Heliod: Making White Decks Great Again

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OCPunisher
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Post by OCPunisher » 5 days ago

Heliod, Sun-Crowned: Making White Decks Great Again


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Introduction

White decks have been the laughingstock of the commander format for too long. Under the new leadership of new Heliod, we will usher in a new order of life-gaining and prosperity.

Full disclosure: I was inspired to make this deck by a video from the JumboCommander YouTube channel. Feel free to check out all of DJ's other awesome content on YouTube.

This deck aims to do one thing white does very well: gain life. It further attempts to profit from the constant supply of life-gain effects and use them to turn even the smallest of bodies into a sizeable threat. The icing on this cake is that you can always fall back on your fearless, indestructible, 3cc commander.

The main strategy of this deck is simple: play Heliod and gain life. The easiest way to do this is by way of the various Soul Sisters effects. In a world where nearly everyone at the table is playing creatures, these innocent-looking ladies can take your life total to new heights for the low cost of 1-2 mana.
The elephant in the room with Heliod is Walking Ballista. As you might have seen in Modern/Pioneer decks, this is a pretty easy way to go infinite. More on that below.


Aetherflux Reservoir is also really easy to activate, given all the natural life-gain. Between these two, you have plenty of options for actually winning the game.
Why White?
You might like this deck if:
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  • You like to gain life.
  • You like +1/+1 counters.
  • You like turning small, inocuous creatures into large threats out of nowhere.
  • You think white decks have been getting a bum rap.



So, if any of that sounds like fun to you, then please keep scrolling!
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Commander Analysis

Heliod
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Heliod, Sun-Crowned is an extremely strong card for a very low price of just three mana. Even if he's not an active creature, he still offers two very potent abilities that are easy to take advantage of. When he is active, he provides you with a large, indestructible beater that shrugs off opposing blockers with ease.

Heliod is not without weaknesses. His biggest natural enemy is Shadowspear, which can reduce him to an ordinary body for only one mana. Do what you must to destroy any Shadowspear you see. Other common ways to deal with him include Chaos Warp, Deglamer, and Return to Dust. Fortunately, Heliod's cheap mana cost makes him relatively easy to recast, and his +1 counter ability means you should have plenty of other threats to distract opponents.




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Deck History

How I built this deck, and the decisions I made along the way.
White History
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I first saw the video from the JumboCommander YouTube channel when I was piloting a God-Eternal Oketra (here), and I was starting to grow tired of playing otherwise unspectacular cards like Kor Skyfisher and Whitemane Lion just for the possibility of making a pile of 4/4 tokens that might survive long enough to swing into someone else. So, I managed to acquire a nice, shiny constellation foil copy of new Heliod and went to work on the idea that DJ had started.


After just one game, I was instantly hooked. Heliod was cheaper and stronger than Oketra, and offered more utility. I ordered a few missing pieces and the rest was history.



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Deck Philosophy

Soul Sisters
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You want them, early and often. Everyone plays creatures, and every creature is a profit waiting to happen. The best part about these guys is that the effect is very subtle. Instead of gaining 20 life at once and drawing the ire of stray attackers, you slowly gain one life at a time until you're at 50 or more. And each one of these life-gain triggers activates Heliod...
Stoneforge package
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I wanted to setup a tiny Stoneforge package to have a few subtle yet diverse equips that could cheaply and efficiently shore up some of the deck's weaknesses. Sword of the Animist for extra ramp, Mask of Memory for card draw and setting up recursion targets, Skullclamp for the raw power. Unfortunately, there aren't many equipments that gain you life in a cheap or efficient manner. Loxodon Warhammer and Sword of War and Peace both cost a lot to cast + equip, and Sylvok Lifestaff is pretty janky. I ran Sword of Light and Shadow for a bit, but I never really wanted to find it. Umezawa's Jitte is on the radar.
Combos
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Normally, my position on infinite combos is that each piece has to have at least some purpose on its own, without the combo. To that end, I cut Triskelion early on because I would never really use it for anything but going off, and it also cost more than Walking Ballista to cast, and both were easy enough to tutor up if necessary.



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Heliod, Sun-Crowned: Making White Decks Great Again

Commander (1)


1 Heliod, Sun-Crowned
Approximate Total Cost:




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Card Choice Discussion

A few notes on some cards I'm currently running
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I'm going to skip over a few of the generic staples and focus on cards specific to this deck. For example, we all know why Sol Ring and Smothering Tithe is good. However...
- Angel of Vitality: Under-costed flying beater that makes all your tiny little life-gains better, while being a target for your tutors and your Reveillark and your Sun Titan at the same time. So much value in one tiny, heavenly little body.
- Linden, the Steadfast Queen: I saw a standard deck with this girl and Heliod together. The Queen triggers separately for each attacking creature, which means you get an extra Heliod counter for each attacker.
- Mentor of the Meek: Even though Heliod makes most creatures enormous, they usually start out pretty small. Also, this is what passes for card-draw in mono-white.
- Recruiter of the Guard: Arguable the most expensive card in the deck, and for good reason. This deck is setup so that this card can get you anything you want: ramp, draw, life, and of course a combo piece.
- Abzan Battle Priest: This card creates another nice little snowball effect. Heliod puts counters on guys, which then automatically get lifelink, which make even more counters, and so on.
- Cataclysmic Gearhulk: Mass removal on a body. Usually, I'll pick Heliod as the enchantment, this as the artifact, and my best creature. Bonus points for being an Enlightened Tutor target!
- Sunscorch Regent: Everybody casts spells, right? This thing grows up real fast.
- Crested Sunmare, Regna, the Redeemer: Two more excellent ways to profit from all that natural life-gain.

- Endless Atlas: In mono-white, this is the purest form of card-draw there is to-date.
- Sun Droplet: Gains life on everyone's turn, not just mine. Super-combo-rific with Ancient Tomb and/or Rhox Faithmender.
- Altar of the Pantheon/Pristine Talisman: Life-gain as a mana-ability. What's not to like?
- Well of Lost Dreams: Turns life-gain into card draw. Scales based on how much life you gain at one time, as much as you can afford. More efficient than Dawn of Hope.

- Authority of the Consuls/Blind Obedience: These cards do serious work! It's really hard to measure how effective it is to have your opponents' creatures ETB tapped. Haste becomes irrelevant, non-green mana ramp gets neutered. Plus, each one comes with extra life-gain!
A few notes on some cards that have not been tested yet
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- Resplendent Angel: Yet another fine way to profit from life-gain, although this is a bit harder to turn into a profit, and I don't yet own a copy.
- Luminous Broodmoth: The next great mono-white staple. At present, at least 20 creature spells don't have flying in this deck, which is more than enough to justify this card.
- Mindless Automaton: Turns all those +1 counters into card draw, and for 0 mana! Just need to pick one up.
- Etched Oracle: Similar to Mindless Automaton...needs more counters, draws more cards for the price.
- Knight-Captain of Eos: One of the few army-in-a-can type of cards I might try out. Has enough synergy/utility to get consideration.
- Shattered Angel: Other people like playing lands. A lot. And THREE life per land is a lot. But...it's a five drop, and it isn't a tutor target.

- Alhammarret's Archive: Yet another double-the-life-gain effect, but it's not a creature, so it has less synergy (can't get Heliod counters). The double-draw is not likely to matter much in mono-white.

- Together Forever: Ran into this while searching for random stuff on Scryfall. Seems to check all of the boxes: cheap to cast, subtle effect, effortless synergy, even provides two devotion to turn on Heliod.
- Contemplation: Another subtle source of multiple life-gain triggers. Ironically, it's actually more expensive and a bit less likely to trigger than a simple Soul Warden, which is why it hasn't quite made the cut yet.
A few notes on things I've tried and ultimately didn't like
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- God-Eternal Oketra: Oketra is all about casting as many creatures as possible, or one self-bouncing creature over and over again. That's not exactly what this deck wants to do, and mono-white has lots of ways to make bodies.
- Triskelion: The "other" combo piece with Heliod. Less utility outside of infinite combo, more expensive to cast either way.

- Sword of Light and Shadow: Maybe my opponents don't run enough removal, but I never wanted to dig this up with a Stoneforge Mystic.

- Secure the Wastes, Finale of Glory, White Sun's Zenith, etc: This isn't a dedicated go-wide tokens deck, and it doesn't have all the mana in the world. If I need an army-in-a-can, there are creature-based alternatives,



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Deck Strategy

The core strategy is pretty simple: find a life-gain source, play Heliod, and start incrementally turning a profit.

As promised, here's a brief explanation of how the main Walking Ballista combo works:
Walking Ballista combo
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You need to have Heliod in play, plus one white mana and five other mana of any kind, for a total of six. Play Walking Ballista for X=2 (four mana), then activate Heliod targeting the Ballista to give it lifelink. Finally, remove one of the two +1/+1 counters from the Ballista and target any opponent. Ballista deals one damage to the opponent, and that damage has lifelink. This gains you one life, which triggers Heliod, and you put that counter back on the Ballista. Repeat until the whole table is dead.

The really nice part about this combo is that once you resolve the Ballista, you can go off at instant-speed, so anything short of a Krosan Grip will not stop you. Another really nice part is how easy it is to assemble the two pieces. Heliod is your commander, and he's indestructible, so he's usually just sitting there on the table very early in the game. The Ballista itself is fetchable by nearly every white tutor available.

The easiest way to disrupt the combo is to counter the Ballista. If you aren't playing against any blue players, the next most effective way to interact is the afforementioned Krosan Grip, or some other type of split-second card. Beyond that, you just have to watch out for any sort of player-hexproof effect, or something that prevents life-gain.



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Credits and Thanks

Coming soon!


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Change Log

Coming soon!
Last edited by OCPunisher 4 days ago, edited 4 times in total.
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A deck for every color: Rakdos | Lord | Heliod | Yeva | Blind | Scarab | Kykar | Kozz | Ghave | Haldan/Pako

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Outcryqq
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Post by Outcryqq » 5 days ago

I wonder if Verge Rangers has a place in the deck? When I saw that card, I thought about how great it should be in any mono-white lists. Though I know it lacks any life gain synergy with what you're trying to accomplish, I see you have cards like Solemn Simulacrum in your list, and I suspect the rangers might actually be better.

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Post by OCPunisher » 5 days ago

Outcryqq wrote:
5 days ago
I wonder if Verge Rangers has a place in the deck? When I saw that card, I thought about how great it should be in any mono-white lists. Though I know it lacks any life gain synergy with what you're trying to accomplish, I see you have cards like Solemn Simulacrum in your list, and I suspect the rangers might actually be better.
It certainly does, and I'm working on updating that part of the OP. Just wanted to get a first draft up there with as much quick info as possible.
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Post by UnNamed1 » 5 days ago

What would you think about Drannith Magistrate? I got a foil as a gift and love that he shuts off everything.

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Post by OCPunisher » 5 days ago

UnNamed1 wrote:
5 days ago
What would you think about Drannith Magistrate? I got a foil as a gift and love that he shuts off everything.
My first thought is that it's always going to be effective, especially since Heliod is generally cheaper than most commanders by about a full turn. However, it's a hate-bear, which means it'll get targeted like a hate-bear, and need to either be protected or revived like one. I'm not currently running a bunch of them (i.e. not a stax deck), and I'm not heavy on recursion after it dies or protecting it from dying. 3 toughness means it can't be recruited, and it's not a one-drop for either of the rangers.

In summary, I think it will find homes in a lot of different white decks, but this probably isn't one of them.
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A deck for every color: Rakdos | Lord | Heliod | Yeva | Blind | Scarab | Kykar | Kozz | Ghave | Haldan/Pako

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