The Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum by John Martin (1822).
Angel of Grace by Ryan Yee
I haven't built a lot of Mono-White Commander decks. I never built Heliod, Sun-Crowned, even though I wrote a column about that heavy hitter early in 2020. I want my tablemates to have fun and I don't love playing archenemy, so I never built Avacyn, Angel of Hope, boardwipes and mass land destruction. I honestly have no idea why I never built Jazal Goldmane or God-Eternal Oketra because they both look like they'd be a lot of fun.
I did recently put together Yosei, the Morning Star on a lark with as many White dragons as I had on hand, and it actually won a game the other day. I appreciate the focus of mono-colored decks and have built Mono-Red, Mono-Green, Mono-Black and Mono-Blue plenty of times, but somehow I've mostly managed to avoid diving into Mono-White. Hopefully I'll be surprised by how Yosei plays, and today I'm going to build in Mono-White for the second time in just a few short weeks.
Let me introduce you to Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr // Katilda's Rising Dawn. Katilda is a pretty interesting commander with a number of different build paths. They're all going to see you having to go to combat, but even then, this card really did get my creative juices flowing.
Katilda is a Spirit Warlock with a lot going for her. She flies! She's got lifelink! Have a vampire problem? No problem - she's got protection from Vampires too! Her power and toughness are each equal to the number of permanents you control that are Spirits or enchantments. That's a lot, but that's not all. If she's in my graveyard I can cast her for her Disturb cost as an aura to give the enchanted creature flying, lifelink, protection from Vampires and +X/+X where X is the number of Spirits and/or enchantments I control.
I opened a Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr out of a Crimson Vow prerelease kit. My Katilda went straight into my Thalisse, Reverent Medium deck. I'm not sure I'll ever build her in paper, but I am excited about some of the things I could do with this card. Not only does she work with a go-wide strategy, she can also work with an enchantress strategy, a voltron strategy and... wait for it... an infect strategy!
If you know me at all, you'll know that I love it when a commander gives you a veritable Pu-Pu Platter of strategies so today I'm going to enjoy exploring everything this card is inviting us to build around. Why do one thing well, when you can do a bunch of things adequately but have a ton of fun along the way?
Spirits in the Material World
The first thing I want to dig into are Spirits. This isn't the main focus of today's build, but I still grabbed a few Spirits to mix into this brew. I'm running a few Spirits that likely aren't worth it, like Distracting Geist // Clever Distraction and Drogskol Infantry // Drogskol Armaments, but a number of them bring something more to the table.
Eidolon of Countless Battles will increase my Spirit count, and if I cast it for its Bestow cost it will give +1/+1 for each creature and each aura I control. With her heavy focus on Spirits and on enchantment creatures, putting this on Katilda could easily push her up into the range of being a two-shot or even a 1-shot lethal threat if my board is wide enough. If it's on Katilda as an Aura and someone kills her, the aura will fall off and become a creature. Then I can cast Katilda out of the Graveyard for her Disturb cost as Katilda's Rising Dawn and enchant Eidolon of Countless Battles! Eidolon won't be swinging for commander damage, but it's still a neat little interaction that I find pretty amusing.
Eidolon of Obstruction is a minor stax piece that will tax any planeswalker activation. Spirit of the Labyrinth might not be an Eidolon, but will keep players from drawing more than one card each turn. In Mono-White I might be the least likely deck at the table to be raking cards from my library into my hand each turn, so this should hurt my opponents more than it hurts me.
I considered running Eidolon of Rhetoric, which limits each player to casting one spell per turn, but I am very much hoping to have the occasional turn with two or more spells. It's a great addition to any White deck if you're in a meta with storm decks, but it also plays well into the game plan of Blue decks that want to cast counters on opponents' turns. I decided to pass it up, even though it's a decent hate card. I could see Katilda at the head of a more stax-oriented deck but that's not really my style.
I'm incentivized to play spirits and enchantments in Katilda, and there are way more relevant enchantments than Spirits in this deck. Let's start with the staples.
Both Ghostly Prison and Sphere of Safety will tax my opponents for deigning to attack me with their creatures. Land Tax and Smothering Tithe will help me ramp. All That Glitters will let me turn an already viable voltron threat into a pretty serious one. I can get an extra +1/+1 for each enchantment on a commander who already has their X/X power and toughness based on the number of Spirits and enchantments I control. Katilda has lifelink and evasion (flying) so that can also turn into a way to bounce back from a low life total.
Hallowed Haunting will often give my creatures flying and vigilance, and it will reward me for casting enchantments. I'll get a White Spirit Cleric creature token that has a power and toughness equal to the number of Spirits I control. That could get out of control pretty quickly, given the number of enchantments and Spirits in my deck. Sigil of the Empty Throne might not give me Spirits, but a handful of 4/4 White Angel creature tokens with flying will look pretty nice on my side of the battlefield. The cherry on top of my list of noncreature enchantments is Cathars' Crusade - an enchantment that can't be slept on. Every creature that enters the battlefield under my control will give my army +1/+1 counters.
I've got a few enchantment creatures to help pump up my enchantment count. Aegis of the Gods will give me hexproof. Observant Alseid has vigilance and can be cast as an aura for its Bestow cost to give enchanted creature +2/+2 and vigilance.
Nykthos Paragon plays well with Katilda's lifegain, letting me put +1/+1 counters on each creature I control equal to the life I gained. It's only usable once each turn but is fantastic for any deck with a single, big combat threat with lifegain. I'm running Heliod, God of the Sun as an indestructible creature that I can use to make 2/1 White Cleric enchantment creature tokens.
Mesa Enchantress is one of my admittedly few good sources of card draw. If she can stay on the field and I can draw into enough enchantment spells, I should be able to keep myself from being hellbent (empty handed), even if I'm not drawing cards like I'm playing a Simic deck.
Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr // Katilda's Rising Dawn has flying, can get big enough to present a real problem for my tablemates, and could easily become a 2-turn lethal threat with enough of a board. That leads me to think about how to maximize my chances of killing my opponents with just Katilda.
My main plan is pretty simple - give Katilda double-strike. Halvar, God of Battle // Sword of the Realms will give my enchanted or equipped creatures double strike. Twinblade Geist has double strike and can be cast for its Disturb cost as Twinblade Invocation to give enchanted creature that same keyword. Ghostblade EIdolon is also in the mix and can be cast for its hefty bestow cost as an aura to give enchanted creature double-strike.
Getting damage through blockers is always an important hurdle for any voltron deck. Spirit Mantle will give enchanted creature protection from creatures, meaning I'll be able to swing through freely. Shields of Velis Vel might seem like an odd pick, but giving an opponent's creatures all creature types will mean they are all Vampires. Katilda can't be blocked by Vampires, so if we're ready to swing lethal at someone, that odd old instant can open the doors for us to get that lethal damage through.
Katilda's Rising Dawn can be cast out of the graveyard for Katilda's disturb cost. I could see using a card like Mirage Mirror to make it a copy of Katilda and then putting Katilda's Rising Dawn onto my Mirage Mirror Katilda as a cute way to give her 2 power and 2 toughness for each spirit and each enchantment on my battlefield. She can't very well get double flying or double lifelink, and I wouldn't be dealing commander damage, but it's still tempting.
In lieu of having a Katilda that which will turn back into a Mirage Mirror at end of turn, I've got a few good options that will stick around a bit longer.
Double-strike, flying and lifelink are great keywords on their own, and if I'm able to enchant one of these little guys I should be able to swing some serious damage and gain some serious life.
Infect is a fantastic way to kill a player. Just give someone 10 poison counters and they're done.
With Katilda's Rising Dawn attached to even a small infect threat I should be able to start killing people right quick. I might not always have enough Spirits and enchantments to present a one shot lethal threat, but it should be easy to really pressure my tablemates.
Shriek Raptor and Tine Shrike might not need to be given flying, but Katilda's Rising Dawn will give wings to the likes of Lost Leonin and Priests of Norn. Inkmoth Nexus is a land that can become a 1/1 Blinkmoth artifact creature with flying and infect. For all of these creatures, the big deal is the +X/+X that Katilda's Rising Dawn grants the enchanted creature. Giving any of them double strike would just be icing on the cake, as we only need to get to 10 poison counters and there's every reason to assume I can get one of these to 5 power.
Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr
This list has a healthy pile of White staples, but that's not a bad thing. Good cards are good and staples are staples for a reason. There will be times when we want to cast Vanquish the Horde, hold priority and cast Teferi's Protection so our own stuff survives. This is the kind of thing white does really well. Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile make their obligatory appearances alongside Generous Gift. I think this list is both powerful and interesting enough to warrant running good cards and trying to win games. Sometimes I enjoy being a hipster, but if I'm building in mono white I'm going to lean on cards that I know can get the job done.
Katilda, Bringer of the Dawn | Commander | Stephen Johnson
- Commander (1)
- 1 Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr
- Creatures (34)
- 1 Aegis of the Gods
- 1 Ajani's Chosen
- 1 Alseid of Life's Bounty
- 1 Auramancer
- 1 Dawn Evangel
- 1 Distracting Geist // Clever Distraction
- 1 Drogskol Infantry // Drogskol Armaments
- 1 Eidolon of Countless Battles
- 1 Eidolon of Inspiration
- 1 Eidolon of Obstruction
- 1 Esper Sentinel
- 1 Fabled Hero
- 1 Fencing Ace
- 1 Ghostblade Eidolon
- 1 Halvar, God of Battle // Sword of the Realms
- 1 Heliod, God of the Sun
- 1 Keeper of the Accord
- 1 Kor Cartographer
- 1 Lost Leonin
- 1 Mesa Enchantress
- 1 Mirran Crusader
- 1 Nykthos Paragon
- 1 Observant Alseid
- 1 Priests of Norn
- 1 Rune-Tail, Kitsune Ascendant
- 1 Shriek Raptor
- 1 Siege Striker
- 1 Skyhunter Skirmisher
- 1 Spirit of the Labyrinth
- 1 Starfield Mystic
- 1 Starnheim Courser
- 1 Sun Titan
- 1 Tine Shrike
- 1 Twinblade Geist // Twinblade Invocation
- Instants (6)
- 1 Generous Gift
- 1 Path to Exile
- 1 Return to Dust
- 1 Shields of Velis Vel
- 1 Swords to Plowshares
- 1 Teferi's Protection
- Enchantments (9)
- 1 All That Glitters
- 1 Cathars' Crusade
- 1 Ghostly Prison
- 1 Hallowed Haunting
- 1 Land Tax
- 1 Sigil of the Empty Throne
- 1 Smothering Tithe
- 1 Sphere of Safety
- 1 Spirit Mantle
- Artifacts (7)
- 1 Aetherflux Reservoir
- 1 Caged Sun
- 1 Extraplanar Lens
- 1 Lightning Greaves
- 1 Mind Stone
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Swiftfoot Boots
With all the potential lifegain that you could get with Katilda - either as Dawnhart Martyr or as Katilda's Rising Dawn - it made sense to run Aetherflux Reservoir. I don't throw that into every deck, but if I can connect a few times with my commander I could easily get over 50 life. Having a way to kill any player with a lethal threat to me or the whole table is really nice. It can only be stopped with a card that has split second and if I'm saving the table from another player about to combo off, I should be able to negotiate a turn or two of safety if my life total ends up really low after paying 50 life to deal 50 damage.
The biggest knocks I've seen on Katilda so far are that she leads you into a combat-oriented deck and she has no built-in protection. I don't mind decks that don't have a high ceiling, but if you wanted to throw in Heliod combo or an Avacyn MLD subtheme, that's on you. I think this list or your own version of it could be a fun, interesting deck to play at casual tables, provided you're not in one of those metas where people don't run removal and freak out about infect.
It's possible that this list is going to play stronger than I'm giving it credit for, but I'm pretty sure Katilda will run into trouble if she ends up having to be cast too many times. White isn't the best color ever for ramping and I've had a few recent games where I played my general out too early and never got to cast it again. Those weren't even Mono-White decks, but my basic point is that this deck could be fun, but might benefit from being tweaked to adapt it to your meta. Load up on fast mana rocks if you'll need that kind of speed. Run more ways to protect Katilda if removal spells dominate your games.
Katilda is no Uril, the Miststalker and I don't think she's going to become the next big Voltron threat in Commander. If you feel like building Mono-White, Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr's ability to present a threat both as a commander and as an aura make her a neat new option in this colorspace and I look forward to playing her on Tabletop Simulator if I don't actually sleeve her up in paper.
Thanks for reading and I'll see you next week!