Your Favorite Flavor of Elves

Even though I can’t make it to this weekend’s Legacy Grand Prix in Seattle/Tacoma, I would still like to share what would have been the list I would have registered for it. If you’re looking for some advice, ideas or maybe just someone to reinforce your feelings about Elves, this is for you.

Ever since the bannng of Dig Through Time on my birthday (thx, WotC!) Elves has skyrocketed back to where it left off right before the eternal mistake that was Khans of Tarkir. It’s one of the strongest and resilient choices in the metagame and will not only provide you with a lot of quick and dirty wins, but also outgrind most other decks that you will face.

Elves!

Creatures (28)
Deathrite Shaman
Quirion Ranger
Nettle Sentinel
Elvish Visionary
Wirewood Symbiote
Heritage Druid
Birchlore Rangers
Craterhoof Behemoth
Reclamation Sage

Sorceries (11)
Green Sun’s Zenith
Glimpse of Nature
Natural Order

Enchantments (1)
Sylvan Library
Lands (20)
Windswept Heath
Wooded Foothills
Gaea’s Cradle
Bayou
Forest
Dryad Arbor
Pendelhaven
Cavern of Souls

Sideboard (15)
Cabal Therapy
Abrupt Decay
Thoughtseize
Surgical Extraction
Krosan Grip
Pithing Needle
Scavenging Ooze

This list is heavily tuned against Miracles and Storm while still maintaining a pretty strong punch vs most Delver decks. I am fully expecting Miracles but also Storm to show up in even greater numbers than we used to see in the US in the past; still, we are talking about a huge Grand Prix in a less financially permeable format, so don’t expect to get paired against either more than twice on Day 1 — which doesn’t mean these these wouldn’t be the deck you shouldn’t be most ready for. Because Elves has a very proactive game plan, especially in game1, it has less trouble taking down seemingly random brews, allowing for a bite more dedication when it comes to sideboard slots.

What I am presenting you is a slight variation of the classic build I have been promoting for for a long time now, so let’s focus on the changes I am suggesting

1 Cavern of Souls

I always wanted to include this card but somehow didn’t dare to do it as contrary to popular believe, Elves’ manabase really isn’t all that pretty. With Merfolk dropping Wasteland, Elves is now left with the questionable feature of having the worst (pretty much) monocolroed manabase of the format. And yet I think it’s the correct choice to substitute either the 9th Fetchland or Pendelhaven for one Cavern of Souls. The logical cut would be Pendelhaven as it has always been the flexslot of the manabase, but the card is just way to good to part with. If I had to make a choice between the two, Pendelhaven would win out. Still, after playing a couple of tournaments with it, Cavern has the huge upside of actually taking over games vs Miracles, which is something we desperately need. I’m not saying that Cavern is the right choice in every meta everywhere around the planet; but right now for this GP, it appears to be an excellent choice to me.

Also, don’t listen to people who will tell you that it’s “too random“; those people have no idea what they are talking about or how deckbuilding actually works. Remember that you can never draw the Cavern that you don’t put into your deck; by doing so you are adding an additional way variance can greatly swing your way at relatively low risk. Don’t think of as a Stitch in Time, think of it as a Demonic Consultation, if that makes sense.

1 Sylvan Library, 3 Natural Order

Not sure if you wanna call this a change since I have been running with it for quite a long time by now. But since people keep asking about it, there are two main reasons why I really love this configuration: first, Sylvan Library is absolutely awesome. At an easy investment of only two mana, most decks can’t outright stop unless they’re willing to Force of Will it or Time Walk themselves by spending an entire turn Abrupt Decay‘ing it. Unanswered, it takes down games all on its own, making it a card I pretty much always want to see in my starting hand except for against most combo decks.

But why cut a Natural Order for it? Because the cards and what they do for you are more similar than you probably imagine. I won’t deny that in most game1 situations, Natural Order is probably the better draw, but it’s close. What both cards have in common is their ability to close games in almost no time. But while Natural Order kills immediately, Sylvan Library comes with a lower risk of falling behind should it get answered — at the cost of speed. These features are the reason why I really like going for the 3-1 split on these two cards: we clearly want to raw power of Natural Order in the first game, but drawing multiples, especially in your opening hand often feels aweful and I would like to decrease said risk at the rather small cost of exchanging the 4th copy of our high-variance card for a more „balanced“ version of it.

The second reason I really like this confirguration is pretty simple: it creates an additional sideboard slot. Sylvan Library is a mainstay in every Elves sideboard around the world and I have been known to sometimes even run two in my 75. This alone wouldn’t be enough of a reason to maindeck the card. However since Natural Order loses quite a lot of value in postboard games where you not only often have to fight the usual countermagic but also see your opponent bring in permanent-based hate like Grafdigger’s Cage or Containment Priest, risk/reward-wise Elves often finds itself in a precarious situation. That’s why I like to push even harder for the grinding playstyle that is perfectly embodied by Sylvan Library. By having said card in the maindeck in the first place, this is one more slot in the sideboard that I can fill with high impact cards. Which leads me to…

2 Krosan Grip

Miracle player getting Top hit by Krosan Grip

For when you lost to Miracles just one too many times. Forget Choke or Null Rod, Krosan Grip is in town. Seriously, out of all the playable options, this is far and away the best thing you can do to them. Especially against Elves, Sensei’s Divining Top is the card holding the deck together like none other and being able to take it down with no string attached will improve your matchup by a lot. It’s also worth noting that in the arms race between our two decks, Miracles now routinely brings in Wear/Tear which decreases the value of what the more permanent-based hate we used to pack a lot in the past.

I wish I could play 3 copies (and I do on MODO), but in a tournament like the GP, I really wouldn’t want to part with the 1 Scavenging Ooze that would probably be the first cut in this configuration.

2 Pithing Needle

I prefer the two Needles over the more traditional split with Null Rod, mostly because of the most recent rise of Sneak Show as well as the importance of shutting down Inkmoth Nexus vs Infect. Unlike Null Rod, it’s vulnerable to Engineered Explosives but these days I am much more concerned about Izzet Staticaster out of Miracles anyways. The downside is Needle being useless vs Storm, but hey, I didn’t promise you delusional free upsides at no costs; that’s what Trump 2016 is for.

That’s it for today. I’m already incredibly hyped for the Grand Prix and am looking forward to seeing some awesome matches and lots of my friends hopefully do well! If you have any questions, feel free to hit me up on Twitter!

Julian

/Edit: Storm looks to be an even bigger part of the meta than it ever was before. If you wanna further increase your odds against them to a point where I would actually feel comfortable facing them, I would advise to include 1 tutorable piece of permanent hate. Be it your choice of Ruric Thar, the Unbowed, or Gaddock Teeg. I tried out the later recently to ok success but adding the Savannah (in pace of a Forest) to the manabase puts it at a real stretch. One positive upside is that Miracles have been dropping Karakas a lot recently. If you get to Surgical Extract Swords to Plowshares and don’t run him into Flash creatures, you’re in an immensly favorable situation!

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