although you can't get the black/blue and blue/green from totem :/
Not yet but I suspect at some point. Totem's blog had a post about them working on the Blue Size with INTERNAL springs (unlike the Alien) which would make the blue even better. I'm sure they'll do a Blue/Green when that happens....
new to trad climbing...what are aliens used for? Smaller cracks and locations?
I don't own aliens but I've placed a few. They are famous for being incredibly flexible back in the day when BD Camalots had a stiffer main stem.
All the other companies have come out with similar designs and in my opinion are just as good now. Metolius mastercams and Wild Country Friends/Zeros are good examples of competition coming into the Alien market.
For your first set of cams I would suggest a mainstream brand like black diamond, metolius, or wild country. Avoid Trango in my personal opinions. I don't like their older flex cams.
The Metolius Master Cam offsets work in El Cap pin scars just fine and they are more than $100 less per set than the Fixe cams. If those dont work for you, there are the Totem Basic offsets which are also far less expensive than the Fixe cams.
I've owned the Aliean Offsets for years - loads of miles on them. Just bought two Metolius Offsets. Kind of underwhelmed. I find myself still reaching for the Aliens. They just seem to have a bigger sweet spot, I don't have to fiddle as much. Are the Totem's based off of the Aliens? If so, I might pick me up a couple of those.
Yep the totems are if anything an improvement on the aliens. MUCH smoother pull than even the new fixies. They round the edges of the lobes so the mushrooming isn't a problem/ as much of a problem. And a smaller head width.