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By: Motu, Aaron Kahler
Mar 16 2011 12:48pm
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I had originally intended to bring you some Affinity brews this week.  But I want people to like me. I really do. So while some of you may be eager for further Affinity exploration I imagine the majority would like a bit more variety.  So I thought I'd bring you a look at my favorite combo deck in the format Aluren.


Aluren doesn't see as much play as it ought due to the rarity of Portal: Three Kingdoms and the hefty price tag on physical copies of Imperial Recruiter ($200 a pop is rather prohibitive to most Legacy players).  This results in the deck being played less online as well even though Recruiter can be picked up from mtgotraders for less than $3.  This is good news however because the Aluren mirror match is one of the oddest things in Magic.  But I digress. 

Why Aluren?

Legacy is a format in which everyone is trying to do powerful things.  Aluren + Imperial Recruiter is a two-card combo that wins the game for Natural Order is typically the 2GG spell of choice but Aluren has one distinct advantage: Progenitus allows your opponent to untap Aluren does not.  The other main incentive to playing Aluren is that you always get to play a game of Magic.  This isn't Belcher.  Nor is Aluren like Elves seeking to go off as fast as possible.  Have you ever cast Intuition for three copies of Cabal Therapy?  If not, you haven't lived.  Aluren gives you the opportunity to take the fight to the control deck or combo deck by proactively attacking their hand rather than simply sitting on your side of the table.

So How Does it Work?

Step 1: Cast Aluren with Imperial Recruiter in hand.

Step 2: Cast Imperial Recruiter fetching Imperial Recruiter <this allows you to play around a single removal spell>

Step 3: Cast Imperial Recruiter fetching Dream Stalker

Step 4: Cast Dream Stalker and return a copy of Imperial Recruiter to your hand <Dream Stalker doesn't target>

Step 5: Re-cast Imperial Recruiter fetching another Dream Stalker <once again this allows you to play around a single removal spell>

Step 6: Cast Dream Stalker returning a copy of Imperial Recruiter to your hand

Step 7: Re-cast Imperial Recruiter fetching Cavern Harpy

Step 8: Cast Cavern Harpy and return a copy of Dream Stalker <if you only have a single Dream Stalker in your deck a single removal spell targeting your only Dream Stalker will stop the combo at this point... that's why we play two>

Step 9: Re-cast Dream Stalker returning a copy of Imperial Recruiter to your hand

Step 10: Re-cast Imperial Recruiter fetching Parasitic Strix

Step 11: Cast Parasitic Strix draining your opponent for 2 life

Step 12: Pay 1 life: Return Cavern Harpy to your hand

Step 13: Re-cast Cavern Harpy returning Parasitic Strix

Step 14: Repeat steps 11-13 as many times as necessary

 Additionally if you wind up with Aluren along with Cavern Harpy and Coiling Oracle either in hand or in play you can use the bounce the pair back and forth to your hand and then to the battlefield in order to draw as many cards as you have life while putting the lands into play as you go.  So even if you don't hit an Imperial Recruiter in the first few cards you can also hit lands and cast any Brainstorm, Ponder, or Intuition you draw.

If any pieces of the combo end up in your graveyard don't worry.  At the point in the combo where you would fetch the piece that is in your graveyard simply fetch Eternal Witness instead and return the card to your hand.

I know that all sounds rather confusing.  But it's not as complicated as it sounds.  Here's a quick video walkthrough on the combo in action:


Force of Will?

You'll notice that Force of Will is absent from the decklist.  Typically Aluren decklists include the powerful blue counterspell as do most other combo decks that play enough blue cards to pitch to it.  So why isn't it in my list?  Brace yourself.  Force of Will isn't as good as people think it is and often Thoughtseize is simply better.  Are you still reading or have you closed the article thinking, "such a n00b!"  I know I have just uttered Legacy heresy but let me try to explain. 

Force of Will is always card disadvantage.  Always.  In a deck like this you are not paying 3UU to cast Force you are looking to pitch Force of Will and another blue card in your hand to put the brakes on whatever your opponent is up to.  That's a 2 for 1.  Now if given the choice between losing the game or giving my opponent a 2 for 1 and winning I'll take the latter.  But often decks play Force of Will that can't reliably cast it when it matters anyway. 

On the other hand Thoughtseize is always a 1 for 1, always an even trade.  Additionally that spell that was going to allow your opponent to win the game that you are forced to trade 2 for 1 with Force of Will for might have just ended up in their graveyard if that Force of Will was a Thoughtseize instead. But that's not all.

Thoughtseize makes Cabal Therapy better. Thoughtseize allows you to see your opponent's grip and then Cabal Therapy appropriately can Force of Will do that?  Force of Will's main advantage is that it protects you from the top of your opponent's deck and that it does so without a loss in tempo.  However Thoughtseize also has a considerable advantage in allowing you to sculpt your turns with a substantial increase of information regarding what's in your opponent's hand.  Oh, I've got more too.

Force of Will Krosan Grip

Force of Will meet Krosan Grip.  When your combo revolves around an enchantment it is important that you have protection from the Krosan Grips that are in everyone's sideboard.  What does Force of Will do to stop your opponent from tapping and shouting,


"Ca-Ca-Ca-Combo Breaker!"  Whereas Thoughtseize can check to see if Krosan Grip or any other disruption is present and then remove whatever disruption is lurking in their grip before you commit your combo to the board.

What to Watch For

Against Zoo - Gaddock Teeg hurts.  With the printing of Green Sun's Zenith Zoo decks have more consistent access to Teeg.  You'll need to have Bone Shredder ready and waiting.  Qasali Pridemage is another troublemaker and should be your default Cabal Therapy call early.  In order to trump Pridemage you'll need to kill it with Bone Shredder or be prepared to combo twice.  Remember Aluren allows you to combo at instant speed.  So if you assemble a hand with 2x Imperial Recruiter you can play the second Recruiter in response to the Pridemage's ability and win with it still on the stack.  Krosan Grip is also often in the Zoo players sideboard.  In the face of Qasali Pridemage and Krosan Grip you are usually better off with the Natural Order package.

Against Goblins - Goblin Sharpshooter can get ya!  Aluren allows your opponent to play creatures at instant speed as well.  If possible you want to check the Goblin opponent's hand for Goblin Sharpshooter as well as Goblin Matron.  Don't fall into the trap of thinking you're safe only to watch them play a Matron to fetch their Sharpshooter and gun down your Imperial Recruiters.

Against Elves - Krosan Grip requires to cast but it doesn't require untapped Forests.  Be mindful that once you play Aluren your opponent can put a Heritage Druid or Birchlore Rangers into play to cast the split second spell.

Against Swamps - Engineered Plague exists.  Cavern Harpy is unfortunately a 2/1 and an essential part of your combo.  If your opponent might have Plagues in their board you're best off bringing in the Harmonic Sliver in case it shows up.

What's Up With the Sideboard?

The first package that sticks out is the Natural Order package.  For games two and three you have the option of bringing in up to four copies of Natural Order along with the singleton Progenitus to fetch with it.  The Dryad Arbor is the in the sideboard to come in with the Natural Orders so that you have a green creature to sacrifice which can be searched up with any of your fetchlands.  In some matchups you will want to board out the Aluren combo in favor of the Natural Order combo due to either space in the maindeck (for instance in the counterbalance matchups) or hate from your opponent.

The second package is a single card: Life from the Loam.  Against more controlling decks you can bring in the Life from the Loam to combine with the maindeck Eternal Witness and Volrath's Stronghold.  This allows you to Intuition for Eternal Witness, Volrath's Stronghold, and Life from the Loam and eventually just grind your opponent out.

Bone Shredder and Harmonic Sliver are tutorable with Imperial Recruiter and recurrable with Volrath's Stronghold to handle problematic permanents like Ethersworn Canonist, Meddling Mage, and Engineered Plague.

Tormod's Crypt and Relic of Progenitus serve as the necessary graveyard hate.  Although if you aren't worried about decks like Reanimator you can run Yixlid Jailer instead which can be fetched with Imperial RecruiterThoughtseize is poor against Dredge and comes out for the hate but Cabal Therapy is quite adept at fighting Bridge from Below.

Against the various Counterbalance lists I typically board out the Aluren combo.  Aluren takes up quite a few slots and the additional space in the deck for hate is welcomed.  Furthermore the loss in speed, needing two turns after you resolve your spell, rather than winning on the spot isn't usually relevant against a slow deck like Counterbalance.  Boarding typically looks like this:

- 4 Aluren, -2 Dream Stalker, -4 Imperial Recruiter, -1 Cavern Harpy, -1 Parasitic Strix; +4 Natural Order, +1 Progenitus, +1 Dryad Arbor, +3 Krosan Grip, +1 Life from the Loam, +1 Bone Shredder, +1 Harmonic Sliver

Miscellaneous Insight

Keep the Oracle in Mind - When playing Brainstorm or Ponder be mindful of Coiling Oracle's ability to put lands into play.  If you are looking for an accelerant you can stack the deck such that you'll hit a land with the not so mystic snake.

Not so Traitorous After All - City of Traitors can often be used on turn two to cast Intuition for whichever piece you need (Aluren or Imperial Recruiter) and then be tapped for mana before you put your third land into play to cast Aluren and win.

Racing with Progenitus - in sideboarded games with the Natural Order package sometimes you can find yourself in a race.  Although you only have a single Progenitus you can attack with Progenitus and then cast Natural Order, sacrificing Progenitus as part of the cost of the spell, which then triggers the monster's shuffle replacement ability allowing you to find the very same Progenitus with your second copy of Natural Order giving you an untapped Progenitus that can then block.

Sample Gameplay


Brainstorm by Motu at Wed, 03/09/2011 - 11:27
Motu's picture

Brainstorm is not in fact the best blue card ever printed. It is the best blue card ever printed that is legal in Legacy.

Nice read and explanation of by Raddman at Wed, 03/16/2011 - 15:56
Raddman's picture

Nice read and explanation of a Legacy deck i gave up on a long time ago lol. I see your point with Thoughtseize and while it does prevent you from surprised while going for the combo, it doesn't always help when they are playing spells for the win. Each to their own I suppose.

One of our clanmates was on an aluren kick awhile back and did very well in several DE's.

Never been a huge combo guy, but I did enjoy the Dream Halls combo much more than Aluren.

Nice to see another Legacy article on here, nicely done.

Clan Magic Eternal's picture

There is a very valid reason that aluren decks containing fow are flat out better then those with out. your right that its card disadvantage, but the fact that your gonna lose to t1 duress/thoughtseize or t1 combo every single time should make you get those wily free counterspells. board them out vs everything if you have to, but if you want a more consistent deck across the ENTIRE legacy metagme, those fows will help ya.

big fan of aluren decks too.


I'm interested in how you by Motu at Wed, 03/16/2011 - 17:17
Motu's picture

I'm interested in how you conclude that Aluren loses to turn 1 Thoughtseize/Duress every single time. I've been playing the deck for a few months now and have beat turn 1 Duress/Thoughtseize more times than I can count.

You are right, Aluren will lose to turn 1 a turn one combo from a deck like Belcher. But look at the math.

What percentage of Legacy games are won turn 1? Maybe 5%? That's being rather generous. I'd wager the number is more like 0.5% on turn 1.

Then in 50% of those turn 1 games, you'll be on the play and Thoughtseize does the same thing FoW does. We're now down to 2.5% of your games.

Then you have to have both FoW and another blue card in your hand. Assuming you cannot keep a hand that has less than 2 lands and and either Aluren/Recruiter against an unknown opponent that means you only have 3 other cards in hand. That means approximately 28% of the time you have FoW in your opener you won't have another blue spell you can exile (i.e. Cavern Harpy and Parasitic Strix don't count)in your hand. That means FoW is now responsible for keeping you from losing less than 2% of your games.

Less than 2% of games FoW will stop a turn 1 kill. Now what percentage of games will you face Krosan Grip which FoW is clearly inferior against. Then you decide which is better in Aluren.

Maybe JX can chime into this by Raddman at Wed, 03/16/2011 - 17:30
Raddman's picture

Maybe JX can chime into this conversation since he is the one who was successfully piloting Aluren in tourneys awhile back.

Oh JX, where art thou.

technically it was cedric on by Clan Magic Eternal at Wed, 03/16/2011 - 18:05
Clan Magic Eternal's picture

technically it was cedric on his account. im not saying that your wrong im just saying that as an archtype, it was statiscally supierior to run fow. before deckcheck shut down i tried my hand at aluren and when i researched there were a greater number of fow versions at the top of the standings. my own testing of both showed fow to be better. i also ran thoughtseize along side it. this was at least a year ago though.

Aluren is a good deck. The by menace13 at Wed, 03/16/2011 - 18:38
menace13's picture

Aluren is a good deck. The cost of it in paper grants small access to who can play it as it is a 2,000 deck and half of it is on a playset of Recruiters that see very little play in decks.

It was played a lot last year by many people online with a handful of pros testing it as well. As an archtype it has not yet made any top 8 placings in GP or SCG 5K series.

Artic Merfolk as the 2nd Dreamstalker to get around random Extripate spells-small but valid-.Artic Merfolk is a kicker cost and can not be stifled or the cost countered even if countering A.Merfolk.
Card is amazing, like a horse with sweet lemonade.

You want the 4 FoWs. Yes, all of them. No need to argue this simply because you don't play or own them.

Wow I don't play legacy due by protocol_7 at Wed, 03/16/2011 - 23:36
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Wow I don't play legacy due to budget constrains but I think that was the best play through I've seen on puremtgo.

Good job.

Fow build by Killer Owen at Thu, 03/17/2011 - 02:19
Killer Owen's picture

I did a video myself a while back of an Aluren deck using FOW. I can honestly say after much testing FOW is a must for me in the maindeck. In addition I find that adding discard to the sideboard is a better option than replacing FOW in the maindeck especially in a format that Dredge and Ad Nauseam Tendrils (ANT) is heavily played in. I have lost too many games against ANT where all I needed was a FOW, and since ANT is the top winning deck in the format right now I think it's a must.

Here is a link to my FOW build, but be thoughtful as it's a slightly older build from last July:

Still it's good to see other writers finally taking up Legacy.

Great deck and great article by PiDave at Thu, 03/17/2011 - 14:58
PiDave's picture

Great deck and great article overall. It's always a pleasure to read your writings.

Just one thing: I beg you to turn off the foil animation while recording, it kinda makes me nauseos while watvhing the vids. (Also, it lowers the quality and/or increases the video file size ;) ).

I love you by Roman at Sat, 03/19/2011 - 06:07
Roman's picture

I don't think there's ever been an author on PureMTGO that I've liked as much as you. I've read all of your articles and I've loved them all. Period. This is nothing different. I am so glad you are back, and keep them coming!

And did someone say Affinity brews? I am rooting for Frogmite Fanboy article nr. 2!

Other Legacy Decks by Dtrny at Fri, 03/25/2011 - 19:04
Dtrny's picture

I was wondering, since you already have the FOW's, any chance of playing something like Reanimator? The deck is a little slower since Personal Tutor is hardly Mystical Tutor, but a fairly reliable turn 3 reanimate via exhume is still pretty great, and it is a lot better and consistent than Show and Tell/Sneak Attack decks that still exist.

You also still get plenty of those turn 2 reanimate Iona, Inkwell or whatever with Daze/FOW backup that just beats almost every other deck legacy.

I think it is a much more interesting and interactive deck than, say, Alluren, Dredge or Tendrils decks, which play a lot of solitaire.