Slice of Pie – An Army of One (Drops)

Editor’s Note: When I used to blog on MySpace (I’m that old, who uses MySpace anymore?), I used to have a tradition: on the week of my birthday I’d have a blog post a day. Yes, five posts (for the weekdays); imagine that, huh? Well, I’m going to do that here on MTGCP since I’ve got some posts that are half finished and mostly finished. Oh, and the next piece in the Card Kingdom series will fire off this week as well. So sit back, and enjoy all the updating, this, the week of my birthday.

http://wp.me/p5VSx-19P *

This is not a new idea. I’m not the first one to point this out. In fact, fearless leader (aka Mark Rosewater) pointed this out during Shards of Alara:

Design has little design challenges it keeps repeating. One of them is making new one drop white creatures with the ability to attack for 2. Nearly every block has at least one, often more than one. Exalted proved to be the tweak of choice for Shards of Alara.

Really? How many cards are like this?

Oh.

Let’s ask and answer three important questions:

  1. A design challenge?
  2. Why this model?
  3. Why is this important?

They’re all interwoven, so you’re not going to get some 1-2-3 answer sheet (Hooray Color Pie Philosophy!).

I selected these cards out because they all can theoretically attack for 2 or more on turn 2 (while some of them require a little more “Magic Christmasland” than others, if you build the deck properly it would be quite constant). There are others that kinda fit into a one drop that can swing for more than 1 but not by the second turn (Some might argue about Ardent Recruit in that spot).

A design challenge, the way MaRo worded it, is not a bad thing. It’s not like WotC’s running around The Pit screaming, “We need a White one drop and stat! This set is going to the printers tonight!” It’s something that the designers can use for a jumping point to help creativity. A great example of this is when Evan Erwin asked Aaron Forsythe about a Ancestral Recall variant where you had to pay life as well. While that’s more of a thought experiment, it’s still trying to figure out a piece and see if it will fit.

By taking a block mechanic and seeing if it will work on a White one drop, it’s easy to see how powerful the mechanic can be. While combat mechanics are a bit easier to figure out (Bushido, Exalted), there’s also just other mechanics that happened to fit with this idea (Landfall, Metalcraft). As it was discussed during the GDS2, it’s important to establish the flavor and mechanics of the block at the common level. Most of these cards, especially the ones with the block mechanics, are common.  If you’ve got a mechanic you want to try out, it’s best to start with simpler effects/creatures first. If the idea can’t work there, then you can try a different approach.

White has always wanted their small creatures to attack early and powerful or protect others (creatures, lands, player). This plays into White’s dual identity of Army and attacking and wanting to protect everything. But each of these creatures does one thing well: attack. By having them only cost W, they can’t really cram in other abilities without adding mana (which is why you see the leveler cards get more powerful with more mana you invest in it). By continuing to enforce that aggressive element, Wizards is still promoting the idea that White can be attackers instead of just Day of Judgment effects.

This is something that took a while for the color to establish. Even though the White Weenie archetype has been around since the beginning, the creatures haven’t been good enough to make that stick (what really made that deck work was Armageddon and Winter Orb effects slowing down an opponent’s game rather than speeding up the White Weenie’s player game). The progression from a spell based game to a creature based game (as I’ve talked about here), White weenie creatures were simply being outclassed by other color’s one drops. Mostly gone are other color’s powerful one drops aside from ones that have drawbacks; Goblin Guide and Vampire Lacerator are the only ones that see serious (Standard) play versus most of White’s one drops.

Ironically, the only thing keeping White Weenie to be a continual contender in Standard is a finishing spell (The irony is that when the creatures were bad it had the spells to finish and when the creatures are good the spells are bad). You’ll see it pop up here and there, like Kai’s Extended deck last year, but I doubt it’s a very serious threat each and every time. There are some people that just try and push the deck, but that’s the way with any archetype from the beginning of the game (Mono-Black control, Stompy, Blue/White control, Burn, etc).

Don’t be surprised if the next time you open a pack of new cards you see a creature with a casting cost of W and can swing for more than 1 the next turn. I have a feeling they’re not going away anytime soon.

* I felt the original name of this post was a little too crass, but I couldn’t help but share it with you: How Big is Your White Weenie?

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6 thoughts on “Slice of Pie – An Army of One (Drops)”

  1. Interesting analysis! I hadn’t thought of the restriction that that costing applied, that you lose the flexibility to play with mana costs the way you normally can. And while I dislike white in general, I appreciate them trying various things to make it a distinct color. Nice work!

  2. interesting that other than the iconic Savannah Lions, hyper-aggressive and efficient white weenie creatures didn’t really exist until Kamigawa, and then took a break until Lorwyn.

  3. You forgot Kor Duelist. Slap an Infiltration Lens or a Spidersilk Web on that guy, and you’ve got something that can attack for two. Granted, it’s two with double strike, but that just means you can enchant or equip him some more.

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