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February 13, 2011


Whispers of the Muse: Mart’s ‘The Adventurers’

by Dredd77

Welcome to the next installment of Whispers of the Muse, the occasional feature where a reader submits their tinkering of a precon deck and look for constructive criticism and feedback from the community. Today we’re hearing from Mart, who’s begun working on Zendikar’s The Adventurers.

Mart’s main area of concern is this:

anyone care to comment on it and help me tighten it up? perhaps even help me figure out how to properly shape a deck based on land and CMC since i really have no clue how to do that…

Mart included his preliminary 60-card list as follows:

Creatures (19)

1x Turntimber Ranger

1x Tajuru Archer

1x Joraga Bard

3x Highland Berserker

1x Kazuul Warlord

3x Murasa Pyromancer

3x Oran-Rief Survivalist

1x Stonework Puma

2x Akoum Battlesinger

1x Graypelt Hunter

1x Tuktuk Scrapper

1x Vastwood Animist 

Noncreature (19)

4x Lightning Bolt

1x Shatter

1x Fog

2x Giant Growth

2x Vines of Vastwood

2x Burst Lightning

1x Zektar Shrine Expedition

2x Overrun

2x Assault Strobe

2x Adventuring Gear

Land (22)

7x Forest

8x Mountain

3x Terramorphic Expanse

4x Copperline Gorge

Does anyone have any suggestions for Mart’s Allies list, and how he might be able to improve it? Bear in mind that the best suggestions are often those readily available (ie commons and uncommons), but don’t hesitate to suggest the right rare or mythic if something seems like a slam dunk!

24 Comments Post a comment
  1. Stric9 (aka Steve)
    Feb 13 2011

    Hey Mart,
    I meddled the Adventurers for FNM and it’s probably my favorite Standard deck right now. It’s definitely a good place to start. I’ll start off by saying that the ability of some of the allies to produce +1/+1 counters is a pretty solid answer to the Infection that’s going around these days. Firs strike is also critical. You might want to add an additional Oran-Rief Survivalist instead of the Puma. The Puma’s an expensive ally with no abilities. That Murasa Pyromancer is also really pricey. By the time you get there, you might be ready for a finishing Overrun/Overwhelming Stampede. I use Fireballs in my deck for their versatility. I see that you have 4 Copperline Gorges in your deck. Rootbound Crags are a great alternative because if you’re using msotly green and red, they will always come into play ready to be used.

    The hard part about this deck is that I find myself not doing anything the first turn. My answer to that is to add in white. White has incredible one and two drop Allies in Hada Freeblade (common) and Kazandu Blademaster (uncommon!). This certainly complicates the mana scheme a bit and I use Razorverge Thickets, Birds of Paradise, and Harabaz Druids to get that figured out. BUT, the mana fixers are rares so you might be better off with 4 Terramorphic Expanses and some Plains.

    I’ve said more than enough, but I really like some of the twists you’ve added to the deck, like artifact hate and use of your lands. Good luck!

    • Icehawk
      Feb 13 2011

      Quite a few 1 of’s. Definately look at your allies. Max out the better ones.

      Lets look at your allies. Just my take on them.

      The Archer Ally is weak unless you’re against a lot of flyers.

      Oran is far weaker than Blademaster, but you’d really have to rework your mana base for it. I’d consider making this a 4 of.

      The Ranger: I like. The wolf + a counter isn’t too shabby. You could do a lot worse for that mana. I’d consider getting at least 1 more. Try it out and see how it works.

      Bard: I don’t care for it. 1/4 is too weak. If it was a 3/3 or something and gave vigilance I’d consider it, but there are better options.

      Highland: Ally comes into play, all get first strike. For 2 mana? Wait, it’s a 2/1 too? This scream 4 of to me.

      Warlord: Meh. I’d rather play another ranger over it. Ranger gives you a wolf. This just sits there. Late game allies I want more out of it than this.

      Murasa: Again, late game and a little dull. All it does is destroy creatures. An ally deck I look at as a winnie deck. You want to flood the field with allies and thus making them huge. This just doesn’t seem to fit for me.

      Puma: Easily cuttable.

      Battlesinger: It’s fine, but Highland is better.

      Graypelt: Trample. It gets bigger the more allies you drop. I like it.

      Tuktuk: Something to side a few of for sure. Lots of artifacts out there! Depends on your meta if you want to main it or not.

      Vastwood: Could be a game ender. Sure, it’s only a 1/1. There are better choices perhaps but this isn’t that bad.

      Allies you don’t have:

      Harabaz Druid: 2 mana that taps for a bunch of any one color of mana. I think I’m in love. I’m imagining a super fireball right now. It’s a rare for a reason. It unlike Llanowar or Bird of Paradise would also trigger your other ally abilities. I give this lady a gold star. Worth considering a playset or 2 of.

      Hada and Blademaster: Superb white allies. If you decide to splash white, they will fight for a spot in the deck.

      That’s it really. It depends if you play it like a winnie deck or what. Is this casual or what? Allies seem to play like elf/soldier decks in general. Bascially winnie decks.

      Look at your curve. The lower your average cmc is, the less lands you really need. The more ramp you have the less you have to have.

      Terra and your dual land: I’m tempted to say you’d be better served by playing cards like Explore. Harrow. Rampant Growth even. Harmonize.

      Really it depends on what you do and where you want this deck to go. Green has a ton of ramp. I’d recommend looking into it and using it. That druid I mentioned might make a better on theme creature born mana ramp.

      I think I’ve rambled enough.

    • Icehawk
      Feb 13 2011

      Hmm. Didn’t mean to add it as a reply to Stric9’s post. Don’t recall clicking reply up there. Oh well.

  2. Morn
    Feb 13 2011

    I’m actually not familiar with the ally theme, though I’m getting some idea looking at the cards, but what I can help you with is advice on tightening up the deck as a whole.

    Firstly, let’s address your concerns about cmc and how to build a deck around it. The idea behind a deck’s “mana curve” has to do with how efficiently it plays and how often and easily it can play cards. For an aggressive deck, as this certainly seems to be, it’s important to be able to play threats to the opponent as often as possible. As far as your creatures go, you have the following number of cards at each converted mana cost.

    1: 0
    2: 8
    3: 3
    4: 3
    5+: 5

    What this means is that you can’t drop a creature first turn no matter what. Now your non-creature spells help a bit with the burn, to remove an opponent’s threat or hit the opponent directly, but still. It might help you to get some 1-cost creatures in there. Though they aren’t on theme, Llanowar Elves are useful because they provide both an attacking creature and extra green mana to power spells of higher costs. Furthermore, they are often targets for removal themselves, causing your opponent to waste a burn spell that might have hit something better. With decks cutting as close to 60 cards as possible, the more uses you can get out of a single card in the deck, the better. Steve mentioned Birds of Paradise, which trade the point of power for flying and the ability to produce mana of any color. If you can get them, they’ll also serve well, as they can accelerate both green and red.

    Secondly, I’m concerned with all the one-ofs you have in the deck. In general, you want to have a general idea of how your deck is going to play in any given game. This is what Ertai is talking about with his constant references to consistency. An aggressive deck seeks to win games as quickly as possible, before its opponent can bring threats to shut it down. As a result of this, you’re only going to see a few cards in your deck in any given game. You could draw Graypelt Hunter, which will help you win by making a large body over the few turns you or your opponent will win, or you could draw that Fog, which will keep you from losing for a turn. It’s important to keep in mind that, the more copies of a card you have, the more often you’ll draw a copy of that card.

    It is never my goal to tell anyone what cards they should or should not play, as I am not that player and, as such, can’t know their playing style (though obviously I’ll list options as above) What I can tell you is that, in general, cards that help aggro win are good, and cards that merely slow down the rate at which aggro loses are less good. So, when you tune the deck, ask yourself the following question about each card: “are you helping me beat my opponent, or are you merely slowing down the rate at which my opponent is beating me?” Cards that do the former, you want more, and cards that do the latter, you want less.

    I hope this wall of text was helpful. It’s a lot to read, but I’m confident that you’ll get the hang of deck building and then all this stuff will become second nature. Good luck!

  3. Diennea
    Feb 14 2011

    I second all the suggestion above me.
    I also play an ally deck with the same base as yours and I found it weak in the late turn if you get there, when you have close to nothing in hand and you can’t trigger the allies abilities. This is the moment you want to close the game as soon as possible. Fireball, as someone suggested before, or overrun if you have some creatures on the board, are both solid options.
    I’m in the process of trying Splinter Twin in my deck to always have an ally, but only because I found it in a booster pack. It may seem good to have an ally every turn to activate all the abilities, but it’s risky because it is an aura. If they kill your enchanted creature you lose two cards.
    While you play with your deck remember the cards that work better and consider to put 4 of them in there. Playing is always a nice way to understand your deck.

  4. Feb 14 2011

    I was really excited to see our next request be an Allies deck, because in the previous Standard season, Naya Allies was one of my two primary decks (the other being Cruel Control). The build was packed with Allies, with only rare exception (Ranger of Eos and Bloodbraid Elf), and had almost no spells (Naya Charm and Violent Outburst were about it). I wholeheartedly endorse the suggestion to consider White, which actually brings better options than Red does on an Ally-to-Ally basis. The Hada Freeblade is a solid one-drop (a 1/2 to start for one mana), Kazandu Blademaster is a must-have… while I don’t usually go in for lifegain, some of the life swings I’d hit with the Ondu Cleric bordered on the obscene (20 life? Yes please!). If you want to try for a rare, Kabira Evangel is a game-ender against a good number of decks. I’ve had some brutal success with him, and against mono-colour decks it’s almost unfair.

    White would also let you try out Join the Ranks, the Ally version of Master’s Call. Allies tend to be very straightforward, you don’t get a lot of tricks with them because they trigger off of creature casting, so it’s limited to your main phases. Join the Ranks gives some opportunity for instant-speed trickery. I didn’t run them in my competitive deck, but for casual they’re a solid option.

    The rares for this deck are rather solid, although both top-out your curve. Turntimber Ranger gives you more bodies for the Overrun, while the Kazuul Warlord can be very frustrating for your opponent by adding +1/+1 counters to all your Allies. I wouldn’t discount him. For the other Red inclusions, I’d agree with scrapping the Pyromancer- too expensive.

    Allies is much like RDW in that it is dependant upon a fast start and overwhelming presence to win. Stall out or take too long, and momentum is in jeopardy of slowing to a crawl and tipping in your opponent’s favour while you pray to topdeck the Overrun. With their cheap cost and aggressive curve, this gives you plenty of room for a swarm of allies, but you need to build heavily for creatures to sustain that. Having a 50/50 split of creatures and noncreatures won’t consistently get you the explosive starts the deck can be capable of, and force mulligans (or suboptimal keeps) when you get hands with only one or maybe two Allies in them. I personally would recommend the Akoum Battlesinger over the Highland Berserker if you’re going to optimise for the early rush- it can be a serious advantage and I loved drawing her in my opener. I’d be more inclined towards the first-strikers if I was going to build a slower Ally build. To be fair, three colours is probably one colour too many now. I could do it before with Alara’s tri-colour shardlands and Zendikar’s rare fetches. Building on a budget won’t give you the broad base you’d need for three-colour explosions, but should be fine for two-colour.

  5. mart
    Feb 14 2011

    first lemme say how excited i am to be the subject of the very first “official” whisper! woohoo! as fate would have it it’s come during a frenetic week in my life so i haven’t been able to sit down and comment like a madman though i really want to. if you’re reading this, do me a favor and check back in on it once or twice before the week is up before it gets buried and forgotten? i should have time to reply by then.

    this is my first experience with allies. the 60 cards i threw together on tappedout was simply what i had in my binder to augment the 41 card deck, so i realise it was singleton chaos. i picked up cards to finish playsets of graypelt hunter, oran rief survivalist, highland berserker, akoum battlesinger and the bard just cause they seemed most useful and reasonably priced.

    when i sat down to play, my stepson piloted the phyrexian deck from phyrexia vs the coalition against it. that deck just crushed me over and over again and i began to question the legitimacy of allies. he got bored of beating me and switched to “path of blight” and then the tables turned. my allies pumped each other up and put up a great defense against all those infect creatures! first strike REALLY rocks against infect.

    i think the lack of a turn one (or even two) play hurt me too bad against the mono black deck. splashing for white is interesting and there are some great white allies for sure. i’ll look into that next. also getting the harabaz druid involved to help get that extra mana… i think i’m going to err on the side of the lower CMC folks and try to get them pumped up. the artifact hate might move to sideboard just in case this deck goes with me to an FNM. so much great info thus far! thanks to you all. i’m going to digest it and come back with round two soon.

    • Stric-9
      Feb 14 2011

      Hey, what is you screen name on tappedout? Mine is stric9. It’s nice to be able to see what other precon enthusiasts are doing.

      • mart
        Feb 14 2011


  6. Icehawk
    Feb 16 2011

    I take back my comments about Warlord. I didn’t read the card fully. I assumed it was the usual ally ability making it just a big Hada Freeblade, but it isn’t! It puts a counter on all your allies. Now that is rock’n!

  7. Feb 16 2011

    Forgot to mention… I don’t like too many spell cards here- you need to cram a stream of Allies down your opponent’s throat… but the new Lead the Stampede is a fantastic option for refilling the hand. In aggro strats, there often comes a time when you start to run out of gas. I don’t know that I’d go more than two of these, but definitely food for thought!

    • Icehawk
      Feb 16 2011

      So true. Though I will say allies makes Elf and Soldier decks jealous. I mean, seriously. You drop an ally. It pops every other ally’s effect. Talk about a bang for your mana. It doesn’t take much make them crazy.

      Really stinks for your opponent if they have no mass removal.

      • Diennea
        Feb 16 2011

        I don’t know about soldier, but Elf are a blast with all their lords and the lorwyn elves. They also got their own planeswalker, how I hate them.

    • mart
      Feb 16 2011

      jay: what DO you like for spells? i was thinking of keepig the bolts, vines of vastwood and assault strobes. i wasn’t sure about getting rid of the giant growth/overrun/overwhelming stampedes but they seemed so expensive and if my allies are doing their job, they shouldn’t NEED the trample, though it can be sweet when it happens.

      • Feb 16 2011

        Just off the cuff, I’d keep 4x Lightning Bolts, possibly 2x Join the Ranks (if White), 2x Lead the Stampede, and maybe 2x Arc Trail or some other supplemental burn. Overrun really is a game-ender in a swarm deck, though, and I’d see how it ran before cutting it. That’s it- lean and tight. My Naya Allies build had 8 spell slots as I recall, and the Violent Outbursts were there just because they hit a sweet cascade curve between Bloodbraid Elf and many of the Allies.

  8. mart
    Feb 16 2011

    can anyone explain how to use’s playtest thing? is it basically like shadowboxing? or am i supposed to be trying it out against something/anything?

    i’ve taken a second stab at the deck on my tappedout account but some quick “playtesting” on that site turned up a bunch of SLOOOOW starts. i’m still tweaking. i DID add the white though and tried to go only for the allies who pumped others up.

    • Icehawk
      Feb 16 2011

      You know you may want to look at Ancient Ziggurat. Works wonders in the sliver deck. That and the Naya tri color land. Should really help stabilize your mana base. I’d be tempted to use them over terramporhic expanse.

    • Stric9 (aka Steve)
      Feb 17 2011

      The playtesting is just as you described it; a way to shuffle the deck quickly, see what you would get in hand and how it would play out over the next several turns. Unfortunately, there is no program for actually playing the deck against something except on Magic Online. (And you have to pay for that and the cards you play with.)

  9. Feb 16 2011

    Something to bear in mind… Arthur Halavais (@AHalavais) has been testign with this for Standard. Not sure how competitive you want it, Mart, but if you want an FNM-worthy deck there may be something here. Halavais says that Tuktuk Scrapper is very strong, and ALlies might be a contending deck type. Probably tier 2, but still…

  10. Diennea
    Feb 17 2011

    What do you think about Garruk? It got an Overrun effect as his last ability.

    • Feb 17 2011

      Garruk has really stood the test of time to be one of the best walkers Wizards has designed to date. I wouldn’t dissuade anyone from adding him- he ramps, adds bodies, distracts your opponent, and overruns. What more could you ask for?

    • mart
      Feb 17 2011

      a good idea, especially since there’s a garruk in my boy’s binder. now i just need to figure out a trade he’ll go for.

  11. Icehawk
    Mar 22 2011

    How’s the deck going? Preforming? How are people reacting to it?

    I keep considering making one but can see how playing against it would stop being fun very quickly if it’s built right.

    Garruk is fine, but I think you’d be using him more as a decoy with his abilities as a bonus.

    I had the idea of using Mind Spring today. IF you use the druid for mana, that’s another card you could totally abuse. With enough allies out, you could pop it, tap out, and empty your hands again odds are.


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