The Commander Box project is dangerously close to completion, at least in a written format. I’ve used mine for a few months already, and it’s been an invaluable resource for trying new cards, new Commanders, new themes, new archetypes, and new ways to interact with other players.
The word I’d use to describe the process: successful.
Many of you shared that you’re keen to get the remaining balance of colors: White, Blue, and Red. Some of you worried if the project would be completed at all after my transition to content manger. My sanity expressed concern for itself at the prospect of writing while working on everything else.
The word I’d use to describe the process: tiresome.
But I couldn’t let you down, not when we’re this close. If you’re ready, let’s dive into pillow-like mounds of White cards.
The Striker Squads
White is the premium color for board control. We call anything that wipes the battlefield clear of creatures a “Wrath effect” thanks to the progenitor: Wrath of God. Swords to Plowshares is still the premier single-target removal spell. White, the color of cooperative efforts, has a history of violence.
Austere Command, Final Judgment, Phyrexian Rebirth, Kirtar's Wrath, Solar Tide, Day of Judgment, Winds of Rath, Planar Cleansing, Wrath of God, Akroma's Vengeance, Parallax Wave, Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, Sunblast Angel, Scourglass, Rout, Divine Reckoning, Hallowed Burial, False Prophet
Crush. Kill. Destroy. The end time are nigh! While I don’t always want an overabundance of things that destroy everything, a way to reset the board is often welcome in Commander. I enjoy things that are Indestructible or give me something back upon dying. I also don’t mind if my stuff is dying to save the game from the despair of creature-based doom.
What makes these Wrath effects so interesting is that many come with distinct purposes:
- Akroma's Vengeance and Planar Cleansing clear away more than creatures.
- Scourglass, Austere Command, and Divine Reckoning can all be dealt with through careful card selection.
- Rout and Parallax Wave can pull the pants down on other players before they know what’s happening.
- Final Judgment, False Prophet, and Hallowed Burial work harder than your average Wrath.
There are a few others in the family I’m including in a later section because of their nondestructive function.
The diversity of removal presented here isn’t meant to imply that there are fewer single-target spells than Wrath effects, but the utility you get out of a Swords to Plowshares is often a significant step below that of mass removal. Return to Dust and Dust to Dust are fantastic for obvious reasons, and Oblation and Oblivion Ring handle anything the game throws at you. But, more often, you’d rather hammer home with splash damage than slice with surgical precision.
Land Tax is broken in Commander. Dropping lands every turn is the most valuable thing you can do. Green decks that strip and dump lands into play will find their advantage mitigated. Getting to keep a full hand of basic lands can fuel cards like Seismic Assault and Trade Routes. Landfall lovers like Rampaging Baloths adore a steady stream of lands. Above all, Land Tax is optional; if you can’t really use it, you don’t have to!
Other tutors are the staples of the format. Stonehewer and Stoneforge fetch up your equipment. Idyllic and Enlightened work as intended. Academy Rector makes a board-sweeper into an even more powerful position.
Ghostway, Aegis Angel, Humility, Terra Eternal, Angelic Arbiter, Righteous Aura, Ghostly Prison, Magus of the Tabernacle, Voice of All, Fountain Watch, Martyr's Bond, Kismet, Linvala, Keeper of Silence, Loxodon Peacekeeper, Story Circle, Windborn Muse
White is the color of rule setting, and boy, does White have rules to set. Opponents can’t use certain activated abilities. Opponents’ things enter the battlefield tapped. Opponents can’t target our stuff. Creatures have an upkeep cost. The color of your deck is useless. Destroy my stuff; I dare you.
What probably stands out is a missing hoser: Rule of Law. I avoid this rule, just like its blue originator Arcane Laboratory, because of messy interactions with Ethersworn Canonist (also avoided) and Erayo, Soratami Ascendant (the worst of the lot). Slowing opponents down doesn’t mean shutting off their ability to actually do anything, it means just busting their chops back a step. You should still be afraid for when they untap next.
Highway to Hell
Discussing White so far has been a trip down a line of staples. Now I’d like to dip into slightly less standard stuff.
I like to attack. While this list won’t excite any Wild Nacatl lovers out there, this is as close an approximation as you can find in Commander. Baneslayer Angel deftly dodges the Demons and Dragons that appear everywhere. Mother of Runes and Shelter ruin all sorts of opposing shenanigans. Mirran Crusader with a Sword or two will easily slay powerful foes, and double-trigger the combat-damage effects. Angelic Destiny is an oversized Rancor for an oversized Commander world.
Above all, it’s Transcendent Master that makes me smile most. It’s a 3-drop that converts into a board-crushing body that can make a green mage green with envy. When I previewed it for Rise of the Eldrazi, I knew that it had potential—the Wizards from on high handed it down to the casual guy. Once I started to use it in Commander, it became clear how useful he could be. With proper application, you can stealthily level this guy up and come out swinging with a beatstick before opponents can blink.
Attack? Yes, please.
Black is the face of looping creatures and stealing things out of graveyards. Fact: White had two Zombify effects before Black had, well, Zombify. Fact: Both of these effects (Breath of Life, False Defeat) were at common while Black has never had Zombify at common. Fact: White will punish you for skimping on anti-graveyard technology just as much as Black.
Also, Marshal's Anthem takes the cake for the most disturbingly overpowered card with multikicker. I’ve personally kicked this five time in one shot. What’s your record?
- Cocky opponent cast Phage? Boom. Headshot. (Either)
- Filthy opponent steal something good? Get it back. (Either)
- Need to untap Gaea's Cradle or Thawing Glaciers? You got it. (Flicker)
- Want to punish someone else’s early bounce land? You’re getting dirty now. (Flicker)
- Nice token creature, bro. (Otherworldly Journey)
While the corner cases make these seem pretty narrow, most of the circumstances above are quite common in Commander. I hope you enjoy messing with opponents with just two cards.
Martyr's Cause, Decree of Justice, White Sun's Zenith, Martial Coup, Captain of the Watch, Hour of Reckoning, Mirror Entity, Elspeth, Knight-Errant, True Conviction, Ajani Goldmane, Geist-Honored Monk, Auriok Champion, Elspeth Tirel, Mentor of the Meek
The color of Weenies can bring their full power to Commander. There’s a few subcategories that are useful here:
- Producers: Decree of Justice, White Sun's Zenith, Martial Coup, Elspeth, Knight-Errant, Elspeth Tirel, Geist-Honored Monk
- Support: Hour of Reckoning, Mirror Entity, True Conviction, Ajani Goldmane
- Synergy: Martyr's Cause, Auriok Champion, Mentor of the Meek
To put this into perspective, White token strategies in Commander can leverage multiple Wrath effects and planeswalkers to full effect while leaning on instants to generate massive numbers of tokens at the end of someone’s turn.
Who’s really scared of an Ajani Goldmane? Oops! I just pumped, attacked, and kept my entire defense intact! Fatties? Your Hour of Reckoning is here, or we’ll just stage a Martial Coup. Racing? We have the True Conviction needed to overcome. Nice card-draw there. I think it’s time we show who’s the Mentor of the Meek among us.
The most devastating use for tokens is Martyr's Cause. Block your army, then sacrifice one half of mine to prevent damage to the other. Blightsteel Colossus is annoying, at best. Heartless Hidetsugu? Hardly raises my pulse. If your plan is to kill with damage, you need to overcome my array of token-generators. Each of them, and keep an enchantment off the board the entire time. Oh, and stop me while I work at killing you right back.
I played Rhys the Redeemed for so long I could perform really intricate tricks of value grinding and game-stalling, and most of the time opponents had no idea just how good what I was doing really was. Tokens are real, resilient, and can completely close down a game if left unchecked. I’m not giving you this information to go run off and destroy your friends; I’m giving you a warning to check yourself from overwhelming with tokens, and to keep your friends from swarming the game.
Better than Bad: It’s Good!
That’s the most efficient rundown of White I could muster. If all goes well, we’ll be back next week to pour over the liquid hot magma of Red’s explosive potential. And, of course, feel free to share your awesome White cards and tips. I’m always open to new ideas, and sometimes the best ideas are those you borrow!