By Carlos

Continuing the theme from last week, I’m trying to build a series of mono-colored decks based around generals that don’t get as much love as they should. From the title, I’m sure you can tell that I’m tackling white this week, and taking a closer look at Linvala, Keeper of Silence. Before starting the deckbuilding, I’d like to take a look at some of the mono-white generals, and what the color does in general.

When you restrict yourself to white deck, there’s really only two kinds of decks that you can build: voltron or attrition. Now, I know there are people who would say that you can build token decks or control decks, but I would contend that these are all just attrition decks. You’re trying to use various card advantage mechanisms, either tokens, wraths or Rebels or whatever, to grind out resources over a long game. I don’t know about you, but that sounds an awful lot like a control deck to me. Now let’s take a look at some of the more popular generals and see what archetypes they fall into:

Akroma, Angel of Wrath – Wrath-based attrition or Voltron
Eight-and-a-Half-Tails – Voltron
Darien, King of Kjeldor – Token-based attrition
Kemba, Kha Regent – Token-based attrition or Voltron
Crovax, Ascendant Hero – Token-based attrition
Konda, Lord of Eiganjo – Wrath-based attrition

The first is generic wrath-based mono white control, with a general chosen pretty much at random. This is probably the most common white-based deck that I see, since it’s usually just a mish-mash of good white cards and a random legend as the general. The second deck is a little less common, but every group has a deck like this: the “lifegain/prevent damage/I don’t want to die” deck. There’s actually two builds of the deck though. There’s the build that doesn’t actually have a way to win the game, and the builds that try to abuse Test of Endurance and Felidar Sovereign. One is hilarious and obnoxious, the other is just obnoxious. So with the white overview out of the way, here are some legends I’d be excited to build around:

Commander Eesha
Lin-Sivvi, Defiant Hero
Radiant, Archangel
Reya Dawnbringer
Yomiji, Who Bars the Way
Liu Bei, Lord of Shu
Linvala, Keeper of Silence

Commander Eesha doesn’t get nearly enough love. I mean, there are a ton of ways to abuse his ability to protect yourself from general damage, or just creature-based damage in general. He’s a great Voltron general since he’s largely immune to other generals that deal with creatures, and can’t be blocked. He’s got great synergy with Pariah effects, and is generally just a bad ass.

Lin-Sivvi is…well, disappointing. Not because her ability is bad, but because all the rebels are so terrible. Really, you’re just playing a mana-intensive version of token beatdown, except that you get less utility because half of your deck is made of these terrible rebels. I mean, the upside is that you get a Children of Korlis “soft-lock” and you can tutor up Mirror Entity for wins out of nowhere, but that’s not really much of an upside is it? I’m sure I’ll end up building a Lin Sivvi deck at some point, but right now I just don’t see many game plans besides Rebel Chain followed by multiple Geddons, and that’s pretty lame.

Angel tribal, go! Radiant, Archangel is an interesting creature to say the least. She’s begging to be thrown into a deck with a million angels, but also plays nicely with those Pegasus and bird tokens that white has some support for. All in all, definitely a better theme general than Akroma or Rune-Tail, which so often get thrown in as general for either tribal or token deck just because.

A Debtor’s Knell on a body has to be really good, right? There are two problems with going this route though. Firstly, what are you going to recur in white? Yosei? Iona? As powerful as those are, it’s kind of dumb to have that as a primary gameplan. The second problem is that Emeria, the Sky Ruin is a card. Emeria doesn’t cost you a deck slot. It’s harder to deal with. It can be Vesuva’d. Reya’s really powerful, but she loses a little of her upside when you can get this kind of effect in ANY deck.

Continuing the trend from Kamigawa block for overcosted creatures that don’t do very much, Yomiji could probably be costed a 2WW or 3WW and still see little to no play. Even though there ARE ways to take advantage of it, the number of hoops you have to jump through is so high that it’s rarely worth it. That said, the one MTGO deck that I have is a Yomiji commander deck that I built for about $15, and it’s been fun to play.

Oh terrible P3K legends. I want to build decks around some of you so badly, but they’re just so expensive. Liu Bei himself is only $7, but Guan Yu is another $7, and Zhang Fei is somewhere around $40. As cool as these are, that’s a little steep for these vanilla legends that are, to be quite honest, pretty below the curve. Besides, they don’t have a black-bordered printing, which is a pretty big strike against them in my book.

So, that leaves Linvala, my choice for this deck. I’m actually picking Linvala as an opportunity to experiment in my playgroup. A week or two ago we talked about the Arms Race Concept with Adam Styborski, and my group’s been going through a little of that recently. The generals that are seeing the most play right now are Azami, Jhoira, Arcum Dagsson, and Ezuri, all powerful generals in their own right. The thing they all have in common, however, is that they straight up lose to an early Linvala backed by enough disruption.

Linvala does not get NEARLY enough credit as a metagame general as she deserves, since she single-handedly shuts down a ton of the top tier generals, and is easily protected with common staples like Lightning Greaves and utility spells like Shelter and Rebuff the Wicked. If you can back her up with some prison pieces and additional disruption, you get enough time for Linvala to get there Voltron-style. So, in short, here are the goals of this deck:

  1. Resolve a turn 2 or 3 Linvala EVERY game
  2. Back Linvala up with cheap, permanent based disruption
  3. Run enough equipment to make Linvala a respectable clock

Seems pretty simple, but there are actually a number of options that can be taken, so let’s get started.

So what’s the easiest thing to start with? The all-important acceleration. How else are we going to get an early Linvala? Here’s how:

Mox Diamond
Marble Diamond
Mind Stone
Everflowing Chalice
Sol Ring
Thunder Totem
Coldsteel Heart
Mana Crypt
Mana Vault
Chrome Mox
Lotus Petal

This is a pretty straightforward suite of acceleration, but there are definitely substitutions that could be made. You can definitely add more things like Coalition Relic and Prismatic Lens over some of the more expensive pieces like Mox Diamond or Mana Crypt. As long as you’ve got roughly 10-14 ramp spells, you should be pretty well off for a turn 3 Linvala. However, at least as important as the acceleration pieces are the things that you accelerate into. Let’s take a look at the Voltron package.

Stoneforge Mystic
Lightning Greaves
Sword of Fire and ice
Sword of Feast and Famine
Umezawa’s Jitte
Nim Deathmantle
Elspeth, Knight Errant

The equipment here are pretty straightforward. These are the equipment whose effects are the best at applying pressure; at keeping you ahead of the other players. They give you the largest variety of protections, and are going to be the most effective way you have to combat the kinds of answers you’re going to see for Linvala. I’d usually go for Feast and Famine first, so you can drop lock pieces AND advance other gameplans at the same time; that’ll give you the best opportunity of applying pressure and keeping the other players under control. How exactly are you going to keep other players under control? Here are your lock pieces:

Kormus Bell
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

Winter Orb
Static Orb
Hokori, Dust Drinker
Blinkmoth Well
Karakas

Smokestack
Worldqueller
Mishra’s Helix
Archon of Justice
Sundering Titan
Karmic Justice
Ark of Blight

Crucible of Worlds
Rings of Brighthearth
Dustbowl
Tectonic Edge
Strip Mine
Wasteland
Storm Cauldron

So there are four categories of lock pieces. The first set is a two card combo that locks down everyone else’s lands. You’ve got tutors for both pieces, and it’ll pretty much end the game on the spot. People will hate you for it though, so be careful with that one.

The second set of cards help create a soft lock, that can be pretty back-breaking in conjunction with other pieces. Winter Orb and Static Orb combo with your other Icy Manipulator effects, but in particular Blinkmoth Well. Similarly, Hokori interacts well with Karakas, if you’re allowed to play it. If not, just run a plains or some such instead. If you tap/bounce your lock piece at the end of the turn before yours, you’ll be the only player with a real untap step. If you can back these up with Strip Mine effects or other Icy Manipulator effects, you have an effective hard lock on one or more players while you continue to beat down.

Your third set of lock pieces are attrition cards. You can use these to kick people while they’re down; to prevent them from being able to put together the resources to get out from under the lock. These all destroy one or more permanents, usually lands, and most are also repeatable, helping to keep people under a lock once you get them there. The key difference between these and the next set of pieces is that these tend to affect multiple players.

The last combination of lock pieces are some of the least favorite cards in the format. You’ve got a list of Crucible of Worlds + Strip Mine/Wasteland pieces, which can be used to hit the one land people untap each turn, or to hit key utility lands, and tempo people out of the game. The REALLY interesting interaction is that between Crucible + Strip Mine and Storm Cauldron. Storm Cauldron is a frustrating enough card to play against on its own, since most people want to play a number of expensive spells, and Storm Cauldron makes that pretty difficult. When you use your multiple lands drops to destroy multiple lands, and they’re just bouncing all of theirs, it makes it pretty difficult for anyone to play a sequence of relevant spells.

The next set of cards I’d like to look at are more of a taxing effect. They don’t really let you lock anyone down, but they do contribute positively to the rest of your lock pieces. It makes it more difficult for anyone to do much while you set up the rest of your lock pieces. There are two sub categories of taxing effects. The first let you tap down your own lock pieces (Winter Orb and friends) or key permanents of other players, and the second increases the costs of different types of spells, making it harder to deal with your other prison effects that are already restricting mana.

Yosei, the Morning Star
Kismet
Loxodon Gatekeeper
Icy Manipulator
Scepter of Dominance
Tangle Wire

Glowrider
Aura of Silence
Magus of the Tabernacle
Spelltithe Enforcer
Sphere of Resistance
Thorn of Amethyst
Lodestone Golem

The important interaction to note is Yosei + sac outlets + Nim Deathmantle. You can easily tutor up the Deathmantle, and this will let you tap down any relevant permanents and hard lock multiple players. Deathmantle also gives some additional resilience to the Linvala plan, but is mostly in the deck to be another hard lock with Yosei. You’ve got plenty of ways to slow the game down while you beat down. This is one of your relatively limited ways to actually completely prevent people from playing the game.

So that’s the skeleton of the deck, but there are still a number of interesting things that can be done to increase the consistency and synergy of the deck. Here are a few of the cards I picked to fill in the utility slots in the deck:

Enlightened Tutor
Idyllic Tutor
Expedition Map

Ranger of Eos
Mother of Runes
Weathered Wayfarer
Mistveil Plains

Land Tax
Scroll Rack
Sensei’s Divining Top

The tutor and card selection pieces give you a little more consistency and another prison mechanism. Land Tax lets you make your land drops and thin your deck, and is a powerful shuffle effect for Scroll Rack and Sensei’s Divining Top. Ranger of Eos may seem strange here, but it’s really only there for Weathered Wayfarer. The fact that it also tutors up MoRo to protect Linvala is just pure upside. Wayfarer + Mistveil Plains is yet another way for you to strip mine someone every turn. It’s pretty slow and mana intensive, but hey, you take what you can get.

The last non-land cards in the deck are the last bits of utility and powerful bombs that you’ll use to start locking the game down. These effects can be about as close to “I win” as you’ll get before actually dealing the last points of damage. Some of them are powerful utility effects, some yield powerful synergies, and some are just more consistency and beaters.

Sun Titan
Sculpting Steel
Gideon Jura

Luminarch Ascension
Elspeth Tirel

Armageddon
Ravages of War
Catastrophe
Cataclysm

So obviously, the armageddons are going to draw some hate, but hey, the deck is built to fight some of the top generals, so I don’t feel like it’s reasonable to pull punches here. These will tempo other players out of the game while you beat down. Luminarch Ascension and Elspeth Tirel are both win conditions and play nicely with Smokestack and friends, and, once again, they bring the beats!

Last, you’ve got Sun Titan, Sculpting Steel and Gideon Jura. These are powerful, synergistic cards that can win the game for you in combination with your lock pieces. Sun Titan recurs all kinds of lock pieces, lands, and is a walking Strip Mine lock. He plays REALLY well with Nim Deathmantle, and has all kinds of sweet interactions. Sculpting Steel can copy all of your broken lock pieces. From Storm Cauldron for more land drops/strip mine shenanigans, to Tangle Wire, to equipment. Gideon can beat down, but he can also force other players to attack into him, and can be an assassinate effect with your Icy Manipulators. You need a little spot removal, and he fills that role while still being a synergistic part of your gameplan.

Last, the mana base. You’ve got about 33 slots for lands altogether, which may seem a bit low, but your whole gameplan is to resolve Linvala and cheap lock pieces. If that succeeds, you’ll have plenty of time to draw into more ramp spells and lands while still deploying additional cheap prison pieces. The selection of lands for the deck is pretty important since they’ve got to do powerful things that help advance your gameplan. Here’s what I’ve got:

Ancient Tomb
City of Traitors
Emeria, the Sky Ruin
Flagstones of Trokair
Vesuva
Thawing Glaciers
Deserted Temple
Rishadan Port
High Market
Miren, the Moaning Well
Boseiju, Who Shelters All
Remote Farm

2 Fetchlands
14 Plains

So here you’ve got a few powerful things going on. Flagstones likes smokestack and other similar effects. Ancient Tomb, City of Traitors, and Remote Farm are powerful ramping lands. High Market and Miren play very nicely with both Emeria and Nim Deathmantle, as well as just being powerful with Yosei. Thawing Glaciers is there to allow you to make consistent land drops, which is very important in this deck once you get started. Your land drops are a resource, which you frequently use to destroy lands, but can also be used to ramp out lands to sacrifice to smokestack. Thawing Glaciers is especially powerful with Deserted Temple. Vesuva just lets you copy other powerful lands, frequently strip mines or Ancient Tomb or Emeria.

So, that’s my take on an aggressive Linvala Prison build, designed to take advantage of the reliance of many top-tier decks on the activated abilities of their generals. You’ve got a proactive disruption suite that prevents other players from interacting with additional pieces of disruption. Sometimes the best way to deal with people doing broken things is to prevent them from doing anything at all.

I’m going to continue this series of mono colored archetypical decks. We started with ramp/combo, have built an aggressive prison deck, and will move on to something a little different next week. As always, I’m looking for feedback, ideas, and participation. If you’ve got any suggestions, comments, ideas, or decks you’d like to share, I’d be glad to hear from you. Shoot me an email at cag5383(at)gmail.com.

Carlos
cag5383(at)gmail.(dot)om