Mirrodin Block Constructed in Play - No, You Don’t Need Red or Green
Take a minute and look over any top 8 report from a Mirrodin Block Constructed tournament and tell me what you see (besides Blinkmoth Nexus in multiples).
You're probably looking at eight decks that all use at least one of two colors: Red and Green. The reason for this is obvious: well, actually, the reasons are: Shatter, Echoing Ruin, Furnace Dragon, Oxidize, Tel-Jilad Justice, Detonate, Electrostatic Bolt, and I'm just getting warmed up on the ways to remove artifacts in these two colors. (What? You don't believe me? Okay, fine then: Viridian Shaman, Viridian Zealot, Granulate, Molder Slug, I'm still going...)
It all makes sense, really. Mirrodin is the block of artifacts. Everything from lands to Mycosynth Lattice revolves around artifacts, and lots of them. Packing plenty of artifact hate is wise, not only for Ravager Affinity and Krark-Clan Ironworks, but also because Oxidize rarely fails to find a target.
But does that mean that you have to play Red or Green to get by in this format? Absolutely not. While Green has all but replaced Black in its usual role of joining Red in"blow-up-all" decks, it doesn't mean that decks need cards like Oxidize and Shatter to be competitive, and it doesn't mean that Ravager will stomp you if you don't play fifteen hate cards.
This week's decklist revives an old favorite from Onslaught Block matches and especially Standard. Many people said and continue to say that it can't be successfully built in MD5. That deck is Mono White Control, and those people are wrong.
4 Pulse of the Fields
3 Solar Tide
4 Oblivion Stone
4 Wayfarer's Bauble
4 Solemn Simulacrum
2 Altar's Light
2 Bringer of the White Dawn
3 Pristine Angel
4 Talisman of Progress
The deck is called White Gold because of all the White rares...which have a gold rarity symbol...I don't know. It's also expensive as crap to us poor people. And I know that to some of you, it isn't exactly Mono-White Control, bringing in four Marches and an Island from the sideboard for the Ravager matchup.
Anyway, about this deck. White Gold is a deck that, like so many other decks (like U/G Witness), has emerged as a deck comprising possible answers to every other deck in the metagame. Examples: Pulse of the Fields-Big Red, Oblivion Stone-Ravager Affinity, Altar's Light-Tooth and Nail. But before I talk about the deck's themes and strategy, there are some myths about MD5 Mono White Control that I must dispel.
Myth #1: White Control decks can't win, because they have no way to deal with Ravager Affinity. It's just too fast.
Wrong. People that believe this look at the list of Red and Green cards like Shatter, Oxidize...see previous list(s) in those colors. Then they look at white and say,"See, there's nothing like that!"
Please. What's the difference between Stasis Cocoon and Shatter, except for instant vs. sorcery speed? While that can make a world of a difference, Stasis Cocoon has the added benefit of shutting down certain cards that Shatter can't handle, like, um... Darksteel Colossus. Cocoon is cheap, clean, and very close to what Shatter can do. (Note: One noticeable difference is Damping Matrix, which I'll talk about later.) The other most under-appreciated White artifact removal card (except for its flavor text, which MTG veterans have heralded since before it was printed) is Purge. This card actually outperforms many Red and Green cards in the Ravager matchup, because it has the added bonus of being able to remove Disciple of the Vault, which can be the biggest problem on the board. Of course, you can't nail your opponent's artifact lands with Purge, but raise your hand if you've ever been killed by a Seat of the Synod.
Stasis Cocoon pulls its weight in this matchup, too, shutting down Cranial Plating, Arcbound Ravager, Myr Enforcer, even a Welding Jar if it's causing a problem. It also can be played as a removal spell on your opponent's artifact lands, as early as the second turn (Hmm, three Cocoons in my opening hand? I think I'll go land destruction this game!), but has the drawback of leaving them on the board to count towards affinity.
Basically, White is not strapped for removal of artifacts, it just requires creative solutions and a different way of thinking to make the ones it has work properly. Bringing in and Island and a set of Marches is one of those kinds of solutions. Between Wayfarer's Bauble, Solemn Simulacrum, Talisman of Progress, and the Island itself, you have thirteen ways to get a Blue mana if you need it, and having an Island over a Plains isn't much of a drawback most games.
With Talisman or Bauble, March comes down turn 3, early enough to stuff Ravager before it even gets going. It also detaches Cranial Plating, meaning that unless your opponent has a couple of Glimmervoids already, they can only win if they're lucky enough to pull off a stray Frogmite or Myr Enforcer. On the other end, you get Marching Talismans as an extra boost if you need them. Not a bad deal.
Myth #2: Without power cards like Exalted Angel and Eternal Dragon, MWC's just not strong enough, even in the late game.
Let me be honest. This is a deck crying for an Exalted Angel or Eternal Dragon or two to make it an outstanding deck. But these cards are less essential in MD5 as compared to Standard. Why? First of all, Goblins are gone, and that was a deck so fast that without Angel or Dragon, you couldn't hope to stand up to them. Second, Pristine Angel actually works better in many MD5 situations. Whereas the two previously mentioned cards are well within the destructive range of Shrapnel Blast, Terror, Duplicant, and other popular spells in the block, Pristine Angel can't be touched until you say it can, and is an insurmountable flying blocker in the meantime.
Basically, Exalted Angel, Eternal Dragon, and Decree of Justice are priceless losses as MWC moves from Type 2 to Block Constructed. But even so, other cards can fill the big shoes left behind. In a deck like this, which uses Mindslaver to the fullest, you can try and wreck your opponent's side of the board with it and then swing with Pristine Angel, Blinkmoth Nexus, even Solemn Simulacrum can apply the beats, although Jens is a better blocker in this deck than anything else.
Myth #3: White's mass removal quality is so low that without Wrath of God or Akroma's Vengeance, it lacks the"control" cards it had in Standard.
Players who believe this just aren't looking hard enough. Oblivion Stone was very hyped when it first came out. I remember when it sold for just a few dollars less than Chrome Mox. Now, some card shops are lucky to get half that for it, and more and more O. Stones have found their way to the trade binder. Very quietly, Oblivion Stone remains the best colorless control card ever printed.
Let me just repeat that, in case you missed it: Oblivion Stone is the best colorless control card ever printed. If it was just a sorcery that cost eight and destroyed all non-land permanents, O. Stone would still see play in control decks. Instead, O. Stone is even better, offering you the chance to save some of your own stuff in a long, drawn-out game with lots of mana-and that's what you're striving for with this deck. Most of the time, you'll want to treat Oblivion Stone like Mindslaver-play it and use it in the same turn. But sometimes, especially against opponents whose hands are empty, you can risk saving a Pristine Angel (which you do by attacking with it, putting the counter on, and then casting Pulse of the Fields when Angel gets targeted).
Best of all, this deck doesn't have a lot of stuff that sticks around on the board except Talismans, so O. Stone usually ends up being one-sided. Try and hold onto Oblivion Stone as long as you can if you already have Pristine, because for many decks (like U/G Witness or Big Red), an untapped Pristine Angel can shut down their entire combat phase. If the enemy board just gets too tough for you to handle with Angel, then use the O. Stone to push the reset button.
Solar Tide is also a card that doesn't get a lot of the attention it deserves, and although you will rarely use the"weeding-out" ability (the ability to choose which half of the board dies), 4WW and two lands is a bargain to utterly wreck Mono Green Beats in most cases. Solar Tide also kills off Leonin Abunas/Platinum Angel that comes out of Tooth and Nail, although Oblivion Stone also does the job.
In summary, the mass removal from Mono White Control is weaker than in Standard. I don't dispute that. However, it is still strong enough to control the decks of the current MD5 metagame, and O. Stone is still the MVP.
Bringer of the White Dawn
I just want to talk about this card briefly, because most people see him and Mindslaver in the same deck, and don't even realize his other benefits. Usually, Bringer of the White Dawn is useless without Mindslaver, except as an over-costed 5/5 Trampler. But in this deck, think of all the cool stuff he can bring back! Wayfarer's Bauble thins out your lands every turn. Solemn Simulacrum fetches lands, blocks, and draws a card each time it dies. Oblivion Stone gives you reusable mass removal, and so on. Out of the sideboard, Duplicant paired with Bringer can give Tooth and Nail a run for their money-they can't attack because Duplicant will die and come back, and they can't Oxidize Duplicant for the same reason, and they can't get rid of Bringer at all unless they're packing a Duplicant, too.
Against most decks, if you can kill off your opponent's stuff long enough to get a Bringer out, you've won save a Shrapnel Blast or an Echoing Truth. He's bigger in combat than Myr Enforcer and Arc-Slogger, and even if your Mindslaver gets countered, it doesn't matter anymore, because it comes right back.
You don't want more than two Bringers, because you only need one to win and they're very mana-consuming (the only way to play them is to hard cast them, in case you haven't noticed yet), but they're a game-breaker with or without Mindslaver.
Running the MD5 Gauntlet
I was eager to see how this deck would hold up in playtesting. Here we go.
Round 1, Trial 1: White Gold vs. Tooth and Nail
I randomly picked this deck from a list of six decks to start from. This Tooth and Nail deck is actually classic Mono-Green Tooth, not the newer U/G variant.
Game One: He mulliganed once, then twice. Facing only five cards, I was confident in my first game's victory. When he stalled at two lands, I was even more confident. By turn 5, he had two Forests, a Cloudpost, and an Eternal Witness, versus my Pristine Angel that I played off a Talisman. When he didn't draw any more lands, that was game one.
Sideboarding: I put in four Stasis Cocoons and two Duplicants, and pulled out four Pulse of the Fields and two Solar Tides.
Game Two: We both liked our opening hands: I had Cloudpost, Nexus, Bauble, Bringer, the one Solar Tide left, Jens, and a Talisman. Unfortunately for me, I drew into more Talismans and no more lands. Fortunately, as he played Cloudposts, my Cloudposts got a little stronger, too. It was a hair-raising game, as I struggled to get out lands and he struggled to draw some offense. He Mindslavered three straight turns of mine, thanks to Eternal Witness, and ended up playing Pristine Angel and Bringer, then blowing them up with Solar Tide and sacrificing both of my Posts to pay the entwine. Ouch.
Still, he didn't have what he needed to win, continuing to draw into cards like Oblivion Stone, Duplicant, and Reap and Sow. His two Viridian Shamans (which had destroyed my Talismans) applied the beats, four damage a turn. I drew Pulse of the Fields and started counteracting their damage every turn, slowly playing out more mana sources. He got a Tooth and Nail for Abunas/Colossus, while I was at eight life. I had Jens in play, so I cast the Duplicant I had been holding, removing Abunas from the game. He attacked with Colossus, dropping me to four when I blocked with both. The card I drew off of Jens was Altar's Light, which ended that Tooth and Nail attempt.
Eventually, he hardcast Platinum Angel from his hand, but I killed that with an Oblivion Stone. Frustrated, we both kept drawing and didn't draw much-in the end, I pecked him to death with Blinkmoth Nexus.
Overall: 2-0 in games, 1-0 in matches.
Round 1, Trial 2: White Gold vs. Ravager Affinity
Game One: My opening hand had two Cloudposts in it and an Oblivion Stone, among other things. By turn 2, he had two lands, an Ornithopter, an Arcbound Worker, and an Arcbound Ravager. On my third turn, I cast Solemn Simulacrum and used him to chump-block the Ravager, while he played Thoughtcast and a Welding Jar.
I knew the Jar would mess up my plans with Oblivion Stone, but I had to go for it anyway. By the end of my fourth turn, I had seven mana available with one more Plains and the O. Stone in hand. He dropped Cranial Plating, equipped, and swung. Ouch. With no blockers, that quickly reduced me from nineteen to eight, but I hoped the Stone would even things out a little. I played the Stone, waiting for his combat step to blow it up. He regenerated Ravager, saving it, but removing it from combat. The next turn, he dropped Disciple of the Vault, but I drew and blew up another Oblivion Stone, leaving him with nothing but three artifact lands and a Glimmervoid, plus one card in hand. My next turn, I dropped Pristine Angel, and the turn after that I Mindslavered him. He drew his card for the turn and slammed his fist down on the table. It was an Arcbound Ravager. I sacrificed his entire board for him and beat him a few times with Angel for the win.
Sideboarding: In came four Stasis Cocoons, four Purges, one Island, and four March of the Machines. I yanked the Solar Tides, the Bringers of the White Dawn, two Plains, two Pulse of the Fields, two Arrests, and two Altar's Lights. This looks like a very complex sideboard change, but it's all common sense.
Game Two: Stasis Cocoon and Purge helped in the early game, but it was still Oblivion Stone that won the day. He got me down to seven life, and then I stalled a turn or two with Pristine Angel until I could draw one and blow up the board. The turn after that, I played March of the Machines. The combination of O. Stone and March, I learned, leaves Ravager with nothing at all. Ouch.
Overall: 4-0 in games, 2-0 in matches.
Round 1, Trial 3: White Gold vs. Mono-Green Beats
I expected this to be a difficult matchup, just because there isn't any instant-speed mass removal in the deck besides O. Stone, which can hardly be counted as an instant.
Game One: Early on I drew the Bringer of the White Dawn/Mindslaver combo. That was good, but I had no mana acceleration whatsoever, and I found myself staring at a turn 2 Troll Ascetic off of a Chrome Mox. The next turn, he played Fangren Firstborn, and I used up my one Arrest in hand. The game dragged on with his Troll Ascetic battling my Pulse of the Fields until eventually he got to a Beacon of Creation. That same turn, he used a Predator's Strike, forcing through enough damage to drop me to ten.
Thankfully, I drew Oblivion Stone, and blew it up, but he regenerated Troll Ascetic (a major problem, Troll lives through all the mass removal and can't be targeted). Repeat Troll vs. Pulse, until I got enough mana to Mindslaver him. I tapped him out and made sure he didn't have anything to stop Bringer of the White Dawn, then cast Bringer on my turn for the lock.
Sideboarding: Actually, not much. I brought in two Duplicants for Altar's Light, swapping a useless card for one that might have limited value.
Game Two: He jumped out early again, a turn 3 Troll Ascetic followed by a turn 4 Beacon of Creation. Only this time, there was no mana acceleration and no Pulse of the Fields in sight. I tried to play an O. Stone for three and wait until my next untap to use it, but he had the Tel-Jilad Justice. I drew Arrest, but Troll couldn't be targeted, and hitting a 1/1 token seemed useless. Eventually, he just buried me.
Game Three: He went first, playing a Forest. I played a plains and a Bauble, and he gleefully hit it with Tel-Jilad Justice on his turn, so he could Scry and I wouldn't get my mana. He got out Fangren Firstborn, but it caught the Arrest trick. He dropped another Firstborn; I ate it with Duplicant. He pulled off Viridian Shaman and killed Duplicant, then the next turn, a Beacon of Creation for seven tokens. I didn't draw O. Stone until I was at six, and I had seven mana available-one short of saving the game. I had no answer and his tokens killed me again.
Overall: 5-2, 2-1.
Round 1, Trial 4: White Gold vs. U/G Witness
This could be the most boring matchup I've ever played. If you went to Regionals and saw two U/W control decks go at it... well, you'd be getting close, that's what it reminded me of.
Game One: I have a bit of a rough draw, with only two lands. When he saw me not drop a third land, he hit one of my Talismans with a Condescend, slowing me down even further. I'll spare you the game's dragging on and on, but he played Jenses, and so did I, and he dropped Crystal Shard, and I killed it with an Altar's Light. He got the advantage for a while with Troll Ascetic, but I stopped him when he tapped out to counter Pulse of the Fields, and I got the beast with Solar Tide. He used Witness to get it back, but I played Pristine Angel to be an untouchable blocker. It couldn't be hit by anything-Echoing Truth, Duplicant, Triskelion, or anything else that could possibly remove it, so the game just dragged on more. Eventually, I Mindslavered him and emptied his hand of answers to the Angel, and then swung with it a few times and killed him.
Sideboarding: I pulled out the Solar Tides and the Arrests, and put in Stasis Cocoon for Crystal Shard and four Purges (better a dead Triskelion than a recurring one).
Game Two: See game one. The only difference is that I had two Pristines this time, and I never got the chance to Mindslaver him. Otherwise, repeat the boring process of two control decks not playing anything useful... ever. I was just glad I didn't have to do a game three.
Overall: 7-2, 3-1.
Round 1, Trial 5: White Gold vs. Big Red
I'm starting to like my deck at this point-its only loss is a hard-fought match against MGB.
Game One: I held him off with Pulse of the Fields, like I knew I would, and he tried to save up massive amounts of burn in his hand. Arc-Slogger cancelled out Pulse in combat every turn, so my life total hovered around fourteen the entire game. Eventually, when he played another Arc-Slogger, I cast Mindslaver, took his turn, and milled through his entire deck, save three cards. Repeat Pulse of the Fields performance for three more turns, and he decked out.
Sideboarding: There really isn't much in the sideboard for Big Red; it's all maindeck. I put in two Duplicants for two Arrests, though.
Game Two: This game was a lot different, because he got off a Damping Matrix early, scrapping my Mindslaver plan. I couldn't even use Oblivion Stone, because its abilities are both activated. Matrix didn't shut down Pristine Angel, however, and Pulse of the Fields still broke his back. Since I stayed at lower life than he did, he couldn't use Pulse of the Forge effectively, which is one of the reasons that I personally don't like Pulse of the Forge. He finally had to cast Furnace Dragon to keep two Pristine Angels off his back, and when he removed Matrix, I Duplicated Dragon and played O. Stone, in case he found an answer. He didn't, and after two turns of attacking for thirteen, I had the sweep.
Overall: 9-2, 4-1.
Round 1, Trial 6: White Gold vs. U/G Tooth and Nail
With Condescend and Thirst for Knowledge in its arsenal, this deck is probably the most popular and powerful deck around right now.
Game One: He countered an early Jens, costing me a land and some card advantage, but when he got off Tooth and Nail entwined, tapping out except for one land to pick up two Darksteel Colossus, I was ready with an Altar's Light on his turn and the Arrest on my turn. This infuriated him-there were no more Colossi in his deck, that meant he would have to find another way to win. He tried Abunas/Angel, next, and I stopped that with an Oblivion Stone. After that, the game dragged on as he countered two Pristine Angels before I finally played Bringer of the White Dawn and beat him to death.
Sideboarding: See all the way up at Round 1, Trial 1. It's the same as Classic Tooth and Nail sideboarding. If you don't want to scroll up, that's two Duplicants and four Stasis Cocoons for two Solar Tides and four Pulse of the Fields.
Game Two: He couldn't have had a better game. Turn 5 Tooth and Nail, with two uber-Condescends (with Cloudpost mana...ouch) for late-game backup. I was hit in the face with a Colossus protected by countermagic and a Leonin Abunas, and I didn't have the answer. There really wasn't much more to this game. A god hand for him.
Game Three: This one was closer. While he built his mana base and I built mine, I accumulated two Stasis Cocoons, an Altar's Light, and an Oblivion Stone in my hand. I figured that would handle anything he could pull out, and I was right. After I stopped two Tooth and Nail products (Abunas/ Colossus, then Witness/Colossus getting back Abunas), Pristine Angel fought him off for the victory.
Overall: 11-3, 5-1.
I did a Round 2 of testing, but I'll spare you the details. Suffice it to say, I pulled another 5-1 run through the gauntlet, losing only to U/G Tooth.
I'm amazed at how well this deck worked, despite the nay-sayers. It just goes to show that Red and Green aren't necessary for solid MD5 play, and that MWC isn't as weak as you might think.