Reasons to Love Mono White
Updated: Aug 23, 2020
It's pretty well known that mono white has some trouble in Pauper EDH. On its own, it has less card advantage and card filtering than any other color, which makes it very susceptible to losing in long games. So, what ARE mono white's strengths, and what good commander options are available?
One strength of white commanders is using repeatable effects to generate tokens, then overwhelm opponents with one or two big attacks in the mid- to late-game.
Pumping the Team:
Another strength commonly seen in white commanders is pumping the team, which usually goes hand-in-hand with going wide. Often, these decks can be more mana efficient and faster than the token producing commanders, but are also more vulnerable to running out of gas in the late game, since they are reliant on drawing token producers from 99.
Carrying a Big Stick:
Some commanders make themselves bigger based on how many creatures you have, allowing for tons of commander damage. Commanders with double strike can also fill a similar role by doubling the effectiveness of equipment, auras, and pump spells.
There are also quite a few commanders that specialize in putting counters on themselves or on other creatures. These strategies are more vulnerable to bounce spells, but are some of the best ways for white to make large combat threats.
Instead of going wide or tall, another way to reliably get damage through in the midgame is to tap down your opponents' blockers. White also has many cards with this type of effect at common, and when you have several of these effects together, they are exponentially more powerful.
Another theme for white is caring about enchantments. Green and Selesnya colors tend to have good enchantment-focused options, too, though. This means there are many white options that are simply outclassed by similar cards with both white and green in their color identity. However, white still has several unique options in this category that are very powerful.
Resurrecting, Blinking, and Bouncing:
White also has the ability to return creatures to hand, “blink” permanents (exile and then return them to the battlefield), and even pull small creatures straight from the grave to the battlefield. This is mostly useful for reusing "enters the battlefield" effects, such as on Thraben Inspector or Countless Gears Renegade, which investigate and produce a token, respectively. The resurrection abilities can also be used with sacrifice abilities, like on Ronom Unicorn. These decks will probably play very differently than other white decks, since they will be able to grind repeated value in the mid- to late game.
The Rest of the Deck:
We have had some excellent articles in the past here and here that cover many of the best cards available to mono white decks, but I wanted to talk about a few cards that are new or weren't mentioned in these posts, as well as take a minute to further discuss why some of the cards mentioned in the other articles are such good reasons to play a white deck. You'll also notice that several of these themes overlap with some of the commanders we discussed earlier.
Protection & Blink:
These cards were mentioned in Ruffigan's previous article, but I wanted to emphasize how versatile they are. The blink cards can be used to repeat powerful “enters the battlefield” effects and dodge removal. The protection spells can be used to go around blockers, make favorable trades by preventing combat damage, cause pacifism and arrest auras to fall off, and also dodge removal. A few blink and protection spells can even target an opponent's creature, so you can use it to block their buff spells, blink a creature to removal all of its counters, or make all their auras fall off of a voltron threat. These spells are among the most flexible in the format.
Cantrips and Rebounds:
Another group of high value cards that mono white has in spades is rebound spells and spells or permanents that draw a single card upon resolution. The card advantage may not be repeatable, but it helps stretch your hand much farther before running out of gas.
Combat Damage Prevention:
A third category of effects that was mentioned in previous articles is damage prevention. Many of these effects are single use, on instants or on creatures that sacrifice themselves, while most of the repeatable prevention effects only target one color or make you pay for every one or two damage you prevent. However, there are a few cards that stand above the rest, because of their flexibility and repeatability. Righteous Aura and Shieldmage Advocate are also some of the only ways to deal with hexproof commanders, since you can name them as "a source of your choice" and it doesn't count as targeting.
Another good way to deal with problematic attackers and activated abilities is with disabling auras. At first glance, these might seem weaker than standard removal that exiles or destroys, but where they really shine is against commanders. If a deck doesn't have enough enchantment removal (which is very difficult for black and red), a single Arrest can make their commander useless for the rest of the game.
These are not the all-purpose tutors that blue and black have, but they get the job done. The two things white is best at tutoring for is Rebels and Auras. Rebels don't tend to be outstanding in combat, but alongside tokens and team buff effects, they can help squeeze out some extra value and damage. Auras, on the other hand, are pretty flexible. They can lock down enemy threats, protect your own creatures, or buff your attackers; depending on what you tutor up.
Tap Down Effects:
In his previous article, Ruffigan also discussed activated abilities that tap enemy creatures. These are very flexible, since they can be used both for defense and offense. However, these abilities usually require tapping your own creature as an activation cost, so it's difficult to also attack with them. There is another group of creatures, though, that uses abilities triggered by attacking to tap down opposing creature or force certain blocks. By giving up the defensive side of the tap down ability, they can now contribute twice as much to an aggressive strategy.
An often overlooked strength of white is the ability to give all their creatures large boosts in offensive power. Sometimes this is used for aggressive blitzes, and other times is used when the deck bides its time and waits for the right moment to mount a surprise assault and end the game. Because so many of these are instants, they can also be used as combat tricks to trade small creatures for much larger and more valuable ones.
So now we have a lot of puzzle pieces laid out in front of us. Let’s see if we can put them together into a coherent whole. White has never had as many infinite value engines or huge creatures, but it is excellent at taking a few small bodies and getting maximum value out of them. In 1v1 formats, that often means token aggro, but in PDH, this often takes the form of combat tricks, auras, flexible spells, and surprise alpha strikes with evasive or buffed creatures. Many compare this aggressive stance with red, but miss the fact that white has the tools to do this in a safer, more careful manner.
Looking at the concrete examples we have laid out above, you can see a general game plan for the color take form. Create a sizeable board state, whether it is wide with tokens or tall with auras, counters, and equipment. Protect this board state with protection and blink spells. Attack with most of that board state, using evasion, protection, tap down effects, and team buffs to get damage through and hit hard. Then protect from the backswing with lifelink, damage prevention, and arrest effects. What differentiates mono white the most from other aggro or go wide strategies is tap down abilities and protection spells. These help white keep far more attackers alive, while also not leaving itself as vulnerable to counterattacks. In general, this makes white's large attacks less rushed to get damage through before other decks catch up, and more capable of waiting for the right moment to attack.
As always, thank you for reading. I hope that this write-up has helped show that mono white can compete with other color combinations and has its own unique style.