Primer: Mono White Humans in Pioneer
Mono White Humans in Pioneer
Mono White Humans
Author: Zen Takahashi
It has been a while since I wrote my last article, but that has been because I recently started a new job! I’ve been there for nearly two months now, and so far it’s been going very well. Funnily enough, my manager is one of my oldest Magic friends, having known him since I was thirteen years old, and we used to travel to events together, and he actually got me my first proper job when I was a teenager.
Since then, we’ve become even closer as we’ve worked together at various startups together, and he’s actually the reason why I am now in New Zealand as I came back for his wedding in March 2020 (I was living in Edinburgh at the time), but then COVID happened, and the strict border closures meant I couldn’t leave New Zealand, and hence have been here ever since. Nonetheless, we hadn’t worked together for a few years, so it’s been great getting to work with him again!
In addition to work, I have also been busy testing for the inaugural Regional Championships, which will be Pioneer. The Australia/New Zealand event will be held on Saturday 26th November in Sydney – a week after the European one in Sofia. I have been preparing for the event with a group of the top players from our region, and due to us being geographically spread out between the two nations, our testing has all been done on Magic Online with regular discussions on Discord.
I have really enjoyed the experience so far, and it feels great to be properly preparing for a major tournament again. Everyone in the team has been working hard – in fact, over the past month, our team has played about 1400 matches on Magic Online! I definitely plan to write about our preparation after the Regional Championships, so if you’re interested in that type of content, definitely keep an eye out for that!
I recently wrote in-depth about Mono Red Aggro and Mono Blue Spirits in Pioneer, as I had good success with both decks in the previous Regional Championships Qualifier season. In general, I’ve preferred the aggro strategies in Pioneer, as the format is both varied in archetypes and fairly tempo-orientated, so I like these mono-colored aggro decks that can curve out well and doesn’t stumble on its manabase too often.
However, since the release of Dominaria United, Rakdos Midrange has become the clear top deck of the format with the addition of Liliana of the Veil and Sheoldred, the Apocalypse. This has been a problem for Mono Red Aggro and Mono Blue Spirits, as both decks struggle in this matchup.
Instead, I have moved onto yet another mono-colored aggro deck, in the form of Mono White Humans! Alongside Atarka Red, I have found these two to be the best aggro decks against Rakdos Midrange. Granted, I still believe the matchup is only about even, but at least it’s much better positioned than the previously mentioned decks. I do believe that Atarka Red has a better matchup against Rakdos Midrange, but I dislike the deck as it’s much less consistent and often has polarised draws.
Mono White Humans
Of all the proactive decks in the format, Mono White Humans is one of the most consistent at executing its game plan. This is because the deck has so much redundancy – you can see that by simply looking at its creature curve of twelve one-drops, twelve two-drops and ten three-drops. In addition to the curve, almost all of the creatures, with the exception of Brutal Cathar, can be played proactively and are fairly similar in nature.
Therefore, your game plan against almost every deck is the same – you want to curve out and kill your opponent as quickly as possible. Sometimes you may need a Brave the Elements to set up a big attack to finish your opponent, while other times you may need to grind through their removal spells with your Mutavaults. Regardless of the path you take, though, your game plan is fairly one dimensional.
The Main Opponent
Arguably the biggest draw to this deck, alongside its consistency, is that it’s one of the few aggro decks in the format that isn’t poorly positioned against Rakdos Midrange. Rakdos is essentially designed to beat creature decks, with bigger creatures and a lot of removal spells, but weirdly it doesn’t fare so well against this deck.
In fact, I may be biased, but I think it’s even slightly favored for Mono White Humans, especially this list with Thraben Inspectors. The reason is that Mono White Humans is good at “going big”. Luminarch Aspirant and Thalia’s Lieutenant allows you to size your creatures bigger than theirs, while Adeline, Resplendent Cathar is already big on its own.
This means that Rakdos needs to kill all your key creatures, which they are pretty good at doing, but luckily you have more of these key creatures than they have removal spells – especially if you account for Brave the Elements as being a counterspell to their removal spells. Post-board, you then gain Wedding Announcement, which is one of the best cards against Rakdos as it provides three bodies while also possibly turning your small creatures into relevant threats with the anthem effect on the back. This is difficult for Rakdos to keep up with, primarily because their removal spells are one-to-one outside of Extinction Event (which this deck is fairly good at playing around).
However, what you give up for a better Rakdos Midrange matchup is that you are worse against Abzan Greasefang due to your lack of interaction spells, and you are unflavored in the aggro mirror against Mono Red decks because they have access to Rending Volley and Goblin Chainwhirler. I have also found that this deck is much more play/draw dependent than Mono Blue Spirits or Mono Red Aggro because of its lack of interaction spells.
Your play patterns are basically the same regardless, so being on the draw just feels like you are one turn behind, whereas the previously mentioned decks can play differently on the draw e.g. Mono Red can kill the opponent’s turn one Llanowar Elves on the draw as opposed to play a creature, while Mono White Humans’ only play is to play the same one-drop creature.
A Small Price to Pay
Another key aspect I noticed about this deck is that it plays at sorcery speed and on the board. What I mean by this is that none of your creatures have haste or flash. Whichever creatures you play, your opponent essentially has a full turn cycle to figure out how they want to handle your board, and they don’t need to worry about anything beyond what is currently in front of them.
Brave the Elements and Thalia’s Lieutenant are cards they definitely need to be aware of, but again, the lack of flash and haste creatures means that they are always aware of exactly just how much damage those cards can do. This isn’t necessarily a disadvantage, but it feels like when I played Mono Blue Spirits or Mono Red I could force my opponents into making more mistakes because they didn’t expect a Rattlechains or a Hazoret the Fervent, while with Mono White Humans they’re keenly aware of what they need to deal with to stay alive, and more importantly, it’s usually clear for them whether they should attack or hold back on defense.
Humans Come in Many Shapes
As for my list above, it is fairly stock, but I still prefer Thraben Inspectors to Soldier of the Pantheon and Kytheon, Hero of Akros. I’m likely wrong on this since the consensus seems to be that the two-powered creatures are better, especially as the Inspector doesn’t train Hopeful Initiate, but I really like the Inspectors because against the midrange and control decks the games often go long and having the clue is helpful, while against Mono Green Devotion and the mirror, the board often stalls and being able to dig deeper for a Brave the Elements can be the winning factor.
In the sideboard, I also like having a split on the two-mana removal spells because I think Declaration in Stone is better overall, but Fateful Absence is better against Abzan Greasefang. I also still like Reidane, God of the Worthy because the backside, Valkmira, Protector’s Shield, is excellent against Rakdos Sacrifice and that is one of your worst matchups.
Tips and Tricks
In general, you want to keep hands that curve out well. Your ideal start is to play a one-drop creature into a two-drop creature into a three-drop creature, or a one-drop creature and a two-drop creature. Not every opening hand will look like this, but I would be hesitant to keep a hand without a one-drop creature, especially in pre-board games. This deck does mulligan well and can win on five cards, so don’t be scared to mulligan aggressively.
- I would also be hesitant to keep any hand with four lands. I would likely only keep it if it curves out perfectly with the three non-land spells, and one of the lands was a Mutavault.
- The sequencing with this deck can be quite challenging. Should I play Thalia, Guardian of Thraben or Luminarch Aspirant on turn two? How should I allocate the counters from the Aspirant? There aren’t easy answers to these questions as they’re highly contextual, but think carefully before you take any actions and try to think a few turns ahead.
- Always be thinking about how much damage you can deal! This deck can deal a lot of combat damage, and often you can find a path to victory over two combat phases. Don’t be afraid to run one of your smaller creatures into their bigger creature, so you can get in for some damage now – if you can follow it up with another creature and/or have Brave the Elements, getting that damage in now may be what lets you win two turns later.
- Dauntless Bodyguard can be played on turn one, but generally I prefer to use it as a pseudo-protection spell for my key creatures. If you have another one-drop creature you can play instead, then play that.
- Dauntless Bodyguard can target an animated Mutavault, and that protection will still remain if you activate that Mutavault on another turn. The same applies if you choose a Brutal Cathar – it will provide protection to both sides of the creature.
- Hopeful Initiate’s ability comes up often to deal with problematic artifacts and enchantments, such as Witch’s Oven and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker. It’s also good against Abzan Greasefang, where you can hold up three mana to destroy Esika’s Chariot or Parhelion II. The +1/+1 counters can be removed from any of your creatures, so it also works well with Luminarch Aspirant and Thalia’s Lieutenant. Often, you can destroy something pre-combat to shrink Hopeful Initiate, so that when you attack with it, you get back a +1/+1 counter thanks to the training ability.
- Generally, you want to play Thalia’s Lieutenant after the other two-drop creatures so that you can make the most of the +1/+1 counters on all your other human creatures.
- When it comes to Luminarch Aspirant, you need to figure out whether you want to “go tall” and make one big creature, or “go wide” and spread the counters amongst multiple creatures. Generally you want to “go wide” to reduce the consequences of a spot removal spell, and so you want to make your whole team bigger, but sometimes you may want to go all-in on one creature if they have burn removal spells and/or one big creature you need to get through. Usually you want to put the counters on other creatures instead of the Aspirant itself, so that your opponent is forced to decide whether they want to kill the bigger creature or the source of the problem.
- If you have both a Thalia’s Lieutenant and a Dauntless Bodyguard, you generally want to lead with the Lieutenant first and then cast the Bodyguard to protect the Lieutenant. Having protection and growing the Lieutenant is usually more relevant than making the Bodyguard a 3/2 creature. However, if they are already representing an instant-speed removal spell, then cast the Bodyguard first.
- Brutal Cathar is one of the key cards in creature mirrors like Mono Blue Spirits and the mirror, as they do not have many removal spells. Often the game comes down to flipping Brutal Cathar back and forth numerous times to try to exile multiple creatures.
- Remember to keep track of Day/Night! If it is Night, the Brutal Cathar comes into play on the backside, which means you will not get to exile any creature or trigger Thalia’s Lieutenant, and the werewolf is red, so you cannot protect it with Brave the Elements.
- Against decks with Rending Volley, try to put a +1/+1 counter on Adeline, Resplendent Cathar as soon as you can to put it out of the four-damage burn range.
- You cannot avoid getting the 1/1 attacking token from Adeline, Resplendent Cathar. This may be an issue if they control a creature with lifelink such as Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet.
- Cast Brave the Elements after you have declared attackers, but before declared blockers. This way, you can give protection to the 1/1 token you get from Adeline, Resplendent Cathar, and you can also get the +1+1 counter from Luminarch Aspirant (if you give your creatures protection from white before the trigger, you would not be able to give a counter to one of your creatures).
- In line with the thinking about calculating combat damage, always be thinking about how to set up your Brave the Elements. You may be happy for one of your creatures to die to a removal spell now if that means you can set up a lethal attack in a turn or two. Also, always be mindful about how a topdecked Brave the Elements can impact the game.
- Mutavault is a human, so it can be pumped by Thalia’s Lieutenant. You can tap itself for mana to activate itself to get a counter from the Lieutenant’s enter-the-battlefield trigger. Against decks with sweepers, allocating counters onto your Mutavaults is generally a good idea. You can also tap it to activate itself to deal an additional damage with Adeline, Resplendent Cathar.
- Mutavault is also a horror, so it does not get bounced by a Thing in the Ice flipping.
- Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire costs one less for each legendary creature you control. This is very relevant in this deck – if you have a Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Adeline, Resplendent Cathar in play, then it costs just one mana to use.
- Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire is also colorless. This means that it can kill Unchained Berserker or creatures protected by Brave the Elements or God’s Willing.
- Always make your land drops, as you may draw into Thraben Inspector, unless you’re playing against Liliana of the Veil and have a card in hand you want to protect.
- Portable Hole can hit any nonland spells. Witch’s Oven and Wolfwillow Haven are two key targets in this format.
- The 1/1 attacking creature you get from Adeline, Resplendent Cathar does not get checked by Wedding Announcement. So if you attacked with one creature, then got the attacking token from Adeline, you will still get a token instead of drawing a card on your end step.
Below is how I would sideboard against the top ten most popular decks in the format right now.
Matchup Guide: Rakdos Midrange
Mono Green Devotion
-2 Adeline, Resplendent Cathar
Mono White Humans
Mono Red Aggro
I hope you enjoyed this article, as I covered in-depth all you need to know to get started with Mono White Humans in Pioneer! Although the following Regional Championships will be Standard, most of the upcoming RCQs in Auckland are going to be Pioneer due to the popularity of the format here, so I plan to play this deck in many of the qualifiers over the next few weeks.
There is still a full month before the Regional Championships in Sydney, so I can’t say with certainty what I will play yet, but Mono White Humans is definitely my front-runner choice right now and is what I would play if the event was tomorrow.
Till next time!
@mtgzen on Twitter
About the Author
Zen Takahashi is a seasoned writer and mainstay on the Three for One Trading writing team. He is an avid Eternal player from Auckland, New Zealand and enjoys competing in local Legacy events and playing Old School over webcam with friends.
Previously, he was a Silver Pro for multiple years and his results included five Grand Prix Top 8s, a 27th place at Pro Tour Amonkhet, three consecutive online Regional PTQ wins, and he co-created the Modern Dredge deck.
Nowadays though, he primarily plays Legacy, his favorite format, but he also branches out into Pioneer and Modern.
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