Dear Azami: Doran Doran

When Commander players look to change their ways, the transition can be painful. In this week’s Dear Azami, Levi Byrne steps in to shape a deck fueled by the power of Doran, the Siege Tower…and Umbral Mantle?!

Last week, Sean McKeown went in depth about Emrakul’s new card and why she’s much less dangerous for the format than her original card. I’m in agreement with him about that, but what interests me the most is that, with about half the set spoiled (it’ll all be revealed by the time you’re reading this), we’ve got seven legends spoiled (or eight, if your playgroup lets you use half of Hanweir, the Writhing Township as your commander). And they’re all interesting in one capacity or another. The combined Gisa and Geralf look amazing, and someone is going to try to live the dream of assembling Brisela at the helm of their deck. With Bruna, the Fading Light in the official commander slot, it doesn’t even seem that difficult, which is a terrifying prospect.

There’s been some backlash over Ulrich of the Krallenhorde, the Werewolf commander we’ve been waiting for since 2011, and whether he’s actually any good in the format. Frankly, I haven’t decided, but at some point I’m going to try to make him work and find out for myself.

In any case, it wasn’t quite soon enough for us to have submissions based around the new legends, but let’s look at what we do have this week.

Dear Azami,

So for a while now in my local game store I’ve been known in one of two ways, either the wacky Oracle text guy whose decks do powerful nothing, or the prison/control player. In an effort to change this reputation I have set out on a journey to build a style of deck I’ve not attempted before, a fair creature deck!

And then I found it, my one true love in the form of an Equipment, Umbral Mantle. I knew I had to build around this thing. This deck started there and it brought me to Doran, the Siege tower. So many creatures fit into both archetypes that it seemed a natural fit. But I’m so inexperienced in this type of deck building I have no idea what I’m doing! There’s no real restrictions on the deck (the benefit of a very competitive meta), as long as Umbral Mantle is still functioning well.


1 Doran, the Siege Tower

Creature (44)

1 Argothian Elder

1 Axebane Guardian

1 Bloom Tender

1 Carven Caryatid

1 Devoted Druid

1 Elvish Aberration

1 Elvish Archdruid

1 Elvish Harbinger

1 Fauna Shaman

1 Golgari Guildmage

1 Gyre Sage

1 Hunter of Eyeblights

1 Jeskai Barricade

1 Joiner Adept

1 Karametra’s Acolyte

1 Maralen of the Mornsong

1 Nissa, Vastwood Seer

1 Norwood Priestess

1 Nylea, God of the Hunt

1 Opal-Eye, Konda’s Yojimbo

1 Oracle of Mul Daya

1 Overgrown Battlement

1 Perimeter Captain

1 Priest of Titania

1 Shirei, Shizo’s Caretaker

1 Souls of the Faultless

1 Sprouting Phytohydra

1 Stalwart Shield-Bearers

1 Stoneforge Mystic

1 Sylvan Caryatid

1 Tree of Redemption

1 Trestle Troll

1 Vine Trellis

1 Wakestone Gargoyle

1 Wall of Essence

1 Wall of Faith

1 Wall of Mulch

1 Wall of Nets

1 Wall of Omens

1 Wall of Resistance

1 Wall of Roots

1 Wall of Shards

1 Wirewood Channeler

1 Xathrid Gorgon

Land (35)

1 Ancient Ziggurat

1 Blighted Woodland

1 Blossoming Sands

1 Bojuka Bog

1 Brushland

1 Canopy Vista

1 Caves of Koilos

1 Command Tower

2 Forest

1 Fortified Village

1 Gavony Township

1 Gilt-Leaf Palace

1 Godless Shrine

1 Grasslands

1 Jungle Hollow

1 Krosan Verge

1 Marsh Flats

1 Miren, the Moaning Well

1 Mistveil Plains

1 Murmuring Bosk

1 Overgrown Tomb

1 Plains

1 Razorverge Thicket

1 Riftstone Portal

1 Rogue’s Passage

1 Sandsteppe Citadel

1 Sunpetal Grove

1 Temple Garden

1 Temple of Malady

1 Temple of Plenty

1 Temple of Silence

1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

1 Verdant Catacombs

1 Windswept Heath

Enchantment (6)

1 Assault Formation

1 Aura Shards

1 Behind the Scenes

1 Brave the Sands

1 Leyline of Vitality

1 Rolling Stones

Instant (5)

1 Howl from Beyond

1 Mercy Killing

1 Strength of the Tajuru

1 Untamed Might

1 Vampiric Tutor

Artifact (5)

1 Lightning Greaves

1 Sol Ring

1 Swiftfoot Boots

1 Umbral Mantle

1 Warmonger’s Chariot

Sorcery (3)

1 Demonic Tutor

1 Sylvan Offering

1 Wave of Reckoning

Planeswalker (1)

1 Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury

– Sam

Of all the commanders out there, Doran, the Siege Tower is one of the oddest. It encourages a beatdown strategy while asking that you run as many zero-power creatures as possible. The sheer power that its ability brings to the table makes your creatures terrifying and will sometimes act as a hatebear that shuts down your opponents’ strategies.

Add to that mechanical weirdness the fact that Umbral Mantle is one of my favorite cards (usually paired with Krenko, Mob Boss to make an absurd number of Goblins) and I didn’t need long to decide to take on this submission.

The Creatures


There is most definitely a theme to this first wave of cuts. You were running seventeen Elves, which is just barely enough to justify running “Elves matter” cards, but since I wanted to cut some of the weaker Elves anyway, these cards just didn’t fit in the list anymore. I get that Elvish Archdruid, Priest of Titania, and Wirewood Channeler are meant to work with Umbral Mantle, but you already have a lot of creatures that make arbitrarily large amounts of mana with that equipment and I’d rather not rely that heavily on the combo finish.

Hunter of Eyeblights would barely be a consideration in a Ghave, Guru of Spores deck, let alone a deck where you have no other ways to put counters on opposing creatures aside from inefficient options like Golgari Guildmage.

Speaking of the Guildmage, it serves as a way to make all your creatures huge if you’ve already made arbitrarily large amounts of mana but is otherwise overcosted for everything it does. You can do a lot better than that. The same, oddly enough, can be said for Nylea, God of the Hunt. Giving your team trample is nice, but if you want a pump ability, there are much more efficient options.

It’s true that you’re skewed toward green creatures in this deck, but your curve is fairly low for a commander deck and you’re running a ton of mana creatures, so Norwood Priestess isn’t going to help you meaningfully cheat on mana costs.

Maralen of the Mornsong is a very risky card. She’s usually seen either when you’re trying to lock your opponents out of being able to play spell, or if you want to assemble an infinite combo as quickly as possible. This is where I had to decide which direction the deck was going to go in. Keeping Maralen only makes sense if you want to go for the “arbitrarily large amounts of mana and power” combo in every game and are confident that you can assemble your combo before any of the other players at the table can assemble their own combos or answer yours somehow.

From the submission, I would guess that Sam’s more interested in playing an interactive game and trying to win through “normal” combat than turning every game into “answer this combo or die,” especially since, if that was the route desired, there are far more efficient combos out there than infinitely untapping a mana creature with Umbral Mantle.

Sprouting Phydohydra, Wall of Resistance, and Wall of Shards are all getting cut for being just that little bit underwhelming. It’s very rare that the Phytohyra will find a 1/X to block and survive, so you’re almost never going to live the dream of blanketing the battlefield in Plants. Wall of Resistance is similarly unlikely to survive its first block, so the ability to grow bigger with damage is almost irrelevant. Wall of Shards is a great rate for a big Wall that hits harder than just about anything else you’re running, but you’re not on the Commander damage plan, and that lifegain from the upkeep triggers will add up quickly, especially if you don’t have Rolling Stones or a similar effect out when you play it.

Finally, Jeskai Barricade is an odd choice for a combat trick, and while effective 4/4 stats aren’t bad for two mana, I’ve never liked Whitemane Lion-esque effects in aggressive decks, since usually you’re attacking when you need to protect your creatures, and if your protection is bouncing your own creature, you lose out on any damage it could have done.


One of the things that struck me as I was looking at your list is that, considering you wanted to build around Umbral Mantle, you had very few creatures with tap abilities, so beefing up the number of effects you had access to was one of my first priorities. In this theme, Adarkar Valkyrie lets you save your creatures from death over and over again, while Avatar of Woe and Royal Assassin both let you machine-gun down attackers and complement the defensive side of Doran’s Walls.

Elvish Hunter can let you lock down creatures to keep the biggest threats at the table from attacking you. It might be a little too cute in a deck that has access to black, but this card is so weird that I couldn’t not include it.

Kitsune Healer is an on-theme way to save Doran from combat gone wrong and can combine with the Opal-Eye, Konda’s Yojimbo that you’re already running to absorb a lot of damage that could’ve taken out your creatures or gone straight at your face.

Archers’ Parapet serves the role of a cheap threat with incidental upside. A 5/5 for two is amazing, and if need be, you can drain your opponents’ life with it to slowly inflict damage.

Our last tap creature is the newly spoiled Tree of Perdition, which is all but guaranteed to be big enough to knock opponents out of the game in one hit and has the secondary benefit of being able to “burn” an opponent down to thirteen whenever you need to. You were already running the original Tree of Redemption from Innistrad, so this addition is perfect.

I said you could do better for a repeatable pump ability than Nylea, and Kamahl, Fist of Krosa delivers beautifully here. You’re skewed heavily toward green mana anyway, so the triple green in his activation cost isn’t a huge deal, and pumping all of your creatures at once makes this much more explosive than the options you were running before.

Oathsworn Giant is quite possibly the best lord for this deck, granting an effective +2/+2 and letting your creatures play offense without dropping your guard or losing your ability to hold up tap abilities to use at instant speed.

Finally we get to Indomitable Ancients, which is easily the creature with the best stats for abusing Doran’s ability. It also isn’t limited by defender, unlike most of your bigger creatures.

The Artifacts


I wanted to include an extra Equipment in case you drew Stoneforge Mystic after finding the Umbral Mantle, and while I could’ve easily slotted in a Sword of X and Y and called it a day, Slagwurm Armor’s power and synergy with Doran can’t be denied. It turns your commander into a two-hit kill and will turn any creature you put it on into a massive threat.

The Enchantments


The lord effect on Leyline of Vitality is nice, but without token generation to really make the lifegain matter, this card isn’t really going to pull its weight.


Angelic Chorus is the lifegain effect this deck really wants, and I can foresee this easily gaining you 40 or more life in the course of a game. Feed the Pack is another toughness-matters enchantment that can let you go wide instead of committing to one huge creature. The 2/2 tokens also mean that you won’t be completely dead in the water if Doran gets answered somehow.

Sight of the Scalelords pumps all of your creatures except for the mana creatures, and while the buff is only during your turn, granting vigilance still gives you powerful versatility.

Ghostly Prison and Gravity Well both come in to ensure that anyone who wants to attack you has to go through your Walls. Ghostly Prison makes sure that your opponents can’t just go wider than your defenses and swarm around your Walls, while Gravity Well effectively negates the flying mechanic. Since you weren’t very well set up to answer flyers, this is a welcome addition.

The Spells


Howl from Beyond makes very little sense here. It’s a card that boosts power in a deck that aims to make power irrelevant. As long as Doran is out, this card literally does nothing. As for Sylvan Offering, you want to be the aggressive deck, so giving your opponents creatures is less than ideal. The only exception is if there’s a player that’s a big enough threat for the whole table to band together and take them down. Those scenarios happen, but it’s not a good idea to build specifically for them.

The Planeswalkers


I’ve seen Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury put in convincing performances at the helm of a deck, but as part of the 99 she’s never been anything but lackluster. I think part of that is the mentality involved, since most people are a lot more likely to leave a planeswalker alone to do its thing if they know you can keep recasting it. As it is, you have better ramp than her plus ability, you have better artifact and enchantment removal than her minus, and her ultimate is limited to green creatures. In the end I needed the slot for more relevant cards.

The Lands


I like most of what you had going on with your manabase, but Ancient Ziggurat stood out as being odd. I could get behind it if you could use it for creature abilities, but when it’s entirely limited to casting creatures, I’d rather have a normal land.


You were already running most of the relevant two-color lands for these colors, and I wanted to give you the ability to get any color of basic off of your fetchlands. This also means that you won’t be completely dead to a Wave of Vitriol or similar effect, which can’t be understated. I half wanted to find room for six or seven more basics, but that decision has to be based off what cards get run in your metagame.

Putting it all together, here’s the finished decklist:

Doran, the Siege Tower
Levi Byrne
Test deck on 07-12-2016
Magic Card Back

And the additions, sorted by price:





Archers’ Parapet


Kitsune Healer


Elvish Hunter


Auriok Bladewarden


Oathsworn Giant


Sight of the Scalelords


Slagwurm Armor


Gravity Well


Adarkar Valkyrie


Feed the Pack


Royal Assassin


Avatar of Woe


Indomitable Ancients


Angelic Chorus


Tree of Perdition


Kamahl, Fist of Krosa


Ghostly Prison




The changes add up to a reasonable $41.15, and as always Sam will receive $20 in store credit to StarCityGames.com to help make these changes.

The additions that I made here are far from the only things that you can do with the deck. You could easily justify going deeper on the Equipment theme with cards like Batterskull and Stonehewer Giant to turn Doran into a Voltron beatstick, or you could focus more on protection and pillowfort cards like Asceticism and Sphere of Safety, but this build is fairly strong and I managed to work in a few more tricks for Umbral Mantle.

Want to submit a deck for consideration to Dear Azami? Only one deck submission will be chosen per article, but being selected for the next edition of Dear Azami includes not just deck advice but also a $20 coupon to StarCityGames.com!

Email us a deck submission using this link here!

Like what you’ve seen? Feel free to explore more of “Dear Azami” here, in the Article Archives!