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Rolling with Doran

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In this experiment, we wall in a tiny Treefolk and then set the stones a-rollin’.

If you’re not big on Magic trends, you may have not yet followed the path of building your own Tiny Leaders deck. You see, Tiny Leaders is a Commander-like format in that players build Highlander (singleton) decks with colors restricted by selections of legendary commanders. Where the format diverges is in that the decks are fifty cards rather than one hundred, and no card can exceed a converted mana cost of 3. That means Genesis Hydra is fine, but nothing from Birthing Pod on up can be included in a Tiny Leaders deck. The format also dictates life totals of 25, and I’ve heard it plays more like Legacy than Commander.

That’s right—I haven’t played it yet. But today, I want to put together a deck around a legendary creature I’ve always found interesting, and Tiny Leaders just may provide the most fertile land in which he can grow.

Doran, the Siege Tower

Abzan is among my favorite color combinations. I love the growth of green and the life-gain that both white and black offer. But Doran doesn’t directly emphasize life-gain; what he does do is turn high-toughness creatures into potentially powerful beaters.

And there’s a good source of high-toughness creatures in Magic: Walls. The only downside is that it’s hard to make use of high-pseudo-powered creatures like Doran-enhanced Walls when they can’t attack. Defender will do that to you.

Doran, the Siege Tower
Rolling Stones

Of course, the solution to that is Rolling Stones. After we set up with some high-toughness Walls, land our commander, and then cast Rolling Stones, we can start attacking for huge amounts of damage using creatures that cost only 0 to 3 mana.

The Walls

Let’s take a look at a bunch of cards, one at a time, and get a feel for what the deck will play like.

Angelic Wall With Doran, this is a 4/4 with flying for 1w. And while we’re on the defensive, it’s nice to have the ability to block flyers.

Jeskai Barricade A kind of Whitemane Lion for Walls, Fate Reforged’s new Barricade is another potential 4/4 for 1w that lets us save our creatures—possibly Doran—from opposing removal and tricks. We can also just block and then reuse a Wall with a good enters-the-battlefield trigger.

Angelic Wall
Jeskai Barricade
Shield Sphere

Shield Sphere Given that blocking isn’t necessarily our first priority, a 6/6 for 0 seems fair . . . right?

Wall of Blood Wall of Blood is among our more expensive Walls, but I think it will be worth it. With a little life payment, it can profitably block most (non-evasive) creatures, and when we are able to attack with it, we may just be able to kill our opponent in one swing.

Wall of Ice This is probably our worst Wall, but I love ice-themed things, and it does have the highest toughness of all our Walls.

Wall of Blood
Wall of Ice
Wall of Junk

Wall of Junk This also has the highest toughness of all our Walls. It’s only 2 mana, but it bounces itself when it blocks. That’s not a huge deal sometimes, but it is a huge deal other times, and unfortunately, it also means we can’t attack with it the turn after we block with it, which could mean it shouldn’t actually make the cut.

Wall of Blossoms and Wall of Omens These might be our best Walls. Shield Sphere and Wall of Blood have their upsides, and these are only 4/4s, but it’s hard to beat their ability to replace themselves.

Non-Wall Creatures

There are plenty of creatures we could play in these colors, but we’re going with mostly Walls here. That said, there are a few I couldn’t resist.

Courser of Kruphix This is an extremely powerful card, and it works even better with Doran around. There’s not much to say here.

Necravolver Necravolver used to be my favorite card, though it’s now fallen into second place after Future Sight. That said, I can rarely find an excuse to play it. Tiny Leaders may still not be a habitable enough environment for the Abzan Volver, but I have to give it a try. Some players try to bend the 3-cost rule with X spells, but I think kicker works well, too, and few opponents will be expecting a 5/5 creature with trample and lifelink for 3wbg.

Courser of Kruphix
Necravolver
Skinshifter

Skinshifter Skinshifter is another pet card of mine, but unlike Necravolver, I don’t feel any risk of handicapping myself here. Normally, Skinshifter’s Treefolk form isn’t particularly impressive, but when he assigns combat damage equal to his toughness instead of his power, that 4/4 Rhino form starts to look a little silly.

And the Rest

Shield of the Oversoul Decidedly not on theme, I feel this Shield is at an interesting place between unbeatable and blowout-inviting. If we are two-for-one’d by an opposing Path to Exile or the like, it will be pretty disappointing. But a 7-damage-dealing, flying, indestructible commander will otherwise be hard to deal with. Tiny Leaders still has the same 21-point commander-damage threshold, but 21 is less than 25, and 7 is still quite a big chunk.

Sword of Fire and Ice The necessity of a Sword is debatable, but they’re quite strong. I chose to keep the list’s Sword count to one, but the extra removal and, especially, card-draw is very exciting. Sword of Body and Mind is banned in the format, but feel free to use the ten-card sideboard rule in your Tiny Leaders matches to bring in the Swords that match the opponent’s colors.

Shield of the Oversoul
Sword of Fire and Ice
Sterling Grove

Sterling Grove and Shred Memory Given the deck’s reliance on Rolling Stones, it seems eminently important to play a few tutor effects. Sterling Grove lets us choose between protecting our enchantments and finding the ones we need, while Shred Memory is basically just here to transmute. If you have it, I suppose Demonic Tutor is almost strictly better (unless you’re worried about counterspells). The sideboarded Cover of Darkness (for Walls) also costs 2 mana, so we can transmute for that as well. Finally, the also-sideboarded Reviving Melody can return a destroyed enchantment and/or creature we need.

Toxic Deluge Most Tiny Leaders Wrath of God variants are X spells like Bonfire of the Damned and Martial Coup, but Toxic Deluge should work quite well for us. Considering the high toughness of our creatures, we should be able to make this play like a Plague Wind.

Glyph of Doom And here’s the hidden gem of the deck. Doran and Rolling Stones are mostly known quantities, but the awful Glyph cycle from Legends is nowhere near as popular. Unfortunately, Glyph of Life and Glyph of Reincarnation (go ahead and try to read that in the pop-up image) don’t nearly make the cut, but Glyph of Doom is an on-theme, 1-mana removal spell.

Toxic Deluge
Glyph of Doom
Forbidding Watchtower

Khalni Garden and Forbidding Watchtower These two are both lands that either create or turn into creatures with higher toughness than power. With Doran, the Garden’s 0/1 Plant instead acts as a 1/1, which seems like a pretty good deal from a land. Forbidding Watchtower, on the other hand, becomes a 5/5 powerhouse that didn’t even cost us a card.

I’m looking forward to putting this list together and trying it out. If the format plays too competitively, it might not be my style—it’s already a niche format, so finding people who play this relatively new format the way I like to play Magic (not cutthroat) may be a challenge. Then again, if Tiny Leaders’s popularity continues to grow as it has, it won’t be long until there are players of all competition preferences playing.

If you love Walls, if you want to cast Glyph of Doom, or if you—as I am—are hoping to one day find a solid home for Necravolver, give this deck a try.

Andrew Wilson

@Silent7Seven

fissionessence at hotmail dot com


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