by Travis Brown

I had effectively zero exposure to the format before entering the event or building the deck, but I knew based on previous experience playing magic that when a format is fairly open or relatively unexplored, having a powerful, proactive game plan is a strong place to start. Plus, I played Elves in actual middle school, so I figured, “why not?”

Here’s the list I ran in the Summer School webcam league:

This list offers some real incentives:

  • Redundancy: The deck is all mana or payoffs, with just a bit of utility sprinkled in.
  • Speed: Between the eight 1-mana elves, 4 Priests, and the Cradles, the deck can very reliably cast 5+ mana of spells on turn 3 if uninterrupted. In addition to the ramp, the deck has access to a fast Deranged Hermit, Elvish Champion, or Tribal Forcemage, which represent very quick ways to close out the game.
  • Power: Armageddon, Plow Under, Biorhythm, and Deranged Hermit are some of the most powerful spells in the format. As such, they felt like a powerful endgame. Many decks in the format simply cannot beat a resolved Armageddon, and Elves functions extremely well off of 1-2 lands.

    The sideboard was mostly just thrown together as “this card is strong in a bunch of matchups, so let’s put some number in the sideboard.” Here are the takeaways:


Naturalize, Tormod’s Crypt, and Caller of the Claw were all excellent. Naturalize came in in almost every matchup, and Crypt and Caller weren’t far behind. Caller, being able to be replayed by Wirewood Symbiote, also turned out to be a fun interaction.


Wellwisher can be strong, but is pretty medium in many matchups. Gaea’s Herald is just not very good. Don’t play this card. Circle of Protection: Red was also largely unnecessary. While it might be good in the red matchups, I don’t believe they are very good decks, or at least not popular enough to warrant such a narrow SB card.

Breaking Down The Deck

The Mana

These are the reasons you can play every other card in the deck. Both Fyndhorn and Llanowar put you far ahead of most other decks if you have one in your opening hand, and both Priest and Cradle add insane amounts of mana.

The Payoffs

Hermit, Geddon, Plow Under, and Biorhythm can all end the game on the spot. Deranged hermit is likely the best threat in the format (remember: this ain’t 2020, and creatures suck in this format), and Geddon means your opponent likely cannot play any more Magic.

The Engine

Wirewood Symbiote is one of the best cards in the deck, and it provides an absurd amount of versatility and value. Keep in mind that the little bug lets you bounce an elf on EACH turn, not just yours. This means you can proactively bounce a creature on your turn to replay it for value, and you can still protect your threats on your opponent’s turn.

Sylvan Messenger draws at least 1-2 cards for 4 mana, provides a solid body, and digs through excess lands. If you have Symbiote in play, you get to cast 1-2 Messengers every turn and bury your opponent in card advantage. When you draw 10+ more cards than your opponent, it doesn’t matter if they are all bad.

Deranged Hermit provides excellent pressure that Sylvan Messenger can find, and helps you go wide out of nowhere. Additionally, Symbiote means you never have to pay the echo - you can just bounce the card on your opponent’s turn.

Tribal Forcemage does a couple things that are not immediately apparent. It lets you pump whatever part of your team you want. This card most commonly names “elf”, but if you have cast 1-2 Deranged Hermits, it means you can name “squirrel” to push lethal damage. With Symbiote in play, you also get to rebuy this card’s effect. Keep in mind for every 5 mana you have, you get to replay and flip the Forcemage. Oftentimes during board stalls you’ll hit 10+ mana, which means you can give whatever card type you want +4/+4 and trample.

Sideboard Plan

Most of the time you can’t board too heavily, or your deck just won’t work. You need to minimize how many elves you cut from the deck,so focus on trimming the cards that don’t matter in the matchup. For me, most of the time this meant I cut some number of Biorhythms, Plow Unders, and Geddons for lower CMC cards to go under the other decks.

Wrapping Up

  1. Don’t play Plow Under or Biorhythm. While a turn 3 Plow Under will often win you the game, any other turn it can be too low-impact to matter. Biorhythm costs 8 mana and is just a bit too cute. I don’t regret playing either of these cards because they were fun and sweet, but I would not advocate for them in future lists.
  2. While Elvish Champion is a fine magic card I don’t think it is quite good enough. As it is strictly a beatdown card, the other options slotting in as mana, engine, or payoff all were much more powerful.
  3. I did see other variants of elves kicking around the internet, but I think they are missing the payoffs you need to be powerful enough. Not having access to an effect like Armageddon or an additional angle of attack means that you are likely just dead to a pile of removal.

Future changes to the deck:

  • I would only splash white for Armageddon.
  • I would potentially play Naturalize in the maindeck over Plow Under
  • I have considered playing Monogreen for Rofellos, and adding Tangle wire.
  • Opposition is a pet card of mine. While the double blue is certainly challenging in this format, I have no doubt that if you can make the mana work, Opposition Elves could easily be a top tier deck. The deck is a blast to play and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys on-board tricks or counting a lot of mana.

Cheers, and we will see you next time!