By Edoardo Annunziata

In a format where History of Benalia, Benalish Marshal, and Venerated Loxodon are all legal, it doesn’t take much effort to figure out that an aggressive White Weenie deck is a potential contender. The strength of the deck is no secret, with lists very similar to the current one taking down Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica and generally showing solid performances throughout the format.

With the release of War of the Spark, Standard has entered a chaotic state unlike any other point in modern Magic history, and White Weenie has plummeted in popularity. It was crushed between more powerful strategies that harnessed the power of the new planeswalkers, and suffered with resurgence of its old enemy, Mono-Red.

The War of the Spark Standard Metagame

As the dust settles and a new metagame emerges, this all-time classic might find its own niche and thrive again. It’s not my intention to give a detailed rundown of the metagame, but simply to outline in broad strokes the most popular strategies.

Mono-Red

The main strategy of Mono-Red hasn’t changed with the release of War of the Spark, but the deck has gained a couple powerful pieces: Chandra, Fire Artisan and Tibalt, Rakish Instigator.

Esper

Teferi, Time Raveler was one of the most anticipated cards from the moment it was spoiled during War of the Spark’s preview season. It certainly hasn’t failed to deliver. The entirety of Standard has reacted to the card being legal, and it is one of the defining cards of the format. One of the consequences of its infamous static ability is the reduced viability of countermagic, which is in turn causing Esper decks—both Control and Midrange—to load up on planeswalkers to pursue a grindier strategy.

Jeskai Planeswalkers

Championed by the Magic Pro League’s John Rolf, this seemingly goofy list has proved to be very powerful. The highlight is the new Sarkhan the Masterless, a card that acts as both a control piece and a powerful attacker, allowing the deck to quickly switch gears and put pressure on the opponent’s life total.

Green-Based Midrange

“Add Wildgrowth Walker and season to taste” is still a solid recipe, whether you like it Golgari, Sultai (with Tamiyo, Collector of Tales and Hydroid Krasis), Bant (with Teferi, Time Raveler), four-color or even plain U/G (on the Mass Manipulation plan).

Command the Dreadhorde is the perfect companion for the Explore package in Green midrange decks. Since the card broke out in the last few weeks, Green builds with no access to Black seem to have fallen out of favor.

Izzet Phoenix

Finale of Promise from War of the Spark and Arclight Phoenix are a match made in heaven. The favorable interaction between these multi-format Mythic all-stars, together with two new consistency tools in Augur of Bolas and Saheeli, Sublime Artificer, has propelled the deck to new heights. Izzet Phoenix’s only drawback is how hard it is to pilot—a feature that has caused many players, including yours truly, to shy away from it.

It’s White Weenie’s Time to Shine

An important takeaway from the current state of Standard is that most decks durdle around for the first few turns and often forego traditional control cards like Find // Finality and Cry of the Carnarium, attempting to one-up each other in the value race. When that is the case, it’s the perfect time to cast Savannah Lions.

While this Mono-White list isn’t exactly going wild with exotic one-ofs, my interpretation of the match plan is slightly different to the usual approach and is vaguely inspired by the way Red Experimental Frenzy decks operate. I choose to run the most linear configuration possible main deck, even going all the way up to twenty one-drops, in the attempt to always be the beatdown. This plan is supplemented with a sideboard full of grindy tools, giving the deck a stronger long-term plan against important matchups.

Edoardo Annunziata's Standard Mono-White

Creatures (28)
Dauntless Bodyguard
Law-Rune Enforcer
Skymarcher Aspirant
Snubhorn Sentry
Adanto Vanguard
Benalish Marshal
Venerated Loxodon

Spells (12)
Legion’s Landing
Conclave Tribunal
History of Benalia
Lands (20)
20 Plains

Sideboard (15)
Baffling End
Dawn of Hope
Tocatli Honor Guard
Gideon Blackblade
Unbreakable Formation
Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants

Specific Card Choices

No Blue

I’m definitely in the minority with this take, but I’m convinced that staying Mono-White not playing Blue is the right choice for two reasons. Those also happen to be the two things the general public hates the most: mathematics and Teferi.

While it might seem paradoxical to argue that White Weenie can’t make a small concession for a few important sideboard cards in the same format where midrange and control decks can easily run three colors, the invisible cost in consistency required by the Blue splash makes it more trouble than it’s worth. If we run eight sources of Blue, the probability of not having access to one single Blue mana with the first two lands is over 25%—an unacceptable percentage if we want to side into a disruptive aggressive strategy. Going up to nine sources of Blue with one Island reduces the failure rate to 18%, but at the cost of a 8% probability of not being able to cast Benalish Marshal on turn three. Adding a fifth tapland is even worse, resulting in the probability of not having an untapped land to play on turn one to 9%.

But even ignoring those issues, siding countermagic is not something I’m dying to do in a format defined by Teferi, Time Raveler, which blanks all countermagic. Instead, I want to go in a different direction altogether.

Twenty One-Drops in the Main Deck

Mono-White is a deck that really wants to come fast out of the gates. Maximizing the number of one-drops allows for more consistently fast starts and interacts favorably with Convoke on Venerated Loxodon and Conclave Tribunal. The big addition here is Law-Rune Enforcer from War of the Spark. It acts as pseudo-removal that can attack, which is definitely something we are interested in, and playing four copies is not negotiable.

I cut Tithe Taker to make room because a mini Defense Grid is significantly less useful in a world where Teferi, Time Raveler already incentivizes playing at sorcery speed and Afterlife doesn’t make up for it.

The Sideboard Guide

This version of Mono-White sideboard plan is to evolve into a grindy configuration with Gideon Blackblade, Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants, and Dawn of Hope. White the deck is already a structurally resilient deck, these powerful planeswalkers help it get in a value battle against a planeswalker-centric metagame. Tocatli Honor Guard is a concession to the uptick in Green decks with Explore packages, while Baffling End is generic removal and Unbreakable Formation is a flexible “surprise” card.

Lately, people are asking for sideboard guides so frequently it has become a meme. I actually think the increased interest from the community in this often overlooked aspect of the game is a trait of a maturing player base, because being conscious about sideboard decisions is an important stepping stone towards becoming a better player. Unfortunately, unquestioningly following a plan someone made for you is unlikely to achieve anything.

But, due to popular (and overwhelming) demand, I will oblige and explain my sideboard decisions in the most common matchups. Please be aware that the emphasis is not on the “what” but on the “why”—sideboard plans change much faster than decklists and you can’t be afraid to improvise. And I could always be wrong. Caveat emptor!

Mono-Red

An historically bad matchup for Mono-White, but a hard one to play correctly on both sides—unless it’s a one-sided slaughter, that is.

Mono-Red is faster and has the inevitability advantage in the form of Experimental Frenzy. Our job is therefore a tough one: we must first stabilize against their faster starts but then immediately switch stance and pressure their life total aggressively. The key cards are Goblin Chainwhirler on their side, Venerated Loxodon on ours.

A suggestion for less experienced players: decide whether you want to play around Chainwhirler and then, right or wrong, stick to that decision. Playing around Chainwhirler on turn three and then into it on turn four is a line of play that doesn’t make any sense. If you are not sure what to do, jamming everything and making them have it is better than taking an inconclusive line.

Out: -4 Adanto Vanguard, -4 Skymarcher Aspirant, -2 Benalish Marshal
In: 3 Gideon Blackblade, 4 Tocatli Honor Guard, 1 Unbreakable Formation, 2 Baffling End

Planeswalker Decks, Esper/Grixis Control

This matchup is heavily dependent on what kind of hand our opponent has. We can’t play around everything and that means we fold if they happen to have answers that match our questions. The saving grace is that our main deck configuration is very fast and therefore good at punishing the current trend towards greedy builds. Our grindy sideboard plan is also strong against their expected configuration in games two and three.

Out: -2 Benalish Marshal, -1 Law-Rune Enforcer, -2 Venerated Loxodon, -1 Plains
In: 1 Dawn of Hope, 3 Gideon Blackblade, 2 Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants

Izzet Phoenix

The general consensus is that the matchup is close to a bye for Mono-White. While I agree it is favorable, Finale of Promise and Saheeli, Sublime Artificer can put up an impenetrable wall.

The plan here is to go wide and aggressively pressure them and Izzet Phoenix will eventually be unable to keep up. Don’t be afraid to chump attack. It might seem strange to side in the whole set of Baffling Ends since they have few targets, but the reason is Goblin Electromancer. Goblin Electromancer must die, always.

Out: -2 Benalish Marshal, -2 Venerated Loxodon, -1 Conclave Tribunal
In: 4 Baffling End, 1 Unbreakable Formation

Green-Based Midrange

While Green-based midrange decks have historically been bad matchups for Mono-White due to Find // Finality, the more recent Command the Dreadhorde builds are durdly and susceptible to aggressive plans.

Don’t try to out-grind them! Command the Dreadhorde is a card that you’ll never be able to beat so the only way to win is to pressure their life total to make the card irrelevant. Similarly, U/G builds that run Mass Manipulation have too much late-game power for you to be able to win a protracted game. This sideboard plan assumes they are running the Explore package; if they aren’t, then bringing in Tocatli Honor Guards is unnecessary.

Remember: we are going for the throat. If they want to be the control deck, let them.

Out: -4 Benalish Marshal, -2 Conclave Tribunal, -2 Snubhorn Sentry, -1 Venerated Loxodon
In: 4 Tocatli Honor Guard, 4 Baffling End, 1 Unbreakable Formation

Esper Midrange

Esper Midrange doesn’t usually run many wrath effects main deck, making our aggressive game one configuration difficult for them if they don’t have all their answers lined up. Buckle up for a grindfest in sideboarded games, though, when the matchup becomes a battle over board control with creatures and planeswalkers. Thief of Sanity is scary, but we have a lot of answers. Law-Rune Enforcer is the MVP.

Out: -3 Benalish Marshal, -2 Snubhorn Sentry, -2 Venerated Loxodon, -2 Conclave Tribunal, -1 Plains
In: 4 Baffling End, 3 Gideon Blackblade, 2 Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants, 1 Dawn of Hope

Advanced Tips and Tricks

There are a lot of unintuitive lines of play with Mono-White. Here are a few tips on who to navigate them and tricks to help push through the last few points of damage.

The City’s Blessing and Legendary Permanents

If you have nine permanents and the second copy of a Legendary permanent in hand, the City’s Blessing will activate if you play the second legendary permanent. This is because state-based actions are checked the next time a player would receive priority, like after the spell has resolved, which is when the permanent is already on the battlefield. Therefore, for a brief amount of time, you had ten permanents; the game “notices” that, giving you the City’s Blessing.

Legion’s Landing Triggers

The flip trigger on Legion’s Landing goes on the stack at the beginning of the declare attackers step of the combat phase. If you play on MTG Arena, the program automatically skips through it, though, but it is a normal triggered ability that can be responded to with other spells and abilities.

This means that, if you control nine permanents, you can attack with a Skymarcher Aspirant and two other creatures to flip Legion’s Landing, then immediately use its activation to make a token, getting you to 10 permanents and the City’s Blessing, giving the Skymarcher Aspirant Flying before blockers are declared.

Also, you can get an activation of Law-Rune Enforcer with the flipped Adanto, the Last Fort mana before your opponent can declare their blockers.

Vigilant Law-Rune Enforcers

Similarly, if Law-Rune Enforcer gains Vigilance for some reason (typically with Unbreakable Formation), it can attack and then activate its tap ability when you get priority before the declare attackers step while it is still an attacking creature.

Gideon Blackblade

You can choose Gideon Blackblade with Dauntless Bodyguard’s enter the battlefield effect if Gideon is a creature at the time Dauntless Bodyguard comes into play. (It generally is, since presumably it’s your main phase.) That means you can sacrifice Dauntless Bodyguard to give Gideon Indestructible—even if it’s not a creature at the time Dauntless Bodyguard’s activated ability resolves.

You can also tap Gideon to pay for Convoke and you can put +1/+1 counters on him. Those counters won’t do anything while he’s not a creature, though, but they will remain on Gideon and still provide the power and toughness bonus when he becomes a creature again.

To Save or Not to Save Adanto Vanguard

Be careful with Adanto Vanguard Indestructible activations. If your opponent Shocks it and you activate its ability, they can play another kill spell in response. This kind of bait is common from Mono-Red and Izzet Phoenix decks.

Baffling End + a Hexproof Opponent

If your opponent has Hexproof for some reason (such as Shalai, Voice of Plenty or Lazotep Plating), they don’t get a token when Baffling End leaves the battlefield.

Dawn of Hope Triggers

If multiple tokens with Lifelink deal damage to your opponent simultaneously, you get as many copies of Dawn of Hope’s triggered ability as the number of those tokens that deal damage. This is because “whenever you gain life” in Magic-ese doesn’t translate to “whenever you gain life” in English—it actually means “whenever a source causes you to gain life.”

Looking Forward

The obvious weakness of Mono-White is that it has a bad matchup against Mono-Red and it will therefore not be a great choice should that deck become more popular. The surge of popularity Mono-Red had in the MTG Arena MCQ, with over forty copies out of 128 Day 2 players, is in my opinion unlikely to be indicative of a general trend in the metagame, as highlighted by the fact that its win rate was below average. Many players simply had no idea what to play in this chaotic Standard format and opted for the “safe” choice.

The other question is whether midrange decks will revert to builds that run Find // Finality, an historically tough card to beat for low to the ground creature decks. If they continue to default to the current greedier builds then Mono-White will thrive. If they return to Find // Finality, Mono-White’s position will become more precarious.

Aggressive decks with little to no reach—and this list literally has zero reach in its 75—can be surprisingly bad in certain metagames, so be prepared to jump ship from Mono-White if things take a turn for the worse.

In the meantime, have fun clicking the “Attack All” button!

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