Shadowmoor is a set full of very good cards, many of them having been played in Modern, Legacy, and Commander for quite some time. Order of Whiteclay is a very interesting card, but has never seen much play at all. Yet, at the beginning of March in 2015, his price shot from about a dollar to over five dollars in the course of a few days. Was it a buyout driven by speculators or is this curious creature actually the engine of a brand new winning deck? Let’s see if it’s more likely the former.
Unlike Ghostway, which saw a price spike around the same time, that card’s newfound value was due to becoming the centerpiece of a viable Modern deck at the time. However, there were no top decks using Order of Whiteclay. But, his effect is actually quite good. With it, you can return a target creature with mana value 3 or less from your graveyard to play. The trick about his ability: you have to untap him.
There’s a clever interaction here with the artifact Springleaf Drum, one that’s still familiar to Affinity players in the 2020’s. You can use the Drum to tap any creature down for one of any colored mana. Then, it’s easy enough to untap Order of Whiteclay to use his ability. The question then remains, what creatures will you want to bring back, and how will you facilitate them getting there?
One deck list that I found online, By the Order of Whiteclay on MTG Vault, has some good ideas. It’s a white/black deck that is focused around hand control. Not only does it use the traditional discard spells such as Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize, but it also uses creatures like Tidehollow Sculler and Brain Maggot to deprive your opponent some more. It also plays Kitchen Finks for lifegain and the Persist ability and Phyrexian Rager for card advantage. It also plays one Banisher Priest to deal with big creatures. To get those creatures in the graveyard are 2 Viscera Seer, which allow you to sacrifice a creature to Scry 1, and a full playset of Bloodthrone Vampire. The Vampires allow you to sacrifice a creature to gain +2/+2 until end of turn.
It’s an interesting list to be sure, and I’d like to see this sort of deck in action. I’m not sure what the endgame would look like, though. Since you have the Springleaf Drums, you could run more colors. If you have the budget for it, a card like Fulminator Mage could help the deck by holding opponents back by destroying non-basic lands. Tarmogoyf would give the deck a more potent threat, as well.
While the hand control idea seems cute (there are 4 Sin Collectors in that MTG Vault deck’s sideboard), Tidehollow Sculler and Brain Maggot have temporary effects. If this type of deck is going to succeed, it’s going to need a consistent way to win. three mana to reanimate isn’t terrible, but it’s still a bit slow for competitive Constructed environments, especially Modern.
There’s another explanation for the sudden speculation: a very popular Commander by the name of Alesha, Who Smiles at Death. Her ability can bring back a creature with power 2 or less from the graveyard into play tapped and attacking. Being only a 1/4, it’s likely it will survive combat. Plus, it reanimates a lot of things in the deck. While it can’t use the untap ability immediately after Alesha brings him back (unless he otherwise gains haste), he’s bound to be able to attack at other points and bring back a useful creature from the grave. Alesha plays a lot of mana value 3 or lower creatures with useful effects, so it’s not hard to see this not included in a lot of Alesha lists.
Interestingly, Order of Whiteclay actually didn’t turn up in very many Alesha decks. So, what caused the spike? In 2015, there was a meme format going around called Tiny Leaders, a variant of Commander in which you could only play cards with a mana value of 3 or less. It actually was pretty popular for a time, and in that format, Alesha was quite powerful, and Order of Whiteclay seemed like an auto-include.
By 2022, Order of Whiteclay was back in the dollar bins at local game stores. Its value was further depressed by a reprint in a Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate pre-constructed deck. The good news is that the Legendary Creature who can best use this Cleric is actually the cover card of that preconstructed deck, Nalia de’Arnise of the Party Time deck. Unfortunately, he’s mostly in the deck simply on account of the fact that he’s a Cleric, but since many other Clerics have a mana value of 3 or less, he’s a useful cog in a Nalia Party deck without a doubt.
While the speculation on Order of Whiteclay was certainly not a good power play by Magic the Gathering financiers, the Cleric from Shadowmoor did indeed find a home, even if it took well over a decade! He’s a good solid creature for any Cleric Tribal deck, and thanks to the reprint, he’s easier to grab a copy of than ever!