Let it not be said that the state of White in Magic is a controversial one. I play a lot of White in Commander, and it’s far and away the weakest in that format, with other formats not faring much better. I’m not here to talk about that today, though. Instead, I’d like to go through what Wizards have executed well this year, and how these designs point toward a possible future for a refining and refocusing of White’s color identity. Let’s jump into it.

The Cards White Got Right

Acclaimed Contender

This is a solid example of card advantage in White that slots into a Limited format. Controlling a second Knight in ELD Draft isn’t difficult; and getting the option to take another body, a way to augment existing bodies, or even removal (in the form of an aura like Trapped in the Tower) is the kind of flexibility I’m really here for. Less impressive outside of Draft, this card is still firmly in the playable category for Standard given that it can dig for Embercleave. It’s even playable in a Knight tribal deck in Commander, though hitting a target within a 99-card deck may prove less reliable.

Ajani, Strength of the Pride

Ajani is honestly one of the biggest sleeper cards of the year for Commander—you heard it here first. White is all about controlling the board with mass removal, and there’s nothing worse than losing the investment of creatures on your own side of the field, especially with White’s struggles with rebuilding in the mid to late game. Ajani, Strength of the Pride is a hell of a reason to care about life gain, and can come down and provide that rarest of treats: a one-sided boardwipe. He doesn’t even need to be ticked up turn after turn to do so, and you can usually get the last bit of life you need by using his +1 the turn he comes down and still confidently untap with him given he’ll be on a lofty six loyalty. It’s obviously great in Limited, too; I’ve managed to pull off that ultimate more than once in Core 2020 drafts.

Ancestral Blade

Equipment hasn’t been exciting or playable for quite some time, with the heyday of the Mirrodin Swords cycle long since past. Ancestral Blade isn’t particularly exciting either—it’s no Embercleave, that’s for sure—but it does bring something important to the table: playable equipment in Limited. Giving a token when this comes into play takes it from being filler to being a strong playable, and making its color identity White opens up a lot of promising design space.

Ardenvale Tactician

Throne of Eldraine offered no shortage of card advantage in the Adventure mechanic, and it’s hard to argue against the impact it had on White as a color. White went from being consistently the worst color in draft formats of recent times to being pretty playable. Ardenvale Tactician encapsulates what White wants to do: play evasive threats and clear the way for beat downs, with the flexibility to be used defensively in a pinch. Giant Killer didn’t warrant its own entry, but is another excellent example that could justify play in Commander.

Cavalier of Dawn

Cavalier of Dawn is a fantastic Magic card that rewards heavily leaning into White. It’s arguably one of the strongest in the cycle, and the tempo swing from playing this is not to be sniffed at. Most of the time it’ll be a two-for-one, but on occasion you can burn away a land or other permanent you don’t need in order facilitate more beat-downs with an extra 3/3. The recursion factor is gravy. This is the right way to combine White’s strengths, while giving you something back for your effort should it be removed (which it likely will).

Charming Prince

A two-mana Human with relevant abilities is always exciting, but Charming Prince offers more than just another option for Modern Humans. The flexibility to fix draws early, buffer your life total for the backswing, or blink another creature you own is really something. A hallmark of modern Magic design, modal creatures continue to tick all of the boxes, and Charming Prince is as welcome in Limited and Cube as he is in Constructed formats.

Crush Contraband

Crush Contraband isn’t the most exciting card on this list, but it’s a solid addition that acknowledges that the graveyard really isn’t the final destination. As much as Wizards seem to have concentrated on Black for cheap creature-based exile in cards like Epic Downfall, the need for White to have access to more absolute removal than effects like Oblivion Ring or Conclave Tribunal is crucial to the color’s relevancy in Commander. A second copy of Return to Dust is always welcome.

Dawn of Hope

It’s interesting to see Wizards talk about how cards that allow White to draw cards based on deckbuilding restrictions are ‘bends’ or ‘breaks’—cards like Mesa Enchantress or Mentor of the Meek—and then see them print Dawn of Hope. Faith’s Fetters allowing you to draw a card doesn’t seem too far away from casting Oblivion Ring on top of Mesa Enchantress, but whatever. White’s a color big on Enchantments, so the argument that more white Enchantress cards would ‘break it’ to me falls short, especially when it comes to EDH and the relative clunkiness of temporary enchantment based removal (pro tip: it’s not very good).

All that to say that Dawn of Hope is a great card, and whilst a little slow for 60-card constructed, is a home run when it comes to Limited and Commander.


Probably too strong for Pauper (though I’m far from an expert on that), Ephemerate is a fantastic cheap piece of interaction. It provides card advantage by retriggering enters-the-battlefield effects, and can help a creature dodge removal the first time around. Ephemerate offers more than Cloudshift while sacrificing its more niche applications. It’s a great Limited and Cube card, and is in contention to replace other flicker cards in many a Commander deck.

Generous Gift

More flexible removal is always a good thing, and it’s nice to see that Wizards are acknowledging that the flexibility on cards like Anguished Unmaking and Utter End primarily stems from the White parts of the cards; flexibility is for many intents and purposes virtual card advantage. Shifting Beast Within is definitely a step in the right direction for righting the color pie imbalance currently tipping in Green’s favor, so let’s continue. Give no quarter—only elephants.

Giver of Runes

Steppe Mom, as they call her, is Mother of Runes in a fresh new flavor. Unable to protect herself, but granting protection from colorless; this promising addition to Modernhas seen play in many Commander lists too. Getting around Plague Engineer also sets it apart from Mother of Runes, which is neat. Showing willingness to experiment with Protection mechanics bodes well for a very White mechanic.

God-Eternal Oketra

Zombie Oketra is a force to be reckoned with, and is exactly the kind of Token generation White needs to keep up with the pace of the game—cheap, or better yet, free. Getting a free 4/4 with your creature you’d be playing anyway is great. Putting this token generation on a pervasive heavy hitting body, instead of a do-nothing enchantment is a huge stride in the right direction. This thing is powerful, a Limited bomb, and is probably one of the better mono-White Generals out there. Thankfully, the interactive nature of WAR Draft offset the sheer strength of Oketra, at least a little!

I’ll shout out Hero of Precinct One here too—another superb example of how aggressive token production needs to be in order to be viable. Mardu Hero decks were a joy to play, and though their time in the sun was gone in a blink of an eye, the card itself was very memorable.

Hanged Executioner

Removal linked to creatures is always good. When you put it on two power spread over two flying bodies, you’re on to a winner. The lack of flicker effects in M20 tempers the reusability of the token creation. But with many synergies for flyers and going wide in the set, Hanged Executioner was a great card, and the instant speed activation is welcome when the creature is so fragile.


Hushbringer makes me uncomfortable. I don’t know, the art just isn’t for me. That aside, having another Hushwing Gryff is always good, though the lack of Flash hurts it somewhat. I think I’d rather have the instant speed interaction and forgo inhibiting death triggers, but I can’t deny that this card existing is a good thing. Taxing and punishing effects are White’s specialty, and we need to encourage the printing of these answers even if they’re annoying to play against.

Mandate of Peace

Mandate of Peace is the kind of card I’d love to stick under Isochron Scepter. I think that the Silence effect is what makes this card, and combining it with a Fog produces an interesting and exploitable design space that still feels White. We don’t see enough cards in the vein of Comeuppance and Deflecting Palm, so I’m all for printing more techniques to add to the Aikido toolbox.


Outflank is a flavor win, and I’m really pleased to see this effect finally peeking into White’s design space. I’ve always felt fight effects could be White, especially ones that count on the number of creatures under your control (as opposed to how big they are). Outflank is efficient and fitting, and more than being a good Limited spell, shows signs of things to come. I’m quietly hopeful. Band Together should have been White.

Realm-Cloaked Giant

White’s propensity for board wipes at the expense of its own army is often a sticking point when it comes to putting together synergistic and viable decks. Whilst it’s no Phyrexian Rebirth—which offers a creature immediately—the fact that Realm-Cloaked Giant offers a body that can be bounced back to your hand instead of into the ether makes this card quite playable. It’s a little pricey, and personally I’d have rather had the body cost one less at the cost of some stats to enable it to be played on curve, but otherwise this card is solid. It’s great in Limited, Standard, and Commander.

Sephara, Sky’s Blade

While Sephara isn’t the best in the Command Zone, she’s great everywhere else. The opportunity to cast her for a cheaper cost is fantastic, and we need more of this incentive to go wide in White. Protecting flying creatures is a good effect, and Sephara slots into many EDH decks that favor Angels or other airborn creatures.

Settle Beyond Reality

I think for the draft format this was part of, five mana probably kept this a little lower in the pick order than it could have been, but Settle Beyond Reality is an example of White removal that gives a good upside. Comparing this to Wanderer’s Strike from War of the Spark, I much prefer Settle—it asks a lot less, and doesn’t lock you into a +1/+1 counters archetype to get full value.

Sevinne’s Reclamation

Sevinne’s Reclamation is a very well designed Magic card. It’s clean, efficient, and perfect for the Commander format. The floor on this is pretty high—ramping by replaying a fetch land is a pretty great floor in White. From there, it gets better by recurring strong equipment, creatures, or enchantments. Getting some extra shots at Sun Titan is always welcome, and the Flashback means if you are forced to discard (likely by taking advantage of looting effects like Smuggler’s Copter, or Mask of Memory) you stand to lose less. White needs more recursion in Commander, and this card delivers.

Smothering Tithe

Are you paying the 2?

Unbreakable Formation

Ways to bounce back from boardwipes is one thing, but how about ways to survive them? Whilst Boros Charm is rightfully Red, Heroic Intervention seems stolen from White, at least partly. We already have Teferi’s Protection, creatures that grant Indestructible, and ways to avoid non-combat damage, so I’m happy to take another one. Three mana is the sweet spot here, and casting this in your first main to see if it resolves before firing off Day of Judgment is a great play. I’d love to see more of this in White, and this is a good sign that Wizards thinks so too.

Venerated Loxodon

I mentioned earlier that Sephara was a good pay off for going wide, and that we should have more. Venerated Loxodon is another one of those cards, and since it was printed, it’s won a Pro Tour, and seen play in most constructed formats. Cost reduction as payoff for going wide is a gamble I’m willing to take.

Winds of Abandon

It’s about time White had something akin to Cyclonic Rift. This one actually does encourage you to finish things the turn you play it, because if your opponents have a chance to untap, they’ll be exceedingly far ahead thanks to all of the extra lands you’ll have given them. The flexibility of having this as a second copy of Path to Exile or as a one-sided board wipe is crucial to why this card is so good.

The Takeaway

In a year where the viability of White has been questioned intensely, and a year where we’ve been given a continual dialogue as to why or why not certain design spaces will or (more often) won’t be explored, it’s useful to look at what’s worked and see if we can perhaps scry the future.

Most of the cards above fall into the following categories:

  • Efficient Removal
  • Build-around Card Draw
  • Taxing Effects
  • Card Advantage through Flexibility/Modality
  • Aggressive Token Production
  • Blink/Flicker Effects

From this, we can begin to carve out White’s pervasive identity, at least when it comes to playable cards—even if that doesn’t meet what Wizards considers the design space White should occupy.

None of the cards above (save for perhaps Ephemerate) have seen much complaint about imbalance or oppressiveness. It stands to reason that if the cream of the crop of White cards we’ve seen in 2019 don’t push the envelope too much, we might have hit a good ceiling for White. That said, what keeps White in check in Standard and other constructed formats is still relevant, so it’s hard to say where that ceiling really is. I suspect we might have some breathing room to go higher, but who knows.

The problems arise when we consider how far away most of the cards in White are from that ceiling. Looking at cards like Syr Konrad the Grim sitting in the uncommon slot when we have Linden, Steadfast Queen as part of a cycle in White is just bizarre. This isn’t just an issue when it comes to constructed; for every Throne of Eldraine with its Adventure cards providing great card advantage, we get a handful of Limited formats where White just doesn’t have the tools to push through. It’s telling that giving White card advantage has led to one of its better Limited performances in quite some time.

For every Generous Gift and Winds of Abandon, the “Color of Removal” is cast aside in favor of the much more efficient and numerous options available in Black. The argument that White shouldn’t draw cards because it “has all the answers” has worn completely thin when you take a look at Black. In the past year, in Standard alone, we’ve had Price of Fame, Epic Downfall, Murderous Rider, Bedevil, and Assassin’s Trophy to name a few. All answer things relatively permanently, and make Prison Realm and Conclave Tribunal look weak.

White needs to decide what makes it White, and if it’s based on the strengths of the better cards printed this year, then Wizards might need to reassess their reservations about the color pie. While they’re in the think tank, they also need to realize that Commander’s boon of growth is also a burden, and one that needs balanced in White’s favor to allow it to catch up.

Between the better cards printed this year, and the introduction of Ari Nieh to the Council of Colors as it’s White member, I’m hopeful that 2020 will bring a much needed bounty.

Kristen is a lover of both Limited and Commander, and can most often be found championing the Boros Legion when called upon to sit down and shuffle up. Based in the UK, she works as a software developer, and her love for the Legion is second only to her appreciation for Lord of the Rings and Mass Effect.

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