Technically Playable - Alora, Merry Thief

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(Alora, Merry Thief | Art by Aaron Miller)

Technically Playable - Alora, Merry Thief

Welcome to Technically Playable, where our mission statement is "Every commander is Technically playable" (the best kind of playable). The way this works is every article will have a commander generated using EDHREC's random button, I'll talk through the card and then write about how we can build around it!

This week's random commander is:

This is our first partner/background Commander here at Technically Playable so it will look a little different. Instead of looking at different strategies I'm going to break the article down into the most popular background for each color.

Of course there are some cards that are good with Alora regardless. I'll cover a few of them here so I don't repeat myself five different times. The first of these is Barrin, Tolarian Archmage. While a little slow in terms of card draw engines in Commander, Barrin does allow you to draw every turn since Alora will return a creature to your hand. This is a good way to generate very consistent card advantage while also giving you an unsummon on a creature that you can use in a pinch or that you can get multiple uses out of with cards like Thassa, Deep-Dwelling.

Alora also naturally work well with both good enter the battlefield effects and combat damage effects so cards like Agent of Treachery and Prosperous Thief work incredibly well in conjunction with Alora. Additionally you can use cards like Bident of Thassa or Reconnaissance Mission to give your enter the battlefield creatures a combat damage trigger creating some really powerful value generating creatures.

White - Far Traveler 158 Decks

Going in WUBRG order, we have Far Traveler. It makes a lot of sense that this is not only the most popular white background but also Alora's most popular background overall since she has such amazing synergy with enter the battlefield effects by allowing you to effectively buy them back to your hand with her ability. Alora and Far Traveler create a typical Blue/White "flicker" deck that uses cards like Blur to get as much value out of enter the battlefield effects, similarly to something like a Brago, King Eternal deck.

I've already mentioned Agent of Treachery above, which is probably the best ETB effect out there but there are others that are very powerful. Mulldrifter and its affinity-based cousin Thought Monitor are powerful draw engines that allow you to fill your hand up with resources. Thought Monitor is particularly powerful because of its low cost if you have enough artifacts, such as mana rocks that Blue/White often needs, in play. Being able to bounce and replay Thought Monitor for one mana is very powerful. Another incremental card advantage engine is Combat Thresher a cheap card with its prototype cost but some that becomes a cheap 3/3 double striker when combined with flicker effects.

While the card advantage is small and the power and toughness isn't super powerful, a 3/3 with double strike is very good at blocking or attacking into the high number of utility creatures in the format. Finally is Hero of Bretagard, one of my personal favorite win conditions for a deck that cares about creatures going into exile or leaving the battlefield. It very quickly becomes a huge flying indestructible threat, basically "Avacyn at home".

Blue - Candlekeep Sage 46 Decks

This version of Alora is a little different. the idea is to still get creatures in and out of play as often as possible but instead of multiple creatures this is focused on returning and replaying Alora herself to trigger Candlekeep Sage. Alongside the background the idea of this deck is to be focused on defeating opponents through commander damage with Alora. This is difficult with a 3/2 is quite difficult but we have some cards to get around this.

Usually "Voltron" strategies will focus around stacking up one creature with as many Equipment and Auras as possible but due to the nature of Alora those would fall off when you return her to your hand so instead this build uses cards like Sai of the Shinobi, Stormrider Rig and most importantly Hero's Blade to get around this as they attach automatically when Alora enters the battlefield. The main issue here is that since Alora doesn't have haste, you can only attack every other turn but with something like Lightning Greaves or even Crashing Drawbridge we can once again work around this issue.

Traditionally, searching for Equipment is something that is more in white's wheelhouse with cards like Steelshaper's Gift and Stoneforge Mystic but since one of blue's strengths is artifact-matters strategies you do have access to the mage cycle, especially Trinket Mage, Tribute Mage and Trophy Mage. This is a little bit of a different Voltron strategy, but is probably the build of Alora that I think is the most interesting. Pepper in some protection spells like Slip Out the Back and card draw like Thoughtcast and you have an uncommon, interesting and fairly threatening deck.

Black - Agent of the Shadow Thieves 77 Decks

Alora and Agent of the Shadow Thieves is the only deck in this article with a focus on a specific creature type rather than a gameplay mechanic. Being able to make a creature unblockable makes Ninjas very potent as it allows them to connect every time without any risk of being blocked. The downside of Alora's ability (returning a creature to your hand) is also mitigated by the fact that you will be returning a creature anyway to Ninjitsu in a Ninja. The idea of this deck is to run a bunch of small creatures, probably with effects that trigger on attack, like Myriad, before returning that creature and putting something like Silent-Blade Oni into play.

Alongside these cards like Satoru, the Infiltrator and Silver-Fur Master give you a lot of value in terms of cost reduction and card draw to get more Ninjas into play and more into your hand. You can also use creatures with enter the battlefield effects to replay them thanks to the combination of Alora making them unblockable and the Ninjutsu creatures returning them. Cards like Gonti, Lord of Luxury and even something like Baleful Strix give you a lot of incremental value for simply playing to the decks strategy. Agent of the Shadow Thieves also makes your attacking creatures indestructible giving your opponent less opportunities to interact with your creatures and allowing you to make multiple creatures bad for your opponents to block while making it very easy to safely get Ninjas into play.

Red - Popular Entertainer 82 Decks

Goad is a really fun mechanic for Commander, forcing combat and putting a reasonable clock on a game to make sure that it doesn't go too long is something I think is very valuable. Popular Entertainer works really well to create a kind of aggressive deck by allowing you to get through damage with Alora's ability while also forcing your opponent's best creature to attack each other. Bilbo, Retired Burglar is a great card that can sneak through a lot of damage with the Ring Tempts you while also using the draw discard ability to filter through your cards and then to top it off also making mana through Treasure tokens.

I think it's probably work having a small Ring tempts you package in this version of the deck to take advantage of Bilbo and of Alora's ability to help get your ring bearer through your opponent's board. Dominus of Fealty is also fantastic in this deck as it allows you to steal creatures, make them unblockable and then return them to their owners hand, forcing them to replay their previous turns. This also extends to cards like Captivating Crew, this is probably how I would build the core of this deck as it allows you to steal, use and force opponents to replay their best creatures while also allowing you to goad their next best creature keeping you protected while also getting damage through.

The last card I want to talk about for this build is Renegade Silent this is one of the best goad cards released recently as it repeats the ability every turn while also protecting itself from sorcery speed removal by phasing out. Similarly to the Candlekeep Sage Voltron build I think this is also a quite unique and interesting build that I may even potentially look into trying out.

Green - Master Chef 40 Decks

Finally, the best color in Commander, green. The idea behind Master Chef is to get creatures, get counters and go to combat. There are a lot of cards that synergize with counters and it would take all day to cover them all so I figured I'd pick out one or two really good ones as well as some personal favorites. Kodama of the West Tree is a powerhouse in counter decks providing both evasion in the form of trample as well as some really powerful turns by allowing you to put multiple lands into play from your deck.

Another powerful card that benefits from counters specifically is Armorcraft Judge, a powerful card in its own right but one that becomes significantly better with Master Chef as that makes all of your creatures enter with counters. There are multiple ways to build around counters, going wide or going tall being the main options but I am personally a fan of utilizing the power of Infect creatures to close out games quickly. Rot Wolf is extremely good in this deck as it will become big enough to one shot an opponent forcing them to block and allowing you to draw cards. The thing that makes Rot Wolf worse than something like Putrefax or Blighted Agent is the lack of evasion but personally I think this is also what makes it more fun for the pod and much less onerous to play against as it does provide a strong clock but it can also be blocked by small creatures ensuring your opponents are on their toes.

The last card I'll talk about is a personal favorite and one that has done a lot of work in my Xenagos, God of Revels deck, Conclave Sledge-Captain. This card not only provides counters but also gives creatures trample and gives them a permanent buff based on the damage they deal. This can also be stacked allowing you to make a small creature extremely big after just one combat with Alora's unblockable ability. The Sledge-Captain can also be returned to your hand with Alora allowing you to repeatedly multiply the power of your creatures.

As with all Technically Playable articles, this was a very quick look at Alora, Merry Thief as a commander, and a few of the cards that can really make a deck with Alora as the commander tick. Let me know in the comments below if you play Alora, if you want to build an Alora deck, or even if you just enjoyed this article!

Hey there, I'm Paul. I've been writing about magic for a really long time. I love to write about obscure commanders (one of my really early articles back in 2015 was about Skeleton Ship) and how you can make decks around them work, no matter how unplayable they are. I love Gruul, I love Mountains and I love casting Lightning Bolt.

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