Deck of the Week: Modern Allies
Welcome back to Deck of the Week. Through the hectic holiday season, a wonderful and unexpected thing happened to me and as a consequence took me away from some of my responsibilities. My boyfriend of seven years asked me to marry him. Many things have changed in my life in a short two weeks and many memories of my adult years, both good and bad have filled what little free time I have. However, as I begin the journey back into working life, I am reminded of a wonderful gesture my fiance performed.
Many moons ago, I was a man without a trading card game. Pokemon, a game I had enjoyed as a child had grown predictable and didn't provide me with the challenge and depth that I desired. I had attempted to learn Magic prior, however it never really took, due in part to my unwillingness to learn and a poor teacher.
Fast forward to the Zendikar Block and gather for the origin story of a legacy. Sitting on my coffee table my fiance and another friend had taken the time and used their own cash to construct me my very own deck. Clad in pink sleeves and a bright pink deck box, Hada Freeblade and company stared up at me as I began down the path in my Magic career.
This week's deck choice also comes with a bit of a moral to the story. While the deck has changed somewhat from its original construction, I still have it. It still sits in the same bubblegum pink deck box snugly fit in the same bright pink sleeves. Ajani Vengant, the first Planeswalker I ever owned is the star of the deck, even though he doesn't really fit the strategy any more. Every time I pass over the deck box on my desk, I smile.
My collection has grown significantly since that time, both in quantity and in value. As a consequence of owning such a collection comes the question, “When do I sell out?” At what point do I throw up my hands and tell myself that I'm done with the game and need to sell before my collection bottoms out. In a past life, during employ as a games manager at a local card shop, I've bore witness to people, bringing their collection to me to sell... only to come right back to the game some months later.
It was my job to give them the lowest amount they would accept for a given card. Some people were genuinely tired of the game and needed to move on, however sadly, most people just simply needed the money. Like most people, I've been there and it sucks, but I've always kept one hard and fast rule when dealing with Magic cards and it's kept me in the game for some eight years; Never sell your Allies.
For some its Merfolk, or Elves or their first control deck, but every magic player has their sacred cow. That one deck or card that holds a special place in your heart. Never ever sell it. Never. Even if the obvious emotional attachment one holds is obvious enough, consider the financial side of the matter.
I once dealt with a customer who sold his collection. It was rather expansive, consisting of many shoe boxes and constructed decks. While assisting the acting buyer at the time, I came across a black leather deck box. Inside? A fully foiled Faeries deck. We struck up a conversation about how long it took him to collect the cards, the tournaments he'd won and lost with the deck and other stories about our respective careers in the game.
He sold it. Despite my insistence he reconsider, he sold the whole deck to our store. Of course, I don't know the man's personal financial situation and the situation may have warranted it, but he claimed his reason for sale was simple; he was done with the game. Four months later? He returned to the store and bought four Cryptic Commands.
My Allies may not be the strongest deck in modern, but they're mine. A clear beginning to my journey as a tournament Magic player and my ascension to a Level Two Magic Judge. We're very fortunate to live in a place where a material possession can bring so much joy and remind one of the beginning of a life shared together.
Enough of that mushy shit. Its been a good four years since this deck has seen any tournament play. Lets crack this bitch open and see what we have to work with.
Aeropaws' Naya Allies
Mind you, this deck is a product of its time. It exists from a time that A: I received a thoughtful gift from my boyfriend that sparked my interest in the greatest strategy game in the world. Although a better deck could have been made, there was certainly a chance that I wouldn't have given two shits about the game and continued on playing Halo, and B: Back then, I didn't know what the hell I was doing in deck building.
The mana base is all wrong and one Lightning Bolt is pointless. But this is my deck, and it will never change. Truth be told, if Allies ever became viable enough to move from the fringe to Tier One I would rebuy everything from scratch. I've made changes from what was originally given to me, the most drastic being the addition of green. But I swore off any future alterations of the deck after Dark Ascension hit the scene. I wish I remembered the exact listing of the Alara/Zendikar version of the deck, but unfortunately that has faded away to memory.
I hope I've conveyed to you, dear reader as to why you should never sell your Allies. Magic journalists have written in detail of this topic, and they're all correct, but I'll take it a step further. Keep gifts from your family. Unless this is a matter of putting bread on the table, never get rid of the things you treasure. Tell your wife or significant other you love them. Right now.
But, I'm left to wonder, “What would things be like if I didn't have this rule limiting myself.” What if I could alter the deck to my liking but still keeping the heart and soul of the deck in tact? Given the years of powerful Modern staples that have been released, I think we could build a convincing deck that, while likely not winning any Pro Tours, could certainly make a showing at your local FNM.
Allies has set on the fringe since it's inception, being shunted backward by the more powerful Faeries, Elves and the tribal all star, Merfolk. For some though, blue is the color of choice and Halimar Excavator the leading man of the deck. However, as stated previously, we're keeping the heart of the deck in tact, so blue and black are out.
Battle for Zendikar was a dud in many ways, however, perhaps the biggest egg laid by BFZ were in Ally tribal. Quite simply put, most of them are God awful bad, at least in terms of the Modern format. That being said, there is usually a diamond in the rough.
Arguments could be made for some of the BFZ uncommon allies, particularly those that give abilities to your entire suite of creatures for a turn. However, at the three drop slot, I'd almost always run Kabira Evangel and Talus Paladin for a closer, even though he is a bit expensive in the mana department. But Zada's unique ability could spell doom for an opponent, particularly if you've worked on clogging the board with an army of growing 1/1s.
There are several easy cuts we can make to the old version of the deck. Obviously, the one Lightning Bolt is out, along with the two Kazuul Warlords. Chameleon Colossus and Sudden Disappearance both get the boot. Taurean Mauler is awesome and quite fun in casual circles, so he's safe. While we're at it, Changeling Titan also fits the bill of being “Awesome and fun,” but he's a tad to conditional and expensive for my taste, so its the showers for him.
But if Zada is the Ally of our eye, we're going to have to build around him and we run the risk of killing the spirit of the deck, so we have to be careful in our deck construction. Keeping in line with the theme of spamming the board with allies, we can work to abuse Hada's ability and still get the most out of our team of Allies.
Aeropaws' Naya Allies 2.0
Imagine a board where Zada is in play along with Hada Freeblade, Ondu Cleric and Oran-Rief Survivalist and you cast your single Cloudshift. Sure you may lose some progress in the forms of 1/1 counters but you are going to gain a lot of life and a few creatures may even get bigger in the process.
This is by no means the best way to build this deck, but for a fun time around the table, I'd be interested to try out this brew and see how it performs. It goes without saying that the win rate vs a tier one Abzan or Fish is likely close to zero. However, its a neat upgrade to a deck that remains close to my heart.