Do Your Worst - These Archetypes Aren't Actually the Worst Anymore (A 2022 Retrospective)

(Celestine, the Living Saint | Art by Irina Nordsol | Horrible photoshopping by me)

Doing Our Worst Is Getting More and More Difficult

Hello, everyone! Welcome to another installment of Do Your Worst, where we usually take a popular archetype and find the most unusual home for it, but today, we're doing something a bit different. I'm your host, Philomène, and to celebrate the passing year, we're doing a retrospective of 2022's most color-pie-stretching commanders!

Every year, we stray further and further from the color pie. Whether that's good or bad isn't really the subject of today's article. Rather, we're trying to see if any new commanders of 2022 opened up archetypes to previously unsupported color combinations. I'm trying my best to do my worst in this column, but did Wizards of the Coast make my job harder this year?

A quick note: I will use graphs that demonstrate the color spread of the most popular cards for each archetype. If you want to know about my methodology for finding this out, scroll to the very end of this article!

Without further rambling, let's check out some decks that just maybe aren't the worst anymore!

Mono-Black Enchantments

Braids, Arisen Nightmare

While Braids isn't exactly a hipster pick (she has more than 1,800 decks to her name on EDHREC), she's usually built with an emphasis on sacrifice or aristocrats. Her ability does mention enchantments, though, and we can choose to lean more into that. Red is the least popular color in enchantress decks, but still, I feel Braids has her place on this list.

Color spread of the most popular cards in the Enchantments archetype.


To start, black has a few enchantments with powerful ETBs but heavy downsides if they stay in play, like Treacherous Blessing. Not to worry though, Braids can get rid of them for us! There are also Auras that return to hand when they hit the graveyard, like Despondency, making them excellent to sacrifice every turn. It is surprisingly easy to sprinkle enchantments in our removal (Chime of Night), protection (Kaya's Ghostform) and board wipes (The Meathook Massacre). Add in the black Constellation cards for enchantment payoffs, and you've got a stew going (Doomwake Giant, Grim Guardian).

Before you mention it, I know Aphemia, the Cacophony has been a possible commander for this archetype since Theros Beyond Death. In my experience though, Aphemia is super slow and her payoff is really medium. The card advantage that Braids provides balances the fact that we don't really have enchantresses in black, plus the damage she deals puts a real clock on the game, making her the new standard for mono-black enchantments in my opinion.

Thanks to my brother, Mathieu Gatien, for his input on this deck, and for tormenting our pod with it. You can view his decklist here if it sparks your interest!

Boros and Colorless Legends

Cadric, Soul Kindler and The Peregrine Dynamo

If we look at the five most played commanders for the legends theme, we can see that three of them are cards that came out this year: Jodah, the Unifier, Dihada, Binder of Wills, and Ratadrabik of Urborg. Let's consider the color spread of the archetype excluding those new decks:

It's nice that Wizards made Dihada's precon in the Mardu colors, because black and red were underrepresented here. In Cadric's case, Boros isn't exactly the worst color pairing. The actual worst would be colorless, I suppose, which is neither a color nor a pairing. Anyhow, colorless legends are possible now thanks to The Peregrine Dynamo!

Colorless legendary permanents with cool activated or triggered abilities include:

Sounds fun!

If you want to build Cadric or The Peregrine Dynamo, it turns out that DougY has written two Too-Specific Top 10 articles about them! (Find Cadric here and Dynamo here.)

Mono-White Reanimator

Celestine, the Living Saint

Can I just say: finally. This has been my white whale (wink wink) for some time. It feels strange that white, who has had access to reanimation since Alpha, never got a good reanimator commander. Listen, no disrespect to the Reya Dawnbringer decks out there, but nine mana for a 4/6 that has to make it until your next turn? Rough. Some of you might have chosen Mageta the Lion instead as a discard outlet in the command zone. Smart, but criminally inefficient. Luckily for us, Celestine is here.

In a lot of reanimator decks, the goal is to Entomb some big potato in the graveyard and then cheat it out early in the game. In mono-white, sure, you can cheat out your Pathrazer of Ulamog with Breath of Life - that's still a seven-mana reduction - but it's less impressive than reanimating it, and you can't just tutor things to your graveyard, you have to organically draw and discard them (Smuggler's Copter), or mill them (Perpetual Timepiece). Still, a "traditional" reanimator strategy is possible, if you want to do that.

What I think Celestine, the Living Saint wants us to do is more of a "value" reanimator than a combo-oriented one like I described above. White has a lot of "mana value three or less" type of reanimation, which is neat because it directly plays into other cards, like Tocasia's Welcome, and, in a lot of cases, with effects that care about lower-power creatures (Welcoming Vampire, Mentor of the Meek, Dusk // Dawn). Play efficient creatures over and over, accrue overwhelming value, and assemble a massive board to swing out and win.

Is mono-white the worst possible color for reanimator? Probably not: Simic, Gruul or Izzet seem worse, but without further research, I wonder if any of these three are even possible. For now, Celestine, the Living Saint offers us a reanimator deck without black, and that makes it pretty darn cool.

Mono-Red Group Hug

Khârn the Betrayer or Slicer, Hired Muscle

Hard to see, but there's some black in there. I think it's between red and blue.

Hey, that's not bad! Red is the second worst color in the group hug archetype behind black, which is practically nonexistent. I like Khârn better than Slicer as the commander, but you could go either way.

Group hug decks are trying to accelerate the game for all players, be it with mana, cards, creatures, or any other type of resource. By doing so, they avoid becoming "the threat" (a lot of players won't be fooled, though) and can proceed to use these resources to their advantage and win (with Approach of the Second Sun for example, or even Happily Ever After).

How can we do that in mono-red? Aside from the usual colorless options (Ghirapur Orrery, Tempting Contract, etc.), Humble Defector is a nice way to make everyone draw cards. Mana Flare is basically Heartbeat of Spring. Share the Spoils is an absolute blast to have at a table. Descent into Avernus can accelerate the game quite a bit. Get political with Creative Technique, Volcanic Offering, and Tempt with Vengeance.

Our win conditions? Whether you choose Khârn the Betrayer or Slicer, Hired Muscle, winning with commander damage is a possibility, even if it's one of your opponents that's swinging with it! Just suit it up, attach various Auras to it, and let it have fun on the battlefield. You can also use Savage Alliance on your opponents' turn to give their creatures trample while they attack one of your foes. Another way to win is to use Twist Allegiance (or Insurrection, I suppose) and swing out with your enemies' creatures.

We're kind of stretching the meaning of "hug" in "group hug", but I mean, we're mono-red. We can still hug people, even if we're wearing an armor of chains and spikes, right?

Gruul and Mono-Black Artifacts

Meria, Scholar of Antiquity and The Necron Dynasties Precon

What a year for artifacts! Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty started us off with Vehicles and Equipment creatures, Streets of New Capenna followed with an abundance of Treasures, the Necron Dynasties precon came out, the new Brother's War set is all about artifacts, and we're going to New Phyrexia next year. Artifice galore!

If we look at the color distribution of most artifact decks, we can deduce that green is absent, with black being fourth place. That makes Meria, Scholar of Antiquity and the various Necron commanders (Imotekh the Stormlord, Szarekh, the Silent King, Trazyn the Infinite, Anrakyr the Traveller, and Illuminor Szeras) decent choices for an off-color artifact deck, but since the Necron precon produced so many new cards for black, can we really call mono-black artifacts off-color now? Besides, King Macar, the Gold-Cursed did it before it was cool. What about Gruul?

Gruul artifacts wasn't exactly popular before this year, but you could have built Svella, Ice Shaper as an artifact deck if you wanted. The real game-changer has been Streets New Capenna with its emphasis on Treasures. Jolene, the Plunder Queen has over 1,200 decks on EDHREC, and the Treasure archetype is the second-most popular on the Gruul color identity page. The thing is, Treasure decks don't solely focus on artifacts, they also want big mana and sacrifice synergies. If I wanted to build a classic "mono-brown" artifact deck in Gruul, I think I would go for Meria, Scholar of Antiquity.

With all that said, Meria and the Necron folk look really neat, but I still think mono-green artifacts is objectively worse than all the options explored here.

Azorius Lands

Tameshi, Reality Architect

At first glance, Tameshi wants to be built around artifacts and enchantments, with possible combo shenanigans - but why not build him as a dedicated Landfall deck? I have faced a Tameshi lands deck in the wild, and it's really cool. Is it the worst, though?

According to our little graph here, pretty much anything that isn't green is going to have my respect. I mean, technically, blue is the second-most represented color here, but that's because every blue pip came from a Simic card, like Aesi, Tyrant of Gyre Strait, Tatyova, Benthic Druid or Growth Spiral.

So, Azorius lands, then! White has surprisingly decent Landfall cards. Felidar Retreat, Emeria Shepherd and Emeria Angel are probably the best ones. On the blue side, you still have Retreat to Coralhelm and Roil Elemental. You can use Tameshi's ability to return artifact lands from the graveyard to the battlefield (Seat of the Synod, Ancient Den). If you're doing that, then you might want some sacrifice outlets à la Zuran Orb or Trenching Steed. Plus, then you can profit from catch-up ramp in white (Knight of the White Orchid)!

I know that Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper exists and technically references lands, but to me that sounds like a spellslinger deck. Tameshi, Reality Architect looks like a nice way to shake things up if you want a lands matter deck and don't want to go for the usual suspects (like the last uncompleated cat planeswalker or the giant ripped jellybean).

Honorable Mentions

  • Greasefang, Okiba Boss: Reanimating Vehicles is just cool. Greasefang doesn't make the list because white has a lot of synergies with Vehicles already, and black has a lot of ways to take things in and out of the graveyard. It's a lot harder to win by reanimating Parhelion II in Commander than in Pioneer, but it still kicks ass.
  • Liberator, Urza's Battlethopter: I just want to shout a new colorless commander that is very versatile. If only it came out before we built our colorless tokens deck! Colorless players rejoice.
  • Tocasia, Dig Site Mentor: I don't know what to make of all this Surveil in Bant colors, but I'm here for it. It's hard to find an archetype for this one because it's so unique. Bant artifact go-wide reanimator? Sign me up.
  • Sophina, Spearsage Deserter and Wernog, Rider's Chaplain: These officially came out this year, but they are the in-universe Magic counterparts of the Stranger Things Secret Lair, which came out last year. Also, this particular Friends Forever pair caught my eye as being an anti-Simic Clue deck! (Take that, Lonis, Cryptozoologist.) There are only 16 Investigate cards in Mardu colors. Sounds like a nice challenge!
  • Backgrounds: I feel like the Backgrounds and Choose a Background legendary creatures from Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate deserve a mention. The possibilities of combinations are quite numerous, and some of them can open up some sweet deckbuilding avenues. For example, you can build Gruul aristocrats with Gut, True Soul Zealot and Cloakwood Hermit! I also really like the power level of Backgrounds. Basically, I just think they're neat.

Meria, Scholar of Antiquity | Art by Aurore Folny

They Weren't the Worst, and That's for the Best

Only one of the commanders we looked at today covered the actual worst archetype in its category: The Peregrine Dynamo. I'd say that's a good thing! We wouldn't want it to be too easy, right?

What do you think? Is there a sweet niche commander that I missed? With the amount of product coming out, that's certainly possible! Did you build any of these decks? Do you disagree with anything I've reviewed here? Let me know in the comments! I'm Philomène, and this has been Do Your Worst. See you next year!

To determine an archetype's "worst" colors, I go to the archetype's Theme page and single out the five most played color combinations. For each combination, I select their most popular commander for that archetype. I then copy each commander's average deck (so that makes five decks) into a deckbuilder, eliminate the cards that are not relevant to the archetype, and see what percentage each color takes up. To me, this is the most objective way of doing things, but if you think there's a better way, let me know in the comments!

Philomène is a film composer from Montréal, Canada. Her love of card games started in the late 90's with Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Dragon Ball Z and of course, Magic: The Gathering. Preferring a more casual kind of game in commander (art and lore being very high on her list of reasons to play cards), she satiates her competitive urges through Limited formats.

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