This past Friday was the release date for Khans of Tarkir, a multicolor set the likes of which we haven’t seen since Alara Block. It’s giving us wedge
names, even if talking about them in the context of Khans sounds a bit Malcovich Malcovich to my ear; I’m sure I’ll adjust in a few months. It’s also
brought morph back to the table. Which was necessary. I’m sure.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the set for Limited, but I’m a bit more leery of its impact on Commander, particularly before the format starts shaking itself
out. So this week, let’s go a little against the grain.
Take it away, Fernando!
I only recently started playing Commander after catching the bug by watching the McDarby-West “fights” on Starcitygames’ Youtube channel. As a longtime fan
However, as I said, I am a noob when it comes to Commander decks, and I feel there may be a lot of cards I’m overlooking and probably some redundant
Without further delay, here is my current decklist:
PS: I lied. Small delay. Note that I plan on including Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite when I get my hands on one.
Commander: Brimaz, King of Oreskos
Kongming, “Sleeping Dragon”
Instants and Sorceries:
Thank you for any help and keep the great articles coming.
That’s right, cats and kittens, this week we’re focusing on mono-white, one of my favorite single-color Commander deck archetypes. Sure, mono-black has
more power, mono-green is bigger and faster, and mono-blue can go control or combo disgustingly easily… but mono-white wins on curve and synergy. If you
like swinging into the red zone, going wide and keeping the pressure on, mono-white is a great place to start.
: Mono-red is generally accepted to be the weakest single-color Commander deck, as red’s strengths don’t translate particularly well into multiplayer
formats. This is not to say you can’t make exciting and powerful red Commander decks; if that appeals to you, four excellent archetypes are Goblins (I like Krenko, Mob Boss for the Commander, but Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician has admirers), Combo (Kiki-Jiki,
Mirror Breaker is basically combo in a can), Machine Red (with Slobad, Goblin Tinkerer to protect your plans), or Equipment Beatdown (Godo, Bandit Warlord). And that’s just scratching the surface. Since red lacks the power of the other mono-colored
decks, you have to lean a bit harder on the synergy between your cards. Whereas every mono-black Commander deck is going to have the big-mana package of
Cabal Coffers and friends, there’s a lot more variation in what you’re going to see when someone plays a mono-red deck at your table.
Anyway, back to Fernando. When I first looked at your deck, my plan was to go more heavily into the anthems and the token-making spells. There are a lot of
good token-makers out there, and adding in cards like Cenn’s Enlistment, White Sun’s Zenith, Battle Screech, and Launch the Fleet all seemed like they’d
amp up the power of your deck. To make room for that I cut Whitemane Lion, Galepowder Mage, and Restoration Angel, among others… but then I looked closer
at those cards. While I generally think of Azorius for my flicker decks, or even Bant now that they’ve printed Roon of the Hidden Realm, it’s actually a
great subtheme for this deck. Not only does it give you a way to protect Brimaz, King of Oreskos, but if your token generators include a bunch of
Mulldrifter-type cards, each one of those effects adds several bodies to the battlefield.
That seemed like more fun to me. That’s the direction I took your deck; come, let’s take a look at those changes!
While I generally like to run a disproportionate number of basics in my mono-colored decks, I think you’re going to be okay if you cut down to 30 in favor
of these all-stars. Emeria, the Sky Ruin helps you to win the long game, since that recursive ability just can’t be beaten. It’s good enough to see play in
Modern, albeit in Soul Sisters and Martyr, which are not exactly tier 1 decks (though I love them both dearly).
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is no Cabal Coffers, but in a deck that’s going wide, even if many of those bodies are tokens, it has the potential to make a lot of
mana. That is often useful! Especially when you have several cards that bounce your creatures or have interesting activated abilities you want to hold up
while still advancing your board position. A note on that though: unless you specifically need a ton of mana held up for a specific ability, I would advise
tapping Nykthos first and holding up basics. Nykthos is vulnerable to land disruption, and it’s also weak to Wrath of God effects. If you need that mana
and your opponent wraths the board, you are not left in a good place.
Kjeldoran Outpost is an old-school token generator, and a weird land all in all. This cycle was the pre-Karoo Karoos, only instead of bouncing a land you
have to sacrifice one. I think this was to avoid the outside chance that you might get ahead on mana, which is absurd but indicative of the early design
mentality that perhaps learned the lesson of Black Lotus a bit too well. Of course, it taps for two mana and also taps with an additional two mana to spit
out a soldier token, so I think it merits inclusion; the whole cycle is odd though, and I’ve never had reason to run Heart of Yavimaya or Balduvian Trading
Post. Lake of the Dead and Soldevi Excavations will pop up in Commander from time to time though, so it’s useful to know what they do. Check them out!
I know, I know, Imposing Sovereign isn’t a draw spell, but it seemed odd to devote a whole section to harrier cards when there was only one to come out and
I wasn’t bringing any in. Don’t get me wrong, there is a mono-white build that runs this card aggressively, but that deck is a prison deck, and it’s
usually anchored by Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. I’ve built that deck before, it’s a blast for you to play and miserable for everyone else to play against.
I kept in Blind Obedience because of its extort clause, but I don’t think you need this effect tied to a fragile body as well.
Skullclamp came in. Skullclamp is an amazing draw engine, but in mono-white it will sometimes run into the same problem that plagues Mentor of the Meek:
your anthem effects will occasionally turn it off. But, unlike the still-very-playable Mentor, Skullclamp retains utility after the first anthem drops.
While you can no longer use it to sacrifice 1/1 tokens to draw two cards, it’s fun to put it on a fragile body and swing in with a now functionally
unblockable creature, or to put it on your commander to make your opponents less enthusiastic about killing that cat. The pure power level of the card will
generally make up for the times it’s just a Leonin Scimitar.
I like Archon of Redemption, but I don’t think it’s going to be a particularly good lifegain engine for you. It’s great in decks that are focusing on
spirit tokens or tribal fliers, but your threats are diversified. For this reason, I think it’s better for you to run cards that focus on the number of
creatures attacking. Path of Bravery ties this ability to a conditional anthem, and amusingly enough, it will actually gain you two life when Brimaz
attacks; it’s not triggering based on the number of creatures declared as attackers, but instead on the number of attackers after it triggers. So long as
you stack your triggers correctly (Path on bottom), you’ll get credit for soldier tokens created by Brimaz or Hero of Bladehold. I found this out in a
Two-Headed Giant game at the M14 prerelease, so it’s possible I got a bad judge call on that one, but I think that end result fits with the wording of the
Wingmate Roc has a very similar trigger, with the added benefit of working really well with your flicker subtheme. Plus, it’s a great and exciting new card
from Khans of Tarkir! We’re past the ever-irritating preorder period, so now when you order a copy of that card they’ll just send it to you! Anyway, it’s
certainly one of the more interesting Mardu cards, and I plan to try it (and Hardened Scales) out in my Ghave, Guru of Spores/Doubling Season deck.
Each one of these cuts came for a different reason. I didn’t love Field of Souls as wrath protection, as it seems like half your board at any given time is
going to be made up of tokens. Instead of losing half your board, let’s have you run Eldrazi Monument instead. Not only does it give all your creatures
evasion and a power boost, but it grants indestructibility as well. The best part is that a deck like this one will have no trouble staying ahead of the
required sacrifice effect, and you can even rarely turn it into an advantage: Skullclamp.
Loyal Sentry is a good card. But you’re not the right deck for it. Loyal Sentry belongs in decks that are running Ranger of Eos, Proclamation of Rebirth,
and other power one-drops like Weathered Wayfarer and Spurnmage Advocate. In your deck it interacts with three cards: Sun Titan, Whitemane Lion, and
Restoration Angel… and those cards will be better-spent resetting/saving cards that better advance your board.
Mask of Avacyn is a little pricey to equip. If you needed your general to stay live I could see playing it, but your deck doesn’t rely on your general that
way. If you really want a fourth protection card, I’d suggest General’s Kabuto, since it works a lot better for combat commanders and has a cheaper equip
cost. That having been said, you should be fine with three. Just watch out for the amount of aggro Whispersilk Cloak can draw. Unblockable commander damage
scares a lot of people, myself included. If you drop that when playing against me, you’re going to get my Hunter’s Mark.
The last card in this section is Rootborn Defenses. It’s not fancy, but it does protect against many of the board wipe effects you’re going to run into.
Add in the fun ways it can be used as commander protection or as a defensive combat trick, and it’s definitely got some play to it. It’s at its best when
paired with cards like Minion Reflector or Mimic Vat, but it should do just fine here.
As you can see, I made some deep changes to this section. Basically, I took away all the spells that make three tokens or less, and replaced them with more
powerful options. Don’t get me wrong: Captain’s Call, Midnight Haunting, Raise the Alarm, Spectral Procession, and Triplicate Spirits are all great cards.
I was glad to see them in your list, and I like them in the right build for Commander. In fact, I was bouncing around some ideas for a Narset, Enlightened
Master deck that took advantage of those cards. But the Restoration Angel took me down a different path, and I think it’s a bit more fun.
Devout Invocation, on the other hand, is a win-more card and a sorcery. I haven’t played with or against it, but my impression is that it’s a lot of mana
to pay for a card that’s dead when you’re in top-deck mode, a mode in which mono-white decks often grind out the final points of damage to end a game.
The added cards break down into four categories. You have the Mulldrifters, the engine cards, the combo cards, and then power. First up, let’s look at
those come-into-play abilities. Cloudgoat Ranger is a great Limited card that I think works well in Commander, since it gives you four bodies and the
potential for an evasive strike when needed. Evangel of Heliod makes a ton of tokens on a loaded board, but is even a solid three bodies if you’re out of
devotion. That compares reasonably with Spectral Procession and Triplicate Spirits. Myr Battlesphere is a better seven-mana token generator than Devout
Invocation when you top-deck it; that it becomes even more brutal when you can flicker or bounce it only adds to the fun.
Next come the engine cards. Emeria Angel turns every land drop into a token, while rocking a solid 3/3 flier body. Custodi Soulbinders usually comes into
play big, and if you can shed a large number of counters and then reset it, it counts all the spirits that it created. It’s gross! Heliod, God of the Sun
lets you dump mana into tokens while also giving your team vigilance, secretly the most useful ability in multiplayer Magic. Requiem Angel turns almost
every dead creature and token into a spirit; the wording on that card is awesome, since it’s one of the few token-creating triggers that applies equally to
token and non-token cards. Finally, there’s Stormfront Riders. This card is easy to miss, but it’s a powerful version of Whitemane Lion. Sure, you lose out
on the flash, but in return you get a five-mana reusable token generator that can reset your mulldrifters. The way you take full advantage of this card is
that you have it bounce itself, along with a nontoken creature with a come-into-play effect. You get two extra tokens, plus the ability to replay the other
creature you bounced as well. If you get Cloudgoat Ranger on the board, for example, then every turn you can spend ten mana for five tokens. It’d be a bad
rate of return were it not repeatable, but it is! A more useful way to run it, though, is with Restoration Angel. If you have nine mana, and you can bounce
your Resto back to hand every turn. That seems useful, considering how much work Restoration Angel can do.
Combo is a loose word in mono-white. The mono-white combos tend to be very disruptable, so long as you’re not going for a Reveillark/Karmic Guide/Ashnod’s
Altar/Altar of the Brood insta-kill. I am not advising you play that combo, but it’s out there and Altar of the Brood gives you a way to do it mono-white
these days. There should probably be a punny name for that combo now, maybe something that incorporates the dual altars. Just Brainstorm-ing here. Anyway,
the point is that Darien, King of Kjeldoran is not only a strong token-maker and rattler, but it also combines with Soul Warden and the other soul sisters
in your list to make you very hard to kill. When any attack is going to result in you staying at the same life (or gaining that much life, if two are out),
and then also getting that many soldier tokens… people back off. But it’s a two-creature combo that doesn’t win the game, so people should probably leave
you alone for a while so long as you’re not hurting yourself.
The other combo card is Knight-Captain of Eos. It’s good on its own, since it’s five mana for three bodies, but it excels when paired with Brimaz, King of
Oreskos. Whenever Brimaz attacks or blocks you get a solider token, and that soldier token can be sacrificed to Fog the board if you don’t like the way
combat is going. It’s another defensive combo, one that relies on two creatures staying in play together and doesn’t win you the game. It’s a lock,
basically, but a slow one that’s going to draw significantly less aggro and disruption than some of the more competitive combinations of cards.
Finally, there’s the power category, saved for Decree of Justice. Back in the day, this card was the real deal. It’s largely fallen out of favor since
Entreat the Angels took its spot as the Legacy control finisher, but there was a time when this card would be one of the victory conditions for Standstill
decks. Ignore what’s on the top of the card, you should not be using this to cast angels 90% of the time (the final 10% being when you desperately need
some air defense). The card really reads: “2WX: Make X 1/1 soldier tokens, draw a card. Decree of Justice cannot be countered by counterspells commonly
played in Commander.” See, since it’s a triggered ability from the cycling, it needs Stifle or similar to stop it, and most people don’t play Stifle in
Commander. Sure, maybe once in a while they’ll have the Trickbind, but even then you still get to draw a card and they don’t since the soldier creation and
the cycling are separate triggered abilities when on the stack.
That’s right, I didn’t add in any cards that are strictly finishers. I think, with the way the rest of this deck is going, your token-swarm and synergistic
elements should keep you from really needing dedicated endgame cards. Anyway, three of these cards are “good,” and two are “fun;” none of these are bad
cards, I just think they’re not right for the deck.
Ajani, Caller of the Pride, for example, is great in a lot of decks. I run it in my Doubling Season deck, and it’s filthy in there. Once, I dropped him and
immediately ultimated, making a truly insane number of tokens. Of course, in that game I had Dark Prophecy on the board, so when my friend untapped and
cycled Decree of Pain I died hard, but it was fun. I like the card. But in this deck, he’s either a one-time flying/doublestriking for Brimaz, or he’s
adding a counter a turn. Those are low-impact plays, so he’s cut.
Gideon Jura is a similar story. Love the card, but I don’t know that this is the right deck for him. He’s removal, and a Nettling Imp/Fog-type effect, but
I feel like that slot’s better spent adding creatures to the board. There’s similar logic behind cutting Sword of Fire and Ice. The card is absolutely a
powerhouse. No one doubts this. But there’s a key ratio to maintain between power and threat. Swords draw a lot of threats. They have to, because when you
have a sword on the board any creature you drop becomes a danger to your opponents, particularly those with red or blue defenses. In a tokens deck, you can
general do more damage with an anthem than you can with such an individual buff, and they tend to draw less attention as well.
Serra Angel was there for nostalgia, no? That’s the primary reason I’d play it, at least. I mean, if this were a tribal fliers deck I could defend the
inclusion, but I cut Archon of Redemption, and I think this should probably go as well. Moonsilver Spear getting cut is basically a hybrid of the logic
between cutting Serra Angel and cutting Sword of Fire and Ice; it’s only buffing one dude, and while its effect would be sufficient in a tribal fliers
deck, it’s a little weak as token-generators go.
So let’s look at what are going to be taking the place of your finishers in a “go wide” tokens deck. Cathars’ Crusade is one of the most powerful anthems
in the format, no qualifications. Quick note about the interactions: if three bodies hit the field at the same time, all three bodies see each other
entering and they all get three counters. This is even true for cards like Cloudgoat Ranger, so long as you stack the triggers right. Cloudgoat Ranger
enters the battlefield, and you get two triggers: get three dudes, and get a counter. You put the counter on the bottom and the dudes on the top, and the
dudes resolve before the counter does, triggering three more counter triggers. Those counter triggers resolve, then the original resolves, and you’ve now
got three 5/5s and an 8/8. Plus, now every other creature you already had on the battlefield has four more power. It’s a great card, you should have some
fun with it. Just remember to bring dice. You’ll need them.
I think it’s fitting that I’m promoting Mikaeus, the Lunarch in a column, since I pushed Mikeaus, the Unhallowed in my Sultai Dredge letter a few weeks
back. Both Mikaei have their strengths and weaknesses; the white one will draw you less aggro, but doesn’t have the same combo strengths that his future
counterpart offers. What’s cute about Mikaeus, the Lunarch in this particular deck, is that while he is terrible with flicker effects, he works swimmingly
with bounce. Play him for three, spend two turns cranking off his counters, and then bounce him back to your hand to cast him for six next time. And again,
if you stack the triggers right, he can even buff the creature that’s sending him back.
Finally, there’s Mirror Entity. Back when I was running the aggressive version of Legacy Elves (a Selesnya Living Wish deck), Mirror Entity was a singleton
finisher. In fact, I once won a game I had no business winning off the back of that card; I was playing against Merfolk, and they had a Lord of Atlantis in
play. And an Island. Basically, it’s a great card for any tribal synergies, and it Overruns like a champ. Just watch out, when you’ve activated the ability
and your whole team is changeling, Restoration Angel loses its flicker ability: everything is an angel, on top of being demons and dragons as well.
Ramp and Removal
And we end with the basic enablers of a good Commander deck: ramp and removal. White has great removal and terrible ramp, so it’s not surprising to see
some artifacts making up a bit of the difference. I’m not a huge fan of Palladium Myr outside of artifact decks and decks that really need to hit six mana
on time (like Mayael the Anima), so it doesn’t seem a great fit here. Similarly, Armillary Sphere seems a but unnecessary, since running 38 lands should
ensure you’re making your land drops, and you’re not playing any way to get ahead on those (Terrain Generator is not a bad one, if anyone was looking).
Instead, let’s play with Caged Sun. This is exactly the type of deck where this card excels. The anthem is relevant and the mana boost is serious business.
I’d suggest Gauntlet of Power too, but it’s a lot worse in the mirror, and I think one of these effects is enough.
On the other side, you were running some spot artifact and enchantment removal, as well as white’s two premiere one-mana removal spells. If I liked spot
removal more than I do, I’d probably applaud the Swords and the Path, but I still think it’s better to get other people to do your work for you. Plus,
maybe it’s just my meta, but ever since they printed Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots in every Commander product, it’s been getting pretty hard to
target anything worth killing. Adding in Martial Coup, which is on-theme mass removal, and Quarry Colossus, tuck removal tied to a relevant body, seems
like it should help make up for the loss without leaving you totally dead to Asceticism.
I liked your deck! But in particular, I liked those cards a great deal. People often overlook Twilight Drover, which is odd because that card is bonkers.
It basically turns every token that dies into an opportunity to cast Midnight Haunting, for as long as the Drover stays alive. Plus, the thing can get
legitimately huge. It’s a fun card, and it pairs well with Custodi Soulbinders.
Galepowder Mage is the card that got me to take a second look at your flicker theme. I had forgotten about this card, and I really should not have. I
wouldn’t run it in every deck, and I was going to suggest replacing it with Reconnaissance when I thought it was Gustcloak Savior (a similar card!), but
I’m glad I gave it the second glance. I think this version of the deck has more play in it.
Adarkar Valkyrie shows the breadth of this strategy. Since you’re not limiting yourself to a single means of recursion, you can make use of a lot of
different types of abilities. Mikeaus, the Lunarch is only good when you bounce it, but with something like Cloudgoat Ranger you also have the option to
flicker it with Galepowder Mage, or to return it to play with Adarkar Valkyrie. There are a lot of synergies there, even if they’re not all approaching it
from the same angle.
Finally, there’s Marshal’s Anthem. I love that thing! I remember opening a copy of it at the Worldwake Prerelease and following it into white. I don’t
think I won a ton of games, but I had a tremendous amount of fun with it, and it’s only better in Commander. Scalable, late game reanimation is useful, and
if you need the power you can always just drop it unkicked.
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Kongming, "Sleeping Dragon"
- 1 Soul Warden
- 1 Karmic Guide
- 1 Twilight Drover
- 1 Adarkar Valkyrie
- 1 Darien, King of Kjeldor
- 1 Stormfront Riders
- 1 Whitemane Lion
- 1 Cloudgoat Ranger
- 1 Galepowder Mage
- 1 Mirror Entity
- 1 Knight-Captain of Eos
- 1 Captain of the Watch
- 1 Emeria Angel
- 1 Soul's Attendant
- 1 Wall of Omens
- 1 Sun Titan
- 1 Myr Battlesphere
- 1 Hero of Bladehold
- 1 Leonin Relic-Warder
- 1 Suture Priest
- 1 Mikaeus, the Lunarch
- 1 Mentor of the Meek
- 1 Geist-Honored Monk
- 1 Requiem Angel
- 1 Restoration Angel
- 1 Avacyn, Angel of Hope
- 1 Angelic Skirmisher
- 1 Heliod, God of the Sun
- 1 Evangel of Heliod
- 1 Burnished Hart
- 1 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
- 1 Quarry Colossus
- 1 Custodi Soulbinders
- 1 Wingmate Roc
- 1 Decree of Justice
- 1 Skullclamp
- 1 Lightning Greaves
- 1 Whispersilk Cloak
- 1 Hour of Reckoning
- 1 Oblivion Ring
- 1 Mass Calcify
- 1 Martial Coup
- 1 Honor of the Pure
- 1 Brave the Elements
- 1 Eldrazi Monument
- 1 Everflowing Chalice
- 1 Marshal's Anthem
- 1 Phyrexian Rebirth
- 1 Caged Sun
- 1 Swiftfoot Boots
- 1 Intangible Virtue
- 1 Increasing Devotion
- 1 Cathars' Crusade
- 1 Rootborn Defenses
- 1 Blind Obedience
- 1 Path of Bravery
- 1 Spear of Heliod
- 1 Banishing Light
Financially, the changes come out to an even $73, without adding in the Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite that you had mentioned wanting. Incidentally, it’s a
good card, and when you do acquire it you should probably slot it in for Quarry Colossus. There were some new and some old peaks on there, with new card
Wingmate Roc and old card Eldrazi Monument both taking up ten dollars, but most of the cards fall (well) below five dollars. Here are the details:
That’s it for this week, Fernando! I hope you like the changes I’ve suggested; as usual, take my opinion for what it is, an opinion, and feel free to play
around with the list to make it your own. I think this is a good place to start, though, and I wish you the best of luck playing with this entertaining
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