I’m very much a tribal guy when it comes to Magic: The Gathering, and frequently a ramp-like-a-maniac-then-run-you-over-with-50-damage guy too, so naturally I went straight for Elves this Standard season. After running the list below for a couple months now, I’m surprised Elves aren’t more popular right now, even with wrath like Bonfire of the Damned finding its way into every other deck.
There are a few Elf builds out there, including Green-White Elf Wave (featuring superstars Genesis Wave, Village Bell Ringer, and Restoration Angel for truly insane ramping), and also Elf Ball (the idea there being ramp into a Bonfire or another burn pump spell and shoot it at your opponent’s face while cackling like a madman). My build, however, is simple (in some ways) and cheap, yet elegant and powerful: I dub it Poison Elf Wave, and it’s monogreen.
You can build this easily for a cool 50 bucks give or take, and muffle your laughter as your 50-cent Gutter Grime wins the game against a $50 Bonfire (yes, I’m that kind of guy), or as you attack with ~30 damage on a turn 4 Craterhoof Behemoth, or as you flash in a buffed Viridian Corrupter and destroy your opponent’s Sword and fatty in one fell swoop — just to name a few examples of the fun to be had here.
Appearances are deceiving
While it may appear at first a straightforward ‘flood the board and ramp into oblivion’ deck, there is often a lot more to it. Yeva, Nature’s Herald alone invites all sorts of combat tricks. For example, on one of your turns you’ll be on a mostly empty board, your opponent will be looking smug, then suddenly at the end of their turn you flash her in, plus an Archdruid and couple of Llanowar Elves, and before they know it you’ve run them over with Ezuri, Craterhoof, and/or Triumph of the Hordes and a ton of Elves the following turn.
You can even be a real bastard when need be and attack with a few seemingly harmless Elves, then flash in a Craterhoof for lethal. Then there’s the Infect: I splash this for combat tricks with Yeva, to wear down fatties on the other end, for an alternate win condition, and also so it acts as a decoy — opponents will often look at your Llanowar Elves, Arbor Elf, Archdruid, and/or poison Elves and go straight for the latter, terrified you’ll end them within a couple short turns. Little do they know those guys are less important, and you’re eyeing that Craterhoof, or hell, even the big guy himself — Blightsteel Colossus (which is actually viable with all the ramp).
Strengths and weaknesses
One of the strengths of the deck is that its defense also works as offense and vice versa: the poison Elves, buffs through Adaptive Automaton and Archdruid, a flashed Craterhoof or Blightsteel, Genesis Wave, Gutter Grime, and Mutagenic Growth all work excellently in being aggro and at keeping your guys alive (or replenishing them, in the case of Wave) while tearing down theirs.
It’s important not to overextend, here: rarely should you have two Archdruids on the field, tempting though it may be — keep one for backup if your opponent succeeds in killing it, as it’s one of your best bets in restoring your commanding board state. The same can apply in the late game if you have a few Llanowar and Arbor Elves on the board and also in hand.
The ol’ sideboard
To further specialize matchups, you can sideboard out the Infect, Blightsteel, and/or Visionaries for Bramblecrush (for any bothersome non-creature permanents, especially Swords, Pike, nasty planeswalkers like Chandra, or even non-basic land), Archers (mainly for Insectile Aberration and Restoration Angel, but it’s highly effective against most fliers), Autumn’s Veil (blue/black control), Gutter Grime (wrath), and/or Grafdigger’s Cage (Zombies/Delver). This does still leave weaknesses, but it’s really down to single cards (Terminus, Mirran Crusader, Phyrexian Obliterator), and of course it’s silly to try and counter everything.
If the folks at your LGS happen to be running a bunch of mono black decks with Obliterators, you may want to swap Bramblecrush or the Archers for 3x Serpent’s Gift; if it’s Crusaders running rampant, go for Porcelain Legionnaire. Also, if you’re really feeling strange, Boundless Realms is somewhat viable against board sweepers, especially when combined with the ever-important Lead the Stampede. An option for the mainboard: swap out the Visionaries for Copperhorn Scout, which performs the service of Village Bell Ringer with less and limited efficiency, but lets you stay monogreen. There’s no great reason I haven’t done this yet (just laziness, really), so feel free.
I’ll have further reports on this deck as I go (on a weekly basis if I can help it), and possibly its evolution into rotation next month, depending what other Elves are spoiled in Return to Ravnica (which is looking delicious, by the way).
Poison Elf Wave Deck List
- 2x Adaptive Automaton
- 4x Arbor Elf
- 1x Blightsteel Colossus
- 2x Craterhoof Behemoth
- 4x Elvish Archdruid
- 3x Elvish Visionary
- 3x Ezuri, Renegade Leader
- 3x Glistener Elf
- 4x Llanowar Elves
- 2x Viridian Corrupter
- 2x Yeva, Nature’s Herald
- 20x Forest