Updated 5/30: To address some points made on Reddit (by RichardArschmann), I’ve clarified some things in the article, particularly to distinquish between some card choices for my battle box list and for common choices made in tournament decks. Changes are in italics.
White Weenie is a venerable archetype, and likely the most budget-friendly deck in Old School. I thought it was a good place to start when building my battlebox (a collection of inexpensive, well-balanced decks).
The core components of the deck were in Alpha, but there weren’t quite enough tools yet.
A White Weenie deck was my first “real” deck — that is, my first deck that was more than just a pile of the cards I happened to have. I started building it right after Fallen Empires came out, since we had Icatian Everything at one mana, and a green dude that everyone wanted to get their hands on but no one could figure out how to actually cast before turn one million in a deck with 20 lands:
Fallen Empires, despite being much-maligned, had a fantastic array of small creatures and some easy-to-get utility cards that plenty of people didn’t want because they had been lucky enough to open packs of Arabian Nights and more than a few packs of Unlimited. This made it fairly easy to cobble together something that looked like:
Serra Angel if you had them
Some number of ways to remove a creature
Some number of Crusades or other ways to make the creatures bigger
Armageddon if you had them
I would go so far as to say that it’s one of the early decks that “built itself.” I ran into multiple decks at Legends in Towson during early 1995 that differed from my pile by only a few cards.
While there are certainly some cards that you might consider “the best” in each position, after writing out a generic list, it appears White Weenie accidentally had a mana curve before the concept even existed, just by trying to be thematic and playing a lot of cards from Fallen Empires and Revised.
Eventually, a White Weenie deck would take a world championship. So the archetype has a history of good results.
There are many ways to build White Weenie in Old School, and the deck can be competitive even on a budget.
A Budget Starting Point
Though hardly a cannonical list, the following is very close to my first white weenie deck before Ice Age came out:
4 Savannah Lions
3 Benalish Hero
4 Icatian Javelineers
3 White Knight
4 Order of Leitbur
2 Serra Angel
1 Witch Hunter
4 Swords to Plowshares
4 Ruins of Trokair
At the moment, allowing for any printing and card condition (not just near-mint original art), the above deck can be cobbled together without spending more than $1 on any card except Armageddon, and you might want to skip them if the entire field is budget decks anyway. In fact, the deck might be cheaper to build now than it was in 1994, considering that Serra Angel is 50c instead of $8. Revised basic lands cost more than some of the commons.
Most versions of this deck that you’ll see in Old School play 4 Strip Mines and some number of Mishra’s Factory. The Strip Mines are more important, and even with four of them this is among the cheapest of the budget decks. If I were playing this in a tournament, I would most likely play four Strip Mines, two Mishra’s Factories, and no more than one Ruins of Trokair. The Ruins coming into play tapped becomes increasingly detrimental with more colorless lands, because it might be your only white mana source in your opening hand. If I wanted more Mishra’s Factories, I would increase the number of lands rather than cutting more Plains, because the colored mana requirements of the deck will heaily punish draws without two white sources and outweigh the benefits of drawing multiple Factories and Strips.
Another reason for the Ruins of Trokair in my list is partly related to another deck in the battle box, which is a prison deck featuring Winter Orb. I wanted to make sure that the white deck had a way to disenchant a Winter Orb when only one land was available. This is obviously a very niche concern!
If you really want to splurge, then you are looking at some, let’s call them “reserve list problem children”: Preacher and Thunder Spirit. I think the ship has sailed on Thunder Spirit in particular, and the only people playing them will likely be those who perhaps got an unreasonably good deal or bought them before their value went bonkers.
Witch Hunter, however, is more than an excellent budget stand-in for Preacher: it’s worth considering as an outright replacement. It fills the same role of additional battlefield control, but it can also ping the opponent if you can’t attack. There’s a Timeshifted version with the original art, but that version is actually more expensive than the original printing! It’s a good stalemate breaker.
Let’s look at some other cards worthy of consideration, some obvious and powerful, and others not-so-obvious and … not-so-powerful (but fun):
Army of Allah: Some versions of White Weenie run as many as 16 one-drops, and the lower your mana costs the more sense this card makes. Sometimes it can do more damage than Crusade if you’re simply interested in forcing through as quickly as possible. Also note that while it does nothing for your army’s toughness, you don’t need to worry about that if you run more first-strike creatures like Tundra Wolves. There is also something to be said about the element of surprise inherent in this card.
Clergy of the Holy Nimbus: When you are taxing your opponent’s mana with Wasteland and Armageddon, they often don’t have the mana to pay for the regeneration. However, this is most often seen in lists under the Swedish deck construction rules, where there is simply a paucity of good one-drops. However, the art is pretty cool, and there are some style points for using a card that’s never been reprinted.
Icatian Lieutenant and Icatian Infantry. If you’re going to consider running the Lieutenant, it’s likely because you decided to split the difference between Benalish Hero and Tundra Wolves and you’re playing Icatian Infantry. This would all be more mana intensive, so I probably wouldn’t consider it in a version with Armageddon, but I would consider it in a land-heavy version with Mishra’s Factories for sure. Note that Lieutenant can pump any soldier, which includes the Icatian Javelineers that are almost certainly already in your list.
Jihad: While certainly not in consideration for a budget build, this card is an absolute beating in a mirror match or against other creature decks. Just be aware that if you kill off all your opponent’s creatures in combat, yours will shrink and possibly die! This card really shines with first strike.
Mesa Pegasus: Who can resist banding one up with White Knight and taking to the skies? Oh. That doesn’t actually work the way we played it when I was a kid … Well, banding is often underrated (and less often understood), so the horsie is worth considering if you have a lot of Moats and Island Sanctuaries to worry about. It’s also iconic art, so it’s not like anyone’s going to laugh at you for playing it.
Mishra’s Factory: I expect most people are mystified why one of the best affordable aggressive cards in the format is missing from my list. The answer is simply that I consider it to be a bit of a waste when Armageddon is in the cards. There are plenty of successful lists running both Factories and Strip Mines with and without Armageddon. To clarify, I do think Factories are well worth playing, I simply chose not to use them in the battle box version.
Moorish Cavalry: Though a creature that dies to lightning bolt is serious frowns for four mana, in a deck with Crusade it’s worth taking a look. You won’t be taking down Erhnam Djinn with these even with a Crusade out, but Trample is a rare ability in Old School.
Personal Incarnation. For a true wildcard, you can play one of the most dangerous (in more ways than one) creatures in the entire Old School format. It’s very tough for this to actually die in combat or to red direct damage spells, and the ability to selectively pay some life to keep it alive can make combat math very difficult. Also, since Swords to Plowshares removes a creature from the game, you won’t lose half your life when the PI goes farming. But six mana is a lot (especially if you ever plan to cast Armageddon). So you need a really good excuse to want this for anything other than style points.
Repentant Blacksmith is probably worth a sideboard slot if red is running rampant, but it might even be worth a maindeck slot if the control decks you’re facing are more Lightning Bolt than Swords to Plowshares. This is a creature I really wish was a 2/1, but we can’t have everything.
Tundra Wolves: First Strike is an excellent way to push through damage, particularly if you have a way to increase their power or do some damage to a blocker first, perhaps from something like Aeolipile.
This list of possibles was hardly exhaustive, so a trip through Gatherer might be in order if you’re in search of more inspiration. You should also check out the interesting Arabian Aggro and Weenie Prison builds over on Music City Old School.
Going Off The Rails
When is White Weenie not White Weenie? When it’s multicolored weenie, of course. You need dual lands to play them, but there are several fun options.
The Pink Weenie archetype has been described in some detail by Eternal Central, so I won’t rehash it here. If you already own the dual lands and Land Taxes necessary to build it, the deck is often stronger than any mono colored build. You usually have a leg up in any mirror match, and you no longer have to save Disenchant for a Moat if you know you can just throw Bolts for the last several points.
The usual W/G deck in Old School is Erhnam Geddon, but where that deck is slow and ponderous, you can stick with the aggressive stance and take some metagame creatures like Scavenger Folk and Argothian Pixies, or use Elvish Archers as another first strike creature.
But there are some far more fun things hiding in the card pool if you squint hard enough.
Take a look at Ashnod’s Transmogrant. While a single +1/+1 counter for one creature probably isn’t normally worth an entire card, white is replete with artifact destruction in the Old School card pool, which allows you to use it offensively. It’s generally safe to run a few dedicated artifact destruction spells (other than Disenchant) maindeck anyway, since nearly every deck runs Mishra’s Factory. Don’t have the Divine Offering in hand? That’s fine, Relic Barrier can tap the creature down until you find it. Dust to Dust being able to destroy multiple cards can help mitigate the card loss from the Transmogrant, and of course you can simply use any of these parts as a wrecking ball against artifact decks.
Once you’re running Relic Barrier, Winter Orb starts to look mighty tempting as a mana denial strategy (over Armageddon), and Howling Mine wants in as a card drawing engine. If you’re unfamiliar with the tricks involving those two artifacts, they’ve been errataed to restore the original functionality of continuous artifacts, which shut off when tapped. So you can use Relic Barrier or Icy Manipulator to tap the Orb at the end your opponent’s turn, letting you untap all your lands, or the Mine at the end of your own turn, so that only you draw an extra card each turn, breaking the symmetry.
Since these parts are good on their own in Old School, I think this is among the more intriguing aggro-control directions you can take White Weenie. I don’t think I want to take a stab at a list just yet, but there are more than enough tools already mentioned to get you started brewing.
Discussing a sideboard doesn’t have much meaning if you don’t know what your competition looks like or what they will be bringing in against you, so I’m leaving this as an exercise for the reader. I personally don’t much like using complete hosers, but there are some doozies among the white enchantments. Probably the main thing you don’t want to see across the board from you is Gloom, so perhaps consider what you might want if that appears on the first turn via Dark Ritual.
I hope some readers found this article interesting. If you have a build you want to share, please leave it in the comments.