There are a lot of legends you can use as the Commander of your awesome deck, and so many of them do unique and interesting things.
A number commonly thrown around is that out of the 473 legends that are currently in the game, only 70 or so are commonly played. This is part of the reason that Commander is such a fun format: there's so much unexplored space and so many interactions that haven't come up yet. It's a huge part of the reason I enjoy the format so much and is the entire reason I write about it.
Yomiji, Who Bars the Way is a great example of a Commander that can do a number of very powerful things but sees little to no play.
He has the classic indicators of being a legend from Betrayers of Kamigawa: a confusing effect, low power and toughness, and a very high mana cost. It is also unfortunate that Yomiji's ability effects all players, but generally it only takes a little bit of work to break the symmetry of these kinds of cards.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when you're building a deck is what you want your deck to do. Each card should contribute something to your theme or plan. This idea is even more critical when you're playing with an under-powered Commander, since you generally won't be able to rely on just overpowering other players, especially when you're in mono-White.
The plan for this particular deck is to play a more controlling game so that you can use Yomiji as a card advantage engine with a bunch of sweet legends. Since the deck is going to be a slow and grindy control deck, let's start by looking at the legends that can win the game in conjunction with Yomiji and lots of mana.
Let's Get Legendary
The two most absurd interactions this deck is capable of are using Mindslaver or Yosei, the Morning Star with Yomiji in play. Yosei plus a sacrifice outlet lets you lock one or more players out of their untap steps, while Mindslaver will let you take someone's turn for every ten mana you can produce. If you get either of these going, it's important to lock out the players most likely to have graveyard hate, countermagic, or spot removal first, since they can disrupt your lock. If people make the mistake of tapping out too low, you can jam Hokori, Dust Drinker to tempo them. If you have a sacrifice outlet and Yomiji, then you can Winter Orb everyone else by sacrificing Hokori on the end step before your turn.
Beyond that, you have Mangara of Corondor and Lieutenant Kirtar to protect yourself from creatures and permanents of different varieties. Then you've got your an infinite storm combo in mono-White! Just cast Isamaru, Hound of Konda, then sacrifice it to Phyrexian Altar with Yomiji in play. Return Isamaru to your hand and recast it as many times as you like, then kill someone with Astral Steel on an unblocked creature.
Suit 'em Up!
A lot of decks are heavily reliant on powerful equipment like Skullclamp and Nim Deathmantle to generate card advantage, and this deck is no different. It's important to note, however, that White-based decks are much more reliant on equipment than most decks of other colors because it has very few other sources of card advantage and because of tutors like Stonehewer Giant and Stoneforge Mystic.
- Steelshaper's Gift
- Stonehewer Giant
- Lightning Greaves
- Nim Deathmantle
- Pariah's Shield
- Darksteel Plate
- Shield of Kaldra
There are a few interactions that these equipment allow for that we'll get into a little later, but the important ones are the Darksteel Plate and Shield of Kaldra. Making Yomiji, Who Bars the Way indestructible is huge because then you can start leveraging wraths and other removal while rebuying your legends. These equipment just make it much harder for most decks to interact with your late-game plan.
Nim Deathmantle and Skullclamp are there for some much needed card advantage. Both of these equipment make your plans of sacrificing a number of different creatures much better. In a lot of ways, these are back-up copies of Yomiji! Pariah's Shield is certainly the most awkward card out of this list, but it's there mostly because of some of the other sweet legends you can play, which we'll go ahead and talk about now.
- Cho-Manno, Revolutionary
- Commander Eesha
- Myojin of Cleansing Fire
- Predator Flagship
- Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
- Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker
- Linvala, Keeper of Silence
The most important thing here is that each of these legends is relatively inexpensive. This deck wants legends to die or be sacrificed to various effects so that you can get value out of them. That they all also have sweet abilities is mostly just a bonus! That said, there are a few of these abilities that the deck is built around. Pariah's Shield is much better in a deck that has Cho-Manno, Revolutionary and Commander Eesha. Similarly, Myojin of Cleansing Fire is a great way to control the late game once you can make Yomiji indestructible and find a sacrifice outlet for your Myojin.
Eight-and-a-Half-Tails is a card that gives you ways to deal with cards that normally are unbeatable for mono-White, such as Capsize. This guy has always been a great Commander, but he's also very good in your 99 as a combat trick and protection for all of your key permanents.
Last, Predator Flagship is a card that doesn't see much play but certainly ought to in big mana decks. White doesn't typically have trouble dealing with creatures, but this gives you a repeatable source of spot removal so that you don't have to wrath the board away since so much of your deck is based on having creatures in play.
Salvaging Station Package
With so much of the deck built around getting extra cards and effects off of creatures dying, it only seems reasonable that you'd think about running a card like Salvaging Station. Honestly though, Salvaging Station is a card that more people ought to be able to run. You have to run a few underpowered one-mana artifacts, but you'd be surprised just how many activations you get off of a Salvaging Station.
- Scrabbling Claws
- Wayfarer's Bauble
- Origin Spellbomb
- Expedition Map
- Phyrexian Furnace
- Wanderer's Twig
- Dispeller's Capsule
This suite of artifacts accomplishes a few things, the most important of which is giving you some much needed graveyard hate. Each of these artifacts effectively nets you a card each time you get to recur them and puts you very far ahead over a longer game.
Expedition Map lets you take advantage of some of the strong utility lands you have available to you in White and finds sacrifice outlets for your various legends. Wayfarer's Bauble and Wanderer's Twig both help you get to the late game and have enough mana to start leveraging your recursion loops to actually win the game. I'm not sure if the deck wants a Traveler's Amulet in addition to the Twig, since at that point you'd have to start cutting lands to make space for the Amulet, but it's worth considering.
Every deck needs ways to go over the top and actually win the game. This deck can do that in a couple of different ways, which is kind of unique for a White deck. This deck has a number of angles to attack from, each of which has to be managed separately.
The first two cards are Culling Dais and Helm of Possession, which play into your plan of getting value out of sacrificing Legendary creatures. These also give you ways besides Phyrexian Altar and various land-based sacrifice outlets to lock people with Yosei, the Morning Star and Hokori, Dust Drinker.
Karmic Guide and [/card]Sun Titan[/card], on the other hand, let you straight up out card the other players at the table. If they don't exile one or both of these, you can eventually grind out so many extra cards that you'll have an overwhelming presence on the board.
You also have a bunch of token generators and other anthem-style effects. Deathless Angel is sweet at protecting your guys, ensuring that you live through your own sweepers and can get in some big hits. Similarly, Day of Destiny is insanely good with the number of legends that you're playing, especially with how difficult they can be to get rid of.
Finally, the token generators. These particular generators are some of the best in the format because they play around countermagic so well, which is something that White isn't typically good at. That flexibility gives you a great way to fight against Blue decks, which is something that you're generally pretty weak against.
Card Advantage and Utility
Every deck needs some flexible tools and this one is no different. There are some effects you just need to have access to in order to be able to interact with other players: creature removal, graveyard hate, artifact and enchantment removal, for example. A lot of these tools showed up above, either as part of your creature-engine or Salvaging Station package, but there's always space for a few more, right?
- Crystal Ball
- Return to Dust
- Austere Command
- Swords to Plowshares
- Martyr's Bond
- Mass Calcify
So, like I said, there're ways to fight creatures, artifacts, and graveyards, all at instant speed. People generally don't expect White decks to play tricks in Commander, which makes having them even more important since a good number of opponents will play right into them.
We've also got Crystal Ball, which I think it better than Sensei's Divining Top in this particular deck due to a lack of shuffle effects. You could just add some fetchlands and Crucible of Worlds to make Sensei's Divining Top better, but that puts the deck further out of reach of most people's budgets. Honestly though, Crystal Ball is not much worse than Top, if it really is at all. Scrying is a very powerful effect, especially on a repeatable source.
Last is the Ranger of Eos package. Ranger is a card that I really like for White and White-based decks. It's both card advantage and a tutor, even if it finds cards that are typically low-impact. You can build your deck to take advantage of your one-drops by running things like Mother of Runes if you have to protect key creatures, Weathered Wayfarer if you have important lands, Serra Ascendant for beats, and so on. Ranger does a lot of interesting things and I'm actually pretty sad I couldn't find more space for one-drops for him to tutor up.
The Mana Base
This is the most important part of most decks, but this one in particular needs a lot of help from its lands. The deck is so mana hungry that you want to do as much to maximize how much mana you'll have on a given turn as you can. Mana sources that can scale up over the course of a game are especially important and are going to be emphasized over "fixed" acceleration.
This is a pretty typical suite of acceleration, besides Honor-Worn Shaku. I initially ran it just because it was a cool card from Champions of Kamigawa block, but it will typically give you two to three mana on a given turn from sources you wouldn't typically get it from. Plus, the first time you tap your Shield of Kaldra for mana is sweet!
- Eiganjo Castle
- Flagstones of Trokair
- Gods' Eye, Gate to the Reikai
- Miren, the Moaning Well
- High Market
- Untaidake, the Cloud Keeper
- Ghost Quarter
- Ancient Tomb
- Mistveil Plains
- Emeria, the Sky Ruin
- Urza's Tower
- Urza's Mine
- Urza's Power Plant
- Temple of the False God
- Urza's Factory
- Winding Canyons
- 18 Plains
There are a ton of sweet interactions going on with the lands here, I just hope I have time to go into them all! The most important lands are your High Market and Miren, the Moaning Well, since they provide sacrifice outlets to go with Yomiji, Who Bars the Way.
Mistveil Plains is a card that does a lot of things for a lot of decks. It's an awesome piece of recursion, and is great at protecting your graveyard. For this deck, you can recycle your equipment, lands, and one-drops, each of which can be tutored up fairly easily.
Now that we've gone over the lands, let's look at a finished list:
[deckbox did="a147" size="small" width="560"]
Like most mono-White decks, this one is pretty slow and very clunky, but it does have a number of very powerful interactions that a lot of people aren't really prepared for. Most importantly, it exemplifies the one characteristic that mono-White Commander decks must have to be successful: your Commander either has to be very aggressive, have a source of card advantage, and/or feature disruption.
That said, I'm pretty happy with the deck. There are certainly some interactions a lot of people haven't thought about and aren't prepared for and you have an incredibly brutal end game that's fairly difficult to disrupt.
That's pretty good for a Commander who is largely considered unplayable.
Next week we'll be taking a look at the mono-planeswalker control deck that Becca wants me to build for her, so be sure to check it out!
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