All great points! Happy the discussion has expanded to other budget hatebears decks. I definitely want to update with a "less budget" list that's still unpowered, or offer some upgrade suggestions based off of what people recommend.
I don't agree entirely on your assessment of the matchups. Oath isn't a good matchup, especially with the configuration you propose (but let me get back to that). It's winnable, but we're not a favorite to win. Shops isn't an easy matchup either. Pre-board you're a big underdog but post-board you're favored. However, usually you have to win both post-board games, which isn't easy to do.
What's interesting is that, other than getting really horrible draws, I find that the Shops matchup is quite good, and us running Null Rod/Stony Silence, in conjunction with us blanking their Wastelands AND adding 5 Strip Mines is actually all that tends to matter. That and Relic Warders and Path/Swords helps us keep up. Other builds of White Hatebears that add more targets for Wasteland (Karakas, Cavern of Souls) are more likely to get crushed by Tangle Wire, but the sheer number of basics in the deck are what help it in this matchup, I've found. I'm over 70% vs Ravager Shops so far with the build I outlined. Weird that it's so, but it is.
Oath has been a good matchup for me without Cages and Priests, primarily because I have 6 creature removal spells post-board, and 4 Leonin Relic Warders to get rid of Oath. The rest of the Oath deck is only incidentally hurt by the bears, but keeping Oath of Druids from being effective through diligent handling of the creatures that get Oath'd up has been pretty good. I will say, I hadn't faced a Void Winnower before yesterday, which virtually turns off the deck. It actually boils down to what creatures they chose to include in their deck, I really don't care about Sphinx of the Steel Wind, Griselbrand, Blightsteel Colossus, Sun Titan.... but Void Winnower, Emrakul, Tidespout Tyrant, those are cards that can drastically change the game once they are played or flat-out win. It would be great to add Containment Priest or Grafdigger's Cage, I picked up a playset of Cage for 2 dollars a few months ago in paper, but it doesn't do me much good when I have this deck on MTGO and the price for both is unreasonably high. If I see more Void Winnowers and Emrakuls in Oath decks and consistently get beaten by them, I'm downgrading the matchup, but so far, I'm hovering around 60-65% vs the Oath decks I've seen.
I also don't agree that the deck is very forgiving. Because of the lack of pure power you have to play very tight, and mistakes are a lot harder to recover from than in many other decks. That said, once you learn the basics the deck is pretty straight forward to play and definitely not very complex in comparison with most other decks.
You're definitely right about that. I have played tight games where I had to wait a turn to Path an opponent's creature because I made the mistake of playing Thalia first. Is taking a bad opener a misplay? Other than that, though, the deck doesn't give you enough opportunities to make mistakes. The only mistakes are the ones I mentioned above, and whether or not this bear is situationally good/bad vs this other bear. There's no stack sequencing, no digging through your library, no piles, no Brainstorm/Gush... I think its lack of complexity makes the decisions that you can mess up much less impactful. I've had games where I was distracted and recognized several minor misplays I made and still was able to pull through.
On some specific cards:
Mental Misstep: I've been back and fourth on this, and I never really came to a conclusion. I do think it's better now than when I played the deck a lot.
Abolish: You 100% need to play this card in a deck with no Cavern of Souls. Improves your Shops matchup dramatically.
Serenity: This card was also very good for me. Basically my plan against shops was to Abolish/Swords/Relic their threads until I could resolve a Serenity and from there it's usually pretty easy.
Stoneforge Mystic package: I found that this is not the route you wanna take. Fighting on power/toughness is not the way to go. It also takes up too many slots and have bad synergy with Arbiter and Stony Silence
Aven Mindcensor: This is another card that needs consideration. I think that my most succesful builds played 4 Arbiter and 2 Mindcensors.
Kataki, War's Wage: Yet another card that needs consideration. Not only because of the Shops matchup, but it also does a pretty good job against artifact acceleration and other stuff. Not a necessity though.
Acceleration in general: You need some sort of acceleration in your deck. Spirit Guides are good enough.
Grafdigger's Cage: I can't believe this card hasn't been mentioned yet. If there was one thing I found out playing this deck is that Grafdigger's is absolute necessary as a maindeck card. It stops Tinker and Oath - two of our biggest obstacles - and Yawgmoth's Will and hoses Dredge. That said, it's probably not as good now as it once was. You have replaced it with Militant, but in my experience, Militant isn't doing enough and it's a bad late game draw.
I hope you do well with the deck, there are not many better things in Vintage than beating your opponent with Plains
A lot of folks talking about Abolish! I tested with it in the first couple builds and came to the conclusion that it was just not as good as 4x Relic Warder, and I'll explain why.
First, Relic Warder is easily a 4-of in the deck. Even if it has no targets in a matchup in game 1, it's still a 2/2 body and can do all the things a 2/2 can do. Relic Warder isn't real removal because all it takes is a Lightning Bolt to get their artifact back, but it is a huge tempo play in a game where the opponent usually needs to decide what to get rid of first. Relic Warder on an otherwise empty battlefield is an easy target, but backed up by Arbiter, Canonist, Spirit, it is actually a tough call whether or not to wait to get that artifact back.
Abolish is a terrible topdeck. 3/4 of the games I play I get into topdeck mode, for good or ill, and part of my comfort level with that scenario is that there are no dead topdecks in any situation. People are talking about Dryad Militant being a bad late-game play, but I'd still much rather draw that than a Sol Ring that has been switched off or an Abolish.
Which also brings me to the 2-for-1 aspect. We can't obviously keep up in card advantage against blue decks, but what allows us to be at least competitive against them is that we're not 2-for-1-ing ourselves, and that our Bears give us virtual card advantage every time one is played.
Relic Warder can handle the same targets, barring one, which is Chalice on 2. I've had that cast against me twice, and am really comfortable scooping to it. If it becomes a search target, or if I see it happen more often, it might be worth an Abolish in the SB for it, but as of now that scenario isn't even on my radar. For Oath, the game needs to pass through another two of your main phases before it gets activated, which is plenty of time to steal it with Warder.
Abolish isn't free with Thalia and Wingmare in play, and can easily cost a land AND two mana.
Will be interesting to test Serenity. The main issue with that is we have maindeck answers to Shops in Null Rod/Stony Silence, and that many of our creatures are doubling up as artifact creatures/enchantment creatures and have to be boarded out for something else.
Kinda the same scenario with Kataki. Gets better if the deck upgrades to Stony Silence, but most of the targets in vintage for artifact hate are switched off with Stony Silence, everything else is a Sphere or Tangle Wire, which don't bother me too much.
Mindcensor is pretty swell, but I opted for Arbiter because of the 2CMC. I'm going to try a build with Spirit Guides, and if that opens enough doors and lets me play better cards, then I'm all for it.
This is all super good commentary and has me thinking about more options. Hopefully in the next couple days I can update the post with upgrades, address the "budget" aspect a little better (in regards to Null Rod/Stony Silence, Containment Priest, Wasteland, Grafdigger's Cage )and test a version with some Spirit Guides for acceleration.