White, Baby, White!

Posted in ARCHIVES - ARTICLES on October 13, 2014

By Abe Sargent

Despite leaving the comforting hills of West Virginia for the chaos of cities north and east, Abe Sargent has never abandoned his roots as a casual and multiplayer aficionado. He has published more than 700 Magic articles for various websites and magazines. Despite that, he's still not sure if its spelled "multiplayer" or "multi-player."

Introduction | White | Blue | Black | Red | Green
Multicolored | Colorless and Lands | Multiplayer Hall of Fame Home

Ah white. How I doth adore thee. Thou art as heavenly, and as powerful, as the most illustrious cards of all time. In multiplayer, thou dost shinest the most, beyond all other colors.

Avacyn, Angel of Hope | Art by Jason Chan

Welcome to white! White has always been a great color. Even in the first set, you had stalwarts like Swords to Plowshares, Wrath of God, and Armageddon. When dialing it up at the kitchen table, some of the most iconic cards come from the early era of Magic, such as Balance, Land Tax, and Moat. From tournaments to casual gaming, white has always been a strong route to success.

As Bruce mentions in his article today, one of the most influential multiplayer writers of all time was Anthony Alongi, who wrote for the Serious Fun column here on DailyMTG. With the Magic community, he created a new way to evaluate cards based on six perspectives that he likened to aspects of animals. He rated every card on these various aspects, and created a Multiplayer Hall of Fame with the 50 best cards in each color.

He retired from Magic writing some time ago, but his legacy lives on. Even today, Alongi remains my favorite Magic author of all time. His pen continues to shape those of many casual writers today. In fact, my two columns at StarCityGames.com and GatheringMagic.com both have articles directly inspired by Anthony. I get the absolute astounding pleasure of kicking this week off with Alongi's Hall of Fame.

Today, I bring to you the Top 50 white cards for multiplayer, of all time, according to the metrics that Alongi devised. I was one of those who actively looked at every single white card printed in the Modern-legal era and rated them on all six animal metrics. From rattlesnake to cockroach, we considered what happens when each card is played.

After reviewing the White Hall of Fame, I can tell you that not only does it have some of the best white cards, but it also has many of the top multiplayer cards, regardless of color. This is truly a list of multiplayer's greatest hits.

Let's take a look at the White Hall of Fame!

Whew! From Martyr's Bond to Rout, that is a cornucopia of awesome! As can be expected, the more cards Wizards prints, the more exclusive and potent the Hall of Fame becomes! So let's investigate ten (actually eleven) cards from the list that intrigue me for whatever reason, and drill into them more.

Martyr's BondLet's begin by exploring the strongest multiplayer card in white. Martyr's Bond is a perfect rattlesnake. If your opponent tries to destroy one of your things, then every opponent also has to sacrifice one of his or her own. Who wants to destroy your Soul Warden when you will force everyone to sacrifice a creature? People tend to steer clear of offing your permanents because they don't want to lose their own. Additionally, people don't want to attack into defenders that might die. The result is a huge rattle over the battlefield that gives opponents the shivers.

Notice that the Bond also works whenever one of your things dies, even if you are the one to send it to the bin. So if you sacrifice something like Origin Spellbomb, now everyone else sacrifices an artifact. You can abuse the Bond to destroy other players. The Bond is truly a powerhouse of white!

Avacyn, Angel of Hope —Avacyn is the best creature that has ever been printed for multiplayer, period. From cheating her into play via reanimation or other strategies, to simply paying her mana cost, she brings a power to the battlefield like no other creature. First of all, she's a big dumb flier, with 8/8 flying, vigilance, and indestructible brought to the table. Sure, she can win a game all by herself, but she's also a good team player, since every other permanent you own has a big ol' indestructible shield raised over it. Sure, there's a smattering of exiling/sacrificing removal here and there, but she shrugs off virtually every major removal spell that you can think of, and does the same for the team. There aren't a lot of cards in multiplayer that are better than her holiness.

Luminarch AscensionWould you like to know a secret? I actually don't like Luminarch Ascension that much. I know, I'm crazy! It's mega-powerful for white. But it's not subtle. It draws fire very quickly, because people will attack you to prevent you from putting quest counters on it, so at times it can act like an anti-rattlesnake. But it's also the perfect example of a potent pigeon, because it scales in power with the number of opponents you have. The faster you can lay quest counters on it, the more explosive the card becomes. We've all seen it get dropped and then turned on the very next turn because no one could touch the controller. It just abuses a table with more players.

Iona, Shield of EmeriaThe other major angelic mythic rare legendary creature to jump high on our list is the versatile Iona. Like Avacyn, she's a great creature to cheat out early, since she will shut down a whole color. Note that Iona doesn't prevent you from playing cards of the chosen color, so you can call out "white" and still play other stuff. Iona is basically game over against a monocolor deck. Even against players with two- or three-color decks, you can see how nasty she is. Want to stop countermagic? Just name blue! You can shut down burn or discard or ramp with her. She's a flexible tool that destroys opposing strategies, while swinging for 7 damage in the sky.

BalanceEven after 21 years, there still is no card that is more powerful for white than Balance. The sheer game-altering havoc that it wreaks on board positions is legendary. Its two-mana cost breaks any format into pieces when it is used aggressively. Because it sets back lands, creatures, and hands, it is an equal opportunity card. Nothing is more gorilla than Balance, because of how destructive it is. There is a reason it's banned in Commander. It's just too good, and too overwhelming in a lot of situations. To be fair, there can be a bit of Judge Judy justice to the card. It forces the whole table to wallow in misery with the player who got mana hosed. You can dial back creatures and hands as well, to those who aren't playing massive amounts of card drawing or creature production. Nevertheless, Balance is in the running for the most powerful instant or sorcery in multiplayer of all time.

Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite vs. Crovax, Ascendant HeroWhich of these is better? Crovax's self-bounce ability gives it +1 to the survivability cockroach score, while Elesh Norn's more powerful ability grants a +1 to gorilla. Because gorilla is weighted more in the calculations, Elesh scores more highly—clocking in at 22nd while Crovax gets 28th. But don't ignore one in favor of the other. The great thing is that we can run both of these legendary critters in our deck. Pumping your team while dropping another is a powerful way to double up and irrevocably alter the combat math in your favor. (Although note that Crovax pumps all white guys, à la Crusade, so you could pump opposing stuff a bit here and there.) You kill smaller creatures en masse while making larger ones struggle for relevancy. So grab both for your next deck!

HumilityThis is often a forgotten gem from Magic's dark days. It's a great way to shut down a lot of modern multiplayer decks at the kitchen table. Playing Commander? That 40 life is hard to break down when everything is a 1/1! Humility suits a lot of control-style decks. It also works well with token decks that churn out 1/1 tokens. After all, if your 1/1 Soldiers, Saprolings, and Squirrels are beating down at the same level of effectiveness as bigger stuff, then you have really turned the tables. Meanwhile, the loss of abilities keeps things fair, and fights against cards like Avacyn, Angel of Brokeness, through various abused abilities from Deadeye Navigator to Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre. It's well suited to devastate the modern multiplayer game.

Dictate of Heliod —Some folks might be surprised to see this card rocking the Hall of Fame, but don't be. It has the chops! First of all, it's a potent double-Glorious Anthem in one card. You don't have to expend more cards to get some additional pump-age. There are a lot of white archetypes that benefit from a permanent +2/+2 to all of your dorks. Who wouldn't want that? On the flip side, you can flash it out, and turn the Dictate into a potent combat or removal-prevention trick. That gives the card a powerful spider potential. For example, suppose an opponent casts Rolling Earthquake to clean the board. Perhaps you can drop this to save some folks! You can also use it as a mid-combat pseudo-Overrun to pump your team and wreak havoc on combat math. The result is an unappreciated card that pushes your creatures into incredibly death-dealing levels.

I hope that you can witness the power of some of these white cards!

One of the common misconceptions about white is that it is the worst monocolored deck in multiplayer, because it lacks raw card drawing. That's an overly flawed view of white. A mono-black deck is liable to run artifact land fetching like Expedition Map or Armillary Sphere; while a mono-blue one may dip into mass removal like Oblivion Stone and Nevinyrral's Disk; and both may use Karn Liberated to exile threats, including enchantments that might otherwise be hard to answer. Mono-white can run some card drawing just fine. Because white can destroy literally every card type (and exile most of them) it has the best answers. It also can sweep the board with the best of them, too; that yields tremendous card advantage.

So as a proof of concept, allow me to create a mono-white Commander deck that uses the entire white Hall of Fame. The only cards not included will be those that need certain decks to really abuse (such as Rule of Law) or banned cards. After that, I'll flesh it out, and call it a deck!

Mono-White Hall of Fame

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Lieutenant Kirtar

We are using Lieutenant Kirtar for reusable sacrificing to exile an attacker. Since Kirtar is cheap, the Bird can be reused over and over again with little commander tax getting in the way. Plus, Kirtar is a very strong rattlesnake, and that helps the deck build its board position with the heaviest hitters in mono-white's history.

Sure, that Kirtar deck is a bit unfinished, since I used so many power cards to demonstrate just how nasty white truly is. But that simply underscores the point. The 50 cards on the Multiplayer Hall of Fame are just as potent as ever, and you can find a lot of tricks to unveil at your next casual night!

Thanks for reading, and make sure to check out all of the other articles on the Multiplayer Hall of Fame as well!

Introduction | White | Blue | Black | Red | Green
Multicolored | Colorless and Lands | Multiplayer Hall of Fame Home