The primary goal of Aluren is to get the namesake enchantment into play. From there, all of the creatures are free to cast any time you can cast an instant.
Let me stress this. It is almost impossible to lose with Aluren on the battlefield. There are a myriad of tricks to combo through most hate cards available.
The simple combo plays out like this (assuming your opponent is a goldfish):
1. Cast Aluren
11. Play Parasitic Strix. Gain two life; your opponent loses two life
12. Pay one life, return Cavern Harpy to your hand
14. Repeat steps 11 through 13 until you win.
The good news of playing Aluren:
The combo costs 2GG and requires two cards in hand. This is one of the most mana- and card-efficient combos in the game. Non-blue decks do not have a real way of interacting with the combo, as opposing decks require the ability to kill four creatures on your combo turn. Traditional combo hate can't effectively hate out Aluren, as Aluren can either play around some hate or can tutor up an answer with Imperial Recruiter; Harmonic Sliver or Bone Shredder take care of most cards.
The bad news of playing Aluren:
This isn't the end of the world, by any means. All of those hate cards can be beat, simply by drawing disruption like Cabal Therapy, or just naturally drawing into combo pieces. The fundamental resource with Aluren, like most other combo decks, is time.
I have access to a set of Imperial Recruiters, the limiting factor on playing this deck. At a local tournament, I sleeved up this:
- 1 Parasitic Strix
- 1 Bone Shredder
- 2 Cavern Harpy
- 4 Coiling Oracle
- 2 Dream Stalker
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 4 Imperial Recruiter
First off, I've taken some liberties in adapting to my local metagame. Recently, it has been dominated by Hymn to Tourach decks, so I've swapped two maindeck Force of Will for two Misdirection, and added Leyline of Sanctity in the board. Your mileage may vary with these changes; however, it is important to properly metagame.
I'm not going to dwell too much on the list. There are, however, a few points of note.
Havenwood Battleground speeds up the deck to a turn 3 combo deck, in the matchups where it is necessary. Havenwood Battleground contends with City of Traitors for the same two slots, speeding up the combo. However, Havenwood Battleground is stronger earlier in the game as a set-up card, as opposed to City of Traitors, which is strong only on the combo turn or forces an all-in play.
This deck incorporates another Intuition pile on top of the traditional 3 Aluren and 3 Imperial Recruiter piles. Some combination of: Volrath's Stronghold, Life from the Loam, Eternal Witness, and a card you actually want in your hand will enable this deck to beat just about any discard spell and eventually cast a lethal Aluren.
One of the major choices when playing this deck is between Wall of Roots and Coiling Oracle. Wall of Roots is a more consistent way to speed up the deck, but that isn't the only factor. Once Coiling Oracle is on the battlefield, it can easily be thrown under an attacking Knight of the Reliquary or Tarmogoyf. On the flip side, Wall of Roots is stronger against Zoo and Goblins, as it can hold off an attacking Goblin Lackey or Wild Nacatl indefinitely. Coiling Oracle provides a very convenient backdoor combo. Instead of the normal combo, you can:
1. Cast Aluren.
3. Cast Coiling Oracle.
4. Pay one life to return Cavern Harpy to your hand.
5. Repeat steps 2 through 4.
This powers through your deck at the cost of a life per card. From here, any Imperial Recruiter or Parasitic Strix turns into a win. This version of the combo is easier to disrupt, as Parasitic Strix is vulnerable throughout the combo turn.
In a longer game, Intuition for triple Cabal Therapy can wreak havoc with more controlling decks that can't produce a fast clock. Coupled with Gitaxian Probe, Cabal Therapy can preempt most hate cards.
The sideboard includes a playset of Leyline of Sanctity. This is a prime example of adapting to a tournament metagame. Last week, the tournament was dominated by Hymn to Tourach based decks. Taking away one of the primary means opposing decks have of interacting with you makes games much easier.
Plan B: 10/10 for 10
Sometimes, opponents can deal with Aluren. In this case, having another means of winning is necessary. Natural Order for Progenitus dodges most of the hate that can be brought in, such as Ethersworn Canonist or Rule of Law. It is a slower clock all around, but a one-card combo, as opposed to the slightly more difficult to set up Aluren kill.
Plan C: 2/1s for 2
Legacy decks have issues with creatures sometimes. Just playing out a variety of 1/1s and 2/1s will win some number of games, for no good reason. It's not every game you can beat down with bad creatures, but it can happen.
Playing Against Aluren
Once Aluren is in play, all creatures with converted mana cost of three or less can be cast as an instant. Ethersworn Canonist can be played in response to just about anything; however it should primarily be cast in response to the first Imperial Recruiter. This gives the Aluren player a chance to tutor for Harmonic Sliver, but Harmonic Sliver can't be cast until the following turn. This also forces the Aluren pilot to have a second Imperial Recruiter or Dream Stalker to be able to continue to combo, representing a major speed bump.
My local Legacy tournaments are at The Encounter, in Allentown, PA. Tuesdays at 6, $5 entry and great prizes. Past the quick plug for them, I can get down to the event itself.
Round 1, I'm paired against the person I beat in the last round the week prior. He is excited at the prospect of a rematch... little does he know I'm not playing Nimble Mongoose any more. He is still playing The Gate.
I open on double Gitaxian Probe, Force of Will, Aluren, and three lands. I keep, as the hand is relatively solid. He plays turn 1 Swamp, pass, while I play a Forest and pass back. I don't run out an early Gitaxian Probe, as the strength of Gitaxian Probe grows the later the game goes. Also, I need to keep one in my hand to pair with my Force of Will. He casts a turn 2 Dark Confidant, which I need to make the decision of whether I want to Force of Will it or not. Right now, I'm looking at playing lands to turn 4 and dropping Aluren. If I let Dark Confidant resolve, he has four cards to draw two interactive spells, while if I counter it, he has two cards to draw one.
I make the wrong call here and Force the Dark Confidant. I draw an Imperial Recruiter for turn, play land three, and pass. He draws a Thoughtseize off the top of his library and takes my Aluren. Over the next five turns, I flounder with no action, and he beats me with a Vampire Nighthawk with an Umezawa's Jitte on it.
Game 2 involves a shaky keep for me.
He plays an Engineered Plague on turn 3, naming Advisor. While this is a better call than Human, as he runs Dark Confidant as well, it pales in comparison to Beast, the creature type of Cavern Harpy. Naming Advisor will still let Aluren combo, although most pieces have to be naturally drawn. It matters little, as my sideboarded Natural Order is stranded by my inability to get two creatures in play to beat his Gatekeeper of Malakir.
Round 2 I'm paired against another Hymn to Tourach deck, this time a B/G Junk variant. I have the combo of Gitaxian Probe, Cabal Therapy on turn 1, taking my pick of cards from his hand. I strip a Dark Confidant, while he draws a Bitterblossom and casts it. I keep dropping lands, while he makes me discard an Aluren. I have five mana on the board and cast an Intuition for: Volrath's Stronghold, Imperial Recruiter, Life from the Loam (with Eternal Witness in the graveyard). He gives me Volrath's Stronghold. I draw, play Volrath's Stronghold, and fall to five from his Bitterblossom attack. Even with Eternal Witness for Aluren, I can't survive his next turn and die a turn away from the combo.
And I haven't cast an Aluren yet.
Round 3 Esper Stoneforge, and even more Hymn to Tourach. I open on land-go, while my opponent casts a Hymn to Tourach. I have a Misdirection for his Hymn, which he declines to Force of Will; instead, Hymn rips Force of Will and a Brainstorm. I have Coiling Oracle in play and get a handful of attacks in, then draw both Aluren and Cavern Harpy. I use the Coiling Oracle–Cavern Harpy combo to draw a couple cards and then flip a Parasitic Strix to combo out for the kill.
In game two, my opponent casts an Ethersworn Canonist and a turn later, Stoneforge Mystic for Sword of Feast and Famine. I take some damage before dropping an Aluren. Imperial Recruiter finds a Harmonic Sliver, which takes care of the Sword. He attacks into an untapped fetchland and Harmonic Sliver with Ethersworn Canonist, so I tutor for Dryad Arbor and double-block, then go to my turn, where I Cabal Therapy out his Swords to Plowshares and combo out with Imperial Recruiter.
And I've cast Aluren... Twice!
Round 4, I don't face any more Hymn to Tourachs. Instead, I get to play against a U/W Stoneforge Mystic deck... even better! Game one, he gets Sword of Feast and Famine on a Stoneforge Mystic. I have Imperial Recruiter x2, Misdirection, and three lands, with four lands in play and two Intuition on top of my library from a Brainstorm. I discard a land to Sword of Feast and Famine, while he floats mana and casts Vendilion Clique, taking the Misdirection. I Intuition on his end step, which gets counterspelled. A Riptide Laboratory bounces Vendilion Clique post-combat, and I can't combo through his Clique lock.
Game two I keep a mana-light hand with both halves of the combo. He Spell Snares a Coiling Oracle and taps out on turn 4 for Jace when I have missed a land drop. After untapping with Jace, I don't draw anything relevant and lose easily.
Would I recommend Aluren?
Never. Even running a strong, well-tuned version of the deck isn't enough in today's metagame. Legacy decks have been tuned to disrupt their opponents from the earliest turns of the game. Aluren is a slow combo deck; even in its fastest iterations, it can't kill before turn 3. This means it needs to significantly interact with any faster combo deck, hardly the place a combo deck wants to position itself in a metagame.
Aluren also lacks the tutoring power to be even remotely consistent in the goldfish. Assemblng one of each four-of, with only Intuition and Brainstorm to be able to find them, is not particularly easy, and once an opponent begins to offer even token resistance, the combo is very difficult to pull off.
I sleeved up the Tempo Threshold list without Tarmogoyfs at StarCityGames.com Open: Baltimore this past weekend. I ended up 2-2 before dropping from the event. This doesn't mean the list is bad in the slightest. Instead, it represents several errors, both in construction and play that are learning opportunities.
Here is the sideboard I registered:
Propaganda is still very loose. I haven't brought it in in my last 15 matches... but then again, nobody is playing Goblins or Zoo, or Dredge for that matter. Maybe those slots could be turned into Submerge or Rough / Tumble, but I still need to have some hate against Dredge, which is far more difficult without Tarmogoyf.
First, mindset is huge. I had judged the Standard Open the day prior, including table judging in Top 8. I didn't get back to my hotel room until midnight, at which point I decided to register my deck for the following day and re-sleeve it. After falling asleep at 2 and getting up at 8, we did make the pro play of grabbing a muffin and juice for breakfast.
After sitting down for round 1, I opened on a no-land seven. I tanked hard, pantomime counting cards, then mulliganed it away. The six was the same, while the five was keepable. It didn't matter; I got wrecked by a Dark Confidant I couldn't answer. His deck was strange, B/W Deadguy splash Snapcaster. Except I only saw Snapcaster in game 1 and not at any other point of the match.
Game three I opened on Delver of Secrets, but couldn't flip him for three or four turns. He played a Stoneforge Mystic at eight life, then I flipped a Spell Snare to Delver of Secrets. Delver took him down to five life. He dropped a Batterskull in off of Stoneforge Mystic, as Delver took him to two. Unfortunately, I whiffed on drawing Lightning Bolt or Dismember, and he cast an Elspeth to take home the game.
I saw zero cantrips this game; not being able to filter draws really hurts this deck.
Round 2 is a better story. After getting deck-checked, my opponent mulled to six. I landed Grim Lavamancer on turn 1 and started beating down. He played a Riptide Laboratory as his second land, which I immediately Wastelanded. He struggled to find another land for several turns, and Grim Lavamancer took him down. I Force of Willed a late-game Brainstorm, although he topdecked a land. A few quick Lightning Bolts ended this game quickly.
In game 2, he opened with a turn 0 Leyline of Sanctity; I don't mind it all that much, as burning him out won't be necessary if I can answer Batterskull. I just dropped an early Delver of Secrets and protected it. He tried to cast a couple spells that I Spell Snared, and that was about it.
Round 3 I was paired against Reanimator, which is mediocre for me in game one and far better post board. On the play, I cast a Nimble Mongoose. He went land, Entomb, which I Dazed. I replayed my land and let him Entomb on the following turn. He got Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur. I hit him several more times and added a Grim Lavamancer to the board. He cast Reanimate, returning Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur. I let it resolve, only to Dismember it when it was on the battlefield. Even though I had countermagic, I would rather have him lose ten life, as that makes closing out the game a lot easier.
The following turn he tried to Animate Dead Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur, but I Stifled the trigger. (The way this works is Animate Dead stays on the battlefield, enchanting the creature in the graveyard. If the creature leaves the graveyard, Animate Dead goes to the graveyard.) He cast a couple Careful Studies, but I countered a last-ditch Exhume.
Game two becomes insane for me. I brought in Red Elemental Blasts, Flusterstorms, Gilded Drake, and Surgical Extraction. I countered a handful of relevant spells and beat down. When I had lethal on board, he tried to combo off. My hand was: Flusterstorm x3, Spell Snare x2, Force of Will x2. Skill game.
Even though he's on the play, the draw-discard plan is probably okay. With two reanimate spells, it is unlikely I'm going to be able to out-counter him. I don't know what the creatures were, but it shouldn't matter. They're all very strong against my deck post-board, and any of them should win the game.
Round 4, my opponent played a turn 1 Nimble Mongoose. Fun. Times. This was the closest to a mirror match I've played, and I made several key mistakes that cost me the match. Game one was a domination. I played several Delver of Secrets and hit him in three-damage increments from 20 to 0.
Game 2, my opponent played more Nimble Mongoose than I did, which was probably why I lost. More importantly, I mis-valued racing versus trading. In this mirror, eliminating Nimble Mongoose is one of the most important elements; every other card in the matchup has several good one-for-one answers, but Nimble Mongoose can only be answered with another Nimble Mongoose.
Game 3, I led on a Delver of Secrets and got my opponent down to 13 from two hits. I cast a Ponder, and my opponent responded with a Lightning Bolt on my Delver of Secrets. I mis-valued the balance between trying to clock my opponent and staying alive and decided to Force of Will his Lightning Bolt. He responded with a Force of Will, exiling Fire / Ice, destroying my threat. From here, he cast a Nimble Mongoose, which went the distance.
One of the interesting things to note in this matchup was my opponent's sideboard plan: -2 Daze, -2 Stifle, +3 Red Elemental Blast, +1 Tormod's Crypt. He had no idea that I was not running two-drops, for the entirety of the match, which was a tremendous advantage for me.
This was the extent of my tournament; I dropped with my second loss. However, I didn't waste the rest of my day; I tested to become a level two judge and passed.
mchain on Magic Online