Cook’s Kitchen – Is white just bad right now?
About a month ago I walked out of Jupiter Games after coming in fourth in the NELC that day with four foil Swords to Plowshares and my fourth foil Wasteland. Since that day I’ve been looking for a reason to play with my new beautiful white toys. I just haven’t found a justifiable reason to play them yet. The main reason is I just don’t think white right now is very good in the Legacy metagame. I said it, “Swords to Plowshares isn’t enough against Griselbrand” and the flying, spaghetti monster itself – Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. As a matter a fact, neither is Stoneforge Mystic.
The format has sped up! There are plenty of “combo” decks out there right now between Sneak and Show, Reanimator, Dredge, and Storm (ANT/TES). These decks are all reasonably popular and neither one of the aforementioned white cards are that spectacular against them. With a metagame shift toward combo, decks must adapt. Griselbrand’s printing was the primary reason for the metagame shift. The flying demon is actually the reason of the resurgence of two very powerful decks – Sneak & Show and Reanimator.
Swords to Plowshares against Sneak and Show is just a joke in my eyes, the main reason being that there are four targets. All four of them being Griselbrand – considering the fact that Swords doesn’t interact with Emrakul. Casting Swords to Plowshares on a Griselbrand is about as far away from “value town” as it gets, some would even say you would be in New Jersey. Could that be why James Higgenbottom keeps winning with Sneak and Show? He’s bringing the New Jersey to his opponents? In all seriousness, giving the opponent seven additional life to activate Griselbrand is the exact opposite of what the control deck wants to be doing. Seven additional life in most circumstances usually means that Sneak and Show has fourteen cards in their hand. More than likely at this point the white deck has lost, they may not know it yet, but they have. The tone has been set for the remainder of that game. It may take a turn or two but Sneak and Show has won.
Another thing white doesn’t want to be doing currently is casting Stoneforge Mystic. Stoneforge’s targets don’t do enough against these decks:
• Batterskull isn’t a card that exactly kills quickly, coming down on turn three and attacking on turn four at the earliest. This card certainly has seen brighter days. Recently, it’s just been too slow against these popular combo decks, that or the speedy decks can just ignore a 4/4 vigilance with lifelink. The equipment would need to be able to interact with the opponent.
• Umezawa’s Jitte interacts with the opponent unlike Batterskull, except out of the four decks mentioned, it’s really only relevant against one of them – Dredge. Even there Jitte isn’t a speedy card, it’s very similar to Batterskull as to when the equipment comes down and is useful. Dredge is often a deck similar to the storm decks that can just win while the hate cards sit in the opponents’ hands.
• Sword of X and Y, none of the Swords are too effective against any of these decks besides Sword of Feast and Famine. Discard against these decks can be very powerful but in order for the Sword to be relevant the rest of the deck must slow down the combo deck first. Feast and Famine is more of a mid-game card against these decks, coming down turn four or five for some extra value.
What does this mean?
I wouldn’t be caught dead playing UW Stoneforge or Maverick. While both decks have tools to fight one or two of the decks, it’s difficult to deal with all of them since they don’t share too many things in common. It’s possible to pinpoint a match-up and prepare for it if a player only wanted to beat Dredge or only wanted to beat Sneak and Show. Currently with the increased number of combo players, they are actually helping each other out by diverging the cards that are relevant for each other. It’s just too difficult to prepare to beat Sneak and Show while having a good Dredge match-up. It’s certainly possible to sideboard for both, but not a substantial amount for both while being optimal for the rest of the metagame.
Speaking of the rest of the Metagame, these white decks are prepared for the rest of the decks out there. They do have that going on for them. But if they want to try to compete with these combo decks they really need to choose one. Terminus would be a good start for Stoneblade, I’d like to see the numbers of this card to increase from two to three or four. Out of the four combo decks listed, Terminus is good against three of them. PLUS(!), It deals with Emrakul and all of Reanimator’s untargetable threats. Aside from the combo decks, playing that many Terminus would destroy the remaining people playing Maverick. Then while we’re at it, remove the Stoneforge package and add three Entreat the Angels. Entreat is a great win condition because it’s quick (compared to Stoneforge/Batterskull) and castable on the opponents endstep.
As far as Maverick goes, I don’t think it would be a terrible idea to go back to something similar to what those decks were doing before Thalia – splashing for a third color. Adding a third color provides another form of disruption other than Thalia and Gaddeck Teeg which just aren’t enough for Sneak and Show, Reanimator, or Dredge – they certainly hit storm combo though!
Adding blue would give Spell Pierce, Phantasmal Image, and Meddling Mage to Maverick, which in the long run wouldn’t hurt their primary plan of sticking a Thalia. Phantasmal Image kills Griselbrand and Emrakul, the legend rule, rules! Black has Cabal Therapy / Thoughtseize, and lastly, red has Red Elemental Blasts/Pyroblast.
However, even with these changes, I’m still unsure if I would play these decks over something else.
What would I play instead of plains?
Grixis is where people want to be right now, counter-magic, discard, and direct damage are great and efficient ways to stop the big bad monster that is combo at the moment. I personally don’t know how good/bad it feels to have a pair of Stifle against Griselbrand, but making them lose life to activate their card seems decent. Sam’s list is pretty solid, there are actually only two slots that I dislike in the main deck and they are Darkblast and Snuff Out. I think they should probably be Chain Lightning or Forked Bolts. The reasoning behind this choice is that the point of playing black removal spells is to kill large creatures, Darkblast certainly doesn’t do this and the current big creature isn’t killed by Snuff Out (Hint: It’s big, it’s black, it draws seven cards). The extra reach is much more valuable. The last thing I’d change about Sam’s list is it’s slightly threat light with only nine beaters. I’d really like to see another Vendillion Clique and possibly one or two more threats. Maybe these creatures are Snapcaster Mages? (If there’s room, it’s looking like there isn’t)
When looking over the sideboard, I believe there should be a couple copies of Sulfur Elemental. I know Maverick’s numbers have decreased recently but there are still enough people that play the deck to warrant a couple copies. The “Elemental” blasts should be the Ice Age copies due to Phantasmal Image. Speaking of Phantasmal Image, I would be running a couple of those in my sideboard as well. To reconstruct the deck, I think it should look something like…
Not too much of a change, I just believe that this list is slightly more optimal. I guess we’re going to have to wait to see the banned and restricted list update to see how long white is just bad. With a possible banning of Show and Tell on the horizon, white could be making a dramatic comeback soon enough. I could make a deck with my new shiny toys or we could be stuck in another six months of people playing Show and Tell with their hidden monsters. Either way, I’m pretty happy that the metagame is just being shaken up – things were beginning to become stale.
Well that’s all for this week, come back again next week! Until then, keep Storming!
Bryant Cook on MTGthesource