Since October, when Shards of Alara and M10 rotated out of Standard, I’ve no longer had a functional deck to play. I’ve been watching for something that seemed reasonably competitive but wouldn’t obliterate my bank account. I’ve settled on the accurately named “Elves” deck, which can smash opponents for ludicrous amounts of damage as early as turn four.
Unfortunately, there’s really no such thing as a truly budget Standard deck these days. Elves definitely comes in on the low end of a scale where the top decks will run you $600 – $700 (another lower-buck option is the mono-white Quest Combo deck). The most expensive cards in Elves are Nissa and the Monument, although there are versions that run Vengevine, which substantially increases the overall cost. I don’t think they’re necessary.
Like I usually do with constructed decks, I take the initial deck idea and then tweak it to my own taste, so I don’t generally end up running a “stock” version of a deck. Here’s my current build:
3x Joraga Treespeaker
4x Arbor Elf
4x Elvish Archdruid
3x Ezuri, Renegade Leader
3x Fauna Shaman
4x Llanowar Elves
3x Nissa’s Chosen
2x Joraga Warcaller
1x Wurmcoil Engine
1x Wolfbriar Elemental
1x Acidic Slime
The function is fairly straightforward — run out some elves and start generating ridiculous amounts of mana very early. The Archdruid is really the lynchpin, since he can crank out three or four mana by turns four or five. However, the other elves do enough impressive things to spread out the threat density. Treespeakers make mana and are a tempting Bolt target, while you can multikick a Warcaller to two counters pretty easily, and that makes all of your elves beastly (I’ve had him at three counters a few times thanks to Archdruids). And with all that mana around, Ezuri can both protect elves and give them the Overrun boost for the kill. I’ve even activated his ability twice in one attack for a massive alpha strike.
Like all elf decks ever, this one is vulnerable to board sweepers like Day of Judgment or Consume the Meek. The Monument is critical in those situations — the extra power boost and flying is obviously a pretty big deal too. I bring in Vines from the sideboard against decks with a lot targeted removal so I can protect Archdruids and Warcallers early on. Other builds use Asceticism for that purpose, but I find it’s easier to leave a single mana open during the critical early game.
If every game just involved turning elves sideways, I couldn’t keep playing a deck like this. Too boring. It’s the Fauna Shaman that really makes this work for me. Her ability to tutor for any creature in the deck is awesome, and not just because she can grab an Archdruid or Ezuri when you really need one (she’s amazing with Vengevines, too, if you go in that direction with this deck). Her real benefit to me is that she allows you to run one-of utility creatures like Acidic Slime and situational bombs like the Wolfbriar. In fact, I threw a Slime into the maindeck at the last second last week and it was seriously clutch. I’m excited to see what other good fetchable green creatures turn up in Mirrodin Besieged.
I have a feeling that Genesis Wave is something of a “win more” card in this deck. I’m going to try replacing them with Contagion Clasp which will help me deal with opponent’s creatures (this deck’s most glaring weakness) and also looks pretty good alongside a Warcaller. There’s also a version that uses Copperhorn Scout for huge turns, pseudo-Vigilance, and the ability to attack with mana elves and still use them for mana. I like the interactions it provides, but I decided adding more Treespeakers and Warcallers improved consistency.
I’ve only played elves at two Friday Night Magics, going 2-2 the first time out, and 3-1 last week, with my only loss against another elves deck, albeit with a pretty different build. I plan to put one or two copies of Sword of Body and Mind into the sideboard specifically for the mirror matchup. Elf decks have placed in the top 8 at a few larger tournaments, and it should allow you to tear things up pretty well at your local FNM (especially if a newb pilot with mediocre Magic skills like me can take one to 3-1). I still want to build a new version of my classic mono-black control deck, but for now, I’m on the side of the elves.