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By: Arnnaria, Sean Costales
Feb 13 2008 12:23am
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Hello and welcome to the first article of Pure Standard.  Pure Standard will be a weekly column on Pure MTGO about Standard.  Deck lists, techniques, metagame analysis – and any other stuff that you ask for will fill this column.  It is not a metagame recap – Jamuraa already has that covered with Standard Deviations.  If you have an ideas or suggestions for a deck topic, e-mail me.  My e-mail address is at the end of this column.  Today’s topic is about a good deck that I just can’t get behind: Elves!

Hope you enjoy this article and future articles to come.

~ Sean

***

I’m at a loss.  I tried liking the deck.  I really did.  I tried different decklists.  But that didn’t work.  I tried tweaking it to my play style.  That didn’t work either.  When you get down to it, I guess the answer is pretty simple: I hate Elves! 

That exclamation mark isn’t part of the contempt I have toward the deck.  In fact, I would say that the sentence should read something along the lines as “I hate Elves…sigh.”  However, the powers that be have inserted a random “!” to the end of the deck, making the official moniker of Elves, Elves!  It’s annoying, because every time I mention the humdrum deck it makes it feel like I’m pimping out its playability.  And that is far beyond the point of this article.  I’m not pro-Elves!  Again, I’m not pro-Elves…sigh.

This isn’t a minimal dislike of the deck.  It’s not like that it goes against my play philosophy.  Normally, smashing with green is a perfect fit for me.  It’s not like I played sub-optimal lists.  In fact, I tried three very different versions of the deck.  But the good, the bad, and the ugly kept on staring at me in the face: this deck may be in the top tier, but it has some serious problems.  Let’s discuss those problems, and perhaps, discuss some solutions to this popular deck.

The Good

Imperious Perfect wins games

How many turns can an opponent let an unchecked Imperious Perfect go before dying?  Three turns?  Four?   The army-building potential of this guy is ridiculous.  Not only does it turn your Llanowar Elves and Boreal Druid into credible threats, you can stop casting your creatures and hold them back in case of a Wrath of God or Damnation; building your army on the back of Imperious Perfect alone.

But Imperious Perfect not only builds armies – he enhances your elves as well.  Imperious Perfect puts the “!” in “Elves!”.  Without it, the deck would just be dubbed “Random Rock Variant 3.74”.
Imperious Perfect

Profane Command wins games

Profane Command

I think that without a doubt, Profane Command is the most powerful sorcery in Standard.  If it weren’t for Tarmogoyf, it could arguably be the best card in Standard.  Why is Profane Command so good?  It ends games.  There are four powerful abilities strapped onto one card.  Most frequently, Profane Command gets a creature from your graveyard into play.  Then, it also destroys creatures and prevents them from regenerating. 

The final two abilities, the blaze to the dome and the fear-granting ability, can be played at the right moment to win you the game.  The only downside of this card is that it takes up a spot in your early game.  While it’s a good card, you only want to run two or three as its no good in the early game.  I’ve seen many decks run all four, but I think that’s a mistake.  Two or three will do fine.

The Bad

Too many decks don’t run Shriekmaw

For every “bad” or “ugly” bulletpoint I have, I’ll try to come up with a solution to remedy the problem.  I’m not out there to bash this deck just for fun and giggles.  I think it is a tier one deck that ultimately has a few problems.  And this is one of them.  Many decks eschew Shriekmaw for removal packages of (Eyeblight’s Ending) and Nameless Inversion.  But Shriekmaw, in my humble opinion, is the defining creature of Lorwyn.  It’s such a powerful critter that many decks are packing Phyrexian Ironfoots (a creature I’ll mention later) just because it doesn’t die to this beast.

If your list already features Shriekmaws in it, pat yourself on the back.  There are so many creature-heavy builds out there it just makes perfect sense.  Shriekmaw is a two-for one, you get a creature and your opponent loses one.  With Profane Command and a Shriekmaw in your graveyard, you can three-for-one in a pinch.  So if your list doesn’t feature Shriekmaw, its time to put them in.  Three copies will do, the fourth can sit in the sideboard.

Your mana acceleration can cause you to hiccup

All decks run four Llanowar Elves at the base of the deck.  The other mana producers depend on the deck.  Some prefer adding Boreal Druid, others go for the two-color friendly Birds of Paradise.  But herein is the problem.  All these critters die to a Mogg Fanatic.  If that wasn’t the worst part, if your opponent is playing Wrath of God or Damnation you might as well be saying “bye bye” to your mana acceleration.  If your opponent wipes out your mana-producers or turn four or five, you might be dropping from five-mana to three-mana.  That can hurt in the late game when you need that mana to destroy a creature with Profane Command.  I don’t know how many times I’ve cursed my opponent for wiping away my mana producers when my next play was going to be a Masked Admirers.

My suggestion?  The four Llanowar Elves are not the problem, but the other mana producers aren’t necessary.  Instead, run three or four Civic Wayfinders.  They function as an elf, and have extra beef for the street fight you are invariably getting into.  With Imperious Perfect in play, you Civic Wayfinder is a beefy 3/3 that can go toe-to-toe with a variety of creatures.

Bigger creatures are a problem

Your creatures’ maximum power is about three: Wren’s Run Vanquisher, Masked Admirers, and Treetop Village.  Tarmogoyf and Tombstalker aside, this means that a creature with four-toughness can block all day and neutralize your offense. The main problem here is the snow-baddie Phyrexian Ironfoot.  A Phyrexian Ironfoot can hold back your creatures from entering the red zone.  There are solutions, but for three-mana if you can’t find an Eyeblight’s Ending your opponent just put the brakes on your aggro strategy.

The solution is to side in as many Eyeblight’s Endings as you can when it comes time to shift in your benched cards.  Nameless Inversion is a great card, but against many decks that don’t run any low-curve creatures (I’m looking at you Sonic Boom) it’s a dead card.  Run two Eyeblight’s Endings and two Nameless Inversion in your maindeck, and have two Eyeblight’s Endings in the sideboard.  This spicy little combination is just what you need.

The Ugly

Can’t deal with Planeswalkers

When I first heard the rules for Planeswalkers I thought that they would lengthen games.  Why?  Well, aggro decks that don’t traditionally run much non-creature removal.  So the only way aggro decks can get rid of Planeswalkers is if they attack them and don’t go for the dome.  Elves is an aggro deck, and this is a problem for them.  I don’t know how many times I’ve sighed when my opponent plays Garruk Wildspeaker, knowing I have to attack the Garruk and putting my well-laid plans on hold.

There really is no other solution to this problem but attacking the Planeswalkers.  It’s not like you can just ignore them, let a Chandra Nalaar or an Ajani Goldmane simmer too long and its going to cook into something fierce.  Were it two-mana cheaper, Rootgrapple  would be a fine solution. Unfortunately, like so many cards out there, it’s overcost to the point where its not playable.

Garruk Wildspeaker


Can’t deal with Akroma, Angel of Wrath

Normally this would only be a problem as a reanimation target.  And if it were, Extirpate and Withered Wretch would be more than happy to step up to the sideboard plate to get rid of this tough broad.  However, times have changed and so have the threats.   G/W Big Mana is getting more and more popular.  It uses the same mana intense strategy of the popular G/R Big Mana deck, and then some: Garruk Wildspeaker, Into the North, and even Coalition Relic.  What does this mean?  It means that Body Double isn’t the threat: a hard-casted Akroma is.

The solution to this problem?  I can’t find one.  The only card out there that could possibly deal with this would be Lignify.  And if you’re playing with Lignify, you’re giving them a four-toughness wall to thwart your strategy.  It would be just as bad as giving them a Phyrexian Ironfoot as we have discussed earlier.

Nameless Inversion kills half your army

Nameless Inversion

The first change I made to Uri Peleg’s decklist after playing it for a while was getting rid of the Thoughtseize for additional Nameless Inversion.  Elves is very popular in the metagame, and half the creatures in the deck die to Nameless Inversion.  While a quick Wren’s Run Vanquisher or Imperious Perfect can close the game quickly – both these critters die to this popular removal spell.

We need a few bigger creatures to threaten the opponent.  Some have added Tombstalker to the deck to achieve this purpose.  Another good card that is underplayed is Spectral Force.  It’s high on the mana curve but it also gets the job done.

No evasion

For a deck that has an amazing curve, sometimes you can still be deadlocked with your opponent.  You built up your army, they built up theirs.  And now you’re both sitting at the table with armies but the game isn’t going anywhere.  If only some of your creatures had evasion, you could break this stalemate.  The problem is, none of your creatures have any relevant combat abilities.  Sure, (Wren’s Run Vanquisher) has Deathtouch, but it also has three-power so it’s likely taking down anything that comes its way.

This is where we can make some headway.  The strongest evasion creature you can add is Tombstalker.  Just be sure you leave the creatures in your graveyard you might want to return with a Profane Command.  One or two Tombstalkers in the maindeck can really help you out of a stalemate situation.  If you suspect you are going to be having a lot of stalemates, and with Elves! as popular as it is, you’ll be having lots, add numbers three and four to the sideboard.  If you don’t like the prospects of Tombstalker, another choice is Mirri the Cursed.  She is legendary, so you only need one copy for maximum efficiency.  For four-mana you get flying, first strike, and haste.  The first strike should knock down any faeries that get in the way, since the current standard metagame is very light on the airborn creatures.

What the future holds

Morningtide gives us many goodies that will eventually turn Elves! into Warriors!  While I haven’t tested this new deck, I’ll give you the details that go into it.  If you notice while Lorwyn focused on races like Elves and Kithkin, Morningtide focuses on classes like Shamans and Warriors.  And it just so happens that a few of your guys, like Civic Wayfinder, and Wren’s Run Vanquisher, and Imperious Perfect are Warriors in addition to their Elven goodness.

So what does that mean?  That means we’re getting some goodies to assist those Warriors: Bramblewood Paragon, Obsidian Battle-Axe.  (See the end of the article to see what these two cards do.)  But the Paragon isn’t the only Elf that’s being added to the set, there are two shapeshifters that want to get in on the fun.  Chameleon Colossus and Mutavault both want to get pumped up by your Imperious Perfects.

So maybe this deck will get a shot-in-the-arm once we finally get Morningtide online.  Until then, constantly check how to make your decklists better.  Elves! may be a top tier deck, but not all decklists are created equal.  Here’s the final list I would consider playing:

Sean Costales

Arnnaria on Magic Online

andredomino@gmail.com

Morningtide Add-Ons

Bramblewood Paragon 1G

Creature – Elf Warrior 2/2

Each other Warrior creature you control comes into play with an additional +1/+1 counter.

Each creature you control with a +1/+1 counter on it has trample.

Obsidian Battle-Axe 3

Tribal Artifact – Warrior Equipment

Equipped creature gets +2/+1 and has haste.

Whenever a Warrior creature comes into play, you may attach Obsidian Battle-Axe to it.

Equip 3

Chameleon Colossus 2GG

Creature – Shapeshifter

Changeling

Protection from black

2GG: Chameleon Colossus gets +X/+X until end of turn, where X is its power.

Mutavault

Land

T: Add 1 to your mana pool.

1: Mutavault becomes a 2/2 creature with all creature types until end of turn.  It’s still a land.

3 Comments

by hamtastic at Wed, 02/13/2008 - 15:09
hamtastic's picture

Green answer to akroma?  Utopia Vow.

Giving W/G  Big mana one more mana is not a big deal, plus it strands the next akroma drawn as well.

Is it worth running?  Probably not, but just thought I'd throw that out there that there's pinpoint removal for the deck that can hit Akroma (or any potential blocker).

:)

That was a pretty good article. by nayr626 at Wed, 02/13/2008 - 13:04
nayr626's picture

My main problem was there were some grammar mistakes where you should of used *your* etcetera.  And the overuse of critters was quite annoying.. Besides all that good article!

by djdark01 at Wed, 02/13/2008 - 05:33
djdark01's picture

Bramblewood Paragon and Mutavault are the two cards I'm looking forward to most.

I think I'd rather use Bramlewood in conjunction with a few red cards but yea it could be great here too.