Ghostly Prison (Secret Lair) | Illustration by Ai Nanahira
Magic is all about back-and-forth trades, sneaking into combat around your opponents and challenging them as you try to gain an edge. Pillow fort decks aren’t concerned about that at all. They happily stay on the back lines, building up defenses your opponents can’t penetrate.
There’s nothing more satisfying than watching your opponent’s build a massive board state and making it falter at your doorstep before they have a chance to win. Pillow forts are especially strong in Commander, as the pod format slows the game down and diverts pressure away from you as you build your fort.
Today I’m looking at the best pillow fort cards in Magic. Let’s get to it!
What Are Pillow Fort Cards in MTG?
Propaganda | Illustration by Clint Cearley
Pillow fort cards make it hard for your opponents to take game actions against you. They often make attacking you hard, but pillow fort cards can also make it hard for your opponents to interact with your spells through other means.
Pillow fort cards are always permanents. You can’t build an effective defense from one-time effects like instants and sorceries. They’re mostly enchantments by design, though there are also creatures and artifacts that work as pillow fort cards.
Most pillow fort cards are a form of soft stax. Hard stax are cards like Winter Orb that force everybody to play by your rules. Soft stax like Ghostly Prison only enforce their effects on people who attack you. Pillow fort is a form of stax, though it’s often less threatening and imposing than harder stax decks since they don’t attack your opponents’ mana.
Best White Pillow Fort Cards
#18. Norn’s Annex
Kicking off the list is one of the many ways to tax your opponents when they attack you. Norn's Annex is unique among these effects because it gives your opponents the choice to pay mana or life. This is quite interesting because it forces opponents to pay colored mana instead of generic but tends to be a little weaker than other effects like this.
#17. Baird, Steward of Argive + Archon of Absolution
Baird, Steward of Argive and Archon of Absolution are grouped together because they’re practically the same card. One mana isn’t a ton to pay, especially if somebody’s going tall instead of wide, but these cards have one benefit: they tax your opponents for attacking planeswalkers you control, while most of these effects only tax opponents attacking you.
#16. Magus of the Moat
Magus of the Moat locks combat down and provides an easy route to victory by building a force of flying creatures that can attack without regard for its ability. Its greatest weakness lies in its fragility.
Enchantments are hard to interact with, and Reverence provides limited but efficient protection. It’s effective against token decks looking to amass an army of small creatures but falls flat against anything larger.
#14. Archangel of Tithes
Again, one mana isn’t a ton, but Archangel of Tithes gets a bonus point for making your opponents pay that tax when they’re attacking or defending you. Most pillow fort cards are purely defensive, so this card’s offensive capabilities make it valuable.
Ideally, you don’t want your opponents’ creatures attacking you thanks to your pillow fort cards, but you can also punish them for doing so. Aurification renders offensive creatures inert, encouraging your opponents to attack elsewhere with a golden stick.
#12. Nils, Discipline Enforcer
Nils, Discipline Enforcer mixes pillow fort with group hug, freely giving out counters to stop your opponents from attacking you. This provides lots of pressure, giving your opponents plenty of power to pressure your other opponents while encouraging them to leave you alone so they can keep getting counters.
#11. Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker
Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker gives you an even better stick to stop your opponents from attacking you. Except it goes even further, destroying a source dealing damage to you to provide a wide swath of protection. Unlike Aurification, Michiko’s effect isn’t lost when it’s removed.
Peacekeeper grants absolute protection from combat. It’s ineffective against decks that don’t want to win with creatures but shuts anything else down. It’s a little fragile and requires a constant mana investment but demands an answer.
#9. Avacyn, Angel of Hope
You want cheaper pillow fort effects to get your defenses up early, but let’s make exceptions for bangers like Avacyn, Angel of Hope. It provides incredible protection and gives you finisher potential when paired with cards like Wrath of God and Armageddon. This card is also the best choice for a mono-white pillow fort commander.
Moat could be higher on this list if it weren’t mostly inaccessible because of the Reserved List. It provides all the protection of the Magus, but it’s far harder to interact with and synergizes with any of your cards that care about enchantments.
#7. Blazing Archon
This is another expensive pillow fort piece that gets a bonus for game-ending potential. Blazing Archon gives you the freedom to attack without worrying about dying on the crackback and encourages your opponents to send their creatures elsewhere or continue stalling out the game by leaving up blockers, which works to your benefit.
#6. Karmic Justice
We’ve looked at a few effects that encourage opponents to leave your cards alone, but Karmic Justice does so cheaply and protects much more than your life total. At the very least, it offers an easy two-for-one since this card triggers off its own destruction to punish players trying to get around their karma.
#5. Windborn Muse
One isn’t much mana for a taxing effect, but two mana is considerably more. Windborn Muse makes it incredibly hard for opponents to attack you and provides a defensive body.
Who said your opponents could win? Worship ensures your safety from damage as long as you control a creature. It’s a somewhat fragile defensive piece but can be hard to deal with if you build a wide board that produces tokens every turn.
#3. Sphere of Safety
Sphere of Safety offers up the biggest potential tax when your opponents try to attack you. This doesn’t work without a bunch of enchantments, but many pillow fort decks lean on enchantments as a synergy anyway.
#2. Ghostly Prison
This provides everything we exalted Windborn Muse for but does it for less mana. It’s harder to interact with, and its card type is more synergistic. Ghostly Prison is a strict upgrade for pillow fort decks.
Perhaps Elesh Norn could have made all become one if she’d practiced Humility instead of utter arrogance. This card does more than protect you from combat. It stops any creature-based synergies your opponents play. This shuts down many decks and doesn’t hurt you if you’re relying on a mass of enchantments to get your job done.
Best Blue Pillow Fort Cards
#3. Web of Inertia
Web of Inertia can be pretty hit or miss as a pillow fort piece. It offers a form of graveyard interaction if your opponents want to attack you, and decks that care about their graveyard probably won’t attack you in the earliest turns of the game. This card can drop off in the late game once players have a graveyard filled with cards that don’t matter anymore.
#2. Energy Field
Energy Field provides blanket protection from all sources of damage. It’s also a little fragile and basically prevents you from casting instants and sorceries lest you lose it. This is a good choice for decks without many other options.
#1. Dissipation Field
Dissipation Field provides another source of protection from damage. It can gum up your opponents’ mana by forcing them to recast the same spells over and over and stalls out cards that damage each opponent. Your own permanents are also affected, so I’m sure there’s some clever way to turn this into a combo piece.
Best Black Pillow Fort Cards
Dread could be excellent if it weren’t so expensive. It’s got some evasion to go alongside a decent body, but it costs so much mana. It’s also pretty color intensive, which makes it even harder to get out. Black doesn’t have a ton of pillow fort cards, so this can be enough.
#4. Cunning Rhetoric
This is a super interesting card. It doesn’t punish your opponents for attacking you but gives you access to card advantage and lets you steal cards and tools you wouldn’t have access to. It’s not as powerful as the other deterrents but makes for interesting gameplay.
#3. Marchesa’s Decree
The Monarch is a powerful tool in any Commander game. A pillow fort’s many defensive layers make it an especially potent weapon. Marchesa's Decree gives you the Monarch and punishes your opponents for trying to steal it.
#2. Revenge of Ravens
Revenge of Ravens looks unassuming at first glance but offers a ton of power in an extended game. The lifegain is far from irrelevant; it basically gives your opponent creatures -1/-0 while punishing them for attacking you.
#1. No Mercy
This is just Dread, but two mana cheaper, less color intensive, and harder to interact with. It’s excellent protection and as strong as pillow fort cards get in black.
Best Red Pillow Fort Cards
#4. Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs
Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs traps your opponents between a rock and a massive Ogre. Your opponents aren’t likely to give you 3/3s, and three mana is a massive tax for a single creature. The most likely scenario is that your opponent sends their aggression elsewhere.
#3. Caverns of Despair
Caverns of Despair isn’t the reddest effect ever, which only makes it stronger. This limits the number of creatures your opponents can attack and block with, which makes a fantastic bottleneck to draw out a game.
#2. Fortune Thief
Sometimes, you need to get lucky. Fortune Thief ensures you get your fair share of luck, saving you from lethal damage. It’s a great pillow fort card and a fantastic trick; if you play this face down and your opponent swings in for lethal, you can turn a losing game on its head and kill them on the crack back.
#1. Price of Glory
We’ve looked at cards that protect you from combat and damage, but Price of Glory protects your cards on the stack. You can’t get a better deterrent than destroying lands. This forces the table to play at sorcery speed and is especially damning for control decks.
Best Green Pillow Fort Cards
#2. Elderscale Wurm
Elderscale Wurm is one of the few pillow fort cards green has. While it’s plenty expensive, that doesn’t bother green as much as other colors. This card benefits from its uniqueness. A dedicated pillow fort deck can find this effect at a better rate, but this is a useful tool for green decks looking to diversify their toolbox.
Asceticism is great for decks trying to build around creatures. Hexproof is a powerful ability to spread across your team, and it gives you some protection against a bunch of wraths. Most pillow fort decks won’t have a ton of creatures, but this is still incredibly useful.
Best Multicolored Pillow Fort Cards
#6. Teferi’s Moat
Teferi's Moat is another Moat effect, though it’s a little weaker since it only protects from a single color. This can be an incredibly effective tool in some matchups and utterly useless in others. This is more of a meta call than anything.
#5. Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts
Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts is the strongest of the retribution effects we’ve seen and the most expensive. It lets you build an army as you destroy your opponents’ creatures and attacks into any board state. This is an excellent pillow fort commander.
#4. Dueling Grounds
Dueling Grounds is a powerful effect that stalls out games. Only allowing one creature to attack makes it easy to stop aggression if you can produce tokens to chump with. It’s a little unsynergetic with some taxing effects, but still a powerful include.
#3. Privileged Position
Privileged Position is a supped-up Asceticism that spreads protection across all your permanents, not just the creatures. This is stronger than the other choice if your commander’s color identity supports green-white cards.
#2. Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist
Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist gives Dueling Ground an upgrade. This gives you offensive power since you can attack with as many creatures as you want while minimizing oncoming damage. It also helps more combat happen on your opponents since they can send as many forces to your other opponents as they please.
#1. Sterling Grove
Sterling Grove is only good in enchantment-focused decks, but that’s what pillow fort tends to be. This protects your best cards and tutors up the perfect answer to protect yourself from the threats at the table. Sterling Grove is a pillow fort staple and one of the best cards in those decks.
Best Colorless Pillow Fort Cards
#6. Glacial Chasm
Glacial Chasm gives any deck access to protection from damage but at a steep cost. The cumulative upkeep cost adds up quickly, as does the restriction on creatures attacking. This is at its best in decks that can do things with lands in the graveyard, but also a solid last resort for pillow fort decks.
#5. Platinum Emperion
Who said you need to take damage? Platinum Emperion keeps your life total static. Unlike some of the other damage prevention effects, this card can protect you from effects that make you lose life, like Sanctum of Stone Fangs. In Commander, you’ll still take commander damage; your life total just won’t change. A player can still deal 21 commander damage and take you out of the game.
#4. Defense Grid
Another effect that protects your spells from countermagic, Defense Grid primarily taxes counterspells. It makes it harder to interact with you in general. One weakness of this kind of effect is that it defends your opponents, so you probably want to hold onto this until you have some defenses up.
#3. Silent Arbiter
Silent Arbiter gives any deck access to Dueling Grounds, regardless of color identity. It’s a little more fragile, but its versatility makes it a powerful piece in decks utilizing a pillow fort strategy in untraditional colors.
#2. Ensnaring Bridge
Ensnaring Bridge can be incredibly powerful. Its strength depends on your ability to empty your hand. Too much card draw and this effect doesn’t help you. It also severely limits your ability to win with creatures. These restrictions make it a narrow tool, but stopping combat entirely may be worth the cost.
One of the strongest limiting effects, Crawlspace protects you from players trying to attack you with a bunch of creatures each turn. Unlike many other effects that restrict attackers, this card doesn’t limit the number of blockers you can declare against those attackers. It provides incredible, unconditional protection against creatures.
Best Pillow Fort Card Payoffs
Often the best payoffs for pillow fort cards are cards that care about enchantments like Enchantress's Presence and Setessan Champion. The best pillow fort cards are enchantments, so it’s a natural pairing.
Cards that benefit from a longer game, like planeswalkers, also benefit from being part of a pillow fort strategy.
How Do Pillow Fort Decks Win?
There are a few ways for a pillow fort deck to win the game. One good way is to lean into the enchantment synergies the strategy already wants. Cards like Archon of Sun's Grace and Starfield of Nyx are great ways to weaponize your enchantments.
You can also look to win through inevitability with cards that benefit from playing a longer game. Planeswalkers like Chandra, Torch of Defiance, and Liliana, the Last Hope let you win if the game goes long enough.
Pillow fort decks can also make use of alternate win conditions. Once you’ve bundled up all nice and snug, you’ll have plenty of time to benefit from cards like Azor's Elocutors or Darksteel Reactor.
Ensnaring Bridge | Illustration by Pete Venters
Pillow fort decks are perfect for players who think the best offensive is an impenetrable defense. These cards make attacking you or taking actions against you in a game hard, taxing, and often punishable.
Pillow fort decks also tend to draw on enchantment synergies, giving them a deep pool of cards since enchantments have always been a supported game mechanic. These cards will help introduce your pod to the wonders of stax!
What’s your favorite pillow fort card? Let me know in the comments or on the Draftsim Twitter.
Thanks for reading, and make sure you get cozy!
Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates:
What about Propaganda. I would say its the best blue pillow effect.
Best white pillow fort card? My argument would be Story Circle. Ahhhh the days of playing mono white rebels.