Last updated on November 29, 2021

Oona, Queen of the Fae - Illustration by Mila Pesic

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!

What Is Color Identity for Commander?

Tazri, Beacon of Unity - Illustration by Chris Rahn

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).

What Parts of the Card Are Considered for Color Identity?

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, Beacon of Unity

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.

Why Does This Rule Exist?

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.

How Does Color Identity Work for Lands?

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.

Hallowed Fountain

Take Hallowed Fountain for example. Its color identity is blue and white because of the mana symbols in its rules text, 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 don’t have either in their color identity.

Command Tower

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.

What About a Dual-Faced Card Like Westvale Abbey?

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.

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.

Touch of the Void

How is Phyrexian Mana Treated?

Dismember

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?

Oona, Queen of the Fae

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.

What About Colorless Mana Symbols?

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.

Kozilek, the Great Distortion

That said, Kozilek, the Great Distortion requires specifically colorless mana, so you’ll still need ways to pay that mana.

Do Mana Symbols Only Found in Reminder Text Count?

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.

Blind Obedience

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!

Wrap Up

Mad Ratter - Illustration by Johann Bodin

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!

As always if you’d like to see more from us then all you need to do is visit our blog and start browsing. The year’s end is coming around pretty quickly, so stay warm, stay happy, and I’ll see you next time!

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