Comprehending Competitive – White in cEDH

Jake FitzSimons • January 4, 2022

Silence by Wayne Reynolds

Other cEDH Color Reviews

Blue | Black


Happy new year everyone, and welcome back to Comprehending Competitive. This week we’re looking at the state of white in cEDH; what it’s good at, what it isn’t, and which cards you should be reaching for if you want to build a competitive deck.

To put it lightly, white runs on the fumes of an oily rag. Despite receiving some gas in recent years, white is about as good in cEDH as it is in casual: not very. That’s not to say it’s without some incredible tools, but white has the same problems up and down the power spectrum. Dismal card advantage, minimal mana acceleration, and few pieces that scale well in a multiplayer format.

This list isn’t exhaustive, just an overview of white’s best tools. If you’re getting into cEDH, expect to play and see the following.


Acceleration:

White brings little to the table when it comes to acceleration. This is no different to traditional EDH, where white decks must look to artifacts or other colors for their mana. You may occasionally see Land Tax, but it isn’t acceleration, and lands are less important in cEDH. Weathered Wayfarer is better, as it finds any land, but these cards help you keep up, they don’t speed you up.

There is one notable and notorious exception: Smothering Tithe, the source of that endlessly echoing, “Will you pay the 2?”. I will note that Tithe has fallen out of favor recently, and some database lists have cut it, but the raw power of the card remains. Play it naked, pair it with a wheel, whatever you do you’re going to smother your opponents with mana advantage.


Advantage

As for actual card advantage, the story is the same. White is quinary (that’s fifth) at drawing cards, so you’re in the wrong color if you want a full hand. The few white card advantage pieces, Mentor of the Meek, Welcoming Vampire, Sram, Senior Edificer, etc., are simply too clunky for cEDH. 

 

And yet, like acceleration, there is one beautiful exception. Esper Sentinel is more than a good white card, it’s a genuinely good card. It would be playable in any color. Akin to Mystic Remora or the dreaded Rhystic Study, Sentinel will sit in play and accrue value as your opponents go about their business. The margins in cEDH are so thin and the play patterns are so quick that the (1) will rarely get paid. Even if your opponents do pay, that means they’re playing at a slower rate than they’d like to. 


Combo Potential

White, perhaps surprisingly, is capable of enabling powerful combos. Few are format mainstays and many have fallen out of fashion, but you will see these pieces if you play cEDH.


Paired with Intuition and two combo pieces to create game-winning piles with no out for opponents.


Infinite mana, at the cost of your hand. 


Like every color except black, white has Kiki bottoms. Bottoms are cards that go infinite with their top, Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker.


The only cEDH level two-card infinite in mono-white. Rarely seen outside of Heliod itself.


Not always a game-winner, but a powerful soft lock.

Naturally, more white combo pieces will be printed in the future. When spoilers drop and you want to figure out how to break a new card, I highly recommend Commander Spellbook. It’s a great tool for any power level and I use it no matter what I’m brewing.


Interaction/Protection

Interaction in white is decent. Path to Exile and Swords to Plowshares are just as lean as they look, the latter of the two showing up in most lists that can run it. Neither sees as much play as catchall bounce effects do, but efficient removal shouldn’t be scoffed at.

Stronger still are white’s Silence effects. The most famous is, of course, Silence, itself. Just as good at protecting your win as it is at stopping someone else’s, a single white pip will make you feel like you’re in a library. Orim’s Chant and Abeyance are similar, but weaker and less common.

This effect is also available on permanents. Grand Abolisher and Ranger-Captain of Eos serve a similar role, guaranteeing you can execute your turn without fear of interruption. If you’ve never played one of these before, I can’t quite describe how satisfying it is to look at the player with open blue mana and say: “No, this is MY turn.”

Ranger-Captain in particular is an all-star. Beyond being able to fetch a one-drop, the ability to hold up a pseudo-silence and crack it on your opponent’s turn is deceptively powerful. Few decks can start their combo with a Ranger-Captain in play, and nobody wants to be the one to pop it.


Stax 

White has its flaws and foibles, but there’s one thing it does best, better than all the rest, and it’s not something you’ll see in casual pods. That’s right: stax. Like it or loathe it, stax serves an important function in the cEDH meta. When everyone else is going full throttle and moving a million miles an hour, even a single speedbump can become a death sentence.

The pillar upon which stax rests is Rule of Law. Once unplayable due to the awkward interaction with flash Hulk wins, Rule effects have since become ubiquitous. The vast majority of game-winning combos in cEDH require two cards to be played in quick succession, which is not possible with a Rule of Law in play.

Best of all is the incredible redundancy. More than just Rule, white has access to Ethersworn Canonist, Eidolon of Rhetoric, Deafening Silence, and the almighty Archon of Emeria. Different stax, same salt. 

White is exceedingly good at attacking what the rest of the format is doing. Basically, if you can’t go as fast as everyone else, make them go as slow as you. Cards like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Glowrider are great for this. Ad Nauseam doesn’t feel so good when you’re paying extra for all your fast mana.

What do most Commander decks want to do? If you answered “play their commander”, you’d be correct. What’s the best card for stopping that happening? If you answered “Drannith Magistrate“, congratulations, you’re two for two. Drannith is yet another crippling stax piece that white has access to, and incredibly, it’s asymmetrical. It even stops graveyard and exile shenanigans. Speaking of which, if you want to fight graveyard strategies, white offers the nuclear answer in the form of Rest in Peace.

White also has what was once the best tutor hate in the format. Mindcensor didn’t get any worse, but over a year later, I’m still bitter that black got a much better version of it. Booooo, Opposition Agent, boooooooo.

The list of playable stax pieces in white is endless, but if you want to see more, I suggest Apotheosis’s cEDH Heliod deck


Tutors

Weirdly, white has one of the best tutors in the format with Enlightened Tutor. The entire cycle is playable, and while not as good as Vampiric Tutor, Enlightened still gives access to two different permanent types. Need a Mana Crypt to keep up? A Rhystic Study to reload? An Underworld Breach to combo off? Achieve enlightenment.

Beyond that, things are grim. Cards like Ranger-Captain of Eos and Recruiter of the Guard will you give you limited access to creatures, but their targets are narrow, so you’ll need to build your deck accordingly.

White does have some niche pearlers, but they’re… well, niche. No other color can boast the ability to tutor for Equipment the way white can. Steelshaper’s Gift, Open the Armory and Stoneforge Mystic are perfect for this. The only problem is how rarely Equipment is used in cEDH.  

Thankfully, this is improving with cards like Oswald Fiddlebender. Birthing Pod is a powerhouse, and having an artifact-centric equivalent is sweet.

White is also primary when it comes to tutoring for enchantments. But sadly, only Enlightened Tutor sees any play. The rest are too slow.


Miscellanous Goodies 

Serra Ascendant doesn’t look like a cEDH card. It doesn’t combo, interact, draw cards, or help with mana. And yet, you’ll often find it in low color white lists. Sometimes being a ridiculously overstatted creature is just good enough. Many cEDH decks need to protect their life total for the sake of Ad Nauseam, Necropotence, or even Treasonous Ogre, meaning a one-mana 6/6 can put out a lot of relevant pressure.

Not quite as ubiquitous as it once was, Angel’s Grace remains a versatile tool that can either win you the game or save your life. Paired with Ad Nauseam, you can draw your entire deck. Used in response to an opponent’s Thassa’s Oracle combo, their win becomes their loss. Best of all, Split Second means you won’t be stopped.

Skyclave Apparition is versatile removal in any eternal format with few permanents over three mana. CEDH is no exception!


Who, What, Where, When, White?

White has an uphill battle in cEDH and Commander at large, but I say this as a fan, not a critic. I love white cards and what makes them unique, but we are still a while away from parity with the rest of the format.

For now, white is a useful support color that provides protection, or a punishing primary color that can lock down boards and slow the game. It’s rarely run by itself on account of its low card quality, but such lists do exist and have had historical success. If you’re looking for a white deck to try in cEDH, I recommend checking out the cEDH decklist database. The Unified Mono-White discord server is also a font of knowledge, and they’re happy to help new players.

Moving along in typical WUBRG fashion, next week we’ll be diving into the deep blue, possibly the most powerful color in cEDH. Someone tell Sheldon to ban Islands, already. 



Jake FitzSimons is a writer from Sydney and a certified Magic tragic. He’s a Johnny, a Vorthos, and a Spike, in roughly that order of importance. When he isn’t chewing his mates’ ears off about the latest deck he’s brewing, he can be found juggling, practicing piano, or doting on his cat.