A white swarm/pump deck is a deck with a lot of small, inexpensive white creatures that are subsequently improved by enchantments such as Honor of the Pure or other bonuses.

The goal of this deck is to kill off the opponent before they can develop their strategy.

What deck types are effective in countering this sort of deck?

  • 3
    aka, White weenie
    – DForck42
    Jan 4 '12 at 21:41
  • @DForck42 Yes, I wasn't sure if white weenie also included the pumping characteristic.
    – Stephen
    Jan 5 '12 at 2:18
  • It generally does.
    – David Z
    Jan 5 '12 at 3:14
  • "White weenie" is a rather broad term in some ways. See Death and Taxes.
    – Alex P
    Jan 5 '12 at 6:11
  • Sudden Disappearance looks like a solid option going forward. Token hate plus enchant removal without killing your own line-up. Doesn't work so well if they have lots of ETB effects.
    – Bob Aman
    Jan 30 '12 at 18:24

"Kill off the opponent before they can develop their strategy" is the standard gameplan of aggro decks. The question "How to prevent being overrun in the early game?" addressed some general aspects of dealing with aggro decks.

One way to deal with aggro is to play like a control deck: force your opponent onto your timetable by dedicating your early plays to negating his, while the natural momentum of playing land every turn moves the game closer towards your big endgame strategy. This article explores this idea in detail.

Among creature-based aggro decks, the "classic" white weenie deck is notable for several qualities:

  • Poor reach: What white distinctly lacks is the ability to get damage in despite a board stall. At best, you've got flyers, which still compare unfavorably to red's direct burn.
  • Good creatures: White's low-curve creatures, like Champion of the Parish and Blade Splicer, tend to have excellent stats and combat-enhancing abilities.
  • Strong answers: White has some of the easiest access to multifaceted removal, with cards like Path to Exile, Disenchant, and Oblivion Ring. In most formats, white also has at least some powerful hosers, like Grand Abolisher and Leonin Arbiter.

The lack of reach means that creature damage is pretty much this deck's only way to win (whereas against red decks you also have to worry about cards like Shrine of Burning Rage even after you've set up adequate creature defense). Therefore, your main goal is to deny your opponent the ability to attack profitably.

The typical tools used by control to combat creature-based aggro are:

  • Sweepers like Supreme Verdict are one of your most effective tools. These are really strong because you can set back several turns of your opponent's development with one spell, but often you need support from other cards to avoid getting hammered long enough to use them. In the early game, 2-for-1 spells like Arc Trail are like cheaper sweepers. Since this is traditionally creature aggro's biggest weakness, you can expect a well-built deck to have some way to reduce the impact — for example, like Doomed Traveler, Boros Charm, and Moorland Haunt.
  • Spot removal and counterspells are the classic answers to individual threats. 1-for-1 removal isn't great against big gangs of cheap guys, but, in this case, its value generally increases with the number of anthem effects your opponent plays (since their decks are running fewer net creatures). One advantage of counterspells over removal is that you get to stop nasty ETB abilities (e.g. Blade Splicer, Stoneforge Mystic) and you can handle spells that create multiple creatures (e.g. Midnight Haunting) more easily; generally players don't run a lot of counterspells against aggro decks because removal is more efficient and doesn't constraint your timing nearly as much, though.
  • Blockers are handy for reducing incoming damage. Ideally you'd like to be able to kill some of their creatures every time they attack, but sometimes just a few turns of chumping is sufficient (which is why Timely Reinforcements and Kitchen Finks are great cards).
  • Bounce and life gain essentially force your opponent to spend a turn making the same attack or summoning the same creature he used last turn. These aren't as effective as straight-up destruction but are often available more cheaply or in colors your deck can more easily use. Life gain is best when it's attached to something else, so that you're not just giving your opponent a free turn to develop a superior board position.

Which you should play generally depends on your deck, since you'll want to pick cards that are useful to you in many different situations. Sweepers work best when they don't constantly destroy your own guys, for instance, while even aggro decks make use of some spot removal to clear the way for their attackers or pick off particularly nasty utility creatures.

When playing against anthem effects like Honor of the Pure, generally it's more useful to kill creatures than to remove the anthem. The exception is when the pump-up is super-significant, either due to the size of the buff (e.g. Tempered Steel, True Conviction) or the volume of creatures receiving it (like Intangible Virtue in a deck that's routinely creating 3-4 tokens a turn; ideally you want to shut down the token maker, though). If your opponent is running Swords, those are usually worth directly removing as well.


There are times when this advice doesn't apply:

  • When your deck is faster than your opponent's. If that's the case, you can "race" instead of adopting a control posture. Do note that some white decks include several control-oriented cards like Timely Reinforcements and Day of Judgment in their sideboards, allowing them to play control against faster aggro opponents.

  • When you opponent isn't actually trying to swarm you with creatures. With access to a "deeper" card pool, like Legacy and Modern, a critical volume of powerful utility creatures allows mono-white to run in a rather untraditional aggro-control kind of style normally more common in blue decks (U/W, Bant, RUG). I'm assuming that's out of scope for this question, though.

  • @Stephen If you have a particular deck type you're playing against white weenie, I can narrow this answer down a bit (or at least spruce up the examples), if you'd like.
    – Alex P
    Jan 11 '12 at 16:07
  • I'm playing white weenie ... I'm trying to strengthen it against the most common counters
    – Stephen
    Jan 11 '12 at 16:08
  • @Stephen It occurs to me that I focused on slower decks because of the statement "kill your opponents before they develop their strategy" -- but, if you're the WW player, you're going to run into decks that develop very quickly as well (RDW or U/W Delver in the current Standard, for instance; or decks like Zoo in eternal formats). Should I add something to cover those?
    – Alex P
    Jan 18 '12 at 21:28
  • Adding more content is gooder not badder :) Info on how faster format decks might fare against WW is helpful.
    – Stephen
    Jan 18 '12 at 21:41

I can think of four kinds of cards often employed to beat a white weenie deck, or in general any fast creature-based strategy. Roughly in (decreasing) order of effectiveness:

  1. Board sweepers (like Day of Judgment or Rolling Temblor)
  2. Blockers
  3. Targeted burn spells
  4. Life gain

Most decks already have one or more of these elements. When you're playing against a white weenie deck, these are the "impact cards" you should focus on.

The one thing that usually distinguishes white weenie decks from other fast creature decks is that white weenies tend to have abilities, like first strike or protection, that make them more effective in combat than similarly-costed creatures in other colors. So if you are playing a non-white fast creature deck against a white weenie deck, your blockers may not be as effective as they ordinarily would, and you should try to use other aspects of your deck to combat the white creatures.

Do note that it's more effective to get rid of the white deck's creatures than it is to get rid of the pump enchantments like Honor of the Pure. After all, if you eliminate the enchantments, the creatures will be smaller but they are still a threat. On the other hand, Honor of the Pure is useless by itself.

  • I would dispute life-gain against a white creature based aggro deck. Since all of their sources of damage are persistent (as opposed to, say, Burn decks), Life gain will slow them down at best. Unless you've got some sort of repeatable source of large amounts of life-gain.
    – aaron
    Jul 22 '16 at 20:52

Ratchet Bomb set at 2 can wipe their two drop creatures and Honor the Pure (2 CMC).

I've seen decks running 2-4 Gavony's so some number of land destruction isn't a bad idea.

Also someone brought up, on Mid Mo Magic, a Leyline of Singularity and Hunted Horror.

For modern I think that very same Leyline is a hose against their token strategy. Every spell that they use develops their board by two or more creatures per spell (talk about card advantage). However Leyline of Singularity just owns that strategy. I know I have moved from the question of dealing with a White Weenie plan of attack to a Token/Pump but it is the latter I am more concerned with in Modern.

After all it has had a strong showing on MODO and Magic-League. For more on the Modern aggro stop, regardless of color, I recommend Chalice of the Void. Vs Affinity (assuming you are on the play) drop for zero. Against Boros, RDW, ElfBall, and a few others it is just devastating while set at one. I've ran Chalice to some success and it has a permanent place in my Modern sideboard. I lack two copies of the Leyline but I am on the hunt for that one.

  • Welcome to boardgames.stackexchange Brent!
    – DForck42
    Jan 10 '12 at 17:51
  • Do you mean Chalice of the Void will counter Hive Mind copies of spells? No it won't. From the rulings on Hive Mind: "The copies that Hive Mind's ability creates are created on the stack, so they're not "cast." Abilities that trigger when a player casts a spell (like Hive Mind's ability itself) won't trigger."
    – Stephen
    Jan 10 '12 at 19:27
  • Chalice of the Void and Leyline both seem to have some real potential to help. The Hunted Horror comment seems more like a neat thing to do with Leyline than helpful in this situation. You did focus on token quite a bit, but white weenie extends to token pretty naturally I think. Welcome to the site!
    – Stephen
    Jan 10 '12 at 19:39
  • @Stephen Chalice set to 0 stops Pacts, which are Hive Mind's standard win condition.
    – Alex P
    Jan 10 '12 at 21:21
  • 2
    it counters the Hivemind player's pact, but Hivemind still triggers and forces you to put a copy of the pact on the stack, so it doesn't really help you.
    – Affe
    Jan 10 '12 at 21:50

Cheap board wipers, cards that grant card advantage (ie taking out 2 or more of their cards while only spending one of yours). A well placed shock can kill a creature and 1-2 enchantments (depending on what they are). Walls also help (low attack, high defense creatures).

Creatures that can trade up also help. For instance, a Typhoid rat can kill anything without regenerate or indestructable. Ambush viper is another one that's good for luring in prime targets.

Also, cards that punish opponents for attacking help. Circle of Flame can kill off a white weenie horde.

Basically, anything that you can drop on the field or use to trade up card advantage will help you survive against a white weenie long enough to gather your resources together.

  • Competitively, you don't play with walls for defense, that's a big no-no in ANY format. Circle of Flame is also too defensive, only stopping toughness 1 creatures, which will typically not be much of a problem anyway after very few turns. Better run a mass removal instead.
    – Hackworth
    Jan 4 '12 at 22:00
  • 3
    @Hackworth Some 2009 tournament decks used Wall of Denial or had Wall of Reverence on the sideboard. 4x Wall of Roots has been a feature of several tournament decks in the past. If the wall is efficient and/or has some acceleration benefit, it can be tournament worthy.
    – ghoppe
    Jan 4 '12 at 22:38
  • While Circle of Flame isn't a bad answer, there are a more than a few inexpensive 2/2 white humans. It also doesn't answer the pump up. How does shock take out 1-2 enchantments? Are you supposing that the pump ups are in the form of enchant creatures?
    – Stephen
    Jan 5 '12 at 2:23
  • White weenie tends to be rather strong against deathtouch blockers, due to the large quantities of first strike in white (plus creatures with nifty death effects like Doomed Traveler).
    – Alex P
    Jan 11 '12 at 16:02

My white weenie deck's weakness is mass board wipes. Before Elspeth, Sun's Champion's final ability, Earthquake will work. Furnace of Rath with Pyroclasm works too.

But if my opponent can't kill my creatures, I can use Spear of Heliod, Veteran Armorsmith and Veteran Swordsmith, and other cards to get 1/1 tokens to 7/7 first strike, vigilance, flying.

Other things that kill that deck are Armageddon, Wrath of God, and Virulent Plague which is a black enchantment that all creature tokens get -2/-2. But watch out for the mass life gain and the creature that gives 40 or more life I win the game (this one: Felidar Sovereign) :)

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