Feature Article – A New Game: Ha Ha Dead Elves 2007

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Lorwyn is coming, and it’s full of prime, juicy Elves. Our resident Red guru, Dan Paskins, takes us through a list of some of the more irritating little pointy-eared idiots, and shares his thoughts on how to dispatch them. He also brings us a couple of new aggressive decks for the upcoming Standard format, and rolls out an interesting Red Deck for Extended.

Just so you know, today’s article is going to be one part killing Elves, to one part new Lorwyn cards and decks, to one part Extended.

This weekend’s Lorwyn prerelease offers a golden opportunity to try out a new game that I have developed. There are a quite appalling number of new Elves in the new set, and it not merely a duty, but a pleasure, to spend this weekend killing as many of them as possible.

I can understand that for some, part of the fun of the weekend will involve turning up and discovering which new Goblins there are to summon, and which new, inventive ways to kill Elves and opponents there are, without having looked at any spoiler lists. Others may be looking forward to summoning the Elves (you sicken me).

But for those who want to know about the best Elves to kill, read on. There is a small chance that the actual Elves might vary slightly from descriptions here, as I am using the list from our friends at MTGSalvation.com. You can find their full spoiler here.

First, the rules of the prerelease are as follows. You get one point for each common Elf that you kill, two points for an uncommon, and three for a rare. Summoning an Elf is minus one point, and tapping it for mana is minus two. There are apparently things called Elvish spells. Using one of these attracts the same penalty as summoning an Elf, unless you use it to kill an Elf, which is very funny and gets you five points.

There are things called Changelings. In the rules, these count as Elves, but they also count as Goblins, so there is no reward for killing them.

You keep a running tally of your points during the prerelease (or multiple prereleases). Then just post your final score in the forums. The winner gets 1,000 goblin dollars (which would be an enormous sum of money save for the fact that Goblin dollars are entirely worthless) and the satisfaction of becoming Offishul Cheef Elf Killer 2007.

Some other things to watch out for:

Prowess of the Fair
Tribal Enchantment — Elf
Whenever another nontoken Elf is put into your graveyard from play, you may put a 1/1 green Elf Warrior creature token into play.

Opinion is split about this one. On the one hand, it is annoying that when you kill an Elf and another one pops up. Equally, it means that there is another Elf to burn, kind of like playing “Elvish Whack a Mole!”

Elvish Harbinger
Creature – Elf Druid
When Elvish Harbinger comes into play, you may search for an Elf card, reveal it, shuffle your library and put that card on top of it.
Tap: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool.

Elvish Promenade
Tribal Sorcery — Elf
Put a 1/1 green Elf Warrior creature token into play for each Elf you control.

There is a definite theme here — Elves that fetch other Elves, and spells that let them double up on the number of Elves. More good reasons to adopt a policy of blowing up Elves as and when they are summoned, because it looks like they bring along their friends given half a chance.

Gilt Leaf Ambush
Tribal Instant — Elf
Put two 1/1 Green Elf Warrior token creatures into play. Clash with an opponent. If you win, those creatures gain deathtouch until end of turn.

This has the potential to cause much sadness, in a really random and aggravating way, at the prerelease. Watch out for it, and try not to let your Giants get ambushed.

Imperious Perfect
Creature – Elf Warrior
Other Elf creatures you control get +1/+1.
G, T: Put a 1/1 green Elf Warrior creature token into play.

This is interesting because there has never been an Elf with such a stupid name before.

Warren Scourge Elf
Creature – Elf Warrior
Protection from Goblins

Apart from continuing the Lorwyn theme “Elves with stupid names,” this one made me laugh. What use is “protection from Goblins” on a 1/1? Just burn it! But please, don’t be the one who tries to cast Tarfire to kill it…

Good luck at the prerelease, and let me know how you get on!

Making Decks

As the people who spent the Future Sight prerelease picking up Tarmogoyfs will tell you, the other thing to try to do at the prerelease is to acquire spells and creatures which you can use in the weeks and months ahead to beat down.

This is very much a preliminary attempt at making some Standard decks, but it might give an idea about what to look out for.

From the current Standard format, the main beatdown deck is the Red/Green deck, featuring Goblins, Gargadons and ‘Goyfs. From Time Spiral Block, we’re probably looking at the White/Green deck and whether it will get the boost to make it into a format with a bigger pool of cards. As for control decks, others are better qualified than I to judge.

Let’s start with Gobli-ooh, what’s that?

A 2/1 for one red mana? Yay! What’s the drawback… doesn’t seem too harsh.

Flamekin Bladewhirl
Creature – Elemental Warrior
As an additional cost to play Flamekin Bladewhirl, reveal an Elemental card from your hand or pay 3.

A quick check on Gatherer reveals some quite interesting Elementals already around (there are about forty-odd even before Lorwyn, including luminaries such as Spark, Rift, and Sulfur). I think that you probably need 16 or more of a particular creature to be able to reliably summon it without paying the three extra mana (four mana for a 2/1 is not exciting). I tried to do the maths to check this, but even using toes as well as fingers for counting it was a bit hard.

(I know why they didn’t do it, but I wish I wish I wish that instead of Elemental, the text box had the word “Goblin.”)

There is also:

Flamekin Harbinger
Creature – Elemental Shaman
When Flamekin Harbinger comes into play, you may search your library for an Elemental card and reveal it, then shuffle your library and put that card on top of your library.

This could keep a steady flow of Elementals to ensure that the Bladewhirls don’t run out of friends, and let you “tutor” for more expensive Elementals as required.

Elemental Deck Wins

4 Flamekin Bladewhirl
4 Spark Elemental
4 Flamekin Harbinger
2 Rift Elemental
4 Mogg Fanatic
4 Greater Gargadon
4 Mogg War Marshal
1 Sulfur Elemental
1 Timbermare (yes, an Elemental)
4 Rift Bolt
4 Incinerate
4 Haze of Rage
2 Pendelhaven
4 Karplusan Forest
14 Mountain

With the departure of the Gruul, we need a new name for the Red beatdown deck featuring Tarmogoyf. This deck is one of the best decks in Standard at the moment, though it loses Char and Seal of Fire. Here’s a pretty generic post-Lorwyn version:

Not Gruul Deck Wins

4 Mogg Fanatic
4 Mogg War Marshal
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Keldon Marauders
4 Siege Gang Commander
2 Chandra Nalaar
2 Greater Gargadon
4 Incinerate
4 Rift Bolt
4 Tarfire
4 Karplusan Forest
4 Llanowar Reborn
1 Pendelhaven
14 Mountain

Chandra Nalaar, for those who haven’t seen, deals one damage to an opponent on the turn it comes into play, one damage on the turn after, and then 10 DAMAGE TO YOUR OPPONENT AND ALL THEIR CREATURES, BWAHAHAHA. Tarfire gives your Tarmogoyfs +2/+2.

What about Goblins?

A couple of quick awards:

Most Amusing Goblin: Goatnapper
Most Pathetic Goblin: Boggart Sprite Chaser (as long as you control a Faerie?! Honestly…)

None of the new Lorwyn Goblins seem quite as powerful as the very best of what we currently have — Mogg Fanatic, Mogg War Marshal, and Siege Gang Commander. It’s probably for the best that Wizards haven’t given us another vastly overpowered Goblin beatdown deck. Instead, we get Goblins that cost more mana, but help to fetch other Goblins or bring them back when they die. They also now share a color with Elves, which is troubling, and I am trying not to think about the implications of that. Here’s a deck in which the aim is to find and play Siege Gang Commander over and over again:

4 Mogg Fanatic
4 Shadow Guildmage
4 Mogg War Marshal
4 Siege Gang Commander
4 Wort, Boggart Auntie
4 Boggart Harbinger
4 Incinerate
4 Tarfire
1 Fodder Launch
4 Thoughtseize
4 Sulfurous Springs
4 Graven Cairns
4 Keldon Megaliths
4 Auntie’s Hovel
4 Mountain
3 Swamp

The other beatdown deck I’ve looked at alarms me. You’ve seen Gaddock Tegg. But have you seen:

Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender
Creature – Kithkin Wizard
Protection from red
Sacrifice Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender: Prevent all damage a red source of your choice would deal this turn.

Or this:

Goldmeadow Stalwart
Creature – Kithkin Soldier
As an additional cost to play Goldmeadow Stalwart, reveal a Kithkin card from your hand or pay 3.

Or this:

Wizened Cenn
Creature – Kithkin Cleric
Other Kithkin creatures you control get +1/+1.

And did you know that Amrou Scout is a Kithkin?

All of which gives a deck something like this:

4 Goldmeadow Stalwart
4 Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender
2 Goldmeadow Harrier
4 Amrou Scout
4 Wizened Cenn
4 Gaddock Tegg
4 Saffi Eriksdotter
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Thrill of the Hunt
4 Edge of Autumn
4 Flagstones of Trokair
4 Brushland
4 Horizon Canopy
4 Llanowar Reborn
6 Plains

I have no idea at the moment how a Red deck would go about trying to beat a deck with cheap, efficient creatures, including those with Protection from Red, plus Thrill of the Hunt. Against control decks, it has a two-power one-drop, a Crusade which can attack for two, and a two-drop that prevents you casting Wrath of God, and another two-drop that protects the key creatures against one-for-one removal spells. Oh, and the most undercosted creature in Magic. Against other creature decks, it can bring in Bound in Silence. Who’d have thought that what started with Amrou Kithkin would end up being so mean and nasty?

Overall, I am excited by Lorwyn. I think the effort to push players to play with creatures will make for some interesting choices, and many of the cards are quite subtle and will need more time to work out.


The Red deck in Extended doesn’t have the raw power of Zoo. Or Dredge. Or Psychatog. Or Affinity. Or TEPS. But what it does have is the options to disrupt each of these decks’ strategies. This disruption comes in the form of particular cards (such as Ancient Grudge, Pyrostatic Pillar, or Sudden Shock) as well as the ability to push decks that rely on fetchlands and shocklands with cards like Molten Rain and burn spells. In some ways, it is kind of like an old Counter Sliver deck, with a core of creatures to put the opponent on a clock, and then a variety of cards to mess with their strategy.

What this means is that getting the exact configuration for the deck right is very hard (turning up ready to beat Dredge decks and spending the day against Zoo and Psychatog, for example, would be a miserable way to spend the time). I predict that there will be at least one Red Deck in the Top 8, and at least one player with the exact same decklist who ends up 0-3 after getting different matchups.

I think everyone who is getting ready for Valencia has a Red Deck list to test against — Owen Turtenwald’s one is a good deck. One trap that I’ve seen players fall into over years of helping people prepare for Extended Pro Tours is the following…

They start making decks, and find in early testing that the Red Deck is testing well against their other decks. As they have no intention of playing the Red Deck (because it seems underpowered, or due to play style preference), they continue to tune and update the other decks, but leave the Red Deck in stasis, rather than continuing to tweak and update it.

For example, when you started testing a couple of weeks (or more) ago, I’m sure you put together a copy of the Red Deck and, as everyone seems to have done, you cut Sudden Shock (which is good in one or two matchups) for the generally more effective Incinerate. A few days later, you found that the best performing deck was Psychatog (this is purely used as an example). Lazy players, or those who “want to believe” (that the deck that they like is also the best one), will then test their Tog deck against the old version of the Red Deck. But if you’ve found that Psychatog is the best, it’s at least possible that lots of other players have reached the same conclusion, and gone back and put Sudden Shock back into their Red Decks.

Even (especially) if you are not going to play it, it is worth making sure that the version of the Red Deck that you are testing against is tuned with the most effective cards against your deck. Because if you haven’t practised against the toughest opposition and figured out how to beat it, then you might end up having to work out how to win the matchup during the Pro Tour itself, which is never a good thing.

Given the diversity of the Extended field, it is really hard to predict the metagame and therefore what the optimal version of the Red Deck would be. Looking at the different decks that have been written about here over the past couple of weeks, though, I did have one thought.

Speculatively, it might be worth just trying out the Blood Moon gambit. If everyone is going to play decks with no basic lands, then playing a turn 2 or turn 3 Blood Moon becomes a source of free wins. Then your sideboard gives you the chance to adjust the deck to bring in the cards which best disrupt whatever your opponent is playing. It is a gambit because it is very easy for most decks to adjust to include a few basic lands, and once your opponent knows you are running Blood Moon, they know not to keep certain hands.

If you want to test your deck’s resilience to Blood Moon, try the following:

4 Mogg Fanatic
4 Kird Ape
2 Grim Lavamancer
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Blistering Firecat (or Genju of the Spires)
4 Seal of Fire
4 Lava Dart
4 Incinerate
4 Sudden Shock
4 Blood Moon
4 Chrome Mox
4 Mountain
4 Wooded Foothills
4 Bloodstained Mire
4 Stomping Ground
1 Blood Crypt
1 Forest

4 Yixlid Jailer
4 Greater Gargadon
4 Pyrostatic Pillar
3 Ancient Grudge

Take care,

Dan Paskins