Feature Article – Green-White in Standard


Hi all,

My name is William Cavaglieri and I’m a gamer from Italy (I guess that’s what I am, since I work in testing for a videogame company). As a Magic player, I’m a Constructed “specialist” with the unfortunate habit to skip PTs and GPs. In the last 2 years I collected 47 PT points – if I played all the European GPs and the Pro Tours, my average would be 34.6 points per season. 😀 Not that bad for Italy’s standards, a country that has 200 people on average at ptqs (we once had one with 380 bigger than a UK GP), yet it couldn’t win a single Pro Tour or Worlds in the history of the game – a feat that Portugal, Switzerland, and China, just to name a few, were able to accomplish before us.

Anyway, after years of being a normal Magic player (“Constructed is boring, let’s draft”), I moved to the odd side and now I enjoy more developing a deck than opening a pack. Don’t ask me how is that possible, it just happened.

Today I would like to talk about my preparation for PT San Diego and the deck I played.

I was sure I wasn’t going to attend PT San Diego due to work, so I didn’t bother to test. Of course, I found myself with an unexpected week off 12 days before departure. Handling this situation required various sets of skills:

1) Learning how to draft the new format, with only one real ZZW draft possible.

2) Finding a good deck. Consider I never touch a deck without a good sideboard and a clear plan with it.

3) Accommodate a bunch of commitments (“Darling, by the way, I’m going to California for a week”).

After some negotiations, point 3) was solved by skipping the trip to Las Vegas and pulling the “4 days there, 3 days traveling” stunt (such is life). For point 1), I did some fake drafts on draft.bestiaire.org/ to get familiar with the cards, bugged a bunch of friends with questions, and read everything available (thanks LSV for being the Gary Wise of our days; commenting every single card can be quite a pain, but it was very useful for me).

Now, about point 2). The first thing to do was to see how was the format pre-Worldwake, and predict the trends. After tracking numbers from every source available (including MTGO daily events decklists or Magic-League metagame breakdowns) I realized that:

– Jund was still the elephant in the room, but not as much as before, percentage wise.
– People liked mid-range White, more with Cobra and various splashes than anything else.
– Aggressive decks like monored and Boros were less and less popular.
– Control was decently represented, but underperforming. That didn’t surprise me, since a good 20% of Magic Spikes would play control all the times if they could.

Trends which were kinda easy to figure out:

– OMG-OMG-JACE! (its most appealing quality for a Magic Pro? It’s Blue).
– Vampires had a couple of nice, obvious additions. The typical deck for those who didn’t do their homework.
Kor Firewalker was too scary to expect a lot of Red aggro.
Knight of the Reliquary was on his way to reach the “stupid-good” level.

I therefore came to these conclusions:

Day of Judgment was positioned better than before, even with the manlands around. Vampires, GW, White Weenie”¦ Even Jund seemed more vulnerable, with Great Sable Stag and Siege-Gang Commander gaining momentum.
– Playing a bunch of small men like at Worlds didn’t seem well positioned. Not only I expected Jund to be ready with some sort of mass removal, but Jace made control (aka “kill them all”) appealing all by itself. Better luck next time, Conqueror’s Pledge.
– While most spells looked like small upgrades or variants of previous options, there was nothing that could upgrade a deck like the new manlands or the new Wasteland. This made me dislike Alara Shards mana bases even more: they already had a high count of comes-into-play tapped lands, and the manlands just pressed for more. What I’m trying to say is that Shards decks either cross their fingers (Jund, Grixis) or flood with mana guys (Bant, Cobra decks in general). I think Simon Gertzen’s move to 27 lands and 2 Rampant Growth in Jund was smart, and the right direction to take for most of these decks.

With little time and the need to play something I was familiar with, building my deck was easy:

The list is kinda obvious, and I’m sure a bunch of teams had something similar. I think people dismissed it too easily because they don’t test much post sideboard. For example, Vampires improves drastically with the transformational sideboard, as well as Control. For the same reason, I think Cobra decks are slightly overrated, as the acceleration is often less relevant after Game 1, and then you pay for the lower threat density (don’t be scared to sideboard those Cobra out sometimes). It’s also easy to fall into traps like Honor of the Pure or Marshal’s Anthem – cards that aren’t bad at all, but sometimes it’s not the right moment, and only a bunch of testing can let you realize that. When pressed for time, it’s better to fine-tune something than randomly try deck after deck. For example, Bant is not the best color combination out there, but if you perfect it like Zvi did, then you’ll end up with better results.

The deck performed quite well in the end: Aras Senyuz went 9-1, Nico Bohny 6-4 and me 3-1-1 (with the draw being a win with one extra turn ouch). Nico Bohny, not being exactly faithful to the Swiss stereotype, got the decklist 5 minutes before the player seating and finished building it after pairings where up”¦
Nico said he lost 3 very close matches against Jund where he mulliganed a lot, something that shouldn’t happen often with an almost monocolor deck.

Note the deck could have been set more against control. The scariest combination you can play against is a deck with a bunch of Wrath effects (Grixis, on the other hand, is quite easy). But before San Diego, after some talks with various friends and testing, it was clear that a good control list wasn’t obvious at all, so in the end I didn’t expect too many of them (a further proof is that even LSV couldn’t build a good one in time). Now that Chapin solved the puzzle, it’s time to adapt. A last minute cut that I missed in the end was Day of Judgment, which is kinda silly, if you think of the natural combo with Dauntless Escort. I was too enamored of my sideboard to make space. But now I realized 4 Devout Lightcaster is sooo 2009 and no respectable Jund player will get caught off guard by it, some of the sideboard cards should move to the main, so now I think you have more space to toy around.

If GP Bruxelles was tomorrow I would play this version:

Cutting Brave the Elements might be a mistake. With 2 copies your opponent can rarely afford to play around it, making it a blowout from time to time. The higher curve and the lack of Path to Exile scare me a bit, but you’ve a lot of incidental hate against Red and the other aggressive decks are soft to Day of Judgment. Sure, the games were you’ll be mana screwed you will wish to have a Path to stay alive – but if it’s a Putrid Leech who is beating you down, I doubt Pathing it will win you many games.

About sideboard plans and matchups:

Vs Vampires

+1 Dauntless Escort
+3 Day of Judgment
+3 Devout Lightcaster
+3 Wall of Reverence

-4 Kor Firewalker
-4 Steppe Lynx
-2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant

After sideboard your spells are all superior, so just play to stay alive and go long. Pre-sideboard is not so automatic, and it’s reasonable to race early, as it’s a good way to force them on defense with their Malakir Bloodwitch. Always keep a removal for Vampire Nocturnus and always play around Malakir Bloodwitch – for example, be wise with your Day of Judgment and don’t expose your Wall of Reverence to Gatekeeper of Malakir or Urge to Feed. I’m aware that after sideboard you only have Knight of the White Orchid for the early turns, but it worked fine for me. Against super-aggressive versions it’s ok to keep some Kor Firewalkers just to have some early blockers, but usually it’s not necessary.

Vs Jund

+3 Devout Lightcaster
+1 Dauntless Escort
-4 between Elspeth, Steppe Lynx and Oblivion Ring (depends on their build, sideboard, and if you go first or second)

There are some Jund builds where you are clearly favored if you go long, or that are vulnerable to Day of Judgment. Keep an eye on it as you might want to sideboard as against Vampires. Unfortunately it’s always hard to predict how the games will develop against Jund, as they have so many options and cascade exacerbates this.

Before the Pro Tour I felt for the first time to have a deck with a 60% matchup against Jund (something that a lot of people claimed before, but for once I believed it). But if I look at the winner’s sideboard, with 4 Deathmarks and 3 Master of the Wild Hunt, I don’t feel so sure of it anymore. Once again Jund has the tools to beat everything it wants to, yet I feel it’s still a positive matchup overall (our score against Jund during the Pro Tour was 6-3 I think).

Vs UW control

+4 Luminarch Ascension
+1 Dauntless Escort
+1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant

-6 between Kor Firewalker and Baneslayer Angel

Martial Coup might not seem so exciting, but it’s nice insurance to a number of situations, and a bunch of token are rarely horrible. It’s odd to fight Control with a 7 mana spell, but it worked, strangely. I guess the scarcity of good counterspells makes for a strange world, sometimes. Both Kor Firewalker and Baneslayer are mediocre: one doesn’t put enough pressure, and the other is slow as hell and a juicy Mind Control target.

Vs Boss Naya , Cobra.Deck and White Weenie variants, Eldrazi Green

+3 Day of Judgment
+3 Wall of Reverence
+1 Dauntless Escort
-4 Kor Firewalker
-2 between Elspeth, Knight Errand
-1 Steppe Lynx

Elspeth is not that bad against these decks, even if just to kill theirs, but you need to lower the curve somehow. It might be better to remove some Emeria Angels – still, removal is not that abundant in this matchup, which means going nuts with Knight of the Reliquary is a real possibility for once. [card]Steppe Lynx[/card] is clearly out of place together with the Walls and the Wraths, but still OK I think – again, the scarcity of removal make them better than usual. Plus, when you sideboard into control you are sometimes soft against Planeswalkers, so it’s good to have a guy to pressure them sometimes. Anyway, in case you started playing Standard today, kill Knight of the Reliquary on sight.

vs various Combo decks

+1 Dauntless Escort, +1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant, +2 fingers crossed

Your only disruption is Oblivion Ring, which means it’s worth to mulligan into aggressive hands as these are not exactly good matchups. Especially against decks based on Howling Mine, I don’t mind to go to 5 or 4 cards. As a rule of thumb I don’t keep unless I’ve a reasonable shot to kill on turn 5 or unless I’m holding an Oblivion Ring.

vs Mono-Red

+3 Wall of Reverence +1 Dauntless Escort, -2 Elspeth -2 Martial Coup

As you can imagine, this is your easiest matchup. Steppe Lynx is your worst card, but if you can kill them a turn or two earlier it still means less draw steps for them to find burn, and you already have enough expensive cards to put in. Don’t be afraid to chump block often and early, as you’ve plenty of power for the late game and saving life is like drawing a card against a deck full of burn to the face.

vs Boros and Koros (GerryT’s version)

+3 Wall of Reverence +3 Day of Judgment +1 Dauntless Escort, -4 Steppe Lynx, -1 Elspeth, -2 Martial Coup

Day of Judgment is nothing impressive against Boros, but it’s a good insurance for those games were they draw a lot of late game cards (so, 2 or more Ranger of Eos). Note that it’s correct to cut Steppe Lynx, since they have more cheap removal and they almost always pack Cunning Sparkmage nowadays.

I would like to close the article with an old little story that you might never heard of, just for fun. I might be wrong on a few, very small details, but the story is true. As I’ve a bunch of them, if you enjoy it please let me know and I’ll have more for next time.

Also, let me know if you liked the article, as feedback is very welcome. 🙂

“PT Yokohama 2003. A well known pro has to win his last match to top 64 and stay on the gravy train. He plays against an unknown local. After a hard-fought, tense battle things look desperate for him in game 3, to the point that he has to start to chump block… And again… And again… and on the last possible turn… There it is: Searing Flesh for the win!

Our pro jumps from his chair, scream out loud his joy, slam the card on the table and starts a little dance. Wow!

And then he realizes. We’re in Japan. Against a Japanese player. With a Japanese crowd watching.

A game loss for unsportsmanlike conduct follows soon after. Doh!*”

* The legend says that his bum was involved in the previous celebrations, by the way…

62 thoughts on “Feature Article – Green-White in Standard”

  1. Nice article, good clean explanation of your deck list and sideboarding plans. I liked it. Keep up the good work.

  2. why aren’t you playing stoneforge mystic? It seems like any white deck with creatures would want at least 1-2.

  3. You’re running up to 7 sweepers, with Emeria Angel, Martial Coup, and Elspeth to refill the board. What are your thoughts on Garruk or Master of the Wild Hunt to fill the role of refill cards?

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  5. Nice story at the end lol.

    I’d say Stoneforge Mystic is also not for the deck since each creature does fine on their own without Behemoth Sledge.

    Only card I’d suggest is White Knight. It’s great against Jund with it’s pro-black + first strike for Bloodbraid Elf.

  6. He doesnt run mystic stoneforger because the card is marginal when no cunning sparkmages are involved.

    Good article! I hope to see more.

    And i recommend mtgo for practice drafts lol. 😉

  7. The unsportsmanlike conduct is deeply rooted in the “bum was involved” portion of the story. Kinda guaranteed a game loss when you wipe you ass with your topdeck win.

  8. Way to neuter that ptr yokohama incident. What makes it a real story is that before he windmilled the searing flesh, he reached behind his back, stuck it down his pants, and “credit carded” it. (the legends, of course, mention mysterious brown stains.) This detail makes the unsportsmanlike conduct ruling more “obv” and less of a punchline, but it’s still criminal to leave it out.

  9. i’ve tried this dech for a while, i found its quite difficult to fight against naya, especially their equippment.

  10. Nice article…
    I’ve play the deck in san diego and for me it did a fine work, only i will continue play brave the elements somewhere because it wins me so many games!!!

  11. the guy with searing flash was PTR and he wiped his ass with it before slamming it on the table 🙂

  12. Not only did he wipe his ass with it but his name also happened to be Peter Zsigeti, pretty much know for being a huge ahole and Magic is much better off with him not around anymore.

    I mean this guy threw a waterbottle at someone and a host of other ridiculous stuff.

  13. And yet another successful snatch and grab by Channel Fireball 🙂

    Great to see you here William, solid first article and I look forward to seeing plenty more.

  14. Lovely that a player from our small city has become a well know pro of this beautiful game 😀 BTW i really enjoy your explanations about match ups-and plans before and after sideboarding….Hope to see other articles soon! [“Goooo,it’s your turn” 😀 ]

  15. Nice article. But I was wondering if you might motivate playing 4 Oblivion ring over a 2-2 split with journey to nowhere as it makes you much less susceptible to maelstrom pulse. Do you feel its really that important to have more ‘hard’ answers to Jace? Or are there other reasons as well?

  16. Thanks everybody for the feedback.

    @ Luca

    Stoneforge Mystic is nothing special here, without Cunning Sparkmage and with an higher curve than Boss Naya.

    @ JoshG

    The problem with Garruk and Master is the double green cc. In a more traditional GW deck they would shine, but you read my opinion on mana accelerators and I prefer the WW early drops.

    @ Rak

    I think you misunderstood the deck role. Wescoe WW doesn’t want to go to the late game, while this deck can have late game fair fights with everything except UW. Wescoe list can’t support the transformational sideboard, since it would have too many early drops to remove. This list has more in common with Junk than pure White Weenie.


    Atm I prefer Oblivion Ring because I don’t want dead cards against UW (even if they don’t draw Oblivion or Jace, removing a Chalice or a Borderpost is ok).

    Of course, these are just opinions for the current meta. For example, less O.Ring and Pulse would make the equipment package better, etc.

    @ various people
    Thanks for adding details to PT Yokohama story, you understand I couldn’t be too harsh or make names without being 100% sure.

  17. Good article, I run Junk in constructed right now, and this is not Junk, but a very formidable hybrid, and that is what magic is about, taking mechanics and “roles” and mixing them around for a “premium blend”!! Junk runs Maelstrom Pulse and yes, it runs Stoneforge to great affectiveness. Stoneforge is not marginal, as its card advantage in white, nudging us toward a fair fight with the multi-multiples…of Jund. Along with Emeria and Elspeth, Garruk and Master of Wild hunt. Good article, It gives me some great ideas! S.Macleod

  18. Good article, keep em coming. Stories as well, although PTR is scum and alot of us are glad he’s not coming back. Having a colorful personality is great and all, but respect is a key word for all tournament affairs.

  19. @ Rak….. PTR has a mighty reputation of being an ahole or whatever but i think hes a good guy and that his sense of humor is just misunderstood. Years ago my team played his at a gp and we made a prize spilt, 2-3 months later 2/3 teammates hadnt paid up, PTR being the only one who did made the other 2 pay up to us. Ive found that honesty is much better quality to posses than knowing when to not make a dirty joke

  20. I’ve been playing a similar deck for the past month myself. Why not use the Wildfield Borderpost instead of the Forests and Terramorphic Expanse? It goes well with your landfall effects and allows you to ramp more often with White Orchid. Here’s what my manabase looks like:

    4 Wildfield Borderpost
    4 Arid Mesa
    2 Marsh Flats
    7 Plains
    1 Sejiri Steppe
    3 Stirring Wildwood
    3 Sunpetal Grove

  21. Great article!

    I am going to GP Brussel and was thinking about playing white/black wienie for duress and sculler. Now i am really intrested about youre opinion off the black option.

    ps: keep writing these great articles and building good decks!

  22. I am seeing a bunch of GW lately in casual play, this makes me happy because they can’t get in the wall of denial.

    Great Article!

  23. My big Question is why only one Steppe, when they are so good with Reliquary?? Thx in advance! S.

  24. @ Wildfield borderpost:
    I think it would be bad in this deck. It seems okay at first b/c it can power up White Orchid and fix mana, but four borderposts against pulse can be really awk. Also, drawing borderpost instead of a third land and then not being able to drop turn 3 reliquary seems bad in a more aggressive deck, which this is.

  25. Great article for one of the few “innovator” beside Chapin and few else!!!!

    i’m a fan of your decks and i always check your brews for something “outside of the box”!!

  26. I am still not a believer/fan of the wall on your sideboard. Yes it deals with many aggro decks and blocks the all mighty jwar isle. What would happen if you just cut some cards to kill the hard control matchup.

  27. @Rak – Is it too hard to give credit where credit is due? If you haven’t ever had any dealings with the person being suspended than your opinion doesn’t matter that much.

    Don’t ever give anyone else “credit” for my lemonade-bottling. Clearly you know nothing of PTR’s work.

    The DCI wants characters but there is a line that PTR pushed several times.

  28. i still love the article jeff cunningham wrote about various searing flash stories. they were one of the best reads ever imo.

  29. @ Alan – The Wall is important to gain enough time to play your Martial Coup(s). One could be a 4th Wrath, but Wrath is worse against Boros and useless against Monored. They also have build-in card advantage against decks who can rarely outpower you but just plan to kill you faster, like Boss Naya and White Weenie. I played them a lot and I really, really like them right now.

    @Tane – Wall of Reverence would be good in Naya only if you think you win the long game (i.e., you cards are better on average). So, it’d be good against monored, but not against Junk. It’s good to gain time to draw the Sparkmage+Collar combo, but nowadays everybody is ready for that.

  30. Thanks for the article.
    I’ve been playing a midrange variation of GW with noble hierarch, rangers, stoneforge/equip, scute mob and somehow fitting one more martial coup…no baneslayer playset though.. fun times 🙂

  31. I’ve played this deck in National qualifier Doing an outstanding 5-0 (then drop for personal reason, soooo bad 🙁
    What I like of your way of explaining a deck is just the precision (mixed with the passion if building by you so demonstrated trough these years) that just comes out from every card selected and described. It’s not like some others that just says: “Is good for this and that…”
    There’s a very consistent sensation of synergies like those cards MUST be played together in that way. Thank you again for the passion and the help!

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