Can you believe that it’s Core Set 2021 preview season already? This year has been dubbed The Year of Commander, and if you take a look at some of the cards in this new core set – reprints and new cards – there can be no doubt that Commander fans are forefront in the minds of the folks that are making Magic.
As evidence, I present some of the juicy reprints so far:
And here are some of the new cards:
One card in particular piqued the interest of Commander fans who’ve long been clamoring for cards that can help white decks on the card-advantage front: Mangara, the Diplomat!
Mangara is back! We first saw a legendary representation of Mangara in Time Spiral, and what’s very interesting is just how different the two cards are from each other. Most of the time new versions of previous legends at least riff on the old version, but in this case the only thing that carries over is the Human tribe. The Diplomat version has dropped his Wizard profession for a Cleric’s robes, upgraded to a much sturdier stat block as a 2/4, and made himself a little easier to splash into the multicolor decks with just one colored mana in its four-mana cost. The Diplomat has multiple abilities that don’t require exiling himself, so upgrades all around.
The triggered abilities are really interesting here. White has lagged far behind the other colors when it comes to raw card drawing and other ways to keep cards flowing and options open, but now we see something new—conditional card draw that’s tied to a “tax” on what your opponents do. Whenever they attack you or planeswalkers you control with two or more creatures, you draw a card, and whenever an opponent casts their second spell each turn, you draw a card.
This is definitely a novel approach to raw card-draw and feels very much in white’s color wheelhouse. But I don’t like that it puts all the power in the hands of your opponents—their actions are going to decide whether you get to draw any extra cards or not. They can attack you with one large creature and circumvent the first trigger, and if they only cast one spell a turn they circumvent the second trigger.
That second trigger is likely going to put people in a quandary. Commander decks are typically chock-full of cards to mana ramp, and the entire point of the ramp is so you either cast a big spell ahead of curve or be able to double-spell. If someone draws a Turn 5 Sol Ring, will they cast it and end their turn, or will they use it to cast another spell and let you draw a card?
A big plus is that you’re playing a mono-white deck, which means that a lot of players may discount the power of your deck; who cares if you draw a few extra cards here and there? But we can do more than just hope our opponents underestimate our capabilities, don’t you think? I think we can come up with ways to encourage our opponents to attack us.
Let’s get brewing!
1. Luminarch Ascension
I can’t think of many cards that are more encouraging for opponents to attack us than Luminarch Ascension. This enchantment doesn’t take many pain-free turns before it comes online and lets you churn out 4/4 flying Angel tokens for each two mana you sink into it. If you draw it early before your opponents get much of a battlefield presence it’ll take some serious fortitude to hang on and wait to cast your commander, but I think the card draw dividends would be worth it.
Coveted Jewel is another very enticing target for opponent aggression after you draw three new cards and seems like a slam dunk here. Protector of the Crown makes us the monarch, and if someone wants to take the crown they’ll need to make serious attacks to punch through the Protector, which will hopefully involve Mangara’s trigger for cards.
2. Gideon Jura
Another surefire way to encourage opponents to attack you or planeswalkers you control is to cast a bunch of planeswalkers—nobody wants to let planeswalkers sit around gaining value turn after turn, so let’s stuff our mono-white deck with planeswalkers! The best of the bunch for our purposes is Gideon Jura, whose +2 ability forces all of target opponent’s creatures to attack Gideon Jura if able. If you pick your target right, you can ensure that just enough creatures attack to let you draw a card from Mangara while not killing off your planeswalker.
White has a lot of solid planeswalkers we can add to our deck. Gideon of the Trials is particularly nice because you can get the emblem that says you can’t lose the game and your opponents can’t win the game so long as you control a Gideon planeswalker. That will certainly encourage opponents to attack your Gideon planeswalkers and hopefully draw you some more cards.
3. The Chain Veil
Since we’re leaning hard on planeswalkers to encourage our opponents to attack us, let’s go ahead and add The Chain Veil, which should really encourage our opponents to attack us to prevent any of our planeswalkers from activating their ultimate ability, especially ones that make emblems!
We’ve got some other planeswalker support cards in white:
Oath of Gideon is particularly awesome since it gives each planeswalker you play an extra point of loyalty, and Djeru, With Eyes Open means that it might take more effort – more attackers – to strike down our planeswalkers.
4. Castle Ardenvale
One way to encourage opponents to attack with two or more creatures is to make it clear that one attacker won’t cut it, and a great card that does just that is Castle Ardenvale. This card can churn out one chump blocker each turn and make it tough for an opponent to make headway against you or your planeswalkers unless they dedicate additional attackers.
Beloved Chaplain is a fantastic blocker and another surefire way to encourage multiple attacks. Gideon’s Triumph and Wing Shards are nice ways to punish a huge single attacker that might have evasion for our blockers.
Equal Treatment is a spicy tech card that’s a well-known favorite of Commander godfather Sheldon Menery and slots well into this deck’s gameplan—if someone attacks with one giant evasive creature, you can reduce the damage it deals to just two and you get to draw a card to boot. What’s really fun is if someone with a whole bunch of 1/1 token creatures decides to attack someone else (because they don’t want you to draw from Mangara) and you can effectively double their damage output and still draw a card.
5. Lotus Field
White has a bunch of cards that care about “if an opponent controls more lands than you” that can provide some bit of card advantage or mana ramp, and so lately I’ve been including Lotus Field in my white decks to help encourage opponents to have more lands than I do.
Dust Bowl, Field of Ruin, and Kjeldoran Outpost are other lands that you can use to manage your land count to keep cards like Knight of the White Orchid and Verge Rangers online. And of course a well-timed Settle the Wreckage can keep an opponent ahead of lands for at least a few turns while also protecting your planeswalkers from an all-out assault.
6. Path to Exile
White has no end of top-notch removal options, but since we want to keep our opponents ahead on lands, Path to Exile gets the nod as one of the best for our deck, though if our opponent has such a greedy manabase that they fail to find a basic land, I’ll definitely take it.
Pinpoint removal spells like Path to Exile, Swords to Plowshares, and Generous Gift play nicely into our gameplan if an opponent is trying to avoid triggering Mangara and attacks with a single creature. If we’ve managed to stick a few planeswalkers on the battlefield, the time is ripe to sweep the battlefield with Wrath of God or Rout.
7. Flawless Maneuver
One of the best of the new cycle of “free if you control your commander” cards from Commander 2020, Flawless Maneuver lets you feel free to tap out to cast a planeswalker while still having an option in case your opponent wants to destroy your commander or other creatures you control.
Other forms to interaction with your opponent should definitely include some ways to control graveyard shenanigans like Remorseful Cleric, and I also really love Shadowspear since it can remove hexproof and indestructible from your opponents creatures if need be, while also being a solid piece of Equipment too.
8. Approach of the Second Sun
Rounding the deck out with a suite of “good stuff” cards, I made sure to include a slot for Approach of the Second Sun. If you cast this with Mangara on the battlefield, you certainly put your opponents in a squeeze—they’re going to want to kill you before you redraw Approach, but if they attack you with more than one creature, they’ll help you draw Approach that much faster.
The creatures here are sweet—Thalia, Heretic Cathar slows down creatures with haste, and God-Eternal Oketra can very quickly clog up the battlefield with 4/4 Zombie Warrior tokens with vigilance.
9. Oath of Lieges
For mana ramp, if you’ve built your deck in such a way to encourage opponents to have more lands than you (and as noted above, we have done just that), Oath of Lieges is a big winner. No matter how often one of your opponents ramps their lands, Oath of Lieges lets everyone else ramp along with them.
I’m including a bunch of the usual nongreen suspects here, including the awesome new Manascape Refractor! I can’t wait to see what sort of land abilities I’ll get to use through this three-mana artifact.
10. Blackblade Reforged
Well want some ways to boost and protect our creatures, and one of the best is Blackblade Reforged. Since Mangara’s power is just two, dropping Blackblade Reforged onto the battlefield and equipping it can ramp up Mangara’s damage-dealing and lifelink ability dramatically.
I’m also making room for these last few cards:
Okay, so here’s how the deck ended up:
- 1 Mother of Runes
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Beloved Chaplain
- 1 Knight of the White Orchid
- 1 Burnished Hart
- 1 Thalia, Heretic Cathar
- 1 Selfless Spirit
- 1 Protector of the Crown
- 1 Djeru, With Eyes Open
- 1 Arena Rector
- 1 Remorseful Cleric
- 1 Grateful Apparition
- 1 God-Eternal Oketra
- 1 Verge Rangers
- 1 Gideon Jura
- 1 Elspeth, Sun's Champion
- 1 Ajani Steadfast
- 1 Nahiri, the Lithomancer
- 1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
- 1 Gideon of the Trials
- 1 The Wanderer
- 1 Teyo, the Shieldmage
- 1 Gideon Blackblade
- 1 Ugin, the Ineffable
- 1 Ajani, Strength of the Pride
- 1 Wrath of God
- 1 Pearl Medallion
- 1 Swords to Plowshares
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Wing Shards
- 1 Skullclamp
- 1 Wayfarer's Bauble
- 1 Mind Stone
- 1 Reconnaissance
- 1 Oath of Lieges
- 1 Allay
- 1 Worn Powerstone
- 1 Rout
- 1 Equal Treatment
- 1 Path to Exile
- 1 Luminarch Ascension
- 1 Basilisk Collar
- 1 The Chain Veil
- 1 Oath of Gideon
- 1 Heart of Kiran
- 1 Oketra's Monument
- 1 Approach of the Second Sun
- 1 Settle the Wreckage
- 1 Blackblade Reforged
- 1 Coveted Jewel
- 1 Endless Atlas
- 1 Crush Contraband
- 1 Gideon's Triumph
- 1 Generous Gift
- 1 Arcane Signet
- 1 Soul-Guide Lantern
- 1 Shadowspear
- 1 Elspeth Conquers Death
- 1 Heliod's Intervention
- 1 Manascape Refractor
- 1 Flawless Maneuver
Here’s how the deck looks graphically, thanks to our friends at Archidekt:
What do you think? Are there any cards I’ve overlooked? If you see any new cards from Core Set 2021 that should find a home here, let me know!
Do me a solid and follow me on Twitter! I run polls and get conversations started about Commander all the time, so get in on the fun! I’d also love it if you followed my Twitch channel TheCompleteCommander, where I do a deckbuilding stream every Monday evening, and pepper in some other Commander-related streams when I can. If you can join me live, the videos are available on demand for a few weeks on Twitch, but I also upload them to my YouTube channel.
And lastly, I just want to say: let us love each other and stay healthy and happy.
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