Every now and then I’ll get a little itch. A combo kind of itch. I’ll spot an interaction between two cards and I won’t be able to stop ’til I’ve built a whole deck around them. This started out a while ago with my Descendants’ Path deck which I wrote about here and has now manifested itself with an Aluren deck.
Like many combo decks, the idea behind the Aluren deck is to stall, ramp a little, assemble your combo pieces and then go off. Whilst the combo is a little less durable than some other combos, it does have the advantage that most of the combo pieces are creatures with a power and toughness that create some kind of a two for one or other value when they enter the battlefield.
The main part of the combo here involves using Aluren to cast Cavern Harpy for free at instant speed, return a [/card]Parasitic Strix[/card] to your hand, then cast Parasitic Strix, draining your opponent for two life. You can then pay one life to return the harpy to your hand and do it all over again. You can even keep the combo going off in response to removal spells, with a loaded up Umezawa’s Jitte one of the few ways to reliably interrupt the combo. The only weak point is when the Cavern Harpy is actually on the stack, so having a backup of either a second Harpy or another bounce creature is preferable on your going-off turn.
So why play this combo over other types of combo? Things like Storm or Dredge?
Well, I believe that this is one of the most resilient combos out there once you start to actually go off. Cards like Dream Stalker can help create a critical mass of cards that allow you to go over the top of removal when you have Aluren out and Elvish Visionary and Coiling Oracle can help you dig for your missing parts quickly and efficiently.
We also have a relatively achievable plan B compared to a lot of decks of beating down with our creatures. They aren’t the most powerful available, but the sheer quantity that this deck can churn out turn after turn can be daunting, with almost all of them replacing themselves in some way or another.
Now, the biggest problem with putting this deck together today was always going to be the manabase. In a deck needing to cast both Cavern Harpy and Aluren we are always going to struggle to hit the colours we need in a timely fashion. We are naturally going to end up running a large number of basic lands in this deck because of the budget restraints, so let’s embrace this and use one of the more powerful ramping effects available to us in Legacy: Veteran Explorer.
Veteran Explorer can solve quite a few problems we have with mana. We want to make sure we have plenty of Islands for Daze (more on this later) as well as some Forests so that we can play our Veteran Explorers on time and indeed our Alurens. The black mana is not so much of an issue in this deck, so just the one Swamp will do for now as we will have some other black sources from our other lands.
But more on that later…
One thing that this deck really wants access to is cantripping creatures. Three Baleful Strix, four Elvish Visionary and a brace of Coiling Oracle keep us a good flow of cards coming, with the Oracle occasionally helping us to ramp too. These can all be re-used with the Dream Stalkers and the Man-o’-War (which is useful against Show and Tell type decks) and all but the Elvish Visionary can be bounced by the Cavern Harpys. Augury Owl provides a similar function to this, as Scry 3 is a very strong enters-the-battlefield ability to help dig to what we need, reaching deeper than the cantripping creatures can, even if it doesn’t replace itself like the others do.
We do have a few non-creatures in the deck too in order to be able to interact with our opponent. We want some way to protect out combo, which can be done with either countermagic or discard. I prefer countermagic for this, especially as we are able to use Daze which is a (situationally) free counterspell, and Spell Pierce, which is one of the most mana efficient counters around and useful for both stopping our opponent’s shenanigans and making sure our own get through.
I wanted to play a few one mana cantrips too. Our lack of fetch lands in the deck really hampers the utility of Brainstorm in a deck like this, so we’re left looking at Ponder and Preordain as our most likely options. I’ve chosen to go with two Preordain as the scry mechanic works best with lots of scry, there’s nothing worse than scrying things away only to have them shuffled back to the top of our library by a Ponder again, but I would not argue against going with Ponders and eventually Brainstorms as you develop the deck and add in fetchlands and the like.
I rounded off the list with a pair of Innocent Bloods, as a very mana efficient way to deal with a large number of otherwise difficult to deal with threats as well as playing nice with our Veteran Explorers.
And so we come to finalise the mana base. I already knew we wanted a large number of basic lands, but we still want to add some more islands to our deck. We can do this by adding shock lands in two Breeding Pools, which also help give us a turn one green source for our Veteran Explorers. Drowned Catacomb and Hinterland Harbor can help us fix on later turns very smoothly and will, most of the time, be entering the battlefield untapped, helped further by the shock lands.
Our final pieces of fixing is comes from Khans of Tarkir, as what kind of article would this be without trying out some spicy new cards. In this case, however, it isn’t quite the spiciness I’d usually want to run, but it does afford us some more great, cheap fixing in the form of the wedge lands and the common dual lands. A playset of Opulent Palace and two Thornwood Falls give us plenty of sources of each colour.
Our final consideration is the sideboard. We want the usual mix of graveyard hate, disruption and answers for for answers. Mesmeric Fiend is a great way of disrupting our opponents’ hands using a creature that can be Aluren-ed out (you might notice a little theme here). Reclamation Sage can take out most troublesome non-creature permanents and Phyrexian Revoker does the same fantastic job it always does, and is hugely important against decks that can run Umezawa’s Jitte, which, as I mentioned before, is one of the few cards that this deck really cares about.
For graveyard hate I’ve done my usual trick of splitting two and two. I like to have around four to six pieces of hate, depending on the metagame, and will always mix it up to some extent to stop counter hate from shutting me completely off my angle of attacking their gameplan. I’ve plumped for a split of Nihil Spellbomb and Tormod’s Crypt.
Finally, we have another Man-o’-War and an Urborg Emissary. The Emissary is a little bit of a left field choice but gives us a great big red “get out of jail free” button to deal with pretty much any permanent based hate that can thrown at us.
This gives us the following list to work with:
3 Phyrexian Revoker
3 Reclamation Sage
3 Mesmeric Fien
2 Nihil Spellbomb
2 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Urborg Emissary
Now obviously this is a deck that we can build upon strongly. The mana base in particular would greatly benefit even from standard dual lands, we don’t necessarily need Underground Seas and Tropical Islands to make this deck tick. Some Scry Lands from Theros would actually fit relatively nicely in this deck, providing us with an additional way to dig to our combo and smooth our draws.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed reading this take on a little-played combo, it certainly is a deck that can be built from a budgeted frame of mind, this one cost just £99.86 at the time of writing, but can also be built upon as you acquire more parts for the deck over time.
Thanks for reading as always, see you next time.