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Drafting White in Innistrad

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Most players seem to agree that White is the strongest color in Innistrad Draft. W/U and G/W might even be the two best color combos. While the pieces are powerful, it’s still critical to learn how best to assemble these decks. One of the things I like about this format is the learning curve. It takes practice and effort to master each archetype. While I haven’t yet mastered all of the Innistrad draft archetypes, I’ve spent quite a bit of time and effort learning the White archetypes—especially W/U and G/W.

The first archetype I mastered was G/W. The big synergy here is Humans. Both Green and White have quite a few Humans, and they also have some cards that reward you for playing a lot of Humans, such as Hamlet Captain, Elder Cathar, Bonds of Faith, and a few of the rares. As usual, White has good, cheap creatures like Avacynian Priest, Spectral Rider, and Chapel Geist, while Green has excellent creatures at every point in the curve like Darkthicket Wolf, Villagers of Estwald, Festerhide Boar, and Grizzled Outcasts.

The two commons that are obviously intended for this archetype are Avacyn's Pilgrim and Travel Preparations. The Pilgrim is a Human that helps you ramp to your Green fat while also helping you achieve your ww you need for cards like Chapel Geist. G/W is a creature-heavy archetype that will almost always have multiple targets for Preparations. Travel Preparations is also a good way to transform opposing Werewolves for only 4 mana and a single card. G/W also has great combat tricks to pound its creatures through the opposition—Moment of Heroism and Spidery Grasp. More surprising is how good the removal is in G/W. In most formats, I hate drafting that color combination because I hate playing without removal. In this case, though, we have great cards like Prey Upon, Fiend Hunter, and Slayer of the Wicked.

I’ve won several drafts with G/W, and until recently it, was my favorite archetype. My new favorite is W/U. This is largely because of a deck I drafted recently at my local game store:

[cardlist]

[Creatures]

1 Elder Cathar

1 Murder of Crows

1 Silverchase Fox

1 Spectral Rider

1 Stitcher's Apprentice

1 Voiceless Spirit

2 Angry Mob

2 Selfless Cathar

3 Chapel Geist

3 Thraben Sentry

[/Creatures]

[Spells]

1 Midnight Haunting

1 Moment of Heroism

3 Feeling of Dread

2 Silent Departure

[/Spells]

[Lands]

10 Plains

7 Island

[/Lands]

[/cardlist]

Besides the fact that I completely destroyed all of my opponents, there are several things I really like about this deck. First, there are no rares. Many of the most disgustingly powerful decks I’ve seen in this format were littered with powerful rares. The creature base has tight synergy. Selfless Cathar and Stitcher's Apprentice go great with Angry Mob, Thraben Sentry, and Murder of Crows. It has a great curve with two cards at 1 mana, five at 2, six at 3, three at 4, and one at 5. It has a lot of evasion in the form of Spectral Rider, Chapel Geist, Voiceless Spirit, Midnight Haunting, and Murder of Crows. In the late game, when the Sentries and Mobs become big, they’re going to get through because of Feeling of Dread and Silent Departure. The deck is full of cards I can pick up late in a pack: Feeling of Dread, Thraben Sentry, Angry Mob, Stitcher's Apprentice, and Selfless Cathar. I also like how good the mana is. With ten Plains, I can pretty much run my whole deck and easily support cards like Cathar, Rider, and Geist. The seven Islands are plenty for my four Blue cards and three cards with Blue Flashback costs.

My first three picks weren’t all that impressive: Midnight Haunting, Thraben Sentry, and Selfless Cathar. That’s one of the great things about this deck: Such unimpressive cards as these can be the backbone of such an impressive deck. While those first three picks were obviously pretty good in my W/U deck, they may be even better in a R/W deck. Thanks to Rally the Peasants, R/W is often best as an aggressive, swarming strategy with cards like Cathar and Haunting. Pump is also good with Trample—like that found on the Sentry’s alter-ego, Thraben Militia.

R/W is behind U/W and G/W in large part because it doesn’t have as much obvious synergy as the other two archetypes. Green and White both heavily feature Humans and have the two commons that are obviously intended to see the two colors played together: Pilgrim and Travel Preparations. U/W also has humans, but more important, the archetype has Feeling of Dread. Red wants Vampires, Werewolves, or Flashback, none of which White is particularly helpful with. That means that solid deck cornerstone cards like Vampiric Fury, Burning Vengeance, and Rakish Heir don’t get any help from White, and except for the Heir, these cards are rarely worth using in R/W.

Red does have some Humans, such as Village Ironsmith and Tormented Pariah. It also has great support cards for an aggressive swarm deck: Nightbird's Clutches, Brimstone Volley, Crossway Vampire, Traitorous Blood, and sometimes even Rage Thrower. While the archetype may not be the most powerful color combination, you can still win a draft with it if its colors are the colors being passed to you and if you draft the right combination of aggressive creatures, burn, and support cards. The important thing to remember is that you’re not going to have as good of a late game as most good Blue-based decks—you don’t have the search, card-draw, Flashback, and gross combos that a good Blue deck can have. You need to win with speed, tempo, synergy, and aggression. Blue decks often use the graveyard for card advantage and extra power. The best R/W will do is flashback a card like Rally the Peasants or Geistflame.

B/W has some of the same problems as R/W, but worse. Where R/W has Rally the Peasants, B/W has Unburial Rites. While Unburial Rites may be more powerful than Rally, it doesn’t synergize with its color combination the way Rally does. Because of cards such as Spectral Rider, Fiend Hunter, and Chapel Geist, I usually like to make my White decks base-White. This works well with Rally because my base-White deck can bring out a lot of creatures in order to set up the first Rally before needing Red mana for paying the Flashback. In the case of Unburial Rites, there isn’t a great way for White to fill up its graveyard, aside from sacrificing Selfless Cathars . . . and who wants to spend 5 mana to reanimate a 1-drop? While Rites is a great card for three-color Constructed decks, it’s just a situational 5-mana sorcery in a two-color Draft deck.

The best way to draft B/W is to make it base-White with Black for extra flyers and removal. Dead Weight, Vampire Interloper, Screeching Bat, Tribute to Hunger, and Falkenrath Noble are good examples of what Black can add to a base-White deck. Village Cannibals is among the best reasons to draft B/W. Not only is it a Human, it’s also a card that benefits you for playing Humans. With the exception of Champion of the Parish, it may also be the card that gives you the most powerful reward for playing a lot of Humans. It’s especially good with Selfless Cathar and Elder Cathar.

As I mentioned earlier, playing Blue can help give you a strong late game, and you can definitely build a controlling W/U deck with a strong late game. You can summon defensive ground creatures while assaulting your opponent with flyers and controlling the game with instants and Flashback cards. White Draft decks are usually best as aggressive decks, though—even Blue/White decks.

Selfless Cathar is my favorite White 1-drop. At 2, I like Spectral Rider, Avacynian Priest, and Angry Mob the most. Chapel Geist, Midnight Haunting, and Voiceless Spirit are excellent 3-mana plays, and Fiend Hunter is among the best cards in the set. In addition to Thraben Sentry, Slayer of the Wicked is also a terrific 4-drop. With so much common and uncommon removal, evasion, and quality, cheap creatures, White decks are sure to be a dominant force in Innistrad Draft. What’s your favorite color combination to draft in Innistrad?

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