M13 Set Review: White

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Ajani, Caller of the Pride: There are some obvious upsides. Starting with four loyalty and costing only three mana are the headlines; particularly given you’ll generally use the +1 ability on the first turn. The real problem for Ajani is the competition at the three spot. Before the rotation you have Mirran Crusader, Fiend Hunter, Blade Splicer, Geist of Saint Traft, Sword of War and Peace, Sword of Feast or Famine, Lingering Souls, and Silverblade Paladin, among others. The competition for the three slot should thin considerably after the rotation, but even so, Ajani isn’t anywhere near the power level of Elspeth or his previous incarnations. Gaining doublestrike and flying is nice, but for it to be particularly useful the creature needs to have a modicum of power. Sitting around giving your creatures +1/+1 counters is fun, but it just a step above durdling if your opponent is actively doing things that threaten to win the game. As for the ultimate, it will not be easy to achieve, and against the decks where it is achievable it is least effective due to the threat of mass removal. Overall I see Ajani as a niche player.

Addendum: I underestimated the power of the -3 ability. The mere threat of it creates positive game states. I’m not sold on Ajani as a four-of in White Aggro, but he is very aggressive and tough to kill.

Ajani’s Sunstriker: I like cats a lot, as my cat Molly can attest. Having said that, it’s better to be a human, if only due to Champion of the Parish. Furthermore, in general White can do much better than 2/2 lifelink for two mana, such as first strike, vigilance, and a limited form of protection.

Angel’s Mercy: Was in the sideboard in a Pro Tour winning deck list. I’d say Angel’s Mercy proved its high school guidance counselor wrong. Having said that, there are better life gain cards. 🙂

Angelic Benediction: Would this have been broken had it cost 1W? Maybe it would unbalance Limited, but I am skeptical.

Attended Knight: A 2/2 first strike creature is worth more than one mana, but less than two. A vanilla 1/1 is worth less than zero mana and a card, but the combo is worth paying three for, especially in Limited. In Constructed you are getting two dudes for three mana, and in a world with less mass removal, the ability to have two men to equip could prove quite useful. One of the few potential Pauper stars in the set as well, although Pauper WW seems pretty well satisfied right now as Alex Ullman’s June numbers will show. As commons go, Attended Knight is pretty solid.

Aven Squire: I don’t know why, but Exalted simply does not impress me, at least not when it costs me roughly -1/-1.

Battleflight Eagle: An overcosted flyer does not become good just because it has a pump spell attached to it. I can live with paying two mana for a 2/2 with no additional text beyond flying. This is just too costly to like.

Captain of the Watch: Nine power for six mana, that’s comparable to the Titans, right? Of course, the Titans all survived a Slagstorm, and would be unimpressed by a Mutilate for three. As a general rule, aggro decks avoid six drops, and control decks look for more resilient finishers than this.

Captain’s Call: I know we can pump tokens with Crusade effects, but this still feels underpowered. Paying one mana for an additional 1/1 creature is fine, but two mana is a bit much.

Addendum: Helps make certain strategies viable. A better enabler than I would have guessed.

Crusader of Odric: I’m not sold. Sure, White is full of token generators, but Crusader has no evasion, and dies to mass removal as all the little dudes die too. I get how sometimes you’ll get a 4/4 on turn three, and attack for five or more on turn four, so there is hope. Being a human soldier is a plus.

Addendum: Trying to make this absolutely huge is a viable game plan. Sometimes this plays out as a 7/7 for 2W.

Divine Favor: I used to love annoying people by siding in these against aggro decks. Be prepared, if you are trying to rush me in Limited and I am playing White, you’re gonna have a bad time. 🙂

Divine Verdict: Look, just because I’d kill for this in AVR limited, doesn’t mean four mana situational removal is a good thing. Well, then again, I’m pretty sure this is one of the few ways to kill a bomb in draft or sealed, so yeah, this is fine. In fact, it might even be good. Man, it feels weird to actually have some removal again in Limited.

Erase: No card advantage or life gain, but Erase does the job you need it to do, and it does it perfectly. No Rancor for you! Also, the art is lovely.

Faith’s Reward: The question is how can we sacrifice as many permanents as we can for fun and profit? In all seriousness I have no idea. I’m so used to sacrificing tokens, and since Zuran Orb was taken away so long ago I’m not aware of that many ways to sacrifice non-creatures. I’ll be on the lookout. If there aren’t many good ways (and yes, I am aware there are a few ways to sacrifice artifacts), then this won’t find a home.

Glorious Charge: This is much better as either an Enchantment, or as a three mana +2/+2 trick. As is it is a bit too weak.

Griffin Protector: I suppose occasionally this will be 4/5 or bigger, but, it is strictly a decent Limited card.

Guardian Lions: A Fortress Crab with… vigilance? That’s it? I’m supposed to pay one more mana for that? Ew! On the plus side, is that the New York Public Library?

Guardians of Akrasa: This was better without Exalted when it cost one less mana. Of course, it also drew a card. Yeah, that was better. As I said, I do not love Exalted, but… it does have synergy with walls, so I suppose I’ll play a few of these as late picks.

Healer of the Pride: So…with a Healer of the Pride in play Captain’s Call gains you six life and gives you three men. Yeah, Timely Reinforcements was utter bullshit. Having said that, I don’t particularly like Healer of the Pride.

Intrepid Hero: I guess if it lives it can protect you from large men. Works well against Exalted. Combos well with Rancor. Not much in the way of Constructed relevance though. Too slow/fragile/narrow.

Knight of Glory: White Knight. Order of Leitbur. Order of the White Shield. Knight of Glory. Sigh. I preferred the first three. Part of it is that I really don’t love Exalted. Attacking with only one dude is not nearly as fun as turning the team sideways. You also get shut down by one good blocker. Pump-knights also gave us more choices and decisions. As for White Knight, I mean, that was cool. Both original Knights had great flavor text. Now? Sigh. We’ve gone from slaying evil to upholding the law. First of all, not all laws are good or just. Second, where is there glory in upholding the law?

Oblivion Ring: Became a staple once WotC realized we really did need ways to directly interact with Planeswalkers.

Odric, Master Tactician: Pretty nuts if you can attack with a team (see. Exalted sucks!). There are some problems though: three power for four mana is fine, but it is better when it has flash, flies, is splashable, and blinks a dude. Also, with so many clone effects flying around, Legendary creatures are not to be trusted.

Addendum: After the rotation the only Clone we know of right now is the original. Odric can force no blocks, or terrible blocks, depending on the situation. That is incredibly strong. There is some tension between Ajani and Odric and I’m not sure which gameplan is best. Both are solid though.

Pacifism: See Defang, this is how it’s done!

Pillarfield Ox: I don’t even want to think about how many cards supersede this. Honestly, I have nothing against oxen, and don’t want them to feel bad.

Planar Cleansing: This is awful. If I don’t have men, I want to sweep the board much earlier than this. Furthermore, even if I was willing to pay six, I’d want to keep my planeswalkers, and losing my Oblivion Rings could prove fatal. The effect might be powerful enough to be a niche effect, but that’s about it.

Prized Elephant: As the cycle goes, this pachyderm is pretty weak. A situational 4/4 trampler isn’t that special for four mana.

Rain of Blades: Sandstorm, now with blades!

Rhox Faithmender: If this didn’t cost four mana I’d wonder if there were any infinite combos with it. Probably not either way.

Safe Passage: A Fog that allows for blowouts in limited is something you might want to remember when facing White magi.

Serra Angel: She was once awesome, but over the last 18 years there has been a new generation of hotness. Sorry Serra, you’re old and busted. Power creep does that to a lot of creatures. Go hang out with Erhnam Djinn, Juzam Djinn, and all the other formally awesome creatures that want to talk about the old days. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vQpW9XRiyM   Fatmoti is buying the 1st round.

Serra Avatar: This was only good when you played it in Sneak Attack. At this point it is chaff.

Serra Avenger: Combos well with Æther Vial. Pretty slow otherwise, but if you plan on having plenty of other things to spend your mana on early, it is mana efficient on turn four and onward. The problem is you generally want to be throwing haymakers at that point, and this isn’t quite up to snuff. I’m not certain this isn’t good enough, but it will need some way of being 4/4 or stronger, and it will need to go into a deck that is highly mana efficient.

Addendum: I’ve tested her and I’m still on the fence. Playing two of her is similar to playing turn two Intangible Virtue and a turn four Talrand’s Invocation. I think I prefer the latter.

Show of Valor: This is a sweet combat trick, so remember your opponents might have it.

Silvercoat Lion: What is cat for vanilla bear? Meow?

Sublime Archangel: Some cards are better than others. This card is the next utterly sick four drop in White’s arsenal. First, a 4/3 flyer for four mana is decent. Adding Exalted makes it marginally better, although still not quite good enough for showtime. Giving every other dude you have Exalted pushes it over the top. That means it provides additional damage the turn it comes into play, and then hits like a truck the next turn. Furthermore, this also means additional creatures summoned after the Archangel provide immediate bonuses. She is absolutely sweet and will see significant play. I mean, let’s put it this way: Even alone she is a 4/3 flyer for four that attacks as a 5/4. Just add men and things get out of hand pretty fast.

Addendum: The four drop competition in White is insane. I guess the best option will depend on the format and styles, but wow, are there a plethora of good options.

Touch of the Eternal: Coming to a kitchen tabletop near you!

War Falcon: There always has to be a catch when you get a 2/1 flyer for one mana (shut up Blue Magi!). I probably will have a soldier or knight available on my second turn and the Falcon can always block. I’m sure I’ll test out some decks with four Falcons. I guess my biggest concern is that opponents can kill my first knight or solider and slow me down too much, so we’ll see.

Addendum: So far in testing getting blown out by Bonfire of the Damned is a huge problem. C’est la vie.

War Priest of Thune: Hooray for “may” effects! Otherwise this might be pretty awkward with your Oblivion Rings and such. An occasionally useful sideboard card at worst. Also, a potentially great trick to blink with Restoration Angel.

Warclamp Mastiff: Hopefully AVR has begun to teach WotC that one power creatures for mana aren’t good enough unless they have fairly useful abilities. First strike sadly does not cut it.

Addendum: Party foul on me, I should have been more clear, I mean in Limited. In general a 1/1 for one is chaff.

How did White do overall? White is going to be losing a lot when the rotation occurs. There are no suitable replacements for Day of Judgment or Gideon. White will have to be more aggressive. Sublime Archangel and Odric, Master Tactician are interesting, as is Ajani. Oddly enough all of them are interesting, but none are clearly right relative to the others, and they lack synergy with each other. I’d estimate Sublime Archangel is the most powerful, so she is my guess for best of the three. Oblivion Ring is the most important reprint. Overall I get the sense that White’s power is being scaled back a bit, but not nearly as much as its partner in crime for last few years, Blue.

Addendum: Goodbye Timely Reinforcements. You were insane from Day 1.

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