Best-of-one is a strange place, fam.
I'm honestly surprised that I've come around to it. I didn't get into the Arena scene for a long time because, to me, it wasn't real Magic. No sideboarding meant simpler play and a cheapening of the game that's proven its worth over the past 20+ years. I didn't buy into Arena at all, in fact, until BO3 was added to the ladder and given an actual value in the game. Even after that point BO1 was a pool dominated by (a) straight forward mono-color aggro decks and (b) degenerate
Nexus of Fate decks that were virtually unbeatable when you couldn't sideboard.
Since the Nexus banning, however, I've really enjoyed playing BO1, and I've actually accepted it as a new meta...a new way to play the game that encourages creativity while staying true to the things that makes Magic a great game. Yes, the aggro decks are still around (although not nearly in the numbers as before). But there are a ton of diverse decks floating around out there, and if you're creative enough with your choices you can take advantage and quickly climb through the lower levels of the game. Ever since I saw
High Alert previewed, I knew there had to be a walls deck somewhere in Standard, since the enchantment added a second enabler to assist
Arcades, the Strategist in its duties of turning all of your walls into attacking, defending, card-drawing engines. But there was one other, more subtle card that was also added in Ravnica Allegiance that has really converted a walls deck into an out-of-the-blue beater that can win a ridiculous number of games out of nowhere and speed you past your opponent before they even know what's happening.
4 Saruli Caretaker 2 Wall of Vines 3 Novice Knight 4 Portcullis Vine 4 Grappling Sundew 1 Search for Azcanta 2 Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive 2 Growth Spiral 4 Tower Defense 4 High Alert 3 Arcades, the Strategist 1 Dovin, Grand Arbiter 1 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria 2 Vivien Reid 4 Breeding Pool 1 Field of Ruin 4 Forest 1 Glacial Fortress 3 Hallowed Fountain 1 Hinterland Harbor 3 Island 3 Plains 1 Sunpetal Grove 2 Temple Garden
Note: I'm sure that my job when I write a deck tech for Cardsphere is speaking as the voice of Utter Expertise And Trustworthiness (TM) for my particular deck. When you, loyal reader, look at this list of sixty cards, you're expecting that I've tuned every single card, painstakingly analyzed every land drop, and crafted the above text using ink rolled onto moveable type. But this is Magic Arena, and I'd guess 95% of you ain't building decks like that on there. Unless you've dropped a lot of coin on boosters and dedicated yourself to Standard only rather than Limited, you have holes in your collection. You're hoarding rares to try to finish up your main Standard deck, and you have a couple of others that may not be complete but are still functional and fun. You didn't jam 60 rare wild cards into your manabase before you grabbed your first big monsterous creature. I've bought into boosters to a decent amount, and I still have holes in my collection. So this is my janky version of the deck. I'm positive that there's a cleaner version out there. I'm positive that you could probably make changes and make this deck better and more streamlined. But this is what I've been playing to the exact card. It's not perfect, and I'm pretty sure at least one of the big-name cards is flat-out wrong. But this is my list. This is the 60 that I've found works and is an absolute blast to play. So there.
If you're playing walls, your goals are pretty straightforward: play a bunch of walls that gum up the board, drop either
High Alert or
Arcades, the Strategist
to allow your walls to grow legs and attack, and beat your opponent's face in with them. So we'll talk about the parts in that order, and save the spice for the end.
So, walls. We need walls. Lots and lots of walls. We're playing a whopping 17 cards that have defender, and most of them are as cheap as we can get. 13 of the 17 walls are one-mana creatures that jam the board starting on turn 1, and many of them have added value.
Novice Knight isn't your usual wall because its two power holds back a lot of early attacks and can keep aggro decks from getting rolling. Both
Wall of Vines and its older cousin
Grappling Sundew provide six walls with reach, which is vital in a
Healer's Hawk sort of world. We never REALLY want to use the abilities of either
Saruli Caretaker or
Portcullis Vine, but we're happy to have them when we're desperate. Caretaker can provide a tiny bit of ramp to be able to play an extra wall early or sneak our
High Alert onto the board, and Portcullis can convert a wall into card draw if we need it.
The one non-enabler creature that's not a wall is
Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive. I played three for a long time and finally went to two because of the need for cheaper walls, but you should certainly do three if you want. This is one of the surprise cards that can get you a huge attack early. Since all of our walls have zero power (except for
Novice Knight), they're unblockable with Tetsuko on the board. That usually isn't enough damage to win...except for one card which I'll get to in a bit.
Our walls can't win anything without an enabler, and
High Alert and
Arcades, the Strategist do the job well. It's important to note that the effects of these two cards are not identical. Arcades gives only your cards with defender the ability to use their toughness as power, while
High Alert does it to all of your creatures. Since we do have a couple of creatures that don't have defender (Tetsuko and Arcades), make sure your math on attacks is correct. Both cards also have "hidden" modes that many opponents either don't remember or never noticed and can get you blowouts if not noticed.
High Alert will let you untap one of your walls for four mana, and I've won games where I've been able to attack with a couple of walls, my opponents cracks back, and High Alert untaps a wall to change blocks and get an easy kill. Arcades draws a card for every creature with defender that you play, so if your opponent is playing flyers and doesn't immediately remove your elder dragon, you can play 2-3 walls, draw that many cards, and flood your opponent in card advantage. Your one-mana 3/3 walls are good enough on their own, and nonsensically better when they cantrip.
The secret sauce, the card that really makes the deck go, is....wait for it...
Tower Defense. It's understandable if your opponent is expecting your walls to eventually attack if you play more than one of them. It's not a secret that there's a walls deck in Standard. However,
Tower Defense has really snuck under the radar of a lot of players, and it's essentially a +5/+5 pump spell for the crew for just two mana if you're attacking. I've played numerous games where my opponent is at 15, I attack into a board with two 0/3 walls, the opponent doesn't block because it looks like an innocuous attack, and
Tower Defense ends the game when the walls hit for 16. In multiples, it's often not great. But it's a bolt from the heavens when it hits.
The rest of the deck is...odd. Different. Fun. I run a pair of
Growth Spiral to smooth our draws and sometimes ramp our lands into play, and a single
Search for Azcanta to cycle through the deck faster and find the pieces we need. I'll admit it's possible that these three cards should either be more one-mana walls or maybe even
Treasure Map. But we need to find a board and an enabler, so the ability to see a couple more cards is valuable. Then...there are the planeswalkers. Yeah, I know. They're either too expensive or questionable. But it is what it is, and all three have found uses in games.
Vivien Reid is a great one since there are so many enchantments in BO1 that can end the game if you can't interact with them, and Vivien's minus is great against so many things.
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is just...Teferi. I'm not an Evil Control Wizard (TM), and I have this Teferi that I got for free after the beta wipe, so I play it in here. LET ME LIVE MY LIFE, OKAY?
Same thing with
Dovin, Grand Arbiter, although I've had a few games where I haven't yet found an enabler and Dovin's ability to make a thopter has held off my opponent's flyers until I could put it together. The other benefit that the planeswalkers have is that we can usually defend them with walls and keep them on the board for the turn after they come down. So I have a feeling that they're not "optimal", but really...who is?
I'm also sure that there are some benefits that can come from improving the mana base. I've invested some wild cards into
Hallowed Fountain and
Breeding Pool to make the deck more consistent, but I'm sure I could do more. Again...I know a lot of y'all are putting together a few of your manabases with duct tape and bailing wire, and I feel your pain. We'll get through this together. However, I do always throw in one copy of
Field of Ruin because you never know when you need to blow up a dual land, wreck your opponent's Azcanta, The Sunken Ruin, or fix your own mana to get your third color. I'm pretty sure that this is a twenty-three land deck...none of our wincons are more than four mana, and so many of our walls are a single mana that we can get away with it.
Gameplay is surprisingly varied with this deck. You'll play games where your opponents don't respect your walls, you turn 3 your
High Alert, and it's GG. You'll play other games where you get into board stalls that last forever as you either try to find an enabler or your walls aren't strong enough to break through the lines without your
Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive. Again, your special sauce is
Tower Defense Your opponents often overlook it, and with an enabler it can be good on both offense and defense and can also protect against targeted removal and some board wipes like
Deafening Clarion. It's often worth it to make speculative attacks to try to get your opponent to a life total where
Tower Defense is just game over. But it's this variance that makes the deck good in BO1. It's unexpected. It looks slow but can win fast. It's good early, can stabilize a fast game, and has just enough spice to keep your opponent on the back foot.
I've had a lot of fun with it, and maybe it's the little push you need to keep climbing that ladder!