I Said I Loved You, But Allied

Posted in Feature on June 12, 2008

By Chris Millar

Welcome, Johnnies, to Allied Colour Week! Finally, a week devoted to my favourite New Zealand-based chemical plant. I guess we've got to cover the important themes first, like Mulligans, Squirrels, and Allied Colours. Meanwhile, Elf-boy here is still waiting for Elf Week. Sigh.

What can I do with allied colours? Well, now that I know the five of them like to go to make-out parties with Mark Rosewater, I have a few more options. But as fun as elaborating on this scenario would be, I think I'll build some decks instead. After all, what would a house of cards be without a deck or two or five? An apartment of cards, sure. Possibly a lean-to of cards. Let's not overthink this.

So, five allied colour pairs, five Standard decks. Deal?

All right, fine, but I'm going to do that anyway.

Allies Are On Me Now

Knollspine Invocation
Not long ago, resident evil genius Mark Gottlieb talked about Shadowmoor's Knollspine Invocation and how it combines with the eminently discardable Squee, Goblin Nabob. For three mana per turn, you can keep pitching Squee, Goblin Nabob to deal 3 damage to a creature or player with Knollspine Invocation. At the same time, I was thinking that with just a little more effort, you can do something very similar by replacing Squee, Goblin Nabob with Reach of Branches. You won't be able to do it each turn without some way to return your Forests to your hand (and there are ways to do it, like Scryb Ranger), but doing 5 damage a pop instead of 3 will mean that you won't have to do it as long as you would with Squee, Goblin Nabob. Auntie's Snitch and Wort, Boggart Auntie give you some other options if you wanted to make the deck red and black. For now, though, I'm going to keep things red-green so I can use both Squee, Goblin Nabob and Reach of Branches. So far, it looks like we've got the basis for a nice board-controlling deck that wants to ramp its mana. Besides at the last Pro Tour, I haven't seen too many decks of this kind lately.

There are plenty of tools we can use, from Pyroclasm and Firespout to Cloudthresher and Squall Line. Those are all fine cards, especially if you are trying to combat the Faerie menace (or, for that matter, any Bird, Kithkin Zephyrnaut, or Order of the Golden Cricket menaces that happen to crop up). I'm going to use some other cards instead, cards that have a little more direct synergy with Squee, Goblin Nabob and Reach of Branches. The first is Razormane Masticore, the second is Jaya Ballard, Task Mage, and the third is Incendiary Command (for the oft-forgotten quasi-Winds of Change mode). Squee, Goblin Nabob and R.O.B. help you pay upkeeps, shape spells, and keep your hand full when you want to cash it in for a fresh one.


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There are certainly others ways to go. You could focus more on the excellent Wort, the Raidmother. Masked Admirers could replace Harmonize. You could also try to make room for Rosheen Meanderer. Her unique mana ability can cover the cost of your Knollspine Invocation activations, as well as the cost of a number of sweepers or finishers, like Titan's Revenge, Conflagrate, or Molten Disaster.

Armor to the Teeth

White and green like nothing more than little men with fat pants. Basically, they're like MC Hammer, but with flatter faces and pointier ears. They also like "global" enchantments and they like blowing them up. This deck has most of those things. Starting with the well-known synergy between Prismatic Omen and cards that count a certain basic-land type like Blanchwood Armor and Armored Ascension, moving on to ways to protect said Auras (Greater Auramancy), and finishing things off with a handful of utility spells (Oblivion Ring, Runed Halo) and some wonderfully enchantable or simply enchantment-loving creatures, this deck will make you forget everything you ever knew about white-green enchantress decks. Also, it might not.

The Omens

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You could also try a "big mana" version of this deck, with Howl of the Night Pack and Tromp the Domains doing the heavy lifting.

A Cinder, Gentler Elemental

Din of the Fireherd
Ah, red and black. They aren't always the most conciliatory of colours, that's for sure. Wrong them, and you won't probably live long enough to make things right. I mean, you don't have to look much further than some recent card names: Spitebellows, Titan's Revenge, Spiteflame Witch, Demigod of Revenge, Spiteful Visions, Burnout (Okay, I made that last one up). To the red-black mage, vengeance comes in many forms, up to and including stampede form (apparently).

Coincidentally, it is with Din of the Fireherd, bearer of the Milhousian flavour text, that I want to start. As an eight-mana sorcery, it fits in with other such spells, like Warp World or Insurrection, in that it can be extraordinarily powerful, but it requires some set-up to really maximize. First of all, you'll need a lot of mana. For this, I turned to Soulbright Flamekin, who conveniently turns six into eight while at the same time being a red creature, and Gauntlet of Power, which regularly turns four into eight while at the same time making Mirari-ing Din of the Fireherd a realistic option.

The rest of the deck is focused on a neat interaction pointed out to me by Efrén R., and that's between Shadowmoor's Manaforge Cinder (preferably in multiples) and Lorwyn's Ceaseless Searblades (preferably in multiples). The Searblades get +1/+0 whenever the activated ability of an Elemental is played. This means that it gets a sort of Firebreathing-by-proxy if you activate your Pyre Charger, but it also means that you can use Manaforge Cinder's colour-washing ability to pump it up for effectively zero mana. Of course, you can only do this three times for each Manaforge Cinder, and you will have to find a use for the resulting mana or risk mana burn. Efrén recommends Fatal Frenzy, but, lacking room in this particular deck, I settled on Pyre Charger, Soulbright Flamekin, Kher Keep, and Incinerate as my "instant speed" mana sinks. You can always pump your Searblades before combat and use the mana to play something at "sorcery speed" if you're feeling particularly bold. Kher Keep's ability to stall the ground (at least in conjunction with Gauntlet of Power) will make any subsequent Din of the Fireherd even more devastating.

Herd Above The Din

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Admittedly, this deck has no "true" black cards, but I figure I get to cheat on at least one of these decks. We are in hybrid country, after all.

Like a Purgin'

A cursory examination of the Shadowmoor spoiler shows that there are several interesting build-around-me cards among the white-blue hybrid rares. I've already built decks around, or featuring, half of them, including Mirrorweave, Augury Adept, and Enchanted Evening. Swans of Bryn Argoll has basically been solved (damage it!) and Thistledown Liege is flash-y but not flashy.

That leaves just Godhead of Awe and Worldpurge. It was a tough decision, but I ended up choosing Worldpurge for pretty much no good reason. Combining blue's love of bouncing permanents, shuffling, and emptying mana pools with white's love of seven-mana sorceries, Worldpurge is in a lot of ways a "fixed" Upheaval. Keeping all pools unsullied by floating mana means that you can't just say, "Hey, why don't we start this game over, except I start with a lethal Psychatog in play?" That's the downside (if it can really be called a downside). The upsides (if they can really be called upsides) are that Worldpurge resets all players' hands to seven, it can be played in mono-white (God forbid), and, despite appearing stubborn at first, its would-be game-balancing effect can, in fact, become unbalanced. And there was much Johnny-rejoicing!

My first instinct, which admittedly isn't entirely groundbreaking, is to pair the reset button with creatures you can tuck safely away in the removed-from-the-game zone. Obviously, any of the suspend creatures can fill this role, from Aeon Chronicler to Benalish Commander. The other thing you can do is play with creatures that can remove themselves from the game once they're already in play, like Saltskitter or, outside of Standard, Anurid Brushhopper. You could also use some other method to remove your creature(s) from the game, like Galepowder Mage, Vanish into Memory, or one of Lorwyn block's champion creatures. There are so many different ways to make sure you have a creature shortly after the rest of the world disappears that I didn't have to look outside of Shadowmoor's white-blue hybrids to find the ones I wanted to use: Turn to Mist and the repeatable, Kithkin version of that spell, Mistmeadow Witch. Just remove your creature from the game, play Worldpurge, wait until end of turn, and suddenly find that you've got a serious leg up on your opponent.

Turn to Mist
Since both Turn to Mist and Mistmeadow Witch work so well with creatures with "comes into play" or "leaves play" abilities, I made sure to include some. Epochrasite doesn't really have a comes-into-play ability, but it's one of my all-time favourite cards, and it likes both turning to mist and stowing itself away in the removed-from-the-game zone, which suits our purposes. Mulldrifter seemed like a pretty obvious choice. I briefly considered the Morningtide evoke Elementals, but only one of them (Reveillark) seems good in white-blue Worldpurge deck. The other three on-colour Elementals (Meadowboon, Nevermaker, Slithermuse) do pretty much nothing after a board-wiping and/or hand-evening.

The other two creatures I did use (Cryptic Annelid and Cloudgoat Ranger) help facilitate the second part of my less-than-master plan, and that's playing Worldpurge for (almost) free and at what folks in my day called "instant speed." How? Well, with the white hideaway land, Windbrisk Heights, of course! Cryptic Annelid's six-deep scrying makes it easier to ensure you have a Worldpurge in the top four, while Cloudgoat Ranger provides all of the requisite creatures (Repel Intruders helps out this regard as well). Note that you don't have to activate Windbrisk Heights during combat and while you control three attacking creatures (although that is the most fun option, to be sure). The only requirement you have to meet is to have attacked with three or more creatures. You can, for example, attack with a bunch of 1/1 Kithkin Soldiers, then, during your second main phase, play a Cloudgoat Ranger (or whatever) and respond to that by playing Worldpurge out from under your hideaway land!

Hit or Mist

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Hail to the Mischief

Eschewing little men in fat pants in favour of demonic teaching-assistants and gifts they'd rather keep to themselves, blue and black have traditionally been the colours associated with combo decks. Look no further than the Vintage banned and restricted list and you'll find combo engines galore, from Necropotence and Tolarian Academy to Time Spiral and Ponder. Well, the last deck for this week certainly features a combo, but I can't guarantee that it will be as powerful as some of those combos of old. What I can guarantee is that it's sillier.

First brought to my attention in an old forum thread of mine by (the not a) Tyrannosaurus, and then later by Christian M. via email, it combines Shadowmoor's Puca's Mischief with perhaps the most unloved rare in all of Lorwyn, Colfenor's Plans, to prevent your opponent from ever drawing cards again. Basically, what you do is play Colfenor's Plans, hopefully digging up a Puca's Mischief in the process. Play the cards that you "drew" with the Plans, then "donate" it to your opponent with Puca's Mischief. Your opponent had better have an answer in hand, because there will be none forthcoming from his or her library. Christian preferred combining Puca's Mischief with even nastier cards like Forbidden Crypt, Nefarious Lich, and Symbiotic Deployment, but I want to keep today's decks Standard-legal because it's been a while since I've done that. Feel free to cause mischief with larger card pools.

Colfenor's Plans
Puca's Mischief

There are many other ways to come out ahead when you perform a trade with Puca's Mischief. You could give your opponent a creature with "islandhome" or an "islandhome-like" ability that requires its controller to sacrifice it if he or she doesn't control a permanent of a certain type. Dandân, Pirate Ship, Slipstream Serpent, Ronom Serpent, Lurebound Scarecrow, and Stenchskipper all fit the bill. You could also "donate" permanents that have about to die anyway, like those with vanishing or cumulative upkeep. Phyrexian Etchings and Krovikan Whispers are particularly punishing cards to give away if your opponent will not be able to pay the upkeep. Another thing you can trade are cards like Serrated Arrows, which becomes a four-mana blank once you've used up all of its -1/-1 counters.

This deck uses most of these tricks, to varying degrees. Hollowborn Barghest is a win condition once you've got the Puca-Plans "lock" and a good threat if you're just chaining Colfenor's Plans without a Puca's Mischief in sight. As always, there are plenty of ways to tweak and tune it, so take it in whatever direction you please.

Mischievous Plans

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Until next time, have fun with friends.

Chris Millar

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