I was going to use the Two-Headed Giant drafting article I wrote a week ago, but I have received a surprising response from people interested in my Legacy deck. While it has been suggested to me to keep this list on the DL until GenCon, the next big Legacy event of the year, I am so sick of people sitting on decks and watching formats evolve past them. Besides, this is Legacy, so the people who care will probably figure this out by August. Let's cut to the chase, start from what is cutting edge now, and move from here.
Is this the best Legacy deck? I think it is, as of today. It will probably define the format, much like Flash did in Ohio at the Grand Prix. The funny thing is, while this strategy is not as bananas as Flash, it will probably not prompt as much hate as Flash, nor is it as vulnerable to hate. As such, it is possible that this deck is stronger in the current Legacy metagame then Flash was in the previous.
So what is this allegedly format-defining deck? The archetype is not exactly new, though it did not see much play at the Grand Prix due to the existence of the default deck being a faster combo deck. The strategy I speak of is, of course, Aluren.
Aluren decks have been around since the printing of the card in Tempest. Originally people used such sketchy combos as Recycle and Aluren with Man-o'-war to draw one's entire deck. With the printing of Soul Warden, infinite life was built into the deck. Still, it was not until the printing of Cavern Harpy that Aluren really arrived.
Originally, Aluren had to compete with Survival of the Fittest, Recurring Nightmare, Dream Halls, Mind over Matter, Earthcraft, and other insanely powerful enchantments for the “build around me" spot. By the time Planeshift (Cavern Harpy) was printed, Raven Familiar had been printed and most of the competition had been outlawed. The combination allowed the caster to draw his deck, as before, but the combo was strengthened as it now no longer required any spell to be cast with mana aside from Aluren.
In addition, all the pieces got stronger. Soul Warden was often replaced by the stronger Spike Feeder, which aside from being independently solid, also allowed the Aluren to make an arbitrary number of spikes to put on his or her creatures (fueled by an arbitrary amount of mana produced by Wall of Roots).
Most of you are familiar with the basic loops involving Cavern Harpy, but the idea is that you can play the Harpy, bounce the Man-o'-war, play the Man-o'-war, bounce whatever you want to recurse, then bounce the Harpy by paying one life. You can fuel this with the 2 life you profit from each spike removed from Spike Feeder. In addition, if you don't yet have the Man-o'-war, you can Cavern Harpy the Raven, digging to the combo.
Raven Familiar is also not the worst tutor to help you find Aluren. Cavern Harpy, however, has also been the weak link, usually being a mostly dead card unless you are going off. Its strength has always been that it is Blue, thus an easy card to pitch to Force of Will.
The Printing of Onslaught brought Wirewood Savage, allowing the Aluren player another combo to draw his or her library with the Cavern Harpy, this time not requiring the payment of life. While some embraced this strategy, many frowned upon it, as it added yet another dead card to the Aluren deck that only functioned when Aluren was in play. Typically, a resolved Aluren is game anyway in this strategy.
Aluren continued to be a Tier 1.5 or Tier 2 Extended strategy for years. A few years pass and Wizards announces the legalization of Portal sets for Eternal formats, Legacy and Vintage. Neither of these formats are played as often or at as high a level as Standard, Block, or Extended, and as such are not explored as intensely. A particular combination that probably would have been utilized much earlier had a Pro Tour or PTQ season used it, lie in waiting.
The annual Legacy Grand Prix rolls around in 2007. I decide to test for this one intensely, as it was possible that it was to be my comeback tournament. Keep in mind that Flash had not yet been errata'd. The metagame was understood to revolve around the Big Three of Goblins, Threshold, and High Tide, with Iggy Pop being the dark horse.
I have played Aluren in multiple Pro Tours, and it is always a card I look at when examining new formats where it is legal. The idea of being able to upgrade it once again was very exciting, but would it be able to whether the storm of hyper fast Vial Goblin decks? The turn 1 and 2 kills of Iggy? The resilient Aggro-Control Threshold decks?
The new innovation? Imperial Recruiter. While I am hardly the first person to think of Imperial Recruiter, an uncommon from Portal Three Kingdoms, many do not even realize it exists, due to the previous irrelevance of P3K as well as its small print run. The card is inherently powerful, as it is a creature that can tutor up a huge selection of creatures at little cost. The beauty of the card in Aluren is that it can fetch any creature the Aluren deck might want to use, but at the same time is a creature that Aluren will allow you to play for free. However, it doesn't stop there. Since the Recruiter is a creature, it can be recursed by bounce, a simple feat in Aluren.
So what does this mean? Well you play the Aluren, then as an instant you play the Recruiter for free. Go get another Recruiter. Use it to go get another Recruiter. Use it to go get a Dream Stalker. Play the Dream Stalker. Due to the way gating works, by the time your opponent lets you choose which creature to return, they can't respond (you choose on resolution). Since you have three Recruiters in play, if they try to kill one in response to you casting Dream Stalker, simply choose a different Recruiter. Replay the Recruiter. This time get Man-o'-war. At this point a Swords to Plowshares will disrupt you if you have no other combo pieces, if it is pointed at your Dream Stalker. If Swords to Plowshares becomes exceedingly popular, it may be desirable to add a second Dream Stalker to the deck to all but kill STP's effectiveness.
In any event, use your Man-o'-war on your Recruiter. Recruit a Cavern Harpy. Cavern Harpy the Dream Stalker or Man-o'-war. Bounce a Recruiter again. This time go get Spike Feeder. Then use the life gain loop to gain DI. Now that you have a limitless supply of life, you can Cavern Harpy at will. Now use the Harpy to bounce a Dream Stalker and use it to bounce the Recruiter again.
The default kill at instant speed is to go get Ghitu Slinger and bounce it over and over, doing as much as you need to your opponent. Alternatively, you can make as many spikes as you need and make an arbitrarily large fatty to kill with. The optimal kill, however, is to go get your Etched Oracle. It's power counts as zero while it is in your deck, so the Recruiter can find it. Unfortunately, it cannot be played at instant speed through Aluren, since it costs four, but if it is your main phase, you can easily make four Green mana with Wall of Roots recursion, playing the Etched as a 1/1 for four. Then move eighty spikes onto it. Then use its ability twenty times on your opponent, forcing them to draw sixty cards. This allows you to get around awkward situations where your opponent must be decked rather than killed by damage, such as Worship.
In addition, you can use its ability on yourself in smaller increments to draw your deck, if you are so inclined. Also, remember that you can loop Eternal Witness to provide as many Regrowths as you may need or want, whether it is simply retrieving lost combo pieces or Force of Wills for security.
Cutting a long story short, Aluren plus Imperial Recruiter is like Donate Illusions, but only costs four mana instead of seven. In addition, it kills now, rather than draining for twenty. This is the best of two-card combination… well, since Flash plus Protean Hulk. It does cost four, rather than two, but its combo cards are much stronger on their own and it is more resilient to hate. Remember, even if you don't have Aluren, Imperial Recruiter is Demonic Tutor, for the most part, fetching everything from Eternal Witness to Etched Oracle. It may be eventually needed to add one Academy Rector to fetch, to sac to your Therapy to go get Aluren, but for now I think it is better to just go get Etched Oracle and Ancestral, or just Regrowth a tutor.
Here is my current build of Aluren for Legacy, now that Flash is banned. Big thanks to Team MeanDeck, featuring some of the premier Aluren experts, who helped me develop this list.
- 1 Etched Oracle
- 1 Cavern Harpy
- 1 Dream Stalker
- 2 Eternal Witness
- 1 Ghitu Slinger
- 4 Imperial Recruiter
- 1 Man-o'-War
- 1 Spike Feeder
- 4 Wall of Roots
Here are some explanations regarding cards not discussed above:
Wall of Roots is better than Wall of Blossoms, as it accelerates you in a format where speed is more important that drawing cards. Besides, even Tinder Wall is better than Wall of Blossoms. In fact, if the format swings back to dominance by Goblins, I suggest making room for a couple of maindeck Tinder Walls, as it speeds you up (yes, providing the nut draw of turn 2 Aluren), as well as provides an all important answer to turn 1 Lackey.
Brainstorm is the best card in this deck, just as it was in Flash, just as it is the best unrestricted card in Vintage. It combos with twenty shufflers, smoothes mana, finds what you need, and gets rid of unwanted combo cards, all while being a Blue card. I would play fourteen if I could.
Intuition is another way to get Aluren or Recruiter, but can also be Demonic Tutor for bullets when combined with two Eternal Witnesses. In addition, the three Cabal Therapy and two Deep Analysis provide a very powerful card drawing engine. Few combo decks can withstand triple Therapy. Few control decks can withstand double Deep plus a Therapy. Few Aggro decks have a chance, regardless. Finally, the classic Intuition for fetchlands thins your library of four land, creating a significant increase in the concentration of spells while providing you with whatever dual you may need.
Chain of Vapor is the all-purpose problem solver, ported over straight from Vintage. Whether it's a Pithing Needle, an Engineered Plague (the Recruiter is an Advisor, by the way), a Chalice for two, or a Meddling Mage, Chain of Vapor does it all, again as a Blue card and for only one mana.
Ghitu Slinger is not needed as a kill card, but is actually primarily in as an answer to Meddling Mage and, to a lesser degree, Dark Confidant. In addition, sometimes you just want to use the Recruiter like Survival's old toolbox technique of finding an answer to a current problem.
One Cavern Harpy has been arrived at, as it is the only truly dead card and with the removal of Raven Familiar (obsoleted by Recruiter), is now used only as a combo piece. Yes, it sucks that if you pitch it to Force, you can't go fully off, but you can still get four Recruiters, a Dream Stalker, a Man-o'-war, and an Eternal Witness and go beatdown. The key is to be able to operate without Aluren in play, since if you have Aluren, you are winning anyway. One Harpy is the only concession to the combo. Even Dream Stalker is a fine blocker, recurses 187's, and can be sac'd to Therapy easily. Once you have Aluren, the Harpy protects itself anyway.
The three basic land provide a level of defense against Wasteland, obviously. If the metagame shifts towards a lot of B/W or other mana denial strategies, you might want to cut a fetch land for another Forest. Also, I am not convinced of the Badlands. It is definitely on the suspect list.
The Diverts are primarily for B/W Pikula style decks. They also are very effective for fighting counterspell wars. A Diverted Hymn or Sinkhole is completely devastating.
The Deeds are for all sorts of Aggro strategies, as well as a general catch all for all sorts of problems.
The three boarded Oracles are again primarily for B/W Pikula decks (this decks hardest mainstream match-up). In addition, they allow you to transform into a sort of Rock deck, when you want to sidestep your opponent's hate. This sort of maneuver is what Flores meant when he suggested meeting an opponent who puts you on a 6 with a bag of oranges. If your Alurens get Extirpated, bash with a bunch of 4/4s for four that Ancestral at will. Seriously, what are most people going to do against four Etched Oracles, four Recruiters to get them, and Eternal Witnesses and ways to recurse the Witnesses?
The Duresses and Cabal Therapies are self-explanatory. Good for fighting combo, but also useful for transforming.
Goblin Pyromancer is a Recruitable bullet for Goblins. Even if you get hit by a Lackey, a turn 3 Recruiter, turn 4 Pyromancer is a useful catch-up technique.
Tinder Wall is a versatile way to add a little mana to the deck, or some early defense against attackers like Lackey, or even Piledriver (remember Tinder Wall's other ability). I would really like one or two main.
In my experience, this build is very strong versus Goblins, Iggy, and just about every random deck you may encounter. It's near even with Threshold and B/W Pikula is hard, although Fish decks can be tuned to beat it as well. I highly recommend working on Aluren if you are thinking of playing in any more Legacy events this year. It will be the deck to beat.
One last factor that cannot be overlooked is the cost of the Recruiter itself. Despite being uncommons, these bad boys are selling for $75 as of today, and will surely climb as people realize how broken the interaction between him and Aluren really is. Because of this, Aluren will probably never be as highly played as the demand warrants. There just aren't enough Recruiters to go around. Still, it will be played by people who want to win and are willing to drop $300 on some Portal cards, not to mention a boatload of expensive cards ranging from Duals to Force of Wills.
If you are willing to pay the cost to be the boss, Aluren is the way to do it.