Strixhaven: An Elves All The Way Down Review

Welcome to Strixhaven, Magic The Gathering‘s take on Wizard School. This set introduces new takes on five of Magic’s two-colour combinations in the form of Strixhaven’s colleges. Each college specialises in a different way to study Magic, so the set has a heavy Instant-and-Sorcery theme. Here at Elves All The Way Down, a new set means new cards to review, so let’s get to them.

As always, I’ll be giving each card a rating out of five, shown at the end of that card’s entry.


Callous Bloodmage

Callous Bloodmage {2}{B}  Creature — Vampire Warlock 2/1  When Callous Bloodmage enters the battlefield, choose one —  • Create a 1/1 black and green Pest creature token with “When this creature dies, you gain 1 life.”  • You draw a card and you lose 1 life.  • Exile target player’s graveyard.

Our first new tool isn’t an Elf, but gets to join the list of useful utility creatures that we often include in sideboards. Sometimes we just need to make our opponent not have a graveyard anymore. Callous Bloodmage is one of the best versions of this effect we’ve seen. When you don’t need to exile a graveyard, there are two other options you can choose from. To top it off, we can find him using Collected Company in Historic, Pioneer and Modern. Callous Bloodmage is a great addition to Green-Black Elf sideboards in multiple formats.


Accomplished Alchemist

Accomplished Alchemist {3}{G}  Creature — Elf Druid 2/5  {T}: Add one mana of any color.  {T}: Add X mana of any one color, where X is the amount of life you gained this turn.

The first Elf of the set is a bit of dud. Accomplished Alchemist might be a mana dork, but a four-drop mana dork needs to do a lot of work. It does makes me want to try a life-gain focused version of Elves with Essence Warden and some untap effects. However, most Elf decks aren’t running enough life-gain to make this card into anything more than an overcosted and over-statted Paradise Druid.


Ecological Appreciation

Ecological Appreciation {X}{2}{G}  Sorcery  Search your library and graveyard for up to four creature cards with different names that each have mana value X or less and reveal them. An opponent chooses two of those cards. Shuffle the chosen cards into your library and put the rest onto the battlefield. Exile Ecological Appreciation.

Now here’s the card in the set that I’m most excited to talk about. I fully understand that Ecological Appreciation won’t be replacing powerhouse cards like Collected Company or Chord of Calling anytime soon. But the sheer flexibility and power ceiling of this new card make it interesting to build around and try out. I’m a sucker for cards like this: Gifts Ungiven is one of my favourite cards of all time. Digging around for cool cards to include as a single copy to power up a card like Ecological Appreciation is always fun.

We’ve already had the chance to play this card on stream (over on Twitch) and it was more impressive than I expected. The best four card pile so far has been Shaman of the Pack, Skemfar Shadowsage, Elvish Harbinger and Sylvan Messenger.

Even though it won’t be making the cut in the most competitive Elf decks going forward, it’ll be a fun option to have.


Karok Wrangler

Karok Wrangler {4}{G}  Creature — Elf Druid 3/3  Magecraft — Whenever you cast or copy an instant or sorcery spell, put a +1/+1 counter on target creature you control.

Here’s the first of Strixhaven’s limited-focused Elf cards. Karok Wrangler is great in draft, but that’s where it’ll stay. Unfortunately, Elf decks are poorly positioned to take advantage of an ability that cares about casting multiple instants and/or sorceries.


Reckless Amplimancer

Reckless Amplimancer {1}{G}  Creature — Elf Druid 2/2  {4}{G}: Double Reckless Amplimancer’s power and toughness until end of turn.

Another limited card, so there’s not much to say here. It is interesting that power/toughness doubling effects work really well with lords, at least. Chameleon Colossus this is not.


Kianne, Dean of Substance//Imbraham, Dean of Theory

Kianna is an Elf Druid, but that’s all she’s really got going on. At three mana, you want a creature to do more than maybe draw you a land. The late game mana-sink to make Fractals is a nice place to put excess mana, but we can do better in the three-drop slot.

If Kianne was good enough to include in our decks, it would at least be fun that we also had a Bird Wizard we could sometimes play. However, I can’t come up with a theory with enough substance about an Elf deck that would want to include Kianne or Imbraham.


Witherbloom Command

 Witherbloom Command {B}{G}  Sorcery  Choose two —  • Target player mills three cards, then you return a land card from your graveyard to your hand.  • Destroy target noncreature, nonland permanent with mana value 2 or less.  • Target creature gets -3/-1 until end of turn.  • Target opponent loses 2 life and you gain 2 life.

Witherbloom Command is an interesting, cheap utility spell. Unfortunately, the sorcery speed really kills it. Had the command been an instant, allowing for the -3/-1 mode to be used in combat while destroying a Chalice of the Void, maybe it would have had a chance. Similarly, if the destruction mode could hit permanents that cost three, like Ensnaring Bridge, that might have been good. However, the actual card doesn’t do enough to warrant trying over cards like Abrupt Decay or Assassin’s Trophy. This limits Witherbloom Command’s utility to the format where those two cards aren’t available: Standard. Elves aren’t doing great in Standard with only one set of real support, but if the upcoming D&D set gives us enough new tools to play with, Witherbloom Command might be an interesting sideboard card.


Necroblossom Snarl

 Necroblossom Snarl  Land  As Necroblossom Snarl enters the battlefield, you may reveal a Swamp or Forest card from your hand. If you don’t, Necroblossom Snarl enters the battlefield tapped.  {T}: Add {B} or {G}.

The Snarls add to the growing selection of of enemy-colour duals we have access to in Standard and Historic. While they’re probably not out-competing their fastland equivalents, they are a big boon to Standard. Let’s hope for some more Black Elves we want to cast using this to join Skemfar Shadowsage and Harald in the D&D set. Drow anyone?


Strixhaven Mystical Archive

Strixhaven also brought a swathe of powerful reprints to the Historic format in the form of Mystical Archive cards. Unfortunately for us Elves players, all of the Archive cards are instants or sorceries, so we don’t gain any old Elves. The only card that Elves have played historically – Natural Order – they preemptively banned. What’s worse is that a lot of them are powerful removal spells. If you’ve never had two mana dorks Electrolyzed, you’ve lived a blessed life. What this has effectively done is increase the power of the Historic format as a whole, without adding anything to Elves. As a result, Elves now feel much worse off. At least we get Krosan Grip, Inquisition of Kozilek and Weather the Storm for potential use in the sideboard.

They even included two boardwipes to really drive the point home.


Class Dismissed

That’s everything we’ve got to cover from Strixhaven. We’ll see everyone for another review when Modern Horizons 2 rolls around. While we wait for that release, we’ll be doing a retrospective on the effect Kaldheim has had on Elves. Join us for that next time.

Cuties of Kaldheim

Alrund foretells cuties

Magic: The Gathering – Kaldheim’s Cutest Creatures Ranked


Gather round, young and old, for here’s a tale freshly told: Magic: The Gathering is off to Norse-land! The new set promises Viking-inspired sagas and ten whole realms to explore. What better way to mark the occasion than by introducing our cutest new friends from Kaldheim?

Lore-lovers and art-fanciers alike are in for a treat, because Kaldheim has its own series of showcase art treatments. To match the Norse theming, the special versions have their own frame, styled after the interlace designs found in Viking art.

But the resemblance is more than skin deep: read on to get a glimpse into the impressive world-building behind Magic’s latest plane. Because while the cuties are hogging the limelight here –out there? –there are sure to be dragons.


In Magic, even cuties have rules

If you were with us for the Zendikar leg of the trip, you know the drill:

  • No snakes
  • No spiders
  • No humanoids

Just so you know, Koma isn’t a snake…

Damnit Jamie, serpents are snakes!

Top vote with non-zero legs? Scorn Effigy

I specifically said no humanoids!
Also wow, that flavour text.

I guess, but look how cute he is!

But you don’t have to be good to be cute?

That’s not a rule, no-

…Congratulations to our Honourable Cutie of Kaldheim, Infernal Pet!


Kaldheim’s Cutest Spells

Now, not all of the cutest creatures live on creature cards, especially with all the rune-magic and seidr going on in Kaldheim.

(Although they weren’t cute enough to make the list, it’s worth checking out the art on Kaldheim’s Saga cards. See if you can tell which ones were actually carved in wood!)

Before we dive into the top ten creatures, I’ve rounded up the three cutest non-creature spells from Kaldheim. I think you’ll agree they’re too lovely to exclude.


A wolf is lifted by magical white wings. The rest of its pack look on.

3. Wings of the Cosmos

“Argh, why am I doing this? Did you know we could fly?” I love how the rest of the pack is posed like a Renaissance tableau, with each wolf frozen in its best reaction pose. Bonus points for the wolf pups hiding at the edges.


A wolf bows its head to greet a squirrel with an immensely long tail.

2. In Search of Greatness

In Search of Greatness offers two cuties for the price of one. Toski and Sarulf (of Realm Eater fame) are definitely up to something here. It’s all a bit troubling: should this make me feel kinder towards Sarulf, or suspicious of Toski with his wee Viking braids?


1. Esika’s Chariot

If the glowing fluff-balls in the normal art are ‘how I think I look in the morning’, the showcase Viking art is more ‘WHO DARES DISTURB MY SLUMBER?!’ Raoul Vitale has also contributed this very fluffy cat token to match the draught cats.

Esika is the god of the World Tree, with a chariot based on Freya’s one from OG Norse mythology. I like to think we’re seeing Esika’s viewpoint as she despairs of getting the cats out of the chariot so she can get back on the road.

We’re calling it the Catmobile, sorry.


The Big Ten: all the cutest creatures in Kaldheim

The results are in! By which I mean “I made a spreadsheet.” Buckle up for a whistle-stop tour of the cutest creatures we’ll be meeting on our trip to Kaldheim.


An immense spirit bear prowls a snowy mountainside by night.

10. Spirit of the Aldergard

Sounds suspiciously like ‘spirit of the elder god’, so possibly not cute in the scheme of things, but certainly bear-like. Its home, the Aldergard Forest, boasts scenic spots such as “The Cursed Tree, a massive oak that is perpetually covered in snow” and “The Skelle Mire, a dreary swamp”. No wonder he looks miffed.

You know a list is good when it starts with a bear!

(Don’t worry folks, I looked up the etymology of Aldergard. No old ones here! Alder: from root *el- (2) “red, brown,” used in forming animal and tree names; Gard: from PIE root *gher- (1) “to grasp, enclose.” Don’t say Hexagorgon isn’t educational.)


A stocky red dragon sits atop an ornate golden bridge.

9. Goldspan Dragon

Wings? Four. Antlers? You bet. Talons? Fabulous. I initially thought the goldspan part referred to its wings, which are very much not gold. On closer inspection, the dragon is guarding the span of an ornate golden bridge. Probably helps deter tourists.

The most likely location for the bridge is Axgard, since the dwarves managed to build their city on top of an inexhaustible lake of molten gold, which they use like concrete.

I’m a fan of tiny dragons, but this certainly isn’t the cutest example, so it’s down at #9.


A grey puppy howls beside a bonfire with animal skulls.

8. Fearless Pup

“Awoo”. From the background, our pup could be living among the Tuskeri, a boastful tribe of red-flavoured humans.

Is that a pile of curse-sticks he’s guarding? Has he been taught to play fetch with short stories? Wizards, if you want Fearless Pup to top this list, these are the questions you need to be answering.


A regal hawk with golden armour flies away from an explosion.

7. Battlefield Raptor

Not that kind of raptor. This battlefield bird won me over with its rad composition and filigreed wings. At a glance, the armour could be mistaken for barred feathers; on closer inspection, it looks like beaten gold inlaid with rubies.

I’m no ornithologist, but I do know eagles are a type of raptor, which leads me to think this feathered friend might be aligned with Halvar, the white-flavoured god of battle. Conveniently, he was found as a baby in the nest of a giant eagle, so perhaps this is a long-lost nestmate. Either way, be glad the raptor has your back.

(FYI, pseudo-Odin-god Alrund spotted baby Halvar in the nest, named him, then left him to be raised by dwarves for twenty years because he had other stuff going on. I have a lot of time for Halvar.)


In a forest, a strangely-dressed elf rides a reindeer whose antlers glow blue with magic.

6. Boreal Outrider

You know how reindeer look really cool as mounts but always require a six-month scavenger hunt and a severed head to unlock? What I’m saying is, don’t mess with Boreal Outrider.

From a lore perspective, the elves of Kaldheim are a particularly hardy bunch (read not to be messed with). They survived losing a war against the current gods, being kicked out of the pantheon, and even having their race cut in half with a magical axe* (that’s why some are Green-aligned tree-dwellers and others Black-aligned tunnel-dwellers.)

It takes otherwordly resilience to wake up every morning and decide to stay in the forest realm where your former leaders are eternally imprisoned in trees. The scenery is pretty nice, to be fair.

*Surprise! This one’s on Halvar.


A barred white hawk with a glowing eye perches on a snow-laden branch, magical talisman clasped in its beak.

5. Pilfering Hawk

I don’t think this stone-cold badass cares what you call it. The flavour text refers to the Beskir, a white-flavoured tribe of humans working to bring peace to Bretagard (the human realm). I like to think she has a Robin Hood pilfering situation going on, whereby her controller benefits from her canny ways.


In the rafters of a Viking longhall perches a white lion, green eyes alert.

4. Gods’ Hall Guardian

Surprise surprise, it’s another cosmos monster.

The best ratter in the ten realms, depicted here chilling in the rafters of the Gods’ Hall in Istfell. All the souls of animals end up in Istfell, so this cat probably has its work cut out.

Funnily enough, the gods surrounded Istfell with a river-moat and a stonking great wall specifically to keep the cosmos monsters from getting in and nibbling the roots of the World Tree. Was the Guardian too cute to keep out?


3. Vega, the Watcher

It’s a magical owl (yes, and a cosmos monster.) What were you expecting at this point?

Bonus points for the showcase art, which manages to look metal as all Hel without losing the fluffy owl texture. I think that’s what makes me look at a winged predator with a revolving head and go ‘awwww!’

Vega hangs out near the Gods’ Hall, presumably clearing up any ghostly mice that evade the Gods’ Hall Guardian.


2. Toski, Bearer of Secrets

Cutie with a prosthetic arm and a mystical scroll-tail. Will keep your secrets super safe on account of being unable to talk.* Apparently he communicates telepathically with Esika, god of the World Tree… So why is his tail covered in writing? Does he have trouble remembering the secrets?

Despite his diminutive size, Toski is actually one of the cosmos monsters –you know, like the world-eating serpent Koma. So that’s a bit less cute.

*Except that one time Alrund beat him up and took his secrets for some epic quest chain.**

**Yes, Alrund was busy punching the secrets out of cosmos monsters when he could have been raising Halvar.

Wait, number 2? What did you think was cuter than Toski?!


Against a backdrop of ice and explosions, a very happy-looking goat carries its dwarven rider into battle. Both are armoured with gems.

1. Axgard Cavalry

Tally-ho! Look at the face on that charger! Who else will carry you so joyfully into battle, in that getup?

Surprising nobody, the dwarves brought the cutest cavalry to the cosmic battle.* You’d be mad not to. This goat is having the time of its life, and you’re going to love hearing about it at the afterlife-party in Istfell. Somebody get this hero a drink.

*Did I mention dwarves are cool? Their currency is iron, which is both metal and something of a flex.


Oh, what stories will be told! This set is one for the skalds. We can’t wait to get our hands on pre-release packs, but in the meantime you can find all your new friends on Arena.

Cuties of Zendikar

Magic: The Gathering card art; Prowling Felidar. A horned wolf-like creature carries a large fish.

Magic: The Gathering -Zendikar Rising’s Cutest Creatures Ranked


A few weeks ago, Zendikar Rising brought a host of new cards to Magic: The Gathering Arena. The new set invites players back for another round of questing on the adventure plane of Zendikar.

With paper Magic off the cards for most of us and controversy rife, we could all benefit from reconnecting with the parts of the game we love.

That’s why I’ve assessed all the cutest creatures in Magic: The Gathering Zendikar Rising and rounded up just the top five.

Need help getting into the spirit of things? This is the only time you get to yell “get in my party!” at the screen without being ostracised. Alright, let’s rope-swing into the fray!

Magic: The Gather card art; Tajuru Snarecaster. A rock-climbing elf throws a rope to the viewer.
Tajuru Snarecaster bids you welcome


New for Zendikar Rising, the Party mechanic (real name) provides payoffs for playing members of the traditional D&D gang:

Your party consists of up to one each of Cleric, Rogue, Warrior, and Wizard.

Now, I like to party as much as the next Magic player. Possibly a bit more. But if you’ve been focusing on packing party members into your decks, you’re missing out on the best part of the new expansion.

Disregard parties; acquire cuties

Not all cards are created equal: some are objectively cuter, and that’s what we’re here for. Consider, if you will, a new kind of party.

Forget rogues, clerics, warriors and wizards; the folk you really want at your side when the going gets tough are the ones with soft fur and big puppy eyes. 

Honourable mentions

Honourable mention number one goes to our Jamie’s favourite new mana dork, Tangled Florahedron.

Flora, formerly a rune-carved stone hedron, has been stunningly brought to life in this double-sided art from Randy Vargas. And she’s got a lot going for her: those shockingly good looks hide tantalising mysteries. Just check out the flavour text hints about the ‘unfettered wonder’ of new life blossoming on Zendikar.

It’s lovely, yes. But we’ve been around Zendikar long enough to treat mystery with a touch of suspicion, no?

Magic: the Gathering card art; Nahiri's Binding. Spiky hedrons surround Jace. They do not look cute this time.
You’ll be sad when Flora goes all Nahiri’s Binding on your ass

Honourable mention number two is going to be divisive. The latest printing of Lotus Cobra is 60% pretty flowers but the snake still gives me the heebie-jeebies. If it’s your favourite, then I’m sorry, but snakes and spiders are disqualified.

Similarly, I’ve nothing against Skyclave Geopede, but we’re pursuing the maximum cuteness for the maximum number of people here. More than six legs or fewer than two, and you’re out.

So without further ado, here are the cutest creatures you can take for a walk round Zendikar Rising.

Zendikar Rising’s five cutest creatures

Magic: the Gathering card; Veteran Adventurer. A human rides the cutest scaly six-legged beast.

5. Veteran Adventurer

He is a Good Boy. I am of course referring to the six-legged steed, who I prefer to think of as the veteran in question. Perhaps he’s mentoring the tiny human through their first adventure? Either way, I would like more details and perhaps a novel about their exploits.

Adventurer doesn’t make it further up the ranking because it’s frankly hard to see what’s going on. Get that hairy rump out into the sun, friend!

Magic: the Gathering card; Gnarlid Colony. Several of the cutest horned beasts perch in trees.

4. Gnarlid Colony

My only gripe with Gnarlid Colony is that it could do with more gnarlids. These horned hunks look something like a koala (famously grumpy) crossed with an antelope (famously spiky). It’s fair to say there are some questions I’d like answered before inviting a Colony home.

As a result, I’ve had to mark them down for temperament, but there’s no doubt you want them on your side.

3. Felidars (as seen on Felidar Retreat & Prowling Felidar)

These fluffy friends will catch your dinner and cuddle afterwards. Their lush fur makes them perfect fireside companions -and their fangs are bound to come in handy, too. Will watch over you during wild camping adventures.

In your cutie party, I imagine Felidar is going to act a lot like FFXV’s hyperactive groupie, Prompto -although without the hair gel, hopefully. 

I’m a big fan of the showcase art treatments Wizards have commissioned to highlight the landfall theme in Zendikar Rising. Since both Felidar Retreat and Prowling Felidar are featured in that series, I couldn’t pick a favourite: it’s a tie for bronze.

Magic: the Gathering card; Lullmage's Familiar. The cutest spiny blue lizard climbs out of a rucksack.

2. Lullmage’s Familiar

Not everybody is a fan of Simic’s -how can I put this –hands-on approach to evolution. I’ll be the first to admit there have been some spectacular failures in the cutie department. (Hydroid Krasis, I’m looking at you.)

But don’t let that colour your opinion of this Familiar. He’s hitched a ride in your rucksack just to spend the day together and -according to the flavour text -might also charge your phone?

Either way, we can’t get enough of this mischievous stowaway. Welcome to the party, Familiar. Enjoy your silver medal!

1. Canyon Jerboa

The only downside to this card is that I’m no longer going to win any quizzes for knowing what a jerboa is.

Look at that snoot! And those gracious, tufted ears!

Bonus points for the alternative art clinched the victory for Canyon Jerboa. Who wouldn’t want an adventuring companion with Sandshrew’s looks, Raichu’s tail and creatures you control get +1/+1 until end of turn?!


Cutest groupings: is this a deck?

Now, I did promise you could take these cuties for a walk, but I have to be honest: that’s going to depend on whether you want to win any games. 

All of our picks pull their weight in the Limited format -so no major concerns provided you’re happy taking them out one at a time. But if you want to ramp up the cutie count (don’t call it a draft strat), here are Hexagorgon’s compatibility hints:

Rediscovering the Magic

There’s no denying we have a lot to worry about -as Magic players and as human beings. But, by focusing on things that bring us joy -no matter how small or fluffy -we can build resilience.

I hope this tour of Zendikar Rising’s cutest creatures helped you reconnect with one of Magic: The Gathering’s most underrated attributes.

How are you finding Zendikar Rising? If you’ve scored a handful of cuties, let us know -and yes, pictures are welcome!

Elves All The Way Down Episode 1: Historic

Welcome to Elves All The Way Down, the quasi-fortnightly Magic: The Gathering Stream/Video/Article series where we try to play the best tribe in Magic in as many formats as possible. “What is that tribe?” I hear you ask, as if the title hadn’t already given the game away. Well, my dear reader, that tribe is Elves.

The Elf creature type has always fascinated me as a Magic player. Within Magic, Elves fulfil the role of Green’s ‘characteristic creature type’, but beyond that categorisation, they have one of the strongest mechanical identities of any creature type in the game.

Elves make mana.

Lots of mana.

Once you’ve got lots of mana, it’s somewhat trivial to win the game. Craterhoof Behemoth? That’ll do it. Activate Ezuri, Renegade Leader a bunch of times? That’ll do it too. Cast Finale of Devastation for an X of ten? That’s a lot.

As this series progresses, we’ll tackle a wide swathe of Magic formats, tuning and adapting our Elf decks over time as we revisit formats. On that note, for this Episode, we’re starting in…

Historic

The non-rotating format designed specifically for play on Magic Arena was originally devoid of an Elf deck, but Wizards of the Coast printed a few Elf pieces into the format via the Historic Anthology sets. Then came Jumpstart, a product about mashing together different themes, where Elves were lucky enough to get some new toys. We gained the shiny new Allosaurus Shepherd and had Elvish Archdruid and Craterhoof Behemoth added to the format (both of which are staples of Elf decks in other formats). Finally, Amonkhet Remastered provided the cherry on top – it added Collected Company to the format.

So, where does that leave us? Well, here’s the deck we’ll be starting with for Historic:

This deck is my own take on some Elf lists I’ve seen floating around. Some player prefer to take a more aggressive slant on the deck. They tend to include big beaters like Steel Leaf Champion and more lord effects in Elvish Clancaller. I’m sure we’ll try that version out at some point, but for now we are sticking to what Elves do best. [Editor’s Note: He’s talking about making mana again.]

The decklist falls into a few main categories:

Mana

The selection of mana-dorks in Historic isn’t ideal, but we can make do. We have the original ‘mana elf’ in Llanowar Elves, which is secretly the best card in the deck. The Modern Elves staple, Elvish Archdruid provides us with large amounts of mana from one creature and pumps our whole team for when we want to get aggressive. To supplement these two, we have Marwyn, the Nurturer, who is doing a good impression of being Archdruid copies 5 through 8 and Paradise Druid as a resilient 2-drop mana-dork. If Historic ever gets another 1-drop mana elf, such as Elvish Mystic or Fyndhorn Elves, Paradise Druid will be the first to step down. Finally, we have Llanowar Visionary, which is the combination of my favourite elf (Elvish Visionary) and Llanowar Elves.

Multi-Elves

Now, a lot of the cards we play care a lot about the number of Elves (or creatures) we control. To help prop up these counts, we play two cards that can put two Elves into play at the cost of one card. That’s almost like card advantage or something, whatever that is.

Collected Company also has the additional benefit of being an Instant, which allows us to play around countermagic and boardwipes by playing on our opponent’s turn.

Win Conditions

While playing a bunch of Elves and making a big Marwyn or pumping them all with an Archdruid can lead to some wins, we have a few cards that can really push things over the edge. All three of these cardstake the large number of Elves we’re playing and directly convert them into our opponent being dead.

Allosaurus Shepherd and Finale of Devastation provide additional utility in beating countermagic and tutoring for specific cards, whereas Craterhoof Behemoth just straight up kills people.

Sideboard

The sideboard for the deck is currently a work-in-progress. Hopefully we’ll get a better feel for it after we’ve played some games with the deck and seen what the Historic metagame looks like.

I’ve included some general purpose answers to things like board wipes (Heroic Intervention and Lead the Stampede), graveyard strategies (Loaming Shaman and Scavenging Ooze) and aggressive decks (Primal Might and Setessan Petitioner). We’ll see how well I’ve covered our bases against different archetypes during our games.

The Games

So, how did we do? I’d say pretty well, overall. We achieved 5 wins over 7 matches with our only two losses being to the same deck: Blue-White Control. I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t come across any Goblin decks, seeing as people are talking about it being the boogeyman of the format at the moment and I think we have a real chance to compete against them in terms of speed. (I’d also rank our little red friends as the second best tribe in Magic after our Elves).

Grixis Control

Two of our matches were against Grixis Control, which we managed to do much better against compared to Blue-White. I’d put this down to a few factors. For starters, the Grixis board wipes could sometimes be beaten by making our creatures too big, rather than relying entirely on our sideboarded Heroic Interventions. There were situations where an activation of Allosaurus Shepherd would save us from an Anger of the Gods or our Marwyn was too big for Hour of Devastation. Furthermore, the Grixis decks lacked Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, a card that could seal the deal after a boardwipe, and Settle the Wreckage, which is probably the best ‘board wipe’ against us because it beats Craterhoof.

Grixis Pyromancer and Gruul Aggro

We were able to outmatch other more board-state oriented decks, like Grixis Pyromancer and Gruul Aggro, by generally outclassing them in board presence and synergy. Our game loss to Gruul came as our opponent removed a key elf, presenting a very fast clock while we stumbled to rebuild. I generally consider these to be good matchups and, as long as we respect how fast they can be, we don’t need to change the deck too much to deal with them.

Breach Combo

Fortunately for us, the one time we faced a combo deck, we were able to present a fast enough clock before they could assemble their combo in game one. This meant that our sideboard cards only had to pull their weight in one other game. This particular match-up would benefit greatly from more graveyard hate, but Scavenging Ooze did enough this time round to power us through. I don’t want to focus too much on this specific combo deck as there are many variations on the combo archetype that we can face and we need to be able to compete with them all.

Blue-White Control

Blue-White Control presented a near-insurmountable number of answers to what we’re trying to do. We really could do with a second one-mana mana-dork to help speed up the deck so that we can have a board presence AND an answer by the time they’re casting boardwipes. Furthermore, we can consider adding white mana to our deck so that we can run Shalai, Voice of Plenty in the sideboard as a silver bullet against Settle the Wreckage. Finale of Devastation gives us the ability to run a single copy of cards like Shalai and still reliably find them when needed.

White mana can also give us access to better graveyard hate in Rest in Peace and a bunch of additional silver bullets like Aven Mindcensor, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Containment Priest. This greatly improves our sideboard while also giving us the chance to try out some hidden gems like Huatli, Radiant Champion if we want to try and go even bigger than before.

The deck held up extremely well, however the exact numbers of cards can almost certainly be tweaked to make the deck run more smoothly.

Next Time

I’m excited to see how Zendikar Rising can help the deck. Next time we come back to Historic, we’ll be trying out Turntimber Symbiosis // Turntimber, Serpentine Wood as a way of dropping our land count while increasing our chances of finding Craterhoof Behemoth. We’ll also be testing out the white sideboard plan, with new silver bullets Yasharn, Implacable Earth and Archon of Emeria helped along by the perfect new MDFC (Modal Double Faced Card) land, Branchloft Pathway // Boulderloft Pathway. We’ll also try out the more aggro version of elves at some point and see how that competes with the field.

However, we’re going to step away from Historic for a few weeks. Next time, we’ll be playing some GW Combo Elves in Modern and finding out what’s happened to the format in the last year. Join us then to see how often we can go infinite and make some arbitrarily large elves.