Remaking an old favorite with new cards

Deconstructing White Weenie

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Before I begin this week's column, I just want to take a moment to thank everyone who has written in over the past few weeks with support, questions, and suggestions. I was especially gratified to hear from a great many of you who, after reading my "Prerelease Primer", decided to go to your first Magic tournament during the Prerelease weekend. I received one letter from a player who not only did well, but who defeated the number one ranked player in the world. Way to go!

If it seems like I'm stalling before diving into White Week, it's probably because I am. I decided that I would write about "White Weenie" decks and—as a nod to my previous column—attempt to build a modern version using only Onslaught and Legions cards. The problem? I've never played with a White Weenie deck in my life, and I don't know that I have ever even built one before.

White Weenie decks have perhaps the oldest pedigree in the Magic game, and they have won more than their fair share of "best in show"—from the smallest playgroups all the way to World Championships. I thought we could take a look at some of the more successful White Weenie decks in Magic history and attempt to borrow elements from them and build a new deck or two.

Today's lesson:

What the heck is a White Weenie and what do successful versions look like?

The name of the deck pretty much sums it up. White weenies are cheap, efficient creatures that overrun slower opponents before they get a chance to set up. Once your cheap creatures are on the board, you can get rid of your opponents' creatures with removal, their resources with global effects like Armageddon, or their powerful artifacts and enchantments with disenchant effects.

How do you decide whether a creature is efficient? A measure of a creature's efficiency is the ratio between its power and its casting cost. Tom Chanpheng featured what is undoubtedly the most efficient creature ever to show up in a White Weenie deck when he won the 1996 Magic World Championship with the following deck.

Tom Chanpheng's White Weenie

1996 World Championships

The efficient card I am referring to is Savannah Lions. For a single white mana, Tom was able to play a 2/1 creature on the first turn of the game with twelve creatures to back it up on the following turn (fifteen if you count the other three Lions). Two points of power for one mana is virtually unheard of in newer Magic expansions and there is a good reason for that. Quite simply, it creates decks that are too fast for slower decks to be viable. Today, the best you are going to do is a 2/1 or a 2/2 for two mana.

Tom's deck played more mana than you would normally expect to find in a White Weenie deck. That is due to the presence of some more expensive spells like Serra Angel and the plains-eating Kjeldoran Outpost. It's hard to imagine building a deck like this in today's environment because the deck uses absolutely broken cards, like Zuran Orb, Land Tax, and Balance, that were restricted to a single copy per deck. What we can take from it is its reliance on inexpensive creatures with a good power-to-casting-cost ratio and a few late-game, back-breaking creatures.

The next time a White Weenie deck made its presence known on the tournament scene was a couple of years later when Matt Linde won the 1998 U.S. Nationals and Brian Hacker made Top 8 at the World Championships with the following deck designed by Kyle Rose (it seems a shame not to give him credit considering that he also created the deck after this).

Matt Linde's White Weenie

1998 U.S. Nationals and World Championships

At the time this deck was played, the most popular decks were aggressive red decks that relied on efficient creatures and burn spells to kill their opponents quickly. This deck was able to gain life with Soul Warden to give the red player an uphill climb. To make matters worse, the deck had seven creatures with protection from red and eleven with protection from black. The en-Kor creatures allowed you to redirect damage done to them to another creature—effectively giving the en-Kors protection from red and black as well. (The damage prevention rules were different back in 1998, but this trick still works.)

This deck had creatures to spare and seven fewer lands than the previous deck. While it did not have any large creatures, such as the Serra Angel, it could make a huge creature with the curiously spelled Empyrial Armor. Cataclysm was this deck's closer, leaving each player with only one of each type of permanent after it resolved. An Armored shadow creature was often too much for a player to race after the Cataclysm.

Interestingly, both decks made use of the recently reprinted White Knight. Will White Knight make it into our version? When Kyle Rose built the following 1999 U.S. Nationals - winning deck he did not have White Knight to play with and instead used the Longbow Archers that replaced it in the base set.

Kyle Rose's White Weenie

1999 U.S. Nationals

This deck relied on six creature enhancers in Crusade and Glorious Anthem to make its men larger. It also took advantage of a loophole in the Magic rules that made Waylay into a virtual Ball Lightning for a brief period in time. Originally designed as a combat trick to make instant blockers, Waylay put three 2/2 tokens into play that were destroyed at the end of turn. Under pre-Sixth Edition rules, there was no way for the tokens to survive until the next turn. With Sixth Edition rules in effect, however, that changed. If you played the spell during your opponent's end-of-turn step after end-of-turn effects had triggered, the tokens would stick around until the next end of turn step. This meant you would have three extra creatures to attack with on your turn. Waylay was soon errated to say that you could play it only during combat. This deck also featured the en-Kors and protection from red creatures, as well as Mother of Runes. The big guy in this deck was the Masticore.

The most recent incarnation of White Weenie that achieved success at a high-level tournament was Kai Budde's Rebel deck from the 2000 Pro Tour - Chicago.

Kai Budde's Rebels

2000 Pro Tour - Chicago

This deck is very different than the previous decks in that it takes full advantage of the Rebel mechanic that was introduced in the Mercadian Masques expansion. The seemingly lowly Ramosian Sergeant has been compared to some of the most powerful card-drawing spells in the game, including Ancestral Recall and Necropotence. If Ramosian Sergeant survived to the third turn of the game, it would set into motion a chain of events that was almost impossible to recover from. Even more frustrating was the presence of Parallax Wave in the deck. It could be used to either clear the way for your ever-growing Rebel army to attack unhindered or to save the key creatures from removal by tucking them safely under the Wave.

Of all the White Weenie variations throughout the years, it is my opinion that Rebels was the most powerful and consistent deck. While there are Rebels available for us to use now, none have the search mechanic that made this deck the powerhouse that launched Kai's torrid winning streak at Pro Tours.

How can we borrow elements from all of these decks to build a competitive deck that uses only Onslaught and Legions cards? Let's review . . .

  • We know that we want efficient creatures. Sadly, we won't find anything better than 2/2 for two mana.
  • We want a game-breaking creature or spell.
  • Creature enhancers will make your cheap creatures bigger.
  • Effects that wear off "at end of turn" can be manipulated to your advantage.
  • You need you be able to protect your creatures and remove your opponent's creatures.
  • Take advantage of good mechanics that are currently available to you.
  • You can run less land than other decks if your spells don't require much mana.

I came up with two decks that both revolve around the "tribal" themes of the Onslaught block—specifically, Soldiers. Sadly, this will keep the newly returned White Knight on the bench for both decks. Also on the bench is every creature that isn't either efficient of game breaking—or both.

The first deck uses Astral Slide in the same way that Kai's Rebel deck relied on Parallax Wave as an offensive and defensive tool.

White Slide

The idea is to quickly amass an army and use the Whipcorder and the Astral Slide to negate your opponent's creatures. With its provoke ability, Deftblade Elite becomes a tiny assassin when powered up by creature enhancers like Piety Charm and Gempalm Avenger's cycle trigger. While you're cycling and removing blockers with the Astral Slide, your Stoic Champion can swing in for 4 and 6 a turn. You might not want to cycle all of your Akroma's Blessings, though, as they will save your team from a Starstorm or a Slice and Dice or just allow you to give your entire team protection from whatever color your opponent's team is sporting at the time and swing in for the win.

Kyle Rose's "at end of turn" trick can actually be applied to this deck as well. Because creatures removed from the game with Astral Slide do not return until the next beginning of an end-of-turn step, you can set up things so that you remove your opponent's creatures from the game during his or her end-of-turn step and not have them return until the end of your turn.

The other deck that I came up with exploits Mobilization and Shared Triumph—sorry, I don't do Lite decks.

Triumphant White

The Triumph is functionally the same as a Crusade in this deck with only Exalted Angel failing to gain any benefit from it. It requires more mana than the previous decks since you will have to get to four mana to unmorph your Angel in this deck and you want to be able to get multiple activations from your Mobilization. In the other deck, you could at least use the Slide even stuck at three lands. Without much cycling, I removed the Stoic Champion and replaced it with Catapult Squad to fully exploit the Mobilization. As none of your soldiers will tap to attack, you can swing with them and use them to kill any blockers your opponent throws in the way. In combination with a Shared Triumph, you will be spitting out a 2/2 creature with each activation.

And this was just Soldiers! There are many decks we could have built around Clerics or even decks that did not rely on creature type at all. If you are worried about enchantments and artifacts, you can use Windswept Heath to access green mana for Nantuko Vigilante. If you are worried about mass removal, that same green mana can be used to foil it with Caller of the Claw—one of my favorite cards in the new set!

Don't let the cutesy name fool you—a White Weenie deck can be a powerhouse. I hope I have given you some ideas you can use to try to build your own new version of the oldest Magic deck type. Until next week when I make clarifying something a high priority I can be reached at the address below.

Brian may be reached at brian@fightlikeapes.com.
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