Where Art Thou, White?

Posted in Latest Developments on February 15, 2002

By Randy Buehler

One of the strangest phenomena that comes from working in R&D and playing the Future Future League is that we all develop memories of really good decks that never actually exist in the real world. Sometimes, a deck will see constant play for several months, but then we’ll change cards late in the development process and so that deck will disappear. From our point of view it feels like that deck was good for a while, but then the metagame changed. However, in the real world that deck just never existed in the first place – it never has that moment in the sun. None of this is particularly good or bad, it’s mostly just a little weird.

For example, perhaps my favorite deck from a year ago (when we were testing the cards you guys have access to now) was a white weenie deck that splashed red:

White Weenie with Red

Randy Buehler, FFL

4 Battlefield Forge 4 City of Brass 4 Mountain 11 Plains 4 Benevolent Bodyguard 4 Mystic Penitent 4 Longbow Archer 4 Goblin Legionnaire 3 Spectral Lynx 3 Mystic Crusader 2 Pianna, Nomad Captain 2 Flametongue Kavu 4 Urza's Rage 4 Goblin Trenches 3 Divine Sacrament 1 Spectral Lynx 2 Flametongue Kavu 2 Aura Blast 2 Ray of Distortion 2 Wrath of God 4 Crusading Knight 2 Circle of Protection: Black

I did pretty well with this deck, and it was important to our understanding of the metagame for a while, but a number of relevant changes have happened since then and only one of the Odyssey block cards on this entire list survived the development process unchanged.

The first creature is a card you guys have never heard of: Benevolent Bodyguard. It was a pretty good 1-drop for white weenie, but we pushed it out of Odyssey because we were afraid we had too many good white weenies in the set and we wanted to be careful not to accelerate the environment too much. (We may have over-reacted here, but it’s a lot easier for me to see that now that I know the white weenies in Odyssey are having very little impact on Standard. This is actually a nice illustration of the point of this article – we can’t do anything but react to our internal environment, but our reactions sometimes change things so much that the threat is no longer there.) Anyway, the Bodyguard then got put into Torment, but we eventually decided that Torment was an inappropriate place to put a good white weenie, it being the black set and all. It’ll probably still get printed some day so I can’t tell you what it was, but I thought it was better than Devoted Caretaker or any of the other 1-drops running around the real world right now.

Mystic Penitent is a card I’m surprised no one seems to be playing. Once you get to threshold, it’s a 2/2 flier for just one mana. It’s also got the bonus that it doesn’t tap to attack – that doesn’t matter very often, but sometimes it does. Obviously, getting to threshold is the real problem, but that’s why this deck splashes red. Goblin Trenches can get you there and put a bunch of extra white (and red) weenies into play in the process. Maybe that’s too slow to dominate modern day Standard, but I’m a bit surprised no one even seems to be considering it. Then again, part of the time I was testing Mystic Penitent it started out 1/2 (at threshold, a 2/3), and 1/2 is slightly better than 1/1.

Longbow Archers, Spectral Lynx, and Goblin Legionnaire are a fine assortment of 2-drops for white weenie. The only trick to the goblin is getting your mana base to work out. I found that white weenie was the aggressor in most of my matchups so taking pain from City of Brass didn’t hurt me all that much.

Mystic Crusader came in from design at four mana and uncommon, but we found the double-protection ability to be pretty annoying in sealed deck play, plus we thought it might make an interesting constructed card. So we trimmed a mana (to make it constructed quality) and swapped it up to rare (so it would come up less in Sealed deck and draft). After that, the card stayed pretty much unchanged through the rest of development. I found the protection abilities plus the ability to turn into a 3-power flier made this guy a solid addition to my white weenie deck. Again, I found the Trenches got me to threshold often enough to affect a lot of my games.

Speaking of Goblin Trenches, Pianna, Nomad Captain plus lots of little token creatures is good times. There was a point, by the way, when Pianna gave all other attacking creatures +2/+0 instead of her current +1/+1. We decided that +2/+0 just didn’t feel very white, so we changed it to +1/+1 but decided to let her affect herself in an effort to keep the card at about the same power level.

Next on my list are Flametongue Kavu and Urza's Rage. Adding a splash of red removal to an aggressive white weenie deck has worked out well several times over the years and nothing beats good old Flametongue when you want to clear a path. I only ran two because it’s a bit expensive for this deck and our environment had a number of creatureless decks, but I made sure the others were in the sideboard. The kavu isn’t pumped up by Divine Sacrament, but oh well.

That brings us to the real core of the deck: Goblin Trenches and Divine Sacrament. Crusade has always been a good effect in white weenie and two Crusades is better than one. For a while, the Sacrament actually gave flying to all white creatures once you reached threshold, in addition to the second +1/+1. Even with some white weenies gaining flying on their own, that still seemed too good so we backed off to the current version of the Sacrament. You can still see evidence of our initial plans in the art, though: notice that the nomads pictured there all have wings. (We figured it was ok to leave the wings in the art because so many of the nomads gain flying on their own at threshold.)

The land is pretty straightforward. It might be better to run a 24th (or even a 25th) land because of the Trenches, but I’m not sure what to cut. I never fine-tune decks as much as I used to when I played on the Pro Tour – it’s just not worth all the testing it takes to figure out those last few card slots when I could be spending that time testing whole new cards and deck ideas.

The sideboard shows clear evidence that Torment was already having its impact on our FFL metagame. Crusading Knight was particularly good at this point because not only did it always survive Mutilate (which it still does), but Chainer's Edict didn’t exist yet. We added the Edict later, with one result being that mono-black got a lot less vulnerable to creatures with protection from black.

I still think that some deck like this could work. In particular, the synergy between Goblin Trenches and the white weenie cards with threshold is still there to be explored. However, I also recognize that hundreds of thousands of Magic players are a lot more likely to figure out what the best Standard decks are than a dozen of us working inside Wizards. Combine that with all the changes I detailed in this article and I think my little “white weenie deck that could” used up all 15 of its minutes of fame inside the cubicle walls of R&D.

Randy may be reached at latestdevelopments@wizards.com.

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