June 26, 2015

The Origins of an Elf Deck

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Apparently, the mysterious force that hands out previews firmly believes that you can't spell Elves without LSV. I guess that's just a fact. And as a result, I've got some Elves to show you today.

The Elves I get to preview actually remind of a different Elf deck from 2008, because Elves managed to take down two Pro Tours that year. Charles "The Kid" Gindy was the winner of Pro Tour Hollywood with a good, old-fashioned Elf deck that just played value cards and attacked its opponent to death.

Chiles Gindy's Elf Deck — Pro Tour Hollywood

Thoughtseize is even in Standard again (though I wouldn't hold my breath about Tarmogoyf being in the next set).


So, what new Elves do we have to work with?

A second mana Elf is a welcome addition to any Elf deck. And when I say "mana Elf," I really mean it. This mana can only be used for Elves, making this one of the most tribal cards around. Despite this costing you life and being restrictive, there is a significant upside once you look at the second ability. Making all your attacking Elves into killing machines is very real, and Gnarlroot Trapper is a card that's useful on turn one or on turn seven, which is a hard slot to fill.

The Elf parade doesn't stop there.

There are two things you really want when you put Dwynen's Elite in your deck: enough Elves to make sure it works as often as possible, and enough cards that pay you for having Elves that both the 2/2 and the 1/1 are very relevant. Just having enough Elves is solid, but to really get value from this card, you want to trigger it reliably and put the Elves to work. The first part is easy to take care of, especially if you are trying to make some of the other cards I'm going to talk about tick, and this next card goes hand-in-hand with that.

You may have seen this card before, if you've been playing since Apocalypse. But adding new context to an old card is one of the awesome things that new sets do. If your deck is half Elves, you are about 70% to draw two or more cards off this, at which point you've built a Mulldrifter (well, kind of). I don't know if Messenger is going to get there this time, but it's certainly an interesting tool to have at our disposal. Last time this showed up, there weren't nearly enough awesome Elves to make it good, so seeing what it can do in a format full of Elves is very exciting.

Lastly, we have another card that rewards you for playing as many Elves possible.

Shaman of the Pack firmly cements Elves in black-green, and offers a very big payoff for filling the board with Elvish Mystics and Dwynen's Elites. It even counts itself, and dealing 4–6 damage with this is not that hard to pull off. This also definitely gives the Elves deck an incentive to be aggressive, as Lava Axeing the opponent is a lot less impressive if you aren't attacking their life total otherwise.

Combining these new Elves with Elvish Mystic (which overlaps with Origins until Battle for Zendikar comes out), plus the other Elves that have been revealed from Origins gets us here:

LSV's Elvish Origins

Sorcery (3)
3 Thoughtseize
Other (18)
4 Gnarlroot Trapper 4 Dwynen's Elite 4 Shaman of the Pack 4 Nissa, Vastwood Seer 2 Dywnen, Gilt-Leaf Daen
60 Cards

This is a first take on what an Elf aggro deck might look like once Origins comes out. There may be more sweet Elves in Origins, in which case they would fit right in. But even with just the cards we've seen, I like where this is going.

This deck gets to play 21 lands because of how many one-drop accelerators it has, and has access to a lot of very strong Elves. Nissa and Elvish Visionary in particular let you add Elves to the board at no card cost, and both make the deck much more consistent.

Collected Company is also great in this deck, and the dream is always going to be hitting multiple Shaman of the Packs. That's an instant-speed way to burn the opponent out from a very high life total, and a lot of the power of this deck is based on Shaman of the Pack.

I'll always have a soft spot for Elves, and I look forward to seeing how this deck fares once it's released into Standard. The last time I played Elvish Visionary in a Pro Tour, things went pretty well, and I have visions of that happening again….

LSV



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