deck as you see fit.

First let's discuss the changes to Boros Champions:

Boros Champions Update by Craig Wescoe
Main Deck
Sideboard
4 Boros Reckoner
4 Champion of the Parish
4 Dryad Militant
2 Knight of Glory
4 Precinct Captain
4 Restoration Angel
2 Silverblade Paladin
Creatures [24]
3 Ajani, Caller of the Pride
3 Gideon, Champion of Justice
Planeswalkers [6]
2 Faith's Shield
4 Searing Spear
Spells [6]
4 Clifftop Retreat
1 Mountain (265)
13 Plains (250)
4 Sacred Foundry
2 Slayers' Stronghold
Lands [24]
Deck Total [60]


2 Blind Obedience
3 Boros Charm
2 Flames of the Firebrand
1 Mountain (265)
3 Nearheath Pilgrim
3 Rest in Peace
1 Slayers' Stronghold
Sideboard [15]





Click for full deck stats & notes!


Added:
2 Knight of Glory
1 Ajani, Caller of the Pride
1 Gideon, Champion of Justice
1 Plains
SB: 2 Boros Charm

Removed:
4 Truefire Paladin
1 Mountain

Initial testing showed that the deck had strong game against Midrange (American, Jund) and Control (Esper, Bant) decks but was weaker to the hyper aggressive (Jund Aggro, Naya Blitz) decks. So I trimmed down to two of each Planeswalker main since they were a bit too slow and clunky in the aggro matchups. Further testing has shown that the aggro matchup is not as bad as I had thought and that removing 33% of the Planeswalkers really hurt the slower matchups where games would often come down to who could stick the last big threat. So I moved those back to the main.

Truefire Paladin has proven to be decent-but-not-terribly-impressive. Originally I wanted him mainly for his synergy with Ajani, Caller of the Pride, allowing us to attack for 14 in the air as early as turn four. In testing though, this scenario would rarely come up. Usually he was just an awkwardly-costed Silvercoat Lion that would cause us to waste a turn pumping mana into him just to get blown out by a cheap instant speed removal spell or Giant Growth. Knight of Glory proved to be more impactful at allowing our other creatures to attack past Augur of Bolas and such. This also allowed us to cut a Mountain for a Plains, which helps Precinct Captain and our one-drops.

By adding the two Planeswalkers back into the main, this freed up a couple sideboard slots. I used those slots to increase the number of Boros Charms from one to three. Boros Charm is a great answer to Bonfire of the Damned, overloaded Mizzium Mortars, Supreme Verdict, Planar Cleansing, and generally most cards that midrange or control opponents will use to fight us. Since these have been by far the types of cards that have led to the most number of losses, Boros Charm is definitely worth the extra slots. It can also finish games or kill a Planeswalker when needed, and at times it can give Gideon double strike. Boros Charm is basically the red version of Duress, serving many of the same functions.

While Boros Champions had been testing well, I wanted to experiment with an Orzhov version to see if it was potentially better. Long story short, it wasn't, but throughout the experimentation process I discovered that an Orzhov Tokens shell is powerful and worth pursuing, mostly because of Lingering Souls, Duress, Orzhov Charm, Vault of the Archangel, and Sorin, Lord of Innistrad. It also has the power to sideboard into many of the same elements that comprise Boros Champions.

Here is my current list for Orzhov Tokens:

Orzhov Tokens by Craig Wescoe
Main Deck
Sideboard
4 Champion of the Parish
4 Doomed Traveler
3 Precinct Captain
4 Restoration Angel
Creatures [15]
3 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
Planeswalkers [3]
3 Duress
3 Gather the Townsfolk
4 Intangible Virtue
4 Lingering Souls
4 Orzhov Charm
Spells [18]
4 Godless Shrine
4 Isolated Chapel
3 Orzhov Guildgate
10 Plains (250)
1 Swamp (260)
2 Vault of the Archangel
Lands [24]
Deck Total [60]


2 Ajani, Caller of the Pride
3 Boros Reckoner
2 Gideon, Champion of Justice
2 Nearheath Pilgrim
2 Rest in Peace
2 Tragic Slip
2 Ultimate Price
Sideboard [15]





Click for full deck stats & notes!


The general idea is to start off as an aggressive human deck, curving out with Champion of the Parish or Doomed Traveler followed by Gather the Townsfolk or Precinct Captain. Then you have options depending on the board and matchup.

You can continue to apply pressure with Lingering Souls and Sorin, Lord of Innistrad. You can get rid of blockers with Orzhov Charm and play more humans. You can play around board sweepers by holding off Restoration Angel to play on their end step or casting Duress to remove it from their hand. If you don't have an aggressive human start, you could instead lead with Intangible Virtue into Lingering Souls. Otherwise this Honor of the Pure stand-in is a mid-game effect that often makes races unwinnable for an opponent while simultaneously protecting your team from otherwise problematic cards such as Izzet Staticaster. Speaking of races, have you ever tried racing a Vault of the Archangel? It's kind of like trying to run up the wrong side of an escalator.

Precinct Captain, Frontline Medic, Attended Knight, and Ajani, Caller of the Pride are each of similar power level in this deck and I'm not entirely sure which is best. Attended Knight works best with Restoration Angel, but each has its merits.

The one recent find that has been more or less a Breakthrough in my testing is Duress. Between all these White Weenie decks, board sweepers (especially the red one-sided versions) have been my primary bane. Sphinx's Revelation has also been rather problematic, allowing the opponent to Rebuild from an otherwise losing board position. Duress solves all of these problems with an added benefit of allowing us to see exactly what the opponent is up to and to then make plays based on this knowledge. I had almost forgotten just how great that card is. It has the problem that all discard spells have of not being able to do anything about the top of the opponent's library, but for once it actually has an advantage over countermagic in that it can handle Supreme Verdict. Duress is probably the most underplayed card in Standard right now. It might actually be one of the Top 10 cards in the format. Thanks to whoever reminded me in the chat that Duress is Standard legal.

While the Orzhov Tokens deck was putting up decent numbers in testing, I kept feeling like I wanted to try out Snapcaster Mage and Moorland Haunt. It was also suggested to me to try out Geist of Saint Traft, and that sounded pretty appealing too.

After some testing, this is where I'm at with Esper Tokens:

Esper Tokens by Craig Wescoe
Main Deck
Sideboard
2 Attended Knight
4 Champion of the Parish
4 Doomed Traveler
3 Restoration Angel
2 Snapcaster Mage
Creatures [15]
2 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
Planeswalkers [2]
2 Duress
3 Gather the Townsfolk
4 Intangible Virtue
4 Lingering Souls
4 Orzhov Charm
2 Rootborn Defenses
Spells [19]
2 Cavern of Souls
2 Glacial Fortress
4 Godless Shrine
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Isolated Chapel
2 Moorland Haunt
3 Plains (250)
1 Vault of the Archangel
2 Watery Grave
Lands [24]
Deck Total [60]


1 Duress
3 Geist of Saint Traft
1 Geist-Honored Monk
2 Nearheath Pilgrim
2 Rest in Peace
1 Restoration Angel
1 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
1 Tragic Slip
2 Ultimate Price
1 Watery Grave
Sideboard [15]





Click for full deck stats & notes!


While Snapcaster Mage was the primary motivation for moving in this direction, Moorland Haunt has actually been the biggest motivation for remaining here. I almost forgot why I fell in love with Doomed Traveler in the beginning. It was mainly because of its synergy with Honor of the Pure and Moorland Haunt. In this deck Intangible Virtue does a pretty strong impression of Honor of the Pure, and it really makes Doomed Traveler and Moorland Haunt look extra good.

Of the four lists in this article, this one is the least tuned. The mana is not quite optimal and I'm not sure if Cavern of Souls is helping us more than it's hurting us. It also seems to be pulling in a few different directions, mostly because I haven't yet identified which are the ones worth pushing further and which are worth eliminating altogether. So as it stands, we have Snapcaster Mage with only eleven targets (outside of Lingering Souls), and we also have Restoration Angel with only four creatures that gain value from the blink effect (other than Champion of the Parish getting a +1/+1 counter). It's probably correct to push further in one of these two directions at the expense of the other. So if Snapcaster Mage is better, then Attended Knight should be Midnight Haunting. But if Restoration Angel is better, than maybe Rootborn Defenses and Snapcaster Mage should be a third Duress and more Attended Knights and/or Geist of Saint Traft.

While more work still needs to be done to figure out which direction is better, the deck as a whole has a lot of promising things going for it. It can be a more aggressive version of Esper Control that uses Duress and Snapcaster Mage to fight opposing Supreme Verdicts and Sphinx's Revelations. It can add a touch of counter-magic and give it added reach against the midrange and control decks, affording us the role of aggressor with multiple forms of disruption as well as reach in the form of Planeswalkers and Restoration Angels. It can also be an aggressive human deck that curves out with Champion of the Parish into Gather the Townsfolk into Attended Knight (or Duress + Orzhov Charm or Intangible Virtue) into Snapcaster Mage targeting Gather the Townsfolk. That is quite the 7/7 Champion of the Parish!

While I like where Esper Tokens is going, the reason I have not yet had time to pursue it further is because I had a bit of a revelation when reflecting on my earlier testing. In order to support all the black cards in Orzhov Tokens, the deck is forced to run twelve black-producing lands. And since Boros Reckoner (and to a lesser extent Precinct Captain) get significantly worse with each non-white land in the deck, this led me to include Orzhov Guildgates in multiples. While I am not thrilled about this concession, it was a necessary one. Unless…

… my Swamps could also tap for red mana and thereby still cast Boros Reckoner ( Blood Crypt!!!).

This led me to Borzhova Tokens:

Borzhova Tokens by Craig Wescoe
Main Deck
Sideboard
4 Boros Reckoner
4 Champion of the Parish
3 Doomed Traveler
2 Mikaeus, the Lunarch
3 Restoration Angel
Creatures [16]
3 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
Planeswalkers [3]
3 Duress
3 Gather the Townsfolk
2 Intangible Virtue
4 Lingering Souls
3 Orzhov Charm
3 Searing Spear
Spells [18]
4 Blood Crypt
3 Clifftop Retreat
4 Godless Shrine
4 Isolated Chapel
2 Plains (250)
4 Sacred Foundry
1 Slayers' Stronghold
1 Vault of the Archangel
Lands [23]
Deck Total [60]


2 Boros Charm
1 Clifftop Retreat
1 Duress
2 Flames of the Firebrand
2 Nearheath Pilgrim
1 Orzhov Charm
2 Rest in Peace
1 Restoration Angel
1 Searing Spear
2 Ultimate Price
Sideboard [15]





Click for full deck stats & notes!


One of the biggest shortcomings in the Orzhov Tokens list was its lack of quality ways to handle Huntmaster of the Fells, Olivia Voldaren, and Hellrider. Orzhov Charm excels in most areas, though no other card kills all three without becoming vulnerable to things like Abrupt Decay (i.e. Oblivion Ring, Fiend Hunter, etc). Searing Spear kills all three and also kills many other problematic cards in a timely manner such as Mayor of Avabruck and Flinthoof Boar (a.k.a. Fire Pig). Orzhov Charm can kill Angel of Serenity, Restoration Angel, and Loxodon Smiter while Searing Spear cannot (and is much better against Boros Reckoner too). Searing Spear, on the other hand, can go to the dome, can deal with Planeswalkers, and doesn't cause us to lose life. So I went with a 3-3 split main with four more two-mana instant speed removal spells in the sideboard (Ultimate Price and the fourth copy of each). There is also Flames of the Firebrand, which I am running over Tragic Slip because I expect more Naya Blitz than The Aristocrat decks, though if you expect the opposite I would exchange.

The biggest question is why to play this deck over The Aristocrats deck? This deck takes a more token-based them as opposed to a sacrifice theme. Instead of primarily utilizing Doomed Traveler and Lingering Souls as Aristocrat fodder, our Spirit Tokens are enhanced by Intangible Virtue and Mikaeus, the Lunarch and become our primary win conditions. I haven't tested enough to know for certain which shell is better, but my intuition is that they are close in power level and just different. And being different often translates to better results because the opponent won't know exactly what's going on (and will likely think you are The Aristocrats deck). This could lead to situations such as an opponent not playing around Duress, Intangible Virtue, or the second Restoration Angel, or allowing themselves to fall to three life without realizing we have Searing Spear.

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While I'm not confident the shell is definitely better, I am confident that having Duress and Searing Spear is where I would rather be, as opposed to not having them. Duress is great for many of the same reasons already stated in the Orzhov Tokens discussion, and Searing Spear is great for the reasons just discussed two paragraphs ago. It's possible that Gather the Townsfolk and Intangible Virtue are better off as Cartel Aristocrats, that some of our four-drops are better as Falkenrath Aristocrats, and that Mikaeus, the Lunarch is better as Zealous Conscripts or whatever. These things I'm not sure of yet, but I'm inclined to believe this deck is the better place to be than The Aristocrats right now.

Lastly, some number of Blasphemous Acts should probably be in the 75. The ability to deal 13 or 26 damage with Boros Reckoners is pretty powerful, especially considering the fact that our token-producing ability allows us to accelerate into it rather quickly. I haven't tested with it yet, though I plan to do so later this week on the stream. Oh yeah, did I mention I started streaming? I stream using twitch.tv/nacatls4life. So far I've only been playing Standard and I've been using it to test these White Weenie brews for the article. You can watch archived videos of me playing the decks and explaining my decisions. This should help to show how to play (and sometimes how not to play) the decks.

Craig Wescoe
@Nacatls4Life on both twitter and Twitch.tv



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