Doran, the Explorer

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One of my favorite color combinations in Magic is the [card Teneb, the Harvester]Teneb[/card] wedge: Green-White-Black. I force this color combination consistently when I'm cubing, I love the combination in Innistrad Sealed and Draft, and I try to make the color combination work in Standard whenever I can. (I'm currently working on G/W/B Birthing Pod/Heartless Summoning, for those interested!). That said, it's one of my least favorite combinations in Commander.

Honestly, I think that the biggest reason for that is that a huge majority of G/W/B decks are 80 or so of the same 99 cards, and a number of the commanders are pretty interchangeable. How much difference is there really between any two Teneb, the Harvester or Karador, Ghost Chieftain decks? The biggest difference I've seen is whether or not they decide to play one of the many [card Melira, Sylvok Outcast]persist[/card] [card Nim Deathmantle]combos[/card], Reveillark/Karmic Guide combos, or Necrotic Ooze/Hermit Druid combos. If the deck runs any of these combos, then it spends the whole game just playing combo piece after combo piece, waiting until you die. If the deck doesn't run combos, then it spends the whole game grinding out cards and progressively working itself into a better and better position, and that you have to keep playing, even when they won 20 turns ago and can't close out the game.

In fairness, there's a reason that these decks are very good. In many playgroups, the graveyard is like a second library that you can readily tutor through and get free cards from. It's hard not to abuse that kind of resource when it's so readily available. As more and more cards are printed, the older formats like Legacy, Vintage, and even Commander are becoming formats where you shouldn't be embarrassed to play maindeck Leyline of the Void.

Regardless, this isn't an article about Teneb, Karador, and graveyard hate. If I'm going to be a G/W/B deck, I want it to be different than the others in my playgroup. I don't want to be playing another recursion-combo deck, or another token-beatdown deck. One of my favorite legendary creatures of all time is Doran, the Siege Tower. Lorwyn was right around where I started really playing Magic again; I played Doran in every format I could, and loved every minute of it. There's just something so satisfying about attacking for one with Birds of Paradise! My favorite experience with Doran though, is from a Lorwyn-Lorwyn-Morningtide Draft, where I picked up Doran, Leaf-Crowned Elder, and Indomitable Ancients, as well as multiple Thorntooth Witch and Orchard Warden. What I want to do this week is build a deck reminiscent of that one: mostly Treefolk tribal, with a "toughness matters" theme, that uses Basri's Solidarity as a hilarious Overrun effect! So let's get started on establishing those themes:

Toughness Matters

There's a few pretty obvious choices here in Oathsworn Giant, Basri's Solidarity, and Steadfastness, so I won't waste much time on those. Rather, I'd like to look at a few of the cards that are going to color some of the choices in the rest of the deck: Castle and Sword of the Paruns, for example, are going to want the deck to include numerous ways to make sure creatures have vigilance. Accorder's Shield and Slagwurm Armor give [card Doran, the Siege Tower]Doran[/card] a number of ways to go Voltron and just kill people!

The last few cards are reasonably interesting. With [card Doran, the Siege Tower]Doran[/card] in play, both Blessed Orator and Archangel of Strife become very efficient creatures that also pump the rest of your team a significant amount at their respective costs. These kinds of creatures, combined with Basri's Solidarity and Steadfastness let you produce obscene quantities of damage out of nowhere. Finally, Wave of Reckoning is almost always going to sweep away everyone else's creatures, leaving you able to crash through for damage!

There will certainly be a number of other cards in this deck who are quite good with Doran in play, but those are going to be more generically good utility cards rather than ones that are only good because of their interaction with [card Doran, the Siege Tower]Doran[/card], so I want to make sure we have enough space for the rest of the on-theme cards before we move into those. Since we've covered the toughness tatters theme, let's take a look at the Treefolk!


One of the things that I hate the most about this deck is how absolutely abysmal Weatherseed Treefolk is in a [card Doran, the Siege Tower]Doran[/card] deck. However, looking over this list of sweet Treefolk you get to play, I'm pretty sure it's a reasonable trade-off. The most important three cards here are Dauntless Dourbark, Dungrove Elder, and Reach of Branches. These guys all want a very, very high Forest count in the deck, so that you can continually pump them or buy them back, and even let you do cool tricks with Seedguide Ash.

Besides these cards that really want to be built around, there are a number of cards that are incredibly powerful here, like Treefolk Seedlings and Magnigoth Treefolk, which are just insane when you have a [card Doran, the Siege Tower]Doran[/card] in play. Everbark Shaman and Seedguide Ash both become much better when the deck starts caring as much about Forest count as it does.

Tree of Redemption is a card I was really excited about in this format because it does a ton of interesting things, especially when you can repeatedly recur it and reset its toughness. This card also lets you take advantage of how layers work by pump its toughness with cards like Slagwurm Armor to keep your life total up.

It's just surprising how many interesting interactions there are in just the tribal section of this deck. The thing that I'm most concerned about looking at the list just now is the mana. It's going to be very difficult to have enough forests to make creatures like Treefolk Seedlings good and also have enough fixing to make white and black reasonable colors, or even to play [card Doran, the Siege Tower]Doran[/card] on turn three consistently. The Forest-heavy mana base also puts severe restrictions on what kinds of non-Treefolk cards the deck can run.


Looking at some non-Treefolk cards, there are a number of guys that I really want to fit into here purely because of their interactions with [card Doran, the Siege Tower]Doran[/card]. The first section is full of some fairly vanilla cards like People of the Forest and Graceful Antelope, both of which are insane. Some cards that get much better as you make your mana base mono-Forests. The second group of cards is your recursion suite, which is built around Order of Whiteclay.

After I included Order of Whiteclay, I really wanted to include Saffi Eriksdotter since this gives you another Sun Titan-esque engine that can be very hard to break up. Doomed Necromancer is a back-up Saffi, but one that you need to untap with first. Ardarkar Valkyrie is yet another way to interact with these other two cards, but is likely much worse than either Sun Titan or Order of Whiteclay. Regardless, these interactions give you some resiliency to removal and Wraths, especially in conjunction with sacrifice outlets, and form an absurd late game once everyone's hands have been depleted.

Last, there's two cards that seem sick in a mono-Forest deck: Primal Bellow and Woodland Guidance. Primal Bellow is the card I'm least sure of in this deck. I really like the potential to one-shot someone with [card Doran, the Siege Tower]Doran[/card], but this might be just better as something like Strata Scythe, a more permanent threat and counts all the forests, rather than just yours. Second, Woodland Guidance is a card that doesn't see nearly enough play relative to how powerful it is. Regrowth plus Early Harvest, even if it isn't consistent, is absolutely game breaking. Let's not even think about the times that you have some sort of library manipulation and can guarantee winning the clash!

That should just about round out the more unique themes of this deck. What's really important for a deck like this, though, is the supporting backbone of ramp and utility spells. It's very important for this deck to have a ton of mana fixing (and to find its dual lands early and consistently) so that you can actually cast spells. Similarly, there are a few spells that you want to be able to cast multiple times in a game, or to get back if they get milled or countered, like Basri's Solidarity and Reach through Branches.

Ramp and Utility

The first set of cards is the pretty typical ramp package, and should be reasonably self-explanatory. Skyshroud Claim and Hunting Wilds aren't spells I like to use very often, but are fine here since the deck wants all Forests all the time. More importantly, these find your dual lands so that the rest of your ramp spells can find Forests. Reap and Sow could easily be Primeval Titan, but to be honest I'm getting sort of tired of Prime Time always fetching Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth/Cabal Coffers, so I intentionally excluded it from this deck and have been avoiding building B/G anything for quite awhile.

The second set of cards is your utility suite. Some tutors increase the density of threats, and to make sure you can easily find one of your "power/toughness equal to the number of Forests" guys to beat down with. You have a couple of ways to deal with problematic permanents, but you don't need too many since you can fairly easily tutor up Woodfall Primus and keep him in play.

Momentous Fall is probably the worst card of this particular set. It could easily be Garruk, Primal Hunter or something similar. That said, I like being able to cast the card at instant speed, even if it only works with Dauntless Dourbark and Dungrove Elder rather than all the "Forests matter" cards. You'll notice that there are very few non-green, color-intensive cards in the whole list. This was a very conscious and necessary choice, so that you don't lose to bad mana. In order to support a three-color commander that wants as many Forests as possible, the mana base has to look a little weird:

The Mana

There's not too much to say here. All of your duals are Forest-based. Gavony Township and [card Oran-Rief, the Vastwood]Oran-Rief[/card] pump your team, or make Woodfall Primus incredibly difficult to kill. Winding Canyons is surprisingly awesome in this list, since you can flash in either [card Doran, the Siege Tower]Doran[/card] or one of your other high toughness guys to get in a hit you wouldn't ordinarily.

One of the trickiest things with this deck is the mana. You need to be sure you can cast an early [card Doran, the Siege Tower]Doran[/card], but also need to hit double white for some of your best spells, while still maximizing your Forest count. Generally, the first lands you fetch are Murmuring Bosk and Savannah, followed by basic Forests unless you foresee a particularly color intensive turn. With all that, let's take a look at the finalized list:

[deckbox did="a133" size="small" width="560"]

This is certainly underpowered compared to some of the B/G/W lists, especially the more combotastic ones. It's also definitely more unique, and brings the beats a a lot harder and faster. Even better, this list has one of the biggest advantages I love to have: no one knows what most of your cards do, and even if they do there's chances for them to mess up. Anyone can mess up counting your Forests, or forget that [card Doran, the Siege Tower]Doran[/card] makes toughness much more relevant. Any situation where people are unfamiliar with your cards and how they interact is an advantageous one for you!

Let me know what you thought of this article! Be sure to check out my article on Red Site Wins, also in Doran colors but a little more off the wall. (Hint: it's built around A-Acererak the Archlich!) As always, I'm excited to see what you guys think of in the comments, cards or interactions that I missed, questions about the deck, and whatnot. I got an interesting challenge in the mailbag earlier this week, so I'm hoping to tackle Myojin of Seeing Winds next week!

Carlos Gutierrez
@cag5383 on Twitter

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