Modern Elves: A Tournament Report
I know this deck may not be what comes to mind when you think of the best decks in modern, but between the different builds it takes up a respectable portion of the “fringe” metagame. I personally have played elves in several formats over the fast few years, and despite being very comfortable with the style of the deck, it does have faults within the metagame around it. If anger the gods is popular, the deck is not as good. Jund, midrange, and control are the typical bad match-ups. They are winnable you are required to have constant pressure, as well as cards in hand, and it isn’t always easy to do both. The rest of the format is a race, you are able to solitaire as fast as many of the other decks in the format, while being somewhat resilient. The deck at its core is a synergy based combo deck, and outside of nut-draws, the deck primarily wins off of value.
I was playing in a local IQ, and I will start by saying I made a mistake moments before the tournament started. After writing my deck list, I changed the list by two cards in the main deck, and moving one card from my sideboard into my main deck. I decided to cut a Nettle Sentinel, and a Shaman of the Pack for a Woodland Bellower, and an Elvish Champion. I opted for Bellower over a singleton chord of calling, seeing as they both fill similar roles, and an elvish champion over a fourth shaman, the lord often does the same, or even more damage. It is less than fantastic in some match-ups, but its always a lord, it is also a silver bullet with Woodland Bellower. Basically the Bellower could have won me at least one match, if it would have resolved, but by cutting a sentinel I lowered my combo potential, and my number of one drops. I like the card as a pseudo-chord, but it may not be better than chord. I do firmly recommend the main deck Elvish Champion though, it adds to the consistency of company, while also giving you an out to steal some games.
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Heritage Druid
3 Nettle Sentinel
4 Elvish Visionary
4 Dwynen’s Elite
4 Elvish Archdruid
1 Elvish Champion
3 Ezuri, Renegade Leader
3 Shaman of the Pack
1 Woodland Bellower
4 Collective Company
3 Lead the Stampede
4 Gilt-Leaf Palace
4 Cavern of Souls
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Windswept Heath
1 Overgrown Tomb
2 Horizon Canopy
1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
2 Fatal Push
2 Fracturing Gust
2 Reclamation Sage
1 Maelstrom Pulse
1 Surgical Extraction
2 Scavenging Ooze
1 Relic of Progenitus
The deck/manabase in this deck is almost all mono-green, with the exception of Shaman of the Pack. This leaves more than a few options when it comes to manabase, and sideboard. Here I have leaned into a more rock-esque sideboard. I have disruption, removal, and general F-you cards. At the last minute I had moved an elvish champion from my sideboard into my maindeck, I added a Maelstrom Pulse in its place. Moving forward I would add a dismember, and cut a Fatal Push, cut the Maelstrom Pulse (unless you expect mucho-trono) and cut a Thoughtseize. I would say the slots you free up depend on what you expect in the Meta. I also started playing two fetch’s in order to make the Fatal Push’s in the board pushier, I do not recommend more than one fetch; it has had its effect on multiple games. Moving forward there are three land slots that are flexible, use them to best implement your sideboard plan. I was previously playing three Llanowar wastes in place of my two fetches, and an overgrown tomb. The Llanowar Wastes not only strengthened my sideboard, but also allowed me to board another powerful card I otherwise would not have had access to, Reality Smasher. It may seem strange, but with 4 Cavern of souls, Nykthos, and three Llanowar Wastes, you are left with 8 colorless sources, and lead the stampede to find them. This is an option, but there are many. I personally want to move back to having more basics, because when you start blanking to path to exile, you start losing the game. I don’t want to make any promises on where I will be on either of these moving forward. I plan on trying more than a few things, and working on what I find most effective.
So after frantically changing my decklist, and turning in a decklist, I anxiously awaited my round one. I sat down, and was potentially not even awake. My round one opponent was Esper Control, not what I would consider a terrible matchup, this primarily comes down to being able to constantly apply pressure, and represent threats. When they have time, they are able to get out of our reach. Game one, I constantly represented CoCo, he constantly represented counter spells. Eventually I managed to get him to one, but by not attacking as much as i should have in the early game led to my opponent being left at one. With him at one, I managed to topdeck a Woodland Bellower, to potentially get shaman of the pack for the win, however my beast failed to resolve, and we were into game two. In game two, I set the pace, and kept dudes in play, and in my hand, and was able to win. Game three involved a long game that I inevitably lost in my own combat step. After being path’d twice, and fetching for my overgrown tomb, I had every forest in my deck in play. I drew my second fetchland with no targets, and I had already seen Esper Charm, but by playing my land I am able to more effectively bluff CoCo. In my combat I was esper charm’ed to discard two cards, while I had four mana represented, one land had no targets, I discarded my hand, and proceeded to lose the match.
Somewhat frazzled from misplaying, but now fully awake I go into round two facing a five-color Bring to Light scapeshift variant. This match is not exactly favorable, but you are able to steal games, and that is what I set out to do. Game one featured some ramp, and a turn four Bring to Light to get Anger the Gods. After boarding in only Thoughsieze, we moved into game two. I faced another Bring to light for an Anger, but I was in good Company. *cough* Game three my opponent mulliganed to five, and played a turn two Chalice of the void, on one. I did not have Cavern of souls, and my hand featured four one drops. Thankfully the three drops in the deck pull their own weight, and Company again pulls board states out of nowhere. I am 1-1
Round three I faced Revolt Zoo. I feel somewhat favored in this match, because my combo is more consistent, and resilient. However, they to have interaction in the form of Lightning Bolt, and they are able to steal games, and clog boards. Game one he is able to double bolt, while resolving a kird ape and a goyf. I fell to the wayside. Game two we clog the board, only for me to draw my Elvish Champion. He had several Narnam Renegades, and I was dead to his creatures forestwalking, luckily for me he died to it a turn sooner. Game three involved me swarmin the board on the first two turns, then resolving Collected Company.
I faced Grixis Delver in the following round. Game one I responded to a fetchland activation with Collected Company, leaving my opponent with opponent with one mana, and two options, Dispel, or Spell Pierce. He had Spell Pierce, and I proceeded to fall behind, and eventually lose the game. In game two, I reached a tilting point. A turn three Liliana, the Last Hope managed to kill two creatures, and reach an ultimate. I debated on conceding to the emblem and Tasigur he had just resolved, but instead I proceeding into the most difficult Collected Company of my life. Over the course of three turns I was able to Collected Company twice, and eventually end up with a board state that was able to overcome fifteen 2/2 Zombie tokens, a Tasigur, as well as a Gurmag Angler. By having double archdruid, Ezuri, alongside four other bodies, my opponent couldn’t attack until they could overwhelm me, and my having enough elves I was able to attack for fifty-two with trample, all while he only had forty toughness, and seven life. It may have been one of the most intense games of tournament magic that I have played, and it only got me to game three! Well I was wide awake at this point, and hellbent on winning (all while having cards in hand!) Game three I was able to Fatal Push a Delver that was defending a Liliana, and just constantly apply pressure, while representing CoCo, and the match was mine. I had won one of the most difficult games in my life, and made it a round deeper in.
Going on from there I faced Living End, game on my opponent played a Fulminator Mage, and gave me one turn too many, I companied into Elvish Champion, and Elvish Archdruid, that alone was enough to turn my team into lethal. Game two involved an opening hand including both Relic of Progenitus, and a Scavenging Ooze. It wasn’t close. One more round, and i get to draw in!
In round six I faced a familiar face, and despite not being my best matchup, I manage to overcome B/R Moon Control, and draw into top eight. The match is a nightmare in either direction, I can out tempo them, and grow around their removal, or I can lose to a string of removal spells. This is where Lead the Stampede does a lot of heavy lifting, keeping your handful, and supplementing your Companies. I declined to board anything in, wanting to stick as close to my roots as possible. Game two, my opponent did little outside of resolving two dark confidants, and fatal pushing a one drop. I had nothing aside from a fleet of little creatures, and my opponent was forced to liliana of the veil, and edict me, seeing as both of my cards were lands in hand, and my board was crowded. This went on way too long, and my little green men found themselves victorious.
I had made top eight, but that was not all that I wanted. I wanted to win. However that did not seem to be in the stars for me. I faced the mirror match, and in both games I mulliganed to six, and should have went to five in both games. I didn’t because I valued having a comparable number of cards over actually being able to play the game. I didn’t have a one drop in either game. I threw away a match that I am likely favored in. Post board I get the options of either removal, hand disruption, or not boarding at all and letting Lead the Stampede out pace my opponents Chord of Callings, and one-of’s.
I made a poor decision hastily, and was somewhat rewarded for it. The woodland Bellower caused me to mulligan several hands that would have been keepable had it been a Nettle Sentinel. However I think I am fine with only three Shaman of the Pack, they fill a similar role, while being vastly different, in a format with less green decks I would recommend shifting back to the fourth Shaman. I was also not diligent enough with my mulligans, had the only times I had to mulligan to five been in the top eight, that would be fine for a great finish. Not mulliganing instead caused me to lose without mulliganing. It may not feel as bad at the time, but looking back I would have rather gotten to play my last round a little more, and see what elves are truly capable of.
I would thoroughly recommend this deck, and also recommend brewing with it. There are tons of variations, mana bases, and there is no general consensus on the best build. Chord of Calling, Eldritch Evolution, Lead the Stampede, and a host of other spells have all been featured in the deck, hell there is even an elf-drazi deck, but where to go from here remains a mystery. This deck is very good, and it has a very solid core. I would want to be familiar with this deck when looking into modern, there are twenty decks to learn before you look at this twice, but it certainly deserves the nod.
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