Recently, we discussed how expensive the current Standard environment is on MTG Arena. Unfortunately, most Standard decks in paper are quite pricey, too. The manabase for the five-color ramp deck is worth a lot on its own, while any deck with Sheoldred, the Apocalypse is bound to be extremely expensive. The only strategy under $100 that’s been at least decently positioned in the metagame is mono-red aggro. Mono-red aggro is a solid archetype, but if that’s not your cup of tea, it can be tough to build a competitive Standard deck on a budget.
Fortunately, another budget-friendly Standard deck had a breakout performance in one of the first MTG events of 2024. In a recent Magic Online Standard Qualifier, a mono-white deck built around Poison counters made it all the way to the top 4. Up to this point, almost every Poison-style deck has been Bant, so seeing a mono-white version pop up is rather unusual. This variant certainly has some upsides over the Bant versions, so let’s dive in and see what this deck has to offer.
The goal with this strategy is to get the opponent to obtain 10 poison counters. Unlike Infect decks of the past, though, this Standard deck is built around the Toxic mechanic associated with Phyrexia: All Will be One. Toxic, unlike Infect, doesn’t work as favorably with pump spells (the opponent won’t get extra Poison counters if you pump your Toxic threats), so you’re going to have to connect in combat a bunch of times. As such, this deck utilizes a ton of cheap Creatures with Toxic.Crawling Chorus and Skrelv, Defector Mite are both excellent one-drop threats for the archetype. Both cards are decent against removal spells, and Skrelv can help protect your more potent threats, such as Annex Sentry from removal and help your Creatures get through blockers in combat. Skrelv also pairs nicely with Jawbone Duelist. As a Creature with Double Strike, if you can connect in combat, the opponent will get two poison counters, not just one.
Because most of the Creatures in the deck have Toxic 1, the best way to win is to go wide with Toxic Creatures, and the poison counters will add up quickly. No card does a better job of this than Skrelv’s Hive. This card does a great Bitterblossom impression, keeping the pressure up even through removal or board wipes.
In addition, this deck plays Charge of Mites and even White Sun’s Twilight as ways to make Toxic threats at Instant speed. This can help you cross the finish line against cards like Sunfall that would otherwise be problematic.
Benefits to Staying Mono-White
Unsurprisingly, by staying mono-white and not branching out to other colors, there are a handful of cards that you are bound to miss out on. For instance, cards like Venerated Rotpriest and Bloated Contaminator are solid Creatures with Toxic that would help add some depth to the deck. What this deck lacks in individual raw power, though, it gains in consistency.
This deck has a much more consistent manabase than other multi-color Poison variants, which helps make it easy to maximize on utility Lands. Mirrex, for instance, is an excellent late-game card that can keep your Creature count flowing. While Mirrex does help you cast your colored spells for a turn, it fails to produce colored mana on subsequent turns, which can be quite awkward for a deck that needs to cast one-drops of different colors reliably.
Besides playsets of Mirrex and The Seedcore, which can provide a buff to your Toxic attackers to help them rumble in combat, the rest of the manabase is built of a bunch of basic Plains. While there may be more room for other utility Lands, this high volume of basic Lands allows this deck to make use of two other important cards: Lay Down Arms and Ossification.
These two inclusions are perhaps the biggest reasons to stay mono-white. A huge issue Poison decks have had since the release of Phyrexia: All Will be One is that most of the Toxic threats themselves have relatively mediocre stats. This makes things problematic if your opponent has high-toughness blockers. Considering how popular cards like Raffine, Scheming Seer and Preacher of the Schism are, having efficient interaction to keep the pressure on is of vital importance.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Thanks to Lay Down Arms, Ossification, and Destroy Evil, this deck does a pretty good job containing the potent threats from Esper and Dimir midrange. From there, Skrelv’s Hive and Tocasia’s Welcome combine to give this deck a surprising flow of card advantage that can help you win grindy matchups against these decks as well as Rakdos midrange and Esper control.
Between Skrelv’s Hive and Mirrex, you rarely run out of Creatures, making Tocasia’s Welcome an incredible card in this deck. As a go-wide Creature deck with built-in card advantage, fighting through board wipes out of five-color ramp is also not super tough. Where things get a lot more difficult is when your opponent can play a slew of Creatures in short order.
Decks like Azorius Soldiers, for instance, can flood the battlefield quickly thanks to cards like Resolute Reinforcements. Not only does this make it tough to connect in combat with small Creatures, but it can even make Skrelv’s Hive a liability. After all, the tokens created can’t block, and you are forced to lose a life every turn with Hive out. This means that if your opponent has a quick start with Knight-Errant of Eos in the mix, things can look bleak rather quickly.
Still, this archetype has game against most decks in the format. As a deck built mostly around 1/1 Creatures, sometimes you can even steal games with Expel the Interlopers that would otherwise be unwinnable. Expel the Inerlopers has the potential to act just like Plague Wind against an opponent with big blockers, which is a nice way to bail you out of tough situations.
If you can avoid fast decks with lots of blockers, this deck seems like a solid metagame call in a format dominated by ramp and midrange strategies. Plus, the deck is relatively cheap to boot! If you’re tired of mono-red aggro and are looking for a solid, budget-friendly deck to pick up, this seems like a great choice.