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WOTC, Stop Making White "Catch-Up" Ramp Cards


WOTC On "Fixing" White's Mana

So as you probably know, White is largely considered the weakest mono color in Commander. This opinion has been officially acknowledged as a problem by Wizards of the Coast in the last two years and they've recently been making a clear and vocal push to address some of the weak points that White has in the format. One of the ways they try to address these concerns is with new catch-up cards, something that Gavin Verhey explained in a video earlier this year.

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Catch-up cards aren't a new thing in White: Land Tax is one of the earliest examples and is in my opinion still one of the strongest cards in the format, and easily in the top 5 strongest White cards. If you have a lower land count than any opponent then you can tutor up three basic lands on your upkeep. Just having that trigger a single time is worth the cost a of 1-mana enchantment, and anything beyond that is insane value. We've also got another oldschool staple with Knight of the White Orchid, basically a White Three Visits on a stick, so long as an opponent has a higher land card than you. These cards are objectively very powerful and do a great job catching you up to the rest of the table.

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The Problem of Diminishing Returns

In the past two years though, WOTC doubled the amount of catch-up land cards from 7 to 14. We got legit sweet options like Archaeomancer's Map which is both card advantage and quick catch-up ramp, to doodoo options like Cartographer's Hawk. And these cards are a great way to help boost White's mana generation -- at least, in a vacuum. See, there's a problem with this catch-up mechanic: these cards punish you for being caught up.

What does a catch-up card like Loyal Warhound or Boreas Charger do if nobody is ahead of you in land count? Nothing. A 2/1 flyer for three mana is not the type of card you want to see in Commander. Some of these catch-up cards at least guarantee to give you something, like Archaeomancer's Map and Stoic Farmer, and while I much prefer this design than the all-or-nothing forms of catch-up cards, they still feel real bad if you aren't ramping with them.

Because of this, land catch-up cards strongly discourage you not to run any other forms of land ramp, as each time you ramp means it's less likely your next catch-up spell will do anything. Their useful impact in a deck has major diminishing returns. Casting a Loyal Warhound means that your Knight of the White Orchid is far less likely to ramp for you. And of course colorless forms of land ramp like Wayfarer's Bauble and Sword of the Animist makes these catch-up cards even less powerful.

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The Green Excuse

It's around this time when talking about catch-up cards that some people will say that White catch-up cards never turn off because you'll always have a Green opponent way ahead in lands than you, but this isn't always the case in my experience. Heck, you're not even guaranteed a Green opponent each game! I've definitely been in games where a Knight of the White Orchid just sits in my hand as I wait for an opponent to have a higher land count than me. It happens.

And just to be clear: being discouraged from running too much land ramp or too much catch-up cards isn't a problem in itself. I'd even argue that it's a good thing that you have to think about which catch-up cards you want to include in a deck instead of just mindlessly a bunch of staples together. But if WOTC is trying to fix White's problems with new made-for-Commander cards and have limited slots each set to do so, I feel like more catch-up land cards are no longer a good use of those slots and would prefer seeing other things instead.

Making Catch-Up Cards More Reliable

Now, there are ways to make these land catch-up cards more consistently good in your decks: one of my favorite bits of tech in these decks is Lotus Field, a staple in all my Mono White decks. While this land enters tapped, it drops your land count by two without putting you down mana, making your catch-up cards far more reliable. It also pairs nicely with Vesuva and Thespian's Stage, cards that I'd want to be running anyway. You can do similar things with bouncelands like Karoo and Guildless Commons but the Field is my favorite.

Path to Exile is another great card that is even better in White decks running catch-up ramp. Usually ramping opponents is a significant drawback, but using it to turn on catch-up ramp softens the drawback greatly. It's actually why I value Path over Swords to Plowshares in decks full of catch-up ramp. I also like Winds of Abandon in these decks too.

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So that's my lukewarm take on land catch-up cards: less of those, please. But there is one type of catch-up card that I wouldn't mind seeing a couple versions of: card draw catch-up! What about a White version of Sandstone Oracle? I think that would be sweet. Heck, even an improved version of Wedding Ring that favors the owner more would be a neat design. As long as we aren't handing free cards to our opponents in the process: very much not a fan of Flumph or Secret Rendezvous. No thank you.

Seriously, Just Give Us Card Draw

While ramp is a problem that WOTC identified and seeks to address ... does White actually need better ramp? Like sure, it's worse at it in Green, but is it really that far behind the non-Green colors? Red has a smattering of rituals and treasure tokens, Black has late-game mana doublers like Cabal Coffers and some rituals, Blue has uhhh High Tide? I think White is totally fine here, folks.

White really just needs card draw in my opinion. That's it. Give me the busted White draw. Take off the kid gloves. If Green can have the ultimate Coastal Piracy with Toski, Bearer of Secrets, then White can be allowed some actual good draw too, no? C'mon, WOTC!

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What Do You Think?

So, what are your thoughts on catch-up cards and do you want to see more of them? Let me know in the comments section below! Thanks for reading!



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