Mono-White Commander: A Community Perception And Deckbuilding Experiment

Popular wisdom holds that white is a weak color in Commander MTG. Wrong. Chase Carroll’s Twitter-based thought experiment shows just how powerful it can be.

Smothering Tithe, illustrated by Mark Behm

On June 13th, 2022, I posted a Tweet asking the Magic community to share with me what they thought strong white cards were. This query was prompted by Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate’s release of two incredibly exciting white cards: Archivist of Oghma and Deep Gnome Terramancer.

Archivist of Oghma Deep Gnome Terramancer

These cards were exciting and interacted with the game in a way that was very much white, but also strong. I was excited. I was intrigued. The community mirrored my excitement as well. It seemed like our voices had finally been heard. We were getting white cards that fit our definition of good and strong. This communal excitement got me thinking. What made a white card strong? What white cards did Commander players think were strong? And what would happen if I built a deck entirely out of these cards? Thus began the experiment.

The Initial Tweet

When I made my post, I had absolutely no idea that I would actually do anything with the information given to me. Initially, I wanted to see if people would post the same three cards: Smothering Tithe, Swords to Plowshares, and Path to Exile. Typically, when I think about white, these are the cards that first come to mind.

A few responses were jokes of multicolor cards; impossible pieces like Zetalpa, Primal Dawn; and Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. However, after a while I started seeing some interesting results. 

The “Mean”

Many of the responses included pieces of protection, card draw, removal, lifegain, and token generation. The works! People recommended pieces like Deafening Silence, Legion Loyalty, Oath of Lieges, Grand Abolisher, Fall of the Thran, Drannith Magistrate, Armageddon, and Leonin Arbiter, to name a handful. Even the banned card, Balance, received recommendations.

Armageddon Fall of the Thran Leonin Arbiter

I was definitely curious as to why pieces like these were offered up. Usually they are hallmarked as cutthroat white cards that people hate to see show up on the table. Some of these pieces prevent people from casting spells; others essentially restart the game. While they may be unpleasant, you can’t argue their power or effectiveness.

The “Nice”

These aren’t the only pieces recommended, however. Mother of Runes, God-Eternal Oketra, Luminous Broodmoth, Akroma’s Will, and Comeuppance also made appearances. The community hallmarked them as being powerful protection pieces, token generation, and recursion. These are strong recommendations that do just about everything we could want or need. How could white be considered such a bad color if it has access to all of these things? 

God-Eternal Oketra Akroma's Will Comeuppance

In the past, I have often called white the “after you” color. It’s polite. It likes to let other people grab a slice before it helps itself. That doesn’t make it bad, and yet when we look at it through the lens of format behemoths of blue and green, I can see why people came to such conclusions. White is a beast of its own, and I wanted to prove that, or at the very least, something (what that something was, I was unsure of at the time). With all the information I had gathered, I took to Moxfield.

The Deck

Most people build a deck when they see a commander they like. For this particular brew, I started in the weeds of the 99. I wanted to see what all the data I gathered would look like lumped together. After making a few executive decisions, I ended up with 26 creatures, four sorceries, eighteen instants, five artifacts, ten enchantments, and 36 lands. Yup, it sure is a stack of cards.

When compiling everything, I had absolutely no commander in mind. In fact, I wanted to leave that to the very end of the deckbuilding process (more on commander choice later). I wanted to see what a deck would look like based on a community gauge. What we have is very interesting.

Draw and Ramp

Let’s start with what most people say is white’s biggest flaw: lack of ramp and card draw. While white is not as abundant as other colors, this deck isn’t lacking in either area. The list has access to ramp through pieces like Weathered Wayfarer, Deep Gnome Terramancer, Keeper of the Accord, Loyal Warhound, Tithe, Land Tax, and Archaeomancer’s Map. Even Settle the Wreckage could count as ramp, as the card allows you to choose target player, as opposed to an opponent. A key thread that I noticed across the majority of these cards was that you ramping as contingent on if someone else had more lands than you. You can see this trend appear when looking at card draw as well. 

New and Old

The list runs Esper Sentinel; Archivist of Oghma; Alms Collector; Battle Angels of Tyr; Bennie Bracks, Zoologist; Mangara, the Diplomat; Secret Rendezvous; Oblation; Halo Fountain; and Smuggler’s Share. What I find interesting about this spread is that all the cards listed here save for Oblation are pretty recent designs. This speaks greatly towards the increased attention to card draw design integration in white.

Esper Sentinel Oblation Smuggler's Share

The vast majority of them rely on your opponents doing something or having more of something than you in order to draw a card. The remaining few require some form of hoop jumping like with Oblation (shuffling a permanent into your library), Bennie Bracks (making tokens), and Halo Fountain (paying mana and untapping two untapped creatures). This can be rather tedious to achieve, especially when compared with blue’s Rhystic Study and Mystic Remora, which require your opponents to do something rather than you. Your opponents have to pay the price while you reap the benefits. However, in white, your opponents have to benefit for you to benefit.  It’s why I call it the “after you” color. In fact, it’s what inspired the deck’s name, and that got me thinking. The list was complete, and the deck had a name, but who’s the commander?

The Commander

This deckbuilding experiment intrigued me because I wanted this deck to be as generic as possible. A theme to brew around would defeat the purpose of the experiment. In order to keep the concept consistent, I went to Twitter, asking Magic players what they thought was the best generic white commander.

At first, I got a lot of theme commanders. There were a ton of recommendations for Sram, Senior Edificer and Light-Paws, Emperor’s Voice. A quick search on EDHREC almost mirrored this, leaning towards themes of lifegain, Auras, Equipment, and tribal. Appealing, but not what I wanted. Past those recommendations, Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle; Mangara, the Diplomat; God-Eternal Oketra; and Adeline, Resplendent Cathar were amongst the highest listed in response.

Adeline, Resplendent Cathar Darien, King of Kjeldor

Choosing was hard. I almost ignored the suggestions completely, opting for Darien, King of Kjeldor as a joke about the misconception that white is a pushover color. However, I ultimately landed on Adeline, Resplendent Cathar.

Adeline embodies the spirit of mono-white. Her strength comes from others around her (tokens), and her ability drew me in. She wasn’t creature-focused like Oketra, nor paying attention to historic spells like Teshar. She didn’t take things lying down like Darien. Rather than turning pain into strength, she had it from the start.

While the deck could have almost any generic mono-white commander, Adeline felt like a permanent fixture. Her low mana value, power, and token generation really solidified her as this deck’s general. Adeline is the perfect example of the true strength and power that the color white has to offer in Magic. 


This deck features a spread of generic white value: a strong commander, protection, Stax pieces, battlefield wipes, recursion, and removal. Heck, it even runs the iconic Mana Tithe! Countermagic, baby! In fact, it has everything a well-rounded deck needs.

Playtesting this list is an interesting experience due to the sheer amount of value slotted into this deck. The commander comes out on curve, lands are drawn consistently, and creatures are plentiful. You’re almost always guaranteed to have bodies and value on the battlefield. You’re rarely left wanting with this list.

So what’s wrong with it? Well, while there is nothing wrong with straight value, the deck completely consists of win-more cards with little creativity and deck design/creativity. While not true for all, this can be rather boring to play for some individuals. There is no deckbuilding puzzle, no problem to solve. The deck does what it should do, but where is the fun without a bit of creativity and struggle? 

Pearl Medallion Smothering Tithe Teferi's Protection

Another criticism I have regarding this list is accessibility. Can a powerful deck like this be affordable for someone who is just starting out in the game or a veteran who loves the color? The answer is a resounding no. At the time of writing, this deck is $602. Pieces like Pearl Medallion; Smothering Tithe; Teferi’s Protection; Land Tax; Avacyn, Angel of Hope; and Esper Sentinel are incredibly powerful but are also costly. Those six cards alone are valued at $164, almost 1/4th of the deck’s value. That threshold is insanely high and rather rough to meet.

These pieces offer ramp, protection, and card draw. While there are definitely alternatives, they highlight a brutal fact about the color and this list. The best of white, while playable, is not affordable. 

Closing Thoughts

Is white the weakest color in Magic? No. In a format where green and blue are currently king, it might seem that way. White is strong, but it draws its strength from wells that other colors don’t have access to. It is not weak; it is merely different. Design and support for one color does not draw strength away from another.

This experiment started with excitement about new white cards, cards that were strong and exciting, cards that were true to their philosophy and that featured great designs. The future of white is incredibly exciting, and already we are seeing great designs pop up (I’m looking at you, Defiler of Faith and Serra Paragon!). With the designs, I am also looking forward to white’s perception evolving in the community as well. Happy brewing, deckbuilders.