Can Mono White Get There After Pro Tour Magic Origins?

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So this is my first article.  None of you readers will know me from anything I’ve done previously.  I’m not a top level professional magic player, not a known deck designer or content producer.  None of you have even seen my Magic Online username posted on Daily Event results (mostly because I’m broke and choose to spend my tickets building decks rather than competing).  I don’t play competitive magic.  That said, I do follow everything that happens in the Magic community.  I watch every video posted, read nearly every article on every content site, listen to the podcasts, watch every tournament.  I analyze metagames and I look for unique synergies that may or may not be powerful enough to make tier-1 decks.  Why should you bother reading my content?  Because I believe there are many of you out there that are true brewers and have had that moment where you think you’ve found IT.  The new deck.  The overlooked cards.  The hole in the metagame.  It feels great doesn’t it?  I had that feeling last week, two days before Pro Tour Magic Origins began. I found what I believe to be a tier-1 competitive deck.

I’m writing this on the heels of an incredible Pro Tour weekend.  Magic Origins blew the Standard metagame wide open with new archetypes (blue-red Ensoul Artifact) and raised the power of others (red aggro) to be, at least in the minds of the players at the event, competitive.  Before the tournament started, I spent weeks building and testing decks, hoping to stumble onto something unique and competitive for the new Standard format. Even though I don’t play at a high level, I personally challenged myself to find at least one or two of the top decks that would show up in Vancouver.  I also thought, or fantasized, about what strategy I would gravitate towards if I were in the position of any of the players in the event.  In hindsight, I believe I chose the right one: a monocolored aggressive deck.  They never seem to be a bad choice in a new format.  They’re consistent, proactive, and force your opponent to disrupt your game plan.  As Marshall Sutcliffe would say, they ask questions that require answers.  If I had that coveted opportunity to play in such an arena, my color of choice would’ve been white.  The list I feel is most powerful and best-equipped for Standard right now is a far cry from what I envisioned when I started to brew.  Let’s take a look:

I think this is THE best balance of resilience and aggression for a monowhite deck in Standard.  This is not a blitz aggro style of deck (though you can goldfish a turn 4 kill), as it can slow down and have controlling elements, create cluttered board states that allow its flying threats to shine, and overall has a lot of play to it.  Even though this deck can be soft to Languish, white weenie decks have been competitive in formats with four mana Wrath of God effects before.  I want to go over each card and its role in the deck.

Kytheon, Hero of Akros // Gideon, Battle-Forged Allows the curve to start at one for early damage and really shines in the midgame to force bad attacks once his spark has been ignited (which has great synergy with Devouring Light). Getting familiar with this deck is important to find the balance of when to force him to flip, when to hold back, and when to allow him to trade/die to removal. He costs 1 cmc and if he trades for a Hero’s Downfall in the midgame, that’s a huge tempo/mana advantage. If he gets hit with a Wild Slash that would otherwise be aimed at a turn two Consul’s Lieutenant (which is a more integral part of our anthem + token game plan), he died well. When flipped to Gideon, he synergizes incredibly well with Tragic Arrogance in the board.

Consul’s Lieutenant: I absolutely believe this card is a better fit than Knight of the White Orchid. This deck’s ability to attack both vertically (building a singular threat) and horizontally (attacking with a ton of small creatures) gives it a lot of play. Once renowned, this 2-drop combos really well with Brimaz, King of Oreskos (remember to stack the triggers so the token gets +1/+1) and with anthems, Consul’s Lieutenant can attack into many creatures in the format.

Hangarback Walker: Versatile, resilient, and has tremendous synergy with this game plan. When it dies you get additional flying tokens that get better with the anthem effects in the deck.  Having access to twelve 2-drop creatures really helps make this deck consistent. Consul’s Lieutenant is the best on turn 2,  followed by Raise the Alarm , followed by Hangarback Walker(generally).  Two other big reasons to play Hangarback Walker are having Tragic Arrogance (select Hangarback as the artifact OR creature to keep or let it die to create tokens) in the sideboard and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. This deck can be disrupted by control and having a threat that cannot be swept away by Ugin is HUGE.

Raise the Alarm: The bread and butter of the deck. Gideon enabler, great with anthems, plays at instant speed for tempo, and very important against the red decks that showed up at Pro Tour Magic Origins.

Brimaz, King of Oreskos: Powerhouse, best white 3-drop in Standard, perfect for this deck.

Archangel of Tithes: Her power level seems to vary greatly.  Her synergy with Ajani Steadfast and Gideon, Battle-Forged is powerful and she can completely change the tempo of any game where creature combat is relevant.  She also survives Languish, Stoke the Flames, and Exquisite Firecraft, while also dodging Roast.  When combined with any of the anthem effects in the list, she can become a reasonable clock as well.  If the monored decks that we saw at the Pro Tour become a large part of the meta moving forward, Archangel of Tithes really does work against that deck.  Dashing requires an additional colorless mana when attacking into Archangel of Tithes, attacking with multiple creatures a turn limits their ability to cast their burn spells for the turn (taking away their ability to abuse the Prowess mechanic), and it allows the deck to quickly turn the corner, making blocking all of your token producers impossible.  The last attribute may seem like a “win more” scenario, but when the life totals are very tight and every draw step gives them a chance to throw 4 damage to your face, the game needs to end VERY quickly.  It’s a powerhouse in the match-up and only gets better in multiples when staring down multiple Lightning Berserker and Monastery Swiftspear.

Ajani Steadfast: I really didn’t want issues with the legend rule outside of Brimaz, King of Oreskos. I really like having two Ajani Steadfast and one Spear of Heliod for that reason (since Spear of Heliod is less likely to be the target of removal and is not as fragile as a planeswalker).  Ajani Steadfastplays really well both when the deck’s draw is moving towards playing vertically (powering up the single threat) or horizontally (spreading the +1/+1 counter love, a bonus synergy with Hangarback Walker). After the popularity and performance that monored decks displayed in Vancouver this weekend, having a source of life gain and vigilance seems very important in making that match-up favorable.  Also, Ajani Steadfast is a planeswalker to, which helps create a vast disparity in nonland permanents after casting Tragic Arrogance out of the board.

Wingmate Roc:  I have wavered between Wingmate Roc in this slot and, surprisingly, Triplicate Spirits.  Both options synergize with anthems and allow the deck to move its offensive strategy to the air in the midgame.  I realize that to most people, the idea of playing Triplicate Spirits in constructed is a joke, but it enables turn five kills that no other card can when coupled with Dictate of Heliod.  At the moment, I’ve been leaning towards Wingmate Roc but don’t sell Triplicate Spirits short.  It is a viable, competitive option in the deck.  That said, these two slots should be occupied by a flying threat.

Dictate of Heliod:  Incredibly powerful at instant speed and is what really raises the power level of the deck.  A Consul’s Lieutenant coupled with Dictate of Heliod makes it trivial to dish out 12-18 points of damage a turn when curving out.  If an opponent taps out at the wrong time or is short on a removal spell, your flying threats can do tons of damage each turn.

Spear of Heliod: The deck likes anthems, and this is the cheapest. Being both an artifact and enchantment allows it to play really well with Tragic Arrogance in the sideboard. It also dissuades free attacks if they are not lethal. This deck topdecks well and is not an all-in aggressive strategy, allowing its activated ability to shine. Anthems and strong fliers can allow this deck to come back from behind or break parity.

Secure the Wastes:  Versatile curve filler, great topdeck lategame, sometimes it’s a three mana Raise the Alarm.  Overall the card just slots in with everything the deck is trying to do and helps provide some flood insurance.

Devouring Light + Banishing Light:  The removal package for the deck.  Devouring Light is conditional but incredibly powerful, especially in a deck that looks to flip Kytheon into Gideon.  It can affect the tempo of a game in a way that no other white removal spell can.  When coupled with Raise the Alarm or Secure the Wastes, you can cast Devouring Light in the same turn and take you from behind in a game to ahead, which is powerful in this Standard Format.  In fact, it can just feel broken.  Because Devouring Light does have a high setup cost, Banishing Light seems like its perfect counterpart.  Though Banishing Light is slow and doesn’t always stick, it is a catch-all answer.  No conditions, it just removes whatever needs removing (including Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, Thopter Spy Network, Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, Outpost Siege, Sphinx’s Tutelage, Sigil of the Empty Throne, and Ensoul Artifact).  In a format that has been greatyly influenced by the value generated by Den Protector and now that we’re seeing the widespread adoption of Hangarback Walker, having removal spells that exile their targets is an added bonus.

Valorous Stance:  Good role-player but not amazing.  Having a way to protect Brimaz, King of Oreskos or Archangel of Tithes is nice and it is also a conditional answer.  Though it is not my favorite card, it does earn its spot.  If Languish and other -X/-X effects grow in popularity AND we continue to the decline of cards like Polukranos, World Eater, Courser of Kruphix, and Siege Rhino, then Valorous Stance may just be too weak, opening up slots in the deck.

Lands:  Foundry of the Consuls is just amazing with anthems and amazing in a deck that wants flood insurance. Forcing your opponent to Languish your Foundry tokens feels real good. Five scry lands seems like the correct number after testing this list. You really want to set up your curve, even if it means going 2-drop, 2-drop, 4-drop turns two, three, four.  The deck also needs to hit land drops, depending on your hand, and also minimize the risk of  flooding out. It is RARE for a white deck to have access to this kind of deck manipulation and it is POWERFUL.  Secure the Wastes, Foundry of the Consuls, and Hangarback Walker serve as ways to take advantage of excess mana and work together to increase the power level of the deck as a whole.

The sideboard should be changing with your metagame, but this is my choice following the Pro Tour, and it happens to be my favorite part of the deck.  The 75 cards were selected to take full advantage of Tragic Arrogance.  Many of the cards in the deck have multiple types or are capable of having multiple types.  Imagine playing against green-red devotion and staring down four mana dorks, Courser of Kruphix, Polukranos, World Eater and a Hornet Queen along with her worshippers.  You have a Hangarback Walker, a Spear of Heliod, a Banishing Light pinning down a Dragonlord Atarka, and a Brimaz, King of Oreskos in play.  Suffice it to say, you’re not favored in this scenario.  When you cast Tragic Arrogance, however, you can keep Banishing Light (sorry Atarka) as your enchantment, Spear of Heliod as your artifact, Brimaz, King of Oreskos as your creature, AND you get to sacrifice your Hangarback Walker to get your thopter tokens which get +1/+1 from your Spear of Heliod.  The other side of the board is left with. . . Courser of Kruphix?  ONLY Courser of Kruphix.  The same goes for any and all Constellation deck variants.  These engine/ramp/total board domination decks are generally attrocious match-ups for a token/anthem deck.  Tragic Arrogance obliterates these seemingly hopeless board states.  This deck is built to ensure that when you cast it, you have a vastly superior board state when the dust clears and can close out the game within a couple of turns.

Let’s talk about the other sideboard slots now:
Hallowed Moonlight: two mana Cryptic Command against Collected Company.  Against Rally the Ancestors, it’s a two mana Cryptic Command with the upside of exiling all of those pesky creatures from your opponent’s graveyard. The Rally deck has to start from scratch.  This card can have other applications as well.  If your monored opponent is playing Hordling Outburst or Dragon Fodder, this is a great two mana answer that also draws you a card.  It synergizes really well with Raise the Alarm, Secure the Wastes, and all of the other instant speed plays in the deck (just please don’t cast Hallowed Moonlight to counter one of the aforementioned spells and then try to cast a token generator end of turn).  It is also powerful if you happen to see an odd Sidisi Whip deck, Jeskai tokens deck, or anyone playing Hornet Queen.

Hushwing Gryff:  This card serves double duty in the sideboard.  First and foremost, it is amazing against Rally the Ancestors  (stopping Fleshbag Marauder, Mogis’s Marauders, Satyr Wayfinder, and Nissa, Vastwood Seer from triggering), Abzan Control (sorry Siege Rhino), and any other deck abusing enter-the-battlefield effects.  The second job our hippogriff friend does is play at instant speed.  Often against a blue-black control deck, I will sideboard in the gryffs so I’m deploying threats on the opponent’s turn, setting up windows to resolve important spells (like a midgame, resilient Hangarback Walker).  This is a great roleplayer and has more utility than first meets the eye.

Vryn Wingmare Even though this deck does have a number of noncreature spells, slowing down a Languish is incredibly important.  Imagine going turn two Consul’s Lieutenant, turn three Raise the Alarm, turn four Vryn Wingmare, turn five Archangel of Tithes against a control deck.  Your opponent can Languish, removing a large part of your board, yet still facing down an archangel AND allowing you to untap without mana for countermagic.  This is the best strategy I’ve found for dealing with Languish.

Surge of Righteousness:  Monored was all over the place at Pro Tour Magic Origins.  I think this deck is favored greatly in the match-up, so allocating four sideboard slots may be overkill. That said, I do think red will be a very common deck to see moving forward.  You could shave one, two, or all of these depending on your confidence in the match-up and the metagame you think you’ll see.
Glare of Heresy:  Just an all-around good card to have access to.  It hits problematic permanents like Sigil of the Empty Throne, Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, Jesai Ascendancy, Fleecemane Lion, etc.  Having one in the board just broadens and strengthens the deck’s removal suite.

So that’s the deck.  I feel like it was strong going into the Pro Tour weekend and it feels strong coming out of it.  Is it a top tier deck?  Time will tell.  It certainly feels like it can compete.  If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to see them.  Next week I want to continue my testing of Kytheon.  We may look at potential splashes for this deck to deal with the changing standard format, or look at what Kytheon has to offer in the modern format.  If you’re interested in the list posted, play it, test it, and post the changes you’ve found to be powerful.  I’d like to start each week by taking a look back at the previous week’s deck, testing suggestions from readers, and updating the list to make it more powerful, more competitive. The perfect deck is rarely created by one person.  We hone them as a community.

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14 comments

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  1. Great first effort! I’m looking forward to seeing this show up on coverage

  2. I really appreciate that, thank you! I hope I found a legitimate hole in a vast new standard metagame!

    • Obone on August 8, 2015 at 5:38 am
    • Reply

    Love thee deck and the subtle synergies, would give it a try, alas Brimaz is out of my price range atm, and he doesn’t look very replaceable in the curve. Looking forward to the next instalment :).

    1. Appreciate the comment! thanks for the read.

    • Jason on August 10, 2015 at 1:17 am
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    I played this to third place at my local shop without having added the hangarback walkers or the Hushwing Gryff as of yet. Loving the deck…Nyx Fleece Ram added to Raise the Alarm confounded Red Deck Wins. Thanks for the build…great work!

    1. Thanks a lot for the replies Jason and Obone. I’m glad the deck worked out for you at the shop! Just curious, what did you add in place of the Walkers?

        • Jason on August 27, 2015 at 1:25 am
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        Knight of the White Orchid. Smoothed rough mana draws, which came in handy since I added 2 nykthos in my 24 lands.

    • Fred on August 12, 2015 at 3:28 am
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    Hi, I love the deck and planning on playing it at GP London, so I’ve jamming games with this list on mtgo.

    The mtgo meta seems to have shifted in recent days to more tutalage, enchantress and UR ensoul decks, so I’ve tweaked the sideboard:
    -2 Hushwing, -1 Moonlight, -1 surge, -1 Glare
    +2 Erase, +2 Revoke Existence, +1 Silkwrap

    The silkwrap is there for Mentors, Chief of the Foundry, Hangarback and Ensouled creatures.

    Have you changed the sideboard at all since the original list you posted? What 15 would you run today if playing in a meta of monored/abzan/UR ensoul/tutalage/enchantress?

    Also do you think the GP London meta will broadly reflect the mtgo meta, or should I be playing something closer to the original 15?

    1. First and foremost, I would cut 1 Ajani for another Plains. The deck was really close between 23 and 24 lands, and because there are cards like Raise the Alarm that are role-playing, synergy-based cards, this deck doesn’t mulligan as well a lot of decks in the format. The manabase was close but ultimately, for a large tournament, I would add a land.

      I don’t think that Mono Red will be as big because of GW Aggro hating it out in GP San Diego. We could be seeing a meta that is shifting towards GW Aggro and then control decks that can keep up with it.

      I would most likely sleeve up this 15:

      3 Surge of Righteousness
      3 Tragic Arrogance
      2 Hallowed Moonlight
      1 Banishing Light (simply broader than Silkwrap, does what Glare does, and hits Tutelage)
      2 Revoke Existence
      1 Secure the Wastes (tempo against UB control)
      2 Vryn Wingmare
      1 Valorous Stance (Abzan Control, GW Aggro)

    • Richard on August 14, 2015 at 2:15 pm
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    One card I have found to be straight-up SILLY with Archangel + Token swarm is Brave the Sands. I’m running a R/W casual brew that is trying to do similar things to this deck. I’m using Monastery Mentor instead of Brimaz and considering Goblin Rabblemaster (Previously Young Pyromancer) too. Just spit out dudes and *really* put the screws to them w/Archangel’s abilities (via Brave the Sands).. Toss in some combat tricks… It’s fun. :)

    1. That sounds super fun. I can’t help but think that if it’s a more casual deck, Iroas would be nuts in there for synergy. I don’t know how easy a red splash would be to manage, but attacking with Archangel of Tithes with an Iroas on the board? Good luck.

        • Anonymous on August 20, 2015 at 7:00 pm
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        Yessir…he’s a 1-of.. :D

    • Jason on August 29, 2015 at 12:04 pm
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    Jared,

    Took the deck combining token/anthem and devotion to first place last night at FNM.
    Round 1: UR Control 2-0
    Round 2: GR Control w/ Atarka (odd deck) 2-1
    Round 3: Red Deck Wins 2-1
    Round 4: URW Control 2-0

    List (36):
    2 Kytheon, Hero of Akros
    4 Raise the Alarm
    2 Secure the Wastes
    4 Hangarback Walker
    4 Knight of the White Orchid
    2 Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
    1 Spear of Heliod
    4 Banishing Light
    3 Brimaz King of Oreskos
    2 Ajani Steadfast
    4 Archangel of Tithes
    2 Dictate of Heliod
    2 Wingmate Roc

    Sideboard:
    2 Devouring Light
    2 Hallowed Moonlight
    1 Valorous Stance
    1 Tragic Arrogance
    3 Devouring Light
    2 Nyx Fleece Ram
    2 Mastery of the Unseen
    2 Hushwing Gryff
    2 Celestial Flare

    Lands (24):
    16 Plains
    2 Nykthos
    2 Temploe of Plenty
    1 Temple Enlightenment
    3 Foundry of the Consuls

    The all stars were Foundry/Raise the Alarm/Dictate of Heliod, Archangel, Banishing Light and Devouring Light. The 2 Rams sideboarded in vs. RDW was enough but things were still a little erratic and I could have lost match 3. The 2 Hallowed Moonlight, 2 Hushwing Gryff and 2 Mastery of the Unseen went unused.

    Going forward, I’ll likely replace anafenza with Consul’s Lieutenant main.

    Sideboard the Mastery’s will remain for Control matchups. I want to up to a 2nd Tragic Arrogance and a 4th Devouring Light and will remove the 2 Valorous Stance. The Hushwings will stay since Fleshbag Marauders and Merciless Executioners are common in the shop’s meta. The hallowed moonlights are on the bubble to be replaced by two additional celestial flares to counter Stormbreath Dragon and Silumgard the Drifting Death, which I expect to proliferate.

    Thanks again for your work on the list Jared. Fun deck that’s very resilient to most everything. I’ve yet to play Abzan.

    • Obone on August 31, 2015 at 2:34 pm
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    Well I guess you made the 2nd best deck in standard, gratz for the result at worlds :)

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