Mono-White Aggro in Standard

Feature Article from Craig Wescoe
Craig Wescoe
8/4/2017 11:02:00 AM
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I played an aggressive mono-white deck designed to beat Ramunap Red decks at Pro Tour Hour of Devastation. I had some unfortunate pairings, only facing Red once all weekend, and ended 5-5 in Constructed. If I could replay the tournament, I would change a handful of cards and run it back. I think the deck is generally well-positioned, especially with the updates.

The idea is to play creatures and attack. Pretty straightforward. We play out sort of like a Vehicles deck and sort of like a tribal Human deck. Authority of the Consuls is our major weapon against Red decks while Scrapheap Scrounger, Heart of Kiran and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar do the heavy lifting in the attrition-based matchups. Before I dive into the matchups, here's what I would play this weekend:

I cut some of the one-drops in favor of another copy of Authority of the Consuls and four main deck copies of Stasis Snare. Stasis Snare is especially potent against most of the top decks right now since they are all creature decks that rely heavily on a big creature. Expedition Envoy is great against Red but pretty lackluster against the other top decks in the field, so that was the most obvious cut. Fan Bearer is the cut I'm less sure about since it works great with Always Watching and survives Walking Ballista. It's not an integral part of the strategy either way, but it still might be correct to keep one or two copies in the deck. I recommend playing this deck, so I'm going to tell you how to play and sideboard with it in each matchup.

Rumanap Red

-2 Scrapheap Scrounger
-3 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

+3 Selfless Spirit
+2 Gideon's Intervention

This is the matchup the deck was designed to beat. I correctly predicted it would be far and away the deck to beat going into the Pro Tour and I showed up to beat it. Unfortunately, I only faced it once out of 10 rounds, but I handily defeated it in that one round! The key to this matchup is not taking damage. You want to get Authority of the Consuls down as soon as possible because that card is extremely difficult for them to beat. It renders that hast creatures much less effective and gains us life each time they play a creature. Blocking is also a big part of our game plan, and there is usually a turn (around turn four) where we turn the corner and start attacking. I'm generally pretty conservative with my Stasis Snares, saving them for Hazoret the Fervent, but if we have a removal heavy hand it's okay to just start firing off Declaration in Stones and Stasis Snares at whatever they play.

Mono Black Zombies

+3 Gryff's Boon
+1 Always Watching
+3 Selfless Spirit

-3 Authority of the Consuls
-2 Scrapheap Scrounger
-2 Glory-Bound Initiate

This is one of the tougher matchups for the version I played at the Pro Tour. I didn't expect it to be one of the most played decks, so I left my Gryff's Boons off the list. Given the rise of Zombies, I added them back into the sideboard. Between Selfless Spirit, Heart of Kiran and Gryff's Boon we have a healthy amount of flying and that is the best way to beat Zombies. We also want our creatures to outsize theirs, which means bringing in a third copy of Always Watching. Dusk // Dawn might be better than Gryff's Boon, but I haven't tested it enough to know for sure. It kills some of our creatures though, especially if we have Always Watching, so for now I'm sticking with Gryff's Boon since I know that one is good and swings the matchup.

Black-Green Constrictor

+1 Solemnity
+1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
+1 Scavenger Grounds
+1 Always Watching

-2 Authority of the Consuls
-1 Plains
-1 Glory-Bound Initiate

This is another deck I underprepared for. I theorized how I expected Constrictor decks to adapt to Red decks and as it turned out I was exactly right that they would lean on Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. Apparently that was enough to make them a major player at the Pro Tour. Given the presence of Kalitas in Constrictor decks as well as in Zombie decks, I had to make Stasis Snare a big part of the game plan. With few control decks in the metagame, I think it's safe to run the full four copies of Stasis Snare alongside the full four copies of Declaration in Stone all in the main deck. In the sideboard we have an extra Always Watching to combat Walking Ballista and Liliana. Solemnity also stops Walking Ballista, Winding Constrictor, Verdurous Gearhulk and any energy cards they might run. Dusk // Dawn might also be good in this matchup, but again I haven't tested it enough to know for sure.

Mardu Vehicles

+2 Fragmentize
+1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
+1 Always Watching
+3 Selfless Spirit

-3 Authority of the Consuls
-4 Declaration in Stone

Mardu Vehicles are leaning much more on Aethersphere Harvester and Walking Ballista now to defeat Red decks. I'm a little surprised this plan doesn't get blown up by Abrade, but the successful Mardu pilots claim it doesn't and so I take their word for it. Our plan against them is to bring in Fragmentize as long as they keep their aggressive plan. We also bring in a third copy of Always Watching to combat Walking Ballista. Selfless Spirit is kind of hit or miss. It's great against their Unlicensed Disintegration draws and bad against their Walking Ballista draws (unless we have an Always Watching). It's possible we should only bring in one or two copies and leave in some of the removal, but for now this is how I am sideboarding. It positions us well against their control sideboard plan while also remaining strong against their aggro plan. If you somehow know for certain they are not boarding into their control plan, maybe leave some number of Selfless Spirits on the bench.

Blue-Red Control

+3 Gideon's Intervention
+3 Selfless Spirit
+1 Scavenger Grounds
+1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
+1 Always Watching

-4 Declaration in Stone
-3 Authority of the Consuls
-1 Stasis Snare
-1 Glory-Bound Initiate

This matchup plays out much differently than our matchup against any of the top decks in the format. Here they just want to kill all our stuff and the only threat they play main deck is Torrential Gearhulk. Post-board they can get a bit tricky by bringing in Glorybringer for our Gideons, and perhaps even Thing in the Ice or Dragonmaster Outcast. If you seem them play a creature other than Glorybringer or Torrential Gearhulk, then leave in the fourth Stasis Snare. Otherwise go with this sideboard plan.

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The line I like to take in this matchup, especially post-board, is to play Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and immediately use the +1 ability instead of making a token. This gets it out of Glorybringer range and also allows us to use the +1 ability again the following turn to get it out of Hour of Devastation range (while also allow us to attack for five, which is likely what we want to do anyway). It basically costs us a token to gain that extra loyalty counter, which is very important against the two five-mana red spells mentioned. With Gideon's Intervention I usually name Torrential Gearhulk, though sometimes Glorybringer or Hour of Devastation.

Red-Green Ramp

+3 Gideon's Intervention
+3 Selfless Spirit
+1 Scavenger Grounds
+1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

-4 Declaration in Stone
-3 Authority of the Consuls
-1 Glory-Bound Initiate

We don't want a whole lot of removal in this matchup unless they have all the cheaper Eldrazi creatures, in which case I would cut Always Watching and more Glory-Bound Initiates instead of Declaration in Stones, though we still want the Stasis Snares for their World Breaker. Gideon's Intervention is a way to play around whatever is most threatening: Hour of Devastation, Hour of Promise, Kozilek's Return, Worldbreaker, or Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger are all legitimate cards to name in the dark. Naming a card that is already on the battlefield is also a legitimate plan. It's basically a removal spell that can also act as a Nevermore.

White-Blue God-Pharaoh's Gift

+1 Scavenger Grounds
+2 Fragmentize
+1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

-2 Authority of the Consuls
-1 Plains
-1 Glory-Bound Initiate

The plan is basically to kill them before they are able to go crazy with God-Pharaoh's Gift. We have a lot of removal spells, each of which exiles, so getting six creatures into the graveyard before going to zero life is actually quite a difficult proposition for them against us. I like Fragmentize in this matchup because it takes out Gate to the Afterlife. The second Scavenger Grounds is actually better in this matchup than it is anywhere else since it resets the graveyard for Gate or in response to Refurbish. It's so valuable that you almost always sacrifice Shefet Dunes if possible when activating it. Don't overextend into Cataclysmic Gearhulk, save a removal spell for Angel of Innovation, and be the aggressor.

Temur Energy

+1 Solemnity
+1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
+2 Gideon's Intervention
+1 Scavenger Grounds

-1 Authority of the Consuls
-2 Always Watching
-2 Glory-Bound Initiate

This matchup is pretty close since they have a variety of tools against us. I leave in two copies of Authority of the Consuls here mostly to protect our Gideons from Glorybringer. Gideon's Intervention is also mostly going to name Glorybringer. I like Declaration in Stone a lot in this matchup because we can often hit a pair of the same threats such as Rogue Refiners and that can provide us with a big tempo boost. It's important to put them on the back foot as much as possible and to beat them on the tempo axis. Solemnity keeps them from being able to produce any energy, which makes several of their cards much less effective.

White-Blue Monument

+2 Fragmentize
+3 Selfless Spirit
+1 Scavenger Grounds

-1 Plains
-3 Authority of the Consuls
-2 Declaration in Stone

This is the one matchup where I miss not having the third copy of Fragmentize since they really have to have active Oketra's Monument to compete with us. Dusk // Dawn is their next best card against us, which is why we bring in Selfless Spirit. Remember that Scavenger Grounds can also exile their graveyard in response to Dawn, which comes up a decent amount. It's often the case that they lose the game with a pile of uncracked clues because they have to make unfavorable blocks, lose their creatures to Declaration in Stone, and get out-tempo'd before having time to crack all the clues from their Thraben Inspectors and Bygone Bishops.

Red-Green Pummeler

+2 Fragmentize
+3 Gideon's Intervention
+1 Scavenger Grounds

-2 Always Watching
-3 Authority of the Consuls
-1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

I haven't played this matchup enough to know if it's correct to bring in Fragmentize, but I think it probably is since most of the games we lose are to Electrostatic Pummeler. I think it's less important to make our creatures bigger with Always Watching or to have theirs enter tapped from Authority of the Consuls. Gideon's Intervention really shines here too since it's really our only good answer to Bristling Hydra and it also works just fine against any of their other threats. The Scavenger Grounds comes in only because we want the extra land to help cast our Gideon's Interventions on time.

I'm not confident this is the best deck in the format, but I am confident it is the best white creature deck and therefore the deck I would play. It also has a good matchup against Ramunap Red, and that counts for a lot right now.

Craig Wescoe

@Brimaz4Life




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