Last updated on October 10, 2023
Teferi's Protection | Illustration by Chase Stone
There are nearly 600 white instants at the time of writing, about 99% of which are dorky Limited combat tricks, which leaves a clean 1% for us to talk about today. Let’s pick out the best white instants in Magic and talk about what makes them so good.
I’m sure you’re bound to find some instant classics.
What Are White Instants in MTG?
Hallowed Moonlight | Illustration by Mike Bierek
For the purposes of this list, white instants are cards with “instant” in their type line and a mono-white color identity. These are cards you can play in a mono-white Commander deck, which means I’m excluding white cards that have additional colors in their color identity, like Dismantling Blow or Lantern Flare.
I’m not giving much thought to Constructed here, though we’ll be sure to give a nod to our 60-card friends when relevant. This list focuses on the current state of Commander, and I’m trying to take into account the playability and effectiveness of cards as they stand in the format today, not how they’ve performed historically.
I narrowed this down to about 5% of all the possible options, so let’s jump in, and you can let me know how I did.
#32. Recruit the Worthy
Like all buyback spells, Recruit the Worthy is an easy way to convert infinite mana into a win. I don’t personally think of mono-white when I think of infinite mana engines, but the ol’ Rings of Brighthearth/Basalt Monolith trick does just fine.
#31. Path to Exile
Put your pitchforks down and hear me out. Path to Exile is efficient, but you can’t overlook how bad it is to give players an extra land, especially if you’re forced to fire off your removal early. Some argue the downside softens in the late-game, but every mana counts in Commander, and I’m happy to take half a Sol Ring in exchange for losing a creature. I treat it like a backup when I need more single-target removal, but I don’t view it as a must-play.
Quiet! No wait, I mean Silence! I don’t play enough of the format to know how good this is in cEDH, but it’s a fine way to protect a combo in casual pods. Fire off Silence, see if it sticks, then go through the motions without interference.
#29. Sejiri Shelter / Sejiri Glacier
I’m not a believer that all MDFCs are inherently playable, but I’m a fan of Sejiri Shelter in decks that revolve around their commander (basically every deck I’ve ever built). It’s sub-par protection, but Sejiri Glacier turns it into mana when you’re short on lands.
#28. Prismatic Strands
Nobody really plays around or sees Prismatic Strands coming, though flashing it back is unlikely to catch anyone off guard. It has the distinct disadvantage of being on the same list with all-timers like Teferi's Protection, but budget cards need some love.
#27. Surge of Salvation
Protection is just one of the strongest things White brings to the Commander table. Surge of Salvation does a lot of what Dawn Charm can do all at once, and it always has the baseline of “countering” a single-target spell aimed at you or a permanent you control. It’s also periodically back-breaking against red and/or black decks, though that’s mostly bonus text.
#26. Hallowed Moonlight
The tech card your mother warned you about. I love slotting a stray Hallowed Moonlight into my decks when I have an open slot. It’s like a one-shot Containment Priest that doesn’t die to removal, and one shot is usually all that card ever needs to shut off a mass reanimate or Genesis Wave turn. At worst it cycles for 2 mana, so it’s never a dead card.
#25. Brave the Elements
In a mono-white deck, Brave the Elements is a 1-mana way to either blank damage to your creatures for a turn or make your team unblockable and push through for a win. It’s a common finisher for low-to-the-ground weenie decks in Constructed, while it’s more notable for its cheap protection in Commander, saving your board from a Blasphemous Act or Ezuri's Predation.
#24. Angel’s Grace
Angel's Grace probably shouldn’t make the cut that often, but there’s something to be said about a nearly-uncounterable instant that guarantees you can’t lose the game that turn. It’s a clean answer to Thassa's Oracle and other alternative wincons, though it’s definitely playing to avoid losing rather than playing to win. More of a meta call than an auto-include.
#23. Settle the Wreckage
“But Tim, you said Path to Exile was bad because it gave your opponents mana.” No, no, I didn’t say Path was bad, I said it was non-staple status. Settle the Wreckage is in the same ballpark. It’s what I like to call a Fog+ effect, one that basically ensures you live through combat and also changes the landscape of the board. No one expects it, it gets around indestructible and hexproof, and it can target yourself in a pinch for extra mana. Giving your opponent a handful of lands is a downside, but sometimes worthwhile if it means decimating their boardstate.
#22. March of Otherworldly Light + Other 1-for-1’s
One-for-one removal can only ever be so good in Commander, and with easily accessible cards like Swords to Plowshares in the format, more costly removal is always going to be a notch down the ladder, like March of Otherworldly Light, Fateful Absence, Unexpectedly Absent, Lost to Legend. The list goes on, but these are examples of tier-2 removal that fall just behind the most efficient removal in the format.
#21. White Sun’s Zenith
There was a time when White Sun's Zenith was considered a staple of the format. That was many pale moons ago, and now it’s merely one of many mass token generators you have access to. Creating token creatures at instant speed is always great, and white’s happy to pick up mana sinks when it can.
#20. Rally the Ancestors
A short-lived scourge of Standard, Rally the Ancestors is a mass reanimation spell I rarely encounter in Commander, and I think that needs to change. It’s not as strong as something like Wake the Dead, but in mono-white it’s certainly better than over-costed cards like Triumphant Reckoning. The trick is using it during your opponent’s turn, then using a mass blink spell on your upkeep before the creatures exile themselves.
#19. Mandate of Peace
Mandate of Peace is the only spell with the rules text “end the combat phase.” It’s no Time Stop, but it’s another Fog-adjacent effect that makes it nearly impossible to die in combat. You can hold it up to see how your opponent attacks and then skip over combat if it’s unfavorable for you. You can even use it to shut down attack or block triggers.
#18. Lapse of Certainty
White doesn’t have much in the way of countermagic, but it does have Lapse of Certainty. It’s a mana more expensive than Memory Lapse, but it’s in white. That’s an edge all on its own since players are just less likely to expect or respect it.
#17. Cosmic Intervention
Whenever an opponent playing white foretells a card, Cosmic Intervention rockets to the top of my watchlist. It’s a twist on other mass-blink effects, and it gives you some wrath insurance. However, it won’t work against bounce or exile effects. Shaking my fist at you two, Cyclonic Rift and Farewell.
#16. Brought Back
I bet if you palette-swapped some of the colors and plastered this art on Splinter Twin no one would question it. Brought Back offers potential double-recursion for cheap, and it gives white access to pseudo-ramp by returning fetch lands to the battlefield. It’s half the cost of Faith's Reward, which I’ve always considered playable.
#15. And They Shall Know No Fear
I don’t know who “they” is but I’m glad they’re living a fear-free life. I suppose And They Shall Know No Fear refers to whichever creature type you chose. It’s one of the best generic typal support cards, though it has a small price tag behind it.
#14. Release to Memory
Instant-speed graveyard hate is just so, so satisfying. Not only do you stop the graveyard player in their tracks, but you also probably blank a reanimation or recursion spell while doing so. Release to Memory does all of the above and also puts a bunch of Spirits on board for you. Not flying spirits, mind you, but you’re still getting your money’s/mana’s worth.
#13. Eerie Interlude
Remember that Twitter trend (X-trend?) where you named 10 cards that would make up your own personally branded Secret Lair? Eerie Interlude would absolutely make my list. It’s the best kind of wrath protection and it’s a blink enabler that doubles up ETB effects. What can’t it do? Protect tokens, I guess. This slot goes out to all the other versions with their different quirks and advantages, including Ghostway, Lae'zel's Acrobatics, and Semester's End.
#12. Call the Coppercoats
Got multiple opponents pestering you? Creatures attacking you from all angles? Human or soldier payoffs in your deck? Grab that phone and Call the Coppercoats right now! That’s 1-800-GET-REKT. Pay that strive cost in the next 20 minutes and we’ll even let you target multiple opponents at once! Offer not valid in 1v1 games or where prohibited by law.
#11. Grand Crescendo
Grand Crescendo is about as close to a Fireball effect as white gets, and it’s the reason cards like White Sun's Zenith and Secure the Wastes just aren’t top-tier plays anymore. Not that you can’t stack effects like this, but the comparison to Secure the Wastes should be evident. You basically give up one token, and in exchange your mass token generator doubles up as a mass protection spell.
#10. Generous Gift
Look, I’m at peace with what I said about Path to Exile, and I similarly believe Generous Gift is an overhyped and overplayed “staple,” but even so it’s still cracking the top 10 here. Catch-alls are nice, especially ones that blow up lands, but most 1-for-1’s have a ceiling that keeps them in check, in my opinion. And you better believe that Elephant token’s attacking you every chance it gets.
#9. Crush Contraband + Return to Dust
If it ain’t broke…. Crush Contraband and Return to Dust still hold up, and it’s only a matter of preference whether you prefer one over the other, or both. Creatures aren’t the only cards you have to deal with in Commander, and these 2-for-1 Disenchants can pick apart important engine pieces at instant speed.
#8. Heliod’s Intervention
Heliod's Intervention sounds like a family gathering where all the other Therosian gods tell Heliod he needs to stop hurling bolts of lightning at random philosophers. In-game, it’s a scaling mass removal spell for artifacts and enchantments. It doesn’t exile like other options, but being able to selectively point and destroy as many problematic permanents as you can pay mana for is powerful. I’d say the card’s modal, but the life-gain option rarely matters.
#7. Flawless Maneuver
What can be said about the Commander 2020 free spell cycle that hasn’t already been said? Flawless Maneuver’s a great way to back up a vulnerable commander you just tapped out for, and it’s on par with other protection spells like Unbreakable Formation. A white staple for sure for anyone who cares about keeping their creatures around.
#6. Clever Concealment
Clever Concealment isn’t technically “free,” but convoke gives you the potential to cast it while tapped out. It’s a great “gotcha!” spell, and phasing is about as good as protection gets. You can’t exile my creatures if they don’t exist, Farewell.
#5. Akroma’s Will
Akroma doesn’t play around. I know there’s now an actual white Craterhoof Behemoth with Moonshaker Cavalry, but Akroma's Will is still pretty hoofy. The “kicked” version feels a lot like casting Flying Crane Technique and For the Emperor! at the same time, for 4 mana. Four mana. Even if you don’t win the game on the spot, an army of double-striking lifelinkers probably means you can shrug off any real crackbacks coming your way.
What exactly was Wizards thinking when they printed this card, at common no less? Cloudshift was already fine, but Ephemerate immediately stomped cards like that into submission. It plays defense exceptionally well, saving a creature and retriggering an ETB ability, then rebounding to do it again next upkeep. You can also use it proactively, recycling two ETBs over 2 turns for the cost of a single white mana.
Imagine railing against 1-for-1 removal and then placing Swords to Plowshares as the third best white instant in Magic. Well, STP is an incredibly powerful removal spell, and everyone knows it. In fact, it’s probably the #1 single-target interaction in the format. It’s the absolute best at what it does, and that deserves high praise despite my stance towards 1-for-1 removal in Commander.
#2. Enlightened Tutor
Tutors always seem to make the top of these lists, but for good reason. Enlightened Tutor specializes in allowing white to find artifacts or enchantments, adding consistency to any deck you put it in, whether that be an equipment deck, and enchantress deck, or a combo deck revolving around specific non-creature permanents.
#1. Teferi’s Protection
Teferi's Protection is the best protection spell in Commander, and my vote not just for best white instant, but possibly best white card. Esper Sentinel and Farewell might have something to say about that. Unlike other protection spells, Teferi’s Protection saves your entire board and you the player. There are still ways to lose while phased out, but for the most part you’re free to kick back and avoid the mayhem. See you at the start of my next turn!
Best White Instant Payoffs
White isn’t usually the color that comes to mind when you think of instant-speed shenanigans or spellcasting payoffs. Still, there are a few explicit rewards for casting spells in white, and instants give you more flexibility over when and where to use them.
There are a small handful of prowess and magecraft creatures that benefit from casting instants. Monastery Mentor and Leonin Lightscribe are the most notable ones, though Ojutai Exemplars and Seeker of the Way have merit.
Mavinda, Students' Advocate and Firesong and Sunspeaker key off instants in different ways. There are also cards like Feather, the Redeemed and Soulfire Grand Master that specifically mention instants, though those are branching into multicolor territory.
Instants also play exceptionally well with flash threats. It’s comforting to hold The Wandering Emperor, Restoration Angel, and Settle the Wreckage in your hand all at once and have the flexibility to choose which one’s right to cast given the situation. Instants are great, who knew?
And They Shall Know No Fear | Illustration by Games Workshop
That’s it for white instants. There are plenty of other playables worth mentioning, but I found that cards like Teferi's Protection, Swords to Plowshares, and Ephemerate are so unbelievably good at doing what they do that the third or fourth next best option isn’t really even worth mentioning.
Surely, I missed out on someone’s favorite tech card or overperformer. If I’m not given enough credit to a particular white instant, let me know! And while you’re at it, tell me how you feel about my evaluation of single-target removal spells like Path to Exile and Generous Gift. Shout out in the comments below or over in the Draftsim Discord.
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