Magic Memories: Aluren

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
Playing with Aluren in EDH again inspired me to start a Magic Memories thread for the card. I didn't do it at first, but I'm starting one now. I've had a fondness for this card for something like 20 years and I've built decks around it multiple times, but actually I've overall used it much less than most of the other entries in the Magic Memories series. In part, that's a consequence of the general inflexibility of this card. Staples like Dark Ritual, Regrowth, and Survival of the Fittest get used again and again in various archetypes. Even more obscure cards like Soldevi Digger and Sengir Autocrat are ones I've managed to throw in a lot of decks over the years. But Aluren is always a card that's exclusive to "the Aluren deck." Whatever that deck might look like...


I was enthralled with this card ever since I first read it, some time in the late 1990's when I was still inexperienced and distinctly naive about the game. Perhaps one reason that Aluren stands out so much in my mind is that my view of the card hasn't really evolved, unlike my views of most other cards from back then. I mean, I've gotten some practice with it and there are powerful new synergies that didn't exist at the time, but the core aspects of Aluren as a functional Magic card remain unchanged, and I guess I recognized them even when I was young and stupid.

With Aluren, you're pretty much stuck with these features...
  • You can cast your cheap creatures (3 mana or less CMC) for free.
  • You can cast those cheap creatures at instant-speed.
  • Your opponents can do the same.
  • The card does nothing with more expensive creatures.
  • The card does nothing for non-creature spells.
  • To break the symmetry on this, you need to load up your deck with cheap creatures.
  • Those cheap creatures may not do much without Aluren.
Aluren has never really been a value-based enchantment. It's 100% reliant on synergies with creatures, and those creatures should have certain traits. It's tricky. Despite the obvious power of "cast spells for free" the limits on this card are severe enough that making the card work well is not easy.

An early attempt at making Aluren work was one of the Tempest precons, called "The Swarm."

14 Forest
7 Plains
2 Vec Townships
1 Elven Warhounds
1 Krakilin
3 Master Decoy
4 Muscle Sliver
3 Pincher Beetles
2 Ranger en-Vec
3 Rootwalla
3 Skyshroud Elf
1 Soltari Crusader
2 Soltari Trooper
3 Trained Armodon
1 Aluren
3 Pacifism
1 Recycle
1 Anoint
1 Disenchant
1 Elvish Fury
1 Needle Storm
2 Overrun

Yikes, that list is bad. Well, with only one copy of Aluren, you probably just aren't getting the card anyway, but if you do cast it on turn 4, you can rush out a sizeable attacking force. Elven Warhounds and Krakilin don't synergize with Aluren, but the other creatures can all come down on a single turn from one's hand. But it's clunky, unreliable, and ploddingly slow for a beatdown deck by today's standards.
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
In the mind of most seasoned players, Aluren has become indelibly associated with the "Gating" mechanic from Planeshift, and the association is somewhat deserved. I'll get to that, but not yet. Aluren was part of the game for over three years before "Gating" was, and people did use the card anyway. I want to explore this late 1990's usage of the card, before moving on to what would later come.

Information on this subject is sparse, and my own recollection is a bit foggy. That underwhelming Tempest precon is the best-documented version of one approach, which was attempted in a more sensible fashion by players. Most early attempts at exploiting Aluren were in creature-based deck with some kind of card-drawing engine. Such decks didn't endeavor to go infinite or even to primarily focus on comboing out. Some of them were primitive aggro-combo concepts, focused on beatdown with stuff like Muscle Sliver and other cheap slivers, or with Viashino Sandstalker, Llanowar Sentinel, Uktabi Orangutan, and other efficient creatures from that era. Players recognized that Aluren was very good with EtB triggered abilities on creatures, and used the card to fuel synergistic plays. Often there'd be some kind of card-drawing engine like Recycle or Nature's Resurgence.

An especially interesting engine, available with only Rath Block cards, was Aluren + Recycle + Thalakos Scout...


Aluren lets you play your creatures for free, Recycle lets you draw cards off them. If you draw a non-creature card, you can discard it to bounce the Scout, then replay the Scout, drawing something else, looping through your whole deck. I like it so much I think I've got to find a way to try it for myself some day.

A more straightforward approach, which I personally consider to be inferior, was something I saw in casual play back then...


I do not think that Aluren was a valuable addition to Enduring Renewal decks, but Enduring Renewal was the most popular way to go off with an infinite combo back then, and pairing Aluren with it was something I remember seeing.
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
I think just about all of my recollections of Aluren as a card before Planeshift were either creature-based draw engines with Recycle or infinite combo decks with Enduring Renewal. Somewhat frustratingly, those are the two least interesting applications to me for Aluren in an older environment. As much as Recycle seems fun and is the kind of card I should like, I can't shake the feeling that it's just a bad Magic card. It costs six mana. It's too slow. and Enduring Renewal? Love it. Great card. Played with it a lot. And I don't think that an Enduring Renewal deck needs or wants Aluren. Enduring Renewal requires some setup, and the best decks at using it do this smoothly and efficiently. Aluren costs just as much mana and both cards feel like build-around enchantments. Cards that cap off a combo. Not cards that you want to assemble a combo out of together. Or maybe it's just me...

Aluren didn't make waves in tournament Magic, so far as I can tell, until later. So some of the "90's" results I find when surfing the web are actually for either Tempest Block Constructed or for the unofficial "Middle School" format. I suspect that the Tempest Block Constructed decklists are all coming from the same person, some Aluren enthusiast who was also a Block Constructed deck-brewer in the late 00's. And I salute that individual. Good job. That Thalakos Scout tech is almost certainly a retro thing, and not an authentic "someone was playing this in 1998" concept.

But I did dig up some old Usenet posts, and other, more interesting Aluren decks were published back then, even if they were not widely disseminated. Does digging up old Usenet posts by other people I didn't even know about count as "Magic Memories"?

In particular, it would appear that an application of Aluren was to incorporate it into a modified version of the old "TradeBlossom" deck. Don't remember TradeBlossom? I'd imagine that few people do. It was a moderately successful tournament from back when Stronghold was new, before Exodus came out. It was based on this core...


In order to fulfill a controlling role, you had to bounce your opponent's stuff with Tradewind Riders, but along the way, you could bounce your own Walls, then recast them and draw cards. Awakening yielded more Tradewind Rider activations. It's slow and clunky by today's standards, but I hope that astute observers can appreciate how flexible this concept is. You could block with Walls, then tap them bounce something. Attacking into a field with multiple copies of Tradewind Rider and Wall of Blossoms would be unproductive for virtually any creatures available in that environment. Drawing more copies of Tradewind Rider generated more control. Drawing more copies of Wall of Blossoms accelerated card-drawing. Drawing into more copies of Awakening let you establish a hard prison on your opponent, bouncing lands between Awakening triggers.

Aluren isn't a particularly good card for that exact deck, but if you replace Awakening with Intruder Alarm as your source for untapping your Tradewind Riders, you get something explosive and potentially infinite. Exciting.

Here's a decklist I found from 1998, built to lock opponents out of the game by bouncing all of their stuff:

6x Forest
12x Island
1x Gemstone Mine
1x Skyshroud Forest
4x Aluren
4x Walls of Roots
2x Walls of Blossoms
4x Intruder Alarm
4x Tradewind Rider
4x Man-0'-War
4x Impulse
2x Harrow
4x Counterspell
4x Mana Leak
4x Propaganda

Here's another one, which seems to lean on Soul Warden for massive (potentially infinite) lifegain:

4x Tradewind Rider
4x Wall of Blossoms
4x Soul Warden
4x Man-o'-War
4x Birds of Paradise
1x Ephemeron
1x Fallen Angel
3x Aluren
3x Gaea's Blessing
4x Mana Leak
4x Impulse
4x Undiscovered Paradise
4x Gemstone Mine
2x Adarkar Wastes
2x Brushland
2x Underground River
5x Forest
5x Island

Not tuned tournament lists, but Aluren did make for some cool and unique casual decks.
 

Mooseman

Isengar Tussle
Does digging up old Usenet posts by other people I didn't even know about count as "Magic Memories"?
It's someone's "memories".
I do remember the "TradeBlossom" decks, and with Soul Warden. I think Killer Joe used a variation of the deck to piss off a lot of players (hehehe). It did cause other players to target him without cause, or with cause, since he was a very good deck builder.
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
Creature-based combos weren't really properly developed in the late 90's. Like a lot of other good cards, especially good combo cards, Aluren was overshadowed by the blue/artifact cartel of "Combo Winter." In hindsight, Aluren would quietly get better with accumulated new printings of cheap creatures. A really nice one of these, which might have boosted Aluren considerably, was not tournament legal or widely explored. But we'll get to that.

Aluren synergizes with cheap creatures that have EtB triggered abilities. But to build a real engine, players generally needed another enchantment, something like Recycle, Intruder Alarm, or Enduring Renewal. In 2001, Planeshift introduced the "Gating" mechanic, and several of those creatures gain some value under Aluren. But one of them in particular was key, and it changed the use of Aluren forever...


I wrote about "Raisin Bran" briefly in my "Combo Breakfast" article. Here's a list...

4x Bayou
1x Forest
4x Island
1x Mountain Valley
4x Tropical Island
4x Underground Sea
4x Yavimaya Coast
4x Cavern Harpy
2x Man-o'-War
4x Raven Familiar
2x Spike Feeder
4x Wall of Roots
4x Aluren
1x Arcane Denial
4x Brainstorm
4x Force of Will
4x Impulse
1x Stroke of Genius
4x Vampiric Tutor

Aluren + Cavern Harpy is the core of the engine, but it needs something else to run. Usually, this was Raven Familiar. Raven Familiar could dig for more cards and Cavern Harpy could bounce it, then one could pay 1 life and bounce Cavern Harpy to keep the loop going. If one could dig up a Spike Feeder and a Man-o'-War before running out of life, the loop could stabilize and generate infinite life. Cast Spike Feeder, remove a counter from Spike Feeder and gain 2 life, cast Man-o'-War bouncing Spike Feeder, cast Spike Feeder, remove a counter from Spike Feeder and gain 2 life, cast Cavern Harpy and bounce Man-o'-War, cast Man-o'-War and bounce Spike Feeder, cast Spike Feeder, remove a counter from Spike Feeder to gain 2 life, pay 1 life to bounce Cavern Harpy, cast Cavern Harpy bouncing Man-o-'War, etc, etc. Rinse, repeat. Net life gain: as much as your little heart desires. This amount of life is more than sufficient to dig through the rest of the library. From there one could repeatedly cast Wall of Roots, make a green mana, bounce it with Man-o'-War, then use Cavern Harpy to bounce both Man-o'-War and itself. Net green mana gain: as much as your little heart desires. The kill condition was Stroke of Genius. Although nothing in the engine could make the single blue mana required to cast Stroke of Genius, it was considered generally safe to pass the turn with infinite life, a board full of every creature in the deck, and a fistful of Force of Will and blue cards.

A seven-card combo isn't ordinarily playable, but this was really more of a three-card combo with high modularity and flexibility. All of the creatures involved were useful in some way, either on their own or with each other, and they could protect the player or help dig for other combo components. Even Aluren could be used to more quickly deploy creatures. The only real chaff card was Stroke of Genius. And later versions would dispense would chaff entirely. These Extended Aluren decks were not the fastest combo decks, nor the most compact. But they were some of the most robust and versatile.

Although I didn't play Extended, this archetype formed the basis for a casual Aluren deck I'd play, and I had friends who built similar decks.
 

Melkor

Well-Known Member
I had the idea back in the day that I would team up Aluren with Greater Good and creatures that had over 3 power that cost 3 or less. Never quite figured out what else the deck would do, and it was all a moot point as I could never trade for more than the 1 Aluren I already had.
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
I had the idea back in the day that I would team up Aluren with Greater Good and creatures that had over 3 power that cost 3 or less. Never quite figured out what else the deck would do, and it was all a moot point as I could never trade for more than the 1 Aluren I already had.
Well, that's an interaction I haven't seen! Greater Good is an interesting card. For how big its effect can be, it seems like its actual usage has generally been subtle. Greater Good is in the unfortunate position of being something like the twentieth-best enchantment in Urza's Saga. Bad break. If it had come out back in Fallen Empires or Judgment or something, it might have made more of a splash. But it came out right in the middle of an era chock-full of powerful enchantments. For me, the card isn't something I've sufficiently experienced and studied to really want to start a "Magic Memories" thread, at least not yet. But it's possibly close to that. I've had one copy of Greater Good since forever and it's been splashed into some B/G and W/B/G deck centered around graveyard usage. Even if you can only get to a point where you're keeping a few cards, you churn through you deck so quickly that it can be explosive.

A while back, I was going to build a casual deck with Greater Good as a main engine. I forget the details, but I scrapped the project early on when I realized I only had a single copy of Greater Good and the card had become very pricey, despite having been reprinted in Ninth Edition. Didn't want to spring for more copies and I had other decks I was focused on anyway. Since then, probably due to the Battlebond reprint, the price on Greater Good has dropped precipitously. Now the card is downright cheap, as Magic cards go.

I don't know how much potential there is in the Aluren + Greater Good combination, and it shares the same problem as the other enchantment + enchantment interactions, to whatever extent that this is a problem. Some might say that these interactions are very cool but not very practical, which is not necessarily a problem in casual gameplay settings. Well, while Greater Good got reprinted and became affordable, the price on Aluren steadily climbed (it's a Reserved List card). So it's not in the normal budget for most casual players. But I can see the appeal.

A card that I had not yet mentioned, but was going to get to soon, is Endless Cockroaches.


The mention of Greater Good kind of segues into this card, as Aluren + Endless Cockroaches + [any sac outlet] is an infinite loop. In the case of Greater Good, the result is that you lose your hand and dump your library, one card at a time, into your graveyard. This seems pretty bad, but it could potentially be exploited...
 

Melkor

Well-Known Member
Greater Good, definitely one of my Magic Memories if I ever did my own such series. It was surprisingly effective to just play it straight up in a more casual environment. Definitely seems like a useful casual Commander card these days.

And one last thing on Greater Good, as an added bonus, whenever you sacrifice a creature to it, you get to say "It was for the greater good."
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
Definitely seems like a useful casual Commander card these days.
I guess that describes a lot of cards, but I've noticed that Greater Good really excels in the role. I've been using it more lately and I'm impressed with the results.

So, Endless Cockroaches...

Well, the card might have been a neat trick, but back when the Aluren deck was successful in Extended, Endless Cockroaches was not a legal card for Magic tournament play, so no one could have used it even if someone had figured out a way to. I had some interest, in the early 00's, in using Aluren + Endless Cockroaches in a casual deck, but I never actually built it. I think I didn't own a copy of Endless Cockroaches and didn't make an effort to track one down to trade for it.

Aluren rotated out of Extended in 2005, but I didn't care at the time. Actually, now that I think about it, the rotation may have been unimportant more broadly in this case: Aluren enthusiasts had a much better shot in the new Legacy format than in Extended, because manabases were better.

Porting Aluren into Legacy in 2004 and 2005 was somewhat tenuous. To the best of my knowledge, there were no substantial innovations beyond what had already been done in Extended, and the Legacy Aluren deck, which was effectively an Extended Aluren deck dual lands in the manabase, could not keep up with the competition in Legacy. The big updates to the deck were mostly Auriok Champion and Eternal Witness in Fifth Dawn...


Up through most of 2005, Raven Familiar remained the most popular choice for digging through an Aluren deck assemble an infinite combo. Some players replaced it with Wirewood Savage, an option I ignored at the time, but perhaps it was superior...


Wirewood Savage is pretty lackluster without Cavern Harpy, but becomes a crude card-drawing engine with Cavern Harpy (you get to draw a card for each pair of blue & black mana you can generate) and enables free, instant-speed card drawing with Aluren + Cavern Harpy.

Kill conditions evolved too. The original pathway of making infinite mana was still sometimes used. But my guess is that the more prevalent kill condition was to loop through creatures for infinite storm count and use Cloud of Faeries to untap lands, then finish the opponent off with Brain Freeze. This kill had the advantage of wrecking control decks that got greedy and held off the combo, but didn't manage to press the offensive. You can keep Aluren offline all day, but if you sit there grinding against a creature-based deck as turns go by, eventually, you get Brain Freeze at the end of a counter war and lose enough of your library that you get decked. At least by 2005, I think most tournament Aluren decks were running a Living Wish sideboard and could wish for Maggot Carrier as a kill condition (incorporating it into the Cavern Harpy loops after gaining infinite life).

Despite its shortcomings, the early-to-mid-00's Legacy port of Aluren was among the best options in the format for a "slow" combo deck. To be clear, the deck can have a third-turn clock, so it was/is only slow by the standards of Legacy. However, other combo decks could be faster. The advantage with Aluren was some stability and defensive potential. This worked well enough back when almost every Legacy deck was an Extended format port, but as the competition became more streamlined, Aluren was probably going to fall off the map.

And then October 20th, 2005 rolled around. Cards from the "Portal" and "Starter" products became legal in Legacy. It's beyond the scope of this thread, but I have some rather damning thoughts on this topic. I suspect that, in a subtle way, the mishandling of Portal/Starter was among the most impactful screwups WotC ever made in their work on Magic. They expended considerable time and effort on four different sets in the 90's: Portal, Portal Second Age, Portal Three Kingdoms, and Starter (The Starter 2000 product gets thrown in there because people remember that it was a thing, but if you ever actually saw what the Starter 2000 game box looked like, it was not a proper "set" or anything even close, but just a box with a crappy little tutorial thing for how to play the game and a hodgepodge of Sixth Edition cards with some reprinted cards from Portal and Starter that didn't have expansion symbols on them). And instead of incorporating these cards, many of which were beautiful and/or unique, into the main game of Magic, they tried to segregate it from regular Magic and treat it as a beginners only zone. They didn't allow these cards to be used in tournaments until the youngest of them was six years old. And then they concluded that the lesson to learn from this failure was that they needed to compromise regular Magic expansions to accommodate new players. :rolleyes:

Endless Cockroaches never ended up becoming a tournament powerhouse. But one of the not-so-new cards introduced into Legacy changed everything for Aluren...


This let the Aluren deck play with a true two-card combo. Cast Aluren, flash in Imperial Recruiter, search up Man-o'-War, flash in Man-o'-War and bounce Recruiter, flash in Recruiter, search up Cavern Harpy, flash in Cavern Harpy, bounce Man-0'-War, flash in Man-o'-War, bounce Recruiter, flash in Recruiter, search up Auriok Champion, flash in Auriok Champion, pay 1 life to bounce Cavern Harpy, repeatedly flash in Cavern Harpy and let it bounce itself off its own Gating trigger to gain infinite life with Auriok Champion, bounce Man-o'-War, flash in Man-0'-War, bounce Recruiter, flash in Recruiter, search up Ghitu Slinger, loop through Cavern Harpy + Man-o'-War + Ghitu Slinger until opponent is dead, win the game because opponent is dead.

From about 2006 up through the earlier portion of this decade, Aluren was something of a prestige deck in Legacy. It was kinda/sorta arguably among the top combo decks, but its reliance on lots of duals/fetches for a rainbow manabase and on Imperial Recruiter made it one of the more expensive decks in the format. This earned it a spot on the silly "What to play in Legacy" flowchart circa 2013, where it was at the end of the path: Why do you want to play Legacy? → I like expensive cards → Do you want extra time each round for people to come look at you playing these cards → No → Aluren. Besides being expensive, it was also a tricky deck to pilot, and relied on cards that were rather specific and didn't fit into other decks (although Imperial Recruiter was also good in mono-red Painter's Grindstone). So it was not generally a first-tier Legacy deck, but it was also disproportionately unpopular among most of the playerbase. For its low representation, Aluren was quite successful. I say "was" because by the mid-2010's, the format was evolving a lot and most of the traditional decks stopped being viable. But that wasn't the end of the line for the card. Aluren had already gained more tools. There are more good three-drop creatures now than ever, and the Legacy Aluren deck has continued to evolve. More on that later.

Several years ago, I invested in a playset of Imperial Recruiter. The card has since tanked in price owing to its Masters 25 reprint, but I have no regrets. Although I did build a Legacy-legal Aluren deck, I never took it to a tournament. As I've mentioned, I'm not much of a tournament player. And for this deck, in my estimation, yeah, it really is tricky to pilot. If I had played in more tournaments, I'd have needed a lot more practice. Aluren is deep and daunting.

The version I ended up building did this version of the loop...
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
Legacy Aluren decks have evolved considerably since the days of the earliest Extended ports. But the core concept and many of the challenges to running such a deck remain much the same. Aluren decks tend to need mostly blue and green mana, but also rely on black mana for certain creatures and disruptive spells. But if you're going all-in on those three colors, you don't have any room for red to hardcast Imperial Recruiter. Even as a dedicated three-color deck, this tends to be heavy on duals and fetches, which means a control-combo deck with a vulnerable manabase. Also, there's a balance to be struck between creatures and noncreature spells. Creatures add a layer of protection for combat and let the deck do stuff with Aluren, but they're slower and clunkier than other options for disruption. Most Aluren decks ran a mixture of countermagic, discard spells, and pinpoint removal spells, but they had to skimp on all three to make room for creatures.

Pitted against a shifting field of opponents, the right ratios of various tools was impossible to gauge. Aluren decks in Legacy were kind of a perpetual Tier 2 contender. In the long term, Aluren has probably been the most successful combo deck in the history of the format, but at any given point, it's usually seemed like the third or fourth best combo deck. Realistically, the staying power is something of a historical fluke and not anything of real substance. But it is worth noting, I think, in discussing the card. For most of the 00's, the more popular combo decks were IGGy Pop and Solidarity, neither of which exist as competitive Legacy archetypes anymore. Probably the next biggest combo archetype that is still around from back then is Belcher, but Aluren has almost always been more prevalent.

Perhaps partially motivated by cost, but really affected by the aforementioned deck stability issues, there was a schism starting around 2010 between more controlling blue/black/green decks with no Imperial Recruiter and more direct combo decks with full playsets of Imperial Recruiter and rainbow manabases. The former were something of a throwback to Aluren decks before Recruiter became legal in Legacy, but they were updated with good cards.

And that was about the state of things for several more years. Eventually, a new set came along that fundamentally changed Aluren decks in Legacy. In 2016, Conspiracy: Take the Crown introduced these two cards...
1568044875551.png1568044890170.png
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
It's tricky to analyze the effect Recruiter of the Guard has on Aluren deck construction. Most of the creatures used in Aluren chains can be fetched with either Imperial Recruiter or Recruiter of the Guard. They're functional equivalents for combo purposes.

1568909748945.png1568909773277.png

But there are good reasons to only use one or the other, rather than both. You might need to cast one without already having Aluren out, and to do so, you'll probably have a one-off dual land that you'd find with a fetchland. Because Imperial Recruiter was a P3K card and Recruiter of the Guard was from a new set, the latter was far more widely available. Also, Tundra is cheaper than Volcanic Island. So Recruiter of the Guard generally replaced Imperial Recruiter in Legacy Aluren decklists, even though it wasn't being used to fetch creatures with power greater than 2.

There are cornercases, though. Imperial Recruiter fetches Dream Stalker, which Recruiter of the Guard cannot get. And Recruiter of the Guard can fetch Vendilion Clique, which Imperial Recruiter cannot get. But despite the color difference and power/toughness considerations, the distinction seems remarkably unimportant. The vast majority of the time, it wouldn't matter which recruiter an Aluren deck is running. The advent of Wrenn and Six might change that, although it's unclear how much Aluren players will adopt the powerful (relatively new) planeswalker.
1568910479630.png

Up until now, I haven't mentioned Wrenn and Six in Magic Memories threads. The card is still pretty new, but is the kind of rare powerhouse that occasionally turns the game on its head. Along with two other planeswalkers released this year (Narset and Karn being the others), it has simply outclassed much of what decks in Eternal formats are capable of. A two-drop that lets a player repeatedly reuse Wasteland and fetchlands is gamechanging on its own, and the fact that the planeswalker ticks up while doing this and that it has two other abilities just pushes things to absurdity. Aluren decks don't exploit Wrenn and Six quite as smoothly as some other Legacy archetypes, but the card has made its way into some successful Aluren lists, and might be a solid reason for Imperial Recruiter (being red) to retake its place as the default Aluren combo creature. Time will tell.
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
The ongoing schism among Aluren players in Legacy is whether or not to run either Recruiter. For my part, when I did build my deck, I had a playset of Imperial Recruiter anyway and the card was super-expensive. When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Or something. But there are real considerations here!

The version with Recruiter (either Imperial Recruiter or Recruiter of the Guard) is more consistently able to pull off fast combo kills. Often, these lists run enough mana acceleration to make third-turn Aluren realistic. And with a Recruiter in hand, that's an infinite combo kill if not stopped. These are also kinda-sorta four-color decks, with a color splash corresponding to the chosen Recruiter. This offers some niche slots like planeswalkers and cool sideboard cards. I've already cited the new Wrenn and Six. Really, I don't think that there's been any single card over the past decade or so that's been a default color splash inclusion. But it does open up options. More important is the speed. No digging for combo components. Just an easy two-card setup (with three cards as library chaff to tutor up once the engine is established) to win the game if uninterrupted.

Three-color Aluren decks experienced a resurgence with the advent of Leovold, Emissary of Trest. A creature-based combo deck that needs to resolve a four-drop enchantment to combo off is inherently slower than the fastest combo decks in the format, and is likely to have a slower average clock than the aggro decks available in Legacy. Since that can't be helped, three-color Aluren decks ease up on consistent speed to focus instead on control and board presence. Three-color Aluren is a true control-combo archetype, and one that packs enough creatures to be comfortable in spots where older control-combo decks would have been too vulnerable against attacking creatures. This version is tougher to pilot and can't so easily win on the spot, but it makes up for that in attrition. Also, playing against three-color Aluren can be difficult. Your opponent is wearing you down with attrition, but at any time might assemble an engine with Aluren + Cavern Harpy and suddenly win the game. If this Aluren deck kills you, it's probably with an infinite loop, but you might also just find that the Aluren player can grind you out, especially if you're not playing a deck that can produce lots of blockers.
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
If I'd had real tournament experience with the Legacy Aluren archetype, I'd have more to say as far as memories go. But I don't, so I don't. :rolleyes:

Actually, from what little I do remember piloting my Aluren build (which was an outdated knockoff of the competitive version by the time I physically constructed it), the deck I was playing against were casual scrubby decks and the Aluren deck pretty easily comboed off. So it was unremarkable. The deck just did its thing almost every time. Drop two or three creatures, resolve Aluren, resolve Imperial Recruiter, set up an infinite loop, win. Done. Rinse, repeat. But that minimal (albeit successful) experience doesn't do the archetype justice. Because in tournament play, the Aluren archetype (Recruiter or 3-color) is divergent and unique even among creature-based combo decks. Along with Belcher, it's the longest-running combo deck in Legacy with any significant tournament presence, and the fact that it's been able to hold its own in a tough environment for the past 15 years is a testament to the versatility of Aluren as a buildaround card.

And that's Legacy. Excepting the historic use of Aluren in Extended and the cornercase Block Constructed silliness, there haven't been other formats to really serve as a home for the typical Aluren control-combo deck. The archetype doesn't really translate well into Vintage, and the card is not legal in Modern, while being too new for "Old School" formats. But a passable attempt can be made in highlander formats...

As with other unique buildaround engine cards, the deckbuilding restrictions of moving deck size up to 100 cards and restricting cards to singleton usage changes everything. Some buildaround cards can't make that transition. But Aluren can perform reasonably well in highlander formats. Although nothing replaces the enchantment itself, there's now a lot of redundancy in options for the creatures that work alongside it. For instance, the original creature to employ in digging through the library for value while doubling as an infinite loop component was Raven Familiar. Later on decks would try other creatures in that role, such as Shardless Agent, Glint-Nest Crane, Coiling Oracle, and Watcher for Tomorrow. Each one has its own subtle advantages and disadvantages, but a Legacy deck would probably just run one or two. In Highlander decks we can, if we deem it appropriate, run all of them, and thereby compensate for the singleton deckbuilding restriction.

My own experience with Aluren in Highlander is specific to Commander/EDH. I've seen it work in other Highlander formats, but can't really comment on that much. Canadian Highlander is sporadic in my area and I don't devote much attention to it right now, although if I do get back into it long-term I'll try out an Aluren deck for that format. But EDH Aluren is a pet project for me and something I've already built and played on one occasion, albeit a gimmicky one. So I'll comment on that.

In July of this year, I tried out Aluren in the West Coast Commander League with a deck I named "Bearadise Lost." This was a rather silly deck and I took some otherwise-bizarre steps in order to enable the deck to pick up points in the League. Although I think that as my first EDH Aluren deck, I messed this one up a bit, it was informative. I really liked some of the elements and playing this deck made me really want to explore Aluren as an EDH deck.

Although my take on Aluren in Legacy was a 4-color deck, I really think that Aluren in EDH should have a Sultai-colors commander. At the time I was building the "Bearadise Lost" deck, none of the legal options were particularly valuable for synergies with Aluren itself, so I just went with partners to get some value and I deliberately avoided Thrasios to make myself a bit less conspicuous (Thrasios is a mana sink win condition and should its use as a commander is usually interpreted by opponents as a warning flag that an infinite mana loop is coming). But at that time, a card in the brand new set that was about to come out was about to supplant other options...
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Yarok seems to be the greatest commander for an Aluren deck. It's in the right colors and its ability synergizes with the same creatures that Aluren synergizes with. The only flaw is that I have not yet opened one in a booster pack... :(
 
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