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Top 10 Defenders of All Time


Maybe you are running a fun combo deck and you need a crucial few turns to win after dropping the combo pieces. Perhaps you are building that control deck and you want to push everyone into the late game so that your deck can take over. Or it could just be multiplayer night, and you require an answer that can block multiple attackers—rather than one like Maze of Ith—that only handles a single creature.

For whatever reason, you are looking at adding in some of the great defenders in Magic. It's a Wall express down at your deck-building station tonight!

(I sort of wanted to call this the Top 10 Walls list, but I wanted to consider creatures that were not true Walls but that had defender.)

Mnemonic Wall
So let’s take a gander at the best defenders of all time. These will be the fertilizer to help grow beautiful decks.

Honorable Mention #1: Mnemonic Wall The problem with the Wall is that it costs too much mana for a 0/4 Wall. No one wants to run a Wall that small for 5 mana. But then you tack on a spell that normally costs 3 mana (Relearn), so it's really just 2 mana for the Wall part. That's doable. Then, add in abuse of either the graveyard or creatures with enters-the-battlefield (ETB) abilities, and you have unveiled a card that plays the harpsichord of casual aficionados everywhere.

Honorable Mention #2: Drift of Phantasms I like early defending creatures. I like tutoring for answers or combo pieces. The Drift plays uniquely as a blocker or as a tutor to find what you need. Either role suits the deck just perfectly. Because it's a great utility card, the Drift can offer a strong supporting role for a lot of decks out there. It might even get an Oscar nomination for it!

Honorable Mention #3: Plumeveil – Because it leaps out of nowhere to surprise-block something, it's a nice spider that lingers out of sight until it needs to pounce. I enjoy a card with that sort of an elevated animal level. This is especially true with defenders—because they tend to not pack a lot of surprises—but a 4/4 flying, flash, defender creature for 3 mana is pretty nifty. There's a lot under this hood.

Now let’s take a look at the best of the best for y’all!

Drift of Phantasms
Wall of Earth

10 – Wall of Earth and Wall of Tanglecord Making that 0/6 on the second turn is a very strong level of defense. Your opponents won't reliably have a ground pounder big enough to break through until turn six at the very earliest. That buys you a lot of turns of protection for your 2-mana investment. Outside of Commander (with its color identity rule), you don't even have to be playing green to rock the Wall of Tanglecord. It's good enough on its own. But if you do, you can threaten reach with that open g ready to activate, and people have to expect that you will, which adds an additional layer of protection to your deck.

9 – Vent Sentinel Because it combines a fun defender theme with a blast of damage-doling, the Vent Sentinel is both a fun defender and a smattering of card advantage. Just shoot stuff or people at your leisure.

8 – Shield Sphere This is the first of two entries that had their profiles enhanced due to tournament-level, combotastic use. The Sphere was an iconic part of an infinite combo that involved Goblin Bombardment and Enduring Renewal. You would play the 0-cost artifact creature, sacrifice it for a point of damage to the Bombardment, and then recur it with the Renewal. The Shield Sphere was the 0-cost drop of choice over other options (such as Phyrexian Walker) because of how well it could provide early defense. Unfortunately, it shrinks as it blocks. How many blocks will it give you in a kitchen-table game today? It probably won't need to block until turn two. You might want to save it a turn against a 1-power critter. Then, you might block a few larger threats and have it die around turn four in a fast-paced duel—or it’ll last until turn five otherwise, or maybe even later if you aren't attacked as much. Think about how much damage that'll prevent. Perhaps you have some way to abuse the Sphere's artifact nature or cheap cost as well . . . 

Vent Sentinel
Shield Sphere
Fog Bank

7 – Fog Bank For a 2-mana investment, you have a Wall that can block anything. Because the Fog Bank flies, it can stop a Serra Angel or Shivan Dragon as well. Yay for that! It's a commonly played answer along with other blue defensive cards like Propaganda. Now, there are a few things keeping it from higher up. It has as low toughness, so it often dies accidentally to things like Pyroclasm and Infest. Since it only prevents damage during combat, you can easily drop it with a Ghitu Slinger, Murderous Redcap, Lightning Bolt, or Flametongue Kavu, and that's in addition to stuff like Shriekmaw, Nekrataal, or other fun removal-based cards. Another major concern is trampling, which can deal a lot of damage over the top of the Bank. It only absorbs 2 damage, so that Akroma, Angel of Wrath won't slow down much in the Fog. Unfortunately for you, many commonly played creatures have trample. That’s why I would run it with other defensive cards.

6 – Steel Wall and Perimeter Captain 1-drop Walls are among the best you can acquire in Magic. The great 1-drops of all time are relatively weak. At the kitchen table, way too many players aren't doing anything on turn one anyway. There are a few bigger defenders you can run, such as these two folks. A 0/4 defender can stop almost any creature up to 4 mana. At 4, you can start to see stuff with a 4-power throwdown. Then, it takes an extra turn to swing. So it’s roughly turn five before someone attacks with a creature large enough to defeat a 0/4 Wall. Think of all of the turns of protection that a humble 1-drop Wall has just bought you.

So if those fun Walls didn’t make the top five, what did?

5 – Tinder Wall This is the other half of the combo-esque entries in today's countdown. For an investment of g, you can immediately sacrifice this for rr. It's like a baby Dark Ritual. You can save it to add a couple of mana to bigger spell that comes down the pike later. You could play it as an early drop in a storm deck to give you some defense or to add mana later on to build your count. It can give your combo deck early plays of value and later on add 2 critical mana. Or maybe you just want defense early to make it to the big stuff and then use it later for a Fireball. Life doesn't have to be that complex. Just have fun with it!

Steel Wall
Tinder Wall
Thallid Shell-Dweller

4 – Thallid Shell-Dweller There's aren't a lot of Walls that can kill you if left unchecked. Most of those just have the ability to lose defender and attack. But this Wall is different, churning out 1/1 Saproling tokens with its best Fallen Empires impression. Because it provides both that early defense and later-game shenanigans (and combines well with stuff from Fungal Bloom to Doubling Season), this is a potent defender for your next deck!

3 – Wall of Denial Many Walls are good because of abilities they bring to the table. Wall of Mulch is not just good as a blocker, but also as a sacrifice engine for Walls. You see the same with stuff like Stinging Barrier. Then there are Walls that are just hard to crack, like Glacial Wall and Wall of Ice. They don't bring a lot of crazy abilities beyond a few keywords. They are just a hard to break through. No Wall is better at doing that than Wall of Denial. For 3 mana, you have a 0/8 flying Wall. No Wall gives you as much defense for that price. Unlike a lot of great early Walls, it flies, too, so you can't just soar over it. The addition of shroud just rubs salt in the wound, as no one can blow it up to take it out. It can't be targeted, and damaged-based removal has to do a lot to kill it (such as Pestilence or Hurricane). Barring mass removal a la Wrath of God, or a weird combat trick (such as Giant Growth on a blocked Mahamoti Djinn), you are not losing that Wall. Wall of Denial is a real thing.

2 – Wall of Roots, Vine Trellis, Sylvan Caryatid, and Overgrown BattlementHistory has shown that a 2-drop Wall that accelerates your mana while providing a strong roadblock ends up being something in Standard. All of these 2-drop mana bodies saw play in their respective formats. Today, every single one of them is a powerful addition to your casual deck as well. The current popularity of Sylvan Caryatid just underlines this point.

Wall of Denial
Wall of Roots
Wall of Omens

1 – Wall of Blossoms and Wall of Omens Why are these number one? Well, they keep things going at the cost of just 2 mana and no card loss. Imagine there were a spell printed that cost 15 mana but that had cycling for 2 mana and put a 0/4 token with defender into play. That would be an awesome cycling ability—it replaces itself, and you gain a nice roadblock to boot. But the Walls are better because they work well with everything from Restoration Angel to Reveillark to Fleetfoot Panther to Conjurer's Closet. They have a long established relationship with the best flickering, bouncing, and reanimation tricks that have ever been spawned. Meanwhile, they give you the time you need to get there. Oh, and when it comes to defenders buying you time to build up to when you can establish dominance via combo or control, nothing is better than these guys because they give you a card to keep digging to find that needed mana, combo piece, or removal. They are perfection in Magic form.

Defenders are great ways to keep you alive. As I’ve said many times before, you can’t win until you don’t lose. Walls keep you from losing. They are a valuable part of a puzzle that you can assemble to survive in multiplayer—or with decks that need to go long.

From Wall of Stone to Wall of Tears, we have a large number of powerful defenders out there to harness.

Get your Wall on!

See you next week,

Abe Sargent

P.S. Wanna play Magic on the cheap? Other than Sylvan Caryatid, every single card on this list is a common or uncommon . . . 

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