So… anyone with two working eyes can see that white has gotten some major innovations regarding card advantage in New Capenna and the accompanying New Capenna Commander. Apparently, most of the ideas that they have been talking about for years must have been crammed into this single space. As there are a surprising number of these and it can be easy to lose track, I wanted to take a look at the various forms of card advantage/ramp for white in this set, giving my opinions and rating the cards themselves. Of course, all of the ratings are simply my own personal opinions.
Starting with Mono-White
#Just No: Buy Your Silence: …let nobody say that I’m not super thorough. You can technically trade 5 mana and a nonland permanent for one (1) treasure. I mean, don’t… just don’t… but you can.
#Vanilla: Gathering Throng: Another squadron hawk effect that isn’t playable in commander. Just ignore the 3/1 for 3 with no rules text.
#Honorable Mention: Mage’s Attendant: Okay, this one isn’t card draw or ramp. It’s included in the list as it’s the first time in a VERY long time that white has been allowed to counter spells. It functions more like a tax effect than a real counterspell and I never expect to see people using this spell (even in a party deck) but had to at least give it some credit.
#20 Boon of Safety: Scry 1 is card selection. It’s not new by any stretch but I’m being thorough as heck today. I will say that giving shield counters at instant speed really does seem like the best way to handle them as it avoids the feelbad situation where blocking or being blocked by a small creature removes the shield you were hoping to save, though this is essentially a gods willing effect that trades unblockability and untargetability for the ability to survive through a wrath.
#19 Raffine’s Informant: While worse in a vacuum, the informant is actually better than teacher of symbology from Strixhaven in commander, where learn lets you rummage and conniving lets you loot and get a possible counter. I don’t think that the informant is strong enough for most decks (though it is a rare white wizard if that is ever relevant for a color-restricted party deck).
#18 Sky Crier: Yeah, spectral sailor this is not. Trading flash and one mana for lifelink is a bad trade and letting an opponent get a card from each activation isn’t the best. I do think that this is one of the best implementations of “symmetrical card draw” from white, though, as this card lets you “spread the love”. Drawing 3 cards and having each opponent draw 1 card doesn’t feel as bad as secret rendezvous. Allowing activation at instant speed also means that you can use it at your opponent’s end step so you get the benefits of the card draw first. I’m not going to pretend that this card is great by any stretch of the imagination but this is something I can imagine a “politics” player shoving in to play around with at low-power tables.
#17 Inspiring Overseer: I’ve seen some people liking the superior cloudkin seer as a possible element of blink decks. While it isn’t a “terrible” option, the fact that we already have spirited companion and wall of omens makes me wonder how many of these effects you’d realistically want, even in a dedicated blink deck. Probably not too many.
#16 Patch Up: A single spell that could theoretically gain 3 cards from your grave to the battlefield doesn’t sound half-bad on paper. Most of the time, though, the dream of grabbing back… what, esper sentinel, giver of runes, and serra ascendant? That probably won’t be happening most of the time. If you feel that your deck would regularly get back at least 2 creatures for that cost, though, I can see people testing this out in a realistic way. I really think that white benefits more rom a call of the death-dweller effect that black does as the latter is not especially known for low-cost creatures that aren’t just sac or discard outlets.
#15 Depopulate: Another Shatter the Sky variant. Far worse in mono-white decks but it does have the capacity to generate card advantage and the simple virtue of being another 4-mana wrath gets this card as high up the list as it is. Note that it only looks for multicolor cards, not for color identity or having creatures with multiple colors. Kenrith and Najeela won’t draw cards and quite a few boards, even against multicolor decks, won’t draw your opponents a thing. Given that you already have options for your 4-mana wraths, though, I can’t imagine this card seeing too much play.
#14 Sanctuary Warden: While the effect is big and splashy and draws some natural comparisons with the oldschool titans, I’m fairly cool on this card. Shield counters are much less useful on big creatures than small ones as there is a much higher chance that any combat involving your creature would “waste” the shield creature against a smaller creature rather than “using” the shield counter against a larger creature. This card is A 5/5 flier that replaces itself and that has a decent chance to live long enough to attack and generate actual (slight) card advantage, popping out two 1/1 tokens in the process. I don’t think that has enough impact to really make a dent at commander tables, though this card seems like a good baseline that I hope wizards builds upon.
#13 Elspeth Resplendent: Grabbing a permanent costing 3 or less from among the top 7 cards and giving it a shield counter is pretty nice. The fact that it can grab land from your library into play untapped is a decent floor. I could imagine games where Elspeth may even live long enough to try that trick a second time… though I wouldn’t count on it. Elspeth is a bit too expensive for most commander tables, alas. I could imagine someone trying Elspeth in a counters matters deck, however, as she can provide five different kinds through her first two abilities.
#12 Master of Ceremonies: I like this type of symmetry. The type of symmetry that lets everyone else draw 1 card and you draw three seems less offensive to me than just you and one other player drawing 3 apiece. I think that the cost is reasonable as well. While I appreciate that forcing your opponents to make a choice helps you out more than letting your opponent make a yes-or-no choice a la tempting contract, the fact that generating tokens is a fairly obvious “correct” choice for players and the fact that this card needs to live a full turn to do anything, however, kind of sour me on the card.
#11 Rumor Gatherer: Rumor Gatherer is, in most respects, a worse Welcoming Vampire. No flying, worse body and cost, and needing a second creature to come in before you get a card is kind of rough. If you are powering out a large number of creatures and tokens for a go-wide strategy, however, being able to dig past lands and dead draws to make sure that you keep drawing into gas may be a legitimate strategy. Not a card for everywhere but I do think that this has a place somewhere.
#10 Aerial Extortionist: As is so often the case, this is a good card that costs too much. ghostly pilferer already exists as a 2-drop and having a larger flyer that essentially bounces nonland permanents for 5 mana doesn’t seem worthwhile. I love that this is one of the few white card draw effects with no limits per turn and that it can theoretically continue building advantage while disrupting enemy tempo. The fact that an opponent may just bolt this card immediately and reduce this card to a 5-mana man-o-war makes me sad, though.
#9 Jailbreak: If you have a stomach for semi-symmetrical effects, I think that this is one of the better ones. The fact that you control what is returned gives you some flexibility and the fact that your card comes back second may be relevant on occasion. The worst-case scenario of giving your opponent back a fetchland to get back one of your own doesn’t seem terrible, either. While you end with neutral card advantage against two players and -1 cards compared to your target, the degree of choice and dirt-cheap mana cost are very tempting in my eyes.
#8 Angelic Sleuth: So… this card is hard to appraise. This card can trigger any number of times per turn, which is nice. Triggering a whole bunch doesn’t necessarily make clue producers good, as search the premises shows us, though we may have a bit more control over this. The fact that any permanent you control with any kind of counter leaving the battlefield (even if exiled, bounced, or blinked) triggers the angel makes that trigger look super-versatile, though I think that this is a card that will sleep for a bit before we discover the perfect environment.
#7 Giada, Font of Hope: Mana ramp for angels on a cheap angel that provides additional tribal support. Very narrow, of course, but a very good inclusion to its tribe.
#6 Rabble Rousing: This is a very Timmy card and I am a bit of a Timmy myself so I need to be careful. This card is not the sort of 5-mana card that creates infinite combos like Cathars’ Crusade or Archangel of Thune. Doubling your army with each attack makes a go-wide strategy more of a possibility for white decks, however, and I know that’s something that some players love to do. If you really want this card, the free hideaway card is likely just a tacked-on bonus.
#5 Halo Fountain: Fighting very hard to resist the hype, here. Strixhaven Stadium was another 3-mana card that had a “useful” function and made players lose and it was dangerously overhyped by some people. I will give this card some credit as being a possible incentive for going wide. I will acknowledge that it doesn’t take much to start generating some value with this card. I will acknowledge that there are some potential 3-card combos in bant decks and the like. I will even acknowledge that this is one of the easier hoops to hop through in mono white to get an extra card draw each turn in mono-white and that pseudo-vigilance that lets cards like weathered wayfarer or mother of runes tap again can be a nifty tool in the toolbox. At the end of the day, however, a 3-mana artifact that needs both board presence and mana investment to function isn’t at the top of my list.
#4 Tenuous Truce: I have been waiting for a half-decent 2 MV white cad advantage card for a long while and this is the closest we’ve come so far. While it is technically “fragile”, there are a lot of games where it takes several turns for someone to build up a board state sufficient to start making attacks and I’ve met few players who would use their turn one mana dork to attack you to give you a -1 out of spite rather than making a mana-efficient play and drawing a card for free. I like that you get to use the card you draw off of this before your opponent as well. By the standards of white card draw, an asymmetrical howling mine effect that favors you for a couple of rounds before vanishing isn’t half-bad. I’ll be the first to admit, however, that this card is far more dependent on diplomacy in the late-game, however.
#3 Extraction Specialist: Goes infinite with Saffi, has a decent and cost-efficient body (which is small enough for Sevinne’s Reclamation or Sun Titan to grab back), and can grab a number of useful cards that don’t need to attack to be useful (esper sentinel, mother of runes, stoneforge mystic, etc.). Can be blinked to grab more pieces as well. A big fan and I imagine that we’ll see more combo opportunities in the future.
#2 Benni Bracks, Zoologist: This card is simply outstanding. It’s a token commander that can cheat its own mana cost and potentially draw several cards in a turn cycle (especially if you have ways to generate tokens on your opponents turn). The fact that it will draw you cards for generating noncreature tokens is also fairly impressive. I can imagine people shoving this into a fair number of token decks with white in them. An outstanding card.
#1 Smuggler’s Share: This is probably one of the nicest cards that we have received for a long time. While I acknowledge that this is FAR WEAKER than smothering tithe (which will naturally trigger and help us or punish foes every turn no matter what), this does seem like a fairly good card. If anyone draws a card with a card effect during their turn, you draw a card. If someone stops paying Rhystic Study taxes during their turn to play several spells, you draw a card. If someone plays and cracks a fetch in the same turn, you get a treasure. The card does a lot and I see myself using it quite a bit.
Multicolor: While white is commonly described as a good support color, that is typically for its wide removal suite and less for being part of the ramp/advantage package. For that reason, I did want to list the multi-color cards with white that offer card advantage as well.
#11 Brazen Upstart: While it can help you grab a creature, the actual body doesn’t seem worth the original investment (especially for three colors).
#10 Broker’s Charm: The worst-case scenario is instant-speed card advantage, which is nice, but I’m still not sure how often a card like this would realistically crack your 99.
#9 Metropolis Angel: While it’s a source of reusable draw, I’m lukewarm on this card. It’s behind rate, doesn’t give you the tools to get the card draw, and only lets you draw one card per turn. Even for the dedicated token deck, I’m not a huge fan.
#8 Phabine, Boss’s Confidant: I don’t think that a symmetrical card draw that’s accompanied by a couple of hasty tokens and a small anthem is a huge payoff for playing a 6 mana card (compared to the craziness of Brudiclad, for example), especially when the pay-off is fairly random from round to round. I may be underestimating Phabine but I kind of doubt it.
#7 Cabaretti Ascendancy: A possible extra card draw each turn that you reveal for a very intensive mana cost does not seem worth the effort in many environments. The fact that you can “scry” a dead card to the bottom of your library to increase the chance of drawing gas is at least some sort of consolation prize, however.
#6 Rigo, Streetwise Mentor: The fact that the central-white hybrid commander lets you draw up to three cards per turn (more if your opponents have walkers) really stands out to me, especially as it starts off fairly cheap and gets a bit of protection each time you cast him. While this card can’t keep up with he OG Edric, it still sounds like a fairly fun deck to build.
#5 Life Insurance: Treasure for each nontoken killed (yours or an opponent’s) is nice, providing some possible redundancy for pitiless plunderer in certain decks and giving you an outlet for some of that treasure to heal you back up. While I’m not smart enough to come up with one on my own, this is the type of card that I look at and imagine that someone will find infinite combos for.
#4 Tivit, Seller of Secrets: Even if you don’t build around voting, this card seems generally good. It feels like far more of a “titan” than the Sanctum Defender, being a 6/6 for 6. It needs combat damage instead of an attack to get its trigger but it gets both protection AND evasion (and the vote ability) in exchange. The fact that this card can basically guarantee you getting two treasure when it comes out, letting you pay the commander tax if your opponent pays the ward cost to kill Tivit, is particularly sweet. Having a bunch of leftover clues that you can use to dig is just a bonus. Tivit is one of my favorite commanders this time around.
#3 Falco Spara, Pactweaver: Is fine. If you make the appropriate deck, Falco should hopefully let you dig fairly easily (especially I you have creatures like managorger hydra or forgotten ancient that get counters whenever you cast spells, essentially negating the extra cost).
#2 Rocco, Cabaretti Caterer: A Creature tutor that grabs things to the battlefield that you can put in your command zone. Seems like fairly high-grade combo fare and I’m okay with that.
#1 Prosperous Partnership: While an optimized Rocco deck would likely be more powerful overall, this seems like one of the cards that is easiest to take advantage of in a broad array of decks. If you are red and white, have a go-wide strategy, and aren’t green (which simply has better options like earthcraft or cryptolith rite), this is a card you should consider. If you have a Kykar deck or Winota deck that pops out a bunch of tokens, consider a partnership. If your Aurelia deck isn’t Voltron and the Mana Value of your Edgar deck isn’t too low, consider a partnership. Don’t just pop this in everywhere though. While this card does give you 2 out of the three tokens you need to get started, playing this on turn 3 with the hope that you’ll start making one treasure token each round makes this into an awkward manalith-type card.[/spoiler]
Great post! I agree, it seems like we're finally starting to hit the higher gear of WotC's efforts to revitalize W in Commander. Bennie Bracks is a legitimately excellent commander who simply happens to be in mono-W, rather than a "good by mono-W standards" commander, which is something W needs a lot more of, and Smuggler's Share speaks for itself. If this is what we can expect from W going forward, the future is looking bright!
One other cool thing is the very high degree of synergy which Sanctuary Warden and Angelic Sleuth have in conjunction with Giada, which I'm sure wasn't an accident. Giada guarantees that every one of your angels (including tokens you make!) will trigger Angelic Sleuth when the board inevitably gets wiped in any way, and Giada turns Sanctuary Warden into a really solid card within the tribe, because you can fuel its effect with the +1/+1 counters from Giada, leaving the shield counters to protect it to swing. If Sanctuary Warden lives to swing once, a 6 mana 5/5 tribal flyer that draws 2 cards and generates 2 tokens in addition to having 1-2 shield counters left over is a pretty sweet deal in mono-W.
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I'm surprised to see Sanctuary Warden so low. Yes, it's expensive and this is a format where that much mana can do frankly silly things, but a 5/5 flier is still pretty relevant in commander, it's pretty hard to get rid of, and you don't seem to have taken into account that it only has to remove a counter to draw (from any creature or PW!), not necessarily one of the shield counters. Cantripping at 6 mana is eh but it's better than having your cool thing entirely blown out, and this can be drawing you a card per turn. The draw is even on attack, not damage, and the shield counters mean the odds of surviving to do so are higher than normal. That's not even counting funky combinations like Lost Auramancers.
I'd certainly rank her higher than Elspeth (who I do like, but who isn't really card advantage and maybe counts as five-mana ramp - for these purposes, pretty poor) and Jailbreak (a really cool card with a really interesting design but which, let's be honest, isn't going to be super practical very often).
As a slight note on Sky Crier, drawing everyone 1 instead of one person 3 is hardly preferable... the nice thing about this is that it lets you choose either. 4 mana per card is just way too much though. I would take Secret Rendezvous instead any day.
Master of Ceremonies also looks like he can do a lot. I haven't tried him yet but I've heard good things from others. Most likely, you are playing him in a token deck (e.g. with Skullclamp or whatever) so that choosing the tokens is still really good for you. But even if not, like all tempt cards, the player who is tempted by the card draw whilst everyone else is getting sucky tokens is winning, which incentivises them all to take the cards. Worst case, you're still getting a lot more creatures than anyone else.
I don't think that Smothering Tithe is a fair comparison for Smuggler's Share. This seems like it will only grant treasures rarely, but will grant cards far more often. It's a lot less reliable than something like Phyrexian Arena (unless someone else has a Phyrexian Arena out) but has a much higher ceiling, plus the odd treasure along the way as a bonus.