Hope Eternal—Elves Have Game, and a Surprising Standard Brew

This weekend I took Elves back out for a spin in the Twenty Sided Store weekend Legacy tournament. I had been meaning to do so before I saw LSV playing the deck in coverage of the Denver GP, but it certainly didn’t hurt. Interestingly enough, LSV was playing a Natural Order variant, which is a more powerful version. Unfortunately, I don’t have Natural Orders, and don’t feel like shelling out $75 to shave a few points for a deck that I play a couple times a year. Living Wish is still getting there, and in many ways it gives me a much greater array of options. As a reminder, here is my list:

Creatures (31): 2x Birchlore Rangers, 4x Deathrite Shaman, 3x Elvish Visionary, 1x Ezuri, Renegade Leader, 2x Fyndhorn Elves, 3x Heritage Druid, 3x Llanowar Elves, 3x Nettle Sentinel, 2x Priest of Titania, 3x Quirion Ranger, 1x Regal Force, 1x Edric, Spymaster of Trest, 3x Wirewood Symbiote
Spells (12): 1x Crop Rotation, 4x Glimpse of Nature, 4x Green Sun’s Zenith, 3x Living Wish
Lands (17): 2x Bayou, 1x Dryad Arbor, 3x Forest, 2x Gaea’s Cradle, 1x Horizon Canopy, 1x Pendelhaven, 1x Savannah, 3x Windswept Heath, 3x Wooded Foothills

Sideboard (15): 3x Choke, 1x Craterhoof Behemoth, 1x Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, 1x Ezuri, Renegade Leader, 1x Heritage Druid, 1x Maze of Ith, 1x Mirror Entity, 1x Nettle Sentinel, 1x Qasali Pridemage, 1x Regal Force, 1x Scavenging Ooze, 1x Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, 1x Wirewood Symbiote

I made a few changes from the last time I ran this list: I traded out the main Scavenging Ooze to try out Edric, I switched from 2 Savannahs and 1 Bayou to 2 Bayous and 1 Savannah to better support Deathrite, I rebalanced my Llanowar Elves/Fyndhorn Elves split, and I took out Peacekeeper and Faerie Macabre in my sideboard in favor of a wishable Ezuri and a Thalia. I was happy with all but one of these changes; Edric didn’t nearly do as much as I wanted him to do, and there was rarely a point at which it was advantageous for me to grab him if I was not already winning. I did, on the other hand, sorely feel the absence of Scavenging Ooze as a first tier Green Sun Zenith target at the two spot. So, going forward, the Ooze is back in the main.

Round 1: John, BUG Value

Game one was fairly short. While John disrupted several of my little green men with Abrupt Decay, and put pressure on me with Tarmogoyf and Vendilion Clique, the V-Clique that took away a Glimpse gave me more action, and a Hymn to Tourach after I spent a turn vomiting elves onto the field took two fetches and left me with Gaea’s Cradle. One massive Ezuri overrun later, we were on to game two. Since John was running Islands, I sided in the three Chokes in favor of Crop Rotation, Edric and (this was a mistake) a Deathrite Shaman.

I dropped my hand early in game two, but didn’t have the extended combo going so I went on the beatdown plan with three small guys and a Deathrite Shaman. John then resolved Engineered Plague (for Elf) at 15 life, wiping my board but for the active Shaman. I proceeded to knock him down to 9 with my Shaman before he could use his Confidant to draw an answer… but by that point I had gotten myself a Wirewood Symbiote and a Pendelhaven through cycling some of my Elves via Glimpse (you still draw the card even if they die as soon as they enter the battlefield). John made the mistake of attacking into my Symbiote with his Confidant, forgetting that Pendlehaven meant that wasn’t even a trade, although his increasingly low life total meant it was a minor error. Had that Confidant stayed on the board much longer, it would have probably finished him in itself. Meanwhile, I Choked him for two turns, before he got a second Abrupt Decay, then I resolved a second Deathrite for pressure. Finally, in the endgame, he Cliqued me during my draw step, revealing (and bottoming) Choke. Off the top, I draw… Choke, and it sealed the deal, preventing him from untapping and killing my lethal Shaman.

1-0 in matches, 2-0 in games

Round 2: Justin, Dredge

So, I’ve never actually lost a round to Dredge in my life. My first Legacy tournament ever I was running Junk, with Tops and Qasali Pridemages, and I remember a particularly key turn where I popped my opponent’s Bridges in response to a large number of triggers by sacrificing my Pridemage targeting my Top, and then putting my Top on top of my library instead of losing it. I also have a copy of the deck, although I favor the Quad Laser build, and I have practiced with the deck enough to know where to hit it and what you need to hold back.

The point is this was not a good matchup for my opponent. He was on the Dread Return plan, which makes your deck a little less consistent in my opinion, and that version is particularly weak to Deathrite Shaman… Which I resolved turn one in game one, and turn two in game two off a Green Sun’s Zenith. Both games I kept him off critical mass before Living Wishing for a Scavenging Ooze; in game two the Ooze was supported by a Gaea’s Cradle, and after two turns of mass exile he didn’t have any gas left in his yard and was forced to draw off the top before he was killed by a 10/10 Ooze. Dredge is a great deck, but there are a lot of Deathrite Shamans running around these days. It’s a rough hurdle to beat.

2-0 in matches, 4-0 in games

Round 3: Lirek, RUG Delver

Lirek was afraid we were going to go to time after our games last week. I mean, we didn’t go to time then either, but I certainly did take a few very long turns before winning, so perhaps his concern was more justified than it seemed. As is, I knew his plan going into the game, and I knew that he was favored against me. Elves has a lot of play to it, but it is very susceptible to disruption if you’re playing as much disruption as RUG, and Delvers provide a source of consistent pressure that you just can’t block or kill. Game one he resolved a Delver, Dazed my first mana elf, resolved a second Delver, bolted my Deathrite, and then Brainstormed to flip both of his Delvers on turn three. Game two played out a lot like game one, only this time he also resolved an early Lavamancer, and used Forked Bolt to two for one me before committing mass elfocide. I lasted two extra turns that game! It was brutal, and did not take very long.

2-1 in matches, 4-2 in games

Round 4: Jason, Goblins

Jason and I split the prize going into the match, since I prefer a certain outcome and Jason thought it was a bad matchup for him. I was less certain, since it seems like Goblins has pressure and Burn, plus his land-disruption package means my Cradles are almost certain to be destroyed or locked down before I can get much use out of them. Game one I resolved a Living Wish for Scavenging Ooze, a Green Sun’s Zenith for Ezuri and a Crop Rotation for Cradle. Rishadan Port during my upkeep was less than effective at keeping my Cradle irrelevant with that board state, as I just used it during my upkeep to take a scalpel to his graveyard, and then overran with Ezuri for lethal during my final upkeep (instead of during combat, as I tend to prefer).

Again I didn’t really need to sideboard here. Jason kept a zero land hand with Chrome Mox and a Lackey (and several Seige-Gang Commanders in his hand, I think). Unfortunately, I had a turn one Deathrite, so he didn’t get a chance to swing in. He dropped another Lackey, and I had another Elf to block it, and even the Piledriver he played on turn 3 didn’t provide enough support. Eventually I used Cradle to ramp into a GSZ for Regal Force with nine elves on the table, and he conceded at 20 life.

3-1 in matches, 6-2 in games

As usual, Legacy was fun! I had a series of interesting conversations with John and Jason that are worth highlighting. For context, Dana was playing Shardless BUG this weekend, and when I put it together I put Pernicious Deed in the sideboard over Engineered Plague, because playing Elves I fear Deed more. John was playing a split, and he could definitely see my point; Plague is in many ways more insurmountable, but Deed sets me back further and has broader applicability against the field. So then as I played out my tribal conflict with Jason, I mentioned my thoughts on Deed versus Plague, and he mentioned that unlike me, he feared Plague a lot more. Plague just straight up ruins Goblins, since they have no way to remove it and can basically only counteract it with the (maybe) 4 copies of Goblin Chieftan they play. I still think Deed is a better option, but maybe it’s best to go with a split. What do you think?

As a side note, there was an eight person standard tournament after Legacy, and I went 3-0 through a series of ridiculous occurrences (being paired against a small child and a 1-0-1 player who needed to leave) I managed to win it with this pile after only winning one hard fought round against Bant Control. Here’s my ridiculous mono-black homebrew list. It’s amusing, and it has taught me very little:

Creatures (26): 4x Blood Artist, 4x Diregraf Ghoul, 4x Disciple of Bolas, 4x Geralf’s Messenger, 4x Gravecrawler, 4x Knight of Infamy, 2x Vampire Nighthawk
Spells (11): 3x Liliana of the Veil, 2x Sever the Bloodline, 4x Sign in Blood, 2x Ultimate Price
Lands (23): 23x Swamp
Sideboard (15): 2x Appetite for Brains, 2x Bloodline Keeper, 2x Duress, 3x Mutilate, 1x Sever the Bloodline, 2x Tragic Slip, 3x Underworld Connections

8 Responses to “Hope Eternal—Elves Have Game, and a Surprising Standard Brew”
  1. Matt Jones says:

    THAT is what Disciple of Bolas looks like? Jeez!

  2. Matt Jones says:

    Josh Fettoblaster and I’ve been thinking about a mono-black zombies list potentially being good in standard. Potentially.

    • thejlina says:

      Yeah, my idea came from wanting to play zombies, but not really liking the mana options for a pure Red Black version. Plus, I felt like the current aggro decks run out of steam. The real match I played was against Nick piloting Bant Control… he ran over me game one, but games two and three I resolved Liliana and Underworld Connections, and between those two cards I had the momentum to keep up with him. Game three I won with pointing Sign in Blood at his face, which is always a nice feeling. Specifically, he was at 5 and I had a Liliana at 2, he Azorius Charmed a Messenger to the top of my library, forgetting I had Connections out to draw it again, and then I replayed it, sacced it, and pointed Sign at his face. Had he not Charmed it, and chumped instead, I had a second Sign in Blood to arrive at the same outcome. It was a pretty tight match, though. Disciple was definitely an All-Star. Turn 2 Knight, turn 3 Messenger, turn 4 swing with Messenger for 4, then play Disciple of Bolas to gain 4 life, draw 4 cards and make your opponent lose 2 life was not only an optimal outcome, but it happened more than once.

      • Li Xu says:

        I still think Desecration Demon might have a home in your list, specifically replacing Bloodline Keeper in your sideboard and coming in against control. It blocks Thragtusk all day, and forces a Wrath by himself.

      • thejlina says:

        I think you’re right about that… the only sorta weird thing is that I have maybe one copy of that card? I’ll see if I can trade for a playset and try it out if I run this thing again.

      • Zac Clark says:

        Have you thought about Phylactery Lich? the card seems like it could get work in a more midrangey deck.

        not sure about what artifacts would work but turn threeing it it’s as important as being able to cast sever threats to bait counters.

  3. Matt says:

    I’ve been playing online with a mono black zombies list that runs mutilate and desecration demon in the main deck. With blood artist and all the recurring dudes and desecration demon getting really big, mutilate can really be huge. Even against control you can use it for direct damage in game 1 with BA and GM.

    • thejlina says:

      I hadn’t thought about running the mutilates main, but I do agree that Blood Artist is really well positioned at the moment. And I totally should have had some Desecration Demons main… it’s the type of card you don’t miss in your collection until you need it, you know? At least I didn’t.

      What I keep musing about is Killing Wave, like the deck originally tried to run. It seems decent against token decks, and gives you a free sac outlet for control… but it’s probably too janky.

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