R Koster's picture
By: R Koster, Rob Koster
May 04 2020 11:00am

 Ever since the release of Ikoria, I've been playing a ton of companion based decks. I still really think that if you aren't playing a companion, you should.

There are a few exceptions to the rule, as with every rule. However, as long as you don't have to structurally alter your deck beyond recognition to jam them in, you should be running one.

One archetype that I have been heavily experimenting with this last week has been Elves. I hate that the little green guys have been pushed out by Modern Horizon's Plague Engineer. They've always felt like a fun add-on to the format. Still a bit underrated, a singe of "well they played Elves, so they are probably new" hanging around Elves players everywhere.

But even though Elves are always underrated as the newbie thing, they are undoubtedly powerful. Having won a Pro Tour in the hands of some guy named Luis Scott-Vargas at one point. In a Pro Tour that had a casual 6 out of 6 Elves decks in the top 6. Eat your heart out, Eldrazi-Winter.

Just to show people that weren't playing in 2008, here is the list:

For those of you wondering how this deck ever wins a game with just a bunch of stupid 1/1 Elves, read Heritage Druid. I just started playing Magic during this time and had never seen a genuinely busted card before until I saw the little 1/1 that could.

I have complained about Llanowar Elves in Pioneer before the format became rancid. Look at Llanowar Elves, now look at Heritage Druid, now look back to Llanowar Elves. People are complaining about power creep these days, but man oh man did we get some completely bonkers stuff in the old days.

Heritage Druid has a best friend called Nettle Sentinel. Yes, that is just as busted as it looks. Probably even more than you realize at first. If you combine those two with a way to draw a lot of Elves, you have yourself a surefire winner, which LSV's list does with Glimpse of Nature.

Now I said in the title that I was talking about Modern, so let's talk about Modern.

Nettle Sentinel and Heritage Druid are very much Modern legal. Glimpse of Nature to the surprise of absolutely no one is banned. As it should be. We do, however, have Beast Whisperer. I know it's four mana, but hear me out, we might be able to generate four mana in our deck.

After fiddling around with the deck, I ended up here.


This deck felt very real while playing it. You consistently kill on turn 4, either through combat damage or drawing your deck and playing your version of Grapeshot in Shaman of the Pack. And while having a turn four kill in Modern is nothing special. It's nice that this deck doesn't care about things like Force of Negation. Also, you will never be outraced on the board, you can just affinity-style dump your hand on turn two usually, especially if you have a Heritage Druid going. I've had over ten power in play on turn two way more often than I ever expected when I started playing this, which is also how you beat Supreme Verdict and a lot of combo decks like Ad Nauseam. You're just faster. And have you ever played a Scavenging Ooze against Dredge with 25 Green Mana floating? I have, and so should you.

As you can see, this deck resembles the combo-elves deck of yore in a Modern coating. Some cards we have to play worse versions of, Beast Whisperer is no Glimpse of Nature after all. But some we get better versions of like Reclamation Sage instead of Viridian Shaman. I've included the Reclamation Sage in the main to make the deck more resilient to Chalice of the Void and to be able to beat an Ensnaring Bridge without finding your Shaman of the Pack. Reclamation Sage also notably kills Dryad of the Ilisiyan Grove, although that doesn't make the matchup much better. So far, I've been killed by Amulet Titan every time the turn before I would kill them. Which is why I added the 3 Acidic Slime in the sideboard, I looked at Fulminator Mage as well, but I can't imagine double black being an easy mana cost to work with for this deck, getting five mana however is no big deal.

Matchups that surprised me, however, are the Midrange decks. I fully expected to die a horrible, painful swift death against the Junds and Mardu's of this world. But, if you stuff your deck with creatures that draw you a card or even a few cards, you end up with a very reasonable matchup. They do have starts that are just unbeatable though, Inquisition of Kozilek into Wrenn and Six means you should probably concede and move on with your life.

Oh, and the Humans matchup is fun. They play a 1/1; then, you dump your hand. The only way they ever beat you is with Mantis Rider racing you. This is a thing that happens, but I feel like we are very favored in the matchup.

There are a lot of things that I'm not 100% sure on though for this deck. Do we want the 4th Elvish Mystic? Do we want Eternal Witness? Do we want Thalia, Guardian of Thraben? Do we need 3 Shaman of the Pack? I just don't know yet; there is only so much time in the day. To test things after all. I started with Gilt-Leaf Archdruid in there as a fifth (Beast Whisperer), but it was just overkill. I will someday steal all the lands, preferably from a Tron or Amulet Titan player.

So there are a bunch of things still to work out with this list, but despite all that, the deck feels viable. Which is a thing that Elves hasn't been in a long while, and being honest. I've missed the little guys. And I know there were people out there doing well with the deck, well, I know one person who has stuck with the deck through all of these Plague Engineer'd times.

And speaking about little guys, I know that Ezuri, Renegade Leader exists to make them all a bit bigger, but I never really needed it. Usually, what happens is that I chip in for a bit of damage and then finish it off with a big Shaman of the Pack turn. And the turn where you have all of the mana on the planet, your creatures are usually tapped anyway because of Heritage Druid. I've also tried Craterhoof Behemoth to pump them, but it just felt clunky and unnecessary.

Anyway, that's what I've been doing this past week. I would love it if some more people get in on it and start optimizing the list based on the groundwork that has been laid. I wouldn't be surprised at all if we end up changing about 10-15 cards and rework the entire sideboard.

Long live the Elves!