The best quality you can have in any community is inspiration. The ability to inspire others is infectious, challenging your community to create for the sake of excitement and bettering what we can accomplish.
In Commander, I’ve found inspiration is the best quality amongst the playgroups I’ve seen or participated in. Developing a close-knit group that encourages you to bring your weirdest deck designs not only perpetuates the so-called “Spirit of the Format,” but it also pushes you and the other members of your group to build creatively in pursuit of having the most fulfilling games.
Today, we’re going to talk about a deck that I feel embodies these qualities: Matt Pearson’s Wall-Stars, led by the O.G. of Abzan: Doran, the Siege Tower.
MEET MATT PEARSON
Matt’s been working in Fulfillment packing Magic cards since the beginning of the year. He came on part-time when we were busy and needed help, but has since become a full-fledged member of the team, and it’s easy to see why. Matt’s work ethic is contagious. He learns quickly, is always ready to accomplish whatever task he’s been given, and gets better at it every day.
Matt’s been a Magic player off and on since middle school. He got his start in Odyssey and Onslaught, where he was embroiled in battles between Goblins and his beloved Morph creatures, and he took breaks from the game when his friends did, or when he decided he didn’t want to spend the money. Being an RPG-er, Matt’s often been brought back to play Commander, where story and character and deckbuilding are close, but never hung around for long because of price. A believer in inexpensive hobbies, one of the things that enticed Matt to play with us in Fulfillment was our casual environment— that, and being influenced by a coworker to get silly and build Tribal Walls.
MEET MATT’S WALL-STARS
Matt managed a hefty stack of deckbuilding challenges and constraints incredibly well, especially given how little experience he has building decks. Much of his success had to do with the concept of piggybacking creativity. While this design is Matt’s brainchild, he arrived here after many unfettered Gatherer searches, several TappedOut statistics consultations, and weeks of bouncing ideas off of us on the shipping floor.
For anyone that has built Doran Defenders before, this deck isn’t exactly easy to build, let alone as a “first” deck. One of the biggest challenges, for example, is navigating the tricky sea of balancing Walls vs. creatures that have Defender. This is important because not all Animate Wall effects are created equal. Assault Formation and Wakestone Gargoyle can apply to all Wall creatures because they have Defender, but Rolling Stones can only apply to Walls. While we’d all like to be able to hold tight to the restriction of having only Wall creatures, that just isn’t realistic.
Straddling this balance is one of the things Matt did particularly well. Not only did he pick cheap Wall creatures with extra abilities, but his choices for breaking his tribal restriction are also particularly clever. We have a nice mix of effective Defenders like Tree of Redemption and Tree of Perdition, as well as a handful of strong attacking, Defender-adjacent creatures like Sidar Kondo and Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim, the latter of which can also turn into a removal cannon.
Matt and I share a lot of favorite cards in this deck, simply because they demonstrate style and cleverness when we look at the deck’s identity. Having some experience with this type of deck, I appreciate the new toys like Dusk // Dawn, Fell the Mighty, Kin-Tree Invocation, and Behind the Scenes, but the old cards Matt has dug up are particularly special.
The first is Duplicant, a non-Wall that will usually remove one of his opponent’s best creatures – or through one of Magic’s oddest loopholes, turn his biggest Wall into an attacking creature.
The best and most compelling addition is Soul Foundry. While most decks would want this card for special creatures and redundant “enter the battlefield” triggers, Matt’s deck has many defensive tricks. He can use Soul Foundry to make copies of his Wall “threats,” like Wall of Blood or Tree of Perdition. He can Imprint Wall of Blossoms or Wall of Omens to create a card-draw engine. He can even fortify his position with free activation Shield Spheres – which, believe it or not, won him a game!
PLANS FOR FUTURE CONSTRUCTION
While he has most of the logistical parts configured, Matt’s Doran deck is still a work in progress. He has begun work fixing his manabase, exchanging basics for more versatile tap-lands in order to cast his Walls early and have the option of casting Doran on turn three.
Overall, Matt is extremely motivated to build and rebuild his Walls, and others around the company seem to be joining in. Matt is working on a second Wall deck, and another three of us (including myself) are building Defender decks in anticipation of an epic “Wall-Off.” I can’t wait to see who doesn’t attack the best!
Header design: Justin Treadway
Header image: “Doran, the Siege Tower” by Mark Zug
For most of his Magic-playing life, Aaron has been playing and writing about Commander. One of the few mono-colored players in a gold-bordered world, Aaron enjoys the challenges of creating meaningful, memorable games, as well as the excitement that comes with engaging underrated cards as he explores the format’s uncharted territory. A disciplined deckbuilder with over 200 lists to his name, Aaron has spent the past several years creating content about his favorite format.