Sanctuary Warden Art by Johannes Voss

Standard Mono White Control Deck Guide: Breaking the White Whale

For those of you who don’t have too long playing, let me tell you a story. During the first years of the game and many times after that, iterations of the Mono White Control archetype were part of the competitive scene.

George Baxter’s “White Trash” featuring powerful cards like Balance and Land Tax from the 1996’s competitive scene or Big White with Gauntlet of Power and Adarkar Valkyrie. We also had Mageta the Lion and Blinding Angel in the Mercadian Masque’s block format, as well as the Sun Titan and Stoneforge Mystic Extended (a longer rotating format that Modern replaced) deck.

Mono White Control has been there as an option with incredible capabilities to power out the games with the help of expensive spells, good cards to secure our land drops, and without a doubt, the best sweepers of the game. When a format has cards that let us fulfill these requirements, Mono White Control is clearly a good choice.

Stephen Magee realized that the current Standard has all the pieces the archetype need to stand out. He proved it with back to back top 8’s during the second weekend of April. 2nd place during GGtoor Cup #4 and 5th place the day after on The Pizza Box Open. With minor changes between the lists and defeating incredibly powerful archetypes of pre-Streets of New Capenna Standard like Temur Midrange, Boros and Mono White Aggro, Esper Planeswalker, Naya Runes and even the great Orzhov Midrange, a deck that many claimed to be the best one during the last Standard.

It’s clear that with Street of New Capenna’s release many things are going to change, but two things are certain:

  • Many of the aforementioned archetypes are going to stick around, with or without new cards.
  • Having a solid and cohesive deck that can play any match without stumbling is key against the new decks that are going to be around.

To explain further how this archetype is capable of all this, let me share with you both of Stephen’s lists:

Mono White Control by Stephen Magee – 2nd GGtoor #4
by Bohe
Standard
Control
best of 3
11 mythic
30 rare
9 uncommon
10 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (4)
Creatures (1)
Instants (8)
1
Valorous Stance
$0.25
3
Fateful Absence
$6.87
Sorceries (14)
2
Banishing Slash
$0.50
2
Doomskar
$4.98
3
Farewell
$20.97
4
Emeria’s Call
$25.96
Artifacts (6)
2
Portable Hole
$5.98
Enchantments (4)
60 Cards
$312.82
15 Cards
$24.95
Standard Mono White Control by Stephen Magee – 5th The Piz
by Bohe
Standard
Control
best of 3
11 mythic
30 rare
9 uncommon
10 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (4)
Creatures (2)
1
Legion Angel
$0.79
Instants (6)
2
Fateful Absence
$4.58
Sorceries (14)
2
Banishing Slash
$0.50
2
Doomskar
$4.98
3
Farewell
$20.97
4
Emeria’s Call
$25.96
Artifacts (7)
3
Portable Hole
$8.97
Enchantments (4)
60 Cards
$309.86
Sideboard
1
Fleeting Spirit
$0.25
3
Legion Angel
$2.37
3
Divine Smite
$0.75
2
Sanctify
$0.50
1
Portable Hole
$2.99
15 Cards
$19.21

Minimal changes but the same idea. I said in one of my last articles: “If you want to make an archetype work, see how that strategy is doing in other formats”. This is a clear example of this, even if “other formats” means some very old ones. At the end, I’m not sure how Stephen got the idea of exploring this archetype, especially in a competitive manner, but in one way or another, all the bases for how this kind of deck work are there.

Expensive spells that can end the game as soon as possible or turn the table in our favor like Starnheim Unleashed are in the mix. Ways to assure us to get our land drops and also mana advantages over our opponents exist in form of Reckoner Bankbuster and The Restoration of Eiganjo; all this while having the best sweepers in the current format: Doomskar and Farewell.

With all these keys for succeeding with the archetype, not valuing how powerful it is is probably a mistake. That’s why I took the time to analyze Streets of New Capenna on a mission to see if this iteration of Mono White Control could be improved, and dear readers, the answer is yes.

The first time I saw this creature my mind went directly to Stephen’s lists and said: “This is the only missing piece of the puzzle!” Yes, we have all the tools in Standard for making this deck great, I defer to the results, but looking back at the great successful iterations of the archetype, a creature like this was the only thing that could make the deck better.

Back in the day our options for covering this part of the strategy were things like Baneslayer Angel, Lyra Dawnbringer, or even Exalted Angel. All these angels share more things than just a creature type. They have evasion, have a way to make us stay longer in the game thanks to their lifelink ability, and help us close games very fast with just two attacks most of the time.

Sanctuary Warden of all the iterations of the “Angel Finisher” is without a doubt the one that is going to be most problematic to our opponents. This new creature from Streets of New Capenna comes into play with two shield counters, making it survive all kind of removal, not once but two times. It also makes 1/1 bodies if needed. What else could we ask for? Card drawing? Why not! This creature also lets us draw cards when we remove counters from a creature or a planeswalker we control. Yes, if we want to keep the two shield counters, we could also remove a counter from our The Wandering Emperor… This card is amazing for this archetype!

With some arrangements and making the deck keep all the tools that led it to succeed in recent tournaments, I made a list that treads firmly in the new Streets New Capenna Standard.

New Capenna Mono White Control
by Bohe
Standard
Control
best of 3
13 mythic
28 rare
9 uncommon
10 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (4)
Creatures (3)
1
Legion Angel
$0.79
Instants (6)
2
Fateful Absence
$4.58
Sorceries (13)
2
Banishing Slash
$0.50
2
Doomskar
$4.98
2
Farewell
$13.98
4
Emeria’s Call
$25.96
Artifacts (7)
3
Portable Hole
$8.97
Enchantments (4)
60 Cards
$306.66
Sideboard
3
Legion Angel
$2.37
2
Divine Smite
$0.50
2
Sanctify
$0.50
1
Farewell
$6.99
3
Pithing Needle
$4.47
1
Portable Hole
$2.99
15 Cards
$20.19

Let’s break this down a little bit more. Like I mentioned before, many of the current top tier decks are still going to be around, but there’s one major thing we have to keep in mind; You have to play Ob Nixilis, the Adversary or be ready to face it.

We have plenty of evidence about how good this archetype is against against the meta game prior to New Capenna. We have many good removal spells and sweepers against aggro, very good ways of generating card advantage and good trades against attrition matches, but how are we going to beat Ob Nixilis decks?

This first step towards this is keeping turn 1 and 2 creatures out of the way, letting us avoid Ob Nixilis generating a copy of itself. 4 March of Otherworldly Light and Portable Hole are perfect for the task, not only getting those creatures out of the way, but also keeping those creatures out of the graveyard, avoiding any kind of advantage it tries to generate while dying when Ob Nixilis uses its casualty trigger. Even Banishing Slash, Fateful Absence or our sweepers can help with that also.

Then, going for Ob Nixilis itself could be tackled in many different ways. Fateful Absence can directly target this planeswalker, but attacking while having creature superiority is not a problem. Many of our creatures attack for 4: Legion Angel, Reckoner Bankbuster or even an early turn 3 flyer in the form of an angel from Starnheim Unleashed. They can all kill Ob even if it gets 4 loyalty using its +1 ability. We can also deal damage with The Restoration of Eiganjo or even The Wandering Emperor tokens – this planeswalker is not going to have an easy life while being on the board against us.

And that’s not all. How many remember that Pithing Needle is Standard legal? With 3 copies of this artifact in our sideboard, along with Divine Smite and the last copy of Portable Hole, any deck trying to play this new planeswalker is going to face strong opposition when going against us.

With this approach we don’t lose any of our tools against other archetypes and our core is basically the same as those that had those impressive endings during April’s tournament scene.


Potential Inclusions / Notable Exclusions

Clearly Skyclave Apparition is an obvious good card for us. It lets us remove problematic permanents from the field like Ob Nixilis, the Adversary, Esika's Chariot, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, etc.

Nevertheless, keeping our opponents board as empty as possible is key to succeed, and letting them have 3/3 or 4/4 spirit tokens is something we don’t like very much. However, Stephen plays 1-3 copies of this creature between the main and sideboard. Going for it is not wrong if you think it’s needed.

Archon of Emeria is a very good card against certain matchups. Naya Runes suffer a lot facing this creature. If those kinds of decks arise, playing this card is a good way to deal with that problem.

Streets of New Capenna brings a new wrath effect in form of Depopulate. I’ve said many times during my streams that this could be better than Doomskar in some situations. Now, we also play Starnheim Unleashed, another card with foretell.

In some tournament environments when we have to play with open lists, foretelling Starnheim Unleashed could make our opponents think twice before crowding the board. I think that it would be a meta call when choosing between both sweepers.

It could seem weird, but Valorous Stance could be a good call. There are so many 4 toughness or greater creatures in Standard right now. Killing them for 2 mana at instant speed is very good.

It also lets us protect our win conditions a little bit more. Again, if the meta starts moving in a way where this card could shine more that any of our removals, I could think about playing it in a 2-4 split between my 75 cards.

For better or worse, there aren’t many graveyard shenanigans in the format right now. If that kind of strategy starts being popular, some copies of Lion Sash could be great against them.

Reidane, God of the Worthy is great against other slower decks, effectively taxing their expensive cards, letting us get a good tempo swing against them. Also, Valkmira, Protector’s Shield, the back side of Reidane shuts off Oni-Cult Anvil. Keep this card in mind if the meta shifts in a way where we may need it.


Matchups and Sideboard Guide

Farewell Art by Seb McKinnon
Farewell Art by Seb McKinnon

First week of New Capenna Standard. It’s uncertain how this new iteration of the premier competitive format will evolve. However, many of the old decks are going to be there (with some improvements), and many new strategies are going to start to arise.

My best point of reference is the first big new Standard tournament, hosted this week by Crimson Cup. Almost 60 Japanese players battled in this exciting new format. Tackling the top 4 archetypes can give us a very good idea of how we have to play the next few weeks.

Jund Tokens

InOut
+3 Pithing Needle-3 Starnheim Unleashed
+1 Portable Hole-2 Doomskar
+2 Divine Smite-2 Reckoner Bankbuster
+2 Sanctify-1 The Wandering Emperor

First things first. We need to face this match properly by having enough tools to stop early creatures, letting us deny the copy of Ob Nixilis, the Adversary. Then, we have to take care of the planeswalker and/or all the very good artifacts and enchantments they have that let them grind the game.

For the first task, our fourth Portable Hole and our two Divine Smite are a key part of upgrading our removal. Exiling cards like Tenacious Underdog instead of destroying them is very good for us. Pithing Needle is also here for fulfilling this part of the plan. It not only lets us stop Ob Nixilis effectively for just one mana (not many players are going for Abrade). It also lets us stop Lolth, Spider Queen, Esika's Chariot crew ability, Bloodtithe Harvester or even creature lands like Hive of the Eye Tyrant or Den of the Bugbear.

Then, for the second part, Sanctify will check Esika's Chariot, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and The Meathook Massacre. I don’t remember when was the last time I played an effective Disenchant effect in my sideboard, but this time, dear readers, realizing that the meta is heavy with this type of cards will let us take advantage of it.

We want to draw cards, but before thinking about playing a turn 2 Reckoner Bankbuster, we have to think about dealing with their creatures. On the other hand, Doomskar could be good because even if they just play 10 creatures, they crowd the board quick with Chariot, Lolth, the Fable token, etc. In this case we have many good spot removal to hold the game until we find our copies of Farewell (cutting a second Emperor for the third Farewell is possible).

Finally, Starnheim Unleashed is good after controlling, but I definitely don’t want to be in a spot where this card is in my opening hand against this matchup. That’s why we sideboard all these cards out and solidify our early and mid game plans against Jund.

Mono White

InOut
+3 Pithing Needle-4 Reckoner Bankbuster
+1 Portable Hole-1 Starnheim Unleashed
+1 Farewell

Like the old saying goes, “Weeds are not killed by the frost.” I’ve said many times before that going with an aggro deck that consistently exerts pressure is always a good idea in new formats.

As incredible as it seems, playing Pithing Needle is very good here. It not only lets us shut down The Wandering Emperor but also the new card of the deck, Elspeth Resplendent for just one mana. It would be highly unlikely that they would bring in Skyclave Apparition against us, so with our needles in play, buying a lot amounts of time can be easy. Don’t forget that needle also stops Cave of the Frost Dragon and Crawling Barrens from becoming creatures.

We don’t have much time for playing and paying for Reckoner Bankbuster‘s ability, so until next match, dear mech.

Orzhov Angels

InOut
+1 Portable Hole-2 Sanctuary Warden
+2 Divine Smite-2 Reckoner Bankbuster
+1 Farewell

Well, as many of us expected, Giada, Font of Hope is here and strongly pushing Angel Aggro to the next level. I really don’t like taking about Sanctuary Warden because of how good it is, but against a 4 Vanishing Verse deck… Better safe than sorry. Paying 6 for the angel and then losing it against a two mana removal is not a good plan, even if we draw 1 card and can let one 1/1 on the battlefield.

Portable Hole is key. Even if they just play 8 two mana creatures and no one drops, taking out Giada, Font of Hope and Youthful Valkyrie out of the field during the early game will drastically improve our chances of survival.

Divine Smite could seem like “too much”, but having a two mana instant answer to Liesa, Forgotten Archangel is a chance I’m going to take. It’s crucial to win against this tribe to keep Liesa out; the high amount of recursion it gives to their strategy is something we don’t want to face.

Esper Midrange

InOut
+3 Pithing Needle-2 Sanctuary Warden
+1 Portable Hole-2 Doomskar
+2 Divine Smite-2 Reckoner Bankbuster
+2 Sanctify-2 Starnheim Unleashed

Another old acquaintance of the last months of Standard. Probably the one with the most new cards in it. They play Raffine, Scheming Seer, Tenacious Underdog, Giada, Font of Hope and some Void Rend in their sideboard.

Pithing Needle is very good once again. We have many good targets for it in the form of Kaito Shizuki, Sorin the Mirthless and The Wandering Emperor. Portable Hole is also good because they have 8 key two mana creatures and we have a very high chance of facing a pair of s post sideboard.

Divine Smite has many good targets and Sanctify checks Wedding Announcement, The Meathook Massacre and Reckoner Bankbuster.

Sadly, we have to take out Sanctuary Warden again. Trading this creature for a Vanishing Verse is something I really try to avoid. Nevertheless, depending on how the match goes, in ranked games where we are not playing with open lists, if you don’t show the angel during the first two games sneaking it in for the third game could be a good option.


Tips and Tricks

  • Emeria's Call makes all our other (non-Angel) creatures indestructible for one turn. We don’t play many creatures, but remembering this could lead us to many victories.
  • We don’t talk a lot about Banishing Slash. Having this card lets us cover a lot of problematic cards while giving us a body at the same time. Remember how many cards it could destroy during each match and save it for the best moment. Just remember that it only puts down the 2/2 samurai token if you have both an artifact and an enchantment.
  • Removing cards from our hand for March of Otherworldly Light could be hard sometimes, but getting rid of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben as soon as possible is always part of our plan (I even had to pitch two cards for this during the early game, but this deck’s recovery potential is incredible)! Don’t hesitate.
  • March of the otherworldly Light is extremely good against creature lands too.
  • The Restoration of Eiganjo is a crucial part of our plan. We don’t have Land Tax or Weathered Wayfarer like other old iterations of this archetype, but this enchantment serves well for assuring us our land drops, effectively ramping us one turn and sometimes a free Reckoner Bankbuster is always appreciated. Finally, Architect of Restoration lets us compete for the board quite well.
  • Crawling Barrens doesn’t have to became a creature when we activate its ability. Have this in mind against damage based removals the first few times you put counters on it.
  • We haven’t mentioned Elite Spellbinder yet, but having this card in our sideboard is incredible against other control decks. Delaying their win conditions or key cards helps us a lot.

Round Up

I can’t mention enough how healthy Standard is with recent expansions bringing us a lot of tools for brewing a vast number of different strategies. I could say that even with Ob Nixilis, the Adversary around, I’ll been enjoying playing Standard a lot.

Working with The White Whale was incredible. The deck is very fun to play, is really strong and solid against a wide variety of archetypes and without a doubt, is a force to be reckoned with. We have all the bases that have made this kind of deck succeed during the history of the game; not playing it is, in my mind, just a waste of great opportunity.

Thanks, dear readers for being here once again. Let me know what you think on my social media or stream, and until the next time; remember to smile when your day starts. It can make a difference. ♥

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Bohe

A full time MTG content creator. Started playing Magic in 99’ with the release of Urza’s Destiny, 3 times Grand Prix attendant (1 as a player ending #78 and 2 as a judge). Mexican, lover of coffee, Korean culture, languages and ex-LoL coach.
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