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Allied Forces

Allied Forces

One of the best things about Ixalan being a tribal set is seeing how all of the new tribal cards interact with creature types outside of the ones in the set. There are definitely some solid new cards for Modern Merfolk, such as Kopala, Warden of Waves, and there are even enough new Vampires to make a BW Vampire deck reasonable. However, I like thinking outside the box when it comes to tribal strategies because there’s so much room to explore and develop ideas. Cards like Unclaimed Territory and Vanquisher’s Banner get me giddy thinking of all the decks I could support with those cards. But of all the tribal support cards in Ixalan, the one that grabbed my attention the most was Arcane Adaptation. While this effect already exists in Modern, with Xenograft and Conspiracy, this is the cheapest this effect has ever been to cast.


There is an infinite combo in Modern with Arcane Adaptation, and it’s all thanks to a creature type that has been pushed considerably every time we see it. Allies have been a fringe Modern archetype since the early days of Zendikar, and with each return to the plane they get even more cards to work with. Unlike Slivers, which they were initially modeled after, Allies trigger off of other Allies entering the battlefield, rather than static bonuses like their predecessors. This gives them a serious advantage since they don’t rely on the other Allies sticking around. It also means that they can get multiple uses out of their effects rather than a single static boost. So where does Arcane Adaptation fit into all this? Aren’t Ally decks already all Allies to begin with?

Turntimber Ranger was a fringe playable creature in draft that makes Wolf tokens whenever it or another Ally enters the battlefield. While you could typically net three or four wolves back in the day, it was largely forgotten in favour of fancier Allies like Halimar Excavator or Hagra Diabolist. However, an Arcane Adaptation in play set to Ally gives us a way to get infinite tokens and infinite enter the battlefield triggers. By turning your wolves into Allies, they’ll trigger Turntimber Ranger when they enter the battlefield, which creates more Wolf/Allies, which creates more Wolf/Allies, which creates more so on and so forth. This gives us infinite enter the battlefield triggers, so with another Ally with an EtB effect in play we can usually win the game on the spot.


In order to really abuse Turntimber Ranger, we need Allies that can trigger over and over. One of the cheapest and most powerful Allies is Halimar Excavator. This card gives us a defensive body as well as a way to repeatedly mill the opponent until they deck out. This gives us plenty of disruptive power since it can mess with opposing scry effects, or even mill necessary combo pieces. On the other hand, Ondu Cleric is the perfect card against aggressive decks since it helps keep our life total healthy before we gain infinite life. Finally, Hagra Diabolist just kills the opponent outright when we go infinite, and can even get kills by steadily playing out multiple small Allies for a bunch of triggers.

Since so much of the deck hinges on five-drops, we need a fair amount of ramp to get us going. As such, I’ve elected to include full sets of Birds of Paradise, Beastcaller Savant, and Harabaz Druid to accelerate our game plan. Normally I would include Noble Hierarch, but due to budget constraints and the fact that Noble Hierarch only taps for three colours compared to the five colours of the other options, I feel like we aren’t missing much. Beastcaller Savant and Harabaz Druid are also Allies, so should we need to we can use them to get additional triggers if we have to go on a grinding plan.


Rounding out the deck are Jwari Shapeshifter, General Tazri, Chasm Guide, Kazuul Warlord, and Xenograft. Jwari Shapeshifter acts as additional copies of any Ally we have in play, which effectively gives us double the triggers should we need them in a longer game. General Tazri gives us a bit of reach by tutoring out whatever Ally we need to win, which more often than not is Turntimber Ranger. This also allows us to shave off slots for some of our win conditions since we can just tutor them up. Chasm Guide gives us a way to attack right away when we combo off by giving all of our creatures haste, while Kazuul Warlord puts +1/+1 counters on each of our creatures when an Ally enters the battlefield, so we can make our team infinitely large with very little effort. Finally, as a means of backing up Arcane Adaptation, I’ve opted to run a pair of Xenograft to make it even easier to go off.

While the sideboard is still rough, I wanted to include cards that could fight off faster decks like Affinity while also having answers for slower control strategies. Tuktuk Scrapper is a powerful anti-artifact tool that can also act as a win condition on its own since it also deals damage equal to the number of Allies we control when it blows up an artifact. In addition, Seal of Primordium gets the nod over options like Nature’s Claim and Ancient Grudge because we can just let it sit there and force the opponent to play around it, rather than always holding up mana for an instant. Pithing Needle is also a necessity for stopping the various planeswalkers that can ruin our day, as well as any shutting off any manlands they opponent may have.

For slower matches, Impact Tremors and the full set of Negate can make or break games. Impact Tremors is a way of getting around Leyline of Sanctity. Because it specifies each opponent, we can deal damage to our opponent when we combo off even through a Leyline, which can’t be said for Halimar Excavator or Hagra Diabolist. Negate, conversely, acts as both protection against combo decks like Scapeshift and Ad Nauseum while also giving us a way to force through our Allies against opposing countermagic. While we do have Cavern of Souls to help in this regard, we don’t always draw one when we need it, so we need alternate means of sticking our threats.

While I don’t see this deck dominating the tournament scene, the deck has been an absolute blast to play. Having several avenues of attack in a creature-oriented deck gives you a flexibility you just don’t get with other tribal decks, which tend to be more linear in nature. Every creature builds on the others until you end up with a veritable tidal wave of value. What I love most about the deck is that because there are so many different Allies, the kinds of effects you can run are entirely up to personal preference, so if you have a pet Ally you want to try out, you can toss it into the deck and it will still perform as normal. So if the concept of infinite tokens, infinite life gain, infinite mill, or infinite life loss sound intriguing to you, Adaptable Allies is a fun way to play.