Squandered Resources: White Weenie
By James Heslip on July 21st, 2011 · Filed in Legacy (Type 1.5) · Comments not available just now
It's no mystery that the Legacy format is an expensive one. It only makes sense that as a format becomes more popular its cards become more expensive. Everyone knows that if there is a high demand for a product then there is money to be made, and the product's price will rise until it hits the peak at which people are willing to spend on it. If people are willing to pay $95 on a single Force of Will, then that is the price it will be sold at. Whether it's sane or not is something of a different matter, because like it or not some people are willing to spend $95 on a piece of cardboard. Think about that for a second. You are not spending that kind of money on a deck of sixty cards, or even half a deck. That's nearly $400... $400 that is going towards four cards. That's $400 for about six percent of whatever deck the Force of Will is going into. In case you didn't know, that's kind of ridiculous. We are looking at a format where the top decks cost as much as a car. This kind of truth makes it very difficult for those of us that want to play in the format and do well, but cannot cough up a few hundred dollars when we want a couple of new cards, let alone a couple grand for a single deck.
Building on a Budget
The cost of the format has lead to a lot of people trying to build budget versions of decks that are known to be strong. It only makes sense that players want to play the best decks without spending the money for them. This is a very big mistake that only really works in very specific situations. Drew Levin hit the nail right on the head when he said:
Basically, except in very rare occasions, you can't build a budget version of an established deck and expect it to be good. If you want to do well in Legacy while playing on a budget you need to build decks that are cheap to begin with.
The problem with budget decks in Legacy is that they often try to be strictly inferior versions of the expensive decks... People want to play the 'good' decks, but by constraining the deck to fit your budget, you sacrifice a lot of what makes the deck good to begin with.
I will focus on the cheaper decks in Legacy that have seen tournament success. Whether the decks are well known, fringe, or completely new to the format, each deck I present will have had some level of tournament success and will cost $250 or less.
I feel like I need to stress this point so I will say it again. Every deck that is going to be presented to you in my articles will be $250 or less. Many of them will have tournament success, or, at the very least, extensive testing in a well-developed meta.
March of the Weenies
Let's begin talking about the first of many budget decks to come. This deck archetype is one that has been around since the first days of Magic, and therefore, has had the entire lifetime of the game to be fine tuned. This archetype is the Weenie archetype.
When you first heard the term "weenie" I know for a fact that what popped into your head was not a deck archetype, don't lie to me. However bizarre or inappropriate as it may seem though, the term "weenie" is indeed a very relevant term in the world of Magic. This is especially true in the world of budget Magic and especially in light of recent events.
Weenie decks are creature- and tempo-based decks that are often mono-colored. The decks cast low-cost, efficient creatures, like Isamaru, Hound of Konda, with the intent of swarming and overwhelming slower opponents before they have a chance to set up. After setting up early board position, the decks aim to keep the opponent from regaining control by using cheap removal spells like Swords to Plowshares and Ghastly Demise or tempo bashing with cards like Armageddon.
In this article I will look at the most popular version of the weenie archetype, White Weenie, and some of the many different ways to construct it.
Savannah Lions made early WW possible.
White Weenie is a deck type that has been around for a very long time – the very beginning of the game of Magic, to be precise. Tom Chanpheng won the 1996 Magic World Championships with White Weenie. In 1998 Matt Linde won the U.S. Nationals with the archetype and in 1999 Kyle Rose used the decktype to power his way to a U.S. Nationals win. If you want an example of more recent success with the archetype, how about a top 16 finish by Kanan Luce in the 2011 SCG Legacy Open in Los Angeles. The list actually goes on as well.
So what makes the deck type good? Breaking down the White Weenie strategy, you have something like this.
- Play early threats in the form of small, efficient beaters. This puts the opponent on a very early clock.
- Play creature buffs that make your cheap creatures bigger and more threatening in both the early and late game.
- Protect yourself and your creatures with cheap creature, artifact, and enchantment removal.
- Run fewer lands than other decks which allows for more relevant top deck threats and answers.
Back in the days of Alpha, Beta and Unlimited we had cards like Savannah Lions, White Knight, Crusade and Swords to Plowshares that followed this set of strategies and made the deck type a powerhouse. What's interesting is that not much has changed. Some White Weenie decks still use most, if not all of these cards, with Crusade commonly being replaced by, or used in combination with, Honor of the Pure. Looking around it can be seen that these classic cards have made quite a few friends over the years. Some of the most powerful are...
Mother of Runes: A one drop that can make your creatures un-blockable, un-killable, and acts as an impassable wall to boot? Yes, please.
Figure of Destiny: A one-cost 1/1 is nothing special, but how about a two-cost 2/2? Getting better. A three-cost 4/4? Now we're talking. This guy is a cheap body that allows you to use your extra mana each turn. If left unanswered, he becomes a major threat very fast.
Isamaru, Hound of Konda: Savannah Lions was good, let's make it better.
Stoneforge Mystic: A God among the White Weenies. This card allows for the searching of any Equipment to answer whatever you opponent happens to be playing. Search out a Sword that gives protection from whatever colors you need or just grab an Umezawa's Jitte for field removal or life gain. This was not normally a budget choice, but that has all changed since the New Phyrexia pre-con decks were released, which include two copies of this (formerly) $22 dollar card. The banning of the card from Standard has decreased its price tag as well.
Squadron Hawk: Guaranteed threats for the next three turns, flying, and easily buffed or equipped. This guy is amazing.
Honor of the Pure: Crusade, only better.
Elspeth, Knight-Errant: Constant threats every turn as well as an ultimate that makes grown men cry.
Sword of Body and Mind, Sword of Light and Shadow, Umezawa's Jitte, Sword of Fire and Ice: All work well with Stoneforge Mystic and just plain rock. Many top tier decks only run a couple swords, so despite their price tags they can be fit comfortably into a budget list. The use of Stoneforge Mystic helps this. There are not many budget alternatives to these, Loxodon Warhammer being the closest, so if you can't get any of them you may want to consider a version of the deck that does not use them.
Leonin Skyhunter: Legacy has surprisingly few flyers, so this might as well just read "un-blockable." Works well with the swords and buffs the decks will be running.
Leonin Relic-Warder: A two-cost 2/2 that gets rid of problematic artifacts and enchantments, what's not to like?
Hero of Bladehold: Generates free threats and provides a power boost for your weenies.
Mirran Crusader: Can't die to black removal, deals with Goyf and Knight of the Reliquary with ease, and is stupid good when equipped with any of the Equipments above.
There are obviously many more cards that could be named, but these are the majority of what is worth mentioning. What's awesome is that you won't see a $95 dollar price tag on any of these cards. What's even better is that with the release of the New Phyrexia event deck War of Attrition, we get a huge chunk of very good White Weenie cards all in one neat little package. This includes two whole copies of Stoneforge Mystic, which pay for the entire deck; as well as the Savannah Lions of today, Elite Vanguard; four Leonion Relic-Warder; four Leonion Skyhunter; and a Puresteel Paladin. With Swords to Plowshares, Elspeth, Knight-Errant, and Hero of Bladehold all being printed in pre-constructed decks or promos in the past, you should have no trouble finding most of the pieces of the deck.
Because there are so many new cards that contribute to the archetype, as well as many old favorites that are still viable, there are countless ways to construct a White Weenie deck. While they are far from everything that is out there, I have chosen a few lists that I believe to be the most powerful and cost efficient of White Weenie decks. Each list will be presented to you in order of power and monetary cost.
First on the list is Traditional White Weenie, "el cheapo" version. While it's still a decent enough list, more than anything I wrote this up just to show how cheap a reasonable White Weenie list can be.
Here you have an example of a passable White Weenie deck that costs pretty much nothing compared to most decks in the format. It is modeled after Kanan Luce's 2011 SCG Los Angeles deck. While I would not really expect to do exceptionally well in a tournament with this list, it can certainly be seen as a great starting point. From this list the deck can be improved and molded in countless ways. Finding room to add in a Figure of Destiny here, a Stoneforge Mystic there, maybe an Elspeth or two, and you start to have something that people can really fear.
This deck opts out of using the powerful Stoneforge Mystic-plus-Equipment strategy and instead uses cards like Honor of the Pure to beef all its creatures at once, sacrificing single card power for multi-card power, which is what the deck traditionally plays for. Because the deck has no draw manipulation and no draw power it uses Squadron Hawk to produce constant threats, regardless of what it is top-decking. Adding in cards like Hero of Bladehold and Elspeth, Knight-Errant to the deck will magnify this quality. The version shown also uses many of the cards that come in the new War of Attrition pre-con event deck both for convenience purposes and the fact that the cards are, well, good.
Traditional White Weenie is very simple. Play a constant slew of early threats and keep your opponent under pressure. So many decks today play an early Tarmogoyf or Knight of the Reliquary that may or may not be powered by the exalted of Noble Hierarch and hope that it's enough to put you under pressure. Oftentimes you will only see one or two of those creatures all game. This deck laughs at such strategies while it shows them what it really means to use creatures in a deck. Mother of Runes keeps those opposing creatures off your back while you build up a board position and simply swarm the other player out of the game. Hero of Bladehold helps speed things up with her battle cry and soldier spawning while Honor of the Pure make the weenies that she produces into something much bigger. A Squadron Hawk with multiple buffs is also nothing to laugh at. Go ahead and play your 6/7 Tarmagoyf, I'll block him all day with my Mom and swing at your face with seven Soldier tokens and fly overhead with multiple Hawks on steroids.
Aside from being able to gain speedy board position, the deck is also able to thrive on its redundancy. Since most of its cards are just different versions of each other, your opponent will have a hard time dealing with everything you throw at it, much in the same way that Zoo decks have been doing for years. This redundancy is also nice against players that run counterspells because they have no key targets to try and use their counters on. This seriously dilutes the power of the counters and may even cause your opponents to board them out in the post-board games.
Another major plus for the deck comes with its natural resistance to the hate that is commonly used to combat decks of its type. The deck is not tribal based, so cards like Engineered Plague do little against it. Main-board Leonion Relic-Warder helps against things like Pernicious Deed. Engineered Explosives-packing opponents are forced to either kill your multiple tokens produced by your hero and your Elspeth, or kill your multiple two-cost threats. Either way, you simply produce more threats after the explosives go off, kill your opponent, and then bring in artifact hate in the post-board games.
The deck presented is also very malleable, based on what you want it to look like. Don't like Elite Vanguard? Bring in Iasmaru or Soltari Priest. Think the deck needs more removal? Path to Exile and Oblivion Ring are both cheap and powerful, put more in. If your meta is full of combo that stomps creature strategies don't forget about Ethersworn Canonist and Silence.
The next deck I will be discussing is one that has been developed extremely recently by a player named Iñigo Zurita. The deck made top eight in two of the ELL Mayo 2011 Legacy tournaments and is a unique, if not crazy, rendition of White Weenie. Beyond using its performance record as justification, I am also sharing this deck with you because... well, it's just plain cool. The deck has only been called White Weenie in the reports I have read and even though it is far from the traditional form of the archetype it is not my place to name the deck. Therefore, I will just have to go with White Weenie for now, even though I can think of some pretty cool bird based titles.
The number of things this deck can do is just great. Every creature that this deck can produce, aside from the Tireless Tribe, has flying, which, again, in Legacy basically reads "unblockable." To go along with this, the deck has three full play sets of mass pump ups in Crusade, Honor of the Pure and Celestial Crusader. This makes all those Birds flying over your opponent's head look less like pigeons and a more like... well, really freaking big pigeons. Seriously, though, Alfred Hitchcock has nothing on these guys.
Chrome Mox works as a mana accelerator that allows you to produce multiple threats faster, as well as play an earlier Crusader. Beyond that, it works well with Armageddon, which would destroy your opponents land base, but leave your moxen alone. Tireless Tribe works as an early blocker and is also nice with your flashback cards Battle Screech and Prismatic Strands.
Disenchant may look kind of out of place, but in a format where everyone and his grandma is playing Batterskull or even Metalworker, the card makes a little more sense, even to the point that more may be added without too much trouble.
I can't say I agree with the singleton Tithe. I feel the deck could instead use more Swords to Plowshares. If I were to take the deck to a tournament tomorrow I would probably take out the singleton Tithe, possibly the Disenchant depending on the meta as well as the Prismatic Strands, replacing them with more spot removal.
Beyond this small fluke, I really like the deck. It stays true to the classic "swarm" strategy of White Weenie while adding in its own little twists.
The premier tribal White Weenie deck, Knights, excels in its matches against creature-based decks. In fact, during testing it showed a great matchup against Merfolk, which is by far the most popular deck in the format. The list shown here was able to place fourth out of an 88-man tournament in March of 2011. The deck is extremely solid, but would probably work fine without the four fetchlands, which could come out for more Plains or even Flagstones of Trokair. With no dual lands to fetch, the deck in its current incarnation becomes vulnerable to stifle and loses life to the fetches for no real reason. There is a rule in Magic against using fetchlands only for deck thinning, so arguing their use here using deck thinning as reasoning just doesn't cut it.
Cost without the fetch lands- $200
What's great about this deck is its power against creature based decks. Knight Exemplar resolving usually spells "GG" against Merfolk, who have no main board removal short of Jitte. Making all of your creatures indestructible is much better than you may initially think. Not only does it stop a lot of spot removal and burn cards from targeting and killing your Knights, it stops some of the cards that would be considered excellent sideboard tech against White Weenie. Board wipes like Wrath of God, Firespout, Engineered Explosives, and Pernicious Deed all work well against most White Weenie decks, but not Knights. With Knight Exemplar on the field you don't have to worry about a single board wipe in the game. The sharing of indestructible also gives you an infinite number of chump blocks to buy as much time as you want if needed. Swarming the field is made easier with Hero of Bladehold and both versions of Elspeth. This makes it extremely hard for any deck that tries to win using creatures to ever fulfill such a strategy against you.
The next list is a deck that started out as many Legacy decks do, in the Standard format. The deck is known as Soul Sisters and has topped in a few Legacy events since its incarnation. One example being the Verona Shakespeare's Legacy 8 tournament where it made top eight. Before I go into to too much detail about how the deck works, let's look at a list.
The soul sisters Soul Warden and Soul's Attendant work to not only gain to large amounts of life but also boost Ajani's Pridemate to larger-than-life numbers. Sword of War and Peace, Umezawa's Jitte, Batterskull, and Kabira Crossroads also contribute to the life gain. Games will often end with you having 40-plus life.
If the Pridemate is never seen in the game, Mirran Crusader works wonders as a heavy beater as well, especially after your Stoneforge Mystic fetches up equipment for his double strike to work with. You can also do what everyone seems to be doing these days and just fetch up CARD]Batterskull[/card] with your Mystic and beat face with a germ token. Let's also not forget about Serra Ascendant , who becomes a 6/6 much more often than you would think, or others would like to admit.
Even though Mental Misstep has hurt the amount of spot removal in the format, it's not as bad as people speculated. As a result, the deck still needs to protect its heavy hitters from cards like Swords to Plowshares. Mother of Runes, Sword of War and Peace, and Brave the Elements all do the job pretty well. This is actually a good time to point out that an opponent's Swords to Plowshares will indeed beef your Pridemates, so if you have multiple on the field, or they are not the target, the lion only gets bigger. Now I'm not saying you should throw your Pridemates into oncoming removal, but if this situation does arise you know the outcome is not all bad.
While the traditional Stoneforge Mystic decks are way too expensive to build on a budget, there is a version that is not as expensive and allows the use of not only each of the best swords in the game, but also the powerhouse card Argentum Armor. Have you ever seen an army of Squadron Hawks brandishing flaming swords and wearing armor that zaps your permanents? I have, its awesome. The deck is commonly known as Quest and is a White Weenie variant that uses Stonforge Mystic as well as Quest for the Holy Relic to speed out powerful equip cards that beef up cheap weenie creatures. It has placed well in multiple tournaments, including a first and second place finish at the 13º Legacy "El Nucli" and BBC#4 Ostia Legacy tournaments respectively.
Squadron Hawk,Ornithopter and Memnite work with Glint Hawk to fuel Quest for the Holy Relic, which grabs Argentum Armor or whatever Sword is needed at the time. Stoneforge Mystic can also search out the Swords or Armor and cheats the Equipment into play while Puresteel Paladin swaps them around to ease the process and soften the blow of losing a guy to removal. Not that losing creatures to removal is common with this deck. Mother of Runes and the Swords all provide great color protection.
I have seen the deck power out a turn three Quest activation, finding Argentum Armor and slapping it on Glint Hawk, which proceeded to blow up every relevant permanent (including lands) that the opponent has played. This is also not an uncommon occurrence.
So there they are. Some of the best bang for your buck White Weenie decks in Legacy. If you have any questions, comments or hate mail feel free to comment on the discussion thread. I would seriously love to help you out and I'm always open to some "constructive criticism."
By James Heslip on July 21st, 2011 · Filed in Legacy (Type 1.5) · Comments not available just now