Preorder MTG Lord of the Rings Tales of Middle-earth today!
   Sign In
Create Account

Budget Commander #70 - Toughness Matters with Doran


Hello awesome budget Magic fans! I hope that your day is going well. My first Budget Commander deck was built years ago around a Boros power-matters theme with my leader being Brion Stoutarm, but I haven't done a toughness-matters theme since 2017! It's time for another go-around the bin with another color and a bunch more cards added, and some things are bulk that weren't then, and many cards are way too pricey this time.

This series came about because I saw that regular "Budget" Commander articles were spending triple digits for their decks, and I felt that was way too much. Instead, I had my first deck under $40 and then every deck must come under the previous entry.

Our most recent deck was my first colorless deck built around bulk rare Traxos that I doubled my budget and split it in half for lands and non-lands since that was very pricey for my brews. So, my regular cards came in at $32.25 which deck must come under. Ready?

As a reminder, prices quoted in this article are the cheapest near mint version I can find here at CoolStuffInc.com. If they are sold out, I use other sites. Note that the prices quoted can shift from writing to editing to publication to when you read it, but the core idea of a budget friendly brew sticks around even if the numbers shift and change. The secondary market is very vulnerable.

Let's get this thing started!

Doran, the Siege Tower

Doran is a 75-cent rare and is in the colors of ramp, exiling removal, mass removal, it can destroy and exile anything with Vindicate effects, and then discard and all three colors reanimate. It's pretty strong here. As you can see, this costs the minimum three for three color brews which is great to cast multiple times from the Command Zone, has a 0/5 body, and then features an ability to have your dorks deal their toughness in combat not power. That'll be our build around. Doran is very popular at the kitchen table with a massive 2,450 decks registered over at EDHREC.com. He's dropped in price bunches on the secondary market. Ready?

High Toughness Dorks

Nyx-Fleece Ram
Colfenor, the Last Yew

Let's start with high toughness dorks that won't break your bank to acquire. The Sheep is a two-drop 0/5 that swings and blocks as a 5/5 that will gain you a life each upkeep, it was played a lot when it was Standard legal. It's also an enchantment in case you care. The Treefolk is a 3/7 that will act as a 7/7. Then it has both vigilance and reach. Both are great here. Then when it or another dork you control dies, you Regrowth a smaller toughness dork to your hand from your graveyard, so its recursion tied to a fun little dork. Great pair!

Perennial Behemoth
Zetalpa, Primal Dawn

0.35, 0.49 for each of these. The Beast is a five-drop 2/7 that acts as a 7/7. Then you can play lands from your graveyard, and I am running two fetch lands that cost pretty cheap in my land base as well as Krosan Verge. You have synergy there, or just with lands that die and come back from removal or are discarded to things. Then it has unearth for just two mana. The Dinosaur is a pricey eight mana 4/8 with a ton of abilities - double strike, vigilance, flying, trample, and indestructible. It swings as an 8/8 with double strike and double evasion and it stays back with vigilance so that's very strong here. It's a winner.

Less than a dollar to add Unhallowed Phalanx and Arasta of the Endless Web. The Phalanx is the highest toughness card in this deck with 13 for just 5 mana, although it does arrive tapped so you'll take a turn off to block with. A 13/13 vanilla for 5 is going to win some games! Arasta is a four-drop 3/4 with reach so it can block flyers and then attack and block as a 4/4. When your foes cast instants and sorceries, you'll make 1/2 reaching Spiders which will act as 2/2s here. That's increasingly common as people pull their Phyrexian Arena for Sign in Blood and their Ravenous Chupacabra for Murder and their Flametongue Kavu for Lightning Bolt and their Eternal Witness for Regrowth. That means in a modern Commander format, that should be tons of free triggers you don't have to spend anything to net. It's much stronger in multiplayer as more and more of that type are played. Don't sleep on that reach they get either, that's 2/2 reachers if you control Doran. That will play big keep away from swinging your way.

25 cents each for Deadwood Treefolk and Grizzled Leotau! The Treefolk is a six-mana 6/6 with Doran that can enter the battlefield (ETB) and then Raise Dead a dork, and then do it again when he leaves play with his vanishing or to anything else for that matter. The Leotau is a two drop 1/5 that turns into a 5/5 and I also have the 0/6 Giant Ox that can also be a powerful early play on the turn before Doran and then swinging on turn 3 after dropping him.

Toughness Synergies and Win Conditions

Slagwurm Armor

Now let's turn to toughness pumpers under 50 cents. The Aura is a three-drop flash that gives a big fat 10 toughness, normally you would use this as a combat trick to same something in combat or from burn based removal. Here though you can use it as a better Might of Oaks that gives a permanent +10/+10 boost. Nasty. The Equipment is a one-drop you can cast early and then three to equip to give a six-toughness boost and then that's a six power boost for just three mana over and over again when things die. These will both help Doran to kill very quickly with Commander damage, by the by.

Next up, 0.49 for Oathsworn Giant! This uncommon is a six drop 3/4 with vigilance that gives a two-toughness boost to everything you have, so it's a better Castle on legs. It also gives them vigilance as well, nice double toughness boost and mass keyword granting in one card!

Huatli, the Sun's Heart
Assault Formation

0.25 and 0.75. Now let's turn to synergies and other win cons other than Zetalpa. The planeswalker is a 7 loyalty uncommon that doesn't cost much. She can -3 twice with her starting loyalty to gain life equal to your biggest toughness, which should always be a lot. She's here for that static ability to have your foes deal combat damage equal to their toughness, just like Doran, so she's a backup if he gets answers and cannot be recast, or just a life gainer if you need that. She's the only 'walker in the deck. The enchantment is a two drop that also has the same ability as Doran or Huatli, and then acts as a third backup. Also, there are two activated abilities here. The first costs a mana and will let your defender attack this turn. Pretty strong at bringing the heat. The second costs three and pumps the defense of your team by one, so that's a damage dealing boost, and that's a wonderful mana sink. Nice right?

Brave the Sands
Behind the Scenes

0.99 and 0.25! The white enchantment is a two drop that gives your team vigilance and the ability to block two things that swing your way. So, let's talk about the power of vigilance here since this is the second one I have given. Vigilance is better in multiplayer than duals since you can attack the open player without opening yourself. Here with your giant fat cheap dorks, you can really keep away attackers with your reach tokens, Colfenor, and other reachers here as well as other things on the ground, so vigilance is more synergetic here than normal, so it's very powerful. And blocking two? That's a nice adjunct with our high toughnesses likely to survive. The Orzhov color identity one is a three drop that gives your stuff skulk, so your 0/6 Giant Ox cannot be blocked by a 1 power or bigger foe, that's pretty much everything commonly played not named Birds of Paradise. Doran cannot be blocked by anyone, so that's a fast Commander Damage clock. You can also spend five mana to pump your team by a Glorious Anthem each, so that's very strong here.

0.35; 0.25 for this next pair. Nemata, Primeval Warden is a four-drop 3/4 with reach, which value we already discussed here. When opposing stuff dies, they get exiled, so that is a brake on their reuse and abuse. Then you make a 1/1 Saproling token for the chump blocking. You can sac a Saproling for one mana to pump Nemata this turn. Or two mana and two sacrifices to draw a card. Nice card flow and creature making and removal over time.

Kheru Bloodsucker is a three-drop 2/2 that's just a 2/2. Then when a creature you control with a 4 or more toughness dies? Drain two life from your foes, that's a win con in trigger form over time. Then you can spend three mana, sacrifice another dork, and then put a +1/+1 counter here, so that's a use for Saproling tokens or Spider tokens after they chump block. Or you can trigger his death trigger to kill some players at low life or save you from dying to a lethal attack. Nice little death trigger pair this makes!

Catapult Fodder

A quarter for this flip card. This 1/5 three-drop will flip over in your combat if you control at least three creatures with toughness greater than their power, which is pretty much everything. This will swing as a 5/5 and then flip to a 1/6, so a 6/6. You can tap it and three mana and sacrifice another dork and then have an opponent lose life equal to its toughness, so that's another winning condition outside of the red zone when a foe has a low life. Cast this in your first main phase when it's flippable to get right away to the win con. You can also sacrifice here for the triggers of the Bloodsucker above.


Dusk // Dawn
Fell the Mighty

Now let's turn to some answers! Each of these mono-White sweeping rares are 0.49. The aftermath card is four mana, destroy everything with a power 3 or more. That's not my tokens or my anything other than Zetalpa. Then you can cast it from your graveyard to return all 2 and fewer power things from your graveyard so it's mass recursion later after you've cast it as a sweeper. The non-aftermath card is a five-cost sorcery that destroys all dorks with a power greater than target creature. Just choose a Leotau or your tokens to keep most of your deck from dying while your foes bite it.

Silklash Spider

0.49 and 0.49 too! The artifact is a 6-drop with the ability to exile a dork on arrival to the battlefield, so he can answer anything, even something indestructible or regenerating. Then he can copy their power, toughness, and creature type, so you can turn him into a 0/5 that swings as a 5/5 by exiling your leader with his low cost and then recast him with a Command Tax. The Spider is a 2/7 with reach, which we have already talked about that swings and blocks as a 7/7. It'll kill anything 6/6 or smaller that wants to swing like an Akroma. Then you can sweep the sky of flyers and deal damage to them. Most of my dorks that block flying have reach, not flying, and some, like Zetalpa, will survive with indestructible and a huge butt too. I also tossed in the flying killing Stingerfling Spider.

20 cents for this Acid Web Spider. This is a 3/5 costing five with reach that acts as a 5/5. On ETB it destroys a piece of equipment. It's a "may" effect so if only you have one, you don't have to use it. But it's very strong at the Commander table, and with multiplayer there should be enough targets to matter.

Card Flow

Wall of Omens
Sapling of Colfenor

0.49 and 0.75. Now let's turn to card flow. I am running the Wall that cantrips and draws a card on arrival to the battlefield and blocks as a 4/4. I am also running two more cheap cantrip walls in Carven Caryatid and Wall of Blossoms. Then the Sapling is a 2/5 will attack as a 5/5 with indestructible. When it swings reveal the top card of your library, and then if it's a dork you gain life equal to its toughness, lose equal to its power, and then draw it. So, it's card flow over time.

Next up is a pair of sorcery Revelations: Shamanic Revelation and Bitter Revelation cost me 0.49 and 0.15 respectively. The rare is a 5-mana sorcery that draws cards equal to my creature count, which even without my token makers should be quite high. You won't gain life, but that's fine. The common Bitter Revelation will put two cards from the top four of your library into your hand and then the other two into your graveyard so it digs four and draws two, and you lose a spot of life. We do have some recursion here like Colfenor, but not much, so you if you have your Deadwood Treefolk out to get something back when it dies, or you have in your graveyard Dusk // Dawn then this is pretty useful.

Ohran Viper

0.75! Check out this rare that has been reprinted a few times and now cost 75 cents! This three-drop 1/3 will act as a 3/3 with Doran or a backup out. When it deals combat damage to something, destroy at the end of combat. So, it's a slow damage deathtoucher. If blocked by two or three dorks, you can kill two or three dorks by doing one damage each. Then when it deals combat damage to a player, draw a card! Nice card flow over time. The other Ohran card is waaaay too pricey for a budget build like this.

A quarter and 49 cents for Abzan Beastmaster and Ulvenwald Observer, respectively. This pair of mono-Green toughness-matters cards will draw you plenty. The Beastmaster swings as a 1/1, not great. But in your upkeep, you'll draw a card if you control the dork with the highest toughness (or tied). That's great card draw over time, and quite easy on the third turn after most two drops like Grizzled Leotau or Wall of Blossoms. Then the Observer has a death trigger. Did a dork you control with toughness 4 or more die? Draw a card, which is most of your dorks, but not your tokens. Nice duo of card drawing over time.

Mana, Rocks, Lands and Ramp

Commander's Sphere

Now let's turn to mana. 0.25 each! The uncommon sorcery is a four-mana Cultivate. The common artifact is a three-drop that makes your three colors of mana, so you have the mana needed for your three colors that have some intensive colors in them, like two in each color and three in your leader.

0.20 and 0.15 for the three-drop mana rocks Indatha Crystal and Letter of Acceptance. The Crystal will tap for your three colors, and if you are set on mana when you draw it, or you need a removal spell, you can spend two to cycle it. The Letter taps for any color of mana, even blue and red. Then you can tap it, with two mana, and sacrifice to draw a card. Again, that's valuable to dig or set yourself after mana or in response to your foe's Vandalblast.

Dawnhart Rejuvenator
Axebane Guardian

Check out this pair of Green common mana accelerators that have a big toughness for 0.15 and 0.49. The former is a 2/4 that will attack and block as a 4/4 and then tap for any color of mana, and then gain 3 life on arrival to the battlefield. I am also running Centaur Nurturer that does the same thing at a cheap price. Then the latter card is an 0/3 with defender for three mana that taps for X mana of any number of colors where that is your defender count. It includes itself so it always taps for one, but with the card-flow Walls mentioned earlier, this could matter. It also blocks as 3/3.

It's just 0.49 and 0.75 for classics Forbidding Watchtower and Rogue's Passage. The first one taps for White, enters the battlefield tapped, and then can be activated for two mana to make a 1/5 which is a 5/5 here with Doran. It's very strong at the swinging or the blocking. The Passage taps with four to make any dork (even opposing ones for politics) unblockable for the turn. It's here to target Doran and other beaters for the game winning. I also tossed in similar card Access Tunnel which will work on anything not named Zetalpa.

Murmuring Bosk
Exotic Orchard

Check out this rare pair under a dollar each and hanging at 0.99 and 0.49. The Bosk counts as a Forest, taps for your other two colors for life lost, and you can reveal a Treefolk from your hand to make it enter untapped and ready to be used. It taps for all your mana as well as can be untapped with a good number of Treefolk randomly here. Orchard is a Fellwar Stone in land form. It can tap for any color that your opposing lands can, so that's usually some of all your colors in a multiplayer format. It's another cheap way to make that mana. It also arrives untapped and ready to be used!

Ready for my decklist? I got cha!

Budget Doran | Commander | Abe Sargent

Result - $32.25...wait, that's never happened before. Let's take it!

Other cards you might want to add include Robe of Stars, Meekstone, Retribution of the Meek, Ohran Frostfang, Ikra Shidiqi, the Usurper, Sylvan Caryatid, Utopia Tree, the surprisingly pricey Indomitable Ancients, Heroic Intervention, or Courser of Kruphix.

Limited time 30% buy trade in bonus buylist