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Constructed Criticism – Revitalizing Elves With Green Sun’s Zenith

Thursday, February 17 – Todd Anderson is excited about one of the best new cards in Extended: Green Sun’s Zenith! Check out his newest Elf Combo deck and take it to your next PTQ.

Extended is prime for an upset with the recent release of Mirrodin Besieged, and a lot of cards are going to make a splash. I’ve definitely got my eye
on Go for the Throat, since it’s an obvious addition to Faeries’ arsenal of removal, as well as a few other key cards that potentially spring up new
decks. Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas has already proven his worth in Standard, and Extended offers up a few more goodies for your disposal, but since the
rotation of Old Mirrodin, you’ve lost a lot of the more interesting artifacts that could have made the deck truly broken. Without Engineered
Explosives or Chalice of the Void to provide early defense against aggressive strategies, I don’t know if the artifact-based strategy is powerful
enough to make a splash in such an aggressive Extended format.

With Elf-Warrior Aggro and Mono-Red being insanely popular, you need a lot of early defense or an incredibly potent combo to race. Tezzeret offers up
neither of these but is still some food for thought if you can engineer your deck to fight off aggro while still preventing Scapeshift decks from
comboing off against you. I’m still at a loss for a good list, but Kuldotha Forgemaster making waves in both Standard and Legacy has to mean something.
Still, I’ll wait to see if someone else comes up with some cool ideas. With all eyes on Standard for Paris and the upcoming StarCityGames.com Open
Series, it might be some time before we get some good Tezzeret brews, but I’ll keep my eyes open for some Magic Online results.

While there are a lot of potentially powerful cards for Extended use, none excites me more than Green Sun’s Zenith. Wow. This card just has everything
going for it, and I’m really surprised people haven’t been talking more about it. Sure, no copies made it into the Top 8 of PT Paris, but that’s
because everyone and their brother was playing Stoneforge Mystic and Squadron Hawk. While Green Sun’s Zenith fits perfectly into Valakut in Standard,
replacing the oft-hated Summoning Trap, I think more practical applications await it in Extended and specifically with Elf Combo.

While there are a plethora of green creatures that you can tutor up that aren’t Elves, I feel like having access to eight virtual copies of Heritage
Druid and Nettle Sentinel is just bananas. With Volcanic Fallout stock at an all-time low, due to Faeries having plenty of alternative win conditions
other than Bitterblossom, this could be the perfect moment for you to take Matt Nass’s favorite combo deck of all time to your local PTQ and smash
everyone’s unsuspecting face in.

I know that Elves isn’t quite as powerful as it used to be. Glimpse of Nature rotating was a huge detriment to its power level. Summoner’s Pact leaving
the format made it much worse as well, but it still put up results at Worlds, and people here and there would do well in Magic Online Events. While the
deck has evolved into a much more aggressive version playing tons of “lords” like Imperious Perfect, Joraga Warcaller, and Elvish Archdruid, I think
the combo version is consistent enough with Green Sun’s Zenith to put it back on the map. It already made Top 8 of the huge PTQ in Paris, so today
we’re going to go over some of the more interesting choices you can make while building the deck.

Currently, Extended Elf decks look something like this:


While these versions are very consistent in what they’re trying to do and incredibly aggressive to boot, they’re pretty much cold to decks playing
Firespout, Day of Judgment, or even a timely Ratchet Bomb.

Mono-Red is actually a mediocre matchup as long as they draw a fair number of removal spells, and it gets much worse when they sideboard Arc Trail or
Forked Bolt. Against decks that fail to interact with you, your nut draw can kill on the third turn, which is pretty bonkers, but even one removal
spell can slow that down by two or more turns. The deck is reliant on one or more of the lords sticking around in order to take the game quickly, so
someone with a dedicated removal suite can shut you down completely.

Bitterblossom is a very big problem in conjunction with removal spells, since all of your dorks that aren’t lords are measly 1/1s (except Nettle
Sentinel). Spellstutter Sprite also counters nearly every card in the deck without a Bitterblossom in play, including Joraga Warcaller no matter how
many times you kick it.

While some of these arguments ring true for the combo version, your draws are much more resilient to hate due to the redundancy of Ranger of Eos,
Primal Command, and Green Sun’s Zenith. These tutor effects help you build up your combo for one big turn, usually culminating in multiple Regal Forces
and Primal Commands, putting your opponent into a position where it’s impossible for them to win. With so many versatile, solid creatures to slam the
dagger into your opponent, figuring out the best configuration of these is the biggest problem. Let’s start with a few cool ideas and see where it
leads:

Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender
: While you can’t tutor for this guy with Green Sun’s Zenith, you can tutor for multiples with Ranger of Eos. Mono-Red is a favorable matchup after
sideboarding due to the presence of this little hobbit, since they can rarely handle one, let alone two. Primal Command gaining seven life can put you
out of burn range quickly, and with most decks relying on Volcanic Fallout or Firespout as a sweeper, you should be fine after drawing one or two of
these little buggers.

Joraga Warcaller:
Again, not a great creature for Green Sun’s Zenith but a sick target for Ranger of Eos when you need to draw a lord. Warcaller is a sick sink for
excess mana generated by Nettle Sentinel and Elvish Archdruid. I don’t think you need more than one in the maindeck, but having a second in the board
to tutor for could be sweet when you plan on facing off against a decent amount of removal. Ranger of Eos for double lord is nice.

Sylvan Ranger/Elvish Visionary:
While neither of these creatures is incredibly exciting to tutor up with Green Sun’s Zenith, both are occasionally necessary to smooth out your draws.
There will be plenty of times when you draw an extra Zenith and need to hit your land drop, and Sylvan Ranger is your best bet. Elvish Visionary isn’t
explosive, but it does help you cycle through your deck when you’re generating mana with Nettle Sentinels but isn’t nearly as ridiculous as it used to
be with Wirewood Symbiote. Fauna Shaman was in this slot in older versions, but Zenith is a much better tutor for the deck, and Fauna Shaman is just
too slow (what a world, right?).

Gaddock Teeg:
Sure, this guy is a “nonbo” with Zenith and Primal Command, but he might be necessary based on the overall popularity of Scapeshift strategies. While I
could see him being awkward on occasion, it might be just what you need at certain points of the game, which is the reason why you have daggers to
tutor for.

Ezuri, Renegade Leader:
This guy being legendary makes me a sad panda, but that drawback makes you much less likely to run more than one or two since you can search him up via
Primal Command or Zenith. He’s nutty with a lot of mana and protects the rest of your team from Day of Judgment, Firespout, etc. He’s one of the best
cards in your deck, and you might want a second in the board for mirror matches, so that you can tutor up one to kill the one your opponent plays.

Elvish Archdruid:
There are times where you need to generate a lot of mana and don’t have a lot of time or resources. Archdruid can do this quickly and efficiently,
helping you cast your Primal Commands or Regal Forces once you untap. I don’t foresee searching up this guy too much, considering you have a plethora
of other valid options, but you never know.

Regal Force:
While it does take a lot of mana to tutor for this guy, you’re basically only spending one more mana than you would to cast him. I would definitely pay
“G” to tutor up Regal Force and especially so if the same tutor could help assemble my combo in the early game.

Heritage Druid/Nettle Sentinel:
This is the meat and potatoes of the deck, generating a ton of mana without a lot of effort. With Zenith and Ranger of Eos making the assembly of this
combo fairly easy, you have a recipe for greatness.

Dauntless Escort:
Protection from Day of Judgment or any other sweeper your opponent might throw at you. This guy is just good, and I wouldn’t leave him out of any tutor
package revolving around green creatures.

Vexing Shusher:
With so many Cryptic Command decks running around in the format, having a dagger that protects the rest of your cards from counterspells is very nice.
You will generally be able to generate excess mana, allowing for you to protect your spells fairly easily, but most decks will be packing a ton of
removal, so don’t expect him to survive for long. Still, if he allows you to successfully land a Regal Force or Primal Command, he has more than done
his job.

Viridian Corrupter/ Qasali Pridemage/ Acidic Slime:
These guys are your tutor suite for removing pesky artifacts, enchantments, or lands, with an emphasis on the latter. Valakut is problematic for you if
they’re able to ramp into six lands with Prismatic Omen in play. I don’t think you can afford to play Tectonic Edge, since Arbor Elf is already suspect
considering you’re playing less than fourteen Forests, but Acidic Slime and Primal Command go a long way to stalling out the “raw” kills from
Scapeshift decks.

Oversoul of Dusk:
One of the spicier targets, Oversoul can singlehandedly take games by itself. Standard versions of Elves from years past ran a few of these against
decks relying on spot removal to take care of their relevant creatures (Faeries). Once he sticks, he’s more than likely staying in play for the rest of
the game.

Cloudthresher:
This guy again? With access to a reliable tutor, this guy will make a comeback, and I could even see playing more than one. He’s fine to draw
regularly, since you get access to abuse his flash mechanic, and the ability to evoke rests solely on him being in your hand, but being able to tutor
one up against Faeries and constantly threatening to put it into play is frightening, indeed. Expect this guy to come back in a big way.

While there are a ton of creatures you could include, such as Chameleon Colossus or even Terastodon, I think these are the most important. The mana
base for Elf Combo is fairly disappointing considering how good that Faeries’ mana base is. You need to play a considerable number of Forests in order
to maximize the consistency of your draws featuring Arbor Elf, since there really is no other creature that can easily replace him. Older versions
played more Joraga Treespeakers, but a single removal spell in response to you leveling up just knocks you into a tempo black hole from which there is
no escape. Time Walk doesn’t even begin to describe what happened.

While Scars of Mirrodin gives us Razorverge Thicket, which is great, I’m not positive what mix of Sunpetal Groves and Wooded Bastions need to be
played. Both have their drawbacks, but entering the battlefield tapped seems much worse than only working when you have another land. If Sunpetal Grove
is the only land in your opening hand, that is essentially the same as having a Wooded Bastion as the only land in your opener, so I would recommend
playing more Wooded Bastions than Sunpetal Groves.

If I were playing this deck in a PTQ this weekend (I’m going to win GP Denver instead, OBV), here is the list I would play:


While I’m not sold on Guttural Response, it seems like a decent way to push your important spells through counterspells and doesn’t rely on a creature
surviving (Vexing Shusher) in order to do so. The rest of the reasoning behind the cards seems sound, and you have all the tools to fight the format’s
best decks. You’re fast enough to combo out against just about everything, and Primal Command is just ridiculous when it resolves. It’s the closest
thing the format has to Plow Under, and I would play four of that card in every deck if it existed in Extended. Primal Command into Acidic Slime is so
hard for Valakut decks to come back from.

I hope you enjoyed this exercise, and if you guys can come up with sound reasoning or arguments for some other awesome green creatures, I’d love to
hear it. I scoured Gatherer and put aside a lot of cool creatures that had potential, but most seemed too cute. Some of these guys included but weren’t
limited to: Master of the Wild Hunt, Overbeing of Myth, Deus of Calamity, and Wren’s Run Packmaster. I would love to see a version of this deck playing
Devoted Druids and sideboarding into four Deus of Calamity against Scapeshift decks. I don’t think they could get out of it, honestly. Deus of Calamity
on turn 3 is just devastating.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and I hope you try the deck out. It’s a lot of fun but requires some preparation in order to pilot correctly. Nettle
Sentinel triggers are the biggest culprit, so be sure you get a decent amount of testing done, and make sure you play out the games where you combo.
Your opponents will often make you play it out in order to see more of your deck, and one small mistake could cost you dearly. Playtesting where you
just say, “Here is the combo; I win right?” is not what you need to be doing.

Thanks for reading.

Todd

strong sad on MOL