Elves Deck Tech – Legacy’s Greenest Deck
Hi everyone. I decided to try this article writing thing, and since this is the first one, I’m writing about the thing I am most familiar with in Magic, which is Legacy. More specifically Elves, the deck I’ve been playing exclusively for the past 9 months.
Shortly after Julian Knab’s win at Bazaar of Moxen in Paris last November, I decided to build the deck. It wasn’t my dream deck but it was within my budget; which I had decided on to help get me back into the format. After 9 months, I feel I have definitely made the right choice.
I traded for almost all of the cards and I was fortunate enough to be able to borrow the cards that I was missing for events. Since then I took this deck to many events around the north and even GP Paris!
4 Gaea’s Cradle
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Wooded Foothills
1 Windswept Heath
2 Dryad Arbor
4 Quirion Ranger
4 Wirewood Symbiote
4 Elvish Visionary
4 Deathrite Shaman
3 Heritage Druid
3 Nettle Sentinel
2 Craterhoof Behemoth
1 Llanowar Elves
1 Birchlore Rangers
1 Wren’s Run Packmaster
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Ruric Thar, The Unbowed
4 Glimpse of Nature
4 Green Sun’s Zenith
3 Natural Order
1 Natural Order
2 Null Rod
2 Abrupt Decay
1 Krosan Grip
2 Surgical Extraction
1 Pithing Needle
This is the exact 76 I am currently playing, but it changes weekly the reflect the shifts in my local meta.
There are currently many viable variants of this deck out there, I splash black and red in an almost mono green shell. Black is a given in all Elf decks, but there are players that splash white, blue or just stick to 2 colours. I have tried them all, and in my opinion this is the best version. All variants have the same seemingly simple strategy of playing creatures and killing your opponent with [card]Craterhoof Behemoth[/card]. It’s essentially a combo deck in the sense that it combines several spells to do its job, however depending on the match up it can take a more grindy route.
Because the creatures in the deck are not going to win any p/t contests, it’s important that they interact profitably with each other i.e. form synergies.
[card]Heritage Druid[/card] allows you to tap even your summoning sick [card]Nettle Sentinels[/card] for mana which then untap with every green spell that you cast. Combine that with a [card]Glimpse of Nature[/card] or 2 and even on turn 2 you can have a board full of creatures and hand full of spells.
The second synergy allows you to win those long games, which as a combo deck you don’t usually want to play. This synergy is [card]Wirewood Symbiote[/card] + [card]Elvish Visionary[/card].
Apart from the obvious card drawing benefits, these 2 pair up to become the best blocker, great for blocking [card]Tarmogoyfs[/card] and Germs carrying a [card]Batterskull[/card] (return the Visionary back to hand before damage is dealt and prevent that lifelink from happening). Since returning an Elf is part of the cost, it cannot be responded to or [card]Stifle[/card]d (return an Elf part, you can still respond to untapping a creature)!
The third important synergy in the deck are green creatures + [card]Natural Order[/card], but that doesn’t require further explanation.
Key cards in the deck
[card]Natural Order[/card] – This is arguably the most important card in the deck, this is what allows the deck to win quickly. Its blue sibling, [card]Tinker[/card], is deemed to be too powerful for Legacy but its green variant is just as good. You can normally cast this card on turn 2; cycle your 1 mana creature for something that wins you the game; be it a [card]Craterhoof Behemoth[/card], [card]Ruric Thar, The Unbowed[/card] against Storm decks, [card]Progenitus[/card] against fair decks or [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card] in match up when you need it. It’s very versatile and I’m always happy to see it in my opening hand– but be careful; sacrificing a creature is part of the cost and it’s easy to be 2 for 1’ed if you are not careful.
[card]Glimpse of Nature[/card] – There are 2 types of Glimpses, the so called value Glimpse that draws you 3-4 cards early in the game and the one that wins you the game where you draw your entire deck after casting multiple [card]Glimpse of Natures[/card] in one turn and turning all your creatures into [card]Ancestral Recall[/card]s.
I’m a big fan of value glimpses and I often go for it on turn 2 just to draw those few extra cards. I know some players value this card highly, some like it more than [card]Natural Order[/card] but I don’t, especially in games 2 and 3 where many opponents will have mass removal ready to be cast, you don’t want to fill your board with creatures which this card encourages.
[card]Gaea’s Cradle[/card] – This, much like [card]Natural Order[/card] gives you a huge speed boost to cast these turn 3 [card]Natural Orders[/card] without tapping any of your creatures, value glimpses or just few more creatures as quickly as possible. Don’t forget about tapping one of them for mana and playing a second one, [card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card] for 8 has never been easier! It’s very powerful but balanced at the same time. Since it doesn’t tap for mana without creatures, having [card]Gaea’s Cradle[/card] as the only land in your opening hand makes it useless.
[card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card] – It’s key to the deck just because of how versatile it is. Provides turn 1 acceleration (X=0 to get [card]Dryad Arbor[/card]), it helps you to assemble the synergies highlighted above and gets key cards in match ups when you really need them. It allows you to play 5 different one-of creatures that either hate on other decks or play against hate for our deck, it also gets [card]Craterhoof Behemoth[/card]for the win in the late game.
Playing around hate
As mentioned above if your opponent doesn’t interact with you, assembling the combo is very easy with the 7 main deck tutors. However, the deck becomes difficult to play when your opponent starts playing hate cards.
The most common hate cards against this deck are:
Wraths – [card]Terminus[/card], [card]Supreme Verdict[/card], [card]Wrath of God[/card] etc. you can’t do anything about them, you can only play creatures into them and get them out of your opponents hand. I personally like playing 1 or 2 creatures at a time to reduce the impact of these cards or push for the win before they get to 4 mana.
-1/-1 effects – [card]Golgari Charm[/card], [card]Zealous Persecution[/card], [card]Engineered Plague[/card] etc. These are hugely overvalued by some opponents and are fairly easy to play around. Simply play your 2 toughness creatures, [card]Quirion Ranger[/card] if you have a [card]Dryad Arbor[/card] in play and [card]Wirewood Symbiote[/card] to save your over creatures. This is also the reason why I started playing [card]Wren’s Run Packmaster[/card], those 2/2 wolfs are great against -1/-1 effects.
Artifact hate – [card]Umezawa’s Jitte[/card], [card]Engineered explosives[/card], [card]Chalice of the Void[/card], [card]Grafdigger’s Cage[/card] and [card]Ratchet Bomb[/card] are the main ones. [card]Chalice of the void[/card] has to be destroyed before you can proceed. You can play around [card]Graffdigger’s Cage[/card] if you naturally draw the creatures you need but it makes the game significantly more difficult.
Against [card]Engineered Explosives[/card] I like waiting till my opponent taps out or until I have removal for their artifact. [card]Umezawa’s Jitte[/card] however is by far the most common and most devastating card you’ll have to play against (if unanswered). Thankfully, [card]Wirewood Symbiote[/card] + any elf can prevent combat damage from happening when blocking the equipped creature, same with [card]Quirion Ranger[/card] and [card]Dryad Arbor[/card] and stop the legendary equipment from getting any counters.
After sideboarding, [card]Null Rods[/card] stops any artifact shenanigans.
If you know what you’re opponent will be playing against you, sideboard and play accordingly against that card.
Speed – While this is not the fastest combo deck in the format, it forces your opponent to react quickly and often to mulligan their slow hands. Speed is also important in combo match ups, even if you can’t hate on their strategy, winning faster is always an option!
Resilience – Since the deck relies on getting a critical mass of creatures on board, removing one or two of them doesn’t matter too much, in the end, they all contribute to your mana and they all attack.
You often don’t care about your opponent’s game plan – Whether your opponent wants to play those [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card], dredge or try to race you with [card]Delver of Secrets[/card]. You will often be faster than them.
Consistency – Once again, because all your creatures do the more-or-less same thing, it’s only a matter of time before you draw one of your finishers and there are 9 ways of getting [card]Craterhoof Behemoth[/card] in play in the main deck.
Mulliganning –The deck’s biggest weakness. It doesn’t play many lands to begin with, [card]Dryad Arbor[/card]s are too vulnerable to be kept as the only land in our opening hand. [card]Gaea’s Cradle[/card] is useless on its own which leaves us with 14 turn-one-playable lands. Mulligans are common, but because of our mana creatures, 1 land hands are perfectly fine.
Hate cards – Sometimes you just don’t have the cards to deal with opposing hate and you can’t win. It happens, just hope for the best in the next game.
Some match ups – There are match ups which are almost un-winnable, Sneak & Show is the main one. If you are playing a combo deck you just have to accept that there are those match ups that you just can’t win, don’t get frustrated by those losses and keep playing.
Why should you build this deck?
You should build Elves if you want to play combo and aggro. If you want to win quickly, play broken spells and draw lots of cards (drawing cards is awesome). If you like challenges, there will be plenty of them on the road to success. You also have access to some of the best tutors available in Legacy, and accelerate into biggest and scariest green creatures.
I strongly believe that Elves is one of the top decks in Legacy and will continue to be in hands of competent players.
Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed it or at least learnt something you didn’t know before about the deck. I will hopefully get to write more articles about the deck and further break down certain match ups and how to sideboard with the deck. I strongly encourage people to give this deck a go if they get a chance.