Thursday 21 November 2019

Adventure White .dec

Giant KillerThis is an article with two main points. That white weenie is really good at the moment and that the white adventure creatures are really good. These two facts are linked but not exclusively by any means. This is an article posing as a deck tech but really it is an opportunity to discuss what is going on in white weenie that is making it strong at present. Identifying an archetype as on the rise in power in a meta is handy but understanding why is a much more useful thing. It helps you in the specific context of building, drafting and playing the archetype but it is also a transferable skill that lets you better appreciate other archetypes in other metas. Magic is just such an interwoven web of little nuggets of understanding and appreciation any that you add in to your own will improve your overall game.

White weenie has been around longer than cubing has. It has always been viable in cube and fairly often one of the good decks. Things in metas are somewhat self balancing, especially when doing so against linear strategies like white weenie. The archetype had a spike a while back simply because it hit a really nice spot of good 2/1 dorks for 1 mana and was really consistent. It took very little time however for players to adapt and change the meta such that 2/1s were pretty limp. More 1 power chumps, 1/3 and bigger dorks, ping effects, stuff that hits one drops, even just Pyroclasm type things. Very quickly white was back in check and the real casualties were the bystanders like Lotus Cobra.

Dauntless BodyguardThis spike in power is a bit different. White has certainly gained a lot of redundancy in recent years and rather than just being in one area it is across the board. Good and diverse one drops, removal, finishers, value, and some trickery. I have showcased quite how much decent stuff white has gained recently by making a decent list out of almost entirely cards from Ixalan onward. While it is great getting loads of new strong cube worthy cards that support an archetype unless those cards are better than existing ones it only really serves to increase consistency and not power. Obviously both contribute to win percentages but to really jump up you want an increase in both at once. The advantage in redundancy in all areas is that it isn't so easily countered as it was in the case of the sudden abundance of 2/1 beaters. It also gives white more scope to  build and draft more easily to counter weaknesses and problems.

Force of VirtueThe next big thing really helping white perform is resilience. It is just increasingly hard to deal with all the threats a white player has to offer. Loads of really potent planeswalkers. Creatures that gain or give indestructible, those that do so for protection. Creatures that die into more board presence. Vehicles. Token producing lands and sagas and so on and so on. Wraths and mass removal effects do not do enough to be relied on. It takes a lot of board presence and disruption to really contain a white aggressive player. Card advantage is pseudo-resilience too when your deck is as cheap and direct as white weenie and that is another aspect white is doing well on lately. Increased access to good EtB effects that generate value and more flicker effects are all seeming to make it pretty hard to hold back the tide that is white weenie. There are less one toughness dorks found in these builds, or at least ones that stay that way as well as better ways of protecting them.

Ancestral Blade
Lastly we have a wealth of extra agency in the archetype. I think it is the biggest boost the archetype has had and it is certainly the most fun. It is so nice to have relevant options going on in your game. While no game is ever simple in cube white weenie has historically been one of the simpler choices and has relatively little option density. The most complex thing was typically how you set about your combat steps. Now we just have substantially more option rich cards you can play in this kind of archetype on offer and they have really given it legs. The adventures are certainly a big part of this. They give you options on so many fronts from curving to extension to value etc. These I shall return to but it is not just the adventure dorks making white weenie a much more option dense archetype. We have convoke spells giving you flexibility on mana costs. We have things like Hanged Executioner that has built in utility. Force of Virtue is a wildly option rich card given you can play it most of the time and with several different costs to do so in most cases to. Are you trying to bait out value by countering removal or it being a combat trick? Are you trying to hold it back to avoid card disadvantage? Force of Virtue just by itself is a decent chunk of why white weenie is so good these days. Even seemingly small low key cards like Ancestral Blade are a big boost to the option density of the archetype. The card is a fine early play but it gives a lot of extra legs to your game from there on in. It gives reach, scaling, combat prowess and all for very low cost.

26 Spells
Giver of Runes

Fearie Guidemother
Giant Killer
Legion's Landing
Thraben Inspector

Dauntless Bodyguard
Giver of Runes
Venerable Knight
Skymarcher Aspirant

On Thin Ice

Precinct Captain
Shepherd of the Flock
Winds of Abandon
Ancestral Blade
Hanged Executioner
Tithe Taker
Adanto Vanguard
Charming Prince

Monastery Mentor
Hanged Executioner
Gideon Blackblade
Benalish Marshall

History of Benalia
Ranger-Captain of Eos

Force of Virtue
Serra, the Benevolent
Conclave Tribunal

Venerated Loxodon

14 Lands

Castle Ardenvale
13 Snow-Covered Plains

On Thin IceThis list has only 3 cards predating Ixalan and none of those are exactly bombs. Indeed two of those cards are typically better in other archetypes and are more filler in white weenie (Mentor and Inspector). Modern Horizons is really where the power in this deck is found. We can comfortably replace Path or Plow with On Thin Ice which is a premium tempo removal spell with less downside than the alternatives in an aggressive setting. On average it out performs those other premium creature removal cards in white weenie which is rather eye opening. Then we have the joy of Winds of Abandon. An OK spot removal spell comparable to Declaration in Stone most of the time. While poor as a two drop the card is unreal as a six drop. It has jumped to one of the best mass removal spells in the whole cube. This makes it a highly contested card but when you do get it in white weenie it is amazing because of the extra reach and utility it gives you. It is fit for purpose as a cheap spot removal spell but any game that stalls out it is game ending quality. This is very common against white weenie due to it developing such a strong board while having relatively little reach. That means that even in a 14 land deck you are pretty likely to see six mana in a lot of the games you don't obliterate your opponent in 4-6 turns. Anyone relying on a board stall against white now has to fear the potential of a one sided wrath just clearing the path and ending things in swift order. To beat white weenie now you have to treat it more like a red deck and push for a win at some risk to your own survival but that is much harder against white as their board is that much stronger.

Winds of AbandonModern Horizons brings us Serra who is a fine planeswalker, she has some good tempo returns, some reasonable reach and a cute bit of scaling with your fliers. She is the 3rd best four mana white walker but she is plenty good enough for cube play and this archetype tends to want more walkers than it has access to! Giver of Runes is obviously also excellent. Another Mother and while not quite as potent, plenty strong enough to be a great addition and a much better card to play with and against. Give me good design and play experience over polar high powered cards like Mother every time. Lastly we have Ranger Captain which is a bit of value, a bit of utility, a bit of tempo, and a bit of synergy support. He was good before but the one mana adventure creatures certainly upped his range rather significantly. For cube the Captain is certainly a lot better than the original Ranger of Eos. Modern Horizons contributes six cards to this list alone, there are more you could well use in such a deck from the very powerful set. While everything gained a lot from Modern Horizons I think none more than white weenie. It got more of the good stuff it wants. It got high numbers of relevant cards. It got two of the best creature removal spells and the best Anthem. All very nice.

Tithe TakerOther recent sets have been fairly kind too with convoke and afterlife both meshing well with what the archetype is good with. Venerated Loxodon is a pseudo Anthem effect and it turns out they are really good when on the back of dorks. Benalish Marshall has been a massive addition to the archetype, so much so that I got an Angel of Jubilation for the cube as well and it has also been performing exceptionally well. These cards let you play more dorks and more anthems. They give payoff for having lots of small dorks but they do not punish you by being dead cards in the more challenging situations. Just one of those win win cards that power up your synergies and benefit from them as well.

Both Legion's Landing and Castle Ardenvale add some extra legs to the archetype as well. It is hard to disrupt lands. Pumping out 1/1 dorks at a very expensive rate is not winning many games these days on its own however in conjunction with equipment or Anthems or anything much of that nature such things become far more valuable. Just on the back of a big impressively developed board and a well beaten down life total an extra 1/1 every turn can spell the end fairly quickly too. White weenie now has fairly reliable mana sinks that let it play a slower and safer game if they want to and that is great. It lets you play some more flashy cards in place of low powered support like Savannah Lions and Raise the Alarm. More importantly you can avoid over extending or running out of gas. You can put those 12 lands you drew with Land Tax to some good use!

Castle Ardenvale
So, to the other main point of this article, to express how good adventure cards really are. When we compare the adventures in this list to the standouts from Throne it is clear they are a step down in power level and yet they seem to be performing up there with premium cards like Bonecrusher Giant and Murderous Rider. I think the reason the white ones are doing so well is not that they are all that powerful but much more to do with the way they play out in white weenie. They give the archetype options and situational tools at very little cost. With the archetype having so little of those things prior to adventures it has gained far more from the increased options and new effects than other archetypes. Red decks play plenty of Shock effects, black decks plenty plenty of Hero's Downfall, and blue decks are certainly familiar with a bounce spell. White weenie on the other hand is pretty new to a lot of what it got. Option density has some diminishing returns as well. As such going from low options to a bit more is a lot more valuable than going from plenty to a bit more than that. This is why these white and seemingly low powered adventures in white are standing out some of the best.

Djeru's RenunciationSo much so in fact that I am going to try Ardenvale Tactician in my cube! I dismissed the card as a limited spell at first read. I would have argued hard against it being a better card than Djeru's Renunciation - a similar sspell that did some reasonable work when being tested in the drafting cube. Ultimately Renunciation just isn't card advantage, a threat or an answer and so you wouldn't pick it highly and would only play it when padding out a list. Now, cycling for W is clearly much better than a 2/3 flier for 1WW. Like a lot better. Cast Out is one of whites best general purpose removal spells and a significant part of that is the cycling for W it has. The problem is that cycling is off theme for white weenie, or at least one of the problems. Cycling is tempo negative while a 2/3 flier is tempo positive. Add the cost of W to any card in your white deck and your cards become sub par to unplayable. Also, you don't know what you are getting with your cycling so it isn't really a plan, it is just a thing you do when you don't have anything good to do. Now, the same is true of running out a 2/3 flier in that ideally you want to be doing something better but it is proactive and it is known. Randomly cycling on turn three is rarely going to find you that perfect two drop to play and be mana efficient while tossing out Tactician on three is a far far better use of your turn. So yes, while for the average deck a cycle for one is better than a 2/3 flier for three it is not the case in a tempo deck with creature synergies. There is also of course the fact that you get both the tap down and the 2/3 body with Tactician should you be able to order it correctly in your game while Renunciation only offers the tap or the card. If Tactician makes the cut then maybe I will need to trial out Silverflame Squire too!

Monastery MentorAdventures in general keep the creature count high and they increase your ability to curve well. They offer good returns when used fully and have an acceptable floor when part used. White is so often about having overlap, bodies to utilize, or attackers at the ready. Being able to make the call and deploy a cheap dork is amazing. Having a better card to play instead is amazing too. Being able to hold off and use all of your adventure is great too. It just never feels bad having adventure cards in hand. They give a sufficient enough boost to your spell count that you can start running prowess trigger effects to some reasonably good effect. Monastery Mentor never really performed in white weenie until now. The decks that would support him well with spells were too often threat light and folded to bad draws and disruption.

Faerie GuidemotherGiant Killer looks the best on paper and is a fine card. The Reprisal isn't used wildly often but it is massive when it is. The body does a lot of work, being a 1/2 make it far more useful in combat than the 1/1 tappers and while the activation is steep it is not a significant detriment to the card. You are trying to hold this and play it late due to how good Chop Down is. Later in the game when tapping is of most significance and when mana is most spare. Laying it early is commonly for attacking and blocking roles. As such the utility and toughness seem to more than offset the extra tapping costs overall when compared to other tappers.

Faerie Guidemother is lovely. She handles planeswalkers so well and is typically a far more useful mid and late game one drop than your generic 2/1 ground pounder. She is great with cards like Precinct Captain forcing through combat damage triggers. She can even be used to turn on Chop Down on a threat with 2 or 3 power! Guidemother is significant late game reach and great early game planeswalker control. A 1/1 flier is also far better past about turn 4 than a 2/1 on the ground.

Shepherd of the Flock
Shepherd of the Flock has probably been my favourite of the three due to how much scope Usher to Safety offers. You can get so much value out of it with reusing EtB effects. You can turn on a Land Tax. You can save something from removal or in combat. I have used it with enchantment exile effects like On Thin Ice to clear out multiple tokens. It is just a great spell you would never play without the fact it is also a reasonably aggressive dork as well. A three powered two drop when you have no two drop is so huge for the archetype and a second go on a History of Benalia or Blade Splicer is potent value late game. Easily the adventure that most outperformed expectation.

So there we have it. A lot of interesting and potent new cards all contributing to the array of reasons white is a strong archetype at the moment. White weenie is a little better at doing what it has always done well but it is a lot better at doing the things it did not much do in the past.

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