Last updated on July 6, 2023
Oona, Queen of the Fae | Illustration by Mila Pesic
If you’re a seasoned Commander player, you’re probably familiar with the concept of “color identity.” If you’re not, then may not have worried about it before. Deckbuilding around your commander’s color identity can be confusing if you’re new to the format.
Today I’ll be taking a look at what color identity is and how it interacts with other mechanics and cards when building an EDH deck. Let’s get started!
Tazri, Beacon of Unity | Illustration by Chris Rahn
Color Identity is a rule that checks for all of the mana symbols within a card’s casting cost, color indicator, and rules. You’re only allowed to use cards within your commander’s color identity when building a Commander deck.
For example, if your commander has a color identity of red and green, you can only play cards that use red or green mana (or both).
A card’s color identity is determined by the mana symbols within its casting cost, its color indicator, and its rules text. Let’s use Tazri, Beacon of Unity as an example.
Tazri is a white creature by default so it won’t be affected by cards like Dark Betrayal that target a specific color that isn’t white. But Tazri’s color identity is . This is because the other four colored mana symbols are in its rules text for its activated ability. Even though aren’t in the casting cost, they still count towards the card’s color identity, making Tazri a 5-colored commander.
Color identity is a rule that’s exclusive to the Commander and Brawl (plus Historic Brawl) formats and exists solely as a thematic piece. It’s really just there to make you build your deck around certain restrictions and get super creative with what’s available in your colors.
Color Identity is actually what makes me like Commander so much. It’s a breath of fresh air compared to the deck construction of other formats where you can use any colors you want as long as you generate the right types of mana for it.
Lands are interesting when it comes to color identity. Lands are colorless cards since they have no casting cost and no color indicator, but the color identity rule still restricts what lands you can use in your decks.
Take Hallowed Fountain for example. Its color identity is blue and white because of its Plains and Island land types, so it can only be used in decks with commanders that have a color identity with white and blue. It also can’t be used in decks that are only white or only blue or that don’t have either in their color identity.
But there are lands that can go anywhere. The oh-so-popular Command Tower has neither a color nor a color identity since it has no mana symbols printed anywhere on the card. Similarly, even though fetch lands grab certain types of lands, they also have no mana symbols and so no color identity.
Can Lands That Produce Any Still Produce Any Color of Mana?
Previously, up until 2017, there was a rule in Commander that turned any mana you generated outside of your Commander's color identity to colorless. This is no longer in place. So while you may not have much use for black mana in a mono-blue deck, you can still generate and float any color of mana with cards like Mana Confluence
Interesting question! Color identity does include the back face of dual-faced cards. Using Westvale Abbey as an example, the Ormendahl, Profane Prince side has a color indicator to the left of the type line that indicates that side of the card is black.
This makes Westvale Abbey only usable in decks with black as part of their color identity. Similarly, any activated abilities on the back face of dual-faced cards would be included in that card’s color identity.
Can You Produce Mana Outside of Your Commander's Color Identity?
You can, but only with a handful of specific cards. You still can't include cards in your deck that fall outside of your commander's color identity, so anything that says “add [color outside your color identity]” in its rules text is out. So, then, how would you go about this?
Cards that could produce any color of mana without using the color symbols, like Fellwar Stone or City of Brass, are fair game. It used to be that there was no way to actually produce mana outside of your commander's color identity, but not anymore. Go nuts!
What’s the Color Identity for a “Colored” Devoid Card?
Devoid, while potentially funny as a circumvention to the rule, is not a circumvention to the color identity rule. A devoid card is colorless during game play, but color identity checks all colors. Because devoid cards still have mana symbols on them, those symbols are used to determine the card’s color identity.
How Is Phyrexian Mana Treated?
Phyrexian mana still represents colors. For example, Dismember can only be cast by paying black mana or your life total which makes its color identity black. Whatever mana would be used to pay for the Phyrexian mana indicates its color identity, or at least part of it.
How Is Hybrid Mana Treated?
Hybrid mana is, well, hybrid! This means that it counts for both of the colors displayed when determining color identity. Oona, Queen of the Fae, for example, has a black and blue color identity.
Colorless mana symbols don’t mean much in terms of color identity. Yes, they technically denote that the card is colorless, but that doesn’t give it any special permissions to enter decks. If the card is also red, though, it can still only be used in decks that have red as part of their color identity.
As much as I’ve talked about using the whole card, this is the one place where the mana symbols don’t count towards color identity. The extort mechanic is a good example here.
Reminder text has no rules in it, just examples of the rules for players to comprehend in case they forget. For example, Blind Obedience has a white color identity because the hybrid mana symbol is part of reminder text, not rules text.
Honestly, that’s kind of a life saver. Things would undoubtedly get confusing on a couple of cards if reminder text counted towards color identity.
How About Cards That Make Tokens Like Monkey Cage or Mad Ratter?
Cards like Monkey Cage and Mad Ratter that mention other colors but don’t include the mana symbols thankfully don’t cause a lot of headaches. The mention of a color does nothing for color identity, as the rule only checks for mana symbols.
Ratter can be put into any deck with red even if there’s no black and Cage can be put into any deck at all!
Mad Ratter | Illustration by Johann Bodin
That about wraps all that I have for you today. I’m so glad you had time to stop by and chat for a bit! Color Identity is super neat and contributes a lot to how unique and fun Commander is.
Do you have a favorite color combo in Commander, or maybe a favorite commander you’d like to talk about? Drop your comments down below and start stirring up some discussion!
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