It's time to admit the White cards are terrible right now.
Based on some of the conversations I've had last week over my (latest) article talking about how weirdly omnipresent Green is when it comes to the color pie and its offerings to each color, some attribute weird conspiracy theories when it comes to color and balance and all things betwixt.
Reality check, right fast: WotC doesn't have a secret agenda to push one color. Why on earth would they? And just in case this logic extends to other realms of life for the pseudo-aggrieved: something not going your way isn't necessarily an indication a group of agents have drawn up a plan to make your human experience worse. Stay calm, friend.
2020 is a weird time.
So now that we've established the reason we sometimes lose at Magic isn't Illuminati-based, the first thing to we need to do is demonstrate the characteristics that make White so bad at the moment, lest we fall into the trap of just rattling off lousy, misguided notions of power.
So let's start there:
What "Bad" Means
When we're talking about problems with White we aren't necessarily talking about every facet of Magic play. Death and Taxes has been a Legacy deck forever, Swords to Plowshares is still the most efficient removal spell of its kind, and it wasn't that long ago that these cards were Standard-legal:
(Anyone who needs one last check on mistaking the actual problem with one of incidental rotating Standard power structures: Please note I didn't include Felidar Guardian.)
You can run degenerate Hexproof in Modern, you can play Stoneforge Mystic wherever its legal, and you can draft White until the cows come home in most Limited formats.
We're largely talking Standard here. And that wouldn't be a big deal except Standard is the cow they put all the ribbons on all the time.
Anyone can cherry pick cards they dislike or use all of Magic as a sample size for why they don't like anything. The glaring issue with White right now is recent but systemic, and you can see the symptoms here:
The White cards in these cycles frequently either just do the most baseline lazy "White" thing - scaled Alabaster Potions, woo - or look like they're missing text, or both.
You want one or both of two things when you're trying to sell Constructed Magic cards to people opening Magic card packs and wanting to beat people and/or have fun at Constructed Magic games:
1. The card needs to seem powerful:
Whether it's someone that thinks power is mostly a one-dimensional advantage (most players) or someone that understands power is contextual (almost no players), a card needs to look like it's in the business of winning Magic games somehow.
2. The card needs to seem interesting:
A card does not have to be a world-beater to give its owner something to do. Creative problem-solving is Magic's oxygen.
So where are we with White and the above criteria for good, solid Magic cards in good, solid, fun Magic packs?
Well, having one is great, two is might be dangerous, zero is a White card.
Previous Color White
What was the last color with a crisis?
Red, of course!
Congratulations. You just took a tour of Red's color pie before 2019.
In the last year, Red has grown its dorky enchantment game out of the niche strategies and into reasonable decklists; the graveyard, hand, and top of the library have all figured out how they want to interact with Red; and Red has expanded its disruption game in appropriate ways that don't tread too hard on other color spots.
Why not White?!
Let it, you know, do stuff.
White Stuff Wishlist
1.) Never make White's trademark enchantment-based removal narrow.
White gets some trademark nutso removal spells in non-rotating formats, but in the Standard world, you're stuck with angle-shooting something with cmc three or less, or something with power four or greater, or - God forbid - paying four or more mana to unconditionally get something gone.
Look, if you're going to print crap like Oko, I think we can deal with a straight up Banishing Light or Oblivion Ring being in every set, rather than all the Trapped in the Towers and such of the world.
2.) Planeswalkers are generally dangerous; Let White kill them
This harkens back to Questing Beast having a hilarious buffet of text and abilities, as well as the previous item.
White is about justice and such, right? How about letting it balance those ridiculous traction-based Planeswalker game states with something better than Planar Cleansing?
Let White turn loyalty counters into +1/+1 counters. Let White take Planeswalkers for a turn like Red does with creatures. Let White do something besides create Soldiers.
Soldiers suck! They're not even Knights most of the time!
This is the closest thing White has right now to Nissa's Chosen. It's sad what they've done.
3.) Creatures basically have to be Eternal Witness anyway. Why isn't Wrath okay again?
I remember the hilarious days of Ravenous Chupacabra being only an on-and-off-again Standard player despite its infamy. Those days are still the way things work, just so you know.
It doesn't matter if you two-for-one your opponent on four mana if they two-for-one'd you on three.
Creatures dying means almost nothing now. Every creature that sees major Standard play - and isn't an aggro Red card or a plain rate so dumb it actually works out - is some kind of Mulldrifter or Merfolk Branchwalker or Risen Reef. When Wraths moved up to five mana, this was a bit less so. Now, who really cares if you get three creatures blown up with a Day of Judgment? You're already up four and a half cards and a scry anyway.
And why can't stuff regenerate anymore?!
Is this thing on?!
4.) Life gain doesn't get to be "your thing" when two other colors got most of the Food tokens.
I love Throne of Eldraine about as much as anyone, but once you step outside the framework of just that card pool, Food starts exposing how embarrassing White's trademark tendency is.
In a world where Green has this at common...
These. Cards. Suck:
The people that love White - poor fools, myself included - love it because Angels get things right and punch hard in case there's any confusion. Suntail Hawk with pants on is no longer a Magic card to tournament players. It probably never should've been.
5.) Find White's Value Mechanics
Now that Red finally has itself in order, White is the last color (by miles) to give up on the idea that not drawing cards is okay. The Blue examples are the precedent, the Black cards do a reasonable imitation, the Green cards get everything, and Red gives it a chaotic spin or a "price up front" stipulation.
White has basically this. Ever. And I'm pretty sure these are almost all entirely wrong in their own design direction as well.
True Love's Kiss isn't going to do it, fam. Give White some gusto outside of a Gideon and some dice.
He always becomes a Soldier. Figures.
White Knighting For White
The colors have a natural ebb and flow to them as Magic walks on through the ages, but there's something about the years that produced Oko and Felidar Guardian (among others) that point to some potential holes in the process.
And while I'm the first to jump to the logical defenses of cards that are way out of bounds for Standard context, I also Raise the Alarm when I wonder if the game would be a bit more manageable if it had all five of its colors - plus artifacts and whatever other colorless mechanisms - instead of just four.
We invite White to join Magic in 2020, already in progress.
The Indestructible Danny West