Greetings planeswalkers! Welcome to my debut article series for everything cardboard! I’m talking about the artwork, the flavor, and the financial aspects. I’m writing for the addict in all of us whose need for cardboard can only be satisfied by an ever-growing collection. I intend to cover Pauper, Vintage, and everything in between.
Today’s focus will be on Commander because, frankly, I love talking about it. Everything from deck lists to strategy encompasses what I love to share so I figured this would be a great place to start.
When it comes to acquiring Magic cards, how do you actually pick up the cards you need? Which cards are worth their price? Will they bring me victory and replayability for years to come? Here comes Bang for Your Buck, a series where I will review cards that are popular in Commander (as displayed by data gathered from EDHREC.com) and discuss whether they are worthy of inclusion based on a combination of price and utility. I will be reviewing cards over $5 (with ChannelFireball.com pricing) since anything under $5 I would consider in most players’ budgets. This is meant to serve as guidance for players who are on a budget, but don’t necessarily want to play like they are. Stretching the money you do have as far as you can to build great decks—that’s what Bang for Your Buck is all about.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are my own. Just because I dislike a card doesn’t mean it may not be great for you. Experiences will vary, and my goal here is to save you money while improving your deck’s quality.
Let’s look at the color that’s anything but plain. White’s strengths include:
- Ability to apply pressure
- Universal permanent removal
- Access to creature board wipes
- Life gain
White is an excellent support color in Commander and excels when combined with another color’s focused game plan. What I mean by this is that by adding white to your deck, you add much needed versatility and the ability to mold your deck to tackle certain problems. Colors like green and red do not add much in this regard, so white is much appreciated here. I would rank white as the fourth best color in Commander.
White’s weaknesses include:
- Lack of consistent ramp
- Lack of permission and discard
- Lack of card drawing (and let’s be honest—that’s real bad)
- Lack of powerful tutors
So the good news is that white’s weaknesses are easily mitigated by adding another color. Personally, I have the most success in EDH when I use another color as the deck’s primary focus and complement it with the powerful answers and pressure white can provide.
Without further ado, let’s talk about some of white’s most popular cards and whether they are worth their price tag.
Path to Exile
White deck usage: 31%
Path to Exile is a staple in Modern and should be played in most white decks. While not as powerful as Swords to Plowshares (c’mon, what is?), Path still provides an efficient rate. Path to Exile has been printed over a dozen times and still holds strong in the $7-8 price range. Thus, holding out on the card to drop in price before picking it up doesn’t seem to be the best course of action. I’d make sure to have a copy of this spell for almost any mono-white or 2-color white deck I played.
Verdict: Get one. Staple creature removal.
White deck usage: 29%
Fresh off an MTGO Commander ban, Enlightened Tutor has proven its power over the years. In fact, the only thing that balances this powerful tutor is the fact that placing the card on top of your library instead of your hand is card disadvantage. 1 mana at instant speed is an incredible rate for a tutor and it has the ability to grab arguably the most powerful card in all of EDH, Sol Ring. Mana Crypt and Sol Ring are my favorite targets for this spell and I can’t imagine playing a white deck without another way to find cards that put you so far ahead in the early game. Let’s not forget how well it can find silver bullets like Rest in Peace or Grasp of Fate as well as combo pieces like Rings of Brighthearth or Power Artifact. Enlightened Tutor’s price dropped roughly 20% from the Eternal Masters reprint but I don’t suspect it will go much lower.
Verdict: Get one. The number of times you will use this card and its ubiquity make it a steal for just over $10.
Wrath of God
White deck usage: 26%
Wrath of God has been reprinted over two dozen times and I suspect that we haven’t seen the last of it. Wrath of God is a staple white board sweeper that even prevents the pesky (though now defunct) regeneration clause. Does that make it worth double the price of Day of Judgment? Nah. 4 mana is a fine deal for this spell, but there are other options that don’t require you to shell out $6. If you have one laying around due to its massive print run, by all means throw it in a deck.
Verdict: Great rate for a sweeper but $6 can buy you 2-3 other copies of such spells.
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
White deck usage: 16%
6-mana Elspeth, as I like to call her, is one of my favorite planeswalkers printed in recent years. She has the ability to clean up large, problematic creatures, swarm the board with a token army, and her emblem serves as a win condition. What’s not to love? Well, $12 is pretty steep for a random planeswalker. She won’t usually have too much utility in your deck, and if the rest of the table is smart, they will start attacking her right away. She can be powerful as a post-sweeper play onto an empty board, but so are most planeswalkers. Doubling Season eat your heart out. She is quite strong, but I’d rather spend the money elsewhere.
Verdict: Strong, but I’d spend that $12 on an Enlightened Tutor instead.
White deck usage: 13%
Austere Command is a popular sweeper in Commander that has been used since the format started. The effects are powerful and versatile, and you can often tailor this spell to your own advantage by building your deck with its modes in mind. For example, a creature token deck can use the “Destroy all creatures with cmc greater than 4” and “Destroy all artifacts” modes to semi-wrath away problematic creatures and mana rocks while keeping their board intact. 6 mana is quite the cost to pay for a sorcery speed, reactive spell, but the effects have been proven to be powerful, as well as swingy and fun. While I would suggest picking this card up, there is reprint coming right down the pipeline in Iconic Masters. The $10 price tag won’t hold.
Verdict: Nice card that has lots of homes, but wait for a reprint to pick one up for less.
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
White deck usage: 11%
Be still my beating heart. Elesh Norn is everything I’ve ever wanted to be. She is perfection incarnate. You will respect her. There’s no doubt that Elesh Norn has a huge impact on the board whenever she hits play. But she also has a huge impact on your wallet. Her Modern Masters 2015 reprint did close to nothing to her price but has kept it under $30. With a reprint coming in Iconic Masters later this year, we can hope that she will creep below $20. Unfortunately, her mythic rare status, as well as her insane popularity, leaves me skeptical. As far as her uses, she provides protection from dozens of creature combos, and provides an excellent anthem effect for decks looking to go wide. Is she worth $25? Yes. She just has so many decks she can fit into and as long as you don’t get her stolen from a Bribery or Treachery, you can follow the Phyrexian Queen to victory.
Verdict: Pricey, but could your deck possibly be complete without her? Hopefully, you can crack one in your Iconic Masters box!
Avacyn, Angel of Hope
White deck usage: 11%
Remember how I suggested running Path to Exile earlier? Yeah, about that… Avacyn, Angel of Hope is one of the most popular Angels in all of Magic and she will always be a popular inclusion in Commander. If there is a Kaalia of the Vast player at the table, seeing this card is a given. Once she hits play, the game becomes all about her. Did your opponents pack the right types of removal for her? If not, she can dominate a game by making everything quite hard to remove. It’s a huge blowout if she is stolen by a Control Magic effect, since she in turn makes that enchantment indestructible for your opponent. Despite a somewhat recent reprint, this girl is still pushing $30. While I love the sheer power and flavor of this card, I can’t recommend shelling out the money for one. If you are playing a Kaalia of the Vast deck, perhaps you can save up for a copy of this card, but that’s about it.
Verdict: Great effect, but before spending $30 you need to make sure she has a proper home. At 8 mana, and without an immediate game-winning effect, she may not be the right fit for you.
White deck usage: 9%
Land Tax is a great card that doesn’t always do great things. Hitting your land drops each turn is marvelous and in a long, drawn-out game this can truly be a godsend. But this requires at least one opponent to also be hitting their land drops (to trigger this card at all) and for you to have a steady supply of basics in your deck to use. I like this effect more than Journeyer’s Kite and Thaumatic Compass because finding lands for free has huge upside. I would recommend this in only mono-white decks or decks with a large number of basics. Having Scroll Rack to abuse this is also an upside, but in a 99-card format, that combo seems unlikely.
Verdict: The price is too damn high! Large (9 or more) dedication to basics would make this a consideration.
White deck usage: 9%
The Legacy powerhouse and Modern-banned 2-drop that could, Stoneforge Mystic is one of my favorite creatures ever printed. In fact, the first game of Magic I ever played involved casting this powerful spell. Yeah, it’s easy to see why I turned out the way I did. Stoneforge Mystic’s recent Grand Prix promo version has kept her price in check over the years, and I don’t expect her to ever jump (barring a Modern unbanning). She has great utility in decks that focus on equipment-matters. Decks like Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith, Kemba, Kha Regent, and Sram, Senior Edificer all make great work of the Mystic’s ability to tutor. Still, if you have a constrained budget, I would still pick Enlightened Tutor over this spell and you could also throw in a Steelshaper’s Gift or Open the Armory in as a budget alternative. Outside of 1v1 Commander formats, I don’t find this card valuable if its only purpose is to find random value things like a Skullclamp or Sword of the Meek.
Verdict: Worth the price tag for equipment-heavy decks, but has other budget options just in case.
White deck usage: 8%
Good planeswalker is good. That’s about it though—the card is just good. This Elspeth shines in formats where players don’t start at 40 life and where there aren’t 3 other players attacking her. After all, that one-token-per-turn thing isn’t doing a whole lot of work.
Verdict: $15? Pass. Not enough of a board impact.
White deck usage: 7%
I feel like if you have a deck that can easily activate this card, then you already know it. Considering how powerful this card is against unprepared opponents, it is easily worth its price tag. It could see an upcoming reprint but its price isn’t astronomically high and losing to it is astronomically not fun so I am skeptical. If this is the kind of effect you like, go get one.
Verdict: If you like it, for less than $10 it’s worth it. You know who you are. Treat yo self.
White deck usage: 6%
I am not in love with this spell. On the one hand, with more opponents its average-case scenario will gain you more life than than in 1v1 formats. On the other hand, starting at 40 life means that the life gain will be less meaningful. Costing an extra mana over Day of Judgment and Wrath of God can be awkward.
Verdict: It’s a no from me, dawg. $6 is better spent on Wrath of God.
Authority of the Consuls
White deck usage: 6%
And the award for “most overused card that I can’t stand because it’s just not powerful or meaningful enough in most games or necessary to overall victory” goes to… Authority of the Consuls. There are many players who appreciate and love this kind of effect (clearly, since $8 for a Standard legal rare demonstrates substantial popularity). I am not a believer. Gaining a life here and there doesn’t help win you the game in any meaningful way. Additionally, you need to drop this early enough for it to matter and have opponents who are playing creatures. Even then, preventing haste/first turn blocking is hardly worth the effect for a card. In the case of Authority of the Consuls, the 1-mana rate is great—using this as a card you’ve drawn isn’t.
Verdict: Hard pass from me. I could write a whole article explaining why these cards aren’t good.
White deck usage: 6%
The original Modern Masters did a walloping to this card’s price—surely more potent than any equipment this guy can fetch out. Still, I’d rather not pay ~$7 for a worse Stoneforge Mystic. You’re better off sticking with Open the Armory if you want to go heavily on the equipment theme on a budget. If you’re fine spending the money, this card is serviceable, but still unexciting.
Verdict: Meh. There are better cards that are cheaper in price and mana cost. Great in a Voltron deck, though.
Iona, Shield of Emeria
White deck usage: 6%
Iona has 6% usage? That means 94% of white players in EDH are kind-hearted individuals! Kidding aside, this is one of the most polarizing white cards ever printed in the Commander format. When I hear players calling for a card to be banned in multiplayer EDH, Iona is certainly at the top of the list as far as white cards are concerned. Iona can be hard cast in decks with abundant mana ramp, as well as cheated into play from the graveyard or hand. Kaalia of the Vast does an excellent job of bringing the card down nice and early (which also ensures that your friendly tablemates leave your house nice and early). Iona’s power is undeniable, and if you want to bring the pain and misery she brings along with her to the table, $9 is child’s play.
Verdict: Yeah, I don’t think the $9 is what’s keeping this card out of most decks.
White deck usage: 6%
And the award for “please reprint this card in a Commander precon already” goes to… Weathered Wayfarer. I love this little guy since he will usually find some opponent to activate off of. He provides a steady supply of lands and unlike Land Tax, he goes for utility lands and mana fixing alike. His CMC and the cost of his ability are excellent rates for the effect. If your deck is packed with powerful utility lands, he has excellent potential even when drawn in the late game. I wouldn’t use him if you are just grabbing mana fixing, however. Anything over $10 for this card just seems so steep, and if you are straining to pick one of these up, chances are good that you don’t have access to many of his prime targets like Wasteland, Gaea’s Cradle, or The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale. Hopefully, he gets a reprint soon.
Verdict: Powerful effect and fun card, but the price is steep for what you get. My verdict depends on your access to his better targets in your collection.
Linvala, Keeper of Silence
White deck usage: 6%
Linvala’s much awaited reprint had the desired effect on her price. Once commanding a ~$50 price tag, even at $30-40 this card was simply unattainable for most players. Now barely hovering over $10, Linvala is finally in range for many white Commander enthusiasts, and boy does she pack a powerful effect. Being a Cursed Totem on a stick allows for her to be tutored up by Wordly Tutor, Survival of the Fittest, Fauna Shaman, and Eladamri’s Call. Linvala hoses many popular generals like Captain Sisay, Arcum Dagsson, Yisan, Breya, Ghave, Derevi, Prossh, and dozens more. Naturally, she shuts off mana dorks as well, which can give your deck much needed breathing room. If the cards she shuts down are causing you problems, Linvala is absolutely worth her price tag.
Verdict: A must-have white staple for Commander enthusiasts. $12 is very reasonable for a mythic Angel with a powerful effect and killer art.
Whew, that wraps up my white section for Bang for Your Buck. There are always so many more cards that I wish I could get to, but I feel like this covers the big ones. If there is a specific card you’d like me to discuss in white or for next week’s blue article, please let me know below. What are your thoughts on this type of article? Any suggestions on what you’d like to see going forward? I would love to hear feedback in the comments. Thanks so much for reading and until next time, may Iona never be on your deck’s color.
Prices and participation may vary.