Sea Gate Loremaster | Illustration by Dave Kendall
Allies were the flagship creature type coming out of the original Zendikar block, always on the cusp of being busted. Pretty much only found there, they appeared in full force again in the return to the plane in the Battle for Zendikar block and were pretty absent for the most recent visit in Zendikar Rising.
Similar to slivers in their “swarm” playstyle, allies rely more on ETB effects than the static effects of their more alien cousins. Allies can be a punchy strategy if you get the right draws, providing a pretty aggressive play experience. Let’s get into it!
What Are Allies in MTG?
Lantern Scout | Illustration by Steven Belledin
Allies are a creature type designed to represent the allied factions exploring the wilds of Zendikar in the original visit to the plane, and then the united resistance against the Eldrazi after they began their invasion. They make each other more powerful when they enter the battlefield, giving them strength in numbers.
Strong allies come in two flavors. Most of them have strong synergistic play experience, giving a bonus to all your other allies or triggering an effect every time another ally enters. Others are powerful in and of themselves and are less interesting in a full-on allies package, like Zada, Hedron Grinder.
Best White Allies
#10. Ondu Cleric
Starting off this journey of powerful allies we have Ondu Cleric. This can gain a lot of life in a dedicated allies deck. Of course, gaining life doesn’t win you a game but it can stop you from losing.
There’s also a subtheme of lifegain in allies, so this can do some good work with that.
#9. Munda’s Vanguard
Munda’s Vanguard doesn’t do the traditional ally thing, but it can still do a lot of work on a large board. Paying five mana for this and needing to tap it isn’t amazing though, hence the relatively low position.
#8. Kor Bladewhirl
Allies generally want to win with combat, and giving your team first strike is a great way to do that. Kor Bladewhirl is a pretty decent rate too, being a 2/2 for two mana.
#7. Kor Entanglers
Kor Entanglers is a great way to get some damage through if you can manage to bring a whole bunch of allies in on a single turn. Getting your opponents’ best blockers out of the way isn’t to be underestimated, even if this does cost five to get down.
#6. Lantern Scout
Lantern Scout gives your team lifelink, which can make your attack a lifesaving one. It’s not the only way to get a lifelink trigger in a deck, but it’s a pretty good one. The rate on it isn’t bad either as a 3/2 for three.
#5. Hero of Goma Fada
One of the better ability keywords to grant has to be indestructible, and that’s just what Hero of Goma Fada grants. It’s a good way to get in some big damage without losing your team. It can be back-breaking when your opponent casts a wrath if you can trigger it at instant speed.
#4. Talus Paladin
If you like Lantern Scout then you have to also like Talus Paladin. A very similar ability, it also grows with ETBs, which can make it a fantastic beater on its own.
#3. Kazandu Blademaster
There are a lot of cards that have a very similar ability to Kazandu Blademaster, but this has some good keywords to go with it. A cheap card that grows, if you ever swing with this it’s going to do some good work.
#2. Hada Freeblade
A 1-mana ally is always going to be interesting, and Hada Freeblade is a really good one at that. Growing with each ETB, this is a fantastic turn 1 play that can quickly get out of hand if left unchecked.
#1. Kabira Evangel
Again, getting your creatures through is a must in order to pull ahead through combat. Protection is a fantastic way to do that, making Kabira Evangel very valuable. And if you really go off you can give your team protection from all colors, which guarantees a big hit against one or more opponents.
Best Blue Allies
#4. Umara Raptor
Blue’s entry for “ally that grows” has a pretty good keyword in flying. It’s a good one, and there’s not a huge number of great blue allies. But the ones worth mentioning are fantastic, putting Umara Raptor in the bottom slot of a tough group.
#3. Jwari Shapeshifter
Clones are always great, and a 2-mana clone like Jwari Shapeshifter is a good rate, even restricted to copying your own allies. Whatever your best ally is you can get a copy of it, and there’s plenty of rally triggers that stack well.
#2. Halimar Excavator
You’ll generally win games through damage, but Halimar Excavator is a way to win through other means. It won’t be uncommon to have 10+ allies on the field so with this you can quickly mill your opponents out, even with 99-card decks! That’s one less person you have to beat by attacking even if you only manage to mill a single opponent out.
#1. Sea Gate Loremaster
Dumping your hand onto the board is easy in a dedicated allies deck, but refilling your hand afterwards isn’t. Sea Gate Loremaster is probably your best option for card advantage. It’s a beast, drawing several cards each tap as long as you have a solid board presence.
Five mana for a 1/3 is a bit much, but this unique effect may still be worth running.
Best Black Allies
#8. Nimana Sell-Sword
Nimana Sell-Sword is black’s version of the growing ally. A 3-mana 2/2 is okay if it’s going to grow, but a lack of keywords holds it back from being one of the best.
#7. Bojuka Brigand
A better version of a growing ally is Bojuka Brigand. Yes, it can’t block, but at two mana it’s a much better rate. Cheap allies to trigger your other allies are super important, and this doesn’t really have a downside.
#6. Agadeem Occultist
Agadeem Occultist has a strange effect, giving you a repeated reanimation outlet. It only reanimates your opponents’ stuff, but you’ll usually have a good selection of creatures in their bins to choose from. You’re unlikely to get an ally, but doing this every turn can generate a ton of value.
#5. Kalastria Healer
A great card for incidental value, Kalastria Healer was a surprisingly big player in its Standard environment, and it’s even better in multiplayer. Anything that says “each opponent” is worth a look, and this can easily take a decent chunk off each opponent’s life total.
You’re unlikely to win with this alone, but it can pave the way to victory alongside some help.
#4. Zulaport Cutthroat
One of the rare cards on this list that’s just generically good, Zulaport Cutthroat is a powerful piece that can get some incidental value.
And this isn’t just limited to allies dying! It works even in the face of a board wipe, which is particularly important in a deck that wants to keep a lot of creatures on the board.
#3. Hagra Diabolist
Hagra Diabolist is a solid plan B if you can’t get through with your attackers for some reason. It won’t be too difficult to take out an opponent in a turn or two with this one, which can be just what you need to turn the tide.
I think you might even be able to take out the whole table with this plus some friends if you’re really going off.
#2. Bala Ged Thief
Bala Ged Thief likely won’t make you very popular at the tables if you manage to trigger it multiple times, but it’s certainly a powerful piece. Stripping your opponents’ hands with this is great to help protect your gameplan, and can keep the field clear for you to take the win.
#1. Drana, Liberator of Malakir
This doesn’t have strong ally synergies, but Drana, Liberator of Malakir is good enough to fit in an allies deck regardless. Flying and first strike are a great combination, and Drana deals damage and grows your team before regular combat damage happens if none of them have first strike.
Best Red Allies
#10. Tuktuk Grunts
Red’s growing ally is an expensive one, but Tuktuk Grunts has haste to make up for it. Pretty easily in the bottom part of this list, you’re still probably going to include it in your deck, at least until better options are printed.
#9. Akoum Battlesinger
A cheap ally with haste that has a combat-related ability? Sign me up for some Akoum Battlesinger! Not giving toughness is a bit of a downside here, but it’s still a good card you’ll want to include.
#8. Firemantle Mage
Firemantle Mage (and a number of other cards here) helps you win via combat damage by giving your team menace. There’s no other way to do this on another ally, so it could be a clutch piece to tutor up in specific situations too.
#7. Ondu Champion
Following the trend of red allies giving combat-relevant keywords, Ondu Champion can give your creatures trample. Unfortunately there’s no ally that gives everyone deathtouch just yet, but even without that you want to give them trample when you’re growing your team.
#6. Highland Berserker
While it’s not the only ally that gives first strike, Highland Berserker does provide this powerful keyword to your team. As usual, a 2-mana ally with decent stats is good enough to make the cut.
#5. Murasa Pyromancer
One of the more unusual abilities to have on an ally, Murasa Pyromancer is a fantastic way to clear out some of the creatures on your opponents’ boards. That or take out a creature that’s causing you problems.
#4. Chasm Guide
When you have the possibility to play a bunch of creatures in a single turn, giving them haste is one of the better ways to make sure they actually do something before your opponent wipes the board. Chasm Guide lets you do that every turn (in theory).
#3. Reckless Bushwhacker
Another ally that’s not really doing the allies thing but is still worth including is Reckless Bushwhacker. Paying its surge cost should be fairly simple, and another way to give your team haste is always nice to have. The power bonus isn’t to be ignored either, as well as triggering any other ETB abilities on your other allies when it comes down.
#2. Tuktuk Scrapper
Tuktuk Scrapper has another unique effect that’s particularly important in Commander games. Not only taking out artifacts, it deals damage to the artifact’s controller too, giving you another way to win a game. Four mana is a pretty low cost to pay for this effect if you get a couple of triggers down.
#1. Kazuul Warlord
There are a lot of allies out there that grow your team, but Kazuul Warlord blows the competition out of the water by putting counters on them equal to the number of allies you control. This gets your team huge very quickly and easily takes the spot for best red ally.
Best Green Allies
#7. Graypelt Hunter
Green’s version of the growing ally unsurprisingly comes with trample. That said, Graypelt Hunter isn’t the worst creature in the world, even for four mana. It has some competition in this color though because there’s some real power in green allies.
#6. Tajuru Beastmaster
Tajuru Beastmaster is a beater on its own and temporarily grows your team. This is another way to build up that big game-winning attack when it comes down.
#5. Oran-Rief Survivalist
Oran-Rief Survivalist is a 2-mana 1/1 that grows when allies enter the battlefield. We’ve seen cards like this and we know that they’re pretty good.
#4. Tajuru Warcaller
If you like Tajuru Beastmaster then you’ll love Tajuru Warcaller. It has a smaller body but pretty much everything else about this is better. +2/+2 isn’t anything to be sniffed at, and triggering this two or more times in a single turn will make your guys huge.
#3. Joraga Bard
You might not see Joraga Bard‘s vigilance as being super relevant, but it definitely gets better when it hits your whole team and not just one or two creatures.
#2. Turntimber Ranger
The last two green cards are particularly important. Turntimber Ranger has a good rate, and it hides a sneaky infinite combo that didn’t exist when it was printed. The wolves that enter will also be allies if you have a card like Arcane Adaptation or Maskwood Nexus naming allies, so they’ll trigger again and again until you want to stop.
There are plenty of cards that’ll kill your opponents if you have infinite ETBs, so this is a fantastic inclusion.
#1. Harabaz Druid
Reading through the list, you may be asking where the mana for all of the crazy turns is going to come from. The answer is this card.
Harabaz Druid is a key card for the deck and should be able to make a ton of mana. Combining this with that well known combo piece Staff of Domination lets you make infinite mana and draw your deck. You’ll probably just win the game at that point if you’re not interrupted!
Best Multicolored Allies
#6. Munda, Ambush Leader
Munda, Ambush Leader is one of those cards that you think is going to be great until you get to the last line. Not putting the cards in your hand is a huge drawback, and I’m not sure this even makes it into every allies deck.
#5. Veteran Warleader
This 3-mana creature can quickly get big, and if you’re missing a keyword from your board then you can probably give it to Veteran Warleader. Not super amazing and it doesn’t do much for the rest of your team, but it can be a good beater by itself.
#4. Angelic Captain
Angelic Captain is a good flying beater that gets big in a good board state. Again, it doesn’t do much for the rest of the team, but it gets the job done in a pinch.
#3. Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder
I love Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder. It’s probably my favorite creature in Magic, so I had to include it in this list. Luckily it’s not a bad ally and kinda works in a deck with a lot of good beaters. Lifelink and double strike are a great combo of abilities.
#2. Resolute Blademaster
Resolute Blademaster is the only ally that gives the whole team double strike. It’s definitely one of the strongest keywords to give, so you’ll want this in the 99.
Sometimes a 5-mana 2/2 is just good!
#1. General Tazri
There was only one creature that could come at the top of the multicolor creatures, and that’s General Tazri. One of the first of the now many mono-colored legends with a 5-color activated ability for Commander, Tazri is what you’re going to want heading up your ally Commander deck.
I’m sure we’ll see an alternative to Tazri if we ever see allies come along again, but for now it’s all we have. Not that it’s a bad thing! A tutor and pump spell in your commander is pretty good.
Best Ally Payoffs
Like any deck built around a specific creature type there are some off-the-shelf inclusions to the deck, like Cavern of Souls and Morophon, the Boundless if you’re building a 5-color deck. With so many unique effects, creature tutors like Green Sun’s Zenith or Worldly Tutor are also easy inclusions to get that key piece out when you really need it.
Ally Encampment is a great way to fix your mana in what’s likely to be a multicolor deck. Acting like an Unclaimed Territory for allies, it also has the benefit of bouncing an ally back to your hand if you want to either save it or trigger its ETB again.
Another one I quite like for its uniqueness is Join the Ranks. There aren’t a lot of ways to get an ally to enter the battlefield at instant speed, and this puts two of them into play. This effect can’t be understated and should be an include in any singleton ally deck.
Other cards to pay attention to are Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Rally the Ancestors (for a single explosive turn following a board wipe), and Retreat to Emeria. There are plenty of inclusions for a deck based around this, but nothing particularly broken (which is either very good or very bad, depending on your personal philosophies!)
End of the Alliance
Resolute Blademaster | Illustration by Joseph Meehan
I honestly had forgotten how many good allies there were, even though my first Standard deck and first-and-only Modern deck were both based on allies. There’s definitely some power in the package, and it wouldn’t take much to push it over the edge. The list is pretty simple if you want to put the commander deck together, but there’s still a bit of room for customization which is nice.
What’s your favorite ally from the list? So far we’ve only seen allies on Zendikar, but could you see them popping up elsewhere? I always enjoy hearing people’s thoughts in the comments, so let me know what you’re thinking down there or join the discussion over in the Draftsim Discord.
Until next time, may your ETBs be good!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: