The 2017 World Championship is well on its way while I’m writing this and a storm of social media tweets and comments highlighted that absence of White in the 24 standard decks that were registered.
We see the dominance of Ramunap Red in the standard format because you cannot deny the power this deck brings from the moment a Mountain hits the table. The ability to curve out perfectly from turns 1 through 4 without skipping a beat is how this deck became so prominent. With great top-end threats like Hazoret the Fervent and Glorybringer, it’s not your usual blitzkrieg deck that slowly fades as the games go long. Couple with enough reach thanks to Lightning Strike, Ramunap Red will remain a common gauntlet deck you will see in and out of professional magic tournaments.
The Scarab God started as a splash in Temur Energy decks and now has broken out of its shell to be the primary win-condition for UB control decks registered for Worlds. Together with Torrentail Gearhulk who was demoted to the sideboards by Approach decks once again rose and took its place back in the main board. With the power to deny your opponents of any and everything remains to be a solid catch-all game plan. With new removal spells at their disposal like Vraska’s Contempt, Bontu’s Last Reckoning and hand disruption in Duress and Lay Bare the Heart, I am confident we will see control players sleeving this up more than Approach given that this shell has access to Lost Legacy which is backbreaking against the Approach match-up.
3/4C NRG Decks
The premier Kaladesh-block standard deck continues to dominate tournaments from FNM all the way to Worlds, and there is no reason why it shouldn’t. This deck overflows with synergy, raw power, great curve, and flexibility on the sideboard making it one, if not the most powerful midrange-agro deck in the format. Unlike Ramunap Red which is good at pressuring the opponent from turns 1-4 and pray there is no sweepers or life gain cards that get sided in post-board, NRG decks start the pressure slightly later on turn 3 but relentlessly keeps the pressure high from turn 4 onward by playing high value, high power creatures that are more difficult to removal. It plays creatures that offer great trades unlike Red’s 1-2 toughness creatures, has access to control elements in the sideboard like Spell Pierce or Negate, and has so much surplus energy it can go big with Longtusk and Bristling Hydra or go wide with Whirler.
So where does White sit with these bad boys? Let’s take a look at what White has to offer.
Authority of the Consuls started at less than $1, and rose to $3 when the Saheeli/Cat combo became a thing. Post-banning it went back down to $1.5. With the surge of so many Ramunap Reds and creature-heavy decks like BG and NRG decks, Authority of the Consult is now at $5-6 again. Whether this card will see a lot of play depends on how much people will prepare against the Ramunap Red match-up. My suspicion is for those who chose to play White, they will have a couple of these in the main or the sideboard.
Most 3-mana planeswalkers saw substantial constructed play. A good example here is Liliana, the Last Hope and Nissa, Voice of Zendikar. They are so strong that decks had playsets of these to bring the deck together. Tokens and Snakes used Nissa to her full potential, while Liliana offered a permanent source of early removal and recursion mid through late game. Gideon on the other hand was left in the shadows of his big brother, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar but since GAoZ left standard, Gidoen of the Trials has yet to “prove itself worthy” outside the occasional 1-off or 2 copies played by Approach players. I see this card to be less of a control card but more of an aggro 3-mana 4/4 beat stick. It’s also an efficient way to fire up Heart of Kiran on turn 3, negate a creature on the back swing, and swing for 4 in the air.
Tocatli Honor Guard is our honorary hatebear for Standard. A 1/3 for 2 mana is not so bad in today’s very aggressive meta and her ability to shut down certain archetypes is what draws me near her. She instantly shuts down all ETB triggers including energy production! She also shuts down Hostage Taker, Earthshaker Khenra, Rishkar, Rogue Refiner, Verdurous Gearhulk, Torrential Gearhulk and so much more. I can’t wait to see her played more, her potential is undeniable.
If there’s one color that’s known for life preservation, no one beats White. Oketra’s Last Mercy in a vacuum basically says “restart the game”. In addition, White is also notorious for board resets like Fumigate and Settle the Wreckage and once you get to untap after sweeping the board and cast Oketra’s Last Mercy, the opponent would basically have to re-invest in the game with less threats, fewer cards in hand, and with most of his cards in his graveyard. I am not sure what kind of shell this card can call home, but I’ve seen this card being cast against Ramunap Red after a Fumigate and the red player just picked up his cards and shuffled.
Also know as Vampire Whitehawk, he’s the most undercosted creature with the most mechanics printed. If you can find a way to get his toughness beyond 3 (e.g. Favorable Winds) and get him out of Lightning Strike or Abrade range, this guy will work his ass off to keep your life total in check. Speaking of Favorable Winds, a 3/4 for 3 on turn 3 is not a bad clock either.
White is not known for its efficient spot removals and apart from Immolating Glare and Blessed Alliance which saw considerable play in standard, we never got anything to replace these except maybe Slash of Talons. However let’s not forget that we still have Skywhaler’s Shot in standard and it’s pretty decent at killing a good amount of creatures with power 3 or greater. Creatures like Ahn-Crop Crasher, Rogue Refiner, Deathgorge Scavenger, Ripjaw Raptor, Rishkar/Snake combo, The Scarab God and many other meta-threats can shot down with Skywhaler’s Shot without problems. So the next time you’re playing White with Green or Blue and you’re looking for a couple of spot removal, this might be a good option for you.
I won’t say that White is well positioned in today’s meta, obviously it isn’t. Coming from an artifact-heavy Kaladesh plane White was seen as a ‘crackdown’ color aimed to apprehend and govern, that’s why it didn’t get much power from creatures or spells. Going to the Bolas-twisted plane of Amonkhet, White was portrayed as ‘good slaves’ and ‘righteous rebirth’ thanks to Embalm but again it didn’t get much love in the threats department either.
Battle of Zendikar and Shadows over Innistrad placed White at the center of the story line symbolizing retribution and fighting back. Cards like Thalia’s Lieutenant, Expedition Envoy and Gideon AOZ were all heavily played in very aggressive shells which helped define the aggro metagame before Ramunap Red was born.
While Ixalan is just 2 weeks old and apart from Settle the Wreckage, we haven’t seen so much White cards getting played yet. I’m speculating Kinjalli’s Sunwing will see some post-board play against aggressive decks, or Tocatli Honor Guard to shut down ETB decks. We saw a WG Vampire deck in the Top 64 of SCG Open Dallas Fort Worth and that was an interesting deck playing Adanto Vanguard, I can’t wait to see what brewers will come up with playing White in standard.
If you have some brews using White as your primary color, send them in at the comments below!