Magic the Gathering Ally Combo Deck
An evaluation of Magic the Gathering's Allies
As of this writing the Zendikar block is still in Magic the Gathering's standard format. But don't expect to see much its exclusive tribe for Magic the Gathering: the Allies. For those unfamiliar to the mtg Zendikar block, allies are creatures that activate when an ally enters play (including itself). These creatures are In an mtg Zendikar draft, but given the amount of removal available in a tournament setting, these cards aren't that powerful. The problem is that allies have a steep curve. When you can set off 4 or 5 at once they can be formidable. But in Magic the Gathering you can never count on getting 4 to 5 allies in play during a mtg tournament. The allies are generally too weak to block and are easy to remove. If you want any more confirmation about the weakness of the creature type look at their prices: everything is under a $1.50. (Solid win condition in magic the gathering tournaments tend to be $5+). However, what's weak in mtg tournaments and duels can easily find a nice spot in a causal multiplayer magic game.
What's great about Zendikar's Allies in multiplayer magic?
The Allies can scale.
Mtg: Allies of Zendikar
The Ally Curve in Multiplayer Magic
Early game: The early multiplayer environment really consists of some combination of evaluating opponents (especially blue opponents), reducing life totals, and acceleration. An ally deck is impossible to hide in multiplayer magic so you have to play the board. The good thing about Allies early game is they should repel life gnawers (the players smart enough to know that you need to damage late game multiplayer decks before the late game) and enable life gnawing at opponents well known for late game/creature light decks.
Mid Game: To win multiplayer magic with creatures, pacing is crucial. You want to keep accelerating your deck, but you don't want to get so much power that the table joins to kill you. an ally deck is in no danger of overreaching because they're not strong enough mid game. Still, a board with five allies sends a message that you're not to be trifled with. (For a creature deck your midgame goal is to build to lethal power and eliminate your biggest threats: the gorilla players who try to beat everyone at once)
Complications: Point Removal, Mass Removal, and Countermagic
The ally deck is weak against point removal, because allies are weak unless they have multiple +1/+1 counters on them. A removal of an overgrown ally is a real setback, and this is probably why the tribe went nowhere in tournament magic. Mass Removal is hideous. An allies deck is basically a pyramid scheme and you can't afford to lose the lower blocks. This weakness to removal really has to be dealt with, either through countermagic or some form of creature protection.
Allies should be pretty resilient to countermagic in the multiplayer setting. Your very best ally might get countered, but not your bread and butter ones. In multiplayer magic games blue players are looking to stop bombs (the ones everyone wants countered) and key engine cards (cards decks depend on). Each individual ally is not worth stopping on its own.
Late game: the finisher. In the later multiplayer game, once your board is filled with 6+ allies, you should be homing in on beating your competitors to a pulp. Between cards that gain you X life, deal X damage, make an opponent lose X life, and draw X cards where X is the number of allies you control, and counter pumped fatties, you should have the tools to kill the other players with combat damage or the abilities of your allies. But there is a bomb perfect for allies: Ghostway.
Ghostway, a little white instant back from the Ravnica block is perfect for allies. It exiles all your allies and then brings them back into play at the beginning of the end step. This is not immediately obvious, so I'll spell it out: it brings back all allies simultaneously, so that every ally triggers the effect of every other ally. Each trigger is put on the stack in an order of your choosing. About the only recourse left to your opponents is to destroy your allies before the +1/+1 counters are placed and the ally dependent X effects are counted. Furthermore, Ghostway will also protect your deck from board wipes at a nice converted mana cost of 3. In fact, given the new M2010 rules, you can cast this spell during your opponent's end step and they won't return until the beginning of your end step, leaving the board clear for Wrath of God style board wipes. Here's my allies build, take note of its low monetary cost:
Allies: White Blue Black 4 Hada Freeblade 3 Umara Raptor 4 Agadeem Occultist 3 Talus Paladin 3 Halimar Excavator 1 Hagna Diabolist 2 Ondu Cleric 3 Sea Gate Loremaster Other Spells 3 Join the Ranks 2 Negate 2 Doomblade 4 Ghostway 2 Journey to Nowhere Lands 9 Plains 6 Islands 3 Swamps 4 Terramorphic Expanse 2 Esper Panorama
Breakdown of Allies: You have 10 allies that get +1/+1 counters when allies come into play. This should be more than enough muscle. Plus, Umaro Raptor flies, giving you an evasion fattie. The four Agadeem Occultists should help you recover fallen allies or take great stuff from other's graveyards. This is a key card for maintaining your board position. (It also works well with your Halimar Excavators, which put cards from libraries into graveyards) Sea Gate Loremaster well help on the card advantage, especially when players start to run out of removal. The important Allies to have in play when you want to cast a Ghostway are Ondu Cleric, Halimar Excavator, and Hagna Occultist. I run only one Hagna Occultist since players tend not to like cards that can dish out 5 or more damage directly to their face and you need time to build. The returning Halimar Excavators are your main weapons with Ghostway because they look innocent and there's so little an opponent can do to prevent being decked after a successful Ghostway (the often massive life gain in multiplayer may make Hagna Occultists less effective). Last, Join the Ranks provides a combat trick (any +1/+1 counter allies will gain +2/+2) and is a great way to hide power in your hand. Your opponents will evaluate your position as having 2 less allies then you actually do. In multiplayer this is a great trick to be ignored and being ignored in multiplayer magic is always something to strive for. Journey to Nowhere, Negate, and Doomblade throw some efficient general removal to round out the deck.
You may want more Hagna Occultists in for the bite. I have a tendency to limit the power I put in a multiplayer magic deck for the political/metagame advantages and you might not be so subtle. Murasa Pyromancer is the one ally I wish this deck could fit in but I'm not playing red. The two other cards to consider are Kabira Evangel and Seascape Aerialist. These offer protection from a color of your choice or flying (respectively) for all your Allies. This evasion can provide the oomph for an alpha strike, though I suggest a Ghostway be ready after an attack (this untaps your Allies) or other combat tricks. Last, a Bala Ged Thief can offer just a bit of hand control against countermagic, late game players, and board wipers. When you play Ghostway you need to be certain it will go off.