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By: xger, Xger
May 09 2017 12:00pm
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It's time for officially sanctioned Commander play! With the banlist announced, it's time to figure out a good starting point. Let's dive in and see what Doran, the Siege Tower can do!

The New Leagues

For those unaware, MTGO 1v1 Commander Leagues start up on Wednesday, May 10th. There will also be 2 person queues. The queues have the same payout as normal, and the leagues are the "Friendly" type, meaning 80 play point/8 ticket entry and prize break down as such:

  • 5 wins: 80 Play Points + 8 Treasure Chests
  • 4 wins: 80 Play Points + 4 Treasure Chests
  • 3 wins: 80 Play Points + 1 Treasure Chest
  • 2 wins: 40 Play Points
  • 1 win: 20 Play Points
  • 0 wins: 10 Play Points

There is also a new banlist, which is different than both the multiplayer banlist and the 1v1 banlist used in the paper world. Here is that list (which I organized by color):

 

So, the big thing is the removal of a lot of fast mana--though cards like Ancient Tomb are still available.

Why Doran and why this build?

The first, and possibly most important, question of a Commander deck is, why build that Commander? Doran, the Siege Tower is a unique effect in Magic, and it just makes the game play on a different axis. It can throw other decks off, as damage removal is less useful and power heavy creatures become weaker. And, Doran isn't blue, which is a plus in my book (I generally don't like playing it). Similarly, Orzhov is my favorite two color combo, so adding green is nice.

What does this build do? It's a very aggressive version of the deck. I originally got inspiration from a primer, and I've tuned the list a fair bit since then, including updates (though I am likely missing some from Khans/BfZ/SoI period when I played less). The general idea is get Doran out as soon as possible and to start beating down. Then, there is a package to increase Doran's clock. Outside of Doran, the deck plays good creatures capable of closing the game on their own. So, there are no Tasseled Dromedary in the deck. After that, it's just about controlling the game so that the creatures can make it through.

The Deck

First up, a traditional list by card type. A quick note: if you download the deck, it is missing Sword of Feast and Famine. For whatever reason, I could not get the site to add it.

1v1 Commander League
Doran, the Wall - 100 Cards Total
Creature
1 Skyshroud War Beast
1 Vinelasher Kudzu
1 Dark Confidant
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Putrid Leech
1 Hypnotic Specter
1 Elves of Deep Shadow
1 Llanowar Elves
1 Birds of Paradise
1 Stoneforge Mystic
1 Mother of Runes
1 Skinshifter
1 Avacyn's Pilgrim
1 Silverblade Paladin
1 Serra Avenger
1 Loxodon Smiter
1 Deathrite Shaman
1 Varolz, the Scar-Striped
1 Sin Collector
1 Tidehollow Sculler
1 Knight of the Reliquary
1 Eternal Witness
1 Fyndhorn Elves
1 Reverent Hunter
1 Gifted Aetherborn
1 Anafenza, the Foremost
26 cards

Instant
1 Eladamri's Call
1 Tainted Pact
1 Unmake
1 Ad Nauseam
1 Mortify
1 Putrefy
1 Nature's Claim
1 Go for the Throat
1 Dismember
1 Abrupt Decay
1 Orzhov Charm
1 Path to Exile
1 Swords to Plowshares
13 cards

Sorcery
1 Cataclysm
1 Night's Whisper
1 Ashes to Ashes
1 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Sylvan Tutor
1 Duress
1 Maelstrom Pulse
1 Green Sun's Zenith
1 Hymn to Tourach
1 Thoughtseize
1 Reanimate
11 cards
Artifact
1 Umezawa's Jitte
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
3 cards

Enchantment
1 Seal of Cleansing
1 Phyrexian Arena
1 Seal of Primordium
1 Dark Tutelage
1 Sylvan Library
1 Animate Dead
1 Hidden Stockpile
7 cards

Planeswalker
1 Garruk, Primal Hunter
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
2 cards
Land
1 Forest
1 Plains
1 Brushland
1 Blooming Marsh
1 Barren Moor
1 Caves of Koilos
1 Llanowar Wastes
1 Vesuva
1 Dryad Arbor
1 Murmuring Bosk
1 Snow-Covered Forest
1 Arid Mesa
1 Marsh Flats
1 Sunpetal Grove
1 Flagstones of Trokair
1 Razorverge Thicket
1 Savannah
1 Scrubland
1 Swamp
1 Command Tower
1 Cavern of Souls
1 Polluted Delta
1 Temple Garden
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Godless Shrine
1 Thespian's Stage
1 Concealed Courtyard
1 City of Brass
1 Opal Palace
1 Snow-Covered Plains
1 Snow-Covered Swamp
1 Strip Mine
1 Bloodstained Mire
1 Bayou
1 Flooded Strand
1 Windswept Heath
1 Wooded Foothills
37 cards

Commander
1 Doran, the Siege Tower
1 cards
 

 

The CMC matters a bit for this deck, and the curve is intentionally low, so here is a breakdown by CMC as well:

1v1 Commander League
Doran beat stick - 100 Cards Total
0 CMC
1 Flagstones of Trokair
1 cards

1 CMC
1 Nature's Claim
1 Elves of Deep Shadow
1 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Llanowar Elves
1 Birds of Paradise
1 Sylvan Tutor
1 Mother of Runes
1 Avacyn's Pilgrim
1 Duress
1 Deathrite Shaman
1 Path to Exile
1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Fyndhorn Elves
1 Thoughtseize
1 Reanimate
15 cards

2 CMC
1 Skyshroud War Beast
1 Seal of Cleansing
1 Eladamri's Call
1 Tainted Pact
1 Night's Whisper
1 Umezawa's Jitte
1 Vinelasher Kudzu
1 Dark Confidant
1 Seal of Primordium
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Putrid Leech
1 Stoneforge Mystic
1 Go for the Throat
1 Skinshifter
1 Sylvan Library
1 Serra Avenger
1 Abrupt Decay
1 Orzhov Charm
1 Tidehollow Sculler
1 Hymn to Tourach
1 Animate Dead
1 Hidden Stockpile
1 Gifted Aetherborn
23 cards
3 CMC
1 Phyrexian Arena
1 Unmake
1 Ashes to Ashes
1 Hypnotic Specter
1 Mortify
1 Putrefy
1 Dark Tutelage
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Dismember
1 Silverblade Paladin
1 Loxodon Smiter
1 Varolz, the Scar-Striped
1 Sin Collector
1 Knight of the Reliquary
1 Maelstrom Pulse
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
1 Eternal Witness
1 Reverent Hunter
1 Anafenza, the Foremost
19 cards

4 CMC
1 Cataclysm
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
2 cards

5 CMC
1 Ad Nauseam
1 Garruk, Primal Hunter
2 cards
Land
1 Forest
1 Plains
1 Brushland
1 Blooming Marsh
1 Barren Moor
1 Caves of Koilos
1 Llanowar Wastes
1 Vesuva
1 Dryad Arbor
1 Murmuring Bosk
1 Snow-Covered Forest
1 Arid Mesa
1 Marsh Flats
1 Sunpetal Grove
1 Razorverge Thicket
1 Savannah
1 Scrubland
1 Swamp
1 Command Tower
1 Cavern of Souls
1 Polluted Delta
1 Temple Garden
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Godless Shrine
1 Thespian's Stage
1 Concealed Courtyard
1 City of Brass
1 Opal Palace
1 Snow-Covered Plains
1 Snow-Covered Swamp
1 Strip Mine
1 Bloodstained Mire
1 Bayou
1 Flooded Strand
1 Windswept Heath
1 Wooded Foothills
36 cards

Unknown
1 Green Sun's Zenith
1 cards

Commander
1 Doran, the Siege Tower
1 cards
 
The Card Choices

So, there are a few cards that are worth mentioning at the outset as they shape some of the deck construction. First up is Ad Nauseam. With all but 4 cards in the deck being 3 CMC or less, Ad Nauseam can often comfortably draw 4 plus cards. Whenever I revise this deck, I always consider if the CMC justifies the cost, and that's why there are so few 4+ cards. As an instant, it also can be flexible, which is always good. Next up is Tainted Pact. This little known card is actually very strong in a deck designed to use it. If you notice, there is not a single card that I have more than 1 copy of--that is why there are Snow-Covered Forest and Snow-Covered Swamp. This card allows us to dig through the deck and find whatever is the best for us at the time. And, because there is a lot of redundancy with the roles that cards play, it would be rare that you need to exile more than 10 or so cards. 

tainted pactad nauseam

Mana Acceleration:

The deck uses a number of strong accelerants. Of course there is the typical Llanowar Elves and Elvish Mystic, but the real winners for this deck are Elves of Deep Shadow, Birds of Paradise and Avacyn's Pilgrim. All of those make a turn 2 Doran, the Siege Tower much more plausible. Deathrite Shaman can be strong, but it depends on fetchlands, so there are games it works great, and then games where it is a 1/2 for 1. Of note, this deck didn't play Sol Ring or any of the artifact fast mana that was previously legal. Most of the deck's cards are colored costs, with relatively little that wants colorless. A turn 1 Sol Ring does very little in a deck that would much prefer having access to WGB on turn 2. That's one of the reasons that this will be the deck I first pilot in the leagues--the banlist does very little to affect it. I didn't even run Sensei's Divining Top because this deck really prefers to spend as much mana as possible each turn casting spells.

llanowar elveselves of deep shadowavacyn's pilgrim

Doran Specials (i.e. Obscure Creatures):

When I first built Doran, there were a number of lists, but I liked the aggressive decks, and they often included cards that people are not even that familiar with, because there is little value to them normally. So, the real gems are Skinshifter, Skyshroud War Beast, and Vinelasher Kudzu. The Skinshifter is a card that I didn't even know existed before this deck, and since it came from a core set, that is a common sentiment. It really shines with Doran, the Siege Tower out, as the 0/8 wall slams for 8 while winning pretty much all combats. It's also nice because even without Doran out, it can still hit for 4. Skyshroud War Beast is a very high variance card. Against mono-colored decks it might just be flat unplayable, but against 3 to 5 color decks, it can be a truck. Sometimes it wins games on its own if the game draws out and it comes down as a 10/10 for two. Through playing this deck, I've still not fully decided on this card, as it being unplayable at times is a huge cost. For now though, it stays. Next up, Vinelasher Kudzu. Similar to Deathrite Shaman, this works very well with fetchlands, and it can threaten huge damage early. It also pays nicely with Knight of the Reliquary which is another stand out. Putrid Leech is another rarely seen card, but it serves a good role here. While paying life may be unappealing, this deck really pressures the opponent's life total, so paying 2 to deal another 2 is most often correct.

Skyshroud War BeastSkinshifter

Next, we have Silverblade Paladin, a card that I feel is criminally underplayed. It works well here, as it often makes Doran a 2 turn clock, as long as there is any pump effect (of which the deck has quite the number). It also is generally a strong creature that turns anything into a threat. Playing it out when you have one of the swords or Umezawa's Jitte out and it quickly dominates the board. Turns out, giving any creature double strike for 3 mana while you have the creature out is very strong.

Finally, Varolz, the Scar-Striped plays a niche role here. With all of the creatures costing 3 or less, the scavenge ability is actually usable, and it really helps with Doran, since 1 more power on 1 swing cuts the clock by a turn, and 2 power off the bat cuts the clock to 3. 

silverblade paladinvarolz, the scar-striped

Value Cards:

Of course, it wouldn't be a normal Commander deck without some value creatures. I won't go into too much detail as these creatures all have a long valued history, so I will just touch on certain ones that are stronger here.

  • Dark Confidant - Good ol' Bob. The reason I mention here is that sometimes in Commander, the life loss becomes a risk. Since Commander decks often play expensive cards, and with life total starting at 30, hitting a 5+ drop off Bob is quite bad. However, in this deck, a card off Bob will only hit for 1.37 damage on average, so quite valuable (which is also why I run Dark Tutelage).
  • Knight of the Reliquary - This card works well primarily because of the fetches and Vinelasher Kudzu, and it quickly becomes a beater instead of fixer or accelerant.

eternal witnessphyrexian arenatidehollow sculler

Misc. Cards:

One package that is probably a bit unusual in Commander is Thoughtseize, Duress, and Inquisition of Kozilek (and to a lesser extent Hymn to Tourach and Hypnotic Specter). This deck was tuned for 1v1 to begin with, so targeted discard is actually usable. The real reason this is here is to get rid of removal that would stop Doran, the Siege Tower. The deck tends to lean heavily on Doran, but it is entirely dependent on creatures, so the discard disrupts opponent's that might stop the creatures. I have thought about upping the count here, but the quality drops so quickly after those three (it's weird when Appetite for Brains looks decent). 

thoughtseizehymn to tourach

The targeted removal is pretty much about keeping the opponent in check and removing blockers as necessary. While most of this is obvious, there is one card that I rarely see which is quite strong--Ashes to Ashes. While it does require two targets, it exiles two targets for 3 mana. It's simply one of the best removal spells out there.

Cataclysm gets its own mention entirely. This card is a complete power house, and is often the card that wins the game. One important note: it does not mention planeswalkers, so those are all gone. If you can slam this after having Doran with a sword, it's pretty likely game over. This card also means you might want to hold more lands in hand, and be careful about what you are playing. If you can make the effect more one-sided it really increases the power to where there is no coming back.

ashes to ashescataclysm

Elspeth, Knight-Errant is a classic planeswalker which needs little justification. I just note that following Doran with her turns Doran into a 3 turn clock. This deck doesn't commonly want the 1/1 token, which is a bit different.

Questionable cards:

Some of these are cards that I have been testing out, and others are ones that have been on the line for a while. I'll go through them quickly here:

  • Serra Avenger - The issue here is that the deck would really rather play this on turn 2 for mana concerns, because it's not uncommon to get stuck on 3 mana, so playing on turn 4 becomes inefficient. When it is not mana inefficient, it is great.
  • Garruk, Primal Hunter - This has been in the deck for quite a while, and it is generally just ok. The deck has more toughness oriented creatures, so the draw isn't that great, and it is an expensive spell. I will probably try out Garruk Relentless or Nissa, Voice of Zendikar at some point in this slot.
  • Hidden Stockpile - This is the most recent addition, but the games I've played with it, it has done well. The real concern is that it eats mana, and sometimes there is just not enough available, so only time will really tell.

Upgrades:

  • Money-related: if I had Tarmogoyf or Liliana of the Veil, I would add those as quickly as possible. The 'goyf simply fits the theme very well and is of course a powerhouse. Then, Lilly is just so powerful that it is hard to ignore. I previously had her in the deck (I sold my Lilly a few months ahead of MM17) and she always performed quite well.
  • Unsure-of: Here we have Liliana, the Last Hope. I think she could be good, but I am unwilling to pay for her to test out while she is in standard. She should dip, at least a little, at rotation. Grim Flayer also fits this mold as well. Additionally, I would put Gideon, Ally of Zendikar in this category.
  • Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, as I mentioned above, is a potentially strong card. If I were to include her, I would probably also consider Winding Constrictor.

liliana of the veilgideon, ally of zendikarnissa, voice of zendikar

The Games

So, my original plan was to give a match video. However, with the buggy Commander sideboarding on MTGO (you cannot submit decks, so you have to wait 3 minutes), everyone I played conceded after the first game. Overall, I went 3-0 for these videos, but the first was an opponent mull to 5 then concede after I cast Doran on turn 2.

 

Wrap Up

I hoped you enjoyed my tour through my Doran deck. Sometime in the next few weeks, I'll put up an article of piloting the deck through a league or two and discussing how it turned out in the new meta-game.