Standard 2022 Mono White Aggro Guide: Strike First, Strike Hard!
“To me, this is when Magic is the most fun. It’s a time when deck building is fresh and challenging and everyone is hard at work innovating and trying to figure what cards are best and what are the best ways to use them.” – Craig Wescoe
What would it be if we wrote a column talking about White Weenie and didn’t start with a great quote from the greatest representative of White cards? For people who have been playing for some time, Craig’s name won’t be unfamiliar, but for those who are just starting out, if you are really interested in this archetype, getting familiar with Craig’s methodology will undoubtedly be of great help.
White Weenie decks are probably one of the oldest strategies in Magic history. This is due to its apparent simplicity; play cheap efficient creatures and overrun slower strategies before they get a chance to set up. This takes us to our first and most important question, what makes a creature efficient? Answering this can help us choose the best ones to fulfill our purpose.
“A measure of creature’s efficiency is the ratio between its power and its casting cost” – Brian David-Marshall
With this in mind and looking to our options, even if Standard 2022 is a small format, we have plenty of really efficient creatures in white: a lot of viable 1 mana drops, some 2 drops that can win the game really fast when unanswered, and very very good 3 drops that can seal the game right away!
When this kind of curving out with creatures is possible, White Weenie is generally a really powerful strategy. In fact, when our creature options are better than the removal options for our opponents, this can easily make White Weenie a tier 1 strategy, something that rings true in Standard 2022.
I started looking around for some lists to work with and I found 5.
- Santi Delgado 5-2 (Insight Esports: Tier 1 Games Open) and Tom Maxwell 4-2 (Hooglandia Standard 2022 Open) have really good runs and set the foundations of this archetype for the format.
- Then, a couple of days later I watched Mati Arvigo go 9-1 live with his own version:
- A list from Val, a french player that reach Mythic #333 a few days ago with his build:
After a 8-2 testing run with this list, I was pretty sure that the numbers and balance between creatures and non-creatures spells in it were close to optimal.
- The next list is just basically the same as Val, but with a change that is clearly aiming for closing the game faster:
Martin Juza’s Changes compared to Val’s
Martin went 6-0 during his Mono White video. He started with 3 Maul of the Skyclaves but, after realizing the power of Portable Hole in the format against other aggro strategies, he put in another copy instead of the 3rd Maul.
The Maul is great when we’re trying to close the game out quickly, but on the other hand, Reidane is great when we’re trying to tax out the opponent’s expensive Wrath effects (board wipes), something that is more important in my opinion.
Before anything else, we have to answer one question, which list is the best?
It’s hard to tell as each one has its own pros and cons. However, after all my tests and research about the archetype, my 8-2 run with Val’s list makes me think that is the best prepared to face the current metagame.
Adapting that list so that it would be functional for both BO1 and BO3 makes me end with something like this:
Explaining the Changes
After all those amazing lists, why should I do something different? The reason for my changes is clear. For those who are familiar with my Rakdos Midrange column, we discussed something about not having dead cards, a really important matter when we have a BO1 ladder for this format (Power Word Kill in Mardu’s case).
Having Portable Hole in the main deck is amazing when we face Mono Green, the mirror match, or other aggressive strategies. Even Martin Juza ended with 3, but when we are paired against Izzet Dragons or Dimir Control (two forces to be reckoned with in Standard 2022) most of the time we have an unplayable card in hand which is a huge liability if we’re trying not to fall behind.
With that, the inclusion of Sparring Regimen was amazing! Having access to the “Lesson board” in BO1 is something that most of the time is going to give us the upper hand against other decks that don’t have that capability, but most importantly, it’s a card that is functional in every matchup. Plus, In BO1 it is extremely rare that someone has a card that destroys an enchantment.
I tested this list on my stream and had a pretty smooth run from D3 to Mythic, with a rough 14-2 record on ladder.
One of the foundations of White Weenie is curving out with creatures. Since this is so important, I believe that that you need a minimum of 10 one drops.
Monk of the Open Hand and Usher of the Fallen are the creatures we want to play on the first turn of the game. Hitting with a 3/3 Monk is not rare if we play a Codespell Cleric on turn 2 + any other 1 drop. On the other hand, Usher is amazing when we are missing an on curve two drop because it lets us put another body using its Boast ability. Having said this, play Monk first if you have a good turn 2 play, but go for Usher if you don’t have a follow up.
Paladin Class is a good card, but the more I play with it, the more I think it’s not meant to be in this deck Anthem effects (+1/+1 all our team) are a core part of White Weenie strategies, but we are used to 2 or 3 mana cards like Honor of the Pure, Glorious Anthem, or Benalish Marshal.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the card. Having a mana sink for a turn without a creature play is good, the tax effect makes removal less efficient, but paying 4 total mana for an Anthem is something that White Weenie is not aiming to do.
The main reason for playing it here is the fact that we play 8 cards that have effects when we play 2 cards per turn (Monk and Codespell), so having two copies of this enchantment helps our ability to double spell while also providing a mana sink for later (we discuss later the possibility of using these as flex spots).
Clarion Spirit and Luminarch Aspirant are two amazing cards that could steal the game incredibly fast if they go unanswered. The capability of swarming the board quickly is incredibly good no matter the matchup. It lets us exert pressure against slower decks without committing too many resources and against other aggro strategies it lets us block the bigger threats or take the game by attacking inthe air. Luminarch Aspirant consistently overperforms, no matter the deck it’s in. It’s flexible, can let us attack or block better, and is one of our better creatures without a doubt.
Our three drops have mostly one reason, prevent or delay any wrath effect. Paulo Elite Spellbinder and Reidane, God of the Worthy are here for that sole purpose. There are A LOT of wrath effects now: Crippling Fear, Shadows' Verdict and Blood on the Snow are lurking around in almost every slower black based deck, however, the existence of these two creatures not only enable us to play against it, but can even make these matchups extremely easy with the right draws.
Skyclave Apparition on the other hand is another white creature present in almost every white creature based deck, and it’s not hard to figure out why. The great difference between it and any other kind of Oblivion Ring removal spell is that you don’t give back the card you take which is generally extremely relevant. Aim for a pesky blocker or something that delays your plans.
I have already explained a little why I decided to include Sparring Regimen. During my testing, this enchantment proved that it’s really strong most of the time. Going for Environmental Sciences helps us reach 4 mana which is important for playing Legion Angel, leveling up Paladin Class, and helps us get enough mana to double spell on a turn for Clarion Spirit, Monk, or Codespell.
It enables us to find removal for problematic permanents with Reduce to Memory.
Academic Probation is really good for avoiding wraths for one turn, enough time for closing games, and it removes blockers too! Furthermore, it costs two which is relevant for the two spells per turn mechanic.
Finally Mascot Exhibition lets us do something powerful when the games last longer than we expect to.
Legion Angel is incredibly good! Generally I don’t like to play 3+ mana creatures that could die against Frost Bite, but, when this calls all her sisters from the sideboard, most of the time it’s enough pressure to close oug hard games really quickly. I always refer to this card like a really big Squadron Hawk. Almost every deck opted to play those little hawks when they were around, so imagining them as a bigger version usually makes me happy to play them when I have the opportunity.
Our only main deck removal (besides Skyclave Apparition) is Kabira Takedown. I tried versions with 4 and versions with 2 and playing 4 Takedown and 4 Faceless Haven didn’t really work as this deck can’t handle two tap/colorless lands in the first two turns. Putting that aside, this has still performed really well in general as we can flood the board quick enough to make this a potent removal spell as early as turn 3.
Faceless Haven is in my opinion the best card in Standard 2022 so being able to play it is always a huge bonus. The best home for it is a mono colored deck, so playing it here is a must. Yes, I have to mulligan some hands when I have two on the opening hand because playing with two white sources is mandatory most of the time, but besides that isolated situation, this card is great.
If you feel Paladin Class and Sparring Regiment could be replaced, there are some really good options.
Kitesail Cleric and Star Pupil are two options to play instead of the Paladin Class. They obviously have different functions as Kitesail Cleric is great for disabling two blockers on turn 4+ or for having an evasive one drop. Star Pupil on the other hand, is good because it makes our opponent have a hard time deciding where to use their removal.
They have to kill other creatures trying to avoid the value of the +1/+1 counter, something that enables us to use Luminarch Aspirant and Codespell Cleric to make him bigger, or they kill him right away, something that doesn’t bother us too much. 10 one drops (without counting Codespell Cleric) are mandatory, so this is the more important reason to suggest other one mana spells if Paladin Class are going to be cut.
Maul of the Skyclaves is a really good card and its inclusion in this deck seems obvious, bu, in my opinion, it’s not what we want in White Weenie. I put it here as an option because it’s not bad to play a pair. It helps us to speed up the clock, grants evasion, and gives us another good turn 3 play if we don’t have our other options.
However, most of the time we prefer to play any other of our three drops first over the Maul. My reasoning is that most of our creatures are small which lowers the impact of the Maul and generally you want to play a Spellbinder or Reidane first to help protect the equipped creature. Again, it’s not bad to play two copies if you want or feel comfortable with it.
Icingdeath, Frost Tyrant is a solid creature from the new set. Like I said on my stream, I don’t like when we play 3+ mana value creatures with 3- toughness because Frost Bite is around, but if the creature gives us something even when bolted, then it gets my attention. Just like Legion Angel brings us her sisters, Icingdeath gives us a beautiful sword to work with, and if Icedeath sticks, a 4 power flying vigilance body is really good!
Another option I tried is
Cave of the Frost Dragon came to my mind when I tried the versions with 4 Kabira Takedown / Kabira Plateau and 4 Faceless Haven. Like I said before, this deck can’t handle two colorless/tap lands in the first two turns. Having a white source that can attack later is amazing, but the only downside of Cave is the cost for making it a creature. Faceless Haven just needs 3 mana while Cave needs 5. Despite this, playing a version with 2 Kabira and Cave instead of Faceless Haven is reasonable.
Professor of Symbology is great on BO1. Having access to lessons gives us the upper hand in a lot of games, but, even if it has 2 power, 1 toughness is problematic in this kind of aggressive strategy.
Trading efficiently is really important since combat matters a lot, and the fact that it could die to the ability of Shambling Ghast or Fireblade Charger that blocks another one of our creatures, or being blocked by a Pest make this card fall behind compared to other two drops. This card is great if you’re using it defensively, but that’s clearly not what our deck is trying to do.
Loyal Warhound reminds me of one of the best creatures in White Weenie history,
Another reason for avoiding this card (and Professor of Symbology too), is the fact that our best plays on turn two are: 1.- Two one drops that synergize with our two spells per turn core or 2.- A solid two drop that is good in every situation. Circumstantial cards like these two just don’t cut it. Plus, the 1 toughness is problematic for the same reasons as Professor of Symbology. If we are aiming for a full BO3 list, I would probably make some changes to play this card without a doubt.
If you are going to take this archetype to a tournament environment and want to be ready for BO3 matches, this is your section.
There are a lot of really interesting tournaments around using this format, and knowing how to sideboard against the Tier 1 opposition is fundamental if we want to achieve a good run.
|+3 Guardian of Faith||-2 Skyclave Apparition|
|-1 Reidane, God of the Worthy|
Even if Izzet doesn’t tend to play any kind of sweepers, Guardian of Faith has one ability that makes it incredible against this match: Flash.Izzet has a lot of instant speed interaction so having access to a card that can play the same game is really strong! Saving even one creature from a removal and putting a 3 power vigilance body on the board could turn the tide to our favor.
We take out 2 Skyclave Apparition because it only has one possible target in Galazeth Prismari, which is reason enough for keeping a pair of them. Reidane, God of the Worthy is a good card here, but since Izzet doesn’t play wrath effects, two is a good number to go with.
Izzet players are getting best prepared to face aggro strategies that swarm the board and they tend to prefer cheap spot removal, but they could run some board wipes as well. Knowing that it’s possible that they play Battle of Frost and Fire or Cinderclasm is key, and that’s when the main ability of Guardian of Faith shines the most!
|+3 Guardian of Faith||-4 Skyclave Apparition|
|+1 Divine Smite|
Guardian of Faith comes onto the board for two reasons. First is the aforementioned ability of Flash, incredibly relevant when we are playing against blue based decks. Second, which in this case more important, is the fact that it could save our team for just three mana. Black midrange/control decks now are playing an absurd amount of wrath effects main board. They mostly go with 2 Crippling Fear, 2 Shadows' Verdict, and 2 Blood on the Snow, so having a way to play around this is extremely important. Don’t forget that phasing out a token won’t make it disappear!
Divine Smite is another great card for sideboard proposes. Getting rid of planeswalkers like Professor Onyx (or Lolth, Spider Queen if used) is great. The fact that this card exiles them is incredibly relevant because of the existence of Blood on the Snow. This sorcery could eliminate all our creatures and then return a creature or planeswalker from our opponent’s graveyard, something that will generally win them the game.
So, exiling those with Divine Smite is great. The fact that we have access to the lesson board and Reduce to Memory is the reason that this card is played as a one off, but is possible to have a pair of Smites in the sideboard if you prefer (playing two Reduce changing one of the other lessons is possible too).
MONO GREEN AGGRO
On the Play
|+4 Portable Hole||-2 Paladin Class|
|-2 Elite Spellbinder|
On the Draw
|+4 Portable Hole||-2 Paladin Class|
|-2 Sparring Regimen|
Portable Hole is amazing here (and against any other aggro strategy too). It lets us remove almost everything and it costs just one mana, one of the reasons we take out Paladin Class (swap one mana card for one mana card). More importantly, Paladin Class goes out because Mono Green plays almost exclusively creatures, besides Snakeskin Veil and /or Blizzard Brawl, so the tax effect is almost irrelevant. Even if the global +1/+1 is good here, we prefer to be proactive and playing anything that impacts the board immediately is better than playing Paladin Class.
Now, when we are on the play, we keep Sparring Regimen because we can play it on turn 3 and attack most of the time without consequences. When we are on the draw, playing this on turn 3 when our opponent is going to have more creatures than us is incredibly awkward. On the play we are going to keep this card take out 2 Elite Spellbinder because having just 1 toughness is really bad in this matchup. Even if we can delay a Esika's Chariot, or win attacking by air, the best use for Elite Spellbinder is when we are delaying removal.
The other possible option is to take out Reidane, God of the Worthy, but it is better in this matchup than Spellbinder. On the play, delaying all Snow-Covered Forest by making them come into play tapped is incredibly powerful and it makes our opponent stumble really hard from time to time. Furthermore, using it as Valkmira could get you more games than you might think.
Tips and Tricks
If you have a Codespell Cleric and a Monk of the Open Hand but no 2nd turn play, you can have a passive turn 1 (maybe using the chance to play a tapped Kabira Plateau), and then play both on turn 2 for making a pair of 2/2 or a 3/3 and a 1/1 is a good play.
When you are deciding which one is the best turn one play, have this in mind:
- Monk of the Open Hand is the default best turn 1.
- Usher of the Fallen is our play if we don’t have a turn two play, because we can use the 2nd turn for making a token and use our mana efficiently.
- Paladin Class is good as first turn play when we have a solid 2nd turn play like Luminarch Aspirant or Clarion Spirit. This has better results against decks with spot removal because we aim to take advantage of the tax effect. Saving the other one mana cards for future turns could give us powerful play if used properly.
- Codespell Cleric is your last option for a turn 1 play, but is acceptable if you can curve out.
Clarion Spirit and
Playing Elite Spellbinder or Reidane, God of the Worthy on turn 3 or 4 is mandatory against possible sweepers. Time to time we could have explosive turn 3 plays, but even in our best scenario we can’t kill our opponents in that spot. Playing all our cards and exposing them to a wrath effect is a game deciding choice. If we are on the play and we can kill our opponent on turn 4, go for it, but if it’s not the case, go for Elite Spellbinder or Reidane.
Have in mind all the possible wrath effects: Battle of Frost and Fire, Crippling Fear, Shadows' Verdict, Blood on the Snow, Cinderclasm, and Doomskar are the most common ones you are going to face in competitive games.
Sparring Regimen UNTAPS the attacking creature we are targeting.
Playing Reidane, God of the Worthy as Valkmira, Protector’s Shield has won many games for me against Mono Green, Gruul, Mono White and many other aggressive strategies. Furthermore, it turns off Cinderclasm which is great! Don’t doubt playing the God as a Shield if you think it is worthy.
Play calmly. Sequencing your spells properly is key to achieving victory in any Magic game, but is especially true playing White Weenie or other aggro strategies. One simple one mana spell played in a different moment could be the difference between winning and losing. I lost some games leaving my opponent on 1 life and just because of that, I know that if I played my cards in a different order I could have won.
“White Weenie decks are simple in nature, but can be complex in execution.” – Eric Froehlich
Just like I said in the last tip, playing aggro well could be as challenging as any other deck. Even Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa (Elite Spellbinder himself) has a really good pair of videos on his YouTube channel talking about this (100% recommended).
Allowing us to explore the various archetypes leads us to become more complete Magic players. I’m not saying that we have to play “less powerful” strategies just to grow as players; for some people White Weenie could look like a pile of “weak cards”, but White Weenie IS NOT a weak archetype when we have the right cards for it. For Standard 2022 in particular, we have plenty of good tools to make it work!
Some of the oldest foundations of competitive Magic is White Weenie. Let me try to prove this:
- 96’ World Champion Tom Chanpheng
- 98’ US champion Matt Linde.
- 99’ US champion Kyle Rose.
- 2000 Kai Budde’s Rebels on PT Chicago.
- Kai Budde’s and Paul Rietzl’s top 8 decks from PT Amsterdam 2010 (designed by Gabriel Nassif).
- A Craig Wescoe life of MTG success playing White.
So, what else could I say?, If we are living in the right moment when we have good cards to play it, let’s do it!
Let me finish with another Craig’s Wescoe quote:
“Even if we got the idea from someone else, it becomes our own when we play it. Every idea comes from somewhere. It becomes our own when we find it and make those handful of changes to personalize it. We add our own signature style to someone else’s work or we build up our own creation from scratch. Either way, the deck we play tells a story about ourselves. Being different should be embraced and encouraged.”
Personally, I think this deck is great and can compete with the Big Three (Izzet, Dimir and Mono Green) and any other rogue archetypes. Have a great time playing and crushing the ladder or your next tournament with it!