Most of Magic: The Gathering’s competitive formats were recently rocked by a huge Banned and Restricted List update. 15 cards got the axe, with Lurrus of the Dream Den coming out of Vintage retirement and Cascade getting reworked. Modern, Legacy, Vintage, and Historic feel fresh, and I’m sure Magic fans are looking forward to breaking these formats anew.
Meanwhile, Standard, once haunted by absolutely bonkers cards that overshadowed the rest of the format, has been chugging along after multiple bannings and the release of Kaldheim.
I personally have been enjoying Standard a lot. The bannings have brought the power level down enough for several strategies to be viable. I don’t feel like I’m tanking my winrate by not playing a certain broken card or deck. It’s been great seeing different archetypes dominate each week by exploiting the previous top deck’s weakness or by bringing a sweet sideboard plan.
The latest deck to break out in Standard is Mono White Aggro. This archetype completely dominated last weekend’s events. It put three players into the top 12 of the Star City Games $5K Kaldheim Championship Qualifier and another 3 into the top 8 of the Sunday Standard Challenge on Magic: The Gathering Online. It won both events, too!
In this article, I’ll try to break down what makes this Mono White Aggro such a good pick for Standard moving forward, and I’ll share some ideas on how to beat the deck.
Some Assembly Required
Mono White Aggro’s game plan is pretty straightforward: Flood the board with cheap dorks and turn them sideways until your opponent is dead. If this doesn’t do the trick, the deck has several tools to punch damage through sweepers, targeted removal, or blockers. The deck’s main weak point is that most of the creatures are unimpressive on their own, so the deck’s best cards, like Maul of the Skyclaves, turn each small attacker into a potential game-ending threat.
Here’s the list that Gabriel Silva used to win the SCG weekend event and qualify for the Kaldheim Championship in March.
4 Alseid of Life’s Bounty
2 Giant Killer
4 Luminarch Aspirant
3 Halvar, God of Battle
4 Seasoned Hallowblade
4 Selfless Savior
3 Usher of the Fallen
4 Skyclave Apparition
4 Maul of the Skyclaves
2 Reidane, God of the Worthy
2 Sentinel’s Eyes
1 Legion Angel
1 Castle Ardenvale
4 Faceless Haven
18 Snow-Covered Plains
3 Drannith Magistrate
3 Legion Angel
2 Soul-Guide Lantern
4 Glass Casket
1 Reidane, God of the Worthy
2 Giant Killer
While versions of Mono White Aggro were playable before Kaldheim dropped, I believe that the printing of three key cards is what propelled Mono White to Tier 1 status. These new additions combine with Standard veterans like Luminarch Aspirant, Seasoned Hallowblade, and Skyclave Apparition to achieve that critical mass of threats necessary for a deck to succeed in competitive Magic.
Halvar, God of Battle and his Legendary weapon Sword of The Realms are both pretty ridiculous in this deck. Both sides augment your one-drops and will take over the game unless your opponent deals with them quickly. Something I initially missed with Halvar is that his ability triggers on defense as well as on offense. This means that you can move around your Sentinel’s Eyes and Maul of the Skyclaves before your opponents attack to make combat a nightmare for them.
I’ve been playing the Sword more often than Halvar because it’s cheaper and it helps blank removal. But the real strength of the card is having the option to play whichever side devastates the opponent more. The first time you ever play a Sword of the Realms when you already have Halvar in play, you’re going to feel unstoppable.
Reidane, God of the Worthy is another incredible pickup for the deck. On top of Reidane boasting decent stats and evasion, they make the deck feel like its Modern counterpart by taxing your opponent’s best spells and generally making life awkward for them. Shadow’s Verdict blows Mono White out completely, but it does nothing when it costs 7 mana! If you can curve Selfless Savior into Reidane and another threat, you’re going to bury the opposition in layers of disruption they have no hope of breaking through.
Meanwhile, Valkmira, Protector’s Shield presents another angle of attack against other aggro decks. Mono Red is going to have a very difficult time winning a race when all of its damage effects deal one fewer point to you and your creatures.
Finally, I believe that Faceless Haven is the strongest addition to the deck from Kaldheim. At the cost of playing Snow-Covered Pl.ains in your deck instead of your favorite Basic Land art, you get to play a vigilant 4/3 that dodges sorcery-speed removal and sweepers. Upgrading lands in your deck that would otherwise do nothing in the late game into real threats is one of the easiest ways to make a deck a strong contender in Constructed formats.
Beating the Beatdown
You might get the impression from how much I’ve raved about the deck that it’s unbeatable. But the great thing about this season of Standard is that I believe each archetype has strengths and weaknesses that make different decks the best choice from week to week.
This version of White Aggro is pretty resilient to sweepers like Doomskar thanks to Selfless Savior, Seasoned Hallowblade, and Faceless Haven. On the other hand, Black has access to variant board clears that deal with Indestructible threats. Extinction Event and Shadow’s Verdict are already being played in the maindecks and sideboards of the Sultai Ultimatum decks.
I’d also recommend the Core 2021 card Pestilent Haze as a sideboard option for that deck. While the -2/-2 effect misses on creatures grown by Aspirant and equipped with Maul, it still deals with most threats. It also gets around Reidane’s taxing ability, though it doesn’t kill them. This card is best paired with removal like Eliminate to stall the game until Ultimatum can close.
I’ve also noticed an uptick in Mono Red decks playing cheap removal like Frost Bite and Scorching Dragonfire. Red variants can race Mono White easily with Embercleave and Torbran.
Finally, Jeskai Cycling is an old favorite of many Arena players that I think matches up fairly well against Mono White. Cycling players can clog the board up with tokens from Valiant Rescuer and a giant Flourishing Fox, take advantage of chip damage from Drannith Stinger, and end the game with a huge Zenith Flare.
What’s Next For White?
Even though I’ve identified some weaknesses that other decks can exploit to beat Mono White, I think that this is going to remain a contender in Standard for the foreseeable future. Now that we have a strong starting point, we can tune the deck to adapt to hate.
You mostly can’t afford to play around board clear effects like Doomskar or Crippling Fear. Instead, you can aim to mitigate the damage they cause by diversifying your board. Rather than playing all your cheap creatures, prioritize playing an early Maul or Sword so something sticks after they clear.
I also like cards like Felidar Retreat that help you recover quickly from sweepers. Retreat offers the added bonus of helping your board outsize opposing tokens and small creatures.
What are your favorite cards to play in Mono White Aggro? Have you got any sick tech to break the mirror? Let us know!