Rogue Decks For Regionals: Elven Call!

Elven Call is a swarm deck. It tries to get out more creatures than your opponent can handle and boost them to lethal proportions with the”Overrun effect” of Gempalms, Forcemages, or Coat of Arms. And this deck in particular was a blast to play; even if it turns out not to be the deck you want to run in Regionals, you have to put it together for the sheer fun of playing it.

Regionals is fast approaching (May 3rd is the day, in case you haven’t been keeping track) and the web is filled with articles on what the top Standard decks are and how to play them. I’ve decided to do something a little different with my pre-Regionals articles.

This is the second installment in my series on rogue decks for Standard. I’m building new decks, testing them for a couple of days, then passing them on to you.

I’d like to make a couple of quick points before I go into this week’s deck: By the very nature of this project, the decks contained in these articles are not properly tested. If one of them strikes your fancy and you want to play it in Regionals, do your homework first. Test the deck and sideboarding plans. See for yourself if it can hold its own in the expected metagame.

I also believe these decks to be new creations – but with six million Magic players out there, you never know. There will certainly be similar decks, and possibly nearly identical builds. Even if that proves to be the case, it is definitely worth noting that I built these decks without outside influence – so in the worst-case scenario, at least you’re getting my take on the deck!

I love working on decks in general, but this deck in particular was a blast to play. Even if it turns out not to be the deck you want to run in Regionals, you have to put it together for the sheer fun of playing it.

Elven Call

4 Llanowar Elves

1 Elvish Lyrist

2 Elvish Pioneer

4 Elvish Warrior

4 Wirewood Herald

4 Gempalm Strider

2 Wellwisher

4 Wirewood Hivemaster

3 Caller of the Claw

3 Tribal Forcemage

3 Elvish Guidance

4 Slate of Ancestry

2 Coat of Arms

20 Forest


2 Steely Resolve

4 Compost

2 Naturalize

2 Tranquility

2 Wellwisher

3 Hurricane

How It Works:

Elven Call is a swarm deck. It tries to get out more creatures than your opponent can handle and boost them to lethal proportions with the”Overrun effect” of Gempalms, Forcemages, or Coat of Arms.

It accomplishes the overwhelming numbers necessary for this strategy in multiple ways. The most mundane is the old-fashioned,”I have a deck filled with tons of cheap creatures and you don’t” method. Slightly more techy and entertaining is the incredible insect-generating power of the Wirewood Hivemasters. The real power and fun however, comes from the Elvish Guidance/Slate of Ancestry combo. The Guidance generates a mana for each elf in play, the slate draws a card for each creature in play. Use the Slate to draw a bunch of elves and the mana from the Guidance to cast them all. Next turn you’ll have more guys in play, so you’ll draw more cards – and conveniently enough, your Guidance is giving you more mana, so you can cast them all. Let me tell you, this cycle gets out of hand very quickly!

Card Breakdown:

4 Llanowar Elves:

This guy is the best elf ever printed. I’ll be sad to see him go when 8th Edition rotates in. In this deck, the Llanowar serves his normal role as a mana accelerator and is essential to the mana curve as a”drop.”

1 Elvish Lyrist:

One Lyrist isn’t very reliable enchantment control, but it made the cut for two reasons: First, the Heralds make it nice to have utility elves. Second, one-casting-cost elves are critical to this deck’s rush strategy. Given that you want to have a turn 1 play most of the time, I felt seven one-casting-cost elves was as low as I could go.

2 Elvish Pioneer:

More one-casting-cost elves, the Pioneers are a nice speed boost in the opening draw, but also help when you are”going off” with the Slate.

4 Elvish Warrior:

He’s no Wild Mongrel, but the Elvish Warrior is beefy. A 2/3 elf for two mana is just too good to pass up.

4 Wirewood Herald:

Most decks are either trying to kill all your guys or give you plenty of opportunities for creature combat. In either case the Wirewood Herald is a little 1/1 Demonic Tutor beatstick.

This Tutor role is most evident in his amazing synergy with Caller of the Claw; any global removal will kill the Herald, allowing you to fetch the Claw. As long as you have a Herald on the table, it’s like you have saved a Caller of the Claw in your hand.

4 Gempalm Strider:

This guy’s great. He serves the two primary rolls of the deck. He is both a very solid early play and an”Overrun effect” finisher.

2 Wellwisher:

This fragile two-drop will gain you a lot of life (there are thirty-one elves in this deck, after all!)… If she lives, of course. She really shines against Blue/Green Madness; as they use Wonder to fly over your defenses, she keeps you alive while you build up the swarm. Originally, there was only one Wellwisher main deck and three in the board; unfortunately, there were sixteen sideboard cards that I felt I had to have in order to win all the major matchups, so one of them had to be moved to the main deck – and as a two-casting-cost elf, the Wellwisher made the most sense.

4 Wirewood Hivemaster:

This was one of those cards I had to try out to respect. I initially had one Hivemaster, two Elvish Vanguards, and a Stonewood Invoker in these spots. Among them, Hivemaster was the card I most wanted to draw, and most often Heralded for. The Vanguard was kind of cool, and perhaps should be worked back into the deck, but not at the cost of a Hivemaster.

Drawing one Hivemaster is good. The insects he generates help you build up your swarm, give you chump blockers you don’t mind losing, and provide wonderful Chainer’s Edict protection. Against Black decks, you’ll play a one-drop on turn 1 to protect your Hivemaster from Edicts. Against other decks, his effect is powerful enough that you’ll want to save your one-drop until turn 3.

While one Hivemaster is powerful, drawing multiple Hivemasters is a victory condition in itself. With two or three of these guys out, the insect swarm grows explosively. Get your tokens ready.

3 Caller of the Claw:

Swarm decks like Elven Call have always feared Wrath of God (those elves are a God-fearin’ folk). With Onslaught’s introduction of Slice and Dice and Starstorm, things only got worse. Legion’s Caller of the Claw gave the Elves a way to fight back against these mass-removal effects. With the aforementioned Herald-Caller synergy, as long as you have three mana open, there is no longer a need to fear the Wrath.

3 Tribal Forcemage:

This guy is Overrun with a layaway plan. You can pay five in one turn to give all your Elves (or insects) +2/+2 and Trample, or play three this turn and two next turn for the same effect. If you are going the slower route, the Forcemage himself can join the Overrun party.

3 Elvish Guidance:

Elvish Guidance is the mana-generating part of the Guidance/Slate combo. The ridiculous amounts of mana this card generates are also useful for dropping the pricey Coat of Arms, or for doing multiple Overrun effects in one turn.

I had four Guidances and sixty-one cards until recently. When I forced myself to trim the fat, it was with great reluctance that the Guidance got the cut. While it’s very powerful, it doesn’t do anything on its own, thus drawing multiple in your opening hand can be bad, thus the reduction to three.

4 Slate of Ancestry:

This card is great in any creature deck that drops its hand quickly. The extra mana provided by the Llanowars, Pioneers, and most notably Guidance bring the Slate from”good” to”broken” in this deck.

2 Coat of Arms:

Coat of Arms is the ultimate kiddie card. It’s just so darn fun to play! This deck’s tribal swarm theme makes the Coat very powerful indeed. Its high casting cost, backfire potential, and the fact that we already have the creature-dependent cards Slate of Ancestry and Elvish Guidance kept the number of Coats down to two.

20 Forest:

Twenty land is a little tight – but with the Llanowars, Guidance, and generally low curve, it works. You will have to mulligan a lot of”one-land, no-Llanowar” hands, but that’s the price you have to pay in small creature swarm decks.


2 Steely Resolve:

These are primarily to combat targeted removal from red decks so you can get your swarm going. It’s an absolute must against Goblin Sparksmith decks.

4 Compost:

The card that makes Black control cry. Given your large number of fast creatures, Tog will usually have enough black creature kill spells to make Compost worth bringing in.

2 Naturalize:

Green Disenchant provides protection against Ensnaring Bridge, Engineered Plague, Astral Slide, and more.

2 Tranquility:

You need the mass enchantment removal against Slide decks.

2 Wellwisher:

These guys are primarily against U/G madness. In combination with Steely Resolve, they can be devastating against Goblin or Red Green beatdown as well.

3 Hurricane:

Fliers – and most notably Wonder – are a problem. Against ground-pounding decks, between the Heralds and the Hivemaster’s insects, you can hold them off all day… But that trick doesn’t work against an air force.

Silklash Spider was the other contender for this spot, but the finishing power of Hurricane made me go with this X spell. Try out both and see which works best for you.

Sideboarding Strategies:

Vs. Goblins

In this matchup, you need the Steely Resolves to combat the power of the Sparksmith. With the exception of Sparky, your creatures are just better then theirs – so if they don’t draw him, or you draw your Resolve, you’re in good shape. If you don’t draw your Resolve, you can try to make Smiting away your team too costly with the card advantage of Herald, Caller of the Claw, and Hivemaster.

Because they are tribal too, Coat of Arms is way too likely to backfire here.

Bring in: 2 Steely Resolve, 2 Wellwisher

Take out: 2 Coat of Arms, 1 Elvish Guidance, 1 Slate of Ancestry

Vs. Red/Green

Red/Green frequently packs enough burn that you want to lower your dependence on Guidance and Slate. Steely Resolve will be very good in this matchup; if you can get one out, Herald up a Wellwisher and you should have plenty of time to build up a lethal swarm. Just be careful they don’t lock you out with an Ensnaring Bridge.

Bring in: 2 Steely Resolve, 2 Naturalize

Take out: 1 Elvish Lyrist, 1 Elvish Guidance, 2 Slate of Ancestry

Vs. Tog

This matchup is pretty good. You have a lot of low casting cost threats and good Edict protection. Tog’s countermagic can make”set-up” spells like Elvish Guidance look bad, and Coat of Arms is often overkill, but otherwise all your cards are great against them.

Bring in: 4 Compost

Take out: 2 Coat of Arms, 2 Elvish Guidance

Vs. Blue Green Madness

You’ll win the long game, but a quick kill by a flying team is a very big threat. The Wellwisher is the key to making sure you have time to overwhelm them. Unfortunately, they will rarely give you the opportunity to get a Herald killed, so you’ll have to draw one the old-fashioned way.

Bring in: 3 Hurricane, 2 Wellwisher

Take out: 1 Elvish Lyrist, 2 Elvish Guidance, 2 Slate of Ancestry

Vs. Mono Black Control

Visara, Mutilate, and Engineered Plague are your biggest problems in this matchup; fortunately, Caller of the Claw and Compost are both amazing here. Coat of Arms can be a nice defense against Plague, and a quick kill. Their Mutilates and heavy creature control makes it a good idea to lower your dependence on creature-dependent cards.

Bring in: 4 Compost, 2 Steely Resolve, 2 Naturalize

Take out: 1 Elvish Lyrist, 1 Wellwisher, 3 Elvish Guidance, 3 Slate of Ancestry

Vs. Slide

If it weren’t for the Callers, this matchup would be abysmal. As it is, you’ll be happy you have lots of sideboard cards against them. As with any removal-heavy matchup it’s necessary to lower your count of creature dependent cards.

Sadly, it’s not in my current plan due its poor synergy with Tranquility and impotence against Wrath effects, but Steely Resolve has potential in this matchup.

Bring in: 2 Naturalize, 2 Tranquility, 3 Hurricane

Take out: 1 Wellwisher, 3 Elvish Guidance, 3 Slate of Ancestry

Vs. the rest:

The main deck has nine creature-dependent cards (three Elvish Guidances, four Slates of Ancestry, two Coat of Arms). If you are facing a deck that is good at killing your Elves, you should cut a few of whatever’s weakest in that particular matchup. Remember to bring in Wellwisher if you’re facing off against lots of evasion, or against any beatdown deck that can’t kill them.

A note on sideboarding:

In some decks there are main deck cards that come out almost every matchup, or sideboard cards that come in almost every matchup. This begs the questions:”Is this deck built wrong? Do those cards belong in the main deck?”

The answer is not always that the deck is misbuilt. What you have to look for is if the cards in question are always swapped for the same thing. If they are, the deck is misbuilt. If not, the question is still up for debate.

In the case of this deck, the Guidance/Slate combo is often coming out, but different things are brought in to replace them in each matchup. For the main deck, Guidance/Slate gives you more power against an unknown opponent than any of those sideboard cards.

Given the nature of this article’s deck, it seems appropriate to sign off with a shameless plug for my new tokens. As some of you know, I’ve gotten into manufacturing, and have a new set of Double-Sided Tokens out. The artwork, card stock, and card cutting on this set are all top-notch – and best of all, they’re cheap! You can see what they look like at www.doublesidedtokens.com and pick them up at your local store or right here at the starcitygames.com online store.