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The Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of White Sun?s Twilight


Martial Coup

"So this is obviously my favorite card in the set.

"I mean... It's almost like a Decree of Justice stapled onto an Akroma's Vengeance! It's like my dream card!

"(Sad as that is to say)."

-From Conflux: Martial Coup

I wrote those words back in 2009.

Back the last time I was excited by a card with these... These aesthetics.

Martial Coup had some advantages over White Sun's Twilight. Some disadvantages as well... But mostly advantages, for a control deck, at least.

Despite being my [initial] favorite card in the set, Martial Coup didn't come close to the best performing in Conflux. Despite being a relatively weak one bottom-to-top, Conflux nevertheless gave us both Path to Exile and Noble Hierarch (Modern Staples still); and even Mike Flores himself won a lot more tournaments with Banefire or Countersquall than the 'Coup.

But before the first sixty was shuffled? Martial Coup just had something about it. It was the great White hope... Everything (or nearly everything) a control mage might want, all in one spell.

Too bad it was eventually sharing Standard with Bloodbraid Elf, which kind of un-did everything Martial Coup was trying to be good at... and quickly. And worse, a control mage would have to choose it over Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Cruel Ultimatum... More flexible and more powerful, respectively.

Fourteen years later and they are tempting me with another Martial Coup...

White Sun's Twilight

What's different this time around? Can it be the best? Can it even be good enough to consider?

I really hope so!

Because just like in 2009...

"This is obviously my favorite card in the set."

Strengths (positive, internal)

The seduction of White Sun's Twilight begins where it ends. Or rather, everything is on the card; everything is between its beginning and ending. EVERYTHING.

White Sun's Twilight is, in and of itself, capable of almost everything a control player might want.

Do you need to kill creatures? That is one of its primary use cases.

Do you need to kill your opponent? Everyone needs to kill the opponent eventually. This will do that because it makes multiple creatures as well!

Finally - above and beyond Martial Coup - White Sun's Twilight also gains life! In the past maybe you could sweep all the opponent's creatures and initiate a four-turn clock. But you might just die to direct damage... This is less likely when playing White Sun's Twilight because you will be gaining two-point-five Play with Fires back at a baseline. Which really is something.

It's not all sunshine and roses, though. Martial Coup would let you block with your token creatures. These mites don't afford the same option. But on the other hand, they kill much more quickly. Two unopposed attacks with the baseline X=5 will kill an opponent twice as fast as Martial Coup would have at the same mana, and ignore interplay such as opposing life gain.

Context is also important.

It's tough to say which Standard formats are more powerful than which other ones. Today's Standard has a lot of value compressed in small amounts of mana, but Martial Coup was facing off against actual Lightning Bolt, not just Play with Fire... and this trio...

Stoneforge Mystic
Bloodbraid Elf
Jace, the Mind Sculptor

... Were all legal in Standard at the same time. As you probably know, those cards have all spent time on big format banned lists; not just Standard.

Weaknesses (negative, internal)

White Sun's Twilight has one really big - and I mean really biiiiig - weakness: And that is its mana cost.

To get the full value of White Sun's Twilight - life gain, token production, and board sweeping all - you need to put seven mana into it, main phase. At a minimum that means living though seven turns and making seven consecutive land drops; neither of those is a given.

The card obviously has tremendous upside past seven mana... I imagine ripping this with 12+ in play in topdeck mode has to feel pretty spectacular... But its impact on the game at anything lower than seven is pretty miniscule.

  1. N/A
  2. N/A
  3. Pyknite... And I think that's a stretch if you are equating one life with one card.
  4. Striped Bears, more or less... Only you can't block.

At five and six mana you start scraping the bottom of the barrel of some Limited token production. Despite all these variations being in the actual range (even three mana's lone 1/1)... They are all terrible on rate.

I can imagine tapping three in a control mirror to start annoying the opponent, or maybe putting some pressure on Planeswalkers. That's probably going to be better than it sounds right now... But it's still not exciting.

You have to consider White Sun's Twilight essentially a seven-mana sorcery, and that's daunting.

However, Standard Control has been defined in the past by some seven-mana sorceries, so it's certainly not terminal.

Cruel Ultimatum
Emergent Ultimatum

Don't forget that some players bent over absolutely backwards for a similar effect at six:

Blood on the Snow

Blood on the Snow did offer kind of a more flexible, and sometimes more powerful, threat payoff than five 1/1 mite tokens; but it also forced you to play basically all Snow-Covered Swamps. White Sun's Twilight at least doesn't make you do that, and its additional life gain seems worth the 1 mana.

Opportunities (positive, external)

Let's leave the obvious context of Standard for a second to think about some of the upside possibilities on White Sun's Twilight. Can this be more than a removal card?

Teferi, Time Raveler

One obvious place to make this card shine is with the widely beloved and universally fair Teferi, Time Raveler. Because nothing says "this card is balanced" more than sweeping the opponent's battlefield at the end of their turn.

No, of course you can't Counterspell.

Oh, and I also make an army.

The seven-mana version of White Sun's Twilight starts looking like something to strive for in a Teferi deck, doesn't it? You can get an almost guaranteed first attack, and set the opponent into five poison. Untapping with Teferi in play might mean that you're going to nigh-guarantee the next attack as well!

Fair and balanced.

Of course, you don't actually have to deal all ten poison via mites, or even combat. If you're playing with poison counters (and Planeswalkers), you might actually just want to proliferate.

I can imagine a uw deck in Standard that plays four copies of Experimental Augury, perhaps in place of Impulse. While the Augury is a little bit weaker on turn two, its ability to put together a kill after even a single toxic scratch seems like a feature of the upcoming Standard that will be worth exploring.

Imagine a setup like this:

Experimental Augury
Experimental Augury
Experimental Augury
Experimental Augury

Devious Cover-Up
Devious Cover-Up

White Sun's Twilight
White Sun's Twilight
White Sun's Twilight
White Sun's Twilight

I said White Sun's Twilight is almost everything a control player could want, all in one card. The only thing it's not is deck recursion. When I first saw this card I just started imagine bringing it back over and over again with Gaea's Blessing.

Well between Experimental Augury and Devious Cover-Up I think you can get a lot of the way there; and prove hell on other control decks.

Fires of Yavimaya

Obviously this is even more outlandish than just setting up a reasonable seven-mana White Sun's Twilight with Teferi, Time Raveler... But if you can get to twelve mana, a haste enchantment like Fires of Yavimaya would allow you to win on the spot.

Even in Standard, the various Green Ramp shells that produce high end like Titan of Industry or Storm the Festival today can get you to X=10 (or greater). But without haste, you're going to need to cross your fingers some.

Threats (negative, external)

White Sun's Twilight's price tag is already a negative. But context-wise? I hate the idea of playing this against Soldiers.

Soldiers is already hiding behind Thalia, Who Ruins Everything on turn two, and can really spoil an expensive sorcery by Protecting the Negotiators.

Fast beatdown in general is not necessarily this card's enemy. After all, one of its main functions is to sweep up creatures. It's specifically the disruptive elements of Soldiers that I worry about.


I like White Sun's Twilight against a lot of the other main decks in Standard. It seems like a trump card in Mono-White mirrors, and can significantly blunt the problems typically associated with taking an Invoke Despair to the jaw.

Comical as it might seem, decks with a lot of Abrades and Destroy Evils are actually kind of awful at dealing with 1/1 artifact mites once on the back foot.

Is it perfect? Not quite. I didn't say it was the best card in the set. Only my favorite! Let's hope it all works out.



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