Do you enjoy Commander? Awesome! Color identity is clearly a quirk of the format.
The color identity of a card is defined by all of the various symbols on the card in its casting cost, color indicator, and rules text, but does not include reminder text. You can only run cards with identities that match your leader.
The problem with color identity is that it’s an inexact definition that includes cards it shouldn’t and doesn’t include cards it should.
So, for example:
This is Mtenda Lion. It’s a little weak against Blue decks as they have the option to spend a Blue mana to deal no combat damage when it swings. Because the mana symbol is there in the text, this card has a Blue and Green color identity which precludes it from decks that don’t have Blue in their identity. That’s weird and doesn’t reflect the actual card. Now here’s two Green enchantments that hose Black or Blue:
Lifeforce was printed in the first set and it allowed you to counter Black spells. Just spend some mana and counters await! Thelon's Curse on the other hand forces your foes to leave their Blue creatures tapped. But they can spend a Blue mana to untap them. Both of these cards are two- mana Green enchantments that hose an enemy color. But only one of these can be played in a Mono-Green Commander deck.
There are also times when Color Identity excludes a card with a clear connection to that color.
Take, as a famous example, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. This is a Swamp when it’s in play. It taps for Black mana. It’s clearly flavored as a Black card. The flavor and mechanics of the card are Black. And yet, due to quirks of the color identity rule, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is playable in every deck. It just uses the word, “Swamp.”
Another good example is extort, which has the Black and White symbols in the reminder text, or a fetchland like Mountain Valley that clearly is Red and Green in flavor and mechanically, but is allowed in decks without Red or Green.
By the way, I don’t know if you noticed, but the modern Oracle wordings for the ten dual lands has what they tap for in reminder text, so they are, technically, according to the same wording as Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, now fully colorless. However, another rule precludes their use in other decks (Rule 9035l 903.5d A card with a basic land type may be included in a Commander deck only if each color of mana it could produce is included in the commander’s color identity.) Just in case you were thinking of adding Tundra to your Naya deck.
Now Color Identity isn’t great, but it’s the best thing we have for now. If you were to have a land type count as that color instead, you would allow Mtenda Lions and such, but disallow many more things. Consider the swampwalk of Anaconda or forcing Cryoclasm to be a Blue/White/Red card. It would hurt more than it would help. It’s the best rule that we have.
What do you do as a player?
Some cards would be fine. Take Obelisk of Alara…
In a Commander deck you could loot or gain 5 life. Both of those are in the Blue and White domains. Similarly, in an everything-but-Green Commander deck built around Breya, Etherium Shaper, you can loot, gain life, give something -2/-2, and shoot a player for three damage. All four are in your colors. You aren’t breaking the flavor of the deck.
Similarly, take a card like Granger Guildmage. In a deck, you can give something first strike. In a deck, you can shoot something while pinging yourself. Both of those are fair for those colors, but you can only run Granger Guildmage in a deck with all three Naya colors.
Forget about that color identity thing and just embrace Five Colors! Run a leader that gives you all colors, and you unlock all of these sexy cards! Then you can run whatever you desire, and your heart can be filled with love.
I have played casual Five Color decks extensively. After all, once of my favorite formats of all time is Five Color, a deck with 250 (now 300) cards with all five colors required. I know what cards are powerhouses of a five-color deck.
What I want to do is to share with you the best cards from the history of the format that are unlocked for you once your Commander deck reaches five colors. These are the classics and powerhouses of multiplayer five color awesomeness. Ready?
Honorable Mention - Legacy Weapon
The problem with Legacy Weapon is that it only does one thing. It’s not a 4/4 creature that swings with this five-mana activation cost or anything. That’s be awesome! But as is, if you have the mana, Legacy Weapon is the answer. It answers anything at Commander. Planeswalkers? Exiled! Problematic lands like Maze of Ith? Exiled! Creatures? Enchantments? Artifacts? All exiled! And they aren’t coming back, as they are permanently removed from the game. Legacy Weapon is one of the best answers ever printed. And thus, it becomes a big problem.
10. Etched Oracle
Etched Oracle is an awesome, dominant card. And up through 2016, you had to run a Five Color deck in Commander to play it as it needs at least four colors of mana to run. Now that you can toss it into a Four Color deck, its cachet as a premier Five Color card has dropped. It’s still every bit as powerful in Five Color as it ever was, but that has dropped it on my list today. It’s sunburst as a four-drop makes it a great early card and 4/4 dork. You can pull off those counters for three cards, and if you managed to give it another counter, then you can keep it around (although I think it’s better when you kill it). I have abused many a kitchen table with this card and Academy Ruins/ Volrath's Stronghold. Etched Oracle for the win!
And there’s another body that I love to Stronghold back as well….
9. Bringer of the Blue Dawn
Bringer of the Blue Dawn is a winner! With the alternate cost of one of each mana to cheat out, this 5/5 trampling beater can get you a dominant force at the kitchen table. Card advantage is important to win in any multiplayer format, and that’s even more true for Commander. You need to draw a ton of cards just to keep up with the sheer additional card drawing that others drop on you. That’s why permanents such as Consecrated Sphinx or Mind's Eye are so valuable. They allow you to keep up! Well, allow me to introduce you to your new Five Color EDH best friend. This is the Bringer of the Blue Death. You won’t regret running it.
Note that this is one card of a five-card cycle from Fifth Dawn.
All of the other four cards have varying levels of usefulness:
You can easily run these other Bringers in your deck as well. The Black Dawn is a free tutor each upkeep for a loss of life, and that’s potent in a 40 life format. The White Dawn is great to give a free artifact each of your upkeeps. The Red and Green ones aren’t that different from other cards that exist today, but they both add a little zest to your deck as well. If you are regularly able to get the five colors of mana with stuff like mana rocks and lands, then they are all reliable 5-drops, and that increases their value appreciably.
But they ain’t the only 5/5 body for 5 mana on our list today…
8. Maelstrom Archangel
The upgrade in value from a 5/5 trampler who can be cast for a cheap cost and draws two cards to this flyer that can let you get one free spell off each time you punch someone is pretty obvious to me. Free stuff trumps drawing and flying trumps trample. The iconic Maelstrom Archangel is a powerhouse in a lot of places. It plays well with any card in Magic not called “land.” It’s such a force that it had a good presence in Standard way back when. The force of the Maelstrom is strong with this one!
And one of my favorite spells to cast, for free, with this it is this…
The only thing that keeps this card from hitting our countdown at #3 is that casting cost. Eight mana? One of each color? Pricey! The result is absolute perfection. You Tutor for five cards, and that’ s a lot of cards. A lot of cards. I have won games off the back of this card and selecting the right cards. This is a powerhouse of awesomeness and it’s just a terrifically strong effect to toss on out there.
Just like this next iconic card on our countdown.
6. Sliver Queen
Hey, look, you knew Sliver Queen would be here somewhere, right? It’s Sliver Queen! It’s arguably the most famous Five Color card ever printed. (It was the first Five Color card.) It’s legendary (not just in type), and for good reason! It’s beefy for your investment of mana. It gets the various Sliver abilities of its tribe. And most importantly, it shoots out Slivers for two colorless mana each activation. It’s on the Reserve List and that makes it expensive and casual players sad. And that just adds more to its reputation as an iconic card. The Sliver Queen is a strong card that has value in your decks today!
But it’s not in my top five. So what mono-Blue card cracks it?
5. Collective Restraint
This card does! It’s the best Propaganda / Ghostly Prison effect ever printed! As you increase your basic land types, you can get this a huge mana tax. Forcing someone to invest five mana per creature to swing is a heavy tax. I once shut down an entire deck from hitting me after I blocked and lost my Academy Rector to fetch this out in my Five Color Friends Commander deck. This is a one-card shut down machine that can often singlehandedly stop someone from swinging your way too often. Even a one-creature smash, such as a Voltron Commander, often thinks twice about spending five mana to punch me in the face. This is a great card to force someone to keep away.
And yet, for all of its value, Collective Restraint is not the highest charting mono-colored card on today’s countdown with just a single-color identity….
4. All Suns’ Dawn
This is! All Suns' Dawn is a house in Five Color. Like Conflux above, it can net you up to five cards, but it’s cheaper to cast and more flexible. There are always powerful options. You can get either side of a two-color card (or more if the card has more colors). Even if you only have four colors or so when you cast it, it’s still four Regrowth’s in one spell! I can’t tell you how many games I’ve won after pulling back a handful of awesome with this. In fact, I can’t tell you how many games I’ve lost when a foe has pulled back a handful of awesome with this either. All Suns' Dawn wins games.
But not as much as the iconic cards that are duetting in my Three Spot!
3. Fist of Suns and Jodah, Archmage Eternal
Each of these is very good at getting you to alternate cast something for five mana. Note that you can reduce the cost of Conflux, or other Five Color cards as well! Everything from big bombs like Darksteel Colossus and Time Stretch to mana you may not be able to have like Insurrection or Woodfall Primus these are great! Cast away anything my friends, cast away anything!
But even the alternate cost of these has nothing on….
2. Maelstrom Nexus
It has nothing on the Nexus! This is a powerful card. Free cascade on the first spell you cast each turn. Note that this is not a trigger on just your turn, but all of the turns. The more foes you have, the more potential; cascading you can do. There is always something fun to find and cast for free. Did you cast your Commander? Awesome! Trigger! Did you flash out a dork? Great! Trigger! There are so many ways to trigger both the free spells and card drawing that cascade twines together. The Nexus is an abusive card.
But for all its power, the Nexus is not reaching #1. Another 5-drop is…
1. Etched Monstrosity
Etched Monstrosity is a vast improvement over the Etched Oracle at #7 on our countdown. Unlike some of these other cards, you don’t need the right color mana when you cast it to maximize its value, as you can pop off the counters later and draw three cards. It’s also a 10/10 after you use it, and you can smash quickly. You can cast it on turn five with no acceleration, and then swing for 10/10 the next turn after activating with mana-making effects you often find in these decks like Chromatic Lantern, Command Tower, and City of Brass. This is a powerful card, and you can abuse it by playing down multiple paths. It’s artifact critter status grants you two avenues to consider. You can flicker it, bounce it, recur it, and more. You can put -1/-1 counters on it with Black Sun's Zenith while you sweep much of the board! It’s the most powerful Five Color card in your arsenal!
There you go, I hope you were Ready!
Did you enjoy our look at the best cards you unlock by taking your Commander Deck to five? Anything I missed? Anything you love that I should have added? Thanks for reading!