Going To War With Llanowars

Brennan couldn’t help himself: He played some Elves during SCG CON. Get his lists for a number of different formats, including his thoughts on his surprising run at the Standard Classic with a rogue build!

So, the Season One Invitational could have gone better…

Let’s get the initial stuff out of the way and go over the two choices I
made for the Invitational itself because I was pretty pleased with my
Modern choice despite having only a 5-3 record in the format.

While I might have called out the SCG Louisville-winning deck in a previous
article and wondered how it ever did well, I sleeved it up with the
recommendation of Ross Merriam saying it was probably the best choice for
me and that I only really wanted to dodge Mono-Green Tron and its variants.
Unfortunately, I played against two of them over the course of the eight
rounds and wasn’t too pleased to say the least. Oh well, that’s Modern. You
have good and bad matchups and sometimes you just roll with the punches.

My qualm with Mardu Pyromancer was that it has a severe lack of ways to end
the game quickly. If discard spells and Jund have taught us anything over
the years, it’s that you can disrupt the heck out of your opponent, but you
can’t Thoughtseize the top of the deck, and giving the opponent time when
playing discard spells isn’t a great plan. If there was a creature that
allowed you to attack in large numbers I’d be all about it. As for now,
though, the lack of threat density and the speed of the current clock have
me wanting to try something else.

Maybe I’ll just add four Street Wraith and four Death’s Shadow and call
it a day!

As we moved to Standard on Day One, I entered the format with a 2-2 record
from Modern and didn’t feel so great considering my losses were extremely
close ones that could have gone either way at the turn of a card.

I’ve been fooled for the last time playing a reactive deck in Standard.
Yes, there are times where decks like Esper Control are amazing and there
are even games you’ll play in this existing Standard format where the deck
seems unbeatable in any given matchup. With all that in mind, there are way
too many threats in this format that you must exile, and you only have four
copies of Vraska’s Contempt to handle them all.

The Vraska’s Contempt / Torrential Gearhulk combo is the real appeal to any
B/U-based control deck since it gives you virtual copies of the best card
for control in the card pool, but there are so many factors that go into
the games playing out well for you that I’m not sure it’s worth the
sacrifice of not being proactive. I’m not saying Torrential Gearhulk decks
won’t be a mainstay in Standard for the duration of its legality because
the card is absolutely bonkers, but it’s not a card I see myself
registering again.

If I were to replay Esper Control moving forward I’d be sure to have two
copies of Hour of Glory in my sideboard to help with Mono-Red and R/B decks
that all require you to exile their threats to really have any impact. Even
with that, you’re hoping things line up in such a way that you’re able to
react accordingly which is a tall order in and of itself.

I ended the Invitational with a lousy 9-7 record, which didn’t feel great
after being 8-3 at one point, but what can you do? Sometimes the cards
aren’t in your favor and sometimes there were mistakes that could have
easily been avoided in retrospect, but we do what we can with the time
given. That’s all we get and that’s all I have to say about the
Invitational itself.

I’d made it to Day Two and didn’t get to play in probably the sweetest
non-sweet event at SCG CON itself, which was of course the No Banned List
Modern Open, but I did enjoy looking around at all the people who decided
it was a good idea to do something other than cast giant tentacle monsters
alongside Eye of Ugin.

If I had played, I’d likely have registered something fun with Karn, Scion
of Urza in it because that card is sweet, and getting to cast it on turn
two with four artifacts already on the battlefield seemed awesome.

While the deck might have been off some cards for what the format would
actually want a deck like this to be playing, I do like the idea of fast
mana in the form of artifact lands, Mox Opal, and Chrome Mox to power out
some busted planeswalkers that end the game in short order. Having a
back-up plan of Stoneforge Mystic for Batterskull is always nice,
especially when you consider you get to toss in the Thopter Foundry/Sword
of the Meek combo at little cost.

Ensnaring Bridge looks like it would have been a fantastic card all weekend
with the number of Eldrazi decks running around, so it could be included in
the main deck over some of the spell hate cards like Trinisphere. I do
still like the look of this and if there ever happens to be another No
Banned List Modern tournament, I’d highly consider taking this into battle!

Onto the best part of the weekend as far as levels of fun are concerned!

Leading into the release of Dominaria I couldn’t imagine playing
any other deck than one casting Llanowar Elves on turn one. Since then,
these are the archetypes I’ve registered.

  • U/W Control

  • U/W Flash

  • Esper Control

What the hell happened here? Well, one thing green has an issue with is the
fact that they’ve been giving a lot high powered cards to red mages and the
idea of “going big” to beat red with green cards kind of doesn’t exist. Not
even Ghalta, Primal Hunger can really stand up to R/B because of Unlicensed
Disintegration. It’s a rough time to be a green mage, and I sure hope we
get something to help fight the good fight in the core set because unless
you’re an absolute master of the Blooming Marsh, you’re gonna have a bad

So where did the notion of saying, “To hell with it, I’m playing Llanowar
Elves” come from? Well it had been too long and I was just trying to have
some fun. Leading up to SCG CON, a lot of work had gone into Standard
because of the upcoming RPTQs that a lot of players were preparing for had
me looking at a lot of decklists. One deck that was shown to me from Zan
Syed had me thinking of playing with some Elves and some planeswalkers, and
I couldn’t have been more excited. I took some time to look at the list,
changed a card or two in the main deck and a few more in the sideboard, and
arrived here.

Oh baby, does this have me excited! If you don’t know, there’s a neat
little “combo” in the deck.

The play here is that if you’re lucky enough to resolve a Nissa, Vital
Force and have it ultimate, then have a copy of The Eldest Reborn finish
its saga and return Nissa to the battlefield only to use the minus ability
to return and recast The Eldest Reborn. Rinse and repeat. This is slow and
dubious, but it certainly is fun and came up several times throughout the
tournament. Nissa is generally pretty bad against the red decks, but if
there’s ever a chance that you get to snipe a Chandra, Torch of Defiance
with the 5/5, you’re in business!

The idea of the deck is to be the ultimate grinder with almost all of your
creatures posing different angles of attack against control as well as
having utility against other normal creature decks. I say normal creatures
because red decks don’t play normal creatures like the rest of us have to.
Your match up against any of the control decks is almost laughable with the
amount of haymaker threats you have as well as cheap threatening creatures
like Glint-Sleeve Siphoner. I like the matchup enough game one since you
only have five mostly dead cards and get to upgrade a ton after sideboard.

Rishkar, Peema Renegade might look a little out of place, since I’m sure
the lack of Winding Constrictor is apparent, but it does play an important
role in getting your Llanowar Elves and Glint-Sleeve Siphoners out of range
of Goblin Chainwhirler in a lot of game ones against red. Getting your
Thrashing Brontodons out of Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Glorybringer
range is also a huge deal since they’re your primary threats against them.

I went undefeated in the swiss of the tournament but eventually fell to R/B
Aggro in the top 4 in some extremely close games. There are some changes
I’d make to the deck, but overall I was very happy with the list I played
and only would like a few more tools in that matchup to make me want to
register it again!

While Nissa, Vital Force is an amazing card and its synergy with The Eldest
Reborn is pretty sweet, I found myself wanting more copies of Walking
Ballista in almost every game I played, so that’s the only change to the
maindeck I’d make.

Similar to what I spoke of in the Esper Control deck, four Vraska’s
Contempt often isn’t enough, and having a functional fifth copy in Hour of
Glory is exactly what the doctor ordered. That paired with Aethersphere
Harvester should improve the Mono-Red matchup since you often have a hard
time sticking some threats on the battlefield to not only gain life, but
threaten to attack Chandra, Torch of Defiance and block everything outside
of Hazoret the Fervent. I’m not sure this should make your sideboard games
a walk in the park, but they’ll certainly help.

Here’s a little sideboard guide to a few of the more common decks I think
you’ll face in the current metagame.

VS Mono-Red Aggro and R/B Aggro



You almost completely change gears here and a lot of what you were trying
to do isn’t the same in the sideboard games. Aside from the obvious
Aethersphere Harvester and more removal, your absolute best card here is
Carnage Tyrant. It’s a card they have very few outs to, buys you time
against Hazoret and can pressure not just Chandra but most importantly,
their life total. With cards like Glorybringer it’s pretty silly to imagine
you’re going to be able to go too long against them, and Carnage Tyrant
does it all at playing both defense and offense.

VS Esper Control and U/W Control



Here we’re taking out a lot of dead cards for better threats, hand
disruption, and card draw engines. The only cards you care about are The
Scarab God and Approach of the Second Sun against decks like these since
they’re the ones who are going to be put on the backfoot. Feel free to cut
some Servant of the Conduits, but they could also be Llanowar Elves
depending on play versus draw and if you think attacking for two is better
than the one-mana investment into your creature, which certainly could be
the case.

VS W/B Aggro



This is a strange matchup because you want both more removal and Duress. A
lot of their threats and non-creatures in the hand become creatures on the
battlefield, stuff like like History of Benalia, Heart of Kiran, and Karn,
Scion of Urza. Each of those cards are among the more important cards in
the matchup. You could leave in the second copy of The Eldest Reborn and
only bring in two Duress, but only when you’re on the play would I suggest
this change. Overall, I think you’re pretty favored since you do a lot of
what they’re doing but slightly bigger and with more removal, but it could
go either way.

It turns out I wasn’t able to play in the RPTQ this past weekend, so I’ve
got some prep work to do for the one in just a couple of weeks. I’ll
certainly be the one on my team sporting Blooming Marsh and am thrilled to
have a crack at playing Standard again in the coming weeks!