Ten Unusual White Cards for Commander
...Plus a Few Honorable Mentions
This week I am focusing on my least favorite color in Magic: White! These are cards that are only white (excluding multi-colored cards) that may or may not be used in your commander deck (if it contains white). Surprisingly, I had a very hard time narrowing down this list as there are a lot of cards that intrigue me in white, I just rarely ever play it, especially in commander. Like last week's Artifact article, I focused on non-general commander cards. So here are ten cards that I have used or simply find interesting in white:
10. Board Wipes! White is the color of removal… non-land permanents, land permanents, and creatures, lots and lots of creatures. There is spot removal, exile, destruction, and phasing! White has it all. One of the best removal cards in white though is the very-cheap-to-cast Retribution of the Meek. This spell is only three mana and breaks all the big baddies on the board. Which means if you are only packing little fellers, no worries! You could have an instabuff plan in order to make the little guys big and throw in a few spells like Retribution, Dusk\\Dawn, and a couple of other spells on this list: Marble Titan and Crackdown.
9. Inheritance. This card from Alliances wasn’t used much back in the day (and still isn't), but it is a permanent, it’s cheap at one mana, and with the right backup, it could be a massive draw engine to at least make every spot removal card your opponents have into a 1-for-2 trade. With the amount of recursion in white available for weird graveyard shenanigans, you could set up the engine to sacrifice a critter, get a benefit, AND draw a card, then put the little guy back into play! (Enduring Renewal?). A little mana-intensive, but this is an interesting little backup plan for creature-based decks.
8. Equipoise. This card is not that powerful on the surface, but it is a remarkable equalizer against decks that plop out a lot of blockers after an attack hoping that you won’t phase them so they don’t block…The timing of this enchantment is workable as well, because it is during your upkeep, at the change of phase, the mana drains if they try to tap the lands and you would then get to choose any untapped lands to phase instead. In a team game, this could be important when using board wipes as well. “I have no creatures, so my buddy Tom will phase all of his dudes, while I Wrath. Boom, pass turn.” Also, this is a Reserved List card!
7. Energy Storm. This card is pretty cool. Despite the cumulative upkeep, it has two powerful effects at a relatively cheap mana cost. Plus this is a Reserved List card! The first effect will probably not be useful in commander in all but a few cases, however if you aggregate both effects against about 60% of opponents, it mitigates quick damage and aids in slowing the game down so you can get set up to control. Back in the day, this sideboarder was how a lot of folks slowed Sligh (mono-red burn) enough to survive to the late game so they could Wrath and reset. Is it worth sticking in your 99? I'd recommend it if you have a lot of enchantment interaction, such as Dance of the Manse or Enchantress effects.
6. Hidden Retreat. This card does not have a very powerful effect…BUT…the activation cost may be its most powerful feature. Don’t underestimate putting a card from your hand back on top of your library. In the right situation, this can be a blessing, for instance, miracles! Drew Terminus in your opening hand? Drat. Put it back and use it next turn (or as the first card you draw on your opponent’s turn with a cycling effect or instant-speed card draw). There are a few other situations where knowing exactly what card is on top of your library might be good: cascade, clashing, Omen Machine, Gate to the Aether, Mind’s Desire…It could be a way to prevent discarding a card in a pinch. Say your opponent casts Duress targeting you, want to save your board wipe? Target Duress to prevent all damage it would do and stash that card on top of the library! Running a few instants? You can target your own spells to use the activation to put a card back.
5. Marble Titan and Crackdown. These have similar effects: they keep dudes tapped. Titan taps itself down if you attack with it (or your opponent taps it somehow), and Crackdown only taps down non-white critters (Crackdown AKA The Man keeping the non-whites down, man!). The Titanis a giant which can have its own bennies (or drawbacks), but I have used them both before and they were very effective at keep opponents from attacking for at least a few turns.
4. Hallowed Ground. This was pretty good at keep my lands from utter destruction a few times, but the main use I had was for ETB effects. Returning a land before opponent’s EOT and playing it during my turn (or their turn using Burgeoning), maybe with Horn of Greed out…You could use it as bribes in the wily political games of magic by returning an opponent’s (or partner’s) land so they could draw a much-needed card using the Horn. It can also be used to power up some landfall abilities. Lots of possibilities here.
3. Transcendence. The benefits are unreal with this card, but the drawback…ugh. This drawback can be countered in several ways in the bigger game though. PAYING life does not trigger the life gain, only losing it does, so for instance, Necropotence or Yawgmoth’s Bargain controls the life gain and keeps your life total at a manageable 19 all the time (unless someone cheap-shots you with Sudden Shock, ouch.) Some cards to use to counteract the life-gain are Adanto Vanguard, Ethereal Champion, Glacial Chasm, Rare lands from Kamigawa (Boseiju, Hall of the Bandit Lord, etc.), Inner Sanctum, Protective Sphere, and Righteous Aura. A few other ways to counter the drawback (and any benefits) are with Platinum Angel, Angel’s Grace, or Platinum Emperion. Being an enchantment, it isn’t the most unwieldy card in a white deck, plus there may be other ways to abuse this card. A wild way to use the card is to have Lich’s Mirror out then play this card immediately after – or even donate them both to your friend using Zedruu! Infinite loser! (NOTE: Make sure that you are below 20 life when you cast Transcendence though...)
2. Wishmonger. I liked the monger cards because I was always a fan of Ifh-Biff Efreet from Arabian Nights, which to me is the best version of Squallmonger. This monger prevents spot removal and undesirable creature buffs. Plus, it’s a Unicorn! Yay? In any white deck this could be a fun card to use because it is a wild card for so many players. It also is able to use the ability on itself, to fizzle opposing spells, make it unblockable, etc. Opposing creature got an enchantment that looks threatening? Give it protection from the colors of the enchantment! Maybe one of your other opponents is attacking a player who has a Pacified creature, so you make the creature pro-white so that it may break free of its chains and violently rebuke the oncoming creature.
1. Armistice. This enchantment was fun to play with in my old cleric deck. I honestly didn’t care if one opponent gained life, there really weren’t that many good, consistent ways to draw cards in a mono-white deck back in the old days (read pre-2010). There are a few more now, but this was a pretty good one, especially when you’ve got a lot of land sitting out. The targeted life-gain was pretty good in political situations as well. I’ve kept a few opponents who were near-death alive because their aggressor forgot about this and they suddenly threw off the maths by about two life.
When compiling this list, I found so many cards that were pretty cool, and believe me, I found even more than are here! Here are the top honorable mentions:
Cornered Market. This might be a more competitive commander card, as there is more repetition of good cards in this field. A little bit of targeted removal or bounce can make room for yours, while your opponent sits quietly and watches the now dead card in his or her hand. Since it is a more limited-use card, I didn’t think it would make the main list. It is especially funny to keep a fetchland uncracked when you know your opponent has one in hand, just anxiously waiting for you to crack yours…
Wall of Nets. With a big ol’ butt, this 0/7 wall is cheap and a neat target for some self-bounce mischief…right before a board wipe. It won’t win games, but it is kind of neat to goof around with. It isn’t the most threatening creature, so most folks leave it alone. Add in some pro-color, flying, and maybe even banding, then your opponents might have some problems. Because of the wording, some other interactions could be with blinking it or even phasing if things look hairy. BONUS: Fantastic Terese Nielsen artwork!
Mangara's Equity. Another color-hoser, this one has some potential combos that make it an unusual addition to most decks. Against predominantly red or black decks (or others if you can copy it), players are more hesitant to attack you knowing that it might be a one-shot, especially if you have walls or other survivable blockers out there. Add to it Kor Chant, Pariah, or another similar effect (Veteran Bodyguard, etc.), and there is potential for a Rube-Goldberg deck of silliness. It didn’t make the list for specifically that reason.
Royal Decree. As far as color-hosers go, this one is quite nasty and can do quite a bit of damage late-game. If anyone plays an Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, it gets VERY painful (even for you). Combine this with a Karma and/or Stern Judge and it stops being fun pretty quickly. The fact that it triggers off of red and mountains is just gravy. This type of card sets up creatureless victories or even aids a good creature archetype deck against the right opponents. If we were to toss in a few other colors (like blue) to switch up the color targets, a good pilot can make any opponent weep, regardless of color-choices. There are also several choices that would prevent damage from this (and Karma!) such as Blessed Sanctuary, Personal Sanctuary, and Sphere of Truth, not to mention the artifact Urza’s Armor and the mana-intensive Cover of Winter. As a bonus, this is a Reserved List card.
Cataclysm. I put this one here because - Bruh. I’ve played this and had it played on me in commander. Talk about a reset button. It is fun in a Planeswalker-heavy deck as it resets all your foes but leaves all your Joes out. You can also float a bunch of mana and drop the bombs. Or Teferi’s Protection (or even Taniwha!), then *BOOM*. Crucible of Worlds is a bit of fun too. With board wipes on the main list, this seemed a bit much, but it isn’t a complete board wipe.
That does it for this week, I will be back again next week with blue cards. I try to avoid the staples like Brainstorm, Gifts Ungiven, and Rhystic Study (which, for the record, I used way before it was cool. Maybe I will show the mono-blue Mercadian Masques block deck I built in a different article. Overburden is house!). Some cards sit in the bargain bin and collect dust until some oddball digs them out and builds a deck with janky rares and a convoluted plan to use them. Until next week, keep cool.