This primer was written by Branderpilot and edited by the archon.page team. You can find the original primer and the deckles that the primer is talking about here.
Hello everyone, I’m Manuel Faber. I Live In Cologne, Germany, and have been playing Magic since 1994. I started playing casually in school, but then moved on to the competitive side of Magic, qualifying for two Pro Tours and playing many Grand Prix around the globe. However, except for some cool experiences, I never really won anything worth mentioning.
In the mid-2000s, my friends and I tried out German Highlander, which got us hooked on singleton Magic. Some years later, Duel Commander started seeing play in our local game store, which back then was played at 30 life, but I wasn’t immediately interested in it or in EDH due to my competitive background. One or two years later, however, I saw the same guys battling with 20 life and I finally got into it. Our Duel Commander FNMs regularly exceeded 20-25 players.
My first deck was built around Kytheon, Hero of Akros and it was an aggressive White deck with lots of aggressive creatures, anthems, and tools to stop my opponents’ interaction. However, after Duel Commander banned some cards that were crucial for my deck’s success, I abandoned the format. Luckily, our local community then created Archon, a format with a higher power level that has allowed me to play a competitive mono White deck once again. This takes us to the subject of this primer: my Yoshimaru, Ever Faithful/Keleth, Sunmane Familiar deck.
With both a 1-drop and a 2-drop commander in the command zone, this deck has an advantage that no previous mono White deck had: being able to play both of them on curve as its main game plan. Consequently, the deck is built to take as much advantage of this as possible.
We want to play efficient removal in the form of cheap spells (like Swords to Plowshares) and Fiend Hunter-style creatures, which act both as interaction and a source of pressure. While these creatures might look weak on a first sight, they get better when you take into account the fact that the two commanders already act like lightning rods for removal. On top of that, some higher-mana value spells (like Council’s Judgment) are needed to remove enchantments such as Moat, Humility, and Propaganda, or artifacts like Ensnaring Bridge.
I play four anthem effects, that is, enchantments which increase your creature’s stats by +1/+1. They are necessary because the average White creature is quite small. On top of that, I also play Eater of Virtue, which is a strictly better, legendary Bonesplitter that can trigger Yoshimaru, and Maul of the Skyclaves to increase my hatebears’ stats and give them flying.
Since Yoshimaru is our best turn 1 play, we don’t need a high number of 1 mana value creatures, although it is still important to have some to ensure that we can play two spells in the same turn as often as possible. The small number of 1-drops also allows us to include only the best protective and legendary ones.
When it comes to 2-drops, all of them are hatebears with the exception of Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit and Selfless Spirit. They have diverse effects, like targeting graveyards, preventing our opponents from tutoring, and even denying their ability to cast spells. In some scenarios, we will want to play Thalia, Guardian of Thraben or Drannith Magistrate on turn 2 instead of Keleth to slow down our opponent, which means that we will have to carefully consider the deck we’re playing against and act accordingly during the first turns of the game. Thus, planning your sequencing ahead of time is a very important thing to do when piloting this deck.
Our 3-drops are split into two categories: quality creatures that increase our pressure like Adeline, Resplendent Cathar, and more hate pieces like Archon of Emeria. There’s some overlap there, though, as most 3-mana value hatebears also serve to pressure the opponent quite effectively. I also added Aethersphere Harvester to the mix, since it is a flyer with high stats and lifegain that plays around sorcery speed mass removal.
On the top-end of the mana curve, we have Hokori, Dust Drinker, which is a Winter Orb on a stick; Thought Knot Seer; and Reality Smasher. The two Eldrazi are surprisingly good because they provide tools that usually aren’t available to White decks in the form of discard and haste.
The rest of the spells in my deck provide protection, like Fight as One, or belong to the Urza’s Saga package. I made it a point to make sure that all of them are also individually powerful, and not only synergistic elements that need something else to be useful. A good example of that would be Pithing Needle, which is a universal tool that is never useless and can take care of Maze of Ith, an achilles heel for almost all of my Archon decks. Control decks can use it to force you to overextend your board and make you very vulnerable to mass removal.
Emeria’s Call: while you might laugh at it because of its mana cost, it’s totally possible to cast it on turn 5 or 6 with the right setup, and it’s very useful in longer games.
Manlands: being able to play several of these is a big advantage of playing a mono-colour deck. I run four in total and they provide both a way to use mana more effectively and additional attackers in the late game, especially after the opponent uses mass removal. I did, however, limit the amount of double and triple white casting cost creatures to account for the reduced amount of coloured sources of mana.
This is a very fun deck to play, as it feels like classic Magic: the Gathering but you still use very powerful cards. Undisrupted, our game plan is brutal and we can easily win on turn 4 if you have one or two spells to interact with the opponent, which is why I included so many free spells like Shining Shoal. Even if our commanders get removed, we can still play our hatebear strategy and win once the opponent has run out of interaction. The important thing to do when playing this deck is to plan out what you’re going to do while also being able to adapt to any situation your opponent throws at you. Remember that, usually, you have in the range of 4 to 6 to effectively win the game, since you will almost always lose a topdeck battle.
My current decklist is adapted to my local metagame: mainly Winota, Mono Red, Ludevic/Kraum, Dargo/X variants, and lesser control decks like Aminatou or Ojutai. However, you can easily adapt your list to your own meta and even switch the style of your deck towards a more classical approach of White Weenie by adding cards like Grand Abolisher, Armageddon, and Cataclysm or prey on combo decks with Hushbringer, Hushwing Gryff and Vryn Wingmare. If you really hate non-creature spells, you can even go deep and play Glowrider, Lodestone Golem, and Thorn of Amethyst. For grindier metagames, you can add more Eldrazi. While I don’t currently play a Stoneforge package, due to how vulnerable trying to equip a Jitte can make you against removal-heavy decks, you might want to consider it if you think it would work better in your meta. Against bigger creatures, Imposing Sovereign and Kinjali’s Sunwing are good options.
However, if you make any of these changes, you need to remember to adjust your manabase accordingly. You might need more Snow-Covered Plains instead of stuff like Eldrazi Temple, City of Traitors, and maybe Tectonic Edge, which in turn would mean having to adjust the amount of higher-mana value spells.
Another interesting aspect of this deck is that you can effectively sideboard by swapping your commanders between games. Breya and Sai are giving your local meta a hard time? Kataki will punish them from the command zone! Combo decks are dominating in your game store? Thalia, Guardian of Thraben wants to have a word with them! The deck is very flexible and adjustable, which means that it’s not only a blast to play but also really fun to fine tune it for every tournament you take part in.
To conclude my primer on Yoshimaru, ever faithful and Keleth, Sunmane familiar, I want to say that I would evaluate the deck as a very strong, flexible, adjustable and competitive Archon deck. If you enjoy playing THE classic Magic the Gathering aggro deck, this would be a great option for you. Re-evaluating the battlefield every turn, carefully deciding which creature to play in which sequence to compliment your removal and hate strategy are really enjoyable aspects for me and gave one of my favourite archetypes a second chance to compete in a variety of metagames. PLUS, if you leave out City of Traitors the deck is not that expensive!
Thanks for reading and if you have any questions feel free to contact me on Discord @branderpilot. See you at the next Archon tournament!