Sunday, March 13, 2010 - 8am PST.
I am ready.
Yeah, I said it before, as recently as last week in fact! Then I was piloting a deck very similar to the one I used successfully today - I just had a run of bad luck I guess, (see also: excuses of a loser). However, today’s Pauper tournament went MUCH better:
I've seriously played some incarnation of the below decks AT LEAST a thousand times now, and all ego aside, I consider myself an expert in this area...(free queue for all you anonymous haters to reference and write about ;)
First off - I don't want to do a standard, play by play (snooze) breakdown of the match-ups...Instead, I wish to explain and prove why, in pauper at least, white weenie is a strategy that ALWAYS stands a chance, and usually a very good one at that! Additionally I'm quite hesitant to include all my insight, as white weenie has been at my core focus for the last five months. Releasing some of my secrets is a hard thing to do. However, knowing the evolution of the game, I'm certain a better deck exists in the hindsight of 2011 etc..,
First, let's start at my beginning:
When I first starting placing in the top 8 of pauper tournaments, I played either of the below two lists:
Now before I start cross-comparing these deck lists, I'd like to establish some grassroots understanding of the above pauper players, so that someone new to the format isn't left wondering why certain cards are not used and why many are. I'll also list some rogue cards that have been toyed around with over the last year of testing...
Benevolent Bodyguard - this guy is an MVP. Think of him as a counterspell that hits for 1. He is SO important that I don't think white weenie would be where it's at without him. His quote says it all, "My destiny is to save others so their destinies may be achieved." Selfless and totally insane as a one drop, this guy is not to be underestimated, unless you’re my opponent, then by all means...PLEASE underestimate him!
Razor Golem - Capt. Spiky at most costs 3 in my long history of playing white weenie. Seriously, a 3/4 for three mana!!! - Phyrexian War Beast is doing infinite donkey-kicks in a jealous rage over this guy. More often, at four mana, you can drop two of these guys..that's a curve even a Tarmogoyf wouldn't sneer at! The Razor Golem and Shade of Trokair are the solo reasons this deck stays in one pious color. Razor Golem has single-handedly won me so many games I can't keep track of the statistic. Additionally I had little respect for vigilance prior to playing this house. His un-tap-ability is quite a thorn in an opponent's side making for some surprising tempo advantages.
Shade of Trokair - This guy doesn't need much explanation. Nantuko Shade is nuts, and this guy technically costs one less with the help of suspend. Shade of Trokair also has the benefit of being a domino against control strategies - suspending one of these lets you bank all your spells/creatures behind it, knowing that if your opponent is playing counterspells, he or she simply MUST COUNTER this guy, and then the real weenie wildness can unload. Aside from the above strategy vs. control, this guy and Order of Leitbur justify the late game mana flood that can sometimes happen to any deck, adding to the consistency of the early game, and the crushing power of the late game. This happened in the very first round playing against Teachings/Control...by choosing to suspend my Shade rather than walk into a counter and/or removal, I instead waited, gaining 3 more creatures for my suspended onslaught three turns away...which turned out to be a winning move.
Kor Skyfisher Holy Hitchens! What was Wizards thinking creating this guy and his "drawback"?! This has to be perhaps the best white flyer (for the cost) in the game's history. From bouncing your 'responded to' Journey to Nowhere - to helping your opening mana curve, this 2/3 flyer is absolutely insane in any format. Many times vs. goblins, a first game Journey to Nowhere is answered by sacrificing to a Mogg Raider in response to the intended target - this leaves your Journey to Nowhere voided and still on the table, just waiting for that next skyfisher to come around and make it useful all over again. When playing with Soul Wardens - this is used to bounce a crucial creature for life advantage in a pinch...even better is bouncing a depleted Serrated Arrows, Kor Sanctifiers, Safehold Elite, Icatian Javelineers or the obvious target an Aven Riftwatcher. No matter what the target, the Kor Skyfisher is fishing in a VERY lush stream where everyone likes sushi!
Order of Leitbur - Imagine you're playing this, and your opponent casts a simple white bear like Benalish Cavalry at the very late stages of the game. It's quite obvious which will have the advantage. However at the beginning of a game, they're pretty equal but as the game goes on, the decision over which one you'd like to have gets downright ridiculous. Similar to a dehydrated runner on the first mile of a marathon, sure they'd be pretty strong on the first mile, however on the last mile they'd be in a sorry state. As mentioned above in the Shade section - Order of Leitbur helps justify the mana base late game.
Icatian Javelineers - I'm one of the few white weenie players who don't really respect this guy. I understand the logic behind the card...but having access to Serrated Arrows after side boarding really makes this guy seem sub-optimal to me, two Serrated Arrows is the equivalent to playing 6 Icatian Javelineers. If pauper were a format with a hundred card minimum, then of course I'd include this guy, but not at sixty cards. Even in the mirror match up, your Benevolent Bodyguard has the one-to-one answer against this guy. I'm not saying there aren’t times he's obviously useful, it's just that white weenie is such a finely tuned machine now, that I just don't see a spot for him, even with the help of a few Kor Skyfishers to reset him.
Amrou Scout - What a history I've had with this card. From main decking four, then two...then none. Very similar to the above logic in the Icatian Javelineers - you seem to only like this guy in games you're already winning - I'm not saying it's not a super card - just that I personally don't like seeing it when I draw a card. White weenie is a very active, turn-by-turn game state. There's not much time to wait with four mana open to "trick" your opponent. Please note: I obviously know this guy is amazing in a vacuum of only having him and being able to fetch seven, (four additional Amrou Scout and four Aven Riftwatcher. This scenario rarely comes up, and I really don't like to see him in my opening hand unless playing against islands, which justifies four copies to consistently slip past counter magic...which if in any other match up is a crucial error. Additionally this guy is about as weak as a dehydrated runner on the first mile of a marathon - in the hundreds of games I've had him on board, he's attacked maybe twenty of those times to very mana depleted opponents that I was already beating. He's blocked a whopping nineteen (each time dying and only delaying a loss by one turn). No thanks. If the future holds many more Rebels for white weenie, then perhaps he'll need a second look, but until then I hope my white weenie opponents are playing this - because I'm NOT!
Veteran Armorsmith, Veteran Armorer - these two, despite the quantities - offer a solution to many mass-removal answers your red and black opponents may have. Each offer a benefit of a +0/1 backside, the superior of the two being the Veteran Armorer for the obvious reason that he helps non-soldiers which is the vast majority of the deck.
Crimson Acolyte - If goblins are at large, this guy is crazy good. There's no reason to go into the advantages of playing these guys vs. a red/goblin environment - and perhaps an even better meta-game call (this week anyway) rather than Safehold Elite, would have been four of these circus freaks. I wouldn't go as far as I did a few months back, when I used Crimson Acolytes in combination with Palace Guard - it worked great and was quite funny too! This is the 2009/10 White Weenie deck list above.
Aven Riftwatcher - Life personified. The air attack is heavily in favor of most white weenie match-ups....and this guy, with his/her brother/sister in arms Kor Skyfisher nearby is simply a recipe for victory. Fetch-able via it's rebel visa if using the above mentioned Amrou Scout - the Aven Riftwatcher is a 2/3 house that nets you a consistent four life. Hmmm...let's review - four life is a fifth of your total - and you get to usually hit your opponent for four in the meantime...ok, this is officially awesome.
Safehold Elite is money vs. both red and/or black strategies. Buying you the time needed to smash face vs. either of the above two mentioned strategies....or any other rogue component you may face. The only knock against this guy is that he's a two drop, in a deck that can tend to get a bit flooded on turn two with TOO many options, but too many options is a nice 'problem' to have.
Shelter - A more surprising and expensive version of Benevolent Bodyguard - I love this card...I simply can't find the space, either main decked or in the sideboard, to use it. At one point I was so thirsty for the ability to draw a card that I looked to these as well as the scry ability in cards like Stand Firm. Chasing a colors weak points is always worth a try, but in the end this train of thought usually nets you a weaker, less-focused deck. Such was the case with the above two in my testing.
Secluded Steppe - I won back in December 09' playing with two of these. My logic at the time being that at twenty-two lands...white weenie tended to get flooded mid/late at horrible times, and I wanted a way to prevent this drawback from happening so often. Truth be told, it was nice to see them towards the mid to late game, but just disastrous in your opening hand. Again the issue being that your first five to six turns every single mana is being used to its fullest. It's a fifty/fifty gamble, and I always prefer consistency. Additionally there are some rare games where your Razor Golem isn't able to come play, cause you had to actually play one to prevent a mulligan down to defeat. This is a rare scenario, but I did encounter it about three times out of forty with said deck list.
Unmake - Just click on this card to understand its instant goodness. The only drawback is cards like Valeron Outlander and above mentioned Order of Leitbur - aside from that, this card is quite overpowered for the pauper format and lends to some great combat tricks vs. the entire field.
Journey to Nowhere - A two mana removal solution - okay, I'm in love. Add to that the above-mentioned synergy of the Kor Skyfisher re-usability and you have some seriously devastating removal for a measly 1W. Seriously, what more do you want from a spell?!
Serrated Arrows - Main decked or sideboard (depending on the meta game) - this card is always a valid inclusion.
4xBenevolent Unicorn - Still surprises me how many people have never heard of this card. It is the nemesis to Grapeshot. The partial answer to storm. Your sideboard, (in my biased opinion) MUST always have four of these.
3xPrismatic Strands - I might catch a lof of grief/hate for this, but as far as my research concludes - I see no reference to this card until I started playing pauper. This is an MVP vs. anything mono-colored, see also: red and/or black.
3-4xHoly Light - I'm an atheist at heart, but even so, I'll sing the praises of this superstitious card any day vs. goblins and/or elvin strategies. Just remember your Razor Golem is also considered "Unworthy" to the totalitarian sky man of "___________" faith.
0-4xStandard Bearer - if facing rogue and/or goblins - this guy has his place. Armadillo Cloak - now targets YOUR creature. A Mogg Raider got you down, just wait 'til he has to activate targeting your pious peons. Combined with Benevolent Bodyguard this can seal the deal against many a strategy - personally however, I've found it lacking and I genuinely wish it were always something else.
0-2xDust to Dust - If affinity is an issue, then of course this guy is the answer, but sideboard slots are a valuable commodity, and I'm not sure this is a consistent and flexible answer, unlike the below:
0-2xKor Sanctifiers - Rogue nasty-hate...CHECK! affinity and Kor Skyfisher re-usability, CHECK! Strange Armadillo Cloak and/or Tortured Existence engine got you down...CHECK.
0-3xSerrated Arrows - This I hate to write about, simply because it's the main bane to white weenie. In the finals (mentioned below) I faced this card against a goblin deck, which was a great meta game call by Mammonth! - Although it wasn't enough for my great white might!
Now for some specific reference:
The above '2009 White Weenie' is a very solid base with which to start any weenie-like endeavor. As with any white weenie build, it's very consistent, resilient and can put up a fight with even some extended deck lists! - Ok maybe only rogue ones ;) If you're new to pauper magic, this is the list you want to buy and go for. Remember only through personal playing and individual strategy will you be able to modify the above list(s) and choices.
For those impatient at heart, and wishing to know how I smashed the meta game on the weekend of 03/13/2010 - look no further:
Okay, so I got first place out of a vast field...bravo...pats on the back etc., but what would I change? The answer is Dust to Dust. I'd simply remove the two copies I have of Dust to Dust for two Kor Sanctifiers - which are still awesome vs. affinity via Kor Skyfisher and also have plenty of game vs. the mirror and TE strategies.
This would have possibly helped with my only loss of the entire tournament vs. J_G_L expertly playing a pauper form of "junk." - This isn't an insult, quite the opposite. For those new readers who haven't heard the term, 'Junk' is a magic term used when putting together a bunch of good cards from many mana sources:.
Unmake has no game vs. Valeron Outlander - as technically Unmake is BOTH a white AND black spell. This compounded by the fact that in game two, the Valeron Outlander had two Armadillo Cloak atop it's noble back.
The bad news for me and my lack of drawing my Journey to Nowheres - the good news being that Valeron Outlander strategies have a very bad % vs. goblin blitz which turned out to be a approximately 62 % of the field. This was the ONLY GAME I LOST:
So, what is the result of the above silly shenanigans? (see below)
The inclusion of Kor Sanctifiers would have perhaps given me a perfect record with an answer to J_G_L's Armadillo Cloak - that being said...who can complain...I've won a handful of these now and have more M10 boosters than I know what to do with. I guess at four tix each it'll at least be funding my pauper playfulness for another few years...which you should be very worried about facing! Mohahaha! :)
As for the tournament itself, I'll try and be brief, as games three, five, six and seven were all against roughly the same goblin deck list. Seriously, I didn't lose a single game vs. anything of the goblin persuasion, my total record being perfect 8-0 vs. those nose-picking, narrow-minded, mountain-clinging bastards! :) The only chance a goblin deck has at beating my solution, is for me to get mana screwed and them to have the nuts.
Here's a few screen-grabs of the various slaughterings:
Funny side notes:
1) Poor Karakusk, I crushed him in round six, 2-0...then met him in the first round of the top eight, and did the same, 2-0. His comment said it all about the frustration goblins have vs. this deck, "...not you again."
2) The Nebraskan Finals:
Named such as both my opponent "Mammonth" and I drew nothing but plains and mountains...get it? Okay, pretty bad reference:
I drew some removal followed by a monstrous shade that really had a great breakfast:
A 13/14 shade is nothing to laugh about!
So lets review:
1) Crazy consistency - CHECK.
2) Consistent pressure - CHECK.
3) Ability to deal with any permanent - CHECK.
4) Has game vs. any deck - CHECK.
5) Respectable life gain that also attacks - CHECK.
6) The most hateful sideboard in recent memory - CHECK.
So if you still need reasons to play this deck - perhaps white isn't your color.
Thanks for reading, I hope to see your digital visage across from me for a game or three:
-Adrian Grey Marsden-
aka: "deluxeicoff" on MTGO
For reference to the above tournament:
Also a nice plug on some magic-based mask art I like to do:
And special thanks to Paul Grasshoff.
My editor who saved you all from my horrible homonym misuse!