Hello folks! I hope your day is going well!
There remains this fiction that White is somehow weak in multiplayer formats like Commander. That's not White, that's Red. White is the best color for multiplayer formats. We'll take a look-see at it later. But what I want to do in the meantime is discuss the reasons why I think so.
If you were to build five powerful, Mono-colored decks in EDH with the following restrictions:
- You cannot use any land that's not in your color identity. Academy Ruins for Mono-Blue, but not Maze of Ith for any of them.
- You cannot use any colorless card that's not in your color identity. Lifecrafter's Bestiary for Mono-Green is acceptable, but not Mana Crypt.
What would they look like?
The point of this exercise is to show the relative strengths of these colors. If every deck can run Solemn Simualcrum or Sol Ring, then Green's mana making, and land fetching are weakened. You don't have Strip Mine, Dust Bowl, or Wasteland to shore up a color's inability to handle lands. No Oblivion Stone or similar effects in a Blue deck to help answer permanents that slip through its counter shield. You are going to put each color's actual strengths and weaknesses into play, without fixing them by adding other colors or other cards that can cover them.
We often talk about the issues of a color in contrast to others without considering them in a vacuum. Every color can look to colorless cards. White can answer its lack of pure card drawing there, Blue its inability to destroy things, Red's lack of enchantment stoppers, and more.
I run Scour from Existence in all my Mono-Red builds. It's an ideal "Break in Emergency" card as an instant version of Desert Twister that exiles. I've used it on everything abuseable that's out there punching away. But using those in a project like the one I discussed earlier lets you get out of the holes your colors would otherwise dig on their own.
Let's begin with the color this article is about and consider what a Mono-White Commander deck might begin to look like under these restrictions. I'll do a sample starting place below. Please note that this quick decklist is missing tons of cards, and is only meant to be a conversation starter.
I have chosen to build around Lieutenant Kirtar as a fast dork of appropriate game-bringing-ness.
Mono-White Sample with Kirtar | Commander | Abe Sargent
- Commander (1)
- 1 Lieutenant Kirtar
- Creatures (11)
- 1 Akroma, Angel of Vengeance
- 1 Alms Collector
- 1 Aven Mindcensor
- 1 Commander Eesha
- 1 Eternal Dragon
- 1 Karmic Guide
- 1 Knight of the White Orchid
- 1 Mentor of the Meek
- 1 Sun Titan
- 1 Wall of Omens
- 1 Weathered Wayfarer
- Spells (21)
- 1 Akroma's Vengeance
- 1 Catastrophe
- 1 Dawn Charm
- 1 Decree of Justice
- 1 Generous Gift
- 1 Oblation
- 1 Path to Exile
- 1 Prismatic Strands
- 1 Shelter
- 1 Swords to Plowshares
- 1 Teferi'sProtection
- 1 Tithe
- 1 Winds of Abandon
- 5 Additional Wraths
- 1 Land Tax
- 1 Smothering Tithe
- 1 The Birth of Meletis
One of the reasons I consider White the strongest is that it's the most versatile.
For example, although it doesn't have any Green, from Land Tax to Tithe to more, there are many ways to get lands in White, as its second best at that. We can fetch any land with Weathered Wayfarer, such as cycling lands and useful mana makers. We have Endless Horizons and Eternal Dragon and many more that bring a big amount of quality to any deck's mana needs.
Similarly, it's great at recursion, although not as good as Black. Cards like Karmic Guide and Sun Titan are amazing at bringing stuff back. And those aren't the only ones, we have the Commander 2019 Sevinne's Reclamation, Brought Back, Refurbish, or Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants. We can mass recur with Replenish and Retether! It's a key part of White going back to Resurrection, which was better than Animate Dead for twice the cost.
White's big thing? It has answers to any permanent, and they weren't color-wheel mistakes. Not only can it destroy every permanent type, it can also exile all but lands. White also loves all card types, save for lands, and has a ton of cards that will enjoy enchantments, 'walkers, dorks, and more. Legendary support? White. Equipment and auras? White. Vehicles? White.
But exiling is its best thing. It exiles tons of problems. And that way, they aren't coming back. Exiling is incredibly important in a format with as much graveyard abuse as modern multiplayer has!
Note that White has the hate-bears to show how it stops folks from breaking the game. Kataki, War's Wage? The anti-search of Aven Mindcensor? And it's not just hate bears either. White has a huge number of answers to any problem. You can exile graveyards or just dorks therein. You can shut down things that weren't cast correctly and fairly. You can stop all enters-the-battlefield abuse. You can keep yourself safe behind some shields.
What makes White the best color is that you cannot win the game, until you don't die. I can't win a multiplayer game where I have no idea what my foes are doing ahead of time to plan around. I can run cards that hit mass strategies, or answer loads of problems.
What can't White do?
White has two main weaknesses. Of the mechanics that are only in a single color, like discard in Black or counters in Blue, White doesn't have any major "this is mine only" key mechanics. It shares with others removal of various types (although only White can handle every permanent type). It doesn't get burn, but it can take out dorks instead. There are no powerful, "White only" abilities.
Secondly, White doesn't get raw card drawing. Only card-drawing like Sram, Senior Edificer or Mentor of the Meek that plays into White's strength are running around. However, while White doesn't have massive card drawing machines like Blue's Fact or Fiction or Green's Hunter's Insight; it doesn't need them.
It has the most and best virtual card advantage machines:
Consider Wrath of God. If I control one creature when I play it, and my foes have a total of 8 between them, one of which has indestructible and can't die then I have done this with my card advantage:
I exchanged two of my cards for seven of my foes'.
Compare these two Overloads.
Each of these is a two-mana sorcery that overloads for six. The Winds is easier to overload and will Path of Exile an opposing dork but the Mortars only burns it for four damage. Winds is better. Which would you rather have with a six-mana overload? Path all opposing foes' dorks, exiling them permanently, or Mortars them and many will survive the damage, and those that die can come back?
No color can destroy things en-masse as well as it!
You can also exile en-masse as well!
For example, in the first set, Green had Tranquility, and White the two you saw earlier, and that was it. Shatterstorm wasn't until a few sets later. We had damage effects like Pestilence, Volcanic Eruption, and Hurricane that targeted multiple dorks, but they were limited to damage-based removal and wouldn't kill everything. White also had Disenchant and Swords to Plowshares in that set, and could easily take out anything.
By, say, the end of 1995 with Homelands, how many mass destruction spells were made for each color:
Blue - (Acid Rain)
By two years into the game, Green had two ways to pop all enchantments, we got a sweeping artifact removal, sweeping Terror removal with a life-lost cost, and our first destroy lots of stuff in the 'haups. (Other than the colorless Nevinyrral's Disk).
I put in parentheses hosers as I am not sure if they count or not.
These include Mirage, Rath, Urza's and Masques blocks new sweepers:
Blue - ...
Note that many like Mogg Infestation or Forced March were limited in what they could end. White has limited cheap sweepers like Retribution of the Meek, compare to Red's same cost Puppet's Verdict or Black's limited five mana Extinction.
In mass innovation, Green has a ton of enchantment sweepers (7 of those), one artifact sweeper in Seeds, and then a mass-flying Wrath of God with Whirlwind. Red gained a nonbasic land sweeper that's more expensive and less reliable than Armageddon, and White has gotten two cards that combine enchantment and artifact removal. Green has numbers, but just a ton of iterations of the same theme repeatedly.
How about up until the modern era?
Green - Root Greevil, Tranquil Path
Blue - ...
I won't be including multicolored sweepers.
White gained Green's love of Tranquilities and has two in the above number. Obliterate is a great way of taking Jokulhaups and making sure it resolves by getting it to eight mana. We have expensive Decree of Pain and Annihilation too. But the non-White ones are either expensive and reliable, or cheap and unreliable.
What about the other colors? Where do I think they fall?
Consider the 100 most used Blue cards from EDHREC.
You have counters and bouncers like Cyclonic Rift and Capsize. Key tempo cards like Propaganda and Rhystic Study, alongside cards like Mulldrifter and Snapcaster Mage. But then what? In a four-way game your foes are outdrawing you innately 3:1. Your Disallow and Counterspell can only keep that equilibrium, and your card drawing here and there of 2:1 or 3:1 isn't working.
In a duel, a deck of 24 counters, 8 card drawers, and 4 game winners will work. Your counters are 1:1. In multiplayer, you are being outdrawn and out-mana-ed. You may have enough cards to counter, but not enough mana to do so, and things will always get though a dedicated counter shield. And your bounce can run into other color's hexproof and tricks like Shelter in White or Blossoming Defense in Green.
It's not as if other colors won't have answers of their own, you know. And outside of stealing, bouncing, and countering, you have little actual, proper, removal to lean on. There are many uncounterable and/or untargetable ones that are hard for you to deal with. White can just mass remove stuff or exile it if it's untargetable, indestructible, or otherwise hard to handle. You have no answers to those things. Blue has no answers to lands as they aren't subject to countering.
I consider Blue the middle color at the multiplayer table.
What about Black?
The great thing about Black is that you have some older land destruction spells you can lean on, and many dork and 'walker removal spells as well as some new enchantment removal spells. You also get the awesome power of reanimation, discard, and removal of things with sacrifices that can get around indestructible in the right circumstances, as well as sweeping removal.
I actually consider Black the 2nd strongest color. From Sinkhole to Gate to Phyrexia to Pharika's Libation, you have two or three cards in Black's history that can handle every permanent type. And that's all you need in your deck If you can Demonic Tutor it up.
Want to draw cards in mass quantities? With its 40 life starting resource to turn into cards, it's arguably as good as Blue if not better. It also can mass remove things with Damnation,has exiling of dorks, and can force sacrifices as well. It has direct damage that is tied to gaining life, so you can kill players with the spells it unleashes.
Now, it's not as consistent at White at finding and using answers.
Here are Black's anti-artifact cards:
And that's it. Not every Black deck is going to want one or the other. The Gate is slow, and you can only sacrifice one dork for an artifact each upkeep of yours. The Tribute is a three to one trade in favor of your foes, yuck.
Similarly, while Black does have a few land destruction effects here and there, they are limited to targeted removal only, and they cannot be used on anything else. If you add Rain of Tears to your build, it cannot be used for a dork or something more important when you draw it.
Where Black shines is with removal of dorks and 'walkers. It has loads of flexible removal options there, from burn to Edicts and more. Black can bring back threats that were destroyed, forcing another go around the queue, and it has some exiling effects of its own for dorks only. That gives it a strict stick-to-it-ness that is hard to replicate for other colors, although White's Sun Titan, Karmic Guide and similar effects are a strong second choice.
Green is a fun color! It loves creatures, has a strong amount of card advantage that's tied to creatures, and loves punching above its weight with land fetching and recursion. From Regrowth to Eternal Witness, and from Cultivate to Beast Within, it has a lot to offer at the kitchen table.
Green has two big weaknesses at the multiplayer table, and they are both related. It cannot answer dorks. Beast Within and Desert Twister are pretty much it. It does have some land destruction, like Black, you can tap into, with cards like Creeping Mold that can take out anything that's not a dork or a 'walker. It's good at hosing lands, as many removal spells included for other effects can also blow out a land as well, such as Acidic Slime.
Creatures win the game. And Green is the worst at handling them! Also Green is horrible at planeswalkers too, which can be a big weakness. Green's answer is just to go over them with bigger dorks from its ramping. And if you manage to take out one of its precious dorks, it can bring them back with a few effects.
Also, Green has gotten very good at having answers to answers. Stuff like Heroic Intervention is key to Green surviving in a modern world. It's a hard answer to most removal in most colors. Swords to Plowshares? Burn? Black Damnations or targeted exiling removal? White has some tuck mass removals (like Terminus) and some sweeping exiling stuff (like Final Judgment) that won't be answered, but most stuff can be.
I consider Green the 4th strongest color. Its ramp is great, and its ability to answer three of the permanent types hard is nice! But the two most important to answer, it can't, and it really needs some other colors to help out. Although not as much as....
Now, because I consider Red the weakest of the colors in multiplayer generally and Commander specifically, I have more Mono-Red decks than other colors and l adore challenging myself to go and win a game. It's fun!
Red has burn, from Lightning Bolt and more, and can use burn to destroy players, their dorks, and their planeswalker friends. Now, this can be hard with burn, as it's usually set damage (Lightning Bolt ). Stronger or more flexible burn (Disintegrate) can kill almost anything, but costs a ton of mana to do so. Red also has loads of sweeping damage-based removal or sweeping removal of lands and artifacts. Artifacts? Lands? Burnable dorks and 'walkers? Go away! That gives Red a threatening range of opposing problems it can't answer. Unburnable dorks (and untargetable ones), fat friends, and enchantments are unable to be answered. Note that Red does have some abilities, like Flaring Pain, that can let damage and kill something normally preventing its damage, as well as a few destruction abilities like Chaos Warp, Fissure, and Aftershock you may uncover. It only exiles artifacts and some burned dorks. Other than that, if Red kills it, it can come back.
This makes Red a very unreliable slayer of stuff unless it's a land or an artifact.
Also, burn is less valuable as a slayer of people in a 40-life environment, so it's worse in Commander.
Red has cards from Young Pyromancer to Goblin Bombardment and loads more. It has impulsive card drawing such as Act on Impulse as well classics such as Wheel of Fortune! It sees some of its old hosers, like Pyroblast, getting played lots too, so you'll adore it.
With uneven card drawing, poor virtual card drawing opportunities to make up for, and unreliable removal for your most important targets, it cannot do as much as other colors on its own. But it can still win games! I've played more games with mono-Red Commander decks than any other color!
And there we are! I still don't know why you think White is that weak, but it ain't. Try building five mono-colored decks with the restrictions above and test them out in a 4 or 5 way game and see which one is the best. I'm pretty confident that White will prove the strongest.
Also, please note that White has never been my favorite color. My advocacy for it is based on results, not affection. I am not White based on personality quizzes nor do I prefer it in gaming. But results don't lie. Check my math and see what you can do with decks that only run cards in their color identity.
And that's it! Thanks for your time, and you have a great day!
P.S. - Want to get some updates on my Huntington's Disease? And how things are going? (Or not?) Sure thing! I posted an update on my YouTube video channel about reviewing books and stories and such in the horror, sci-fi and fantasy genres.
Here's the video. I am considering launching a YouTube video series with a weekly living with HD update.