Friends Don’t Let Friends Play Faceless Butcher in the Sideboard – A Self Help Seminar

We have a question from the young man in the front row. Oh, you think I’m wrong? Tell you what, kid. Did you bring your deck with you? Great. Come up here for minute. Let me see it. Is your sideboard in here? Good. Let’s see… Chrome Mox… no win condition in the main… Orim’s Chant in the board… Faceless Butcher in the board… kid, you have problems. Where did you find this thing?

A website, eh. I think someone sold you a bill of goods.

If everyone would please take his seat we can get started.*

Okay, everyone who is not going to run Aluren for the last Extended qualifier stand up. There’s a lot of you. Good for you. Now, leave. That’s right, scram. No, you can’t have your money back.

Could everyone who is left stand up. Great. Now, could everyone who has run Aluren in the past raise his hand? Excellent. You five guys come up here with me. There’s cake, coffee, and ice cream offstage by those supermodels. Have at it.

That still leaves all the rest of you.

Could everyone who really, really loves playing combo raise his hand? Great, all of you can sit down. Most of the crowd is still standing, I see. How many of you heard about Aluren as some sort of unexpected tech for this environment by a random pro or something similar? How many of you have been told that Aluren is the”forgotten combo” that might just earn your slot for Kobe? All of you, huh? Great. All you please hit yourselves in the head with a board. All of you are sheep. Sheep shouldn’t play combo. Just for grins, I’m going to split you into two groups so that you have something else to play, all righty?

All of you like the idea of winning in one turn raise your hand. Good. All of you go home and build Psychatog. Now. The rest of you can play The Rock or Scepter/Chant or something. None of you need to play Aluren.

We have a question from the young man in the front row. Oh, you think I’m wrong? Tell you what, kid. Did you bring your deck with you? Great. Come up here for minute. Let me see it. Is your sideboard in here? Good. Let’s see… Chrome Mox… no win condition in the main… Orim’s Chant in the board… Faceless Butcher in the board… kid, you have problems. Where did you find this thing?

A website, eh. I think someone sold you a bill of goods.

I’ll start with the mana.

Chrome Mox. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lay awake at night thinking”Gosh, if only there was a way I could voluntarily rip a card out my opening hand when I play combo. That would be the best thing ever.” Look, I understand it generates speed, but at what cost? Which card should I imprint on my jewelry: The combo piece or the tutor? Which one, kid?

While we’re on the subject of that decision, let’s go back a step and talk about the most important decision of the game – whether or not to take a mulligan. I can guarantee that you will be seeing your fair share of Paris with this deck. Do you really need to make that first decision more complicated by throwing Mox into the mix? Just how pleased will you be to see Chrome Mox when you only have six cards and you’re playing first? How about five?

Oh, you don’t have a problem with mulligans. Your decision-making is flawless. The more complex the puzzle, the easier it is for you to see the answer. Kid, may I suggest you play Turboland?

Chrome Mox is a fine card… for Psychatog and Red Deck Wins. If you run it, it’s going to hurt you in as many games as it helps you. You’re going to come back from Parising to five with only one card needed to win, but that card is going to be sitting under your Mox. Mark my words.

What did you say, kid? Mox guarantees you mana after you’ve gone off? True, once you’ve drawn your deck you can play any spare Moxen and thereby have more mana available. That is a useful thing. No argument. Let me ask you this. Why do you need mana after you’ve gone off? Oh, Living Wish. A single Cloud of Faeries solves that problem, and does so at instant speed. Actually, I have a problem with the entire”need” for Living Wish after going off, but I’ll get to that later.

Play Chrome Mox if you think you must, kid. I’ll stick with twenty-two or twenty-three land and be happier for it.

Let me look at your sideboard again.

Umm… Faceless Butcher? Can you explain this? No, he isn’t a good choice. How often do you expect to see yourself able to Wish for him and cast him on the same turn? That’s six mana total, and two of it must be Black. Look at your mana base carefully before answering that question. Butcher is too slow.

I understand you want to have some insurance against Stronghold Taskmaster or other random nastykins. May I suggest Urborg Emissary? You can play it using Aluren’s effect and just pay the kicker cost to bounce any unwanted crap back to your opponent’s hand. The card has more synergy with your enchantment, and the kicker cost is easier on the mana wallet and gentler with the color requirements. Let me also point out that it is a solution to any problem permanent, not just creatures. There usually isn’t any reason to get rid of them before it’s time to win, anyway.

One last thing about the Butcher: If you have four mana available and the best thing you can do with it is put one creature into play you have more problems than the nightmare can solve. Seriously. For those of you who feel you must have a four-mana critter to Wish for (aside from Academy Rector), please use Masticore. Let’s get as much bang for the buck as we can.

What is this? A single copy of Naturalize? Did I miss something? Are you running four copies of Cunning Wish? I didn’t think so. A single copy of an instant spell that doesn’t win the game is useless is your board. I don’t care who told you it was a good idea, kid. It isn’t. You can’t Wish for it in the first game, and you can’t tutor for it after boarding it in. Leave it at home.

Oh, this is getting worse. Please tell me you didn’t pay for this list, kid.

Two copies of Orim’s Chant? Orim’s freaking Chant? No, I Don’t Think It Should Be Three Copies.

Orim’s Chant is a must-counter. That’s good. It can help shut down Isochron Scepter. Also good. But we have other ways of getting around Scepter, if need be. Remember, we only have to get around it once, either to destroy it or to win the game. I think one doesn’t have to look too hard to find other cards that could take up the slots that would be as useful as Chant. Duress comes to mind. So does Stifle. Actually, Stifle can solve far more problems for us than Orim’s Chant can. Stifle can protect our non-basic lands from Wasteland or Dust Bowl. It can stop Rishadan Port from tapping down Hickory Woodlot on upkeep. It can answer Pernicious Deed. It can counter anything under Isochron Scepter. It can counter Madness and Storm triggers. It can counter the trigger from Tangle Wire. It can prevent anything from being Imprinted on Mox or Scepter. It helps us deal with Chalice of the Void**.

It can even become LD for us it we want to target a fetchland’s ability, but that’s pushing things. It’s also Blue, which is more in line with the mana base than White is. I won’t say Orim’s Chant is useless or a bad choice, but there is a stronger choice available.

Use Stifle. Let Orim do her chanting elsewhere. And run three, at least. That single Naturalize wasn’t doing you much good, either, so now you have room.

What else do you have in this board… Academy RectorRaven FamiliarSoul WardenMaggot CarrierUktabi OrangutanMonk Realist… those are all fine. Let’s see… City of BrassCrystal Vein… okay, a quick note on these. I would make a choice here, one or the other. I’m a big fan of City of Brass in the board because I am more frightened of missing a color than I am of missing mana, but that’s a personal bias. I have no math to back that up. But two slots out of fifteen taken up by land is at least one too many, in my opinion.

Okay, you also have Gilded Drake in here. Fine, fine. Mesmeric Fiend? Meh, okay. Kinda clever. Brings up a point, though. Many of you out there may be under the impression that you can strip your opponent’s entire hand bouncing Mesmeric Fiend with Cavern Harpy. That’s true. It begs two questions.

First question: Why haven’t you stripped your opponent’s hand already? That’s why the Almighty made Cabal Therapy. (Lo, he gave it Flashback, and it was good. Amen.)

Second question: If you are in a position to do bouncing tricks, why aren’t you busy winning the game instead of dorking around with your opponent’s hand? What do you think he has in there that’s going to hurt you? Most decks are going to have done what they can to shut you down before you start going off. There are exceptions to that, but those exceptions can be taken care of without bouncing Mesmeric Fiend. One hit is usually enough.

Speaking of dorking around, let’s talk about the need to play Living Wish once you’ve gone off with the draw combo. Frankly, I don’t like it. I am in the minority on this one, but I always carry one Maggot Carrier in the main deck so I don’t have to go find it later. Why? Because I don’t feel like letting the stack get empty, that’s why. Here’s an example.

The Rock is my foe. Pernicious Deed is on the table, and there are plenty of untapped forests and swamps. I am holding my draw combo (Cavern Harpy and Raven Familiar). I also have the Monk Realist that I have retrieved via Living Wish. I play Aluren. Now, I play Monk Realist to force him to blow the Deed. He either blows enough to take out Aluren himself, or he blows it for a lesser amount to force the Realist’s ability to target Aluren. Either way, I’d rather not let the stack resolve down to that point if I can help it.

Having a Maggot Carrier in the main means I don’t have to do so. There are other ways to approach the problem (generate the mana necessary by bouncing Cloud of Faeries, play Living Wish and a new Aluren), but those options are not always available. My own preference is to win at instant speed.

Let me add that keeping the sole copy of your win condition in the board moves Living Wish from the”very useful tutor” category to the”absolutely necessary to win the game” category. There are enough cards in that camp as it is. Adding one more isn’t necessary. Maggot Carrier is obviously a dead card if you draw it before you’re ready to win, but I’ll take the unpleasant trade off.

Sit down, kid. That goes for the rest of you. See, I told you. You’ve been standing the whole time I’ve been talking because I didn’t tell you to sit down. I’m not even anybody important and you did what I said. Sheep.

Okay, let’s talk about the match-ups for a minute. How many of you can name Aluren’s good match-ups? Anyone? You, in the back. No, Psychatog is not a good match-up.

This match-up is often described as if the only thing Psychatog has going for it is counterspells. Can you say Duress, children? I knew you could. Psychatog has hand disruption and counters. It also has instant speed removal for creatures with a casting cost of three or less. It has card drawing and tutoring to make sure it can find those things. Now it has an artifact that lets it play most of that every turn. What good can come from that, people? None. So here’s the deal. You have to use your hand disruption to deal with their counters and disruption. It’s not exactly a fair fight, and you don’t get to start punching early. You won’t be going off as fast as you like in this match, but a long game is death. Anyone who tells you differently doesn’t know the match-up. Don’t burn Uktabi on the Isochron Scepter if Stifle will do the job. An early Isochron Scepter is not game over unless Orim’s Chant is under it. Be patient and wait for your opportunity. Watch out for Engineered Plague after sideboarding.

Anyone else think they know a good match-up for Aluren? You… The Rock? No, ‘fraid not.

The Rock may be your best match-up of the control decks, but to call it good would be misleading. This is a battle of hand disruption. Your biggest problems beyond that are Pernicious Deed, Naturalize, and Bone Shredder. Add Engineered Plague to that list after sideboarding. Urborg Shambler and Stronghold Taskmaster are not likely to see play in most lists, but there is always one somewhere in the room.

Did someone say Red Deck Wins?

Red Deck does win. All the time. Wasteland is not your friend. Pillage is not your friend. Tangle Wire is not your friend. To make matters worse, Seal of Fire and Grim Lavamancer are not your friends. Playing against RDW with Aluren is playing against a control deck that has you on a fast, fast clock. The good news is if your opponent doesn’t know that, you win with a decent draw. The bad news is most of them do know that.

I heard someone say U/G Madness. You get the gold star.

This one isn’t too bad. Their counter count is low, and you can often use Stifle to win a counter war. Naturalize, Gilded Drake, and Ray of Revelation are your main problems beyond that. Well, that and being on a fast clock.

Mind’s Desire?

Good match-up, but not as good as before the bannings. Stifle them if they start going off before you.

I would like to leave you all of you with some words of wisdom that you can take with you throughout your lives as some sort of guide. Unfortunately, I have no such words to offer. But I can tell you that playing Aluren this weekend is not the way to go if you don’t know the deck inside and out. Just to be clear, that excludes all you net decking a sideboard that contains Faceless Butcher.

If you feel you must play Aluren this weekend, play it smart. Don’t make things complicated. Play cards that solve more problems than they create. Friends don’t let friends play Faceless Butcher in the sideboard. Stifling is more useful than Chanting. Single copies of instant spells are useless. Look both ways before crossing the street. Wrap that rascal. Buy cards from StarCityGames.

Stick with what you know.

Pale Mage.

*(Sorry, ma’am. I claim oppression by the rules of grammar. I’m aware there are women in the room. Please, take your seat.)

**A quick review of the Chalice of the Void problem.

Chalice of the Void reads as follows:

Chalice of the Void



Chalice of the Void comes into play with X charge counters on it.

Whenever a player plays a spell with converted mana cost equal to the number of charge counters on Chalice of the Void, counter that spell.

Bottom line: Chalice of the Void has a triggered ability. It does not prevent you from playing any spell with the converted mana cost equal to the number of charge counters on the Chalice. It just counters them.

If Chalice is set for one, play Living Wish for Uktabi Orangutan and play him. No Stifle is necessary.

If Chalice is set for two, play Living Wish for Uktabi Orangutan, respond to the Chalice’s trigger by playing Stifle targeting the trigger, and play Uktabi Orangutan.

If Chalice is set for three, play Living Wish for Uktabi Orangutan, play him, respond to the Chalice’s trigger by playing Stifle targeting the trigger. (A Chalice for three can be played around depending on the situation, though. Often it must be destroyed.)

If Chalice is set for four, play Aluren (or Academy Rector), respond to the Chalice’s trigger by playing Stifle targeting the trigger.