CELESTINE MONO WHITE REANIMATOR
Celestine brings back creatures from your graveyard to the battlefield on your end step. The price? You need to gain some life. Thankfully she can bring back creatures three mana value or less on her own, as she’s a 3/4 flying Lifelink.
Bringing back smaller creatures is white’s specialty, but it can bring back larger ones with a little more investment. Playing mono-white Reanimator has thus far proved to be a tough commitment; there are few truly synergistic Commanders, and the decks that exist tend to be either Angel tribal or leaning heavily into Lifelink. Is Celestine any different?
Well, yes and no. It’s great to get a more flexible reanimator in the Command Zone for one thing, but the build will still likely center around gaining life. It’s going to feel familiar, yet fresh. Most importantly, it’s going to feel consistent, which is right where we want to be when playing mono white.
HEY SISTER, SOUL SISTER
The first thing to consider when building Celestine — even before what we want to reanimate — is how we’re gaining life in larger quantities. The likes of Soul Warden, Soul’s Attendant, Daxos, Blessed by the Sun, Cleric Class and Righteous Valkyrie are our bread and butter.
We want to be gaining life passively, not just by attacking. Depending on how our creature base plays out, Seraph Sanctuary might be a good land to include.
In order for a reanimator deck to operate efficiently, we need great sacrifice effects on creatures we’re happy to bring back. Selfless Spirit keeps our board intact, and we’ll be happy to bring it back again and again. Burnished Hart and Solemn Simulacrum make it into this build as part of our ramp suite, and if we’re playing them, we will of course be jamming with Emeria, the Sky Ruin and Emeria Shepherd.
Elsewhere, Cathar Commando is the most flexible disenchant on a body available to us, but there are others to consider, including Bounty Agent, which feels stronger when we can recur it. One of my personal favorite creatures in a deck like this is Restoration Specialist. It’s a really cheap way to grab back key engine pieces.
If we’re gaining life, we also want some payoffs. Angelic Accord, Book of Exalted Deeds and Resplendent Angel are a solid base if we want to make tokens. If we go down that road, Crested Sunmare and Regna, the Redeemer are certainly in the running.
The best win condition for a Lifegain deck is probably the Heliod + Walking Ballista combo. This is usually searched out with a combination of Search for Glory, Enlightened Tutor, Recruiter of the Guard, Ranger Captain of Eos and Idyllic Tutor. Heliod is good on his own, and taking some tips from the average Heliod deck will go a long way here.
SISTERS IN BATTLE
One downside to Celestine is she costs five mana, which starts to get pricey as the game goes on. Plenty of protection is thus needed, such as Blacksmith’s Skill, but we’ll also need to pack some recursion.
I like Loyal Retainers for a deck like this, as Celestine can bring it back over and over. Miraculous Recovery is also a fun one, bringing Celestine back at instant speed with a +1/+1 counter, which increases her power to trigger her own ability. Speaking of which, it may be worth packing Strionic Resonator to really squeeze that juice.
Getting to five mana and beyond is also easier than it used to be in mono white. Archivist of Oghma and Deep Gnome Terramancer are fantastic, and easy to bring back from the grave. We’ll be playing the likes of Sevinne’s Reclamation and Elspeth Conquers Death anyway, plus Invoke Justice feels great dumping counters on our Commander. Don’t forget to pack Archaeomancer’s Map, one of the reasons I think white is second to green at ramp these days.
As far as finishers go, I’m all about Serra Emissary these days. You might not realize it, but it grants you immunity to incoming damage and makes your board unblockable if you choose “creature.” At seven mana, I’m all about that kind of utility. It’s come to replace Avacyn, Angel of Hope for me now as the top end for my white or Angel tribal lists.
We can’t cover a Lifegain Commander without covering one of the hottest new pieces of tech straight out of Dominaria United: Defiler of Faith. Defiler reduces our mana costs, which in white, is pretty useful with a lot of double and even triple pips. It also makes tokens when we cast white permanents.
If we have ways to gain life off of creatures entering while using Defiler, we can essentially keep playing spells. Whitemane Lion is our key to unlocking this synergy. Alone, it allows us to keep making soldiers for (1) generic mana. Combined with Cloudstone Curio and two one mana permanents that share a type, we can just keep going instead. Neat!
ACROSS LAND AND SPACE
One of the better white recursion cards these days is Brought Back. It’s even better the more fetch lands you play. And when combined with Lotus Field? That’s some pretty tasty ramp. Be sure to check this synergy out in a reanimator shell.
Sacrifice outlets are key to a reanimator deck’s success, and while the usual suspects are always good — Martyr’s Cause, Altar of Dementia and Phyrexian Altar — it’s the redundancy that’s key to a deck’s success. High Market and Miren, the Moaning Well are strong enablers of our main strategy, and if you want to proxy up a nearly $1,000 Diamond Valley, that’s completely fine at my table.
A few more I really like: Helm of Possession gives us a control magic effect that also puts useful creatures in our bin; Pyre of Heroes is a payoff for leaning more into Clerics, Humans, Soldiers or Angels; Relic Vial is card draw that gives us some life drain if we play Clerics.
CELESTINE EXAMPLE DECKLIST
When setting out to put together a list for Celestine, I consulted my old Lyra Dawnbringer Angel Reanimator list, and my newer Liesa, Forgotten Archangel deck — which is an Orzhov reanimator list. I’ve got an article you can check out about those builds here.
For this first draft, I concentrated on putting plenty of ways to gain life and protect or otherwise keep Celestine in play. I also included a couple of ways to buff her and some alternate win conditions. I can’t understate the value of Ajani Strength of the Pride and Well of Lost Dreams in a build like this.
There was also space for some choice cards from the 40k Commander decks. There are some great enter the battlefield effects in there, and Resurrection Orb is ideal for a deck like this. I think with some fine tuning, we could even play Canoptek Tomb Sentinel, but that probably needs more sacrifice outlets.
Aside from leading her own Commander deck, Celestine can happily slot in the 99 of many other decks, from the new Shanna, Purifying Blade to Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim, to Firja. She’s flexible and strong, and I like the card a lot.
I hope this article on Celestine has helped you zone in on how to build with her. She’s got me pretty fired up, I have to say. I’m still a little perplexed why she couldn’t have been an Angel, but she can still lead a tribal deck no problem. Let me know how you’re building her on Twitter.
Kristen is Card Kingdom’s Head Writer, and member of the Commander Advisory Group. Formerly a competitive Pokémon TCG grinder, she has been playing Magic since Shadows Over Innistrad, which in her opinion, was a great set to start with. When she’s not taking names with Equipment and Aggro strategies in Commander, she loves to play any form of Limited.