Mono White Aggro Arena Standard Deck Tech & Sideboard Guide!

Hi all, since the RPTQ I’ve been channeling my competitive play into ranked matches on Arena and have managed to ascend from Bronze to Diamond in the last couple of weeks. In this article I’ll share the decks I’ve used to climb the ladder (spoiler in the title!) and provide some general considerations for navigating ranked play based on my experience. While not quite at the coveted Mythic level this season, I still think there’s value in sharing this knowledge and hopefully, if I play more ranked next season, I’ll get to Mythic and unveil more strategies applicable to that level of play.

Decks and Formats

Bronze

  • Format: Ranked Best of One
  • Deck: Izzet Drakes

Creatures (12)
Pteramander
Enigma Drake
Crackling Drake

Spells (27)
Dive Down
Opt
Spell Pierce
Shock
Chart a Course
Discovery // Dispersal
Lava Coil
Beacon Bolt
Lands (21)
Island
Mountain
Blood Crypt
Sulfur Falls
Steam Vents

Sideboard (15)
Entrancing Melody
Disdainful Stroke
Treasure Map
Niv-Mizzet, Parun
Ral, Izzet Viceroy
Negate
Raptor Hatchling

Rationale: Bronze rank is where most people will start, so it’s naturally full of ‘anything and everything’ as well as known competitive decks. At this rank, I played Best of One and chose Izzet Drakes. Drakes is good enough against most decks whether it’s aggro, combo, or control and can close out games very quickly. Drakes does have a poor matchup against Esper Control and other control decks, but having said this, I figured that fewer Bronze-level opponents would be playing such a slow deck, as they’d likely want to climb up to silver and beyond as quickly as possible. When playing Drakes you get a lot of free wins simply because the opponent isn’t running enough removal, especially in Best of One. Many people would probably choose to play Mono-red aggro over Drakes, and it’s likely true that you can get the wins just as quickly, if not quicker playing Mono-red. I didn’t have the Mono-red deck, but I’d like to recommend Drakes as a decent alternative, despite the red deck potentially being a better choice. As many people at this level are ‘just starting out,’ you can pick up a lot of ‘free wins’ through sensible mulligans (it took me years to be even slightly disciplined at this).

Summary: ‘Quick wins’ is the name of the game. To the average competitive player, this rank is a formality, but everyone has to start somewhere!

Silver and Gold

  • Format: Ranked Best of One 
  • Deck: Mono-white Aggro

Creatures (26)
Dauntless Bodyguard
Healer’s Hawk
Skymarcher Aspirant
Snubhorn Sentry
Tithe Taker
Benalish Marshal
Venerated Loxodon

Spells (14)
Legion’s Landing
History of Benalia
Unbreakable Formation
Conclave Tribunal
Lands (20)
20 Plains

Sideboard (15)
Tocatli Honor Guard
Baffling End
Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants
Adanto Vanguard
Demystify

Rationale: Silver rank is quite similar to Bronze, but fewer people will be playing pre-constructed decks, and you’ll see a lot more known competitive builds. In Gold you’ll go up against competitive decks almost exclusively, and the level of skill of your opponents increases a bit upon leaving Silver (based on my experience). Despite the higher skill of your opponents, you can still get ‘free wins,’ as not all players at this level mulligan optimally.

For these ranks I tackled most of Silver with Izzet Drakes (using the list above), but upon reaching Gold I decided to switch to Mono-white aggro. The main reason for the swap was that I have a theory that ‘people like to play control’. It might be a big assumption, but it’s one that I personally believe to be true, particularly among players who are starting to get into competitive Magic and are beginning to discover the strengths of card advantage and mass removal. Drakes doesn’t fare too well against control, but I think White Aggro is a great deck against it. It’s also fine against a large portion of the metagame, with Sultai Midrange being the main matchup it doesn’t want to face. Given that it usually takes about 5 minutes or less to win or lose a single game with the deck, I decided it was best to just accept I might play against Sultai and move onto the next game, rather than try and do anything about the matchup. While I recommend this plan, I’d caution that there is a lot of Mono-red aggro running around, and that matchup can be quite difficult if you’re on the draw. I’d still rather play against it than Sultai, but you need to sequence your plays a little differently and know when to attack. For example, if your opponent leads ‘Mountain – go’ play Snubhorn Sentry as your 1 drop!

Summary: Again, it’s about the quick wins. Assume all of your opponents are playing known Standard decks. The level of play doesn’t change drastically between Bronze and Silver, but it does between Silver and Gold. You can still get the odd ‘free win’ from players keeping risky hands, and White-aggro decks really punish this.

Platinum

  • Format: Traditional Ranked 
  • Deck: Mono-white Aggro

Creatures (26)
Dauntless Bodyguard
Skymarcher Aspirant
Snubhorn Sentry
Adanto Vanguard
Tithe Taker
Benalish Marshal
Venerated Loxodon

Spells (14)
Legion’s Landing
Baffling End
History of Benalia
Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants
Conclave Tribunal
Lands (20)
20 Plains

Sideboard (15)
Tocatli Honor Guard
Baffling End
Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants
Plains
Demystify
Lyra Dawnbringer

Rationale: At this rank, the level of play does start to climb significantly relative to the previous two ranks. In addition, I encountered a lot more Mono-blue decks than I had in the previous ranks, but that might have just been a consequence of time passing and people picking it up a bit more a week later. I decided that due to the diversity of decks I wanted to play whole matches rather than run the ‘chance’ gauntlet. White aggro decks don’t play very well from behind, which means that mulligans, though necessary, can be very punishing. If I took a mulligan to five in game one in Best of One, the match was likely over against the average opponent, and so I valued the chance to come back from a poor hand/draw in sideboarded games more than the ‘speed’ strategy of just jamming as many games as possible. Mono-white having what I believe to be a favourable matchup against the Mono-blue deck really helped me through this rank.

You’ll notice I’ve switched the build of the deck around a bit. Previously, I was playing 18 1 drops to be as ‘explosive’ as possible while backing the curve up with Unbreakable Formation. In this new build, I’ve cut the Hawks and Formations. I decided that Adanto Vanguard is simply a better card ‘post-wrath’ than Healer’s Hawk, and is even able to survive some boardwipes. Unbreakable Formation either felt like the best card or the worst card and got sideboarded out in every matchup except the mirror. I also wanted to try out some trump cards for the creature matchups, like Settle the Wreckage and Lyra Dawnbringer, eventually settling on the latter. Adding a big lifelink flyer to improve these matchups has really paid off against Mono-red, the mirror and Green-based aggro decks that are low on interaction and try to go bigger with Gruul Spellbreaker or Steel Leaf Champion. The single copies of Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants and Baffling End free up some sideboard space, allowing me to include Lyra in the 75. In spite of her being at her best versus creature decks, I don’t sideboard her in against Mono-blue. It’s too easy for them to counter, and if they ever steal her with Entrancing Melody then the game is over. The matchup is favourable enough without.

Summary: White is good against Blue. The latter is quite popular at the moment, so I think white is currently a good choice to grind through Platinum. By this point you’ll be playing against some quite skilled opponents, so gambling on chaining ‘free wins’ in the Best of One ranked queue is much riskier. The opponents I encountered in Platinum took favourable mulligans more often, preferring not to keep sketchy hands.

Diamond

  • Format: Traditional Ranked
  • Deck: Mono-white aggro (as above)

Rationale: I haven’t yet made it out of Diamond tier three at the time of writing, but I’m soldiering on with the deck that has, so far, brought me success. There’s a lot of help and hindrance at this tier in the sense that Mono-blue and Sultai Midrange seem to be the decks I’m facing the most, and it’s possible that I should make the switch to Mono-blue. I haven’t found the level of play to be drastically different to Platinum, but that’s probably because I’m still in tier three.

Some unanswered questions about White Weenie

Mono-white or Azorius Aggro: which is better?

Having tried both, I’m of the belief that Mono-white is the better of the two in the current metagame. Here are my reasons why:

  • Blue’s not worth it: While the splash is almost free (not actually ‘free’ – we’ll discuss this in a minute), I don’t feel that the blue cards add enough with the exception of Deputy of Detention being a useful tempo play in the mirror match. I did actually try Azorius before going Mono-white, and I found the countermagic to be unreliable – even if you run an extra Island in the sideboard (and at that point you’re cutting some number of Benalish Marshal which is one of your best cards in almost every matchup). After a large number of matches, I found there were so many instances where countermagic would be strong but was uncastable due to the lack of blue sources. You get to win the odd game you have no business winning because you curved out and had Negate for their sweeper, but for each of those matches you probably lose more games to drawing a Negate instead of a threat or having countermagic in hand and no blue mana.
  • The Blue splash isn’t ‘free’: It’s possible to have Glacial Fortress as your only mana source in your opening hand, which is basically a mulligan. In addition, paying 2 life for Hallowed Fountain can matter against Red decks.

Mono-white avoids all of this and keeps true to plan A – curving out and beating down!

Is Tithe Taker good?

It’s taken a while for Tithe Taker to eclipse Adanto Vanguard as the 2-drop of choice, but I believe it’s overall a better card. It taxes our opponent’s removal and makes it harder for our opponents to play the game at instant speed. Remember this includes both spells and abilities (like Pteramander’s Adapt). Resolving this on turn two against Mono-blue makes the game so hard for them (as if it wasn’t bad enough already). In that matchup I rarely attack with Tithe Taker as I don’t want it to be caught by a Merfolk Trickster in combat. It won’t survive Cry of the Carnarium, but Adanto Vanguard isn’t doing that either.

One-landers and other Mulligans

As the deck only runs 20 lands, this is what I do when I have a one-lander.

  • I don’t keep the 7 card one-lander on the play or draw, no matter how many one drops it has! Despite being a low curve deck, I really want to maximise my ability to have the most powerful curve of threats on turns 1-4. By only playing one drops on turns 1-3, my boardstate would be too weak – a weak boardstate is not a substitute for a strong one, even if it prevents us from taking a mulligan to 6.
  • On six cards I’ll only keep a one lander on the play if it has at least three 1-drops and a Venerated Loxodon or Conclave Tribunal. This means my hand has a lot of potential to play something on turns one, two, and three if I draw that second land. If on the draw I can be a bit more liberal, but I still want at least two 1-drops. I don’t mind having a Benalish Marshal or History of Benalia as there’s more chances to get the second and third lands.
  • On five cards, I would probably keep a one-lander that has a one drop. Not ideal, but at this point I just need to cross my fingers. The deck wins almost all its games by having multiple early-game threats, and going down to four is no more likely to get there than the five cards that desperately need a land drop.

When I have more than one land I often think, “Can my hand play something good on turns one, two, and three (if I draw a third land by then)?” If yes, it’s probably a keep, if no it’s most likely a mulligan. Don’t keep three lands and four copies of Benalish Marshal as tempting as it might be!

Sequencing threats

I often lead with Skymarcher Aspirant in the dark on turn one. It swings for two and Dauntless Bodyguard can randomly be useful later on to protect a Snubhorn Sentry, Benalish Marshal, or to get a combat boost from History of Benalia. If I’m playing against control, I like to get Legion’s Landing onto the battlefield before it can be taken with Thought Erasure, as transforming that card is incredibly strong against control strategies. If I’m playing against Mono-red, Snubhorn Sentry is a better card in the face of a Shock tempo play and doesn’t die to the triggered ability of Goblin Chainwhirler. It’s also worth noting that, sometimes, playing Adanto Vanguard or Tithe Taker on turn two might be better than playing multiple one drops. Your opponent is always going to try and make your attacks as unfavourable as possible, and by having one of these stronger threats online faster you might be able to get in an extra attack before they brickwall you. Note that if you are wanting to play spells and then convoke a Loxodon or Tribunal, 1 drops are basically ‘free’ on that turn if you don’t want to block with them.

How do you sideboard?

This is how I have been sideboarding against the major archetypes with my latest build (used for Platinum and Diamond)

Vs Mono-Red Aggro

Vs Mono-Blue Aggro

Vs Sultai Midrange

Vs Esper Control

Vs Mirror/Azorius Aggro

Izzet Drakes

Bant/Simic Nexus

What’s Next?

I hope you’ve found this insightful. I’m hoping to play more Ranked on Arena next season as I have most of the decks I need now and don’t need to play as many drafts to obtain cards (but will probably just draft a lot for fun anyway). Hopefully I will hit Mythic and, who knows, the meta might be completely different by then!

You can find me on Facebook, Twitter (@Chris54154), and I’ll most likely be at MagicFest London in April. I play most of my Magic in the North of England, but also regularly attend GPs in Europe and large competitive UK events like Axion Now’s Mega Modern and Legacy Masters.

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