Magic the Gathering is going home. The game’s latest expansion, Dominaria United, has us returning to Magic‘s very first plane (football club jokes aside).
As an Elves player, this is a very exciting time. Dominaria has been the origin of bunch of important Elves thoughout Magic‘s history, including the OG Llanowar Elves. Last time we visited, we got some fun new tools, so let’s how we do this time. I know there’s a new Lord that I’m looking forward to reviewing more than any card since Kaldheim gave us Elvish Warmaster and Realmwalker, so we’ve got at least one big card to talk about.
Of course, I’ll be reviewing all the Elves in the set, so we’ll get to that one eventually.
As always, this review focuses exclusively on a card’s application in Elves decks across Magic‘s many formats. If you think there’s a cool card for your Legendary-tribal themed Commander deck, this isn’t the review for that. (That card’s still cool though, whatever it is.) The rating given at the end of each entry is out of five Trees and applies to whichever format the card suits best.
Unfortunately, we start the review with card balanced entirely for Dominaria United limited play. I love Tribal Flamesing opponents out of the game as much as the next person. However, Flames can target creatures and costs two. Seeing as Elves aren’t really looking for a medium-sized body that can dome your opponent for 3-5 damage, Meria’s Outrider isn’t going to cut it.
I wouldn’t be surprised if someone said they’d killed someone with this in Standard with all the Trilands running around, but a lot of five-mana cards will kill your opponent when they’re at five life and you have access to all five colours of mana.
Another card balanced for limited, Deathbloom Gardener needed to cost two for us to ever consider it in constructed. Sure, making any colour of mana is good. Deathtouch is good. However, a 1/1 body for three is not going to get there. It’s not even that good in Dominaria United draft because you want your fixing to come from cards that affect your Domain.
Elvish Hydromancer is a really cool card. Make an Elf and a copy of your best creature? Sounds great. I immediately think of copying something like Shaman of the Pack. Sadly, this is another card costed for limited. We’re not paying seven mana for this in any constructed deck. I’ll stick to trying to copy Meria’s Outrider in Dominaria United limited.
Hoo boy. I said I was excited, but that doesn’t really convey how much.
I’ve never been that big a fan of Elvish Clancaller. I didn’t think just being a two-mana Lord was enough and if you’re ever activating that other ability, you were going to win that game anyway. I’m just happy to finally have a different option for the two-mana Lord effect with an ability I actively want. I guess you could build a deck that tries to play like Merfolk with all the two-mana anthems in Clancaller, Visionary and Sylvan Anthem.
Now, many Elves decks in Modern have moved away from the full-combo approach. No longer are we always trying to put our entire deck into play and kill an opponent with a Shaman of the Pack or two. For builds that are more resilient, like Devoted Druid combo or Elvish Reclaimer toolbox/midrange, Leaf-Crowned Visionary is probably just a one- or two-of. You can search it up when needed with a Chord of Calling or Fiend Artisan to draw some extra cards.
I do think that Visionary could help revitalise the all-in combo versions of Elves. You could run the full four copies and just try to combo off as fast as possible. I can’t emphasise enough how much of an improvement it is having your card draw effect stapled to a creature that also pumps up your team to kill your opponent. If you draw it early, you draw extra cards. If you draw it late, it makes your board lethal.
I don’t want to get ahead of myself here. Leaf-Crowned Visionary is still a fragile Lord and probably won’t fix Modern for us all by itself, but I’m really looking forward to seeing what it can do. We’ll still struggle with Fury and Prismatic Ending. Despite that, I’m glad to have a card that we can be excited about.
This is all without even mentioning Pioneer and Explorer. Those formats lack a critical mass of options for Lords, so getting one with a powerful effect is game-changing there.
Llanowar Elves grew up!
What do we get for that extra payment of one mana? Two extra toughness, access to any colour of mana *and* an ability to beat in for three when needed. That’s quite a lot on a mana dork.
For formats where you have access to the suite of one–mana dorks, you probably won’t be interested in a card that costs twice as much unless you *really* need to splash other colours. However, if there’s going to be an Elf deck in Standard, this goes straight in.
There’s a really interesting comparison to make here with Paradise Druid, another two-mana dork that makes any colour. Both are available in Pioneer/Explorer and Historic, but the subtle differences affect which one you might want to use if having access to non-Green mana is important. Paradise Druid almost ensures you get to tap it at least once, edict effects aside. However, if the removal spells you’re expecting are two damage or two toughness based, Llanowar Loamspeaker will live through those, too. In return, you get a body that can occasionally block in combat that also has a relevant ability in the late game. Paradise Druid’s conditional hexproof wins out against hard removal, though.
All in all, Loamspeaker won’t make a splash in older formats, but it’s an interesting new option among two-mana mana dorks that’s worth considering if that’s what you’re looking for.
Llanowar Stalker is the Green Foundry Street Denizen, a card that has seen play in extremely aggressive decks. Elves don’t tend to be as aggressive as you need to be to make use of this kind of card. However, if you can put together a list that is that aggro, this might find a home there.
Where this is most likely is Pauper, seeing as Stalker is a common. Pauper Elves can really spit out a lot of bodies, which makes Llanowar Stalker into a cheaper, more temporary Elvish Vanguard. I’m not sure if that’s enough for it to make it into a deck that is already extremely optimised, but it’s worth considering.
If Stalker doesn’t make it into Pauper Elves, maybe it’ll help Pauper mono-Green Stompy? I don’t know that deck well enough to comment.
I like Elves; I like Anticipate; I don’t think a card that staples both of those effects together is going to cut it. You can’t even get the extra card from it somehow if you put it into play with Collected Company. Sorry, Vineshaper Prodigy, I’m sure your vineshaping is cool and all.
Here’s another really aggressive card. Yavimaya Iconoclast really brings the beats. Maybe there’s a really fast Gruul deck in Standard that utilises this and Llanowar Stalker? Unfortunately, if there is, it probably won’t be an Elf deck.
Iconoclast doesn’t really synergise well with anything we’re doing. I’ll try a Standard Elf deck for sure and this will probably make it in to add to the Elf count, but beyond that, I can’t see it having much impact. Maybe if it had been a Warrior?
Meria, Scholar of Antiquity
I read this card and it makes me want to build around it. There’s something here that is interesting to me. Probably in Commander, where there are a bunch of powerful artifacts that Meria, Scholar of Antiquity can also turn into mana-rocks. I guess she let’s you do the thing Urza, Lord High Artificer can with Winter Orb where it doesn’t affect you because you tap it, but that might be too mean.
Anyway, nothing I just said goes in an Elf deck, so let’s move on.
Nael, Avizoa Aeronaut
Another Elf falling to the Domain deck in Dominaria United limited. Nael, Avizoa Aeronaut has a cool effect, but you’re not getting anywhere near enough stats or utility to pay four mana.
Queen Allenal of Ruadach
If you’re going wide, Queen Allenal of Ruadach isn’t the worst payoff. The double White cost really hurts, though. As does the fact that the bonus tokens aren’t Elves. If this made Elf tokens, then it could have been a way to double up your tokens from Elvish Warmaster or Dwynen’s Elite. As is, she’s probably not going to do much of anything. Maybe she could be a Green-White Commander for Brawl Elves?
Radha, Coalition Warlord
Radha 3.0 is another casualty of the Dominaria United draft format’s Domain deck. I guess it’s kind of fun that you get her effect if you tap her for mana with a Heritage Druid or Birchlore Rangers ability, but they need to make her much more efficient before I consider putting those cards in the same deck. I guess she can be your Green-Red Commander for Brawl Elves?
To be honest, I’m a little let down by Dominaria United‘s Elves. I had high hopes from when I saw the key art up until the whole set had been revealed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly excited for Leaf-Crowned Visionary, which single-handedly carries the set. But beyond that, we get a pretty good mana-dork and then mostly limited filler.
Luckily for us, this isn’t the last set on Dominaria. The next set is journeying into the plane’s past to the time of the Brother’s War. Maybe a jaunt through time will give us what we need. I mean, a large number of Elves’ most powerful cards are from Dominaria‘s past, too.
As for Dominaria United, I’ll be back with all the non-Elves that are worth talking about in Part Two. There are some interesting new tech options available that I’ll be looking at. If you want to catch Leaf-Crowned Visionary getting tested on Stream, I’ll be doing that the day this article goes live. So come say hi over at our Twitch channel and see how well we can break it. I’m intending to put our whole deck into play at least once.
See you then.
Jamie is a MtG and assorted gaming enthusiast who wants to bring his enjoyment and passion for games to everyone.