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Browse > Home / Strategy / Articles / Buttget Magic: $97 Doran Cannot Lie (Modern)

Buttget Magic: $97 Doran Cannot Lie (Modern)

Dia dhuit, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! One of the weird sub-themes from Innistrad: Crimson Vow is toughness matters, headlined by Catapult Fodder and Ancient Lumberknot. These cards got me thinking about the original big-butt-liker Doran, the Siege Tower, which inspired me to mash them all together in a Modern toughness-matters deck looking to turn zero-power creatures like Giant Ox and Nyx-Fleece Ram into the biggest threats on the battlefield! Can the combo of Doran and new Crimson Vow toughness-matters cards make for a budget-friendly butts deck in Modern? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Buttget Magic: Doran Cannot Lie

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The Deck

At its foundation, Doran is a midrange deck, although it's midrange with a twist: most of our threats have zero power and rely on cards like Doran, the Siege Tower and Ancient Lumberknot to allow them to deal damage equal to their toughness instead, turning them into huge threats. The goal is to curve out with low-power, high-toughness creatures; follow them up with our toughness-matters payoffs; back it all up with some solid Abzan removal; and hopefully win by beating our opponent down with zero-power creatures!

The Payoffs

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The most important cards in our deck are our Dorans—cards that allow our creatures (or in the case of Doran, the Siege Tower itself, all creatures)—to deal damage equal to their toughness rather than their power. While we do have a couple of Assault Formations (which have the upside of dodging creature removal), our two primary payoffs are the Treefolk Doran, the Siege Tower and Ancient Lumberknot. Doran, the Siege Tower is actually a pretty insane card, essentially being a 5/5 for three that also pumps all of our other creatures by having them deal damage equal to their toughness rather than their power. In some cases, it can even work as a hate card because it hits our opponent's creatures as well (see: our matchup against Affinity, where Doran, the Siege Tower turned off Cranial Plating just by sitting on the battlefield since the equipment pumps power rather than toughness). The only drawback of Doran is that it's legendary, but this usually doesn't matter in practice because we're probably winning if Doran sticks on the battlefield, and even if we draw dead extra copies, we'll want a replacement copy if our opponent manages to kill Doran. Ancient Lumberknot is basically bad Doran, costing one more mana and being a 4/4 for four rather than a 5/5 for three, but our deck really needs at least one Doran, the Siege Tower effect on the battlefield to function (otherwise, we're left playing a bunch of zero-power creatures that don't do much of anything), so having the redundancy is important.

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Speaking of redundancy, we also have Treefolk Harbinger to tutor up Doran, the Siege Tower or Ancient Lumberknot, which essentially gives us 14 Doran effects in our deck—enough that we should draw multiples pretty much every game, which is exactly what we want. Along with finding our payoffs, Treefolk Harbinger is a solid beater once we get a Doran on the battlefield, turning into a one-mana 3/3.

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Our final payoff works a bit differently. Catapult Fodder doesn't allow our creatures to deal damage equal to their toughness, but it does let us Fling our high-toughness dorks at our opponent's face once it flips to drain equal to their toughness, all while being a 5/5 or 6/6 for three once we get a Doran on the battlefield. Since we have a massive 28 creatures with toughness greater than their power, we can flip Catapult Fodder with ease; once we do, the three-drop gives us a way to close out the game with direct damage (and use extra copies of Doran, the Siege Tower) once the board gets cluttered up with blockers.

The Zero-Power Beaters

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The best way to power up our Doran effects is to play as many high-toughness creatures as possible. The more we have on the battlefield, the more powerful cards like Doran, the Siege Tower and Ancient Lumberknot will be. For this, we turn to a few early-game creatures. I've been hard on Arboreal Grazer in the past, but it's actually pretty insane in a Doran deck, turning into a 3/3 for one once we hit a payoff and ramping us into Doran, the Siege Tower or Catapult Fodder on Turn 2. Giant Ox has the biggest butt in the two-drop slot, essentially being a 6/6 for two once we play a Doran, which is big, even in Modern. Meanwhile, Nyx-Fleece Ram isn't quite as big-butted as Giant Ox is but makes up for it by gaining us life each turn, helping to offset the life loss from the pain lands in our mana base. 

Other Stuff

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We have a couple of copies of Tower Defense in our deck, which is a pretty crazy pump spell if we have a Doran out, giving all of our creatures +5/+5 for just two mana at instant speed. We can often attack, wait until after our opponent declares blockers, and then use Tower Defense to one-shot our opponent with a bunch of surprise butt damage.

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One of the big upsides of being an Abzan deck is that we have really good removal, even on a budget. Fatal Push answers early-game threats at instant speed, and Prismatic Ending hits early-game threats (and, as the game goes along, any non-land of mana value three or less) at sorcery speed. Vindicate allows us to blow up anything for three mana, including lands, which gives us a bit of main-deck hate for decks like Tron. Add in more removal in the sideboard (Path to Exile, Damn, and Kaya's Guile), and our Doran deck might have the best removal of any Modern budget deck we've ever played.

The Mana

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I wanted to mention the mana for two reasons. The first is Murmuring Bosk, which is a really great budget tri-land in a deck that has enough Treefolk to allow it to come into play untapped consistently (which we do). because it is a Forest, we can tutor it up with Treefolk Harbinger in a pinch, and it adds all three of our colors. Add a bunch of additional dual lands, and not only does our three-color budget deck just manage to play all of its spells with ease, but also almost all of our lands come into play untapped, which is rare! On the other hand, there is one drawback: between Murmuring Bosk, Llanowar Wastes, and Caves of Koilos our mana base is pretty painful, which was especially problematic against aggro decks like Burn, to the point where we had one game where we couldn't activate our Catapult Fodder because we were at one life and all of our black mana cost us life. In general, the mana of Doran is really solid, especially for a three-color budget deck. Just be careful against aggro decks because all of the damage we take from our pain lands adds up over the course of  a few turns and can end up being a problem.

Playing the Deck

In general, there isn't really a trick to playing Doran. We're mostly hoping to draw a good mixture of threats and payoffs and a few removal spells to force through our attackers. The one thing I will say is that even though we really need a Doran effect for the deck to work, with 14 of them in the deck, we don't really have to mulligan aggressively for them—we usually have at least one in our starting hand. Even if we don't, one is likely to come off the top of our deck soon. While you should mulligan hands with all zero-power creatures and no payoffs, these hands don't really come along all that often.


Record-wise, we ended up 3-2 with Doran, although our loss to Hammer Time was brutal. I was 100% convinced we had it won, only to find out our opponent was playing Magnetic Theft, which is a card that I haven't seen in Hammer Time in a couple of years, although the surprise instant-speed equip got us really good, allowing our opponent to steal a win out of nowhere with an Inkmoth Nexus when it looked like we had things locked up. 

As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck now that we've gotten some games in with it, I'm really happy with where it landed. I'm not sure that Tower Defense is necessary—it's super explosive, but it didn't really feel like we needed the power boost, and we rarely drew it. It might be better as a bit more interaction (like more copies of Prismatic Ending). Otherwise, I'd run the deck back as-is if I were going to record with it today.

So, should you play Doran Cannot Lie in Modern? I think the answer is yes. The deck felt like a solid midrange budget option, and we were competitive even in the two matches we lost, including our match against Hammer Time, which is perhaps the best deck in Modern currently. We have a hilarious number of blockers for the stupid Monkey, Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer; a fast, janky clock; and solid removal. If you like toughness-matters decks or are just a fan of midrange, Doran felt like a fun budget-friendly choice for Modern!

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Getting Doran down near $50 is tough, mostly because we don't really have many expensive cards in the deck but instead have a bunch of cards that cost a couple of dollars, including the already cheap mana base, which is normally the first and easiest place to trim a few dollars. That said, we can get down to just under $60 by cutting one copy of Doran, the Siege Tower and switching around our removal and sideboard. While the ultra-budget build should be fine for casual play and even better at janking out opponents with one attack thanks to the additional copies of Tower Defense, the removal and sideboard are so much worse that I wouldn't recommend it for more competitive play without making some upgrades.

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Finally, we have our non-budget build, which looks much the same as the budget build but with upgraded mana, an upgraded sideboard, and Tarmogoyf in the main deck, as a high-toughness creature that can still deal damage if we don't have a Doran effect on the battlefield.


Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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