Deck Spotlight: Mono White Soldiers

Hello Everyone, and I’m happy to say that I’m fast approaching a glut of magic tournaments. The first Saturday in November is a PTQ, then comes the 2009s (aka provincials) and another PTQ is scheduled for the winter, but a date has not been pinned down.

What does this all mean? It means that most of my spare time is now going to be devoted to becoming better at sealed deck and Standard, which means (hopefully) more frequent articles about my findings.

Today I’ve decided to write about my favourite deck for Standard, which only became a real deck after M10, and my best Standard performance is always with this deck. Maybe it’s just me, but I love the idea of getting 9 power worth of guys for 6 mana. Add on to that one of the best pump effects the game has ever seen, and you’re looking at a pretty solid deck.

The deck, if you’re wondering, is Mono White Soldiers.

I began playing this deck shortly after M10, and I’m pleased to say that it’s still a very strong contender in the new Standard. The funny thing about the deck is that the only cards it really lost in rotation were cads that weren’t actually soldiers. I’m talking about Spectral Procession, Figure of Destiny, and Windbrisk Heights. Obviously this deck loses a lot of potential for the “god hand”, but it still has a very solid game plan, even with aggro’s nemesis Day of Judgment running around.

Lets start off with the decklist that I’ve been running lately.

Mono-White Soldiers

While some of the card choices are obvious, there are a fair few that aren’t so much.

The most controversial card as a four of is actually Captain of the Watch. Many people think that a weenie deck shouldn’t play something so expensive, but I find that the quantity and quality of tokens you produce is much more important than sheer speed. This does not mean that this deck is not an aggro deck, it very much is,it just has a more developed curve than perhaps traditional white weenie. Rather than dropping a bunch of small guys on turns 1-4, and then petering out, this deck keeps going, with it’s late drops supplementing the early drops. With cards like Pyroclasm and Day of Judgment available to wipe the board, it is of the utmost importance to have a play that will more or less put you back where you were after they Wrath. The Captain is the perfect card for this, because it demands yet another immediate answer after they wrath.

We also have a few other cards that really shine after a board wipe. Conquerors Pledge is simply amazing, and it wins so many games that soldiers otherwise couldn’t. Note that I’ve never kicked a pledge, even in my games against Turbo Fog, because soldiers already applies so much pressure that you shouldn’t ever hit 12 land. Pledge is greatly amplified when you have a pump effect out, and makes games just disgusting. I’m considering a fourth copy because they work so well, but I haven’t decided yet.

Super Tech Tip: Playing against Jund? Be very careful as to what token they target with Maelstrom Pulse. Conquerors Pledge produces Kor Soldiers, while Elspeth and co. produce garden variety Soldiers. For this reason, make sure you have different types of tokens, and you don’t short change yourself.

Back pre-Zendikar, this deck had 2-3 Ranger of Eos, and it was great for both card advantage and getting back into the game. However, he was able to search for Figure of Destiny, which was often a much better target than Elite Vanguard. Thus, I cut the Rangers down to 1 and added in the random Baneslayer Angel. It randomly wins games, and is one more great topdeck you can draw into. Note that I only have 1, and I haven’t really considered any more, even if I could get them.

In pre-Zendikar standard, the deck played a full set of Harms Way, and was able to blow out most decks with it. Unfortunately, due to the rising threat of Baneslayer Angel and Vampire Nocturnus, It has been necessary to have at least some spot removal in the main deck.

Elspeth is a card that I feel has gotten more powerful with rotation. There is now almost no chance of her getting countered, and the impact she has on the board is just amazing. I actually find myself getting more value out of pumping an existing soldier and swinging in for usually 5+ points of damage than I do from making another soldier. However, it depends greatly on the game state.

Super Tech Tip: When playing against vampires, don’t be afraid to just run out Elspeth or Ajani when they have a Vampire Hexmage out. Simply announce that you wish to retain priority, use an ability, and let them die. The fact that you get rid of a 2/1 first striker (and a potential 4/2 with Nocturnus), is actually quite important in the vampire matchup, and getting an ability off is quite nice. Note that Elspeths are generally more valuable than Ajanis, so if you fear a Hexmage, it’s generally better to let the cat die off first. Of course, If you already have a sizable army, you could very well wish to do it the other way around for more rounds of pumping, but normally Elspeth should be conserved.

Brave the Elements is one of my favourite cards from Zendikar. It enables a sense of assurance that you can deal with whatever your opponent throws at you, whether they be removal spells of blockers, you can save your guys for the small price of one mana. This is another card I’m considering playing more of in the mainboard, it’s just that good.

With the loss of Windbrisk Heights, I looked to see what other non-basics couls spice up the deck’s mana base. I could play fetchlands, but see little positive benefit to me, whereas vampires can use them to trigger the effects of Bloodghast and Vampire Nocturnus. However we have no such effects here. With cards like Black Knight and Malakir Bloodwitch running around, it is crucial that we have some form of answer. Gargoyle Castle is good at stopping a late-game Knight, and it also chumping a Bloodwitch. If you can get an Ajani counter onto the gargoyle, all the better for the long haul.

Emeria, the Sky Ruin is for the long games against control decks. Being able to recur Captain of the Watch every turn is prety good. It also gives you something to aim for when you keep drawing plains. I’m tempted to drop it down to one, but then you run the risk of not drawing it in the matchups where you need it most.

Vampires is probably this decks worst matchup, while Jund is actually quite good both pre and post board. Cards like Kazandu Blademaster are just great at blocking Bloodbraid Elf, and your guys quickly get so strong that they even force them to chump with Broodmate Dragon. Here’s what I generally board against Jund.

2 Path to Exile
3 Celestial Purge
2 Ethersworn Canonist

2 Harm’s Way
1 Ranger of Eos
2 Elite Vanguard
2 Ajani Goldmane

Against Vampires we have a great deal of cards we bring in. We must simplify the board state as much as possible so that we don’t take too much damage from a resolved Nocturnus. This means making lots of one for one trades in the early game, and eventually out-aggroing them. Thus, White Knights and Kazandu Blademaster are serving double duty on both offense and defense, and you have to out aggro them. If they don’t have board slots targeted at white weenie, your job becomes infinitely easier.

2 Path to Exile
3 Celestial Purge
2 Brave the Elements
4 White Knight

2 Harm’s Way
1 Ranger of Eos
4 Elite Vanguard
3 Captain of the Watch
1 Veteran Armorsmith

In the mirror match, you have to be faster than your opponent, and make profitable trades. Thus a full set of Harms Way is needed, as well as Brave the Elements are the best things you can possibly have, but your opponent will have them also, so it becomes a very skill-intensive match.

2 Harm’s Way
2 Brave the Elements

2 Path to Exile
1 Ranger of Eos
1 Elite Vanguard

These are the 3 decks that have been doing well at my local store, and I believe that white weenie is extremely powerful because few people see it coming. It’s favourable matchup against Jund is one of the most attractive things about it, and it has a good shot against Vampires after board.

Oh, and you auto-win against turbo fog as I found out last FNM. Just play out enough guys to win, and conserve your hand. Emeria shines, and no matter how many Wrath effects they have you still win.

What decks have you guys been playing lately? Is there anything awesome and fun you think I should take to FNM? Sound off in the comments, through my email (zak -AT-, or via my twitter feed at



6 thoughts on “Deck Spotlight: Mono White Soldiers”

  1. I tried out a deck that was very, very similar to this, albeit with a smaller sideboard and a different balance of planeswalkers. I absolutely loved it and plan on broadening my sideboard (Jund was still a little too tough for me), but there is one deck type around my local magic shop that you didn’t address.

    What do you do against super-aggressive landfall decks? The most infamous around me are red-white landfall decks that just pour out landfall creatures, lightning bolts, and other removal, and then start to trigger two landfalls a turn for a little while around turn 4 or 5. If they’re smart, they will be running knights of the white orchid and other tricky cards. The deck you are using seems to be just a little too slow to handle this; worse, it has little to answer it. I watched my deck suffer a turn 4 kill as he dealt me around 20 damage in one turn. Path to Exile only accelerates such a fast deck while Celestial Purge seems expensive enough to actually slow my deck down as much as it slows theirs.

    As a general recommendation, I advise dropping in some knights of the white orchid. Path to Exile your opponent into having more land than you, then play Knight of the White Orchid to pop out a solid, cheap white creature and make up the land disadvantage caused by your Path to Exile. Even if the combo doesn’t pan out, it can seriously save your butt if you happen to have hit a mana dry spell (As happens to ALL decks at some point), and if the only thing that is wrong is that you played second instead of first, it accelerates you to your powerhouse captains and pledges a turn earlier (for any readers wondering on this strategy, you play the knight, it drops out a land to catch you up on the turn difference, and then you play your land for the turn. It’s a vile play that powers some nasty landfall decks.).

    Before I get to the specifics on how to handle those high-speed aggro landfall decks, first let me admit that these solutions are hypothetical – I haven’t gotten to test them yet.

    I’m looking to see exactly what is best to sub out, but I think that running a full complement of 4 silences and 2-3 ethersworn cannonists is a given. Remove all the paths to exile and replace them with pacifisms / and harm’s ways. Consider removing the Brave the Elements (if your are facing 2-3 colors, it becomes less effective, although it might still counter a lightning bolt or two). I’m not sure what else to remove.

    The effects of such a substitution are easy to see. Silence slows both decks down, but with luck (and skill), your opponent is hurting much more than you. Sure, it’s a card for no direct card removal, but that’s fine. The key is not to gain card advantage eventually here; it’s to build enough momentum that when the landfall creatures do finally start to multiply, there’s no point. You’ve already won. The Ethersworn Cannonist does much the same thing, slowing things down less but building you up more. Since Path to Exile accelerates the enemy deck, leaving it out and replacing it with pacifisms allows for spot removal of their creatures that will work for most cases, and it allows you to remove any color of creature. Or, if you prefer, the Harm’s Ways will do the same thing while saving one of your creatures… but only if you’ve dropped a LOT of buffing or your opponent has only dropped one land this turn. If they are good, though, they will probably wait to strike with a huge army and a double land drop all at once… and unless they are slowed significantly, that may come as soon as turn 4/5.

    Alright, these are just my guesses… what do you think? I’m not the most expert of players, so I’d really like some input on this. I’m determined to make a deck that can stand up a just a little better.

  2. Regarding the Boros Bushwacker deck:
    Having played the deck myself, I think that it is actually pretty bad. It dies out extremely quickly and doesn’t win as many games as you would like. Obviously Harm’s Way becomes pretty important in this matchup. As well, I think that White Knight should get boarded in, Because first strike can be extremely important with Harm’s Way sheningans. Obviously taking off some of the top end of the curve is desired when boarding. However, I’ve never had any troubles beating the deck when playing this soldiers list, as your draws are more consistent and you can keep up pretty easily.

    I don’t like Knight of the White Orchid because he is neither a soldier nor as board-aimpacting as other potential 2 drops. I’d rather have pro-black or vigilance on my 2 drops rather than the ability to get myself an extra land. However, I will test him, but I just don’t think he does enough.

    I am fully against putting Silence in the board, because it simply doesn’t do enough. I would definitely consider running a set of Canonists in the board, but Silence just doesn’t do it for me. It may buy us one turn, and if it does, we’re down a card. At least Ethersworn has an impact on teh board, and is also quite viable aginst the Jund matchup.

    Brave the Elements is one of the best cards in the deck. It just blows out so many opponents that it would be very hard to convince me to take it out. I am always happy to draw one, and it is one of the best ways this deck has to outright win a game. Even if your opponent’s playing multiple colours, it is still quite relevant.

    Regarding Pacifism:
    I really don’t like it. If I were to play a 2 drop removal spell I would choose Journey to Nowhere, because it does a better job of removing something like Sprouting Thrinax and anything with an activated ability. Even then though, the deck can usually get by relatively well without excess removal. It becomes a matter more of playing your removal selectively than just blasting out everything in sight. Remember that too much removal will not give this deck enough push to win as fast as it can, and I always want to be dropping threats.

    In short, if you think that your local metagame calls for the measures you described, go for it. However, personal experience has shown me that the Bushwacker matchup is in our favour to begin with, as a single Honor of the pure makes combat in your favour, and your first strikers can really win the game for you.



  3. i think in the sideboard devout lightcaster would be a better fit instead of white knight.

    also in the sideboard, luminarch ascension against control decks.
    and again in SB, day of judments against things like the bloodwitch and sphinx of jwar isle. it would clear the board but your deck, like you said, can recover from a sweep.
    having 3 elspeth is a bit much, i would trim to 2 for BtE or path/journey.

    this deck seems alot more control to me, idk why.
    but i would trim 1 captain, add some Knight of the white orchid for speed.

    also, only if you wanted, you can add some evasion soldiers to make it easier to hit your opponent, kor skyfisher helps with that AND mana trouble, kor aeronaught is great late game because of the kicker, and aven squire would be ok.

    i like your deck alot though because of the massive token drops which are win in most cases

  4. Looks like a great deck. Like others that have commented, I play something fairly similar to this aswell. Anything that you substitute is probably splitting hairs at this point but I do have one option that may make your Captain of the Watch more effective(assuming you’ve never thought of this option). Premminent Captain is a great card for this deck. You can cheat out your CotW 2-3 turns early and he’s a soldier to boot taking advantage of any buffs you have on the board. Just a thought.

  5. I’ve actually discontinued my efforts with this deck as of late (this article went up over 8 months ago). If you are porting this deck to Extended, yes you could use Preeminent Captain, but as this was developed for standard at the time, that wasn’t an option.

  6. Sorry bro I think you missed this bit with Kazandu Blademaster,

    “or another Ally enters the battlefield”.

    I had planned to put him and Hada Freeblade in my soldier deck but then I saw that and I nearly flipped out. obviously still a great card but there are a lot of ally cards with the same ability (not with first strike, vigilance though).

    Unless I’m completely wrong and “Soldier” types count as “Ally” to, if that is the case, WOOHOO!!!

    My original line up by the way, if anyone’s interested.

    2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
    2 Darien, King of Kjeldor
    4 Captain of the Watch
    4 Kazandu Blademaster
    4 Elite Vanguard
    3 Preeminent Captain
    4 Sigil Captain
    4 Hada Freeblade
    4 Raise the Alarm
    3 Mobilization
    2 Spidersilk Armor
    4 Armored Ascension

    4 Selesnya Sanctuary
    2 Razorverge Thicket
    14 Plains
    4 Palace Guard
    1 Spidersilk Armor
    4 Nature’s Spiral
    3 Darksteel Plate

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