Maximizing Your Commander Deck on a Budget - Mono White
Hey friends, it’s Steve here again with another budget commander blog! I hope you’re all staying well and coping with our current situation as best you can. Today we’re going to talk about mono white. Specifically, we’re going to discuss what I feel are the top 10 cards in white that you can pick up on a $50 budget.
The first thing to ask yourself when building a mono white commander deck is why you’re doing it. White is arguably the least powerful color in commander, and possibly all of magic. That said, there are some individually powerful cards in white, and some strategies that can still be very competitive. The biggest challenge white faces is its lack of card draw. You’ll often have to get your card draw from other sources such as skull clamp - which can be extremely effective in a color that often makes a lot of 1/1 creatures. Alternatively, you can focus on a strategy that doesn’t require you to keep your hand fully stocked. My personal mono white build is a Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero ($1.17) deck which basically just tutors creatures and puts them into play. Whatever your build entails, here are the top 10 cards you should be running:
Wrath of God ($6.12): Wrath of God is so iconic that every card subsequently printed that wipes the board is called a “Wrath”. In commander, wrath effects are so important. Situationally, it can slow down an opponent who got off to a blazing fast start, or it can punish a player for over-extending later in the game. There are tons of cards that are functionally the same as well. To name a few; Rout, Day of Judgement, and Cleansing Nova. I typically run 1 or 2 board wipes in all of my decks. White is no exception. Wrath of God's cheapest printing currently is from Eternal Masters.
Generous Gift ($1.52): Generous Gift, a color-shifted version of Beast Within, was printed in Modern Horizons and is also available in Mystery Boosters. The great thing about this card is it’s versatility, it can deal with any problematic permanent on the board at instant speed. The drawback is that it leaves the permanent’s controller with a 3/3 elephant token, which isn’t really a big deal unless that opponent happens to be on Elephant Tribal (someone please build Elephant Tribal). The ability to deal with any type of permanent is so incredibly useful in a multiplayer Commander game so this card is a must include in any white deck!
Swords to Plowshares ($1.23): Swords to Plowshares is another card that has had several “functional” reprints and actual reprints (most recently in Mystery Boosters) which has kept its price low. This card allows you to exile any creature on the board with the only drawback being that its controller gains life equal to its power. Swords gets around indestructibility and can be cast at instant speed. This card could save your life in multiple ways - exiling an opponents big creature or using it on your own giant creature to gain you the life needed to stay alive and win on your next turn! It’s also worth noting that there are two other similar effects we should discuss here. Condemn and Path to Exile are very similar, each with their own drawbacks but, you should aim to run at least two of the three.
Oblivion Ring ($0.23): Pauper all-star alert! Oblivion Ring is another great card for dealing with any permanent that’s making life miserable by exiling it. The only drawback with Oblivion Ring is that once it’s removed, the permanent’s controller gets it back. I don’t see this as being a big enough problem that I’d shy away from running it though. In general, enchantments are difficult to remove and maybe it buys you just enough time to go off and win the game. Having been reprinted many times, the cost to impact ratio is huge. Run this card.
Sun Titan ($1.66): What’s that? Opponent just destroyed your Oblivion Ring? Cast a Sun Titan! Seriously, I love Sun Titan, it’s great for recurring lost combo or hate pieces (provided they cost 3 or less). Remember white’s card draw issues? What if you sacrifice your Commander Sphere to draw a card, cast Sun Titan, get it back, and repeat the process over and over each time Sun Titan attacks? Seems good, right? This is an auto-include that is priced under $2 thanks to it’s numerous reprints!
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion $10.39: Alright, time to talk about the first Planeswalker we’re going to cover in this series. At just over $10, she’s the most expensive card in the list but, with very good reason. Elspeth is incredible, especially in mono white builds. She does it all. Her +1 ability gives you three 1/1 white soldier tokens. Planeswalkers that protect themselves are often very good but, Elspeth does it better than any of them by creating three blockers. Her -3 ability destroys all creatures with power four or greater. A pseudo wrath on a Planeswalker is sweet but when you consider that white generally doesn’t create larger creatures, this could be a one-sided wrath that wins you the game. Don’t underestimate this ability. Finally, Elspeth’s ultimate (-7) gives all your creatures +2 /+2 and flying…..for the rest of the game. That’s crazy. Consider that to get to this point, you’d need to have used the +1 ability three times, giving you a potential nine 3/3’s with flying. Elspeth is great and can end games all on her own if she's left unchecked.
Grand Abolisher $8.77: Do you hate having your spells countered? Dislike getting hit with Cyclonic Rift when you swing in for lethal? I’ve got a card for you! Grand Abolisher is a 2/2 for two white mana that says during your turn, opponents can’t cast spells or activate abilities for artifacts, creatures, or enchantments. This is essentially Lil Teferi’s static ability on a body with some additional benefit. It comes in at just under $9 but so far we’ve kept our budget tight aside from Elspeth. I highly recommend this card.
Smothering Tithe $7.86: Another problem mono white has is a lack of ramp. Outside of the usual mana rocks, there’s not many ways to get ahead on lands. A card like Land Tax requires you to be down on lands before the effect works and is a budget buster all on it's own at almost $35. Smothering Tithe can get around that by taxing your opponent or force them into giving you treasure tokens that you can sacrifice for mana. Trust me, asking your opponent if they pay 2 every time they draw a card won’t get old, especially once the treasure tokens start piling up.
Mentor of the Meek $0.35: Remember how white doesn’t draw cards? Mentor of the Meek is here to prove me wrong. Mentor allows you to pay 1 and draw a card every time a creature with power 2 or less enters the battlefield under your control. Ordinarily I’d say that your strategy would dictate whether you run this card or not but, with the lack of card draw in white and considering most creatures in white are 2 power or less (they don’t call it white weenie for nothing), you should consider this card regardless of strategy. Notice that the card says "another creature" and not "another nontoken creature". Couple this with Elspeth, and you could +1 Elspeth, pay 3 mana, and draw 3 cards. Not too shabby for a color that doesn't "draw cards."
Mother of Runes $1.33: Ah yes, good ole’ "Mom". A legacy staple for years, Mother of Runes is great for protecting your commander, or any other important creature. Mom taps to give a target creature protection from a color of choice until the end of turn. This can be useful for saving a creature from a removal spell, or allowing them to attack without fear of being blocked. Imagine giving your Sun Titan protection from the color of your opponent’s creatures, allowing it to attack in and recur something important from your graveyard. Or, even better, how about making your commander carry a bunch of equipment giving it protection with Mother of Runes and getting that lethal commander damage attack in. Mother of Runes is the utility creature you never knew you needed.
So with the 10 cards we talked about, our total comes to $39.46 well under our $50 budget! That means it's time to do some extra shopping and pick up those extra pieces we talked about earlier. For my money, I'm adding Cleansing Nova ($1.73), Condemn ($0,24) and Rest In Peace ($5.02) bringing my grand total to $46.45 for the 13 cards. Rest in Peace helps slow down all those pesky graveyard decks that you are bound to run into from time to time. That should give you a really good foundation to solidify whichever mono white strategy you decide to go with. I hope this guide helps you, and as always, I’m open to feedback, so meet me in the shop's Discord to discuss your thoughts and opinions on what should have made the list!
The next blog will focus on mono blue as we continue or journey through the color pie to build some great commander decks. Thanks again for reading!
(Thanks for staying so long, enjoy this Tiny Hippo!)