Elves By The Packload

CVM is an early fan of the new Elves from Magic Origins, and he shares his initial thoughts on that archetype and how to build it after a week’s worth of experience now that the full spoiler is out.

The Magic Origins prerelease is this weekend and I am a little more excited than usual. Normally I’m pretty excited for prereleases since I love playing with the new cards, and they are the few times each year that I get to play my secret favorite format: Two-Headed Giant. For this prerelease, though, I won’t be here in Roanoke battling with the rest of our heroes. I will be in Seattle visiting my girlfriend, and hopefully we will find a suitable Two-Headed Giant tournament to slay.

In the meantime, however, I have been wracking my brain on how to tune the G/B Elves deck that I battled against BBD in last week’s Versus Video. The matchup versus Goblins isn’t going to be the only things that we will be playing against, but the deck felt extremely powerful if only we could streamline it since there were what felt like two opposing strategies that I kind of hedged between.

From the decklist that I played in the video, you can see that there are both Collected Company and Chord of Calling in the deck, but they seemed to be a little at odds with each other. I wanted to also have access to powerful cards like Sylvan Messenger and Dwynen, Gilt-Leaf Daen, but since they are bricks to Collected Company I could only find myself putting one of each in the maindeck. That said, both times that I cast either of those cards you could see just how powerful they were.

Now that we have the full spoiler there is nothing else really that I would want to add except for maybe Gilt-Leaf Winnower, so I want to take a look at the two different directions that we could potentially take the deck.

The first would be to cut Collected Company and focus on Chord of Calling and Sylvan Messenger. These are both great cards, and with the majority of the non-Shaman of the Pack elves being “bricks” for Collected Company it seems that this could potentially be a great way to go.

When building the Elf deck we already have a group of cards that are basically going to be an auto-include:

4 Elvish Mystic
4 Gnarlroot Trapper
4 Elvish Visionary
4 Dwynen’s Elite
4 Shaman of the Pack
X Nissa, Vastwood Seer

Basically all of the Elf decks are going to start out with this. They are great at what they do and give you the base for what your strategy is.

I listed Nissa, Vastwood Seer as an X since the numbers may vary, but I feel that a full four is going to end up being the norm since she is just so good. It was a little different with what her impact was on the Elves vs Goblins matchup we played last week, but just being able to see the possibilities with the card while I was playing with it was great. Every game against the Goblin deck I was forced to be reactive and try to put up defenses while preserving what I could of my life total, but against a lot of the other decks in the format we won’t be under such intense and immediate pressure and can just play the game to where we can flip Nissa, Vastwood Seer at any point and we can just coast.

From there we have to decide how many Sylvan Messenger and Dwynen, Gilt-Leaf Seer that we want to play. Since we are forgoing Collected Company I want a full four Sylvan Messenger, and from seeing the impact Dwynen, Gilt-Leaf Daen had on the games I got it in play, I think I would want to have two.

We are going with a full four copies of Chord of Calling, so we are going to want some high-impact singletons to search for in addition to already having all of our sweet Elves. Here is a list of one-of’s that I am considering.

I think that we’re going to want a Reclamation Sage in the maindeck for sure. In the worst-cast scenario it’s going to hit a Courser of Kruphix against all of the midrange green decks, but if we come up against something with Whip of Erebos or Starfield of Nyx in it we’re going to be very happy that we have a Reclamation Sage. It’s also an Elf, so there’s always that.

This might be an option. It’s another way to get a Shaman of the Pack when we have way too much mana for our Chord of Calling. Between Elvish Mystic and Nissa, Vastwood Seer I imagine that we’re going to get to six mana fairly regularly, which also makes naturally drawing the Woodland Bellower just fine. My biggest issue with the six-drop, outside of it not being an Elf, is that it doesn’t have trample or any other sort of evasion. Woodland Bellower may be big, but that’s just it and I don’t know if it’s good enough.

I feel like this card is going to end up being much better than we are giving it credit for. The simple fact that it kills Siege Rhino is pretty huge, and with Menace it does have some sort of evasion. Being 3BB is a pretty big hindrance, but being able to find it and curve into it with Sylvan Messenger as well as having a creature that we can Chord of Calling for that’s also removal is pretty nice.

Although not an Elf, Whisperwood Elemental seems like it’s going to be a pretty nice way of trying to combat Languish. Either before it hits to protect our team or afterwards to start rebuilding, I think that having access to this type of effect can be pretty nice. It’s a bit pricey to Chord of Calling for, but with Elvish Mystic we can still hardcast it.

We also have to figure out if we want any removal spells in the maindeck outside of a Gilt-Leaf Winnower. Hero’s Downfall and Ultimate Price seem like the top two candidates, but it might just be better to go with none and rely on our sideboard for that. I hedged with some removal in my list from the Versus Video partly because I was basing it off a list by Patrick Chapin, but also because we knew we were going up against a Goblins deck.

Here is a first draft without removal spells in the maindeck.

Once we are on this route, we can look at creatures to play roles that spells normally would. Reclamation Sage and Gilt-Leaf Winnower are good examples of this and really shine since they are Elves, but there are some other options.

Minister of Pain seems like a great card for the mirror (which is likely to happen) and against the red decks. Cards like Dragon Fodder and Hordeling Outburst are going to be difficult to contain, so an effect like this seems pretty sweet.

Nylea’s Disciple is a great way to gain some life against the aggressive decks, especially since we are planning on flooding the board against most of our opponents.

We also might just want extra copies of Whisperwood Elemental as a way to try and fight sweepers, but Thoughtseize or Duress might also just be good enough. I kind of like the idea of also having some Den Protectors in the sideboard, and while it does play well with cheap interactive spells, it’s not all that great with Sylvan Messenger and Chord of Calling.

I think this is the sideboard that I would start with.

1 Minister of Pain
1 Nylea’s Disciple
4 Duress
3 Self-Inflicted Wound
1 Whisperwood Elemental
1 Gilt-Leaf Winnower
2 Ultimate Price
2 Den Protector

I think that I want to start with Duress over Thoughtseize since there aren’t really any non-creature spells that we’re really going to be worrying about. The new planeswalkers might change that, but until I can get some more testing in I think that having access to the discard spell against something like Atarka Red if we want it is going to be worthwhile.

I still like Self-Inflicted Wound since it’s a great way to get rid of Courser of Kruphix and Siege Rhino, both of which are undoubtedly going to still be popular cards, and Ultimate Price is going to do a good job at killing things like Goblin Rabblemaster and Goblin Piledriver while also hitting things like Courser of Kruphix, Polukranos, World Eater, and Stormbreath Dragon. I really like how Gilt-Leaf Winnower can actually kill Dragonlord Dromoka and Dragonlord Silumgar… and if we’re lucky, we can even use a Chord of Calling to snag a tapped Dragonlord Ojutai in combat.

I kept a couple Den Protector since having the ability to play the long game against decks with sweepers like Languish and Crux of Fate is still going to be important, but I could see it just being two more discard spells.

A couple other ideas that I have for the Elves strategy are Might of the Masses and Temur Sabertooth.

Might of the Masses is something that came up multiple times in comments on our Versus Video from last week. I think that it might have merit, but I’m a bit weary when a card doesn’t really do much unless we already have a board presence. Something like Obelisk of Urd is going to also push us ahead when we have a board presence, but I do like the idea of using Might of the Masses and Den Protector to make a huge unblockable creature similar to what Aspect of Hydra used to do in the monogreen decks that were popular a few months ago.

Temur Sabertooth is another card that I think has some potential. We can’t find it with Collected Company, so it would likely have to go into a Chord of Calling shell, but with so many of our Elves having enters-the-battlefield triggers it might be worth it.

Elvish Visionary Dwynen's Elite Shaman of the Pack Reclamation Sage Nissa, Vastwood Seer Gilt-Leaf Winnower Sylvan Messenger

That’s actually a pretty sweet-looking list of creatures that do things when they enter the battlefield. It’s pretty unfortunate that Temur Sabertooth’s ability isn’t going to save it from a Languish, but it will keep it alive against Hero’s Downfall and other sweepers like Crux of Fate and Anger of the Gods.

I’m not sure if Temur Sabertooth should be in a Chord of Calling build or a Collected Company build, however, with the amount of abuse possible with the above list it makes me think that it could find a home in either.

There has been a lot of buzz about the Elves deck ever since our video was posted last week, and it seems like I’m not the only one who has been putting some thought into the deck. I’m very interested to hear what everyone has to say, and I would love to see decklists and ideas behind which direction you decided to take. Be it Collected Company or Chord of Calling or both (although my gut tells me that it’s wrong to try both after playing in our Versus Video), I would love to hear your thoughts.

Have fun this weekend battling in your local prerelease, and if you are able to make it to the StarCityGames Game Center here in Roanoke I highly recommend it. You get to beat up on Brad Nelson and Brian Braun-Duin and get a sweet limited-edition Magic Meowigins playmat just for playing.

Have fun and good luck!