History of Benalia and the Return of Mono-White Aggro

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The last time Magic visited Dominaria, I was building my real deck—Mono-White Beatdown. Mono-white was a favorite strategy of countless players back in the days of Mirage and Tempest, so it’s fitting that the new Dominaria set brings plenty of exciting cards to revitalize the archetype. Let’s take a look at them!

Dauntless Bodyguard is exactly the type of card I look for when I build a linear beatdown deck. It’s a 1-drop that unloads damage quickly, but doesn’t become useless in the mid- and late-game. What’s exciting about Dauntless Bodyguard specifically is that it combats many of the traditional ways to beat fast aggro. It protects you against board sweepers like Fumigate and Sweltering Suns, and it stops the opponent from targeting your key threats with spot removal spells.

My main focus today is going to be Standard, but I’m also intrigued by Dauntless Bodyguard’s potential in Eternal formats. It’s a nice surprise drop off of Aether Vial, and it pairs nicely with hatebears like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben or Ethersworn Canonist in order to slam the door shut against combo decks that can’t fight through them.

An efficient body with a good creature type that can’t be Fatal Pushed. Since it doesn’t have true protection from black, it can still be blocked by black creatures. Conveniently, being a 3/2 first strike puts it in prime position to punish most of the black creatures currently seeing play in Standard—Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, Winding Constrictor, Gifted Aetherborn, and Gonti, Lord of Luxury.

Benalish Marshal is exciting in its power level and refreshing in its simplicity. In a white creature deck, it can easily represent 5 or 6 extra power on the battlefield, as well as the ability for your smaller creatures to attack into bigger blockers. With its prohibitive mana cost and somewhat specific ability, it’s clear what type of deck the Marshall is designed for.

There are plenty of distinct ways to take advantage of Benalish Marshal. But all of them will require playing with a lot of creatures and a lot of white mana. It stands as a major payoff card that will reward players who choose white beatdown.

Finally, I come to Dominaria‘s bread-and-butter card for the white beatdown strategy. History of Benalia does it all: It excels in the category of raw power and toughness, it allows you to go white, creating built-in resilience to removal spells, it pumps your team, allowing you to kill quickly or set up big turns, and it even triggers historic!

Note that many of Dominaria’s white creatures are Knights, including the three cards featured above. Some, but not all, of Ixalan’s Vampires are also Knights. So while History of Benalia is excellent as a standalone card and does not ask you to build a dedicated Knights deck, the third chapter of the Saga will wind up having a larger impact than might be immediately obvious.

I envision History of Benalia as a full 4-of for white aggro decks, legendary status notwithstanding. Sagas trigger on hitting the battlefield and on your following draw step, so even if you cast two Histories on back-to-back turns, you’ll still get all four of your Knights (only missing out on one of the two +2/+1 triggers).

Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle won’t exactly be an archetype staple, but it does strike me as a fun and powerful option for a “luxury” slot in a white aggro deck. You do want a bit of top-end, and a way to improve your chances in a board stall or after a board wipe. Teshar does all of those jobs, and pairs amazingly well with Benalish Marshal.

Remember, the historic ability triggers off of anything legendary, including History of Benalia and Legion’s Landing.

A First Look

So what might a white aggro deck look like with the release of Dominaria? The concept is simply that you want to curve some cheap creatures into a turn-3 History of Benalia or Benalish Marshal. To facilitate that, you’ll want a large number of creatures that cost 1 and 2 mana, plus a few spells to round things out and ensure that you won’t get brick-walled by an annoying blocker.

Mono-White Aggro

Reid Duke

Naturally, it’s the new cards from Dominaria we’re all excited about. But it’s important to note that this archetype can take advantage of older cards that may never have reached their full potential.

Legion’s Landing is a natural fit, since transforming quickly is very realistic, and Adanto, the First Fort is a nice way to spend your mana in the midgame and avoid flood. It also triggers historic for Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle or any other Dominaria card that shares the mechanic.

Similarly, Shefet Dunes is a complete freeroll that allows you to spend your mana on something powerful once you’ve emptied your hand. The Desert vastly improves the power level of a deck like this and will make it difficult for someone relying on blocking creatures to withstand you.

Finally, ascend cards like Skymarcher Aspirant and Pride of Conquerors (even Snubhorn Sentry could be a consideration) play nicely in a deck where virtually every card is a cheap permanent. Legion’s Landing and History of Benalia generate multiple permanents for the price of one, and even your removal spells stay on the battlefield as enchantments!

Finally, although I haven’t offered a full sideboard, I’ll mention that Dusk // Dawn and Solemnity are two of the most exciting and punishing sideboard cards available in Standard, and both are absolutely perfect fits for a deck like this one.

White aggro holds the potential to be a major player in the early days of Dominaria Standard. Don’t make the mistake of underestimating History of Benalia and Benalish Marshal.


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