I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with midrange decks. On the one hand I love how consistent they are and how you don’t just lose to some random piece of hate. On the other hand, I hate how they are just a bunch of good cards with minimal synergy. I’m a synergy lover! Doran kind of makes it possible for me to build a midrange deck and enjoy it. I like how the card randomly affects the opposing board and makes things interesting. Here is a list of the most relevant things Doran, the Siege Tower can do to your opponent’s board, separated in positive effects (for us) and negative ones:
Master of Waves
Delver of Secrets
Wall of Roots
Loam Lion/Kird Ape
Linvala, Keeper of Silence
Courser of Kruphix
Hero of Bladehold
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Archangel of Thune
most Living End creatures
Almost as annoying as Dora the Explorer
Notice that some negative effects such as Spellskite and Deceiver Exarch are not the end of the world since Doran is bigger than them. The most significant drawbacks are the ones given to creatures with evasion, since our creatures are mostly ground based. In the end i think the positive effects outweigh the negative ones. For instance vs. affinity having 2/2 Ornithopters is very annoying, but negating Cranial Plating is huge.
The most important things Doran does is obviously improve our own creatures. I built this deck with the midrange mentality, choosing creatures that are good by themselves, but also work well with Doran.
This is my current list:
Doran the Explorer
3 Stirring Wildwood
4 Marsh Flats
4 Verdant Catacombs
2 Godless Shrine
1 Temple Garden
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Murmuring Bosk
2 Kor Firewalker
1 Gaddock Teeg
2 Aven Mindcensor
2 Eidolon of Rhetoric
2 Nyx-Fleece Ram
1 Safe Passage
2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
2 Stony Silence
1 Rest in Peace
Let’s cover the boring part first. Inquisition of Kozilek, Abrupt Decay, Path to Exile and Thoughtseize are the usual suspects. In a world of unfair things, we need to interract with our opponent’s gameplan. These spells are a collection of the most commonly seen removal/discard. They are mandatory for decks in these colors.
Note that Path to Exile usually doesn’t see play in Junk(now Abzan) decks these days because right now the trend is for a soft white splash for Lingering Souls. We are more committed to white so there is no reason not to play what is arguably the best piece or removal in the format.
We play a number of 3 drops and they get better with mana dorks, so Birds of Paradise comes in. In addition to fixing, the flying ability is relevant more often than you’d think. I’ve won games in stalemate by beating in the air with Wilt-leaf Liege + Doran, the Siege Tower boosted Birds. Sometimes they just chump a flyer to give you that extra turn you need for the win. They are also valuable versus Blood Moon. The other one drop is Treefolk Harbinger, which naturally serves the purpose of fetching Doran, the Siege Tower. On occasion, when having a starting hand low on lands, you’ll fetch a Forest/Murmuring Bosk, but that shouldn’t happen too often.
Brimaz, King of Oreskos is seeing some play in modern. He is a beating! His clock goes up with every hit and he gets better with Doran and Wilt-Leaf Liege. He is also a legend so we can use our legendary lands on him. Courser of Kruphix is crazy value. In addition to the card advantage, he gains us precious life points vs. anything aggressive and he can go in beatdown mode with Doran in play. Fetches also potentially improve your Courser of Kruphix draws. Also note that all of the deck’s 3+ drops are Lightning Bolt proof, which is in my opinion mandatory for a card that makes you spend 3+ mana.
The 2 drop aren’t particularily synergistic with Doran, but they are all around good stuff. Dark Confidant needs is an obvious choice: our curve includes 16 one mana spells as well as 24 lands so he shouldn’t hurt us tthat much (although you’ll occasionally reveal the unlucky Wilt-Leaf Liege). His anti-synergy with Doran is mostly irrelevant. Pridemage is the occasional disruption and occasional aggro. It is not uncommon to attack with a lone big creature in this deck. He also becomes a 4/4 with Wilt-Leaf Liege. Scavenging Ooze, like Qasali Pridemage, is also a mix between occasionally relevant disruption and aggro. Like Dark Confidant he has become a staple of the format.
Wilt-Leaf Liege is the top of the curve and it is quite powerful with the rest of the deck, adding another synergy aspect. In addition to what was already mentionned, a 7/7 Doran is quite scary. The discard clause is rarely useful. Once in a ‘blue moon’ you’ll cheat it into play, but the most significant thing this ability accomplishes is making the liege Thoughtseize proof.
Or just play Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers if you are running the low budget version, er…mayeb not
The best land in the deck is Stirring Wildwood. In addition to fixing, he’s already good at blocking problematic flyers by itself. He gets super good with Doran and Wilt-Leaf Liege (he happens to be green-white!). Tectonic Edge is obviously good,but I think we can’t play more than 3 no color lands since the deck is color-intensive. The other land that does not produce colored mana is Vault of the Archangel. The purpose of this land is to allow us to attack and win the race at times we would otherwise have to leave our army to block.
The sideboard consists mainly of hatebears and traditional choices for any white deck. Some of the creature were chosen because they synergize well with Doran, like Eidolon of Rhethoric and Nyx-fleece Ram. It is very important to bring in a lot of cards vs burn because unless we draw the life-gaining part of the deck we are pretty vulnerable to Red decks. Thalia, Nyx-fleece Ram and Kor Firewalker all come in, maybe safe passage as well. They replace Dark Confidant and some removal, depending on how creature-heavy the opposing deck is. The absolute worst card we might face is without a doubt Twisted image. It was a trend for Splinter Twin decks to play a number of these, sometimes main deck in order to fight opposing Spellskites. Losing Doran, the Siege Tower to it while our opponent draws a card for one single mana is totally wrong. Losing our turn one Birds of Paradise is pretty bad as well. Still, we should be well equipped to fight Splinter Twin decks, with all the removal and discard we are packing. Most blue decks that run Twisted Image play only one or two copies. Other than that, Game 2 and 3 should be favorable for us vs most decks since there aren’t any other devastating sideboard options to fight us. If you expect sweepers from the board we can easily not overextend and still put a lot of pressure with a single copy of one of our higher-powered creatures.
Conclusion: improving the deck
One thing that might have struck you while looking at my list is the absence of Tarmogoyf. This is mainly because I don’t own any. If you want to build the deck and own some of those then they would definitely be a good choice. Still, I’ve had positive results with the deck without ‘Goyfs – so they are not mandatory.
Looking at Khans of Tarkir spoilers there are a few cards that are interesting for this deck. The most obvious one is Windswept Heath. Not being able to fetch a forest with Marsh Flats has been an issue. Very often I’d rather not shock myself turn one just to cast a Birds of Paradise. Also Murmuring Bosk is our best color-fixing land if we have a Treefolk in our starting hand, so being able to search for it with all of our fetchlands seems great. Another possible inclusion is Anafenza, the Foremost. She is an efficient beater, a legendary creature that works with our legendary pump lands and works well while attacking with something that would normally not do damage (like a Birds of Paradise). The graveyard ability is what we should consider before deciding whether to include her in the main deck or not. If your metagame is filled with Birthing Pod decks, then i’d probably run her main deck. Otherwise our two Brimaz, King of Oreskos and Scavenging Oozes might just be better. Also, note the slight anti-synergy with her and Scavenging Ooze. The last card is Abzan Charm: It does seem nice but i’m unsure whether they are better than an Abrupt Decay or not. Additional draw, additional exile and a sweet combat trick all seems appealing. The charm doesn’t kill the format’s main combo creatures though (Deceiver Exarch/Pestermite and Melira/Murderous Redcap) so i wouldn’t play more than one (if any).
I’m sure even the goats would agree that Anafenza is awesome