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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Welcome back to the Elves All The Way Down review of Kaldheim – Magic the Gathering’s Norse mythology-themed expansion. Last time, we went over all of the Elves in the set and discussed their application in formats ranging from Standard to Modern. This time, we’re covering the cards with Changeling and other supporting cards.
I’d recommend having a look over Part One before reading this article if you haven’t already. Remember, all of this is from the point of an Elves player. If a card would be great in your Goblins or Homarids deck, that’s great and all, but we want to know how good it will be for Elves.
I’ll be going through the cards in Collector’s Number order again and giving every card a rating out of five trees (because who doesn’t like the Green mana symbol?)
What’s this, a three-mana wrath? That’s really not what I wanted to hear. As a player who loves tribal decks and playing to the board, Doomskar terifies me. I’m including it in this review because it’s just such bad news for Elves. In fact, it almost removes points from all our other cards just by being in the same set.
The problem here is that a lot of Elves lists I’ve played can go under a normal four-mana wrath effect. When we can’t, we can often have a counter ready in time – like Heroic Intervention or Selfless Spirit. When our opponent uses turn two to foretell Doomskar and then turn three to cast it, we’re probably doom(skar)ed.
I don’t have a graphic for negative Trees, but this card earned them.
Now here’s a card that can help us beat a boardwipe. While I’m most likely to be playing Green-Black Elves in Standard, I have dabbled with White in other formats. If a Green-White list does pop up, I can see this Angel making it into the sideboard for the Control match-up. The double White cost is a bit difficult, but foretelling it removes this hurdle.
The way Glorious Protector can help is by casting it in response to a boardwipe. We can effectively hide all of our (non-changeling) creatures under the Angel so that when it’s destroyed by the wrath, we get our creatures back.
Rally the Ranks
I’m including Rally the Ranks for completeness’ sake, but I’m not going to be running it in my Green-White Elves lists. We really need a critical mass of creatures for a lot of our other payoffs. As a result, a non-creature anthem effect isn’t what we’re looking for.
Reidane, God of the Worthy // Valkmira, Protector’s Shield
Another potential sideboard option if we’re playing White, Reidane has a multitude of applications. On her front side, she can preemptively slow down boardwipes and decks with a snow manabase. Her ability to slow down big spells is worse against boardwipes than Glorious Protector, but having access to a mix of these two cards in the sideboard could be interesting.
Valkmira, on the other hand, provides utility against some damage-based sweepers and slows down targeted removal. As a bonus, it also messes up combat maths for our opponent.
All told, the two faces of this card aren’t the best at what they do. However, using a single sideboard slot to have access to both faces might still be worth it.
Getting to Blue means we’ve hit our first Shapeshifter. Now, Kinseekers are a card intended purely for limited, I realise. However, I’m contractually obliged to cover every Elf in the set and these Shapeshifters have Changeling – making them Elves.
I don’t see Littjara Kinseekers making a splash outside limited, but I do enjoy drafting it, so that’s a plus.
Here’s another faux-Elf for our Elf review: changeling strikes again. I’m definitely more excited for some of the Shapeshifters that we’ll cover in Green, but the Blue ones really aren’t cutting it.
Now this is an interesting card. Most of the cool applications I can think of for it will never be good enough for a serious constructed deck. However, I enjoy some of the theorycrafting I’ve seen around this card. You can cast Mystic Reflection on a Shaman of the Pack and then cast Collected Company and guarantee two more Shamans.
This is probably worse than just having another Elf in your hand to play, but it’s definitely cool. I kind of want to try and live that dream at least once, just so I can say I have.
Orvar, the All-Form
Orvar is another cool card, but this time I’ve got no cool applications in Elves decks to talk about. I guess if some weird Blue-Green list turned up, we could use bounce spells and protection spells to both save our Elves and make additional copies. The best thing I can think of is having Orvar in hand when our opponent casts Kroxa and discarding it to make another Lord.
Reflections of Littjara
Here’s a card I intend to do fun stuff with in EDH Elves. Doubling all of our Elves sounds really powerful, especially with enters-the-battlefield effects and Lords. Five mana is probably too much for this in 60-card formats. That said, I might throw it in the silly Mystic Reflection version I’ve got half brewed.
Crippling Fear is a really interesting sideboard option. If we’re struggling with aggressive creature-based decks, we can play our early turns as normal and accelerate into this rather than a Lord. I considered playing Eyeblight Massacre when Origins was in standard, but -2/-2 was never enough. Maybe -3/-3 is what the effect needed to be good enough?
Interestingly, we could even use it in Elves mirror-matches when we’re behind on board, by naming a different creature type. I expect pinpoint removal is better in that situation though.
This is the kind of card that I really want to be a good answer to boardwipes. However, getting to seven mana after all our Elves are killed is a tough ask. Costing two more mana than Patriarch’s Bidding is a lot, even if it is one sided. I’ll still be trying it for the grindy/controlling matchups because getting all of our creatures back is really appealing. I just think we’re better served by other ways of beating wraths.
Raise the Draugr
When Modern Horizons came out, I took note of Return from Extinction. While that card was never going to make the cut in Modern, it was worth remembering for formats like EDH. In the late game, drawing your best two dead Elves is nothing to sniff at; and if you’re ever trying to assemble a two card combo, this gets it back all at once.
Still, I don’t think Raise the Draugr will make the cut in any of the formats we’re looking at. It is a common though, which is worth remembering for Pauper.
Return Upon the Tide
I’m mostly bringing up this card because it makes some Elf tokens. We don’t really have any big Elves we want to bring back in Standard; nor can we afford the space for a slow card like this in our deck just to bring back a Canopy Tactician or Skemfar Shadowsage in the late game. If we had Craterhoof in Standard and could mill it with Harald Unites the Elves to bring back with this, that might be interesting. Still not worth the slot though.
Rise of the Dread Marn
I’ve always liked Caller of the Claw effects for beating boardwipes in more casual environments. While something like Skemfar Avenger can draw us a bunch of cards when all our Elves die, cards like this give us an immediate board presence to end the game. Both Caller and Rise of the Dread Marn might not make Elves, but the fact that we can probably swing for lethal the turn after a wrath is very interesting to me.
What adds to this card’s utility is the fact that it only needs one mana on the turn when it’s relevant. Caller of the Claw and Fresh Meat need you to leave up so much mana, so it can be really hard to do while also advancing our boardstate. Rise of the Dread Marn, on the other hand, can be foretold and then cast for a single Black mana. If Doomskar becomes prevalent, this is a card I’m sure to turn to.
This FTK call-back is the only Red card I’ll be covering in the review. Ravager does a similar thing to Skemfar Shadowsage (killing an opponent) or Thornmantle Striker (killing a creature or planeswalker). I won’t be running it over Shadowmage in any deck that’s running Black. I just wonder if there will ever be a Red version of Elves in Standard in which this could be a weird off-tribe include.
Blessing of Frost
I’m always looking for more ways to draw cards in Elves decks to keep us going after we dump our hand onto the battlefield. In Snow-based versions of the deck, Blessing of Frost could provide that kind of utility.
I’m just worried that our Elves won’t be big enough to make this draw more than two cards. If we had more Lord effects, it could be interesting. However, Lead the Stampede was in Ikoria and is much more reliable than this.
Fight spells are handy when you need to kill off a utility creature. While our Elves don’t tend to get big enough to kill midrange threats, the indestrucible bonus on Blizzard Brawl allows us to kill other small creatures without losing our Elf. This gives it way more utility than previous cards like Prey Upon. It only really fits into the dedicated Snow versions of Elves as a sideboard card, although I do wonder how often Primal Might will just do more in that slot.
I probably should have mentioned Elven Bow last week because it’s effectively a three-mana Elf in the set. I’ll be honest, I kind of overlooked it because it’s an equipment. If anything, it’s limited filler at best. Our Jaspera Sentinels already have reach for when we need to block things in the air, so an equipment that provides this utility is not going to make it.
Our first Green Shapeshifter is a bit of a miss. I’ve played weird Green-White builds of Elves in Standard before with Pollenbright Druid. However, that card was mostly used for the Proliferate mode. Our two-drop slot isn’t really lacking at the moment. Even it it were, two power for two mana with no other abilities isn’t really what we’re looking for.
Jorn, God of Winter // Kaldring, the Rimestaff
Jorn might not be an Elf, but if our Standard decks revolve around Snow-matters cards, he’s worth considering as an include. Being able to tap all of our mana in our first main phase and then getting to use it again after combat seems pretty strong. Jorn can even untap any of our Snow creatures, like Sculptor of Winter and Boreal Outrider, effectively granting them vigilance. While Jorn probably won’t be making it into many of my lists, I will probably try him as a one-of in my Snow variants.
Kaldring won’t be played very often. For starters, in the Mono-Green Snow lists, we’d need two Jaspera Sentinels to make the right colours. However, once in a blue moon it might enable us to keep replaying Sculptors and Outriders from our graveyard.
Another limited card that I need to cover due to the word ‘changeling’, Glade-Warden can be a real beating in draft or sealed. It’s not going to make it in constructed though. A four-drop 3/3 that doesn’t do anything immediately and can only be used at sorcery speed (rather than in response to a burn spell) is nowhere near good enough.
While Masked Vandal is very much a sideboard card, it’s a pretty good one. We don’t have access to Reclamation Sage in Standard at the moment and the next best best options are at threemana. They also aren’t Elves, which is a big deal when we need a critical mass for our synergies.
There will be games where we don’t have a creature in our graveyard to power the Vandal, but with the rate my Elves are dying on turn one or two at the moment, we’ll be fine most of the time.
We finally get to the card I’m most excited for in Kaldheim. While Elvish Warmaster might be the best card for improving Elves in multiple formats, Realmwalker has to be my favourite card from the set. I love cards that let you play with the top of the library. Oracle of Mul Daya, Courser of Kruphix and Vizier of the Menagerie have been great cards for me in the past. Realmwalker combines my love for playing with the top of the library with my love for tribal decks. Finally, an Elf that lets me play Elves from my deck!
Combined with cards in older formats like Birchlore Rangers of Heritage Druid, Realmwalker can just let us completely ‘go off’. We can build our deck with shuffle effects so that we can reset when there’s not an Elf on top. We can even name Beast on a second Realmwalker so that we can cast Craterhoof off the top (once they fix a bug to allow the second Realmwalker to work on MTGO).
To be honest, Realmwalker should probably get a lower rating than I’m giving it, but it’s my favourite Elf to be printed in a while – and it doesn’t even say Elf anywhere on the card.
Toski, Bearer of Secrets
If anyone tells you they don’t love Toski, they’re lying. Toski is the best Legendary Squirrel they’ve ever printed. It might not be an Elf, but we can draw a card for every Elf that hits our opponent? Sounds great to me.
In all seriousness, I will be trying Toski out because I’m reminded of Edric, Spymaster of Trest. Drawing cards whenever we hit our opponent is good, but we might struggle to get attacks in against some decks. As a result, Toski is most likely going to end up tested in the sideboard.
Moritte of the Frost
Moritte of the Frost is a cool card, but double Blue mana is a lot to ask. Had it been a clone that could copy any permanent – one that also counted as an Elf for our synergies -for only a single Blue, it might have been interesting. The flexibility to copy a Lord, Harald Unites the Elves or Skemfar Shadowsage based on what we needed more of at any given moment would have been handy. As it is, Moritte will just be too hard to cast and is probably too expensive at five mana anyway.
For Elves players, this is an Elvish Vanguard that starts one power and toughness bigger, for one more mana. Unfortunately, the one place that Elvish Vanguard is relevant is Pauper and this card is an uncommon.
Also, three mana compared to two mana is a huge difference for a card you want to play before all your other Elves. All-in-all, this isn’t Elvish Vanguard and this isn’t making our decks.
There have been a few effects like this in the past. Conspiracy, Xenograft and Arcane Adaptation were all cards that enabled some pretty wonky combos. For us, the effect will be picking up a Wirewood Symbiote to untap a creature and then just replay the Symbiote. This allows us to get around the once per turn restriction on Symbiote. However, as fun as this interaction is, I’ll be keeping it exclusively to EDH. In other formats, a four-mana play that doesn’t do anything immediately is not good for a deck that needs to be as assertive as Elves.
Something I haven’t mentioned in these reviews is that my favourite card of all time is Birthing Pod. I was playing KikiPod decks in Standard and then Modern before I ever cast a Heritage Druid or Ezuri. Now Wizards of the Coast have given me a special Elven Birthing Pod back after banning the original years ago!
However, there’s a catch – this Pod only works for a single creature type at a time. I really want this to be good, but the power of Pod lay in gaining access to a bunch of different utility creatures. That deck was often called a toolbox because it had access to so many different effects, and I don’t think we can emulate that with just Elves. Sure, we can play Dwynen’s Elite, leave the token behind and turn the Elite into a Reclamation Sage to destroy their stuff. We can draw a card off an Elvish Visionary and turn it into an Elvish Archdruid. I just don’t think there are enough Elven tools to fill a whole toolbox.
I want it to be good, but I don’t see it getting there.
Has a face. Who commissioned this?!
Facelessness aside, this is a cool snow land that could potentially go in the Mono-Green Snow variant of Elves. However, I’ve never put Mutavault in my Elf decks, so I don’t have high hopes. Utility lands take a premium spot in Elves lists because we really need Green mana on turn one and two. Drawing two of these as our first two lands would be devastating.
Our last card is one final Changeling. It gets a place here for technically being an Elf and having a kind-of-cool effect. A bigger, greener Faerie Miscreant is an interesting design (and this one scales if you have multiples), but I don’t think it’s going to do enough in the three-drop slot for us. I do want to Collected Company into two of these at some point. That’s more of a meme deck than anything though. I guess the joke is that you’re meant to make copies of these with the copy effects on Moritte and Mystic Reflection.
So, we’ve covered all the Elves and Elf-adjacent cards in the set. I have a newfound respect for people who review the entire set.
I hope my insights into some of these cards have been interesting and potentially informative. I’ll be sure to cover future sets as they come out. Let’s see what they bring for fans of our little Green friends!
I’ll be back to Elves All The Way Down articles next time. For now, thanks for reading.
Welcome to Kaldheim, Magic: The Gathering’s Norse mythology-themed world. It’s full to the brim with Gods, Dwarves, Berserkers, Giants, Trolls and (most importantly) Elves. For the first time since Dominaria rotated, Elves might be a viable deck in Standard. I’m not saying my Elves deck from back then was good in that meta, but at least there was one. What’s more, the set introduces some new cards that are in consideration for inclusion in Modern Elves lists, which is a pretty rare occurrence.
In fact, the set is so full of cards that are worth discussing, I’m going to have to split it into two parts just to cover everything. Given that an Elf review for a recent set like Core 21 would have been 4 cards long, this is quite a big deal for Elf fans.
Part One will discuss the actual Elves in Kaldheim and other cards that directly reference them. Part Two will cover the Shapeshifters, general tribal-matters cards and other supporting cast.
We’re going in Collector’s number order if you want to skip ahead to the cards you’re curious about (that’s the number in the bottom left of the card). I’ll talk about each card in turn and finish things off with a rating out of 5 Trees.
I’m going to cover every elf in the set. A lot of them are meant for limited rather than constructed, but I wanted to go over them for the sake of completeness. Talking about limited…
This angry elf seems pretty good for a 2-drop. Any pump effect means you’re left with a body when they die. While this makes the card an interesting inclusion if there are any good lords around, the token is a Zombie, not an Elf, so it’s not too useful for us in constructed.
This little guy reminds be of Thornbow Archer, but with an activation cost. Thornbow Archer never made it in Elf decks, so I don’t have high hopes for Duskwielder.
Here we have a reverse Elvish Visionary, which is a card very close to my heart. While the body left behind isn’t much to write home about, the effect isn’t too shabby. While I’m not excited about playing the Disciple, I’ll definitely try it out. Although it probably isn’t good enough, I do want to try using Collected Company to put one or two of these into play in my opponent’s draw step in Historic, but I expect it to mostly stay in Standard if it sees much play at all.
While this card is mostly for limited, there is some synergy with cards like Harald Unites the Elves and Raise the Draugr that is worth being aware of. Lifelink is nice too, but we don’t really want three-mana 3/1s for our constructed decks without a better ability.
I like what Avenger is doing: giving us a way to refill our hand when we get boardwiped is great, and the two-mana 3/1 body is quite aggressive. If there’s a more aggressive version of Elves, this will slot right in. I really wish that the card didn’t say ‘another’, though. Given the way it’s written, our opponent just needs to kill the Avenger first and then boardwipe us, and we’ll get nothing.
I love me some Shaman of the Pack, and while this isn’t Shaman of the Pack, it’s close enough for Standard that I’ll be putting some of these in my lists. I do like the ability to gain life when you can’t kill an aggro opponent and need a bit of a life cushion. Shadowsage won’t replace Shaman in any formats where the latter is legal, but in other formats it will do a good impression. Maybe you just need a 5th copy of Shaman in Modern, even if it can’t be hit off Collected Company.
While a three-mana 3/2 without an immediate effect isn’t great, I find Boreal Outrider interesting and start to wonder if there is a snow version of Elves that could show up in Standard. The problem is that mana produced by mana dorks doesn’t help with the Outrider’s ability unless they’re snow creatures. I just really like how these work in multiples.
It seems like Dwynen’s Elite has grown up since we last saw them. Paying two more mana for an extra point of power and always getting the token probably isn’t worth it. The two separate bodies you get would work well if we had a cheaper lord effect, but the Elf lord of the set is 4-mana, which is unfortunate. The Mentor probably isn’t going to make it, but I’ll keep them in mind in case we find ourselves needing a critical mass of Elves rather than efficiency.
A lot of people are talking about this card being the actual new Dwynen’s Elite. It makes up for being less immediately explosive (Heritage Druid + Dwynen’s Elite is a tried and true combination) by being better in the long run. Effectively, it’s giving you an Elf every turn as long as you can play one first; and a game-ending activation is quite a lot for a two-drop. This guy will definitely be a staple in the Standard list and I’ll be sure to try him out in other formats, too. I don’t think he’ll replace Dwynen’s Elite, but he might be a good include alongside it. I just wish he wasn’t limited to triggering once a turn.
Vanilla five-mana 5/5s are never going to make it into a constructed deck. I do like how this Bear-Elf team-up reminds me of HexaGorgon draft streams though. It’s an Elf and a Bear versus the world (sometimes with other friends coming along too).
My kingdom for Elvish Mystic. I know a one-drop mana dork has implications for Standard beyond our little tribal bubble. I just wish Wizards of the Coast would give us a Gnarlroot Trapper or something. That way, it doesn’t work for other decks and doesn’t mess up Standard. I’ll be playing Jaspera Sentinel because we need one-drops and it does accelerate us, but I won’t be happy about it.
Sculptor of Winter
This card might not be the best ramp ever as two mana is -strangely -a lot more than one. However, I’ve played Paradise Druid and Incubation Druid in my Elves decks before and they fulfil a role. If there is a snow version of Elves, this fits right in. To be honest, it’s a likely include even if snow doesn’t matter much. We’re likely to have plenty of Forests and making those Snow-Covered Forests isn’t very difficult.
The first thing I heard about Elves in Kaldheim was that we were getting an Elf-centric Planeswalker. I was not disappointed. While Tyvar doesn’t fit into the recent trend of three-manabrokenPlaneswalkers, he packs a lot into one card.
His passive turns all of our Elves into mana-dorks. This probably enables a second play on the turn we cast him. The +1 ramps immediately by untapping an Elf (which is a mana dork because of the passive) or gives that Elf deathtouch to make attacks easier if we don’t need the mana. The 0 ability gives us a steady stream of Elves and is possibly the mode we’ll be using the most. The ultimate is powerful, but we’ll be using the 0 so much that it often won’t be neccessary. However, I do like the fact that you can use Tyvar’s ultimate immediately when combined with Doubling Season on Legs.
All in all, Tyvar will be one of the main reasons to be trying Elves in Standard and I’ll be even trying him out in Modern at some point (whether or not a four-mana Planeswalker is any good in that format).
Harald, King of Skemfar
Harald reminds me a lot of Tajuru Paragon, a card that I’ve enjoyed trying in Pioneer Elves. While Harald costs one mana more at base, you don’t need to pay anything extra to get the card draw/selection. Harald seems like a bigger Elvish Visionary and that’s no bad thing. He’ll add to our board while digging deeper into our deck. They even let him hit Tyvar if we’re lucky. I’ll be trying Harald out in Standard and Historic and look forward to seeing him when I cast Collected Company.
Harald Unites the Elves
A four-mana saga isn’t really what Elves in older formats like Modern are looking for, but I really like this as an include in Standard. The fact that the first chapter immediately puts the Elf you want into play rather than your hand is a big deal. The pump on the second chapter might be better than the lord I’ll be talking about in a moment. Finally, the last chapter will be quite useful for clearing away blockers on what will hopefully be our alpha-strike turn. That’s a lot of value for four mana, and being able to get Tyvar with this is just gravy. This card also gets me thinking about what the biggest hit possible with the first chapter is. Maybe a Morophon, the Boundless or Gladehart Cavalry in Commander.
Darkbore Pathway // Slitherbore Pathway
I’m including this land here as it is one of the best bits of Green-Black fixing we’ve seen in a while. It will be a big help to us, seeing as we’re most likely going to be playing Green-Black in Standard. The pathways are good enough that we might see them popping up in Elves decks in other formats too.
The drawback of this being a tapped land in the early turns of the game is probably too much. It’s worth keeping in mind though, in case we have space for some utility lands. Clearing a creature from our opponent’s board while getting more Elves is a powerful effect from a land. I’m glad it makes Green mana, rather than Black, because that’s what we’ll be using most often.
While Kaldheim doesn’t have any Elf lords in the draft environment, the Theme Boosters provide us with one. Unfortunately, it costs four mana, which is probably too much. I’ll be giving it a go, seeing as it both pumps Elves and makes three mana. However, this one won’t be getting beyond Standard. Our four-drop slot is going to be quite competitive already. Tyvar, Shadowsage and the Saga all fill that slot. If we can go wide enough, a lord might still be worth it, whatever the cost. I do like the fact that the mana ability works really well with Tyvar’s untapping +1 ability, though.
Another card from the Theme Boosters, this one is less likely to make the cut. While getting an Elf back when it dies is good, the immediate value when played is just a three-mana 3/1. What’s worse is that, if this is the first Elf to die, it might as well have been a 3/1 vanilla creature.
I really wish this Theme Booster card cost one mana fewer, even if that meant it had a smaller body. A removal spell for a Planeswalker or a Creature on a body is really powerful; I just wish it were more efficient. I might try it in the sideboard as an answer to specific threats, but I don’t think it’s making the maindeck.
The last Elf Theme Booster-exclusive card is an instant-speed Elvish Promenade. Now, I like Promenade and have played it as a one-of in a few older (and probably not optimised) Modern lists. It was never really good in those decks, mostly functioning as a win-more. However, I still liked it as a pet card. Now, for Standard, the card might be good enough. While it’s still bad against removal and sweepers, the instant-speed version of this effect allows us to turn a medium boardstate into a big one on our opponent’s end-step.
There are a few other tricks to look out for, like casting this in response to Harald Unites the Elves’ second chapter trigger to make all tokens immediately become 2/2s. This is the sort of card that works well with a lord or Craterhoof Behemoth-like effect. The issue being that this, Tyvar, the saga and the lord we’ve been given all compete for the 4-drop slot. I’ll still be giving it a try though.
That’s all the Elves and Elves-centric cards in Kaldheim covered. Next time, I’ll finish up by diving into the Shapeshifters and supporting cast. If you’re wondering where the best card in the set for Elves is, it’ll be there.
Join us then for more Elves (or at least some strange masked creatures that apparently count as Elves).
Welcome back to Elves All The Way Down, the Magic: The Gathering series about playing Elves in as many formats as possible. Last time, we tussled with Modern using a Green-White combo list. This time, we ventured into Pauper, the format where you’re only allowed to play cards printed at common.
Without the ability to play Rares and Uncommons, we don’t have access to our normal suite of lords and finishers. We get to keep our core of mana-elves to flood the board, but what can we field to actually finish the game?
Fortunately for us, Pauper has a bunch of cards that care about playing Elves, or the number of Elves in play. Lys Alana Huntmaster, Timberwatch Elf and Elvish Vanguard all turn our mass of Elf cards into more power on board, be it in the form of tokens, counters or temporary pumps.
Huntmaster also feeds the other wincons by increasing your Elf count. The additional tokens it generates make it easier to get an attack in, too. If even one of them goes unblocked, it makes the perfect target for a Timberwatch activation.
It’s also worth mentioning Gruesome Fate and Wellwisher here. Gruesome Fate is only a one-of in the deck, but it kills our opponent without even going to combat. We can only make the Black mana it requires with Birchlore Rangers, but with only one copy, that isn’t really an issue. This slot could be filled by Mob Justice, but Gruesome Fate specifically gets around Prismatic Strands, a card that could otherwise ruin our day.
Wellwisher doesn’t exactly win us the game on the spot when we activate it, but against some decks in the Pauper metagame, an active Wellwisher can put us completely out of reach. If a deck is trying to beat us through combat or pointing Lightning Bolts at our face, gaining a big chunk of life a few times is effectively Game Over in our favour.
Here we have the usual suspects: one mana 1/1s that tap for G. Pauper has access to all three versions of this card. Here, we run a mix of them in order to make things harder for Echoing Decay.
Birchlore Rangers and Quirion Ranger are familiar to anyone who has played Legacy Elves. Birchlore Rangers are an auto-include because they generate mana from our Elves that can’t make it themselves. They also give us access to non-Green mana for our off-colour spells. What’s even better is that the ability on Birchlore Rangers is similar to Heritage Druid, which we were playing in Modern. We can tap Elves to use the ability even if they’ve just entered the battlefield. Often, that’s enough mana to put our entire hand into play.
Quirion Ranger might not make mana by itself, but it untaps Elves that can. Also, in land-light hands, picking up a Forest and replaying it as our land for turn gives us access to an additional mana if we didn’t have a spare land already. The Ranger also has synergy with our wincons: untapping Timberwatch Elf and Wellwisher gives us additional activations.
Priest of Titania is Pauper’s equivalent of Elvish Archdruid. Having a two-drop Elf that can make multiple mana enables truly explosive starts. (Especially when untapping it with a Quirion Ranger.) To be honest, I’d play Priest of Titania in Modern Combo Elves builds if I could. While the more beatdown-oriented build of the deck really loves the Lord effect, being one mana cheaper is a huge deal.
Now, if we were just playing Elves with no support cards, we’d probably have our entire hand in play by turn two or three… And be out of cards in hand to follow up. To avoid this, we need to play some spells that can refill our hand and keep the Elfball rolling.
Generally speaking, Lead the Stampede and Distant Melody fill the same utility slot in the deck. However, Melody opens up the possibility to draw the majority of our deck when things are going our way. It can also help us dig for important sideboard cards. Lead the Stampede, on the other hand, can only find them if they also happen to be creatures.
While I won’t go into every card in the sideboard as that would require an overview of the entire Pauper Metagame, there are two cards I would like to address.
Hydroblast seems like a strange include in our deck and Spidersilk Armor is just a strange card in general, so why are we playing them? Well, the card we are the most scared of in this format is Electrickery. There aren’t many sweepers in Pauper, but this one is one-sided and at instant speed. A well-timed Electrickery can wipe our entire board, letting our opponent use their spot removal on the few Elves that survive.
What helps Spidersilk Armor even more is that a lot of the tempo decks in the format are trying to kill us with a 3/3 flyer and some 1/1 friends. Turning all of our Elves into at least 1/2 creatures with reach makes it very hard for those decks to punch through.
Let’s get straight the point: the games did not go well. Essentially, we played against three copies of Blue-Black Tempo and a near fourth copy in Blue-Red Tempo. At least we managed to get our revenge on Blue-Black right at the end. Worse still, the only other deck we encountered was Black-White Pestilence; probably our worst matchup in the metagame. (No, it didn’t end well).
Despite how badly things went, I know Elves are viable in Pauper. So our record here tells us more about the spread of other archetypes in the meta than about the Elves themselves. We didn’t really get a good cross-section of decks to find out what different matchups are like. I hope that, when we return to Pauper, we get a wider spread of matchups to really showcase what the deck can do.
When we next come back to Pauper, I’d like to break out an old Land Grant variant of the deck and push our land count as low as it can go. I certainly hope we can do better than we did this time around.
As for next episode, we’ll be going over our first revisit of a format – Historic – with an updated Combo Elves list and a more aggressive Beatdown variant. See you then.
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