Too-Specific Top 10 - Brought Back
White Can Has Card Advantage?
Welcome to Too-Specific Top 10, where if there isn’t a category to rank our pet card at the top of, we’ll just make one up! (Did you know that Brought Back is the only white spell that costs less than three that can get two permanents back from your graveyard?)
As an avid player of mono-white, it can be easy to get yourself down about the current load that the color has to bear in Commander. But as I went over in detail in last week's Zendikar Rising White Review, things are getting better! No card embodies that more than the new Commander Precon original, Trove Warden. Being able to recur permanents from your graveyard to the battlefield is an extremely strong ability, and one that will no doubt be one of the main means forward for white to be able to fix its card advantage and maybe even its ramp problem. So I figured, why not do a top ten this week on all of the white cards that let you recur any permanent back from your graveyard to the battlefield based on their converted mana cost?
Top 10 White Permanent Converted Mana Cost Recursion Effects
1. Sun Titan
2. Sevinne's Reclamation
3. Trove Warden
Ah. Well, that could be an issue.
That's right, Trove Warden is neatly rounding out a Top Three of cards that allow you to get back any (cheap) permanent from your graveyard to the battlefield. Honestly, even after building an entire mono-white deck based around getting permanents from the graveyard to the battlefield, I really thought this number was higher. And hopefully, in the future, it will be!
In the meantime, my Pegasii brew will just have to find more unique means to abuse Pegasus Stampede.
Pegasii!View on Archidekt
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Oh, and we'll have to expand our sights somewhat for this week's top ten, I suppose.
Top 10 White Converted Mana Cost Recursion Effects
My original thoughts for this top ten were actually a lot broader. With the ongoing lament that white doesn't have any good means of card advantage, I wanted to tackle that head-on and just list out every white card that could possibly get you two or more cards, but that list honestly didn't wow me:
Top 10 White Card Advantage Effects
1. Sun Titan
2. Mentor of the Meek
3. Land Tax
5. Mesa Enchantress
6. Emeria, the Sky Ruin
7. Open the Vaults
8. Sram, Senior Edificer
9. Emeria Shepherd
10. Dawn of Hope
Don't get me wrong, there're lots of great options on this list. Only thing is, people already know about them, like Sun Titan and Land Tax, they cost more mana than the entire world, like Emeria, the Sky Ruin and Emeria Shepherd, or they've proven to be rather limited despite their popularity, like Mentor of the Meek and Dawn of Hope.
Rather than just rehash a problematic and well-known list, I'd really like to instead be bringing people the options that they might not be aware of or haven't seen utilized. Even more importantly, however, I don't actually think that this list is very indicative of what we'll see in the future when it comes to white card advantage options.
There has been a lot of talk over how Wizards of the Coast should help white card advantage, and a lot of folks want them to just bite the bullet and let white draw cards. I've never really agreed with this approach, as I really like the portions of the color pie that white currently occupies, and the card draw archetypes that currently exist aren't exactly blowing anyone away:
Top 10 White Card Draw Card Advantage Effects
1. Mentor of the Meek
2. Mesa Enchantress
3. Sram, Senior Edificer
4. Dawn of Hope
5. Alms Collector
6. Puresteel Paladin
7. Kor Spiritdancer
8. Bygone Bishop
9. Mangara, the Diplomat
10. Stone Haven Outfitter
I already mentioned Mentor of the Meek and Dawn of Hope, and since Mesa Enchantress has since been cycled out of white, that pretty much leaves the fairly new example of Mangara, the Diplomat, which will probably climb this list as time passes. The rest of this list, however, is pretty much centered on the things you would expect that are pretty well represented in EDH: Auras and Equipment.
Outside of Mangara, Sram, Senior Edificer is the only other commander on the list, and is also the second most popular Equipment commander behind Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale, and the eighth most popular Auras commander. That also makes him the most popular mono-white commander at 1,005 decks total, which would be an impressive feat if it weren't for the fact that that's dead last among the five colors:
Top Mono-Color Commander for each Color
- Krenko, Mob Boss - 2688 Decks
- Urza, Lord High Artificer - 2136 Decks
- K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth - 2043 Decks
- Ezuri, Renegade Leader - 1374 Decks
- Sram, Senior Edificer - 1005 Decks
More importantly, I would note that the two commanders at the bottom of this ranking both have something in common: they're the narrowest. This might be a bit of a stretch to extrapolate to white at large, but I'm going to anyhow. White's card advantage options, especially its actual card draw options, are narrow. With that in mind, my hope is that rather than pushing towards more card draw as the major "fix" for white in EDH, Wizards will instead push into the more flexible-yet-flavorful area of converted mana cost recursion. My personal hope is that Trove Warden and Sevinne's Reclamation are indicative of the direction that Wizards is pushing, and that we see more effects that can bring back any type of permanent, but in the hopes of having a Top Ten that's longer than three cards, let's expand out a bit:
Criteria: Cards with a mono-white color identity that can return cards from the graveyard to the battlefield based on said cards' converted mana cost. As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score.
10. Leonin Squire
(440 Inclusions, 0% of 201,750 Decks)
Not exactly starting off strong with my "flexible" point, Leonin Squire only allows for you to retrieve artifacts that cost one mana or less, which isn't exactly the widest list of targets. That may explain why we're seeing such low numbers at 440 decks, although I would still say that this little kitty is being under-utilized. In fact, all but 83 of Leonin Squire's inclusions come from Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle decks, when this effect stapled onto an efficient body and an abusable enter-the-battlefield trigger could really be abused by all sorts of decks.
When Gerrard, Weatherlight Hero was spoiled, there was a lot of general hubbub about what may be possible to do with him. Would it be board wipe tribal? Aristocrats, but with artifacts? Storm? As happens with many new commanders, however, the optimal crowd got a hold of him and quickly dismissed him as "just another eggs commander".
While I bristle a bit at that kind of pigeon-holing, it is true that Gerrard is quite good at making small artifacts go in and out of play repeatedly. As it turns out, so is Leonin Squire! I've waxed poetic about having backup effects to your commander before, and while Leonin Squire doesn't quite rise to that level it does do a small-time impression while also being supremely easy to recur in the same breath with Gerrard, getting you an extra card back to keep your loop going. While I would say that similar synergies can be found with other white artifact commanders like Alela, Artful Provocateur or Elsha of the Infinite, I was honestly shocked to not see Leonin Squire on Gerrard, Weatherlight Hero's page, as I can't really imagine a better match.
9. Order of Whiteclay
(444 Inclusions, 0% of 201,750 Decks)
Order of Whiteclay is so close to being really good that it almost hurts. It's been sitting in the side of my Samut, Voice of Dissent Pingers deckbox for years now, just waiting for the time when it doesn't cost three mana and an outside tap effect to use. Maybe someday we'll get an updated version that has a few less hoops to jump through, but until then Order of Whiteclay is going to be restricted to its current home: lower-powered white decks based around tap effects like Brigid, Hero of Kinsbaile, Atalya, Samite Master, and Lady Evangela, along with the recursion and attack combination that is Ravos, Soultender and Tymna the Weaver.
8. Tethmos High Priest
(572 Inclusions, 0% of 201,750 Decks)
For those that weren't around for the height of Heroic, it's a mechanic out of original Theros block that gives you an effect whenever you target a creature with the keyword with a spell, specifically. From an EDH perspective, it's easy to question why they wouldn't make the mechanic better by adding abilities to that, but, believe it or not, Heroic actually made quite the dent in constructed formats, so it couldn't really have been scaled better. All that said, there are a few decks that really like casting spells on their creatures, most famously Feather, the Redeemed.
While Tethmos High Priest only sees play in 15% of Feather decks, it has been a bit more common in Anax and Cymede Heroic tribal. Where it's seen very little play but in my opinion should see a lot more, however, is in Tiana, Ship's Caretaker decks. Auras meet the Heroic requirement, and there are all sorts of cheap utility creatures, like Kor Spiritdancer, Sram, Senior Edificer, Hero of Iroas, Transcendent Envoy, Starfield Mystic, Faith Healer, and Auratog, in addition to the aggro creatures that get bigger when you target them or just have double strike. As such, it seems like there is more than ample reason for this to be all over Tiana's Aura page, provided you aren't actually Pacifism tribal in disguise.
7. Return to the Ranks
(1,223 Inclusions, 1% of 201,750 Decks)
With the under-a-thousand pity parties over, Return to the Ranks seems like it's downright efficient compared to some of the lesser recursion options. The card advantage comes easy in decks playing a lot of cheap creatures, being a simple X cost combined with the Convoke ability that could have you casting this for ten or more without actually using any mana in a go-wide strategy. The only problem is that not a whole lot of go-wide token decks play many creatures under three mana, as the creatures that make a lot of tokens tend to be more expensive.
I think that that line of thinking is actually a bit of a trap, however. While it would be great to slap down a dozen Soldiers and Saprolings to recur a whole army of creatures, allowing you to make more tokens while simultaneously pumping them to lethal limits, where this card actually shines is in decks that are looking to make and sacrifice a whole bunch of creatures, be they tokens or actual cardboard.
With that in mind, I would highly suggest Aristocrats builds the world over to take a hard look at this card and see how many Blood Artists, Priest of Forgotten Gods, and Afterlife creatures like Tithe Taker you can recur with it, no matter if you have to pay the mana or not.
6. Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants
(1,745 Inclusions, 1% of 201,750 Decks)
While the inclusion numbers are starting to climb here, I'm not sure that we should actually be giving Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants' recursion ability the credit in this case. Unlike many planeswalkers, Ajani's negative ability is not worth the four mana it costs to cast him, so decks that like recursion aren't necessarily seeking him out. On the other hand, decks that like both +1/+1 counters and Cats get to dream of having it both ways, and maybe recurring a crucial Qasali Pridemage or Oreskos Explorer along the way.
5. Rally the Ancestors
(1,881 Inclusions, 1% of 201,750 Decks)
You can really tell that Rally the Ancestors was one of those cards that was pushed in its original incarnation, then got nerfed somewhere along the line in development. I'm actually with the designers on this one, though. A card that said "Return each creature card with converted mana cost X or less from your graveyard to the battlefield" would have had to cost more than two white pips, and is highly abuseable if you could find a way to get it back in your hand. Still, the final solution here is less than impressive, even if it is seeing a bit of play in Aristocrats decks like Teysa Karlov and Athreos, God of Passage.
You really need a deck that is going to have a lot of enter-the-battlefield triggers or already has sac effects in order to be able to abuse this effect well, however... Especially since the creatures you get back won't have haste upon entering. That screams Aristocrats, but not much else, making this yet another white recursion effect that fails the flexibility test that would help make this mechanic into a strong aspect of the color. Still, I think before long we'll start seeing this in Orah, Skyclave Hierophant decks as well, where it's undoubtedly going to rack up some impressive recursion chains with the help of a sacrifice effect.
To briefly return to the original topic at hand, however, I do wonder why this card couldn't have been printed as "Return each permanent with converted mana cost X or less from your graveyard to the battlefield" with all the same exile caveats. All right, maybe you have to tack on a "nonland" there to make it a little less broken, but I would argue that the permanent version of the card is balanced better as a strong rare or mythic and also feels more white than the just-as-easily-black "recur creatures based on converted mana cost" version.
4. Bishop of Rebirth
(2,472 Inclusions, 1% of 201,750 Decks)
I was almost about to say that the new Orah, Skyclave Hierophant inclusions might end up ramping Rally the Ancestors right past our next contender, Bishop of Rebirth, until I noticed that it was a Cleric based around recursion that also had a high enough converted mana cost that it would bring back relevant targets all the time with Orah's ability. Not only that, but having Bishop of Rebirth in Orah would also ensure that you didn't have to care about the high likelihood that it will get blocked and killed in combat, since you'd still be having a net gain of two cards returned.
Outside of this card being dangerous in that yet-to-be-built deck, however, I've never really liked Bishop of Rebirth a whole lot. It's five mana for a 3/4 with vigilance, which are some pretty bad stats. Normally that kind of thing can be forgiven in Commander so long as its stapled to a decent ability, but in this case a higher power and toughness or some evasion would have really given this card some oomph to carry through for a few recursions. As it is in its current form, you really have to have outside help for this card not to be a constant feel-bad, sitting on your side of the battlefield and reminding you of the five mana that you wasted so it could stare at a Felidar Sovereign across the table and be sad.
3. Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle
(Helms 662 Decks, Rank #205; 3,430 Inclusions, 2% of 201,750 Decks)
Unlike the last couple of contenders, I can unabashedly admit that I absolutely love Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle. No matter how often people try to convince me otherwise by only using him for infinite combos, I will still happily jam him in any deck playing even a small number of artifacts, just so I can bring Knight of the White Orchids and Mirror Entitys back from the grave whenever I throw down the off Sol Ring or my commander. Whatever power level you're utilizing him at, however, Teshar is a complete value powerhouse that really shows off the possible power of the converted mana cost recursion mechanic even when it's restricted to just creatures. And while 3,430 inclusions across a full swathe of different commanders pursuing different strategies is impressive, I would still say that folks are under-valuing this little Bird Cleric. Given the number of artifacts and legendaries that the average decks play, Teshar can be great general value for all sorts of decks. More confusing, however, is the fact that Teshar isn't an absolute staple in Equipment decks, where he can ensure you'll always have an Equip target, or be one, himself, as an evasive flier while returning utility creatures to play every turn.
2. Sevinne's Reclamation
(4,140 Inclusions, 2% of 201,750 Decks)
Sevinne's Reclamation was really the first gauntlet thrown down that showed Wizards was serious about solving the card advantage and ramp problem in white. More impressively, it does both at the same time, really showing off the sheer power and flexibility of permanent recursion. Being able to pay three mana to get a fetch land back into play would be a good enough bad Cultivate for white mages, but Sevinne's Reclamation allows you to bring back cheap artifacts, creatures, enchantments, or planeswalkers instead if you'd prefer, and then lets you do it again for any two permanents afterward, an effect you'd have to pay five mana for in green just to get the stuff back to your hand!
...And, as such, it honestly astounds me that we're not seeing the mass adoption of this card that we did for other white staples like Teferi's Protection and Smothering Tithe. Not that I want Sevinne's Reclamation to cost $30, mind you, but it only seeing play in 2% of decks a year after its printing has got to feel a bit like a slap in the face to the people trying to design new and powerful white cards for fans of the color. You could not ask for a more aggressively costed, powerful iteration of this effect on a sorcery, and it's still being ignored a year after the fact.
1. Sun Titan
(41,480 Inclusions, 21% of 201,750 Decks)
Far from being ignored, however, Sun Titan was probably predicted as the number one spot on this list before I'd even settled on the particular criteria. Outside of perhaps Skullclamp, there is not a better card advantage engine available in white, and folks know it. Being able to instantly recur another permanent as soon as Sun Titan hits the battlefield ensures that even an immediate removal spell means you have recouped some of your losses, and then, if it does stick around, returning another permanent every attack step will do work in any deck out there. Combine that with a massive 6/6 body that gets to both attack and block, and Sun Titan is the clear leader when it comes to white recursion effects.
...So much so that we'll probably never see anything better. Sun Titan was a clear step over the line, as was much of the Titan cycle from Magic 2011 was, to the point where one of them has actually been banned in Commander. While I am doing my best as a fan of white to egg on Wizards of the Coast to print more and better options in this area, I also completely understand that they have to be wary of doing so because of the most obvious existing example and the effect it had on just about every format it touched. With that in mind, then, I would expect to see a few more examples like Trove Warden edging in Sun Titan's direction, but never quite getting there. And it should be noted that that is completely okay, and quantity will still do loads for the color identity, even if the quality will always top out here.
As previously mentioned, I started off with every intent to title this list "Top Ten White Card Advantage Effects" before deciding that that wouldn't be the most interesting version of the list. With that in mind, then, here are a few other versions that were considered:
Top 10 White Card Advantage Effects (Without Actual Card Draw)
- Sun Titan
- Land Tax
- Emeria, the Sky Ruin
- Open the Vaults
- Emeria Shepherd
- Angel of Serenity
- Weathered Wayfarer
- Faith's Reward
- Stonehewer Giant
Top 10 Battlefield Recursion Effects
- Sun Titan
- Emeria, the Sky Ruin
- Open the Vaults
- Emeria Shepherd
- Faith's Reward
- Reya Dawnbringer
- Starfield of Nyx
- Marshal's Anthem
Lastly, I think between the shout-out, the title of the article, and a few references throughout I've made my feelings pretty clear, but another new-yet-criminally-underused white card advantage spell that didn't even make most of the lists I included here is Brought Back. While many have lamented it as a worse version of Faith's Reward, I really couldn't disagree more. Faith's Reward is a clunky four-mana effect that feels bad to hold in case of a board wipe, while being too expensive to really utilize as a mass recursion engine in combination with other effects. Brought Back, on the other hand, is easy to hold up two mana for just about any time, and is easily cast in combination with other spells to ensure you still come out at a net advantage on the other side of things. I would implore fellow white mages to give it a shot in their decks, especially in decks that have reason to sacrifice lands or permanents. There isn't much out there that feels better than following up a Lotus Vale with Brought Back, I can tell you... Except maybe following up a Whisper, Blood Liturgist activation by bringing back the two creatures you sacrificed.
Nuts and Bolts
There always seems to be a bit of interest in how these lists are made (this seems like a good time to stress once again that they are based on EDHREC score, NOT my personal opinion…), and people are often surprised that I’m not using any special data or .json from EDHREC, but rather just muddling my way through with some Scryfall knowledge! For your enjoyment/research, here is this week’s Scryfall search.
What Do You Think?
Between this and my Zendikar Rising white set review, I've talked a lot about Trove Warden over the last couple weeks, which is kind of unfair given that we also got the Commander Legends white spoiler, Keeper of the Accord. I'll have to do the "Top Ten Land Tax Effects" list at a later date, although that is getting to be a better list all the time. For now, however, I am interested to see how people feel about the slow and steady pace of white improvements coming out of R&D:
And finally, what are your favorite white recursion and card advantage effects? Was there a card I just missed here?
Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the white folding table we brought back from the dead with some love, solid maintenance, and a roll of duct tape.
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