Standard Commander: Mono-Colored Analysis

Previously, this article series has covered the basic considerations for a Standard-only Commander card pool consisting of Return to Ravnica, Gatecrash, Dragon’s Maze, Magic 2014, and Theros. This second part will cover the eight mono-colored legendary creatures provided by Theros and their possible inclusion in mono-colored decks. These legendary creatures are a good start for exploring a Standard-only Commander format by exemplifying the best resources available to each singular color. By combining typical deck building concepts such as card advantage, mana acceleration, tutoring, and removal, interactive decks are still very possible even with a narrower card pool. All the example decks below will attempt to maximize the key themes Wizards of the Coast has implemented in each color under the New World Order design philosophy. In a Standard Commander format, do not automatically discount a mono-colored deck pilot despite his lack of color flexibility. Instead, these decks will capitalize on their steady mana bases to bring their strength to the fore.

Mono-White

[card]Heliod, God of the Sun[/card] naturally has white gravitating towards a vigilant token creature theme, but doesn’t have much in the way of cheap, non-narrow creature removal. What white does have are ways to wipe the board of creatures and start over with Heliod: [card]Angel of Serenity[/card], [card]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/card], [card]Luminate Primordial[/card], and [card]Planar Cleansing[/card]. A deck built around Heliod might work to get board states consisting of a populated token army with pump effects or protected by [card]Rootborn Defenses[/card] followed by a board wipe. Alternatively, [card]Gideon, Champion of Justice[/card] is a semi-indestructible threat that continually gets larger. White also has access to an inordinate amount of life gain. By buffing the player’s life total, a [card]Heliod, God of the Sun[/card] deck can recover from an opponent’s board wipe and have enough life buffer to rebuild its army. Such a deck might look like this:

[deck title=Heliod Commander]
[Creature token generators:]
*1 Precinct Captain
*1 Heliod, God of the Sun
*1 Evangel of Heliod
*1 Scion of Vitu-Ghazi
*1 Urbis Protector
*1 Angelic Accord
*1 Murder Investigation
*1 Rootborn Defenses
*1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
*1 Devout Invocation
*1 Strionic Resonator
*1 Trading Post
*1 Akroan Horse
[/Creature token generators:]

[Creature buffs:]
*1 Frontline Medic
*1 Phantom General
*1 Archangel of Thune
*1 Angelic Skirmisher
*1 Path of Bravery
*1 Spear of Heliod
*1 Fortify
*1 Ajani, Caller of the Pride
*1 Righteous Charge
*1 Haunted Plate Mail
[/Creature buffs:]

[Creature removal:]
*1 Banisher Priest
*1 Court Street Denizen
*1 Haazda Snare Squad
*1 Master of Diversion
*1 Heliod’s Emissary
*1 Martial Law
*1 Pacifism
*1 Divine Verdict
*1 Trostani’s Judgment
*1 Gideon, Champion of Justice
*1 Angelic Edict
*1 Vanquish the Foul
[/Creature removal:]

[Board wipes:]
*1 Angel of Serenity
*1 Luminate Primordial
*1 Planar Cleansing
*1 Ratchet Bomb
*1 Volatile Rig
[/Board wipes:]

[General removal:]
*1 Soul Tithe
*1 Renounce the Guilds
[/General removal:]

[Enchantment removal:]
*1 Keening Apparition
*1 Ray of Dissolution
*1 Solemn Offering
[/Enchantment removal:]

[Graveyard hate:]
*1 Rest in Peace
[/Graveyard hate:]

[Control:]
*1 Pithing Needle
[/Control:]

[Life gain:]
*1 Soldier of the Pantheon
*1 Dawnstrike Paladin
*1 Riot Control
*1 Congregate
*1 Elixir of Immortality
*1 Bubbling Cauldron
*1 Staff of the Sun Magus
[/Life gain:]

[Recursion:]
*1 Codex Shredder
*1 Illusionist’s Bracers
[/Recursion:]

[Tutor:]
*1 Traveler’s Amulet
*1 Ring of Three Wishes
[/Tutor:]

[Mana acceleration:]
*1 Chromatic Lantern
*1 Darksteel Ingot
*1 Burnished Hart
[/Mana acceleration:]

[Lands:]
*1 Encroaching Wastes
*1 Mutavault
*1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
36 Plains
*1 Rogue’s Passage
[/Lands:]
[/deck]

This deck may also want [card]Fiendslayer Paladin[/card] as an early threat with life gain and semi-protection. However, it can be a dead draw later in the game given a lack of synergy with the token theme and without a variety of efficient equipment normally available to white to increase its combat survivability. [card]Riot Gear[/card] may also be something that a Heliod player might want to consider because it pumps a creature out of first strike damage range and can be moved around after combat. +1/+2 on any key creature may be enough to keep it on the table and be a continued threat in many scenarios. Lastly, [card]Vial of Poison[/card] has potential to combo with [card]Trading Post[/card] and the token theme of the deck.

Mono-Blue

[card]Thassa, God of the Sea[/card] easily fills the expected classic blue control, draw-go build despite the focus of the color in Standard on milling a single opponent. A blue Thassa deck will be able to draw into more answers consistently than other mono-colored decks and lay down singular threats while simultaneously protecting them. The downside of blue is going to be lack of multiple large threats to quickly eliminate opponents. The blue player will possibly need to lean heavily on the social contract and deal-making to avoid being stereotypically eliminated first before attempting to take control and win the game. Playing a kingmaker role to remain in second place and waiting to bounce the entire board with a well-timed [card]Ætherize[/card] or [card]Cyclonic Rift[/card] may be a heavily-treaded strategy used by this deck’s pilot.

[deck title=Thassa Commander]
[Creatures:]
*1 Clone
*1 Master of Waves
*1 AEtherling
*1 Stolen Identity
*1 Trading Post
*1 Haunted Plate Mail
[/Creatures:]

[Card draw:]
*1 Scroll Thief
*1 Stealer of Secrets
*1 Thassa, God of the Sea
*1 Thassa’s Emissary
*1 Messenger Drake
*1 Prescient Chimera
*1 Prognostic Sphinx
*1 Horizon Scholar
*1 Windreader Sphinx
*1 Bident of Thassa
*1 Divination
*1 Inspiration
*1 Opportunity
*1 Jace, Architect of Thought
*1 Jace, Memory Adept
*1 Thassa’s Bounty
[/Card draw:]

[Counterspells:]
*1 Annul
*1 Mizzium Skin
*1 Spell Blast
*1 Swan Song
*1 Essence Scatter
*1 Negate
*1 Cancel
*1 Dissolve
*1 Scatter Arc
[/Counterspells:]

[Board wipe:]
*1 Shipbreaker Kraken
*1 Cyclonic Rift
*1 AEtherize
*1 Curse of Swine
*1 Ratchet Bomb
[/Board wipe:]

[Creature removal/bounce:]
*1 Tidebinder Mage
*1 Voidwielder
*1 Colossal Whale
*1 Blustersquall
*1 Gridlock
*1 Rapid Hybridization
*1 Griptide
*1 Voyage’s End
*1 Inaction Injunction
*1 Vial of Poison
[/Creature removal/bounce:]

[Bounce permanent:]
*1 Disperse
*1 Totally Lost
[/Bounce permanent:]

[Recursion:]
*1 Meletis Charlatan
*1 Archaeomancer
*1 Elite Arcanist
*1 Mnemonic Wall
*1 Jace’s Mindseeker
*1 Diluvian Primordial
*1 Strionic Resonator
[/Recursion:]

[Tutors:]
*1 Traveler’s Amulet
*1 Ring of Three Wishes
[/Tutors:]

[Mana acceleration:]
*1 Chromatic Lantern
*1 Darksteel Ingot
*1 Burnished Hart
[/Mana acceleration:]

[Lands:]
*1 Encroaching Wastes
36 Island
*1 Mutavault
*1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
*1 Rogue’s Passage
[/Lands:]
[/deck]

[card]Annul[/card] may seem an odd counterspell inclusion, but it has real strength as one of the singular ways to preemptively deal with the Theros Gods. [card]Clone[/card] is a card that will have tremendous power in this type of environment given it’s flexibility and very reasonable casting cost. For Johnny-type players, [card]Conjured Currency[/card] may be a card to consider. It’s a very slow [card]Switcheroo[/card] that can create some unexpected, possibly advantageous board states as it makes its way around the table. Additionally, the possibility of taking control of key god creatures is one of blue’s limited ways to deal with the troublesome permanents.

Mono-Black

A mono-black Commander deck has two options for its general, but a deck lead by [card]Erebos, God of the Dead[/card] has a strong draw engine that will compare with Standard Commander [card]Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius[/card] or [card]Prime Speaker Zegana[/card] decks with the added benefit of a low casting cost and indestructibility. Despite black’s inability to deal with non-creature permanents, black has some strong synergies and has potential to hold its own against the dual-colored decks possible in a current Standard card pool. Black also has a Johnny player’s type of deck when combining [card]Shadowborn Apostle[/card] with [card]Abhorrent Overlord[/card], [card]Desecration Demon[/card], [card]Lord of the Void[/card], and [card]Shadowborn Demon[/card].

[deck title=Erebos Commander]
[Creatures:]
*1 Tenacious Dead
*1 Thrull Parasite
*1 Pack Rat
*1 Wight of Precinct Six
*1 Lifebane Zombie
*1 Mogis’s Marauder
*1 Nighthowler
*1 Desecration Demon
*1 Returned Centaur
*1 Necropolis Regent
*1 Nightmare
*1 Pontiff of Blight
*1 Lord of the Void
[/Creatures:]

[Creature token generation:]
*1 Xathrid Necromancer
*1 Liliana’s Reaver
*1 Ogre Slumlord
[/Creature token generation:]

[Card draw:]
*1 Blood Scrivener
*1 Erebos, God of the Dead
*1 Dark Prophecy
*1 Underworld Connections
*1 Liliana of the Dark Realms
*1 Read the Bones
*1 March of the Returned
[/Card draw:]

[Sacrifice outlet:]
*1 Gnawing Zombie
*1 Vampire Warlord
*1 Abhorrent Overlord
*1 Altar’s Reap
*1 Rescue from the Underworld
*1 Bubbling Cauldron
[/Sacrifice outlet:]

[Creature removal:]
*1 Festering Newt
*1 Slum Reaper
*1 Keepsake Gorgon
*1 Shadowborn Demon
*1 Quag Sickness
*1 Devour Flesh
*1 Doom Blade
*1 Ultimate Price
*1 Hero’s Downfall
*1 Grisly Spectacle
*1 Launch Party
*1 Liturgy of Blood
*1 Corrupt
[/Creature removal:]

[Board wipe:]
*1 Hythonia the Cruel
*1 Ratchet Bomb
[/Board wipe:]

[Recursion:]
*1 Corpse Hauler
*1 Sepulchral Primordial
*1 Whip of Erebos
*1 Grave Betrayal
*1 Grim Return
*1 Rise of the Dark Realms
[/Recursion:]

[Graveyard hate:]
*1 Cremate
*1 Vile Rebirth
*1 Crypt Incursion
[/Graveyard hate:]

[Life gain:]
*1 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
[/Life gain:]

[Mana acceleration:]
*1 Crypt Ghast
*1 Darksteel Ingot
*1 Burnished Hart
[/Mana acceleration:]

[Tutors:]
*1 Diabolic Tutor
*1 Traveler’s Amulet
*1 Ring of Three Wishes
[/Tutors:]

[Lands:]
*1 Encroaching Wastes
*1 Mutavault
*1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
*1 Rogue’s Passage
36 Swamp
[/Lands:]
[/deck]

Mono-Red

[card]Purphoros, God of the Forge[/card] obviously needs to have multiple creatures come into play as often as possible to utilize its trigger. Unfortunately, a Standard Commander deck has limited options to make tokens repeatedly or en masse: [card]Goblin Rally[/card], [card]Hammer of Purphoros[/card], [card]Molten Birth[/card], [card]Utvara Hellkite[/card], [card]Young Pyromancer[/card], [card]Akroan Horse[/card], and [card]Trading Post[/card]. Given the small amount of feasible red instants and sorceries in Standard for Commander, [card]Young Pyromancer[/card] and [card]Molten Birth[/card] really fail to fit in this deck.

An idea to work with this limitation is to explore additional themes unexpectedly found in red Standard Commander: Cheating large creatures into play and playing all the dragons available with [card]Utvara Hellkite[/card]. Red has the ability to cheat creatures into play with [card]Guild Feud[/card] and [card]Possibility Storm[/card]. The important detail about Guild Feud is, “If no creatures or only one creature is put onto the battlefield this way, no fight happens.” Unfortunately, with only 25 creatures in the deck, this is a risky deckbuilding strategy, but will appeal to Johnny-type Magic players. (There is a finite number of red or artifact creatures in Standard currently with both high power and toughness with which to utilize with [card]Guild Feud[/card].) Accelerating straight into a [card]Furnace Whelp[/card] from a [card]Dragon Egg[/card] is fun too. [card]Possibility Storm[/card] acts as a secondary and even perhaps better alternative to [card]Guild Feud[/card]. The difference between the two is that [card]Guild Feud[/card] allows you to consider trying minor group politics while [card]Possibility Storm[/card] risks accelerating your opponents far beyond your own board state.

Second, if a Purphoros player can land an unanswered [card]Utvara Hellkite[/card], it can quickly take over a battlefield within a few turns. [card]Hellkite Tyrant[/card] offers another way to cheat large threats onto the table by stealing key artifact acceleration with the side benefit of taking away opponents’ Theros artifact enchantments. [card]Hellkite Tyrant[/card] will probably never win Purphoros the game, but has potential for serious card advantage with permanent theft of opponent’s resources.

Humorously, [card]Guild Feud[/card] works on a very Vorthos level to demonstrate red’s attempt at politics: “You’re in the lead and you want a put a creature into play? Fine, I’ll try to kill it and you’ve milled three cards. Hey, look! My guy is meaner than yours too!” This is also aided by [card]Akroan Horse[/card]: “Give that weaker player over there a blocker. I get an army for doing so? Imagine that…” Just don’t attack the [card]Akroan Horse[/card]’s controller with a [card]Hellkite Tyrant[/card].

[deck title=Purphoros Commander]
[Creatures:]
*1 Fanatic of Mogis
*1 Ill-Tempered Cyclops
*1 Stoneshock Giant
*1 Wrecking Ogre
*1 Chaos Imps
*1 Ripscale Predator
*1 Guardian of the Ages
*1 Colossus of Akros
[/Creatures:]

[Dragons:]
*1 Dragon Egg
*1 Scourge of Valkas
*1 Stormbreath Dragon
*1 Hellkite Tyrant
*1 Shivan Dragon
*1 Utvara Hellkite
[/Dragons:]

[Token creature generation:]
*1 Goblin Rally
*1 Trading Post
*1 Akroan Horse
[/Token creature generation:]

[Creature buff:]
*1 Legion Loyalist
*1 Pyrewild Shaman
*1 Purphoros, God of the Forge
*1 Ogre Battledriver
*1 Hammer of Purphoros
*1 Skyblinder Staff
*1 Fireshrieker
*1 Fleetfeather Sandals
*1 Prowler’s Helm
*1 Riot Gear
[/Creature buff :]

[Sacrifice outlet:]
*1 Barrage of Expendables
*1 Bubbling Cauldron
[/Sacrifice outlet:]

[Card draw:]
*1 Dragon Mantle
*1 Chandra, Pyromaster
*1 Wild Guess
[/Card draw:]

[Creature removal:]
*1 Fleshpulper Giant
*1 Molten Primordial
*1 Five-Alarm Fire
*1 Ordeal of Purphoros
*1 Volcanic Geyser
*1 Vial of Poison
*1 Rod of Ruin
[/Creature removal:]

[Land destruction:]
*1 Ember Swallower
[/Land destruction:]

[Artifact removal:]
*1 Batterhorn
*1 Wild Celebrants
*1 Vandalblast
[/Artifact removal:]

[Board wipe:]
*1 Street Spasm
*1 Homing Lightning
*1 Mizzium Mortars
*1 Anger of the Gods
*1 Ratchet Bomb
*1 Volatile Rig
[/Board wipe:]

[Recursion:]
*1 Codex Shredder
*1 Strionic Resonator
*1 Trading Post
[/Recursion:]

[Control:]
*1 Pithing Needle
[/Control:]

[Mana acceleration:]
*1 Guild Feud
*1 Chromatic Lantern
*1 Darksteel Ingot
*1 Burnished Hart
*1 Opaline Unicorn
[/Mana acceleration:]

[Tutor:]
*1 Traveler’s Amulet
*1 Ring of Three Wishes
[/Tutor:]

[Lands:]
*1 Encroaching Wastes
36 Mountain
*1 Mutavault
*1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
*1 Rogue’s Passage
[/Lands:]
[/deck]

Mono-Green

[card]Anthousa, Setessan Hero[/card], [card]Nylea, God of the Hunt[/card], or [card]Polukranos, World Eater[/card], despite having access to almost all of the mana acceleration available in Standard, will all have a very difficult time facing off against other Commander decks. The color has extremely limited and narrow card draw, few board wipes with limited effectiveness, and minimal fight-based creature removal. Additionally, Anthousa requires a deck built around the Heroic mechanic, but without recursive spells. This makes her a poor choice. Nylea herself does not have trample and is considered by eternal Commander players to be a less effective [card]Kamahl, Fist of Krosa[/card]. Polukranos provides some effective removal with its cheap cost, but that benefit will dwindle over time as its command zone cost continually rises with multiple deaths. Timmy-type Magic players could possibly be interested in this archetype for a while due to its potentially large creatures, but it lacks resiliency and will frequently get stuck in topdeck mode. Eternal mono-green players may find this color to be a little frustrating to play.

[deck title=Nylea Commander]
[Creatures:]
*1 Arbor Colossus
*1 Giant Adephage
*1 Howl of the Night Pack
*1 Kalonian Hydra
*1 Miming Slime
*1 Mistcutter Hydra
*1 Nemesis of Mortals
*1 Sporemound
*1 Colossus of Akros
*1 Haunted Plate Mail
[/Creatures:]

[Creature buff:]
*1 Boon Satyr
*1 Bow of Nylea
*1 Crowned Ceratok
*1 Death’s Presence
*1 Ivy Lane Denizen
*1 Nylea, God of the Hunt
*1 Oak Street Innkeeper
*1 Primeval Bounty
*1 Wild Beastmaster
*1 Fireshrieker
[/Creature buff:]

[Card draw:]
*1 Garruk’s Horde
*1 Nylea’s Presence
*1 Warriors’ Lesson
*1 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
*1 Witches’ Eye
[/Card draw:]

[Creature removal:]
*1 Deadly Recluse
*1 Polukranos, World Eater
*1 Time to Feed
*1 Hunt the Weak
*1 Vial of Poison
[/Creature removal:]

[Noncreature removal:]
*1 Rust Scarab
*1 Sylvan Primordial
*1 Naturalize
*1 Artisan’s Sorrow
*1 Fade into Antiquity
*1 Bramblecrush
[/Noncreature removal:]

[Board wipe:]
*1 Windstorm
*1 Ratchet Bomb
*1 Volatile Rig
[/Board wipe:]

[Graveyard hate:]
*1 Scavenging Ooze
*1 Serene Remembrance
[/Graveyard hate:]

[Control:]
*1 Pithing Needle
[/Control:]

[Life gain:]
*1 Nylea’s Disciple
*1 Bubbling Cauldron
*1 Staff of the Wild Magus
[/Life gain:]

[Mana acceleration:]
*1 Elvish Mystic
*1 Gyre Sage
*1 Voyaging Satyr
*1 Karametra’s Acolyte
*1 Into the Wilds
*1 Ordeal of Nylea
*1 Burnished Hart
[/Mana acceleration:]

[Recursion:]
*1 Wildwood Rebirth
*1 Codex Shredder
*1 Elixir of Immortality
*1 Strionic Resonator
*1 Illusionist’s Bracers
[/Recursion:]

[Tutors:]
*1 Gatecreeper Vine
*1 Lay of the Land
*1 Seek the Horizon
*1 Traveler’s Amulet
*1 Ring of Three Wishes
[/Tutors:]

[Lands:]
*1 Encroaching Wastes
34 Forest
*1 Mutavault
*1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
*1 Rogue’s Passage
[/Lands:]
[/deck]

With this deck, Nylea is the optimal commander and the cards work together to capitalize on making large creatures with trample. The Nylea player should be careful about overextending into removal and may want to help the table keep the focus on another threat by actually holding back attacking frequently. When the opportunity arises to hit the player that everyone fears the most, the green player will swing with an impressive force. As always, the green player will need to hold removal spells to remove key flyers found in blue and enable trample as frequently as possible to deal with tokens and pump effects.

Mono-Colored Summary

With a single commander (except for black) and a limited card pool available for mono-colored decks, a Standard Commander deck may appear obvious for optimized builds when compared to guild-colored decks. Mono-colored deck builders will have to trade a set of color weaknesses for a consistent mana base and a potentially more dedicated theme.

This format will no doubt be exciting. Each color on its own appears to have deckbuilding highlights that can be fresh, interactive, and interesting to play in a multiplayer game with red players possibly having the most fun. The red players trying the build found in this article are going to be most likely to understand the Joker metaphor presented in one of Adam Styborski’s articles: “Just shooting Batman holds no appeal for the Joker. He must die by a laser mounted on the moon instead.” Those specific games will be memorable long after the Return to Ravnica/Gatecrash/Dragon’s Maze/Magic 2014/Theros Standard Commander card pool has rotated out and faded away.

About the Author
@duneecho     -     Email     -     Articles Kirsin Koch works as an IT professional and trainer. As a Magic: The Gathering player since Revised in 1994 and one of the original founding members for CasualPlayers.org, he deeply enjoys Commander, Legacy, and Draft.

One comment on “Standard Commander: Mono-Colored Analysis

  1. Jason Alt says:

    Such bad cards are so good when your opponents’ cards are no better. I really like a lot of the green stuff, so that deck was a personal favorite. Acolyte does WORK!

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