Being Whitelisted in Eldraine Limited

Ethan Saks • November 3, 2019

I think we can all agree that white has gotten the short end of the stick as far as limited is concerned in the most recent sets. In War of the Spark it felt like nothing short of God-Eternal Oketra could get me to draft white happily. Things weren’t much better this summer with Core Set 2020 and Modern Horizons. In the former, Raise the Alarm and Pacifism were both cheap but mostly ineffective spells. In the latter, Rhox Veteran and Irregular Cohort competed for best white common at a hefty 4 cmc and Settle Beyond Reality was one of the clunkiest removal spells we’ve seen for white in some time. It seems that R&D will just never be able to make white a strong color in limited again. I mean, just look at Throne of Eldraine, right?

::Insert Record Scratch Sound Effect::

WRONG! White is good (dare I say great?) in Eldraine. White finally has the tools to be a strong aggressive color with inherent synergies and a long list of playable commons. You just have to let go of the holdover bias against white from previous sets. Arena Bots and MTGO players alike are drastically undervaluing what white has to offer in this format. With 30 drafts on Arena and over 90 on MTGO, white is my most drafted color on both platforms. I’m here today to give you the lowdown on what makes this color so successful this time around.

The Commons

Hopefully by now it is apparent to you all just how busted Ardenvale Tactician // Dizzying Swoop is. It is the best white common and one of the best commons in the set overall. A 2/3 flyer for 3 mana is decent stats, but the adventure here is what really pushes this over the top. This plays great on offense by getting two blockers out of the way and plays great on defense by preventing their two best attackers from getting in. It’s a knight and an adventure which are the two strongest themes that white has to offer in this set. There’s really nothing this card can’t do.

Trapped in the Tower is a lot better than I initially thought. It gets knocks against it for being unable to take care of flyers, for Gift of the Fae being able to knock it off, and for Run Away Together being such a good card in the format. Even with all of that, it’s still a great card for white aggressive decks. The things that white has the hardest time dealing with is big, dumb creatures. Racing or pushing through cards like Fierce Witchstalker, Garenbrig Paladin and Tuinvale Treefolk // Oaken Boon can be tough for your team of cheap threats. Trapped in the Tower allows you to not only take care of these creatures, but double spell in the process because it’s so cheap. Turning off activations from Tempting Witch or Merchant of the Vale // Haggle is also quite relevant.

Both Tactician and Trapped are close to appropriately valued by the community at large. Beyond that, I think White’s commons are drastically underrated. Fox and Guidemother are the best athletes being picked last for gym class in draft right now. I have these as the 3rd and 4th best commons in White, both C+ grades and I see them wheeling far too often. Flutterfox has been often compared to Gust Walker from Amonkhet and for good reason. Whether you have white removal like Trapped in the Tower or Glass Casket, a red finisher like Brimstone Trebuchet, a Witching Well in blue, or one of the many fantastic colorless cards in the set, getting the Fox to fly is a fairly easy trick.

As for Guidemother, this is another slam dunk white uncommon. A 1 mana 1/1 flyer is a good magic card when you play it on turn 1. You can usually rely on it for 4 or 5 points of damage throughout the course of the game. The problem with a card like that is if you draw it later in the game, it’s just not impactful enough. That’s what make Gift of the Fae so incredible. All of a sudden this top deck isn’t so bad as you can launch your Lonesome Unicorn into the air for a 5 power attack. Guidemother is also a great target for the myriad of combat trick adventures, and great to pick-up in the late game with Shepherd of the Flock // Usher to Safety.

The adventure mechanic is really what makes white sing in this format. It lets white do what it does best (deliver the beat down), but with built-in card advantage so you don’t need the perfect draw every time. Stapling a +2/+2 combat trick on to a two drop is fantastic. Both of these spells are cards most white decks are interested in, especially in this format where there is very little that punishes 1-toughness creatures. Sure, both halves of Lonesome Unicorn // Rider in Need are overcosted cards, but you still get two creatures from one card that you can pay for in installments on curve. One of the benefits of drafting a white aggressive deck is that these cards are C grade level spells and they very consistently wheel.

Each of these cards provides something different for the white decks in this format. Youthful Knight gives white a great two drop that belongs to a relevant tribe, is difficult to block, and is a great target for combat tricks. For some reason, Prized Griffin seems to get a lot of hate, but it is a very serviceable finisher. At COMMON! If you didn’t end up with one of the uncommon Syrs or some other strong way to close out the game, a Griffin or two at the top of your curve will do just fine.

That’s 8 commons deep in white and I still think we’re at C level cards. The deep roster of commons that white has to offer is one of the many reasons I think it’s so strong in this format. Before looking at how white pairs with other colors, let’s go through a quick rundown of the rest of the commons.

  • Ardenvale Paladin - An odd card in my opinion. Since it has an adamant bonus, it probably belongs in a heavy white deck, but a heavy white deck has no interest in playing a 3/6 for 4 mana. I have this as strictly sideboard material against big green creatures.
  • Bartered Cow - I played this card once in a controlling UW deck that cared about food with two Sorcerer’s Brooms, but that was such a corner case. This card might as well be an F.
  • Beloved Princess - I know people are playing this card in the Gingerbrute / All that Glitters decks. I still think you can do better.
  • Fortifying Provisions - Remember that UW deck with Bartered Cow and Brooms? I played this there as well. But that’s it. Another F for me
  • Knight of the Keep - Totally playable and totally filler. If you’ve got knight synergies or are trying to go mono-white, this card will almost certainly make your deck. And you can get it super late.
  • Outflank - I like this card A LOT. It's very reminiscent of bad cards we’ve seen in the past, but it’s actually quite serviceable. In the same way that Trapped in the Tower provides an answer to a large blocker in a cheap way, Outflank gives you cheap interaction. The usual play pattern is that your opponent taps out for their 5 drop to try to stabilize. It’s bigger than everything on your side, but you attack all anyway and use Outflank to take out the 5 drop that they’re priced in to blocking with.
  • Shining Armor - This is filler at best. If you’ve got a bunch of Flutterfoxes you want to get into the air, maybe this is worth it, but I’m not usually interested in this in any of my white decks.
  • Silverflame Ritual - A very powerful payoff for being heavy or mono white. You don’t need to prioritize this and you probably don’t want more than one, but this can swing the game heavily in your favor, especially if you’re racing as the adamant bonus of vigilance is sure to stop your opponent’s forces in their tracks
  • True Love’s Kiss - I said it in my preview article and I’ll say it again: this card is absolutely maindeckable. There’s tons of playable artifacts and enchantments running around and the fact that this cantrips means that destroying a food token while your opponent is tapped out isn’t the most embarrassing thing you’ll ever do. In my most streamlined white decks, I hope to not run this, but I’m not mad if I have to.

Two Color Pairs

White has so much going for it beyond a great list of roleplayers at common. Adventures are a built in synergy within white with Mysterious Pathlighter as a fantastic payoff. Turning your Guidemothers into 2/2 flyers for 1 mana after they’ve gone on an adventure is very strong. Lucky Clover is also great here as getting double combat tricks from your Silverflame Squires or Guidemothers can push a lot of damage or just curving out Clover into a couple of 2/2 Knights with Rider in Need. And if you’re pairing white with green and find yourself with an Edgewall Innkeeper, the sky’s the limit for the amount of value you can accrue with your aggressive deck.

Blue offers the widest range of decks when paired white. I’ve seen control decks with Lucky Clover and Merfolk Secretkeeper // Venture Deeper, combo decks with Golden Eggs and Dance of the Manse, value decks with Emry, Lurker of the Loch and Arcanist's Owl, and beatdown decks with Gingerbrute, Flutterfox, and large Shambling Suits. This color pair can go a lot of ways and doesn’t have to be aggressive so make sure your gameplan is streamlined based on the cards you’re trying to maximize

The knight synergies across red and black are great. Within white at rare you’ve got Acclaimed Contender and Worthy Knight as reasons that push me towards a heavy knight deck. In black, Belle of the Brawl works on the aggressive side of things whereas Barrow Witches (a card you can generally pick up late) gives your deck a Gravedigger with a formidable body. Smitten Swordmaster // Curry Favor is one of the most potent threats for any knight deck as it pulls double duty: a good threat to play on turn 2 and a finisher in a board stall when you just need to push through those last few points of damage.

Red is my favorite color to pair with white as both colors generally want to be aggressive. Rimrock Knight // Boulder Rush gives you another cheap creature with a great adventure combat trick. Scorching Dragonfire adds to the list of cheap removal that allows you to double spell in the later turns of the game. Burning-Yard Trainer, a card I was initially quite low on, can pack a huge punch as top end in this deck, especially in conjunction with Raging Redcap and Fireborn Knight. And Brimstone Trebuchet has to be the all-star here. In a heavy knight deck, a couple copies of this card go a long way in getting in for damage early and closing things out in the late game.

Well there you have it! White and aggressive strategies are alive and well in this format. Hopefully this synopsis gives you the tools to properly evaluate these cards and what white’s gameplan is in this draft environment. What underrated strategies or cards have you been having success with? Let me know on twitter! And, as always, happy drafting!