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Partners that Slay Together


Ever have one of those moments? You're scrolling through spoilers, eagerly checking out all the new tasty, tasty cards on deck for the next set, and you see a legendary creature and think "I know exactly what I want to do with that." While looking at the Midnight Hunt spoilers, I had one of those moments. And it was with these two.

Halana and Alena, Partners

I'm a sucker for a rg deck. The first deck I ever built was rg, way back in Unlimited. Something about giant monsters and throwing fireballs makes me giddy. And Halana and Alena aren't bad all alone. For four mana we get a 2/3, which is a bit below the curve (we're in the color of six-mana 8/8s, of course). But they've got First Strike and Reach, which make up some of the power deficiency, and every turn they'll throw two +1/+1 counters on a creature we've just played and give it haste, which isn't nothing. It's like a mini Xenagos, God of Revels deck.

But that wasn't my thought. I saw them and thought "I want to kill someone with that ability." So, let's kill someone with the ability.

The idea here is to win with non-commander damage. We want to figure out a way to make a creature so impossibly huge (and probably evasive) that it will do enough damage to simply kill someone outright. We're talking 40, 50 damage and up, which means we've got some work to do.

Let's start with Atarka, World Render. For seven mana we get a 6/4 Flying Trampler who gives itself Double Strike when it attacks. Assuming it gets through without being blocked, it's going to do 12 damage all by itself. That's pretty good. Now add Halana and Alena to the mix. Power goes to 8/6 and Atarka gets Haste, so the turn she comes into play she's hitting (again, if left alone) for 16. Getting there.

Let's put Doubling Season on the battlefield first, say the turn after we play Halana and Alena. Then let's play Biogenic Upgrade and put three +1/+1 counters on Halana and Alena. That will put six, because of Doubling Season, then Biogenic Upgrade will trigger, putting 12 total counters on them for a P/T of 14/15.

Go back to Atarka. Now when she attacks, she'll get 14 counters, doubled by Doubling Season for a total of 28. That's a 34/32 Flying, Trampling, Double-Striking Dragon coming in for a massive 68 damage. If we really felt like it, we could also cast Solidarity of Heroes, targeting our Commander and our Dragon, meaning we'll have 56 counters on Atarka for a 62/60 creature dealing out 124 damage.

We're going to rely on speed and overwhelming power to win, which means we're going to have to make some sacrifices. As usual, the ability to pull off what we're doing starts with land.

40 lands is a given, but most of them are basic. Why? Because we're running 21 ramp spells, many of which pull out more than one land. Hopefully by turn two but definitely by turn three, we will play our first ramp spell. We probably won't actually attack until turn six or seven, but by then we should be quite far ahead on mana, which means we can not only play our 7-drop attacker but also play Solidarity of Heroes or some other helpful spell along the way. Two important lands are Llanowar Reborn and Rogue's Passage; Reborn will stick a free counter on Halana and Alena, and Rogue's Passage will sneak any old creature through. For ramp, we're skipping Rampant Growth effects (which get you one land and nothing else) and instead going for two-for-ones - we get multiple lands per card, or we get a land and a creature or a land and another effect.

We have no draw. All our advantage will come from pulling the lands out of our deck at a shocking pace and (hopefully) drawing very little other than gas. We also don't need a whole lot; everything in our deck has redundancies except our Commander, who is always available to us. But we don't play Gruul to be consistent, we play it to smash faces and throw ourselves into the fight, and that's what we'll do. We don't need to draw cards for that.

We have about 12 creatures we like targeting with Halana and Alena. Most of them are there purely because they're good targets; one of them is there because of another ability, but it's still not a bad target. They are:

Vorinclex is mostly here because he doubles counters put on things, which is an ability we really want. Of the others, they all have some reason for being here. Aggressive Mammoth grants blanket Trample to all our guys, which can be worth it if we weirdly have a couple of big creatures out and a chance to activate Halana and Alena's ability multiple times. Apex Devastator might be why we end up in that situation. The creatures with Double Strike are there because they have Double Strike, which is really good. Hydra Omnivore is wonderful if you have a way of breaking through an opponent's defenses (Rogue's Passage is really good at that). Prophetic Flamespeaker is a strange one, but it has Double Strike and if we can put 20 or so counters on it it'll be a pretty scary Flamespeaker. Stonehoof Chieftain makes for some very powerful attackers, and Pathrazer of Ulamog is really, really scary to see on the other side of the table.

We have a few ways to fight creatures, but mostly we're going to attempt to outrace other players, not stop them. If someone is running a combo deck which wins on turn five, they'll probably just win. If most everyone is fair(ish), they will be so far behind by the time we're attacking it won't matter. We also have a few ways to give our Commander Hexproof and Indestructible, hopefully to prevent them being killed so much they get out of reach cost-wise.

And we have as many ways as I could find to double counters, as well as ways to add them. Branching Evolution is great for doubling, and Decree of Savagery and Increasing Savagery are both big counter additions for Halana and Alena. Invigorating Surge is great because it can be cast at Instant Speed.

That's it. The plan is fairly simple. Play lands, ramp, play Halana and Alena, add some counters and double them, then play a giant creature, add some more counters, double them again, and swing to kill an opponent. Repeat till all your opponents are dead.

There are a few other directions one could take. First, one could add Fireshrieker and other ways to grant Double Strike. I'd look at Auras and Equipment which grant solid abilities, and remember if you increase Halana and Alena's power with Equipment, it still counts and will put the counters on the targeted creature. The other thought I had was to do multiple combat steps; you could even go infinite with Sword of Feast and Famine and Aggravated Assault, but just a couple of extra combat steps would make those counters add up.

How would you build Halana and Alena, Partners? Let me know in the comments! I also like stories about big plays and attacks, so please share those as well.

Oh! Anyone who's been reading my columns for any length of time knows I hate Doubling Season. Anyone who plays Doubling Season is simply up to no good. A deck like this really wants it, and in this particular case it's no more broken than any of the other Enchantments which double the counters on something, but I still hate Doubling Season.

Thanks for reading.

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