Mono White in EDH is well known for its bottom of the barrel reputation in terms of power level in the Commander community. This perception is derived from white’s most glaring weaknesses, mana ramp and card draw. We will address both of these issues in full (ramp) and in part (card draw) a little later in the article. For now, I want to introduce you to one of the most unique mono-white decklists you have ever laid your knowledge pursuing eyes upon. Get ready to dip your toes into a unique blend of voltron, aggro, combo and equipment led by the cunning fox cleric, Eight-and-a-Half-Tails.
I’m not going to buffalo you, this is not a deck to break out in cutthroat environments. On the Jason Alt scale, it is a 75% (or less) deck, depending on your opponents. However, the fun factor is juiced up to 100% and the frustration, control and disbelief you can instill into your friends and opponents will make it worth your while. I can attest to the enjoyable theme of Eight-and-a-Half, since this was my very first EDH deck I originally built in 2011. I now have and maintain over 20 commander decks, but still enjoy shuffling up my white-sleeved classic quite often.
The theme and overall plan of this deck is to protect ourselves and our permanents by using cards that give “Protection from Colors”, Redirect Damage, or put up a strong enough defense that other players leave us alone. This strategy can set up one of the most rewarding win-cons in mono-white, Gideon, Champion of Justice. With Eight-and-a-Half-Tails slinging around protection, Gideon can get the time needed to beef up his loyalty counters and then use his ultimate to dominate the board.
Of course there is always the obvious win condition for this equipment/control/aggro deck and that is combat damage. Since we are playing mono-white and a lower threat commander, our best strategy for an aggro win is to set up our defenses and let other players duke-it-out. When it is our time, start finishing them off one by one with protected, unblockable beatsticks like Sun Titan and Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. We can also go voltron and suit up Eight-and-a-Half-Tails with weapons and armor found in the deck’s armory and use our unique color protection to scoot through enemy lines. With our numerous ways to protect Luminarch Ascension we could also put some divinity counters in the collection plate and swing in with a mass army of angel tokens.
Strengths of this deck include: Resilient versus Voltron commanders, can neutralize Purphoros, God of the Forge, strong defensive capabilities, unique offensive strategies and strong immunity to spot removal.
Weaknesses of this deck include: Lack of card draw, mana intensive, vulnerable to control and Cyclonic Rift.
First the decklist and then we’ll jump right into the Eight-and-a-Half-Tails EDH Primer!
Eight-and-a-Half-Tails EDH Decklist
Arming Mono-White with Swords & Armor
I have handpicked what I feel are the best swords and armor for Eight-and-a-Half-Tails in both efficiency and in theme. I am running 4 out of the 5 Sword of X and Y cycle. Each sword provides protection from two colors which blends into the mixture of my protection theme. The most valuable of the four are Sword of Fire and Ice and Sword of Feast and Famine. I consider the cards equal in their importance to the deck and refuse to rank one higher than the other. SoFaI lets us draw a card in a deck that is famished from card drawing resources and gives one of our creatures protection from red damage (Blasphemous Act) and from Blue steal effects (Treachery). SoFaF protects an equipped creature from spot removal with pro-Black (Hero’s Downfall) and big fatties with Pro-Green. If Sword of Feast and Famine is used to pop an opponent in the noggin, we get to untap all of our lands, a vital effect when we need our Plains to use for Eight-and-a-Half’s mana-intensive ability.
Sword of Light and Shadow‘s graveyard retrieval is quite useful and the protection from White and Black will deflate the most common spot removal methods. Not to mention, it synergizes with our commander. I actually find the 2/2 wolf tokens along with the protection from green and blue on the Sword of Body and Mind a lot more useful over the Sword of War and Peace, hence the absence of the latter in this deck. What’s that you say? How can we not run all five swords? Well, actually… I do run five swords. SoWaP was dropped in favor of Sword of the Animist and I gotta tell ya friends, this sword is the real deal. With mono-white’s lack of mana ramp and card draw, the Sword of the Animist provides an inspiring amount of value.
Batterskull could essentially be a big beater / win condition for the deck. Giving one of our dudes +4/+4, Vigilance, and Lifelink provides us the dual effectiveness on offense and defense, which is what this deck loves to do. Putting this and a Sword of X and Y on our Commander, Eight-and-a-Half-Tails, turns him into a three turn voltron clock. Umezawa’s Jitte is one of the most unique weapons in all of Magic land. Being able to build up counters that serve as removal, pump or lifegain is quite the tool to have in the cabinet, that’s for sure. Finally there is Darksteel Plate. Since opponent controlled wrath effects can cripple us for several turns having the plate and a strategic creature (Sun Titan for example) remain after the dust settles is a handy piece of armor to have.
Let’s move on and talk about the cards in the deck that compliment the Equipment. The most obvious is Stoneforge Mystic. With a casting cost she is an equipment tutor on a stick. As a bonus, she allows us to sneak an equipment onto the battlefield with her ability rather than through casting, an absolute gem when up against counterspell heavy opponents. For equipment decks, she is really, really good, but damn, monetarily, Stoneforge Mystic is quite expensive. What if I told you that there is another option that is just as good as the Mystic, but at a fraction of the impact to your trifold wallet? Well then, let’s take a look at Stonehewer Giant. The Giant’s ability not only allows us to tutor for an equipment, but we can also put it onto the battlefield attached to a creature. Whoa nelly that is impressive. Since he has vigilance, he can also attack and then use his ability on himself after being declared as an attacker. The Stonehewer Giant is definitely someone Eight-and-a-Half looks up to. Next up, we take a peek at the 2014 planeswalker Nahiri, the Lithomancer. I’ll let you read the abilities yourself, but long story short, she kicks some serious ass in equipment decks. With the creation of soldiers, dropping swords into play, or reforging them from the graveyard, Nahiri is an armorer that knows her stuff! By the way, if I am ever able to reach her ultimate and make an impact with the Stoneforged Blade, you my friends, will be the first to know!
It’s virtually guaranteed that if we equip a Sword, Armor, or Jitte to any creature in this deck, they immediately become stronger and more threatening. Here are a few of my favorite creatures to equip:
Mirran Crusader‘s weapon of choice is the Sword of Fire and Ice. While wielding this weapon, the Crusader is a 4/4 Double Striker with protection from Black, Green, Red and Blue. The double strike ability allows him to trigger the sword twice resulting in Shock, Shock, Draw a Card, Draw a Card. Soltari Visionary is another one of my favorite creatures to equip and attack with. His shadow ability makes him virtually unblockable and a valid target for any weapon. For the Visionary, I prefer either Sword of the Animist, Fire and Ice, or the Jitte. In conjunction with the equipment trigger the Visionary also blows up an enchantment that the defending player controls. Booyah.
While putting Batterskull on Eight-and-a-Half Tails is one way to finish a game, another magnificent target is Commander Eesha. Flush that 0/0 Germ Token and get this attached to Eesha as soon as possible. A 6/8 Vigilant, Lifelinking Flyer with protection from all creatures is a monster on offense or defense! Then, of course, there is Archangel of Tithes. At four mana, this 3/5 flyer has so much value that it’s falling out of her angel, silk-lined pockets. While the Archangel is attacking, defending players must pay for each creature they want to block with. On other player’s turns, the Archangel of Tithes acts as a mini-Ghostly Prison where the attacking player must pay for each creature they wish to attack us with. By equipping this bad-ass beauty with the Batterskull she obtains vigilance and her ability is in full effect 24 hours a day.
While Darksteel Plate provides indestructibility to whomever we select is worthy on the battlefield, there is one humanoid that has mastered the art of armor and protecting us, it’s summoner, and that is Palisade Giant. In a brief interview with a Palisade Giant, she guaranteed that nothing would be able to damage us as long as she was on the battlefield with the Darksteel Plate Mail.
Protection Breeds Frustration
Protection from Colors and Other Evil Things
The overall theme of this Eight-and-a-Half-Tails deck is to fully exploit the protection aspect for offense and defense. With large goobers of white mana and our Commander on the field, we should be able to successfully protect ourselves from most threats while we dink and dunk damage to our opponents that they cannot stop. While an active and fully mana-juiced board will frustrate our opponents by changing spells and permanents to white and then protecting ourselves from white, I have found that adding additional protection is also useful. Mother of Runes is one of my all time favorites. With her ability to tap and give any creature protection from a color, she is a frustrating one drop that may take two or more attempts to remove. Karmic Guide is another 1990s flashback that I still enjoy using today. She provides us with a rare source of creature recursion as well as providing Protection from Black, should we decide to keep her around after echo costs are paid. Mirran Crusader was mentioned earlier, but is worthy of another call-out due to it’s immunity to Green and Black.
Baneslayer Angel‘s unique protection from demons and dragons is an absolute house in a world full of Rune-Scarred Demons and Prossh, Skyraider of Kher. Throw in Lifelink, First Strike, Flying and 5/5 angelic goodness for ? That is one hell of a resume. Taking the protection from demons and dragons one step further is Commander Eesha who flips the bird at all creature types. Then there is my “Obi-Wan Kanobi” of the deck, Glory. Glory is a ho-hum 3/3 flyer while alive, but, like Obi-Wan, if it gets struck down it will become more powerful than you could possibly imagine. When Glory is in the graveyard, it has the ability to grant all of our creatures protection from any color until end of turn for just . Opponents will forget Glory is buried in the graveyard and when they do, the blanket of protection provided will frustrate them to no end. Finally there is Dawn Elemental. While Dawn Elemental does not offer protection, it still does not take ANY damage (combat or non-combat). Aside from its Armor Class of -4, it also offers up a heaping tablespoon of a heavy white mana casting cost that adds to devotion for Heliod or the Shrine to Nykthos.
Defending our Castle
While we have had a chance to explore the offensive components of our mono-white deck, now we need to venture into the defensive capabilities of this fully operational battle station (two Star Wars quotes? Aw man, what am I doing? Alright, no more). On the pacifist front, we have Silent Arbiter. The Arbiter becomes the gatekeeper of combat in EDH circles. His ability provides fair fights by only allowing one attacker and one blocker, no matter who’s turn it is. The Arbiter allows us to dink and dunk damage through with a protection from everything creature on our turn while holding up one solid pillow for our fort on their turns. Were you disappointed with the new Avacyn when she was spoiled in M15? Relinquish your disappointment and drool over the flavor and value that Avacyn, Guardian Angel provides in this mono-white protection strategy. You will notice that her first ability is quite similar to Eight-and-a-Half-Tails while her second ability, even though it is mana intensive, can save our ass in a pinch (especially against hexproof voltron commanders). Even without her niche abilities, she is a 5/4 Vigilant Flyer for 5 that adds to our devotion.
Purphoros, God of the Forge rampant in your area? How about token swarms? Pestilence? Let me introduce you to my favorite deterrent of all time, Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker. Sure, get as many Purphoros triggers as you want and enjoy watching your board get sacrificed into oblivion. Opponents will take a long hard look at how Michiko can wreck their world and will tread lightly in fear of the consequences. Moving on. Heliod, God of the Sun provides a mana sink for cleric tokens, vigilance to the team and due to our easy path to devotion, will frequently become a fully active, indestructible force to reckon with.
We Will Not Lose
In the late game, it is very easy to stay alive and outlast other opponents thanks to Platinum Angel and Worship. With Eight-and-a-Half-Tails’ ability to protect these two chess pieces we will laugh in the face of combat damage for days. Pariah is another pillow fort card that shuts an opponents damage valve to off when combined with our protection from color strategies. A Dawn Elemental with Pariah will have aggro opponents looking the other way and Purphoros type strategies scratching their head in disbelief.
We can’t stop now, the protection train just started rolling! Maze of Ith is a classic fog for one creature and is included here as a “spell” rather than a land since it does not tap for mana. Rune of Protection: White works nicely with 8.5 Tails and has cycling in case we do not need it. Story Circle will neutralize a hexproof voltron general convincing that player it is best to aim their main weapon in another direction.
Removal and Card Draw
White has access to the best removal in the game so this will be a quick and easy portion of the Eight-and-a-half-Tails Primer. Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile are staples. Crib Swap is underplayed and fun. Oblation is still powerful even though it does not tuck commanders, plus we can target our own stuff to get some card draw. Glare of Heresy is sorcery speed but sooo good with our commander’s ability. Aura of Silence taxes our opponents artifacts and enchantments, can destroy one, and can be recycled with Sun Titan for maximum efficiency. On the creature side of things we have Pentarch Paladin. We can call “white” when he comes into play and then use Eight-and-a-Half to change things to white so he can blow them up. Fun synergetic card.
Then of course we have mass removal. Wrath of God is a no-brainer for resetting the battlefield. Oblivion Stone can be an eight mana boardwipe or we can drop it early and sink our time and mana into fate counters. With our ability to protect our permanents, we should be able to get 2-4 permanents with fate counters before we blow up the board. Tragic Arrogance is another way to protect a few of our things while eliminating threats on the board. Sure, our opponents will get to keep a few of their toys, but we choose which ones they get to keep. Giving us the ability to play judge and jury on what stays and what goes is power at it’s finest. Speaking of a big bowl of options in our cereal, it should come to no surprise that Austere Command is included in this list. Finishing out our removal suite is Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. Her main reason for inclusion is the -3 ability that allows us to destroy all creatures with power 4 or greater. Elspeth can also create an army of 1/1 soldiers with her +1, an ability we will enjoy using as we durdle our way to her ultimate.
Draw Spells. Oh yeah, this is mono white so we do not have any. We do however, have a few precious ways to get some extra cards. We previously mentioned Sword of Fire and Ice, so we’ll move on. Mind’s Eye is probably our best option and quite effective. There is also Mentor of the Meek who can trigger off of our commander or thirteen other sources in the deck. Mentor with Nahiri and Elspeth are definitely our favorite options.
Ramp, Rocks and Utility Lands
While the cards in this section of the article are extremely important to this mono-white deck, I won’t go into an extreme amount of detail with the choices. We know how this stuff works. For Mana Rocks, we include Star Compass, Marble Diamond and Guilded Lotus because they provide white mana. Land Tax helps us catch up with opponents who are ramping. Sol Ring is obligatory and Expedition Map is a land tutor that gets a non-basic that we need for a given situation. Caged Sun is an all-star, auto include in almost any mono colored deck for it’s mana doubling ability and anthem effect. Solemn Simulacrum, Kor Cartographer, and Burnished Hart are all fantastic for getting more Plains onto the battlefield and also provide card drawing targets with the before-mentioned Mentor of the Meek.
Continuing with the importance of having a lot of mana available, we have Myriad Landscape to fetch a couple of Plains and Temple of the False God to kick on the afterburners once we have five lands in play. Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is the Cabal Coffers of the deck and can mass produce white mana, especially when cards like Dawn Elemental and Puresteel Paladin are on the battlefield. Then there is the land that is on a constant teeter-totter of whether or not to be in the deck, Thawing Glaciers. Sometimes it seems to be “good” (just good, not great) and other times it seems so freaking slowwww.
The remaining land choices provide decent utility that usually find relevancy in a game of commander. Buried Ruin to retrieve a lost equipment or artifact, Kor Haven for Maze of Ith-like protection, and New Benalia for that 1/2 a card Scry advantage. Tower of the Magistrate is on theme and provides Artifact protection. You just can’t get that on a Sword of X and Y. Oh, and the Tower’s interaction with an opponents creatures/equipment will provide giggles for days. Mistveil Plains is kinda cool for recycling cards back into our library (and is fetchable with Kor Cartographer) and Eiganjo Castle has a neat little ability with the bonus of not entering the battlefield tapped. Win-Win. Finally, I saved the best for last. Getting seven Plains on board will provide an ample amount of recursion shenanigans when Emeria, the Sky Ruin is in play. This land is a must-have for mono-white!
Obvious exclusions you may want to add? Enlightened Tutor, definitely. I took this out of the deck a while back and lent it to one of my more competitive decks. I honestly have been fine playing without it, but reserve the right to reintroduce it to my decklist in the near future. But, if you have one, by all means, put it in your deck! I have been advised by some folks to include Scroll Rack as a compliment to Land Tax. The combo does create a pseudo-draw for mono white, however, with the lack of tutors in this deck, the chance of having both on the table at the same time is not very high. Return to Dust is one of my favorite removal spells, however, I decided to run Aura of Silence because of its interaction with Sun Titan and Glare of Heresy for thematic reasons.
So what are your experiences with Mono White and/or Eight-and-a-Half-Tails? What do you think of this deck? Please comment below!
On to the Next!
Although I don’t recommend it, you can review my 2014 decklist here: