We’re deep into the second week of War of the Spark Standard, and the major players have established themselves. Esper is taking advantage of all of its new tools, as can only be expected, and Simic Nexus surged in popularity thanks to the powerful additions of Blast Zone and Tamiyo, Collector of Tales. As is tradition for week one Standard, however, the show was ultimately stolen by a bunch of mono-red decks, dominating the top tables. There will inevitably be a strong reaction to this — already Esper decks are adding more copies of Oath of Kaya and replacing Cast Down with Moment of Craving. The metagame will adjust to become extremely hateful to the red deck for a few weeks, until its next shift. In the meantime, we’re left with a Standard format whose winning tables will be dangerously short on Goblin Chainwhirler, and that means it’s time to take a closer look at Legion’s Landing.
This format’s white beatdown decks are extremely powerful, with two incidental anthems in the form of Benalish Marshal and Venerated Loxodon, a bunch of Savannah Lions, difficult-to-answer two-drops, and the outrageously powerful Legion’s Landing. War of the Spark gave the deck a few new tools as well, in the form of Law-Rune Enforcer, an oddly powerful creature that finally upgrades the mediocre Hunted Witness slot, and Gideon Blackblade, an excellent tool against control decks. Today, I’ll be highlighting two variants of the white aggro strategy meant for two different metagames. Let’s start with the more reasonable version, featuring a light blue splash, before diving into the thoroughly unreasonable version that cuts all the two-drops in favour of relying on Unbreakable Formation to crash through.
Azorius Aggro – Daniel Fournier
This build’s greatest change from past versions of the deck is the unintuitive decision to play maindeck copies of Teferi, Time Raveler. Normally, a planeswalker like this would seem to be an odd choice for a beatdown deck that can’t even make use of one of the card’s abilities, but there’s more than meets the eye to this erstwhile fellow. Teferi vaguely fits in to the deck’s removal slots, with a single Conclave Tribunal being cut to make room, and truly is as close to a removal spell as they come in a deck as furiously aggressive as these white aggro strategies. Bouncing a problematic creature a single time is more likely than not to present lethal on either that turn or a consecutive turn, removing lots of the downside of a bounce effect over hard removal. The other major upside is much less hidden — Teferi’s static ability is a huge problem for two thirds of the top tier metagame. Wilderness Reclamation is fully blanked, while Esper is forced to play at sorcery speed, with their counterspells ineffective until they deal with a planeswalker that isn’t part of what’s threatening their life total. Eventually, Teferi can minus a second time, generating significant on-board and card advantages.
The ultimate effect of having this card in your white aggro deck is that it ups your versatility, allowing you the flexibility to deal with a wider variety of situations that might otherwise shut down your main beatdown strategy. As such, you can slow things down a bit and play cards that are more powerful, but require setup, like a full play-set of Snubhorn Sentry and Law-Rune Enforcer. This version of the deck is, therefore, better suited to fighting against a wide metagame. It’s not as fast and furious as more streamlined builds, but is capable of winning longer, stranger games.
- +2 Disdainful Stroke
- +3 Dovin’s Veto
- +3 Gideon Blackblade
- -2 Conclave Tribunal
- -2 Snubhorn Sentry
- -4 Venerated Loxodon
The problem cards in this matchup are, of course, Cry of the Carnarium and Kaya’s Wrath. Snubhorn Sentry and Venerated Loxodon are threats that require you to open yourself up to mass removal in order to be effective, and therefore they’re subject to some trimming. Law-Rune Enforcer stays in despite the relative lack of creatures in order to keep up the one-drop count for Legion’s Landing, and to combat potential Thief of Sanity.
The red matchup is in no way ideal, but this deck has a fairly solid plan against it. Try your absolute hardest to not leave yourself open to Goblin Chainwhirler, and save Conclave Tribunals for four-drops rather than spending them on creatures that you can outclass on board.
Loosely speaking, the only card that matters in the mirror is Benalish Marshal, so save your removal to fight over it, while making sure that you, of course, don’t get overrun.
So where do we go from here? How can we improve this deck? Well, to start off, the two-drops are rather lackluster against everything other than control, and even control decks are fairly well set-up to deal with them, so long as they expect aggro to be a part of the metagame. Furthermore, the most powerful cards in this deck synergize much better with cheaper creatures and specifically playing two one-drops on turn two: Legion’s Landing and Venerated Loxodon. Luckily, there are countless reasonable one-drops in this format, so we get to pick and choose the most powerful.
The first twelve slots are stock among all white aggro decks: Legion’s Landing, Dauntless Bodyguard and Skymarcher Aspirant are the best options by far. The next two — Snubhorn Sentry and Leonin Vanguard — are shoe-ins so long as we have this one-drop count, while a pair of Law-Rune Enforcers round out our suite of interactive options quite nicely. We’re left with space for four more cards, assuming we want to run an ambitious 18 lands to take advantage of how consistent Legion’s Landing is in deck. My choice for this slot is Haazda Marshal, as it has, to me, the highest upside of the remaining terrible creatures. Yes, we could play Healer’s Hawk or Hunted Witness, but I’d rather something that plays into the deck’s synergies. Our low land count locks us out of History of Benalia, and so we want more cards to contribute to City’s Blessing. Haazda Marshal does that quite well. It also gives us access to the outrageous opening line of three one-drops in the first two turns, one of which is Marshal, another being Legion’s Landing, followed by a third-turn Unbreakable Formation and a post-combat Venerated Loxodon. Beat that.
This build of the deck is substantially more aggressive, more powerful, and breaks the mirror wide open, but comes at a huge cost: it’s nigh-impossible to deviate from your linear gameplan. If there’s lots of Goblin Chainwhirlers around, steer clear.
One-Drop White – Daniel Fournier
This version of the deck can’t combat mass removal as effectively as the more midrange build, so you’re stuck with using your brain to figure out when to wrath check, and when not to. Try your hardest to flip Legion’s Landing, as it’s very hard to lose if you do. Unfortunately, Unbreakable Formation is not an effective answer to Kaya’s Wrath, as our low land count makes it very difficult to hold up mana and allows our opponents to just kill us with spot removal and card draw if we do.
- +4 Baffling End
- +4 Tocatli Honor Guard
- -4 Haazda Marshal
- -4 Unbreakable Formation (draw)
- -4 Conclave Tribunal (play)
This is by far our worst matchup, and I strongly recommend not playing this build into a metagame full of red. Try to only keep hands that can beat Goblin Chainwhirler, either with Unbreakable Formation or Venerated Loxodon.
Nexus is very, very easy for this aggressive version of the deck, and the only way to lose is to a very fast combo, so a play-set of Demystify ensures that this can never happen.