What better way to celebrate our returning to Zendikar in a few months than by showcasing a 5C Allies list in Modern! Yes...allies. For those that don't remember, allies are a creature type that grants permanent benefits to...well, their "allies." Yes, believe me, I was as skeptical as you were when I first saw the decklist, thought I definitely think it has something going for it. Take a look for yourself.
Yes, that is a playset of Hardened Scales you see there. Yes, it's a virtually unplayable one mana rare from Khans of Tarkir. Yes, it's actually surprisingly good in this build. Basically what you want to do here is drop a turn one "enabler," either Aether Vial or Hardened Scales, and then take advantage of your ally's abilities with said card either by cheating them into play at twice the speed or putting an additional counter on them with each and every trigger.
The plan and the cards chosen all seemed straight forward enough, and I was hoping that the deck would prove to be a contender in the format, as the more viable decks there are, the better Modern becomes.
5C Allies vs. Blue Moon
5C Allies vs. UG Infect
5C Allies vs. RG Tron
5C Allies vs. Loam Pox
Even after going back and looking at that Loam pox matchup I'm still not sure what happened with the Return to the Ranks. I'm pretty sure I clicked on both creatures rather than clicking on one to select it then reclicking on the same on to unselect it (which I'm sure some of you will suggest).
The one actual change I made to the deck was replacing City of Brass with Mana Confluence. This seemed like a strict upgrade to me, as City of Brass deals you damage whenever it becomes tapped (for any reason) while Mana Confluence only deals you damage when you specifically activate the mana ability.
The biggest thing to figure out with the deck is the best order to play your allies. Typically there is an obvious hierarchy where you want to play your best allies first so that they're receive all of the bonuses, then play the next best, etc. If I had to lay them out by cost then by quality I would order them as follows:
Hada Freeblade > Kazandu Blademaster > Jwari Shapeshifter > Oran-Rief Survivalist > Bojuka Brigand > Akoum Battlesinger > Umara Raptor > Taurean Mauler > Kabira Evangel
Of course the two most uncertain creatures are the Akoum Battlesinger and the Kabira Evangel. These are both utility allies that don't get counters themselves but provide a useful ability that could be used at different times. As such, these don't fit into the typical scale and they should be played when the benefit is at its greatest.
I was skeptical about Hardened Scales at first too, but it literally triggers for every counter that's placed on an ally so it actually flat out doubles the number of counters each ally would get which is huge.
With only 20 lands in the deck, anything over three mana just isn't that reasonable to cast. I would love to see if something like Talus Paladin would be a great fit against the Burn decks, but I think for the time being Ondu Cleric is holding that position fine, and at two mana it works great with our Aether Vials. Of course the risk of him getting burned out is much higher, but it will always trigger the life gain outside of a Skullcrack.
As you can see from the Loam Pox matchup (despite whatever Return to the Ranks shenanigans took place) the deck could probably use some way to get rid of graveyards. I wasn't actually sure where the Descendants' Path was meant to fit, and I would probably replace it with something more like another Suppression Field (which will shut off our Aether Vials, mind you) or a Disenchant. We don't really have any ways to deal with artifacts or enchantments outside of the two Nature's Claims, which might not be enough. I didn't really get a chance to utilize the Athreos, God of Passage, but I have to assume he's fine against the decks with things like Pyroclasm and Wrath of God (although he won't trigger anything against Anger of the Gods).
The best part about this deck was that it felt like a more colorful Merfolk list (and I think it could be just as powerful, with allies reaching stats like 7/7 and 8/8) which is basically an aggro mainstay in the format. The other benefit of the deck is that there are almost guaranteed to be more allies in Return to Zendikar! So if the deck is competitive now, it should only get better in the future, right? Well, I certainly hope so, because this deck definitely surprised me.
That's about all I have for today. Thanks for reading and we'll be back on Thursday to see if there are still some unique Standard decks left to discover before Dragons of Tarkir drops. Be sure to catch me then or at my daily stream over at www.twitch.tv/franklepore starting at 2 pm PST!
Frank Lepore@FrankLepore on TwitterFrankLepore on TwitchTV, streaming Monday - Friday, starting at 2 pm PST