Tribal Thriftiness – We Are Santa’s Elves

Santa was right to hire Elves – those guys are vicious on the battlefield! Dave explores the budget options in building a competitive Elf tribal deck, and takes a short look at Elf decks (and holidays) past.

‘Tis the season! Sorry for the column title — I’ve gotten that song stuck in my head thanks to the Missus watching “Rudolph

the Red-Nosed Reindeer” over and over again. So I thought I’d take this week to do a little thematic justice while still

talking tribal.

Hopefully your friends and family aren’t doing what mine are inevitably doing. Each year, my wife fields calls from everyone

saying, “I don’t know how to shop for Dave. He’s so hard to shop for!” And then I end up with things like a DVD copy of

Lindsey Lohan’s “Just My Luck.” It’s easy, people! Just buy Magic cards. I really don’t care what set they’re even from.

Invariably they’ll say something about how boring or predictable it is, but look at it this way: I get what I want! It’s

like giving a gift card, only without the impersonal genericosity of it. (Yes, Craig, it’s a word.) [Hmmm… Craig.]

I mean, my wife knows what I like. Foreign language, most recent set. Easy to get in most cases. Heck, StarCityGames.com

itself has a foreign singles section — if you’re desperate, head in there and buy me a Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author] or something! I don’t need

any more sweaters, thank you.

Santa’s Elves Are Less Dangerous (But More Into Personal Beauty)

The Black-and-Green Elves of Lorwyn have certainly made their impact on Standard, winning Star City’s pre-States $1000 Open

tournament, and winning at least five State Championships. A number of players played an Elf-like deck into 5-0 records at

Worlds last weekend, including Katsuhiro Mori.

Mori’s deck, based on Tarmogoyfs alone, pushes this well out of the “budget” range, but one of my favorite ways to get around

the “budget” problem is to mimic the design of a deck (here, efficient creatures with black “burn” to finish) while still

selecting inexpensive cards or cards that I already own. In this case, we might also improve the inter-tribal relations of

the deck.

The creature base has sixteen Elves, plus seven non-Elves that are still efficient creatures in their own right. Masked

Admirers, as a five-dollar rare, is something that is nice if you have them, but we should probably leave them out, along

with the Tarmogoyfs and Trolls. We probably ought to consider Garruk Wildspeaker a “creature” even though he serves multiple

purposes. You can take or leave the Mirri — I think I’ll leave her. This means we have eleven slots to fill with Elves that

will hopefully be nicely pumped up by a Perfect. Our options include:

1. Increasing the numbers of the singleton Elves, Boreal Druid and Civic Wayfinder. The important question to ask when

considering this is, “Do we need more mana?” The deck has 23 land and five mana Elves; right now, that’s probably enough.

2. Adding efficient Elves that can quickly bring the beatdown. The premiere choice in this front is Jagged-Scar Archers,

which is relatively inexpensive (converted cost of 3) and benefits from a large, Perfect-generated army. Pendelhaven Elder

can play the role of pumper should you not have an Imperious Perfect yet. Riftsweeper is a 2/2 for 2 that has a relevant

ability in today’s Standard. Thornweald Archer is a good man, and saw play in the States Champs decks.

3. Adding Elves to follow the mana curve. The expensive cards that we are removing have mana costs of two (Tarmogoyf), three

(Troll), and four (Masked Admirers, Mirri, and Garruk). In order to get the best results without overly tweaking the land

count, we’ll probably want to keep the curve intact.

Luckily, we already have some good options when it comes to mixing options two and three together. The Archers can take the

Trolls’ spots, and Riftsweeper can step in for Tarmogoyf. Well, at least in his space in the mana curve. Lys Alana

Huntmaster, which seems to be quite popular in Limited, could take the four-mana slot, and give us a reason to keep playing

Elves. We can add one more Civic Wayfinder to make sure we have access to Black mana now that we’ll probably be cutting back

on the rare lands. This gives us a creature base of:

4 Imperious Perfect
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Wren’s Run Vanquisher
4 Riftsweeper
4 Jagged-Scar Archers
4 Lys Alana Huntmaster
2 Civic Wayfinder
1 Boreal Druid

Now on to the spell suite. Sure, we’re losing Thoughtseize, which is a great pre-emptive card, but if we want to continue

the discard theme, we have access to Funeral Charm in the same casting cost. Personally, I think the bigger card to replace

is probably Profane Command, which acts as sort of a “jack-of-all-trades” for this deck. Need removal? Check. Need to burn

your opponent out with that last little bit of damage? Okay! Just want that Imperious Perfect back to make your army

bigger? How about the Perfect, and you make all your guys unblockable this turn? The versatility of Profane

Command just can’t be replaced.

The functions, though, can.

First, we should go up to four Eyeblight’s Ending to play off the interaction with the Huntmaster. That plus the Nameless

Inversions (which also should go up) should give us the removal we want to get damage through. Squall Line is a dollar rare

that we can run as a two-of to give us a shot at cracking the last point or two of damage on a stubborn opponent. And my

favorite Green card in Tenth Edition, Overrun, can make sure we get that damage from our army through (nicely replacing

Garruk’s ultimate ability).

4 Eyeblight’s Ending
3 Nameless Inversion
3 Overrun
2 Squall Line

The original deck had 23 lands, and we’d like to copy that as well. The deck relies less on Black mana (only in now for the

removal), but you will want to get it fairly early. One cheap option would be to run Vivid Grove, which will still give you

Green mana early, and get you the Black mana when you need it. The deck doesn’t necessarily like the fact that it comes into

play tapped, but it’s already running Treetop Village, so it will make do. I’d also like to run Mouth of Ronom as another

removal option, since the deck will be so reliant now on basic lands. Plus, I like the snow-Santa analogy. Makes me feel

all warm and tingly inside.

8 Snow-Covered Forest
4 Vivid Grove
4 Treetop Village
4 Snow-Covered Swamp
3 Mouth of Ronom

Here’s the final deck:

Rare options that you could add include Nath of the Gilt-Leaf for creating more Elf tokens, Elvish Champion for pumping and

Forestwalking, the removed Masked Admirers for a resilient creature and a little bit of card drawing, and any of the rare

lands that produce Green and Black.

Elves: Not Just For Christmas

While I was living in Germany, I worked with a couple of guys organizing tournaments for American soldiers stationed there.

We ran Friday Night Magic and Release Events, and Wizards of the Coast was great, always making sure we had promos to give

out. This past year, we ran an event that happened to be on Saint Patrick’s Day. Due to the holiday, we decided to hold a

special side event all day long. We offered a pack to anyone who built a Mono-Green deck and could beat OUR Mono-Green


There was actually a lot of variety in the decks built. Some people focused on Forestwalkers, expecting to be able to sneak

through for damage against a Mono-Green deck. One of the guys in the “to be beaten” pile, my man Yoshi, maintained a copy of

the “Stupid Green” Stampeding Wildebeests deck, and played that. My friend Michael was out visiting, and we spent a good

deal of time agonizing over what we would play. Eventually we built two VERY different Elf decks.

4 Llanowar Elves
4 Fyndhorn Elves
4 Priest of Titania
4 Wellwisher
4 Quirion Ranger
4 Seeker of Skybreak
4 Unyaro Bees
3 Essence Warden

4 Hurricane
2 Squall Line
1 Stream of Life

4 Wirewood Lodge
18 Forest

This deck’s aim was to either run out a Wellwisher or Warden, and gain enough life to be able to Hurricane for the victory;

or to get an Unyaro Bees out with enough mana to kill in one swoop.

4 Llanowar Elves
4 Elvish Warrior
4 Timberwatch Elf
4 Llanowar Sentinel
4 Skyshroud Elite
4 Gempalm Strider
2 Stonewood Invoker

4 Giant Growth
4 Overrun
4 Unyaro Bee Sting

4 Wirewood Lodge
18 Forest

Obviously, here the goal is to amass a cheap army and just Overrun for the win. Surprisingly, not many people played

Overrun. The deck can pull up multiple 2/3’s which is so important when facing an army of Grizzly Bears.

Neither deck dropped a pack all day. I played the lifegain deck and regularly ended games over a hundred life.

Merry Christmas Every One

I hope everyone has gotten their request for their Magic cards of choice in to Santa. It’ll be too late next week! So until

then …