It wasn't so long ago that I was crushing Modern opponents under my boot heel with Allies. In fact it was around March of this year, if I recall correctly, so about seven or so months ago. It was a good time and it proved to me that the tribe definitely had some fight in them. The deck played like some of the other tribes in Modern, such as merfolk or slivers, giving each creature a permanent bonus in the form of +1/+1 counters, or a temporary bonus in the form of protection, +1/+0, or lifelink. The deck was also perfect at exploiting your typical tribal cards like Cavern of Souls and Aether Vial.
It may have come to your attention that Allies received some brand new - and powerful - tools in Battle for Zendikar. It certainly came to Matthew Farney's attention as he put together a Jeskai Allies list with some of the brand new cards and seemingly sailed his way to the Top 16 of the Modern Premier IQ a week ago.
This list looks more like a white weenie list; to be fair, we only have two cards that aren't white in the maindeck: Akoum Battlesinger and Jwari Shapeshifter. Of course we're not counting Phyrexian Metamorph here. I was more excited about putting the new cards to the test and seeing if this could be a new Modern archetype than anything else. Let's get to it and see what we're working with here.
Jeskai Allies vs. Bogles
Jeskai Allies vs. Tooth and Nail
Jeskai Allies vs. Jund
Jeskai Allies vs. Jund, Match 2
Ouch. Well that was no bueno. And again we were stuck with a 12 card sideboard because Magic Online still can't load split cards like Wear // Tear correctly. I really need to start checking for this when I load red and/or white Modern decks. You have my apologies.
My biggest problem with the list is that it doesn't really do anything. Unlike the previous Allies list, a good number of our creatures don't actually get larger. There were times I was attacking with 5/5 Umara Raptors in previous versions, but the only creatures that get bigger here are the Hada Freeblades and the Kazandu Blademasters. That didn't really feel like enough.
The thing is, we're playing four Aether Vial, four Cavern of Souls, and four Ally Encampment, so being able to splash for allies of other colors should be extremely easy. The addition of Ally Encampment alone should encourage us to play more colors of allies, rather than less. It feels criminal to not include Drana, Liberator of Malakir...the ally...but I will go so far as to attribute this to cost and availability.
If we are sticking to a majority of white lands, the Steam Vents should definitely be a Hallowed Fountain and I'm not even sure we want a Mountain in the deck. Nearly every card we want to cast is white, and we very frequently want to play more than one white card a turn. Drawing the Mountain as your only second land when trying to cast a Kazandu Blademaster is pretty much the worst. Or having a one-drop Ally you want to play while also holding a Cloudshift, and having access to only a single white mana. I basically felt like every land should tap for white, but more so I felt like we should be taking advantage of the other colors of allies more.
I didn't even really like Cloudshift. Most of the time you're going to use it to retrigger your allies, but you know what else does this? Another Ally! Only another Ally can be cast with Cavern of Souls, Ally Encampment, or put into play with Aether Vial. This is a big deal since most of the time we were drawing 2/1s or 2/2s for two, with the worst part being that they would never get larger. Sure, it can save a creature every so often, but we want to tap out so frequently with this deck that I'd rather just be doing that. Keeping a mana up for Cloudshift and not having to use it is the worst.
A deck like this is of course going to be terrible against Jund. That's simply how it goes; Jund preys on creature-heavy decks that have very little card advantage, and we are exactly that. We also had very few ways to disrupt combos it seemed, so I wasn't sure what we could actually do against Tooth and Nail. We just had to try and race them and hope we were faster. We were not.
Ultimately I love the idea of Allies in Modern and I really think there is a viable shell to be found. I'm just not convinced this is it, however, as it felt more like an unfocused white weenie deck; no offense to Matthew of course, and he has my congrats on a fantastic finish! Perhaps if he's reading the article he can give us some of his own insights into his choices and the matches he played that propelled him in the standings.
I'll be back in Thursday with some Battle for Zendikar Standard. In the meantime be sure and check out my podcast, Freshly Brewed, with Ali Aintrazi. You can subscribe through iTunes or help us out over on our Patreon. Thanks for reading and I'll see ya soon!
@FrankLepore // Frank on Twitch // Frank on YouTube
Freshly Brewed Podcast with Ali Aintrazi (available on iTunes and Stitcher Radio)