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BMoor's Magic The Gathering Deck Garage
"Standard Elf Deck"
February 11, 2011

Continuing my theme of "decks I should have fixed earlier", here's an Elf deck that came to me on December 31 and mentioned needing to be brought to Type-2 code by "a few weeks" from date of receipt.

Of course, just the fact that I'm fixing it at all I consider a triumph. Elf decks have never been my strong suit.


Okay, I need help with a deck. I'm returning to school in a few weeks, and while there, I intend to compete in type-2 tournaments. However, the deck I used to use is no longer Type-2 compatible, and need help making the deck compatible. It's a green Elf deck, that primarily focuses on supercharging my elves and swarming the battlefield with them.:
Elven Swarm Deck:

Planeswalkers (2):
1 Garruk Wildspeaker
1 Nissa Revane
Creatures (27):
3 Elvish Archdruid

4 Llanowar Elves
1 Imperious Perfect
1 Wildslayer Elves
2 Elvish Visionary
1 Immaculate Magistrate
2 Jagged-Scar Archers
1 Elvish Champion
1 Joraga Bard
1 Drove of Elves
1 Oracle of Mul Daya
1 Tajuru Archer
1 Twinblade Slasher
2 Elvish Branchbender
2 Elvish Eulogist
1 Nissa's Chosen
1 Talara's Battalion

1 Graypelt Hunter

Other Spells (19):
1 Coat of Arms
1 Leyline of Vitality
1 Fog
1 Fistful of Force
1 Oakenform
1 Hunter's Feast
1 Gaea's Touch
3 Giant Growth
1 Cultivate
2 Naturalize
4 Rampant Growth
2 Elvish Promenade

Lands (23):
23 Forest

Using Gaea's Touch and cards like Oracle of Mul Daya and Rampant Growth to place as many Forests as possible, then using the lands to summon out cards like Elvish Archdruid to boost the power of all the Elves on the user's battlefield, while using Nissa Revane and Elvish Promenade to swarm the field with Elves, and Garruk to summon Beast tokens, untap lands when needed, and then to act as a Giant Growth for the super-powered Elves to crush the opponent with their collected might.


Long-time readers of my garage know that Elf decks, and to a lesser extent Goblin decks, have never really clicked with me. This might be because of some traumatically bad beatdowns during Onslaught block, or it could be because of their combinatorial explosion. Every set introduces more and more of these perennial tribes. How do you
cherry pick the best out of almost 20 years of legacy? Can there be a "best" Elf deck? Over the years Elves have taken so many shapes that the various strategies and synergies contained under the banner of "Elves" mean that there's almost no way to determine which are better. And every new set just adds more fuel to the fire!

But this deck was specifically requested to be Standard-legal. Standard only contains 26 Elves. That I can handle.

Any Elf deck in Standard has five options for being rewarded for its tribality: Elvish Archdruid; Ezuri, Renegade Leader; Joraga Warcaller, Nissa Revane, and Joraga Treespeaker. Of the five, only Treespeaker can be safely opted out of. The Archdruid provides a team pump and a mana boost, Ezuri can protect other Elves from spot removal and provides repeatable Overrun effects, Joraga Warcaller is a scalable pump that easily reach +4/+4 or more thanks to the extra mana from the Archdruid... but the Treespeaker just gives Elves the ability to tap for GG. Most of the time you'll want your Elves attacking or blocking, and even to get the mana ability, you need to pour a lot of mana into the Treespeaker. That said, Treespeaker does a good Greenweaver Druid impression, so there's no reason she needs to be pulled if you're not finding her a disappointment.

As of now, your Standard-legal Elves consist only of the ones mentioned above, the playset of Llanowar Elves, Nissa's Chosen, Joraga Bard and Tajuru Archer, and Oracle of Mul Daya. If you want to pursue an Elf Ally deck, then by all means go to four-ofs of the Archer and the Bard, plus Vastwood Animist and Turntimber Ranger. It could be an interesting angle. But if you don't want to build it that way, Joraga Bard and Tajuru Archer need to come out. They're not good enough without a strong Ally theme, and Joraga Bard is barely good enough with it.

If you don't want Allies, you'll need more Elves. Nissa's Chosen is
an obvious choice since you've already got a copy of Nissa. I'd say a full set would be best, since Nissa can go and get them all, and then get them again when they die. But since Nissa can also gain life to add loyalty, you can easily get away with 2 or 3. Llanowar Elves is a solid play. If you want mana, Arbor Elf and Viridian Emissary are good choices too, but then finding an Elf that doesn't ramp your mana is easier than finding one that does.

Now for your spells. Everything needs to come out, except for the following: Garruk and Nissa, Giant Growth, Cultivate, and Leyline of Vitality. Everything else is either not Standard, or not good enough to make the cut. Cultivate, meanwhile, could use more copies. If you want more mana ramping, Explore wouldn't be a bad choice. But I think what you really need is something to spend that mana on.

Green Sun's Zenith may look like a good choice, but if the most expensive green creature in your deck only costs four mana, than a Zenith with X=12 is a waste of energy. A better choice is Genesis Wave, which continues to give added value until X exceeds the number of cards left in your deck. Not only can it parley the mana generated by your Llanowars, Archdruids, and excess lands into a massive army and an additional cache of lands, but it can also help you recover from a Day of Judgment, provided enough of your mana is coming from actual lands that weren't Judged away.

Finally, a singleton of Oran-Rief, the Vastwood would be quite useful, particularly when two or more green creatures have entered the battlefield this turn, and most particularly if one or more of them are Joraga Warcaller. This is even more helpful when you consider that Genesis Wave does not allow you to pay kicker costs, because you are not casting anything that it reveals.

I can only hope I've fixed this deck better than some Elf decks I've attempted in the past. I do so wish they'd give us a block every once in a while that didn't have Elves or Goblins. No Elves was one of my favorite thing about Kamigawa block-- it proved that Magic could stretch its flavor far beyond your typical high fantasy creatures. But alas, it seems every plane in the Multiverse has Goblins.




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Magic the Gathering Deck Fixes