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By: theoutsyder83, Josh Cornwell
May 03 2017 12:00pm
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Way back in 2011, after taking a few years off from Magic, I tried to hop back into standard on the back of Dungrove Elder. While I wasn’t playing in any high profile events, my performance at local tournaments was surprisingly successful, and I wrote a couple of articles on how I was doing with the deck (see BUGrove Elder and BUGrove Elder Evolution here on PureMTGO to see those articles, although that standard format is long gone now).
 
Flash forward a few years, and I find myself in a whole new era of my life: I’m married, I have a daughter, I have a new job, I’ve moved across the country, I don’t have as much time for gaming, etc. etc. etc. You get the idea. That urge to play Magic still hasn’t left my system, though, so I’m starting to get my fix by playing Magic Online more often. That left me with a conundrum, though. I want to play competitively, but I have to do so on a budget, and at the moment, that budget is basically just “play what you already have.”
 
Luckily, I had two things going for me.  I played Dungrove Elder in standard back when it was legal. And for some reason I can’t remember, I was buying playsets of all the Standard legal common and uncommon cards back in Time Spiral-Lorwyn Standard. There just so happens to be a key element in common between those two points, and my aim was to exploit it. So what’s the best combination of powerful and fun cards I can muster from that starting point?
 
Treefolk Tribal!
 
Treefolk Harbinger Dungrove Elder Reach of Branches
 
That’s right. Try not to laugh too hard. But seriously, I kicked off my return to Magic Online with treefolk tribal. I took the leftovers of my 2011 standard deck, tossed in a bunch of treefolk cards from back when Lorwyn was legal in standard, traded for a couple of cards that looked synergistic, and ended up with this pile:
Now that's building on a budget. Even if I didn't have most of those cards already, the whole deck comes out to less than $9 on MTGOTraders. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long to realize that the treefolk idea, while fun, wasn’t even cutting it in the “Just for Fun” matches. You can see a few of those early beatings I took here: 
 

 
So I went to work modifying the deck, using the free trade bots and some actual trading to grab a few more cards that fit the game plan. After some experimentation, I am currently running this:
 
 
Man, oh, man is this one more fun. I’m sure there are still some card choices that people will find questionable, but I think this one hits that sweet spot of cost vs. competitive vs. fun. Even after the upgrades, this deck clocks in at less than $30.
 
Disclaimer: This deck is not going to win you a GP. It might not even be capable of going 4-1 in a league (although I’ll be testing that soon). But it is relatively cheap, it plays a bunch of cards that opponents won’t expect, and (perhaps most importantly) it will let you unleash your inner Timmy in a way that most decks can’t come close to matching.
 
Here are some thoughts on card choices:
 
Tutor Package - Treefolk Harbinger, Trinket Mage, and Eldritch Evolution
 
Treefolk Harbinger is the least powerful of these, but I like it. Often this card will set me up to draw a Dungrove Elder or forest, block a random attacker for a turn or two, and then get sacrificed to go get another Dungrove Elder. I also like the ability to keep land-light hands knowing that I can set myself up to draw a second forest, and it’s even slow mana fixing with the singleton Breeding Pool.
 
Trinket Mage is the main reason to play blue, and I’m always tempted to cut the splash entirely (or switch to black or white). Trinket Mage isn’t super exciting on its own, but it does let me play extra virtual copies of all the low-cost artifact cards, and it even increases the amount of interaction I have when you count Aether Spellbomb.
 
I have a love/hate relationship with Eldritch Evolution, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. On one hand, it is less mana intensive than Chord of Calling. On the other hand, it’s card disadvantage, can’t be reused with Eternal Witness, and is spectacularly bad when it gets countered. With all that in mind, though, I’m keeping it in at the moment. Those times that it is useful, it is incredibly powerful, and some of those disadvantages can be mitigated by the creatures you sacrifice and tutor for. We’ll see how it goes.
 
And then there's Green Sun's Zenith. This is the card from my days of playing this deck in standard that I miss the most. I understand why it's banned in modern, but still... I miss you, GSZ.
 
Green Sun's Zenith
 
Ramp - Sakura-Tribe Elder, Viridian Emissary, and Solemn Simulacrum
No birds or elves in this list, just creatures that put more forests directly into play. Solemn Simulacrum is there as a four mana target when sacrificing Viridian Emissary to Eldritch Evolution. That sequence leads to a sizeable leap in the size of Dungrove Elder, and the old Solemn Sim helps address the usual card disadvantage of EE.
 
Sakura-Tribe Elder has proven his worth in Modern, but Viridian Emissary is a little less loved. I like him for several reasons:
 
  • Aside from Anger of the Gods, all the relevant removal in modern still lets me fetch a land when he dies.
  • He lets me sneak in extra points of damage because opponents hesitate to block him. They would rather take two than let me ramp, and I’m often happy with either outcome. 
  • Between fight effects and Eldritch Evolution, I have several ways of killing him off on my own, so needing that extra land and not being able to get it is not a situation that comes up often.
 The Threats Dungrove Elder, Scavenging Ooze, and Thragtusk
There aren’t many actual threats in the deck, but the deck plays enough tutors that it feels like there are a lot more. And these threats are incredibly resilient, with Dungrove Elder a difficult creature to kill and Thragtusk replacing itself when it leaves play.
 
Equipment - Sword of Vengeance and friends
 The two glaring weaknesses of Dungrove Elder are chump blockers and creatures with deathtouch. With Sword of Vengeance, neither of these attributes matter. With the ability to tack on so many keywords, including trample and first strike, Dungrove Elder becomes a nearly unkillable game-winning machine. The other equipment cards in the deck are tutorable with Trinket Mage, and give a more well-rounded suite of creature pumps. The Sword of Vengeance and Basilisk Collar combo is something I’m particularly fond of, and it’s surprising how often opponents miss the trample and  deathtouch interaction.
 
Other Stuff
Savage Punch is a recent addition, and it has been a huge asset. Reliable removal in green is scarce, but in this deck, Savage Punch serves that purpose quite well. Courser of Kruphix is another recent addition, and I’ve been pretty impressed with it thus far. Getting more looks at forests to increase the size of Dungrove Elder is huge, especially when you have so many shuffle effects to reset the top of the deck.
 
I didn't even list my sideboard because it's so random. I’ve been playing the deck mainly in “Just for Fun” single matches, but there are a few notable cards that I feel pretty confident that I will continue to include. Relic of Progenitus is a sweet tutor target for Trinket Mage, and it is useful in a lot of matchups. Creeping Corrosion will be there because I have such an unhealthy hatred for Affinity/Robots decks. I'll probably round things out with cards that are useful in a variety of matchups, such as countermagic. And last but not least, I usually throw a copy or two of Beast Within into any green sideboard, just in case an opponent hits me with a surprise permanent that I wasn't prepared for.
 
In the near future, I’ll spend some time tuning the budget version of the deck, as well as building up to a more competitive version (with real fetch lands instead of Evolving Wilds, for example). I took this for a spin on stream earlier this week and ran into a lot of concessions (see below). Granted, these matches were played in the “Just for Fun” queues, and this deck can be quite frustrating to play against… so maybe I need to move up to tournament practice matches just for the sake of my opponents’ sanity.
 

 
Is this deck actually tournament viable, though? I don’t think so. Bogles has a similar strategy that is actually fast enough to race combo decks, and those are almost an auto-lose for decks like Dungrove Elder that lack meaningful interaction. More importantly, though, the Death's Shadow decks are a lot better at attacking with enormous undercosted creatures. Life totals and graveyards are resources that are far easier to abuse than lands, so I highly doubt this deck can hang with the current top tier competition. We can always hope that we'll see only slowish midrange matchups, where we get to smash face with giant threats that they struggle to interact with, but those decks seem to be harder to find these days.
 
Still, if you have very little money to invest, you want to unleash your inner Timmy, and you don't mind conceding to every combo deck you face, I suggest you give this one a whirl. It is an absolute blast.
 
So until next time, you can find me over at twitch.tv/theoutsyder83, swinging with this 10/8 Hexproof, First Strike, Haste, Vigilance, Trample, Lifelink, Deathtouch creature. Blocks?

3 Comments

Update: I stated in the by theoutsyder83 at Thu, 05/04/2017 - 00:03
theoutsyder83's picture

Update: I stated in the article that I'd be seeing soon how well this deck could do in a league. Unsurprisingly, I went 1-4. This deck is something like Tier 4, I think (is tier 4 even a thing?)... but it's still a blast to play in Open Play matches. Thanks for reading!

I don't know if tier 4 is a by JXClaytor at Thu, 05/04/2017 - 11:37
JXClaytor's picture

I don't know if tier 4 is a thing or not, but I used to call anything under a tier 2 deck, tier fun. Shrugs.

It being a blast to play is important though.

I enjoyed the article! The by Cauchy at Fri, 05/05/2017 - 01:31
Cauchy's picture
5

I enjoyed the article! The first version of the deck looks really fun to play. I once went 5-0 with a $2 deck in standard. It took a lot of luck and I am not sure I even won a single game after that.