Monomania – All Things Considered: White

(Dawn of Hope | Art by Sung Choi)

The Road Less Traveled

Greetings, everyone, and welcome back to Monomania. In this article series we examine and analyze all things mono-colored in Commander, with a heightened focus on ramp and draw packages. For about a year we’ve been challenging staples and misconceptions about the color pie. Today, we’re starting a new project.

It’s time to expand our scope and look at the colors holistically. In this All Things Considered extension of the Monomania series, I plan to broadly address each color, assessing the tools they have available to them and identifying important pieces to their mono-color deckbuilding philosophy. Because this is still Monomania, we will still break the colors down into ramp and card advantage categories, but we will also add another important category: win conditions. We’ll be covering the colors in order from weakest to strongest, at least in my opinion. So without further ado, let’s jump into what I consider the most narrow, unwieldy color in EDH: white.


Ramp

Contrary to the prevailing opinion, I’ve found that ramp is not an area that white particularly struggles with. There are two main reasons for this. First, white actually has a few cards that ramp lands out of your library onto the battlefield. It may be the best at this outside of green. Second, white is all about staying low to the ground. If you build your mono-white deck around small creatures, you should have no issue reaching the amount of mana necessary to facilitate your strategy. It’s not green, but it is functional.

Speaking of cards that ramp lands, these three are the options available to white. Knight of the White Orchid should be in every mono-white deck. There are so few occasions in which you’ll have the most lands at the table, meaning that this card is one of the best land ramp options in the entire format. Kor Cartographer is a bad Solemn Simulacrum, but doubling up on this effect at four mana is never bad in mono-white, especially because the color has access to a variety of flicker effects such as Eldrazi Displacer, Cloudshift, and Eerie Interlude.

Finally, Sword of the Animist deserves special mention in white despite being colorless. As stated, one of white’s strengths is staying low to the ground and attacking with early creatures. Mono-white is exactly the right environment for a card like Sword of the Animist. If this Sword fits well in your mono-white deck, another extremely powerful effect that is similar in its use is Dowsing Dagger.

In other miscellaneous ramp effects in white, we have two all-stars. Buy as many Smothering Tithes as you can afford. This card is just that good in any white-inclusive color combination. Now that we’ve all had a year to play with the card, it is clear that this is one of the most powerful ramp options printed in years. It will single-handedly facilitate your game-winning plays if it sits on the battlefield for even one turn rotation.

Legion’s Landing is a sleeper. This former Standard powerhouse deserves much more attention in EDH. For one mana, this card will ramp you one land, even if it is on a slight delay. Plenty of mono-white decks are built to attack with three or more creatures each turn, meaning that flipping this land will almost never be burdensome. To me, this is a staple, especially in mono-white. Finally, Boreas Charger absolutely goes in every mono-white deck, no matter the strategy. If you have ways to blink it, all the better.


Card Advantage

Mono-white card advantage, on the other hand, is very restrictive. This isn’t to say that white is dismal at finding card advantage; it just requires a more open mind. Card advantage in white tends to retrieve cards from the graveyard, requires an onerous amount of mana for a single draw, or fill your hand with lands rather than gas. White card advantage is bound by timing, stipulations, and restrictions.

Inheritance is a good example of this. While it is a source of card draw in white, the mana and timing limitations make it awkward in almost every scenario. This holds true for most forms of white card advantage. It’s weak not because there aren’t enough options, but rather because the available options are clumsy. White can thin its deck and recur permanents from the yard, but it has trouble actually drawing cards. You’re mostly stuck with the same 20 cards you happen to draw.

As I’ve conveyed in this article up to this point, mono-white is best when it leans into its low-to-the-ground identity. Luckily for white, it has some of the best low-cost creatures for our format. For this reason, Ranger of Eos is one of my favorite white cards and maybe my favorite form of white card advantage. It is unassuming, but it does put you up a card and can fetch you two extremely relevant cards for Commander. Mother of Runes, Children of Korlis, Dauntless Bodyguard, Giant Killer, and Soul Warden are just a few examples of the EDH-relevant one-drops available to Ranger of Eos.

Mentor of the Meek and Bygone Bishop are two other creature-based card advantage effects that I like in mono-white. Mentor of the Meek is a known quantity, seeing play in 13,798 decks listed on EDHREC at time of writing. It is solid and gets the job done. I’ve found that I like Bygone Bishop a little bit better, though, which only sees play in 1,944 decks. Yes, the Mentor’s ability costs one mana, as opposed to the two mana required to crack a Clue token, but being able to sandbag Clues and use them at your leisure is a very real advantage.

Lifegain is another strategy that white tends toward, and these two cards are central to that archetype. I mentioned Soul Warden earlier, and in combination with Well of Lost Dreams or Dawn of Hope, the Warden can form a potent card advantage engine that allows you to draw cards whenever any creature enters the battlefield and you have open mana. It’s hard to build an entire card advantage package off the back of these two cards, but they can compliment a robust lifegain theme.

White also has various cards that allow you to gain card advantage by searching your library for Plains. Unfortunately, most of these cards are old, seldom reprinted, and expensive as a result. I don’t know why Wizards of the Coast abandoned this part of white’s color identity; not only does this Plains-based form of card advantage provide a controlled form of card advantage for a color that desperately needs it, but it is also very flavorful. White is the color of law, order, and, as I see it, statecraft. It seems only fitting that white’s stable of effects would include a way to expand its territories and build a kingdom on top of tamed, cultivated Plains.

Land Tax and Tithe are among the more expensive options in this category of card advantage effect, but they are also the most powerful. Endless Horizons, however, is another one of my favorite cards in white, and it offers interesting play decisions. This is white’s version of Phyrexian Arena and, for my money, it is better. The fact that for one more mana Endless Horizons allows you to significantly thin your deck is a major upside. This card ensures that you’ll draw gas and also never miss a land drop again. Just make sure you don’t remove all your Plains on turn four, or Endless Horizons might become a removal magnet that’s too juicy to ignore. If your mono-white deck can utilize this style of effect, look into other cards such as Oreskos Explorer for flicker decks, Weathered Wayfarer for creature-based strategies, or Gift of Estates for spell-heavy decks.


Win Conditions

Where mono-white really struggles, in my opinion, is in its win conditions. Where black has Rise of the Dark Realms and blue has Expropriate, white has… Storm Herd? This doesn’t mean that mono-white can’t win, but it does mean that a win might require more thought and care.

These three cards are my favorite ways to win in mono-white. If you’re playing a tight-fisted deck that wants to control the game, Luminarch Ascension can put a significant clock on your opponents’ life totals at an incredible rate and at instant speed. Sacred Mesa can fill a similar function in those decks, but it is much slower and requires more support.

Enduring Renewal, on the other hand, is a component of a few easy combos with a cheap creature like Memnite and a sacrifice outlet like Altar of Dementia. Aetherflux Reservoir is at its most potent in spellslinger decks, but it can also win games in a dedicated white lifegain deck.

As I’ve covered so far, another potent way for white to win is through combat, and part of white’s color identity is unity. As such, anthems (effects that buff all of your creatures) are most common in white. Unlike green’s Overrun effects, white buffs its team in a more permanent way, usually taking the form of enchantments. With a wide board, you can easily use anthems to kill off an opponent or two in one swing. Other notable anthems in white include Crescendo of War, Marshal’s Anthem, and Commander’s Insignia.


In Review

Two years ago I started a personal project of building mono-colored decks as a way of exploring the identity and power of each in EDH. A year ago, this project turned into the Monomania article series. In that time I’ve found that, yes, white is the weakest of the colors, but it is one of the most fun to play. It ramps, gains card advantage, and wins in interesting ways. While white could use more ramp and card advantage options, what it really needs is high-value reprints to make the color’s staples widely available. Why is Land Tax around $30, Weathered Wayfarer $12, and Knight of the White Orchid $6? These are cards that only mono-white wants, and mono-white isn’t even very popular in our format. If these cards were more reasonably priced, perhaps white would enjoy a more positive community opinion in our format.

Before ending this article, I wanted to highlight three powerful cards that are underplayed in EDH and likely merit spots in most mono-white decks. Dusk // Dawn is the best of everything white has to offer. It is an exceptional Wrath of God that can easily leave your board untouched in the right deck. It is also an incredible form of card advantage for low-to-the-ground, creature-heavy decks. Rally the Ancestors is also an overachiever in white. In any deck that leverages enter-the-battlefield triggers, flicker effects, or sacrifice outlets, this is usually one of the best cards in the deck. It is also versatile. Even if you just use it to bring back blockers, you can use Rally to save yourself from a lethal attack or set up for a counterattack. Sevinne’s Reclamation is less splashy, but it is very efficient for its mana cost. Flashback itself is a form of card advantage, and bringing back a few key permanents over the turns is a great way for white to gain value.

With all that being said, I’ve put together a list of white cards that I believe either are or should be staples of mono-white. Every time I’m building a mono-white deck either for my personal EDH stable or for a Monomania article, I always strongly consider including. If you’ve been reading along for a while, you may notice that many of these show up in most of my deck lists.

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How do you all feel about white in EDH? Do you play mono-white? If so, what cards do you include to shore up the color’s weaknesses? Most importantly, what sort of card designs do you think are on-theme for white that could also help it catch up with the other colors? Personally, I would enjoy a mono-white commander that gives creatures in your hand Convoke. Or a commander that really capitalizes on having Plains in hand or on the board – I’m thinking something like Trade Routes on a body. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! Remember to EDHREC responsibly: always dig a little beyond the statistics. I’ll see you all on down the road.

Steven Vincent is an ESL teacher located in Oaxaca, México who uses Magic as a teaching tool. He hasn't introduced his students to Commander yet, but he is inching them toward the format so that he has a play group and can more frequently sate his thirst for EDH.