I Nailed Two of The Dixie Chicks Before Anyone Knew Who They Were *Top 8*

“I figured since most of the legal cards are from far before I started playing, I should stand on the shoulders of giants this time around.”
“So what giants did you stand on the shoulders of?”
“The French.”
“Bold choice, man.”

“Hey, Jack.”

“Yeah, dude?”

“I think Extended may be my new favorite format.”


Oh, yeah. I don’t know why, but I’m having more fun playing this qualifier season than I have since I started this habit.”

“Cool, man. Do tell.”

“Well, I wasn’t sure I’d like Extended at all. I don’t really have a deep enough card pool to support it. I didn’t want to sit the season out, though. In the end, I decided it wouldn’t be in my best interests to take time off.”

“Yeah, I can see your point. You’ve been talkin’ a lot about tightening up your game. If you don’t play, then you’ve been blowin’ sunshine up your own skirt. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but you should be honest with yourself, you know?”

“Exactly, Jack. Exactly. You seem pretty agreeable today.”

“Hey, I’m just going with the flow, brother. It’s a new year. So you did what – made one of your janky piles that can’t win but is fun to play?”

“No. I decided to find a competitive deck that looked fun to play and build it. I figured since most of the legal cards are from far before I started playing I should stand on the shoulders of giants this time around.”

“Not that there’s anything wrong with that, dude.”

“Indeed, Jack. And it isn’t like my decks are truly original creations. More often than not, they’re just amateurish spins on an existing archetype.”

“True, dude. What you lack in innovation, you more than make up for with incompetence.”



“I hate you.”

“So what giants did you stand on the shoulders of?”

“The French.”

“Bold choice, man.”

“Thanks. I decided to play Aluren.”

“Nice name. What’s it do? Smash face? Lock the bad guy down?”

“Neither. It’s a combo deck. You put Aluren in play and then a bunch of cheap creatures with comes into play effects. Ultimately, the kill comes as the result of a Maggot Carrier that is played again and again and again. Read this if you want a more detailed explanation of Aluren in general.”


“Yeah. I freakin’ love it.”

“You would.”

“I had been thinking of playing Aluren or Suicide Black. Suicide Black looked fun, but it looked like an autoloss to Sligh.”

“You mean it looked that way on paper, right? You didn’t proxy it up and playtest it, did you?”

“Remember who you’re talking to here, Jack. Playtesting is for people who want to be good at this game. I just want to not suck.”

“So long as we are both clear on that point, sir. Please continue.”

“I read a lot of Aluren decklists, most notably the three Aluren decks that made the second day of play at Grand Prix: Reims.”***

“Wow. That’s like more research than you’ve ever put into anything in your life.”

“I know. And I still didn’t have a decklist of my own until the morning of my first PTQ for Venice.”

AlurenPale Mage PTQ Venice December 14, 2002.

4 Birds of Paradise (a recent purchase from the good people at Starcitygames.com)

4 Aluren

2 Wall of Blossoms

1 Wall of Mulch

3 Wirewood Savage

4 Living Wish

3 Soul Warden

3 Cavern Harpy

3 Brainstorm

4 Intuition

1 Stroke of Genius

1 Cloud of Faeries

1 Maggot Carrier

3 Cabal Therapy

2 Swamp

2 Island

8 Forest

4 Hickory Woodlot

1 Skycloud Expanse

2 Sungrass Prairie

4 Polluted Delta

“Dude, what about your sideboard?”

“It’s almost too embarrassing to speak of. Let me just say this: I was having such difficulty finding a Monk Realist from my local merchants that I had to run an Aven Cloudchaser.”

“That’s harsh, dude.”

“Yes, it is. But you know what? During my scrambles to find that card, I got a decent read on the metagame for my area. Treetop Village sold out. Vampiric Tutor sold out. A couple of Oath of Druids available. No trouble finding a Cursed Scroll if you’d like one.”

“So that means what, exactly?”

“It means a lot of The Rock and His Millions.”

“Yeah? That’s a control deck, right?”


“Is that a good matchup for your Aluren deck?”

“The Rock can be an honest-to-God pain for Aluren.”


“Oh yeah. Duress, Cabal Therapy, and Pernicious Deed. Loads of fun. Once game two is under way, Engineered Plague and Stronghold Taskmaster just ruin the day.”

“So how do you handle that?”

“Cabal Therapy and Brainstorm are for the hand disruption. Try to disrupt him first. If your foe does play Duress or its cousins, respond with Brainstorm.”

“That doesn’t sound like enough.”

“It can be. Sometimes it is. As long as you have Living Wish, you have a way to find answers for Deed, Plague, or Taskmaster. Monk Realist can force an opponent to activate the Deed. Obviously, it can take care of Engineered Plague. The only answer to Stronghold Taskmaster or Urborg Shambler is Urborg Emissary. Even when played for free, you can still pay the kicker cost.”


“Anyway, The Rock is tough. Probably the only tougher matchup is Oath.”

“Why is Oath tough?”

“Counters. Plain and simple.”


“Anyway, as far as matchup info goes, there’s a spreadsheet that is more useful than anything I could ever tell you.”

“Why don’t you just tell me about the tourney?”

“Here is everything you need to know about the PTQ. First round, game one, turn three. The combo goes off.”


“I was in love. Of course, my opponent crushed me in the next two games, but I barely noticed.”

“Your first game was the highlight of your day?”

“Sort of. Actually, I won at least one game in every match until round seven. But I finished the day at 2-5.”

“And you like this deck? It takes you out behind the woodshed and leaves you at 2-5?”

“Technically, 1-5. I had a bye at one point because everyone else who was losing as much as I was had already dropped.”

“Dude, sometimes I worry about you so much I can’t sleep nights.”

“Jack, you don’t sleep.”

“Good point.”

“Hey, I figured if the deck wanted to go off even when the build was obviously terrible, if I tweaked it to look more like what the pros ran in France, I might win a few more matches.”

“So you went out and bought yourself a Monk Realist.”

“And a couple of other things. Behold!”

AlurenPale Mage GP trial New Orleans December 21, 2002.

4 Birds of Paradise

4 Aluren

2 Wall of Blossoms

1 Wall of Mulch

2 Wirewood Savage

4 Living Wish

2 Soul Warden

3 Cavern Harpy

3 Brainstorm

4 Intuition

1 Cloud of Faeries

2 Raven Familiar

1 Vodalian Merchant

1 Maggot Carrier

3 Cabal Therapy

1 Swamp

3 Island

8 Forest

4 Hickory Woodlot

4 Polluted Delta

3 City of Brass


1 Academy Rector

1 Monk Realist

1 Soul Warden

2 True Believer

1 Sphere of Law

1 Test of Endurance

1 Cavern Harpy

1 Silver Drake

1 Pernicious Deed

1 Uktabi Orangutan

1 Wirewood Savage

1 Maggot Carrier

1 Urborg Emissary

1 City of Brass

“You know, I meant to ask, dude. Why the Wall of Mulch?”

“Because I was unable to locate a third Wall of Blossoms. It was as close as I could get. Occasionally it has worked out so that I get one more draw.”

“How’s that?”

“Drop the Wall of Mulch, drop the Wall of Blossoms (draw), pay green and sac the Wall of Blossoms (draw), pay green and sac the Wall of Mulch (draw).”

“Oh, I see. As opposed to drop Wall of Blossoms (draw), drop Wall of Blossoms (draw).”

“Exactly. I would rather have the third Wall of Blossoms, though.”

“Dude, I noticed you dropped the Stroke of Genius.”


“So why run the single Cloud of Faeries?”

“I wouldn’t – except it cycles, so it’s never a dead card. I think of it as a placeholder. It keeps my deck at sixty cards. It swaps out for an enchantment after game one if necessary, and when the stars line up just right in January, it facilitates a turn 2 kill.”

“I don’t know, man. If I were you, I might drop it for a fourth Brainstorm.”

“Well, thanks for the insight, Jack. You don’t mind if I ignore you since you don’t actually play Magic, do you?”

“Not at all. I’m just sayin’. Brainstorm helps defend against hand disruption and digs into your deck. Seems like a good trade for a never-going-to-happen second turn kill.”

“Do I really talk so much about Magic you can just rattle that off as if you have experience?”

“‘Fraid so, my friend. You are one talkative S.O.B. when you are obsessed.”

“Sorry about that. If it is any consolation, my second Extended tournament went much better than my first. The deck performed better, and I made fewer mistakes than I think I ever have during the course of a day.”

“Good for you, dude.”

“The tourney was very close to Christmas, so there was a lower turnout than usual. Also, Grand Prix trials tend to draw fewer folks in my area than PTQs, so this was a really small crowd for us. The tournament site was a new shop in town. It’s actually in the city instead of out in the ‘burbs, so that may also have kept a few folks home. Long story short, there were five rounds of Swiss before the cut to top eight.”

“That’s not a lot of rounds.”

“Nope. And of the few of us that show up, there is a high level of skill. Many of the faces I am used to seeing across the room at the low-numbered tables are present. This should be fun, but tough.”

“So how did your newly tweaked pile of cardboard perform?”

“My first match of the day is against The Rock. I don’t think my opponent knows Aluren very well. I get the combo off without too much trouble despite having to mulligan to six.”


“Game two I mulligan to five. I win, but it’s close.”

“Good deal, dude.”

“My second match was also against The Rock. My opponent was better prepared to handle me than my previous foe. I pull out the first game when he can’t find disruption. Game two, he has Duress and Cabal Therapy, but I have Brainstorm and he just keeps missing his guess.”

“So that makes you two and oh going into round three?”

“Yup. Miracles do happen.”

“Dude, sounds like you’re rolling.”

“Well, my third match puts a stop to that. I go up against an Oath of Druids deck, and he wrecks me in the first game.”

“Hey, there’s always game two, muchacho.”

“Game two should have been the end of the match.”

“Why? What happened?”

“Check it out: The Oath player has Pernicious Deed on the table and oodles of untapped lands. Aluren and Wirewood Savage are on the table. I am holding a single Cavern Harpy. My only chance is if my opponent doesn’t blow the Deed while Cavern Harpy is on the stack. I play Cavern Harpy. My opponent thinks for a second, and allows it to resolve. I draw a Living Wish from Wirewood Savage’s triggered ability.”


“I know. I Wish for the harpy in my ‘board, and from there I’m gold.”

“Wait, dude. How does that work?”

“I play the Cavern Harpy again. My opponent blows the Deed while the harpy is on the stack. I play the second Cavern Harpy, and just keep my combo going at instant speed. The Pernicious Deed’s ability never resolves.”

“Dude, that’s wild.”

“I got lucky. I must say it’s nice to win a game off of someone’s mistake. I’m normally on the other end of that deal. Our third game barely saw the light of day before time was called. It ended in a draw, but I felt lucky to come away with that.”

“So that puts you at two, oh, and one, right?”

“Yup. I’d really like a win. I don’t get it. Another Oath deck in the hands of a very good player. Counterspells and Mana Leaks and Force Spikes, oh my.”

“That sucks, dude.”

“Yeah. I think counterspells wreck me more than hand disruption does. I got plenty of hand disruption in the first game, but he could always draw into a counter if he needed it. Fact or Fiction, Accumulated Knowledge – you name it.”

“Poor baby.”

“Shut up, Jack. Hey, interesting side note. Every single deck I’ve played up until this point is running Treetop Village. In fact, most of my life points have been lost to that damn card.”

“Let’s nominate Treetop Village the unofficial MVP of the Extended qualifier season.”

“Consider it done.”

“All right, dude. Where were you?”

“Going into the fifth and final round of Swiss. My day so far has been Rock, Rock, Oath, Oath. This round I’m paired up against a guy I had played a week earlier in a PTQ. The last time we met, he was playing Angry Hermit, but I doubt that’s what he’s brought for this trial.”

“Why not?”

“His results weren’t that good. As it turns out, he’s playing WUB Muffin or Fiends or whatever the heck it’s called. White Weenie with black and blue.”

“So is that a good thing for you, dude?”

“Not really. Aluren on the table means that most of his creatures are free. White has tons of enchantment removal at its disposal. The real problem, though, is the Meddling Mage.”

“That’s the card where once it comes into play, a card gets named and no once can play that card?”

“Yup. And predictably, my opponent drops one and names ‘Aluren’ in the early turns of the first game.”

“So how do you answer that, dude?”

“Well, the only thing I can do to get the Meddling Mage off the table is to bounce it with a kickered Urborg Emissary. Without Aluren, I have to hard cast my answer. Meddling Mage slows me down a good bit.”

“That sucks. So you lost the first game?”

“No. I won, but barely. I realized early on that I was going to have to change my plan. I drew into a couple of my walls, so that help hold off his weenies while I cast weenies of my own. He was running a bunch of pain lands, so our life totals stayed pretty close throughout the game. Once he put Parallax Wave into play, and shooed my walls for a couple of turns, things were looking grim.”

“How grim?”

“Start of my turn, I’m at two life. I would be dead, but my walls had come back into play during his turn and I had a Soul Warden on the table. I also had a Raven Familiar, which is the closest thing I have to a beatstick since he has no fliers in play. My opponent is at three.”

“So, you’re a dead man unless you yank something good outta your butt.”

“Delicately put, Jack. My hand contains a Maggot Carrier and a Cavern Harpy. I have a Swamp, an Island and two City of Brass on the table. My opponent has an Engineered Plague out set for ‘beasts’. Do you see where I’m going with this?”


“I tap swamp, play Maggot Carrier. I’m still at two life, my opponent drops to two life. I tap Island and City of Brass (I’m at one life), play Cavern Harpy. My opponent raps his knuckles on his Engineered Plague (as if I have forgotten), and the Harpy dies to a state based effect. Of course, the comes into ‘play ability’ still goes on the stack, targeting the Maggot Carrier, and the Soul Warden still triggers, so I’m back at two life. Tap City of Brass (I’m back at one), play Maggot Carrier again, my opponent is at one life. Opponent scoops before I swing with Raven Familiar.”

“Dude, that was close.”

“Insanely close. It was a good game. It’s the only game I’ve won with this deck when Aluren hasn’t hit the table.”

“Yeah – that doesn’t happen every day. So, did you win the match?”

“No, we drew. Ran out of time. That first game took forever. He won the second game without too much trouble.”

“That sucks.”

“Yeah. He thought one of us would need to win to make top eight. I wasn’t certain. I thought I might make it on a draw, which is what happened.”

“Man. Two, one, and two makes the top eight?”

“Seventh place after the Swiss. Not the way I would have chosen to make my first top eight at a trial, but I’ll take it.”

“Dude, congrats.”

“Thanks, Jack. Of course, my quarterfinals opponent was the Rock player from the second round. We had a very different match from the one in the Swiss.”

“How so?”

“Do you remember how I was saying Rock was a tough win after the first game?”


“Get this. I’m down a game in the quarterfinals against The Rock. Pernicious Deed is in play, but he’s tapped out. Stronghold Taskmaster is on the table. Just for good measure, he has Engineered Plague out.”

“That’s not so good, sport.”

“It truly sucks. The good news is I have Aluren on the table. I also have a Soul Warden.”

“Okay, dude, but that Taskmaster guy means you can’t play the Cavern Harpy or the Maggot Carrier. Your combo is screwed.”

“The Engineered Plague isn’t helping my cause, either. At first, it seems like overkill, but my opponent is guarding against the ‘Living Wish for Urborg Emissary, play with kicker, bounce your Taskmaster, go off with the combo’ play.”

“Dude, that would be a sweet move.”

“It sure would be. But, it’s a moot point due to the Plague. My opponent has been playing to take my win condition away from me. Two can play at that game, Jack.”

“How’s that, dude?”

“I’ve got the Living Wish, and I put a Silver Drake into my sideboard for just such an occasion. I wish for the Drake, play the Drake, Drake gates itself back to my hand, gain one life from Soul Warden. Repeat a million times.”

“So at the end of all of that-“

“My life total is one million eighteen. I also have a 3/3 flyer on the table.”

“Cool. That doesn’t sound so bad.”

“My opponent didn’t think it was that cool. He wasn’t pissy or anything, but he and his friends definitely thought it was a cheesy play.”

“Dude, they actually said ‘cheesy’?”

“No, they used another word. I’m just trying to avoid angry email messages from Queer Nation and the Anti-Defamation League.”

“Gotcha. So you were saying.”

“Well, it got me thinking. Wasn’t there a bit of a double standard in effect for this match? My opponent has two cards in play whose sole purpose in life it is to prevent me from winning the game. That’s two permanents that may as well read: The Aluren player may not win.”

“Dude, the flavor text could read: I knew I should have played Oath.”

“Jack, focus. My point is my foe had done what was necessary to make the game state hostile to my plan. He made my path to victory more and more difficult. That’s fair. I don’t see how my play was any different.”

“So what you mean is putting one’s life total out of conceivable reach is no more cheesy than playing an individual card that completely shuts down the opposition. That about right, man?”

“I think before a play can be dubbed cheesy, it needs to be put in context. If I was playing a casual game or multiplayer and I pulled that out of my hat, I could understand some grumbling. Every group of friends comes up with unofficial house rules, including an unwritten list of stuff-you-just-don’t-do. But we were in the top eight of a Grand Prix trial. I want the three byes just as much as the other seven people. If a cheesy play like gaining a million life is going to keep me in the running, then I’m making the cheesy play. What was I supposed to do? Sit on my hands until he drops Treetop Villages and puts me out of my misery?”

“Dude, I agree with you, but I think there’s more to your indignation than a defense of fair competition.”

“What do you mean, Jack?”

“All right, man. I know you pretty well, so I can say this: You’re just upset because no one appreciated what you thought was a creative solution to a difficult problem. In fact, you were ridiculed.”

“No, that has nothing to do with this.”

“Dude, c’mon. You got your feelings hurt.”

“Did not.”

“Oh, really?”

“Okay. Maybe a little. But it was still a good play.”

“There, don’t you feel better having admitted it?”

“I guess.”

“How ’bout a hug?”

“Get away from me, Jack. Anyway, my little play didn’t mean much in the long run, because my opponent wrecked me in the third game. Actually, we went past time.”

“That means five additional turns, right?”

“Yup. But we’re in the top eight, so a draw is not an acceptable outcome. Once the five additional turns are over if no one has won then the player with the highest life total is declared the winner. My life total was at four after five turns.”

“So you lost the third game on life total? Wow. How ironic.”


“Hey, dude.”

“What, Jack.”

“I’ve got a question.”

“Ask it.”

“Now that you’ve done a couple of these Extended tourneys, which deck do you think is the strongest?”

“I think it’s a tossup. The Rock is probably the best deck overall, in my opinion. It’s a resilient deck. A lot of players who suck worse than I do are winning with that deck. Players who are better than I am are really winning with The Rock. However, I think an intelligently-built Oath of Druids deck is the most dangerous in the hands of a skilled player. It is the better control deck of the two.”

“You seem pretty confident in your answer for a guy who sucks at this game.”

“Well, that just seems to be the case in my area. If I had the cards to support it, I would play Oath of Druids in the next PTQ.”

“Since you don’t have those cards, what are you going to play?”

“Well, if I do switch decks, I’ll be playing Blue/Green Madness. It’s really the only other competitive deck I have the cards for. I’ll probably stick with Aluren though. It just makes me smile.”

“Any additional tweaking before then?”

“The True Believers have to go. I put them in the sideboard at the last minute as tech against Duress and Cabal Therapy. I don’t really have the mana base to get them on the table in time enough to matter. I need a Gilded Drake in there and something else. Something sexy.”


“Wrong sexy, Jack.”

“Says you, dude. Says you.”

Pale Mage.

* – My opponent in this scenario was very cool given his opinion on the situation. He waited until the game was over, expressed his thoughts on the matter (prefacing his comment with”No offense”), and that was the end of it. His friends were much more vocal, but I got the impression half of their outrage was simply support for their compatriot. Some of that group will be playing in the Grand Prix (including my opponent), so good luck to them. Actually, the Grand Prix will be over by the time you are reading this. Let’s hope they did well, shall we?

** – Actually, for one glorious moment I’m at three life, but let’s not complicate the story with the stack trick. I’m only citing the relevant cards in this dialogue for clarity’s sake, by the way. I mean, I had a bunch of forests on the table, but who cares? I also had a couple of uncastable Aluren in my hand. Completely irrelevant.

Pale Mage. (again).