It’s been a long year; some are even saying that 2020 feels like the longest decade so far. Social distancing and self isolation have been difficult, and there’s no clear end in sight. The situation in some countries is greatly improving, allowing small gatherings of people to meet, but we’re still a ways away from really having “The Gathering” back as we knew it.

So if you’re like me and love nothing more than playing paper Magic with friends, you’re probably suffering the same withdrawal as I am. Sure, you can play Commander over webcam or meet in real life occasionally and play some games, but it’s hard to get the same amount of paper Magic in. Well I plan to help you with that.

I always have at least one combo deck built at all times. It doesn’t matter what format it’s for, it’s there so I can play paper whenever I like without need of an opponent. That’s what this Solitaire Magic miniseries is all about: inexpensive decks that can be played solo. There are a plethora of powerful combo decks that can be extremely fun to pilot either by yourself or against a friend, and I’ll be taking you through a new one in each installment. You can buy them extremely cheaply in paper, and enjoy goldfishing them to help scratch that paper Magic itch. Once the pandemic is behind us, you can take these to your LGS or nearest MagicFest and dunk on your opponents with your superior combo chops.

Today’s budget solitaire deck is one that fellow budget Magic aficionado Emma Partlow has dubbed “The Pauper Amulet Titan” due to its unconventional lines and play patterns: Walls Combo!

Pauper Walls Combo—$38/31 Tix

Creatures (36)
Arbor Elf
Avacyn's Pilgrim
Elvish Mystic
Llanowar Elves
Orochi Leafcaller
Quirion Ranger
Saruli Caretaker
Crashing Drawbridge
Overgrown Battlement
Wall of Roots
Axebane Guardian
Bloodrite Invoker
Drift of Phantasms
Galvanic Alchemist
Vivien's Grizzly
Mnemonic Wall

Spells (11)
Winding Way
Freed from the Real
Lead the Stampede
Pulse of Murasa
Reaping the Graves
Lands (13)
13 Forest

Sideboard (15)
Gorilla Shaman
Scattershot Archer
Crimson Acolyte
Moment's Peace
Obsidian Acolyte
Standard Bearer
Krosan Druid
Ulamog's Crusher

The format is Pauper, and it’s one that’s been gaining traction lately. Walls Combo is a (mostly) green deck that looks to generate infinite mana and kill the opponent in a single turn. It achieves this by abusing the defender mechanic; an evergreen keyword that means a creature with the keyword cannot attack.

Yes, the deck’s concept is as bizarre as its play patterns. As with most combo decks that can be goldfished, it’s a glass cannon that does little to interact with the opponent in game one. Let’s break down the individual parts of the deck, and see what makes it tick.

Mana Mia

First, we need mana generation in the early turns to ensure we get our combo pieces out on time. We’ve got four different mana dorks to start: Arbor Elf, Avacyn’s Pilgrim, Elvish Mystic, and the classic Llanowar Elves. The reason for running one of each is to avoid getting blown out by Echoing Decay or Echoing Truth, which are fairly prevalent in the format.

The remaining one-drop mana generators are Saruli Caretaker, and Quirion Ranger. Caretaker is a nice blocker in the early game, and can even tap a summoning sick creature to generate mana. Quirion Ranger needs no introduction; it’s been the engine behind many a busted start in both Pauper and Legacy for years, and it’s arguably at its best in this deck.

Wall This Way

Next, let’s talk about why we’re running so many defenders. Axebane Guardian is our primary payoff, which taps for mana equal to the number of defenders we control. When you couple this with a Galvanic Alchemist, you can generate infinite mana, provided you have at least three other defenders. Once we achieve that, we can search for our single Bloodrite Invoker to finish our opponent off.

Overgrown Battlement is our backup payoff. It’s almost identical to Axebane Guardian, but as it only generates green mana you’ll need to filter it through an Orochi Leafcaller to make the blue needed to combo off.

Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

Now this sounds cool and all, but it’s gotta be tricky to piece this complex engine together, right? Well thanks to Winding Way and Lead the Stampede, we can really churn through our deck to find the pieces we need. In addition to these we play two Vivien’s Grizzly; these can be nice mana sinks in the early to mid game while we set up for the combo turn, but once we have infinite mana we can use them to dig through our entire deck for the Bloodrite Invoker.

Anyway Here’s WonderWall

Still not convinced? We run a playset of Drift of Phantasms, which can tutor up anything we need, as all our combo pieces are three mana. There are also a few silver bullets we can transmute for, to ensure that we have multiple paths to victory. Pulse of Murasa can rebuy any combo piece that was countered or removed, or get back a land that was milled with Winding Way. The six life is a massive buffer too, especially against Burn. Reaping the Graves can reclaim multiple creatures, or ensure that we get back a specific combo piece, as multiple copies can target the same creature (this is especially useful against counterspells).

Freed from the Real is another way for you to combo off. Unlike Galvanic Alchemist, this only requires you to have one other defender with your Axebane Guardian or Overgrown Battlement to go infinite; but as an aura it’s more susceptible to removal. This is the better tutor target than Galvanic Alchemist when playing against aggressive decks like Burn or Stompy, where you have less time to set up the combo.

Another Brick in the Wall

The final cards in the deck are Crashing Drawbridge and Mnemonic Wall. Drawbridge can give our Guardians or Battlements haste while adding to the defender count, and Mnemonic Wall is a catch-all value piece. Being able to buy back Lead the Stampede or Reaping the Graves can be invaluable in grindy games.


There are two unique facets to the sideboard: a secondary gameplan, and the diversity of options. In games where the combo is either too slow or where the opponent has an abundance of disruption and removal, we’ll trim back on a number of pieces to board in three Ulamog’s Crusher. As almost every card in our deck generates mana, we can easily get a crusher out in the early turns; this is often game over for many decks, especially if we can give it haste. A good general sideboard plan for matches when you want to bring in the Ulamog’s Crushers is to cut one Avacyn’s Pilgrim and two Crashing Drawbridge.

Beyond Crusher, we can run almost any sideboard cards we want because we have no issue generating mana in this deck. Gorilla Shaman is our artifact ddestruction of choice, and our protection suite of Crimson Acolyte, Obsidian Acolyte, and Standard Bearer take advantage of the full spectrum of mana available to us. Scattershot Archer is our protection against fliers, which are a particular weakness, and Krosan Druid is an enormous life buffer that we can transmute for with Drift of Phantasms.

This is a deck that can easily be oversideboarded, so I usually recommend bringing in no more than five cards in any matchup, as a general rule. The worst thing we can do is dilute our game plan too much and become inconsistent, so avoid cutting anything entirely from the deck in post board matches. Generally speaking, the easiest cards to cut are Wall of Roots, Freed From the Real, Avacyn’s Pilgrim, and Crashing Drawbridge.

Tips & Tricks

While the best way to get used to a deck like this is to just play and get your reps in, I’ve come up with a few interesting plays, niche interactions, and considerations when piloting the deck that may give you a head start.

Know your numbers! Before you try to combo off, you need to figure out if it’s possible in the first place. Luckily, that’s pretty easy: the kill is deterministic if not disrupted, so we can work out exactly what’s needed to win.  To combo off, you need: four walls and six mana if you’re going for the Galvanic Alchemist kill, or two walls and four mana if you’re trying to win with Freed from the Real. If you need to use Drift of Phantasms to get a combo piece, then you need to add three mana to those numbers. It’s worth noting that you’ll also need a way to get the Bloodrite Invoker, so Vivien’s Grizzly or Drift of Phantasms, etc.

If you flood out hard, you can easily win with a single Drift of Phantasms. You can cast a single spell, transmute for another Drift of Phantasms, then transmute that for Reaping the Graves. You can then cast it targeting both Phantasms in the graveyard thanks to the first spell, tutor for Alchemist, then generate infinite mana and transmute for Invoker.

Given the choice, it’s often better to lead with Crashing Drawbridge over Overgrown Battlement/Axebane Guardian. There is a chance that the Drawbridge gets removed before you can play and give your Guardian haste the following turn, but that’s one less removal spell to worry about then! Playing out the Guardian and giving it haste also minimizes the points of interaction where they can kill the combo piece.

There are many other win conditions you can play instead of Bloodrite Invoker, such as Kaervek’s Torch, Valakut Invoker, and Vent Sentinel. But there are a number of reasons for Bloodrite Invoker over all others: it can be fetched from Drift of Phantasms or Vivien’s Grizzly, and brought back with Reaping the Graves. Because it’s life loss instead of damage, it gets around Prismatic Strands, and it can gain life in a pinch outside of the combo.

Drift of Phantasms is almost always seen as an uncounterable Grim Tutor, but don’t forget that it’s also a defender! Occasionally you just need one more defender for the combo, so playing it out is sometimes the right play, which can be easily overlooked.

When you activate Crashing Drawbridge to give a Guardian haste, if your opponent tries to remove it before it can get haste, you can still get value from it if you have a Quirion Ranger out. In response to the removal spell you can activate the Ranger’s ability and untap the Drawbridge, allowing you to activate it when the spell is still on the stack. This allows you to generate mana from the Guardian before it dies, and you’ll likely have something you can use that mana on—even if it’s just a single activation of Vivien’s Grizzly, it’s often worth getting value where you can!

As with most combo decks, Walls Combo can be intimidating to pick up and play for the first time. It’s a complex deck with considerable depth and many different lines of play, and that can put a lot of people off; but with just a little bit of practice you’ll be outplaying your opponents and winning on the spot through utterly absurd situations. Hopefully with a deck like this on hand to goldfish for that paper fix, you’ll feel “walled in” a little bit less during isolation.

Scott is an Irish content creator and head of the budget division of the Izzet League. His primary focuses are Pioneer, Modern, and Pauper, and he can be found storming off on Twitch and Youtube.

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