Last updated on August 11, 2022
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger | Illustration by Michael Komarck
Let me give you a quick refresher in case you don’t know what the color identity is. This is a concept that applies almost exclusively to the Commander format. A card’s color identity includes every mana symbol that’s present on the card. This means casting costs, ability costs, mana generating abilities that generate specific mana colors, etc. If a card has the symbol for a specific type of mana, then that color is part of the card’s color identity.
I’m talking about completely colorless creatures without a single mana symbol on them.
Kozilek, the Great Distortion | Illustration by Aleksi Briclot
The rules of Commander are the same for colorless commanders as for any other colors. This means playing with only colorless cards. And that’s what makes building a deck around a colorless commander very hard, but also very fun.
The strategy you choose for your deck varies depending on what legendary creature you choose as your commander. There aren’t a ton of possibilities since there are about nine total colorless commanders, but there’s still some variety. What makes for an interesting deckbuilding exercise, though, is that any and all cards in your deck have to be completely colorless. There can’t be a single colored mana symbol in your deck.
As long as you can make sure all of your cards are completely colorless then your deck should be fine to play within the official Commander rules. You can always ask your playgroup if they’re okay with you playing specific colorless cards with colored mana symbols. It might mean bending the rules just a little, but most groups prefer discussing the rules to see if they can be bent instead of always sticking to them.
But enough talk about rules. Let’s see the best colorless commanders
which is all of them since there are only nine and see how each one works.
The Prismatic Piper’s only strengths lie in its partner and color-choosing abilities. It can work really well when partnered with other colored commanders and it’s a great way to add specific colors to a deck without using partner commanders who might come across as big threats.
When it comes to colorless decks, though, Piper is the lowest tier commander. You can buy it for cheap and it was an excessively easy-to-get card, so this is a reasonable card to get if you want to build a colorless deck but the general itself isn’t very important.
But as a commander itself, it has no useful or worthwhile abilities. And paying for a 3/3 isn’t exactly great.
If The Prismatic Piper was jank, Hope of Ghirapur is slightly better jank. A 1/1 flyer for is reasonable at best. This card’s second ability can be good in certain situations, but it’s not exactly a game changer.
Arguably the best way to take advantage of Hope is to play a good Voltron deck. Cover it in so much equipment that a single blow can take out your opponent altogether. It’s already got flying to boost. The best possible ways to play this commander are Voltron and stax strategies.
Voltron is pretty straightforward. Equip it into oblivion and back and then hit your opponents with your once unassuming Thopter.
Stax becomes a bit more complex. The idea is to slow your opponents down until you can play something like Blightsteel Colossus or Darksteel Colossus. Hope of Ghirapur’s sacrifice ability can help you buy some time by stopping your opponents from playing anything that isn’t a creature or land.
Artifacts are inevitably going to be a main point in colorless decks. After all, they make up the largest bulk of colorless cards out there. But while the two previous commanders used artifacts out of necessity, Traxos, Scourge of Kroog greatly benefits from you playing artifacts.
With the exception of Urza’s Saga, most of the historic spells you can play in this deck are artifacts. With a good amount of mana generators and equipment, you can keep your Traxos constantly untapped while also covering it in equipment so it can quickly deal with opponents with commander damage.
From here on out, all your commanders are gonna have one major problem: players are scared to the moon and back of Eldrazi. You’re gonna get focused really hard if you play one in a Commander game. Unless you play Rakdos, Lord of Riots and manage to play five or six Eldrazi all at once and make your entire table simply concede. But that’s a story for another time.
Kozilek, the Great Distortion is arguably on the softer end when it comes to the world-eating titans. It’s not a weak card by any means but most players would probably recommend running any other Eldrazi legendary creature as your general without taking card prices into account.
What makes this particular card interesting is that, unlike most colorless cards, it allows you to interact with your opponents. Drawing into a full hand whenever it enters the battlefield is already a great ability. But what you should care about is the fact that it lets you counter without having to use any colored mana.
I’d prefer this card as part of the 99, but it’s easier to buy than other more powerful colorless commanders and it’s still super strong. Use it with cards like Void Winnower and Meteor Golem to run a pretty control-style game. And have cards with varied mana costs so that you always have counters available.
If you want to read more about this powerful Eldrazi, we have an entire deck guide on Kozilek here.
This is your last non-Eldrazi option for a colorless commander. And of course it’s focused on artifacts. Specifically non-creature artifacts.
Let’s not kid ourselves. Almost all colorless commander decks are gonna have some must-have win conditions. Things like Blightsteel Colossus and Wurmcoil Engine. You can’t run one of these decks without powerhouses like them. But Karn, Silver Golem allows you to create powerhouses out of other cards.
We all know Darksteel Forge is insanely powerful in an artifact deck. But paying nine mana for a simple utility artifact? Not enough for Karn. Use its second ability to turn it into a large creature and fling it at your opponents.
There’s no shortage of artifacts with high mana values. There are also plenty of ways to cheapen those costs or cheat those artifacts onto the battlefield. And then all you need is a single mana for each to turn them into some heavy-hitting creatures.
Colorless decks have a big issue, which you’ve probably noticed by now. You’re either playing commanders that are just good enough but nowhere near a lot of colored commanders in raw power, or you’re playing insane powerhouses that are gonna see you perceived as an instant threat before the game even starts. The remaining cards are prime examples of commanders that will put you in the crosshairs.
The moment Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre hits the battlefield you can destroy any permanent an opponent controls. That in itself is already pretty threatening for a commander that can repeatedly enter the battlefield given enough mana. Follow that with the much-dreaded annihilator ability that makes opponents sacrifice permanents whenever it attacks, indestructible, and the possibility to shuffle your entire graveyard into your deck if the Infinite Gyre dies and you choose to send it into the graveyard.
Except when your graveyard gets shuffled into your deck, which allows you to put it back into the command zone. Yeah. Eldrazi may be expensive but damn they’re overpowered sometimes.
I prefer this instance of Kozilek to Kozilek, the Great Distortion. Drawing four cards regardless of how many you have in your hand is better than essentially drawing seven minus the number of cards in your hand. And annihilator is objectively better than menace.
Kozilek, Butcher of Truth unfortunately doesn’t have the fun (and annoying) ability to counter your opponents’ spells. That’s a big drawback, especially when it comes to the fun factor, since it takes away a big chance to interact with your opponents other than attacking and triggering annihilator. But I think this card stands as the most powerful version of Kozilek even with that.
Playing Emrakul, the Promised End in a colorless deck doesn’t allow you to take advantage of its first ability all that much. There’s probably not gonna be a lot of card types in your graveyard since colorless has very limited access to anything that isn’t a creature or an artifact.
Even so, this is an incredibly powerful card. Protection from instants gives an amazing shield from a ton of removal cards while trample and flying give this massive hitter a ton of evasion. You also get to control an opponent’s next turn. You can do a ton of things if you use it correctly.
The Promised End comes with a pretty reasonable drawback: the opponent whose turn you just used gets an extra turn after that one. That way they still get a chance to actually do something even though you can screw up their entire strategy. This can still be a good thing since it’s a great way to play politics with the other players.
There’s something about Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger that makes me fear it a lot more than I do all the other colorless commanders. Being able to exile two permanents right off the bat when you play it is absolutely incredible.
I know its mana cost is absurdly high, but this card as your commander means having the ability to remove any two permanents from the field permanently at almost any given time. Add to that that it’s a 10/10 creature with indestructible that can essentially make a deck useless in one swing and you’ve got one hell of a commander on your hands.
The main thing about the Ceaseless Hunger is that it’s hard to keep it on the battlefield for more than one or two turns. But it’s not as impossible as it would be with the other commanders that don’t have indestructible.
A lot of EDH players run cards that exile or sacrifice their opponents’ things, and Ulamog is gonna get focused quite a lot with that. But it’s still immune to most board wipes and single-target removal. And I have to remind you that your opponent loses a fifth of their deck every time you swing at them. Assuming you’re not playing your commander at the start of the game, you should be able to exile their entire library pretty quickly.
You might have wondered why I didn’t mention the greatest of the Eldrazi titan cards as a possible commander. If you are actually wondering that, I have bad news for you.
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is completely banned in Commander. The card is considered extremely unfun to play against since it essentially breaks the game and can win out of nowhere. It’s even been said that the Aeons Torn goes against everything the format stands for.
If it wasn’t banned, good ol’ Emrakul would be my pick for the number one colorless commander. It can’t be countered, it has protection from colored spells which means protection from single-target removal, it can put your graveyard back into your deck and then go back into the command zone when it dies, it flies, it’s a 15/15, and it gives you an extra turn when you cast it.
Oh, and it has annihilator 6. Y’know, just in case everything else wasn’t quite enough.
Emrakul, the Promised End | Illustration by Jaime Jones
I’ve tried to hunt down where the design team talked about the lack of colorless commanders in Magic, but there’s not much on the subject. I do have some theories and opinions, though.
Colorless cards are a tricky thing in magic. A card’s casting and ability costs tend to cost specific mana colors to show a lean towards certain ideals, an affinity to particular strategies and design sensibilities, or to be more prohibiting. You shouldn’t be able to play every single possible strategy and play style in a single color. Colors are there to tell us a lot about a card’s playstyle, its adjacent strategies, and even about the characters, actions, and all-around scenes depicted in them.
This puts colorless cards in a sort of neutral zone. Colorless creatures are usually artifact creatures with little to no autonomy. The ones that do have some autonomy still usually choose to remain as neutral as possible. And their cards are meant to reflect that.
It works pretty similarly with the Eldrazi. They’re unfeeling, immense entities that destroy worlds. They don’t strategize or plan their attacks, they just consume everything in their path. This is what makes them colorless.
And when the people at Wizards wanted to give us a greater variety of Eldrazi they included the “devoid” ability. This prevented certain strategies and playstyles outside of their corresponding colors while keeping Eldrazi colorless, mechanically and lore-wise. It also showed a morphing of the Eldrazi corruption with the mana of the plane they were trapped in.
Flavoring the Flavorless
What I’m trying to say is that colorless cards basically need to have a specific play style and flavor just like any other color. Giving a colorless card access to mind control abilities should need blue mana since it’s the color that allows for that kind of effect. If colorless cards could draw from strategies that are usually associated with specific colors, it’d allow the rest of the color pie access to things that it usually shouldn’t have. That’s what happened with Phyrexian mana way back when and it’s now mostly considered a mistake thanks to exactly that.
So legendary colorless creatures that are actually allowed to do good things become harder to design. A lot of colorless creatures use (or generate) colored mana for their abilities. This means their color identity is technically those colors and not really colorless. A truly colorless creature needs to be unaligned with what the five colors of Magic can do, and it can’t do something neutral and particularly powerful for a cheap cost since that would be easily exploitable.
All of this results in us having almost no colorless commanders and most (if not all) of them having a focus on artifacts or being Eldrazi. This inherent “brokenness” to powerful colorless cards is what infamously got Golos, Tireless Pilgrim banned from Commander.
We were introduced to colorless mana back in Oath of the Gatewatch. This retroactively changed a lot of mana-generating artifacts and abilities as well as the way mana worked when playing certain colorless spells.
Take a look at Kozilek, Butcher of Truth and Kozilek, the Great Distortion. They both have a mana value of 10. Neither of them require any of the five colors to be played. But if you control 10 Forests, you can absolutely cast Butcher of Truth. The Great Distortion? Not gonna do so well.
You need specifically colorless mana to cast the latest version of Kozilek. This is created by a sixth basic land type that was introduced in Oath of the Gatewatch: Wastes. You can also get this mana from artifacts that used to generate generic mana and got errata’d. Sol Ring is a Commander staple that went through this errata.
The main difference between these two Kozileks is that generic mana can be paid by mana of any color, including colorless, while colorless mana costs can only be paid for with colorless mana as if it was a sixth color in the color pie. This makes certain colorless cards harder to cast in colored decks, forcing you to build with the understanding that throwing in an Endbringer means you need to be prepared to generate colorless mana to cast it.
Colorless mana symbols are relevant to some casting and ability costs. Colorless still isn’t a color in Magic. So colorless mana symbols don’t count towards color identity. To reuse my example from before, you can play both versions of Kozilek in a mono-green deck.
But you might need to make sure you have Sol Ring or Thran Dynamo on the field to cast Kozilek, the Great Distortion since you need colorless mana. But its colorless identity won’t interfere with you putting it in a colored deck, only how you build that deck to cast it.
This means that you can absolutely put lands and artifacts that generate colorless mana in any of your colored commanders’ decks. At the risk of repeating myself a bit, Sol Ring generates colorless mana and it’s a must-have in almost any EDH deck.
If your commander is completely colorless, then Command Tower does nothing. Colorless isn’t a color (it’s literally a lack of color) and the Tower specifically says that it generates mana of your commander’s color identity.
So no color identity means no mana. There are a ton of other lands you can put in a colorless deck that will actually generate mana.
Traxos, Scourge of Kroog | Illustration by Lius Lasahido
Chief of the Foundry
Ornithopter of Paradise
Salvager of Ruin
Clock of Omens
Mask of Memory
Spine of Ish Sah
Sword of Vengeance
Thran Temporal Gateway
Arch of Orazca
Cave of Temptation
Forge of Heroes
Labyrinth of Skophos
Ruins of Oran-Rief
Sea Gate Wreckage
Shrine of the Forsaken Gods
Temple of the False God
Tomb of the Spirit Dragon
I’ve put together a colorless deck so you can more or less see what direction it might take. I tried to keep it under $50 and used almost no cards that cost over $1 so a lot of staples like Sol Ring are missing.
This is a pretty straightforward deck. Play a lot of artifacts and artifact creatures. Play Traxos, Scourge of Kroog and keep it almost constantly untapped. Equip Traxos to make it a proper threat and get commander damage in to take out your opponents.
This is a casual deck that I built pretty quickly and for as cheap as possible, but it’s still playable if you’re with a casual group. You can use it as a base to expand upon and come up with your own lists or take advantage of cards you already own. Feel free to use it however you want!
Hope of Ghirapur | Illustration by Lius Lasahido
I love colorless decks. I’ve played against colorless decks in MTG Arena Standard and they’ve been some of my favorite games in a long time. It takes a lot of imagination and work to build a good colorless deck, but you can come up with a really interesting and honestly pretty powerful deck with enough thought. And money.
I’d love to see some proper support for colorless as a strategy beyond Eldrazi and artifacts, but that seems pretty unlikely for the time being. We’ll see what may come with time. And if that doesn’t happen, a colorless Commander precon would also be really interesting. After all, we got our first Gruul precon in 2021 so we can always keep hoping!
What do you think? Do you have a colorless deck or would you like to have one? Or are the commanders available not up your alley? Feel free to comment down below, and don’t forget to check our blog for more content like this.
That’s all from me for now! Stay safe, have a good one, and remember: never use Rakdos, Lord of Riots to play a handful of Eldrazi for free. If you want to keep your friends, that is.
I’ll see you in the next one!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: