"What time is it?"
"About damn time, I'd say."
"The one and only. You're a sight for a sore eyes."
"'Fraid so. Ya got any Visine?"
"What is that terrible sound?"
"Ya mean the beeping?"
"Yes. Make it stop."
"Sure, dude. Lemme just yank this little doohickey off your finger. Better?"
"Much. Ugh. Where am I?"
"Fourth floor, dude."
"I hate waking up in strange hotels, Jack. Remind me to stop doing this."
"Uh...sure, dude. Now would be a good time to point out the tubes sticking out of your arm and such, I guess."
"Jack, am I in a hospital?"
"Ding ding ding we have a winner! Don Pardo tell him what he's won!"
"How long have I been here?"
"A while, dude. I'm used to you disappearing around the holidays, but when you didn't show back up after New Years, I went lookin' for your body."
"Don't make me laugh. It hurts."
"I'm not kidding. I found you up here by accident. I was checking the morgue."
"You were probably hoping to meet some goth chick by the lockers."
"A boy can dream."
"This isn't TV, Jack. Goth chicks don't work in the morgue."
"Oh, yeah? You're so smart, where do goth chicks work?"
"Sit-down pizza joints. The kind that have imported beer on tap and do half their business at lunch."
"I wish I knew how I got here."
"What's the last thing you remember?"
"Um...Cabal Therapy resolving for the hundredth time or something."
"Yeah, it was something like first turn Cabal Therapy, naming Aluren, miss. Second turn Wall of Blossoms, draw a card, flashback Cabal Therapy, naming Cavern Harpy, hit. Third turn Cabal Therapy, fourth turn Eternal Witness retrieving Cabal Therapy from the graveyard. Something like that. It's kind of blurry at this point."
"That's a beating."
"It is indeed. You never answered my question."
"What question, dude?"
"What time is it?"
"It's about nine o'clock on a Thursday morning."
"Shoot. I've been here five days? My wife's going to kill me. I haven't called home."
"Uh...that's not quite right, man."
"What am I saying. They would've called home when they found my ID."
"I wasn't kidding when I said it's past New Years Day. Here's today's paper."
"Yeah. I thought you'd say that."
"Oh, my God. Jack, I've been in a coma."
"That explains why you haven't been returning my calls. Anyway, I found you, let's go."
"A coma. This is awful."
"Is the last thing you remember really playing that game, dude?"
"It really is. How strange."
"Well, at least you were playing your favorite deck."
"Yeah. I do like that deck."
"I don't understand it."
"Aluren? Aluren is easy, Jack. You just get Aluren in play, and then either abuse Cavern Harpy's gating ability to bounce Raven Familiar over and over, or you abuse the interaction between Cavern Harpy and Wirewood Savage. Either one will effectively allow you to plow through your deck. Auriok Champion or Soul Warden will allow you to stave off death by gaining arbitrarily large amounts of life. From there, it's a matter of casting Living Wish to fetch the Maggot Carrier needed to finish your opponent off, although you may need to use Cloud of Faeries to untap some land to be able to pay for it. The Living Wish, I mean."
"Yeah, that's real easy, dude."
"The draw combo is all you need to remember, Jack. Everything else takes care of itself."
"Yeah, well, you aren't taking care of yourself as long as you're sitting here, so let's go."
"Jack, I'm not sure I'm ready to check out. I just woke up from a coma or something and I don't feel too well."
"Hey, dude. You aren't going to feel better as long as you're in a hospital. What you need is to be outside. Or at least not inside here. Now, I came all the way down here to get you out, so you're going to leave with me one way or another. What's it going to be?"
"Sheesh, Jack. Calm down. I suppose the EMTs can rush me back here if anything goes wrong."
"That's the spirit."
"Yeah, not here."
"Your clothes aren't in this room."
"My personal effects aren't here?"
"Does your chart count?"
"Uh, then no."
"Jack, how am I going to get out of this room? I can't walk down the hall in this little paper gown."
"When did you get this shy?"
"It will attract attention, moron. They'll force me back in here."
"Hey, no one's going to force you stay here. I think."
"It doesn't matter. I can barely stand as it is. My muscles have atrophied."
"I'd hit you if I could lift my arms."
"You know, I think I did find one thing of yours."
"Is it my pants? Pants would be good."
"It's not your pants."
"What is it then?"
"Wow. I don't believe it. That's my deck box. The one I keep Aluren in. Where did you find it?"
"It was at the store behind the counter. Some one turned must have turned it in."
"Let me see it."
"You know, dude, I'd like to give it to you, but you've gotta ask yourself: What good is this pile of cardboard and plastic gonna do you in here? I mean, if you're too weak to make a break past the squad of LPNs outside this door, how the hell are you gonna shuffle cards?"
"Just give me the deck."
"Everything's still here. I don't believe it. Even the sideboard."
"Yeah, I'm not sure whether to restore my faith in humanity or be disappointed in the gumption of the local thieves. Looks like whoever turned it in re-sleeved your crappy deck for you."
"Yeah, everthing's here. Even Meloku."
"Meloku? What's that?"
"Meloku is a very good idea I did not have. Fortunately people who are much better at this game than me still play this deck on occasion. A trio of Dutch players showed up to Columbus playing Aluren. They ran Meloku in the board as both an alternate path to victory."
"An answer to Cranial Extraction?"
"Sure, but it isn't limited to that. There's a good example in the coverage of PT: Columbus of an Aluren player wishing for Meloku to combat a U/G player who had taken a lot of damage from his painlands. I really loved that play. I have often seen the Aluren foe assume his life total doesn't matter. Bringing that resource back into the mix after it has been neglected is simply wicked. Plus, Meloku doesn't force one to commit to more Black than is healthy for the deck."
"I think you lost me there."
"Meloku isn't harder to cast from a color standpoint than Brainstorm or Intuition, cards that Aluren casts with ease on a regular basis. At least, anyone using the U/G base does. This is where schools of thought differ about the deck, and where I side with the build the Dutch were running. Anyway, even if one looks at Meloku solely in the light of "the answer to Cranial Extraction" it still outshines things like Death Wish to me. I'd rather take one of my sideboard slots and give myself something to wish for whenever I'm ready than sacrifice one of my maindeck slots to give me another wish I'm only going to use under dire circumstances. Sideboard slots may be precious, but maindeck slots are crucial."
"I'm serious about this. This is a combo deck. You're going to be taking enough mulligans as it is to find a hand that can win based on reasonable expectations. You know I hate Paris, Jack."
"You're just mad she picked that Ritchie girl over you as a sidekick for 'The Simple Life'."
"So, Meloku is a great sideboard card for Aluren, I think. I only wish I thought of it. I was staring at the Champions of Kamigawa spoiler and the thing that caught my eye was Dosan the Falling Leaf, which isn't anywhere near as useful. He solves a couple of problems, and I'm not convinced he doesn't have a place for the upcoming PTQs. But I wasn't running him in my last foray unto the breach."
"No. I liked my sideboard for what it was. I'm often guilty of playing it fast and loose with my sideboard slots, which is a polite way of saying my sideboards suck. Ever since Judgment rotated in a few years ago Aluren sideboards quickly took on the Living Wish toolbox/traditional swap slots ratio that we see today, that is 9 Living Wishables and six cards built for coming in to shore up difficult matchups after game one. Very often these slots are taken up by some number of Pernicious Deed. Orim's Chant has also been popular from time to time. "
"Seems pretty good. Chant is a must counter or lose. Probably good in the mirror. Deed can solve a lot of problems."
"Jack, did you take up Magic?"
"No, but I have this friend who won't shut up about it. I'd introduce you, but the mirror is bolted to the wall."
"Ha, ha. Anyway, the nine to six ratio is not set in stone. The 'six' part is actually fairly liquid, but generally is between three to six. The decks that performed well at PT: Columbus followed this traditional pattern. I have often experimented with my 'six' slots, which has led to mixed results."
"Bad and terrible is mixed?"
"For my own board, I went with the three copies of Pernicious Deed as my general problem solver and Oh-My-God-I-Hate-Affinity card."
"Isn't this where you should confess to me you had been testing Energy Flux in those slots?"
"No wonder you ended up in here."
"Well, I still didn't go whole hog and run three Orim's Chant. Since I almost always get paired up against at least two Red Decks a tourney, I threw in three copies of Chill. As luck would have it, I faced zero Red Decks and two decks Chant would have helped a great deal with. The moral of this story is I suck, regardless of metagame."
"It sounded to me like you said Aluren boards are pretty cut and dried. How can you screw it up?"
"I wouldn't say they're cut and dried, but most sideboards are going to have a lot of cards in common. Here, take a look at these two sideboards."
The Dutch Sideboard
1 Academy Rector
1 Cavern Harpy
1 Raven Familiar
1 Maggot Carrier
1 Eternal Witness
1 Stern Proctor
1 Gilded Drake
1 Wirewood Savage
1 Meloku the Clouded Mirror
1 City of Brass
3 Pernicious Deed
Andrei Hayryen's Sideboard
1 Academy Rector
1 Cavern Harpy
1 Raven Familiar
1 Maggot Carrier
1 Eternal Witness
1 Stern Proctor
1 Gilded Drake
1 City of Traitors
1 Forbidden Orchard
2 Phyrexian Negator
1 Xantid Swarm
"Both of those boards were saw Day 2 at PT: Columbus. How many cards in common, Jack?"
"Yes with an asterisk. Cavern Harpy and Raven Familiar are the heart of the draw combo, so of course they are going to be present. Maggot Carrier is the finisher to the deck, so he's in there. Academy Rector is there to die for the cause either through blocking or being sacrificed to Cabal Therapy. Eternal Witness is far too useful to be left out. Stern Proctor and Gilded Drake can do their thing once to solve an immediate problem or dance with Cavern Harpy to put oneself in a much better position. Also, City of Brass and Forbidden Orchard are very similar cards, and are fulfilling the same role. While there are technically seven cards in common between the two boards, there are practically eight."
"I hadn't thought of that."
"Something else that's similar between these two sideboards is they both commit only three slots to non-Living Wishable cards. Even in those cards, we see the split in philosophy. The Pernicious Deed board is also the one running Meloku and Genesis. Clearly this is a board built around general utility and long-term advantage with a few key matchups in mind. The Naturalize board rounds out its supporting cast with Phyrexian Negator, Xantid Swarm, and City of Traitors. This sideboard wants to be in a position to win as quickly as possible. It doesn't want to wait. Swing, you can't stop me now. Here, take five. Turn 2 Living Wish, play City of Traitors, go."
"Win next turn. Got it."
"The first example shows more patience. The second board feels more aggressive in a way."
"So, which is right, dude?"
"Both are right. These are both very good sideboards in that they commit to their respective philosophies. Nothing is haphazard. I mean, if I was to pick one over the other it would be the Dutch board, but that's mostly because I believe the decision to run Meloku as inspiration. I look up to that sort of thing."
"But that other one is good, too."
"Oh, yeah. Remember, both of these boards were in decks that were competitive in a Pro Tour. Anyway, one of my goals for myself this season was to start making better sideboard decisions, so naturally I went back and started looking at a lot of Aluren boards including my own to get a sense of just how bad I am at this game."
"Yeah yeah yeah, you suck, etcetera."
"I suck, but I aspire to suck less. I felt a lot better about my early board. I had to tighten up by replacing my usual Uktabi Orangutan plus Monk Realist with Stern Proctor. I also had to face the fact that I didn't have a good reason not to run Pernicious Deed since it solved all the problems I was trying to solve with other cards and then some."
"Dude, I know you've run it before."
"I did, briefly. Do you know why I stopped? Dumbest thing in the world. I stopped running Deed because I only had two copies."
"Yeah, that is pretty dumb."
"And easily remedied. Anyway, long story short I figured Rock stays home and the Mountain floppers always come out to play early, so I left Genesis at home and brought Chill. And I just had to run Meloku."
"Speaking of running, we should get you out of here."
"Oh, right. See if you can find some gauze or something. We've gotta get these tubes out."
"Well, I'll help you with the IV, but I'm not touching the catheter."
"This is a stupid idea."
"Quiet, dude. You're supposed to be dead."
"If this doesn't work one of us is going to be."
"Big talk for a guy like you, Atrophy Boy."
"Sure, kick me when I'm down."
"Just shut up and try not to breathe too hard."
"Do they really haul corpses around like this? I always thought the whole sheet-covered body thing was a television convention."
"Then if anyone asks we're shooting a medical drama. Now do me a favor and act dead until I roll you past this next cluster of nurses."
"Are we there yet?"
"No, dude. I had to take a detour."
"Where are we going, anyway?"
"Elevator. Hopefully one that doesn't have a lot of traffic."
"Isn't an obvious malcontent wheeling a corpse-laden gurney out the front door going to attract a little attention?"
"I guess it would. Good thing we aren't going out that way."
"Where are we going?"
"Up, dude. We're going up."
"Up where? This is a freaking hospital."
"...yeah...okay..just wake me when we get there..."
"Oh, no you don't. Stay with me, dude."
"I can't just lay here quietly under a sheet and not drift off."
"Then tell me something. Like, quietly."
"What if someone hears me?"
"I'll give you signal if the coast isn't clear. Just whisper and we'll be fine. We're almost to the elevator, anyway. At least, I think we are."
"Okay...let's see...have I ever told you explained to the difference between mana bases of Aluren decks that run Vampiric Tutor and those that don't?"
"I'm gonna regret this."
"No, this is easy stuff, Jack. The Vampiric Tutor build is 'Blacker'."
"You don't say."
"Yeah, the Black base is something like-"
"Think about that mana base for a minute, Jack."
"Dude, that's not gonna happen."
"Okay, okay. Here's what I see when I look at those cards. Running more sources of Black usually means that Vampiric Tutor is in the deck. It's easy to make a case for its inclusion in the deck. Personally, I feel that it isn't worth it in the long run."
"I'd rather have more consistency generating Blue mana. That gets sacrificed to make room for the Black. Even the Vamp Tutor builds still run Brainstorm and Intuition. The whole thing just ends up being shakier, in my opinion. Historically 'Blacker' builds of Aluren haven't fared as well at the PT as the 'Bluer' versions. But if you want to support Vamp Tutor, this is a good base for it. Notice that there are twelve lands that cause pain. That's a lot of grief, but it speaks to the philosophy of this build. This is the aggressive build, the one that doesn't want a long game."
"Dude, life total doesn't matter if I can win on turn two."
"Exactly. With five lands that generate two mana, a full boat of Birds, and three Chrome Mox, this build isn't planning letting a long game happen. Plus, it has more Green sources than the Bluer base, so getting Aluren down quickly isn't going to be a problem from a mana or color stance."
"We're on the elevator, dude. Feel free to speak up."
"Okay, now the Blue base is something like this-"
The Dutch (Cornelissen, Karsten, deKler) - Aluren
PT: Columbus 2004, 34th, 46th, & 76th
3 City of Brass
4 Polluted Delta
4 Yavimaya Coast
4 Havenwood Battleground
4 Birds of Paradise
"This is the mana base I think of when I think about the deck. It's more conservative than the one I spoke of before. It's very similar to the mana base Mattias Jorstedt used way back in PT: Houston '02 when the bulk of Aluren decks were still dedicated to a much Blacker deck*. The one way it is less consistent than the other example is in the Green sources, but that normally isn't a big deal. Fewer 'ouch' lands can lead to one more turn against an aggressive deck. There's not as much mana acceleration, but this deck also won't be throwing away tutors or combo pieces to Chrome Mox to try and get ahead."
"So, it's slower."
"A little, but I believe it to be more consistent. This mana base won't support Vampiric Tutor effectively, but Intuition is good enough. There are enough Black sources to get Cabal Therapy and Pernicious Deed going when necessary. My one issue with the this base is Havenwood Battleground over Hickory Woodlot, but that may be due to the Meloku plan. Woodlot is great for 'turn two Intuition, turn three Aluren', but it lacks synergy with Meloku. Then again, I'm really bad at Magic. Hey, is the elevator stopping?"
"Yup. We have to walk up a short flight of stairs next. Think you can make it?"
"Yeah, I guess. Did you ever tell me where were going?"
"Do I ever? You just have to trust me."
"My stomach always drops when you say that. Whoah."
"Steady, dude. Get yer sea legs."
"This is harder than I thought it would be."
"Use the railing. One step at a time."
"This isn't fair. I quit smoking two years ago. Three freakin' steps and I'm winded."
"You haven't been getting a lot of exercise lately, dude."
"Yeah, I guess. Man, I'd like to sit down."
"No way, dude. Don't quit on me. I'll tell you what, just a few more stairs and you can tell more about Manny's bases."
"Mana bases, punk."
"Whatever. I was hoping for baseball."
"One day I shall regain my strength and swat the living hell out you."
"Promises, promises. For now, just keep climbing. The door is at the top of the stairs."
"I've always wondered what the roof of a hospital looked like."
"You wonder about weird stuff, dude."
"Yeah, they call me the wonderer. I wonder wound and wound and-"
"I can throw over the edge from here."
"You might have to. I need to sit down."
"We should keep moving, dude. Someone's going to find that gurney soon."
"I just want to look at the view for a minute. It reminds me of the view from the Eiffel Tower."
"This view? Dude, that's Peachtree-Dunwoody, not the Champs-Elysees."
"Just let me catch my breath, Jack."
"I'll give you a one cigarette break. I'll even stand downwind."
"Not that I'm interested, dude, but out of curiosity why are you so fascinated with sideboards and mana bases today?"
"Well, it's where you see the most variance in Aluren builds. They tell you more about the individual player's intentions with the deck than anything else. The main spells are very, very similar."
"Doesn't that mean that any difference between two builds is significant in and of itself, dude?"
"Well, yes. But some differences are more common than others. For example, some folks like to have one Brain Freeze as an alternate way to win. Hayryen did, for example. Brain Freeze is a way to win without Living Wish, or a nasty trick to play in the mirror or against Desire. But the Dutch didn't play it."
"Do you run it?"
"I have run it, but I don't always do so. I didn't run it the last time I got smashed, so maybe I will this time."
"So no real surprises in decklists, then."
"Well...every once in awhile something comes along. Like, look at the main cards in this build."
Kyle Goodman - Aluren
PT: Columbus 2004, 10th
Main Deck Spells
3 Cavern Harpy
3 Raven Familiar
4 Wall of Blossoms
1 Cloud of Faeries
2 Wirewood Savage
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Living Wish
3 Cabal Therapy
1 Brain Freeze
"Notice anything missing, Jack?"
"We'll get to that. These are just spells."
"Umm...hey, isn't there supposed to be some gain life chick?"
"Exactly. Neither Soul Warden nor Auriok Champion are present main deck."
"Very. At least, it's unusual if one is thinking of Maggot Carrier as Plan A. It looks like he's just as happy to win via Brain Freeze. Or maybe he's just decided if he's in a position to clear the stack and then cast one Living Wish, what's going to change? He's going to be able to do it twice."
"The other thing I find unusual in his main spells is something else that's missing. Eternal Witness."
"How is Eternal Witness necessary?"
"It isn't, but it's pretty useful. Most everyone runs at least one in the main these days."
"This guy is a radical, then."
"Hard to argue with results, though. He was the highest finishing Aluren player at PT: Columbus. ID'd his way into tenth."
"He was 2-3 after five rounds on Day 1, and then didn't lose another match until round 15 to the eventual champion. That's a Balboa like comeback. That kind of thing needs a soundtrack."
"I'll call Survivor."
"Oh, you mentioned radical. Do you remember why I don't fully trust a mana base that supports Vampiric Tutor?"
"Because you don't run Vamp Tutor?"
"Because I feel it's less consistent. Specifically, it's more prone to color-screw in an environment where early plays matter. My point is, that line of thinking could be chalked up to me whining. However, some people seems to be even more extreme when it comes to avoiding that problem."
"Dude, that's messed up."
"Isn't it? No two-Green-mana land, but nothing comes into play tapped. Six lands that produce any color. I had been toying with the idea of replacing City of Brass with Forbidden Orchard, but not running both like this guy. It's a tad slower than what we've talked about before, but it's certainly stable. It also could support Vampiric Tutor, although Goodman did not run it himself. One other thing about this mana base is that it supports the Flametongue Kavu in his 'board."
"Yup. Could be a choice, could be a poor man's replacement for Gilded Drake, who knows."
"If you can't steal it, blow it up?"
"I guess. Goodman's build is innovative. Kudos to him for that and his high finish."
"Speaking of innovative, it's about time I showed you our escape route before the nurses come up to take a break."
"Oh, all right. Where are we going?"
"Right this way, sir."
"A window washer's scaffold?"
"Is that what it's called?"
"I think so. How'd you know it would be here?"
"Dude, if there's one thing I know how to do, it's plan a getaway."
"Well, this seems overly complex, but I'll take your word for it. Where's the uniforms?"
"Yeah, uniforms. Window washer uniforms. Overalls."
"We don't have uniforms."
"So we're going to lower ourselves down the side of the hospital, you in your street clothes and I in my handkerchief? That shouldn't raise any eyebrows."
"Dude, no one looks out the windows but the patients, and most of them are too far gone to notice."
"You may have a point."
"Just step onto the platform."
"Whoah. I don't feel so steady, Jack."
"Just hang on, dude. Let me mash this here button and we'll start down."
"Oh, man. I feel like I'm going to pass out."
"Sit down, then. No sense in falling over the side if you faint. Try putting your head between your knees."
"Hey, look at that."
"I can see my reflection in the windows as we pass."
"I look like hell."
"Yeah. Mirrors can be harsh critics."
"Man, this thing is slow. It's going to take us hours to get down to the ground at this rate."
"Do you know how many Aluren mirrors were played at PT: Columbus, Jack?"
"Sure, dude. I always make it point to stuff my brain with that kind of information instead of phone numbers or driving directions."
"Five. Five mirror matches that just shouldn't ever happen. And four of them were in the first three rounds."
"What are the odds."
"Not good. Only nine decks out of a couple hundred or so."
"That is kinda strange."
"Too small a sample to draw any conclusions."
"Goodman's deck lost to the Dutch, though. Round three."
"Yeah, but he had already faced the mirror in round two with success."
"Poor guy. Two mirror matches in a row."
"The other significant mirror was Hayrneyn vs. Cornelissen in round nine. It's reported as a draw. I'm assuming they didn't start Day Two with an ID."
"The mirror is an unkind thing for Aluren. There's too many ways to lose it. It all boils down to winning the stack. Whatever you can do to win that battle is good. Orim's Chant out of the board is good if one expects a few mirrors. Just one additional Cabal Therapy out of the board can be a big help. Get those Cavern Harpies out of his hand before you go off. Have you ever seen the mirror match devolve into a Raven Familiar beatdown race?"
"I can't say that I have."
"It's been known to happen. If it happens to me, I'm just wishing for Meloku. That should get my opponent motivated to play his enchantment. Then we can fight like combo players."
"We're almost down, dude."
"Outstanding. I'm freezing out here. Do you have a car?"
"That's a real nice bike, Jack."
"Whose is it?"
"Let's say a lady friend and leave it at that. Here's your helmet."
"A lady friend?"
"Yeah, a lady friend. I've been down on my luck, so she gave me place to stay."
"Right. You've been staying there how long?"
"Well, she gave me a place to stay last night."
"Jack, did you steal this motorcycle?"
"Understand that by 'steal' I also include 'borrowed without telling the owner ahead of time', okay?"
"No, dude. It's not like that. Anyway, you'll like it. Put your helmet on."
"I'm sure I'm going to love rocketing through the brisk February air wearing a paper skirt."
"Ya wanna take MARTA instead?"
"No. Hey, this helmet has a radio?"
"Yup. We can talk to each other. Keen, eh?"
"This isn't exactly 'Easy Rider', is it?"
"Never mind. Just don't crash."
"Hang on and tell me if you need anything."
"What's that, dude?"
"I need clothes! I look like I just escaped from a hospital!"
"You did, dude."
"That's my point! I need real clothes!"
"I got it covered. We'll go down to Little Five and get something there. We shouldn't attract too much attention down there."
"Don't lean away from the turns, dude. You'll screw me up and we'll fall."
"What should I do?"
"Lean into them. And try not to pass out or anything without warning me first."
"Tell you what. Keep babbling about the game and if you go quiet, I'll know something's wrong."
"I'm not sure what to say."
"Dude, why do you look at so many versions of the same deck? Isn't it just the same thing over and over again?"
"I like to think about the differences. They're like little points of conflict I need to resolve in my head."
"It's all about little choices. Like Soul Warden or Auriok Champion. The Dutch build at Columbus favored Soul Warden. But why?"
"I don't know, dude."
"It may be because Soul Warden is far more friendly to hard cast in a pinch. The life gain effect from those cards has synergy with Meloku, so perhaps that was considered. Also, since Soul Warden can make it onto the table, she can be sacrificed to flashback Cabal Therapy, which could be very useful in certain situations. Like trying to strip relevant instants out of the U/W Scepter player's hand early."
"That's a point."
"It is, and it is a point I hadn't considered when I first settled on Auriok Champion for my build. In a short debate with me someone dug in his heels in favor of Soul Warden on that very point. And he was right, as far as that goes. My position was Auriok Champion provided an additional out against RDW, since I didn't need to have multiple Harpies to get around Seal of Fire or some other burn. That's pretty valuable to me, since there's always a bunch of Red in my area. At least, it seems so."
"So the Soul Warden - Auriok Champion debate rages on?"
"I wouldn't say it ever 'raged'. It's just a matter of deciding what is more valuable to you. I mean, for all I know the Dutch designers had Soul Warden lying around and didn't feel like getting another card."
"Somehow I doubt that, dude."
"Me, too. But you never know."
"Maybe you're just reading too much into it, dude."
"I can't help it, Jack. I find differences in decklists interesting. Like Havenwood Battleground over Hickory Woodlot. That seems to be the pattern this year amongst the pros. Why?"
"Why would you choose Battleground over Woodlot, my man."
"I wouldn't. I value, perhaps overly so, a second turn Intuition."
"You can't make that happen with Battleground?"
"I could, but I would be mana-screwing myself to do it. Having access to two mana out of one land twice and then nothing is more useful than the versatility of generating one mana as many times as I'd like and then generating two if the opportunity or necessity presents itself."
"So that versatility is why someone would choose Battleground over Woodlot, right dude."
"Yeah, I guess."
"See? Ya answered your own question."
"So this gal just said, 'I don't really know you, but you can borrow my bike if you want'."
"Yeah, pretty much."
"Seriously, where did you get this motorcycle?"
"Dude, the girl let me borrow it. She said it wouldn't be a problem as long as I got it back in the garage by four o'clock."
"What happens at four?"
"Her husband comes home, I think."
"Lovely. Why do I see us getting shot before the end of the day?"
"Because you're a pessimist."
"How are we paying for this? My wallet was with my other effects."
"Oh, no problem dude. I've got my copy of your credit card with me. Go try these on."
"My copy of your card. I've had one for years. You should really start checking your statements."
"How much are you costing me?"
"Not much. Couple hundred a year, I guess. Then again, I'm the guy dragging you back across the Styx."
"Call it even, then."
"Sure. Do they fit?"
"Yeah, I guess. Good enough. I need a shirt, though."
"I'm on it. What shade of black are you wearing these days, dude?"
"Whatever they have, Jack."
"Do you want to get a couple of other things or just what you're wearing out?"
"Just these. I don't want to do too much."
"I've seen people try and do too much with too little."
"Dude? Are all right?"
"It always starts small. They try and shave off a land. Then another. Streamline the deck, they say. Twenty one land should be fine."
"Dude, we're in a shop. You have to focus."
"Before you know it, these poor saps are walking into PTQs with a mana base barely able to support a weenie deck, and they've got 4 Chrome Mox to rip all the cards they need to win out of their hands. But they've got Vampiric Tutor, so they think everything's going to be okay."
"Okay, I'm going to rip the tags off your clothes and check us out while you babble."
"Before they even see it coming, they've gone 0-2 drop, completely wrecked by a single discard spell. They expect to win like they're goldfishing, Jack. And it's just not that easy. It's just not that--"
"Ow, my head."
"Dude, you passed out. We need to get you some food."
"Okay. Wait, where's my deck?"
"It's right here."
"Dude, didn't you mention a pizza place back at the hospital?"
"Huh? Oh, it's uptown a ways."
"Can you make it?"
"Dude, you were right. Goth girls serve pizza and beer by day. Who knew."
"Just me. Well, just me and any one of the business lunch crowd who are paying attention. There's a lot of restaurants on this street. I prefer one with a view of tattoos and despondence."
"I've always said you put a lot of thought into lunch for a guy who hates food."
"Yeah. I do feel a little better for having eaten, though."
"Good thing, dude. We've gotta keep you're strength up."
"No problemo. Hey, tell me somethin', dude."
"Does all of that Columbus stuff really matter?"
"Well, yeah. Any of the premier tournaments will affect the local scene in some way, if only slightly. Some players will just netdeck one of the top finishers and go with it. The first place deck from the last premier event is always under a spotlight. That spotlight may bring hate in the next few weeks of tourneys."
"Oh. That could be bad."
"Could be. Aluren is very sensitive to disruption, actually. Thankfully, tenth place doesn't bring a lot of attention. Pouring over the Columbus results brings raw information more than any specific piece of wisdom. For example, Aluren went 5-5 in matches against Goblins, with the games going 14-14. Outside of what people did to their decks, that's the kind of crap I'm looking for. Something to set a benchmark of expectation."
"Dude, look at the time. I've got to get the Goldwing back where it belongs."
"Wait, is that the entertainment section of the paper?"
"There. Next table over. Throw it over here."
"Here ya go. What's in there?"
"I've gotta go check the results from this past weekend. They're usually on the last page."
"There was a Grand Prix in Boston unless my internal calendar is completely fubar. I want to know how things ended up."
"Hey, maybe your fave deck made Top 8 this time."
"Probably not. Grand Prix are a lot larger than Pro Tours. I doubt many of the higher ranked players-"
"Dude, are you all right?"
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Wall of Blossoms
3 Cavern Harpy
3 Raven Familiar
1 Cloud of Faeries
1 Auriok Champion
1 Eternal Witness
4 Cabal Therapy
3 Vampiric Tutor
3 Living Wish
"I still don't believe it."
"Dude, you've been saying that since we left the pizza joint."
"It's still true."
"Well, it's starting to bug me."
"Could you slow down, by the way?"
"No way, dude. We've got to get this bike back to my friend's house."
"You didn't tell me she lived in the complete opposite direction of my home."
"I don't tell you a lot of things, dude."
"Just don't forget I'm back here. If you go down, I'm going down, too."
"It's a deal."
"NOT WHAT I MEANT, JACK!"
"So Aluren won the big one in Boston, eh?"
"I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Oiso did a great job. I hope everyone doesn't feel the need to go gunning for this deck now."
"I couldn't help but notice this dude was doing the Vamp Tutor thing."
"Yes, he is. He's running three Vampiric Tutor, three Living Wish, and two Intuition. That's a lighter tutor package than one might be used to seeing. I love that he only carries one Chrome Mox. Tutor it if you need it, never have more than one in your opening hand. Good solution. I like the Volrath's Stronghold in the land slot of the sideboard, too. Some graveyard recursion/decking insurance. Not too terrible at all."
"Well, why don't you just wait here and lament the success of your favorite deck while I sneak this motorcycle back into the garage."
"Jack, how are we getting home?"
"Um...I dunno. Hitchhike?"
"Why don't you put the bike back in the garage and I'll ring the bell and ask to use the phone. We'll call a cab."
"No way. You put the bike back and I'll ring the bell."
"Jack, this isn't a competition."
"Rock, paper, scissors, dude."
"Jack, this is stupid."
"No way, Jack."
"Not gonna happen."
"Ha! You lose!"
"Dude, don't fall asleep. We're getting close."
"We're no where near close, Jack."
"The way this guy is driving the cab, we'll be there in like five minutes. You can give me five more minutes, right?"
"I really need to close my eyes."
"Five minutes. Just five more minutes and then I promise you can sleep as long as you'd like, dude. We have to get you home."
"Match ups, dude."
"C'mon, matchups. Tell me about 'em?"
"I don't know, Jack. I don't really think about the deck in terms of match ups anymore. Everybody has some kind of way to disrupt you."
"Yeah, but it's all good. I mean, some folks just have counters. Counters are the easiest to deal with since you've got access to Cabal Therapy. Things haven't worked out real well this season for Tog, and U/W Scepter seems to be on the ropes at the moment. U/G Madness always seems to be around. Just remember Daze exists and there shouldn't be any nasty surprises. He's trying to exhaust your life total before you can exhaust his counters."
"Is that all for counters?"
"Barring Cunning Wish from the Desire guys, yeah. But that never works unless you let them go get it. Therapy them to slow them down and just win before they do."
"So what else is out there?"
"Oh, let's see. Hand disruption is the next toughest thing to deal with. Duress and Cabal Therapy are the culprits there, for the most part. The fact is you WILL be hit with these spells, and if you take multiple hits from Cabal Therapy early, you may have just lost. Therapy is especially difficult to protect yourself against since knocking it out of their hand with your own discard only takes out half of its bite. In the current environment, it's these spells that wreck you more than anything."
"Okay, so hand disruption is bad for you."
"Yeah, and the list of folks running it is almost too long to mention. The two things you have going for you against early hand disruption are Brainstorm and your own brain. The most important decision you make is keep or Paris, and that decision is even more important when the other guy has Swamps. You know you're going to take a hit, so make sure you can roll with it. Only an idiot walks into a boxing ring and expects to dodge everything, you know?"
"Sure. So if you've got counters and disruption covered, all is well."
"Not quite. The most effective strategy to disrupt Aluren is mana denial."
"Without question. Tangle Wire, Rishadan Port, and Wasteland will own you. That's why Aluren becomes more successful in an environment where RDW is having trouble. The best battle won is the battle never fought. The sensitivity to mana disruption gets worse with the Blacker mana bases, too."
"So, if I'm playing in an area where RDW is still common, what should I do?"
"Now, that brings up the special cases."
"Yup. Cards that screw with you."
"Like Rule of Law, dude?"
"No. Things that are tougher to defend against. Things like Meddling Mage."
"Meddling Mage. The card has always been a pain, but it was a rarity before this season. Aether Vial has helped to change that. Between Affinity, U/W Chant, and some Life variants I've seen, there's a little too much Pikula for a guy to feel comfy. Obviously a Meddling Mage on the board must be answered, possibly with something like Bone Shredder. A Mage in the grip has to be dealt with, as well. It has to be knocked out with Cabal Therapy. If that just isn't possible, then you'd better be able to bury it on the stack, because once you put Aluren out and start trying to go off, Meddling Mage is going to come out to play. Nothing sucks more than a Meddling Mage set to 'Cavern Harpy'."
"So that card is doubly dangerous."
"Yes. And that brings me to my other special case, Cranial Extraction. Having all copies of Aluren removed from the game makes it difficult to win. It doesn't matter how good your back up plan is. It's your back up plan for a reason. Winning with Meloku or eternally recurred Raven Familiars just isn't as dependable as drawing your entire deck, gaining ridiculous amounts of life, and reducing your opponent's life total to zero without breaking a sweat. Now, it should be fairly obvious that any deck choosing to run Cranial Extraction should be running Cabal Therapy and/or Duress as well. That makes things even more difficult since those decks have the disruption to slow you down for a turn, just long enough to resolve CE."
"That doesn't sound too good, dude."
"Nope. Meddling Mage and Cranial Extraction basically do the same job. That job is to remove one of your cards (every copy of it) from the game. One just does it virtually. Anyway, that makes them the most dangerous cards to Aluren. That's why Oiso winning the Grand Prix has me in knots."
"Playtest. Only play Aluren if you really like the deck."
"No, dude. For this guy."
"The cabbie plays Magic?"
"How much do you wanna tip this guy, dude? We're here."
"What time is it?"
"I dunno. Evening, I guess."
"Why does it take us so long to get from place to place?"
"Because nothing is in a straight line in this town?"
"It just seems like we should have been here hours ago. What time did we leave the hospital?"
"Listen, dude. Sorry it took so long to get here, but what did you expect? The company you keep defines the journey every bit as much as the route you've chosen. That's why a lot of people keep doing stuff they've long since lost interest in. They don't care about the game, or the money, or the life. They care about seeing the people. That's where the passion is. And it's all about the passion, in my book. That's why I do what I do and who I do and how I do it or them. And that's why I went lookin' for ya, dude. 'Cause I know you might sleep 'til noon, but then you'll stay up three days doing nothing but what you care about at that moment. I've watched you throw away endless hours of possibilities over the stupidest constructions ever conceived, shit that no one could ever possibly care about except you but that's what made it so whatever: It was what was important to you and so that's all that was important to you. And that's fun to watch. You know what I mean?"
"I honestly have no idea what you just said."
"I said don't change."
"No problem. I fear change."
"And yet you have new clothes, dude."
"Only because I had to get them."
"Such is life, dude."
"Jack, thanks for bringing my deck to me."
"Anytime, dude. Seems like you keep talking about other people's decks, though."
"Well, mine is pretty much the same thing as anybody else's. The mana base is a pretty standard conservative Blueish base..."
"...nothing to see there except Hickory Woodlot over Havenwood Battleground, 'cause like I said I'd rather have the double Green twice to get an early Intuition. Then, I've got my spells..."
"...which are kind of strange for three reasons. First, I only run two Raven Familiars since that's all I have. Second, I run Maggot Carrier in the main deck because I always have and I'd rather just win without having to clear the stack to cast Living Wish. Third, I have dropped Cloud of Faeries entirely since I just never use it. Now, one can do ridiculous things with Cloud of Faeries, but those things haven't been necessary for me in so long (mostly because I run Maggot Carrier in the main) that I just asked myself 'self, do I really need this card'? Finally, my sideboard..."
"...although I had been running Chill in the Naturalize slots, but then I just stopped. Those three slots are pretty fluid. I still just throw things in there on a lark. But Naturalize is a useful card, so it could go there. But, really, my sideboard has evolved from an experimental monstrosity to a vary boring but quite dependable toolbox o' stuff."
"Dude, it doesn't look too bad. You got smashed with this?"
"Indeed, but I played very, very badly. And I got paired against Fish, which is just some sort of punishment for crimes real or imagined. But all of that was before Boston. Maybe things will change for me if I just get some sleep."
"You've had plenty of sleep already. What you need is rest. Don't hit the snooze button too many times."
"Yeah. The thing that makes the beep beep beep stop for nine minutes."
"The beep beep beep?"
"The alarm clock, dude. Beep beep beep."
"Just listen for it."
"It'll wake you when it's time."
"When it does, just put your feet on the floor and have a day. You'll feel better for it."
"Beep beep beep, dude."
*For the record, here 'tis.