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Thread: [Primer] Elves!

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    [Primer] Elves!






    I. Overview
    II. Core Deck List
    III. Card Choices
    a) Mana Dorks
    b) Tricksy Elveses
    c) The Guardian of Gaea
    d) Utility Guys
    e) Spells
    f) Lands
    IV. Sideboard Options
    a) Graveyard Hate
    b) Removal
    c) Combo Hate
    d) Utility
    V. How to Play the Deck (and not get Lost In The Woods)
    a1) The Combo AKA How to ďGo OffĒ
    a2) Advanced Strategy
    b) Mindset/Alertness/Triggers/maximize mana
    c) How to Deal with Disruption
    c1. Counterspells
    c2. Removal
    c3. Discard
    VI. How to Evaluate Opening Hands
    a) The Perfect 7
    b) The Imperfect 7 (Utility)
    c) The Imperfect 7 (Mana)
    d) The Dude-Draw
    e) The Spell-Cleaver
    f) The ClunkerHoof
    VII. Sample Hands (w/pics)
    a) Sample Strong Hands
    b) Sample Mediocre Hands
    c) Sample Weak Hands
    VIII. Mechanics
    a) Counting Mana
    b) Once-Per-Turn Abilities
    c) Summoning Sickness
    d) Land Drops
    e) Short-Cutting
    IX. Sideboarding
    Link to Julianís Guide
    X. Tournament Reports
    XI. Recent Finishes
    XII. Required Reading
    XIII. Honored Elven Warriors


    I. Overview
    (Before we get started, be sure to also check out this primer on SCG by the Legendary Ross Merriam. OK, back to our regularly scheduled programming.)

    Elves is an aggro/combo engine deck that uses synergy and many small incremental advantages to build up an enormous amount of cards and mana in order to play giant monsters and win the game in a single turn. However, because it relies on many small advantages, it is important to always be cognizant of every little play you make, as each one adds up to the W on your scorepad. So if youíre the type of player who just wants to sit behind a Griselbrand and let your eyes glaze over with boredom as your complete control and reckless power overwhelms your meager sensibilities, then this is not the deck for you.

    While Elves is most commonly known for its ability to combo off and win early in the game, it is also an extremely resilient deck that can put up a respectable midrange fight. We have access to all kinds of incidental combat tricks and can fully abuse the best planeswalker in Legacy - Deathrite Shaman. Meanwhile every topdeck we make threatens a lethal GSZ/Natural Order.

    That said, sometimes Elves does nothing but play 1/1s while hoping the opponent doesnít have blockers...and sometimes Elves completely crushes people with a single spell (kinda) if they give you an opening to resolve it. Sometimes you will also lose to a single Rough/Tumble and it will feel terrible. If you cannot handle the swings, this deck will break your spirit. Iíve never felt so bad while losing with any other deck.

    Why is that?

    Because when you lose with this deck, itís usually a complete loss. By that I mean you get your entire board wiped or get all your dudes picked off and end up with a single 1/1 facing down an army of Goyfs and Jaces. It just feels bad.

    BUT, when you win with this deck, itís through many intricate and detailed interactions that will continue to evade you even after you think you have mastered the deck. Each game plays out like a puzzle where you try to squeeze every last bit of mana out of the deck, turn after turn, maximizing your untap effects and your bounces and so forth. When played optimally, you will be able to produce on-board shenanigans that your opponents never see coming even though the interactions are right there in front of them. And sometimes you just tap a Gaeaís Cradle for 100 mana and hardcast Craterhoof Behemoth. Thatís fun too. No judgment here.

    Combo Elves is always an interesting and engaging deck to pilot, and to watch, with all its many different lines of play and decisions to make. If you want a cheap(ish) deck to build up and master, this deck will keep you busy and learning for a long, long while.

    II. Core Deck List

    Creatures
    1-4 Birchlore Rangers
    2 Craterhoof Behemoth
    4 Deathrite Shaman
    4 Elvish Visionary
    3-4 Heritage Druid
    0-3 Llanowar Elves
    Nettle Sentinel
    4 Quirion Ranger
    4 Wirewood Symbiote
    0-1 Wren's Run Packma

    Spells
    4 Glimpse of Nature
    4 Green Sun's Zenith
    3-4 Natural Order

    Lands
    1-2 Dryad Arbor
    1-2 Forest
    2 Bayou
    8-10 Fetchlands
    4 Gaea's Cradle

    III. Card Choices

    a) Mana Dorks

    Llanowar Elves
    Fyndhorn Elves
    Elvish Mystic
    0-3

    The original mana dorks have largely been replaced by Deathrite Shaman. However we still run a copy or two because there will be situations where DRS just canít find something to eat and these elves have to be paid for somehow. The critical mass of Llanowar effects, including DRS, is typically between 5-7. Even though we now run more copies of DRS than Llanowar, Forest -> Llanowar -> Go is still one of the most resilient plays this deck can make.

    Deathrite Shaman
    (DRS) 4

    In testing it may seem like this card is lackluster because sometimes you cannot use his mana ability, but remember that in real games your opponent will typically be using fetchlands too. So be aware of that when goldfishing. Otherwise this card is good. We know this. Itís a miniplaneswalker and can win games on its own. I canít say enough good things about it.

    However, itís inclusion has required us to run 8 to 10 fetchlands in order to be able to consistently take advantage of itís manaproducing ability. There will be some gamestates in which you will wish this was a simple Llanowar Elves because you have eaten all the available lands. Even so, its powerlevel is high enough that we accept this risk and play this badboy.

    He replaces 4 of the 7ish Llanowar Elves/Fyndhorn Elves previous lists used to play. Donít forget that you can eat a Snapcaster flashback target in response to them targeting it and you can eat lands out from under an opposing DRS. This is because the mana-making ability is not actually a mana-ability and can be Stifled and responded to.

    Extrabonus goodies: With DRS it is possible to kill somebody under a Solitary Confinement or Glacial Chasm or Moat or whatever. This is also your only hope in Game 1 against Reanimator.

    Heritage Druid
    3-4

    This card is the other half of the combo namesake. Unlike Nettle Sentinel, you only need one of these guys to really start to go off and multiple copies are redundant. Thatís why itís okay to cut down to 3 copies if you feel like you need a few more slots.

    These are usually insta-killed on sight. Use that to your advantage if you are trying to bait removal. These are good, but opponents with only a passing familiarity with the deck will be more afraid of them than they probably should be.

    Birchlore Rangers
    1-4

    This card used to be run as a 2-3 of but with DRS we have other options for making non-green mana, so in many lists we run Birchlore as a singleton to be tutored for when we need him.

    Note that with X Nettle Sentinels, all your 1 CMC elves become free. With 1 Sentinel in play, you can cast all your 1CMC guys for free but you will end up with a tapped army. With 2 Sentinels in play, you can cast all your 1CMC guys for free and end up with an untapped army.

    Also, donít forget that Birchlore Ranger has morph. You can attack with him as a 2/2 in a pinch and he can also be cast as a morph under an Engineered Plague. A morphed Birchlore can also block things that have pro-green (Sword of Feast and Famine is a thing) and also wonít die to Perish.

    Birchloreís primary role is as a sidekick who sometimes hangs out with Nettle Sentinel. He also helps hit your secondary colors and can lead to insane starts when paired with Nettle Sentinel + Glimpse of Nature.

    Combo-centric lists built purely for speed can drop Llanowars entirely for a full playset of Birchlores. This increases the likelihood of a Turn 2 kill but requires you to commit heavily to the board. B.Rangers are inferior to Llanowars in the mid to late game, but if you are playing 4 of these, you probably donít care about those parts of the game.

    b) Tricksy Elveses

    Nettle Sentinel
    4

    This guy is one of the primary enablers of the ďComboĒ part of Combo Elves. After you have resolved a Glimpse you can generate stupid amounts of mana using Heritage Druid and/or Birchlore Ranger. This guy will keep untapping to allow you to abuse the Heritage/Birchloreís mana ability. The Sentinel becomes even more stupid in multiples and is sometimes not too shabby as an attacker.

    Sticking him or Deathrite will allow you an opportunity to still have a guy around under an Engineered Plague to sac to Natural Order in post SB games where Progenitus becomes an option.

    Be careful with his untap trigger while going off with a resolved Glimpse. It doesnít actually matter which you do first, draw or untap, as long as you complete them both before doing any other action. Sometimes tricky opponents will have responses to your Nettleís untap trigger so itís important to maintain clarity. I will usually verbally announce each trigger as Iím going off. Both so I won't forget and so my opponent canít rules-lawyer me with a missed trigger. More on that later in the Mechanics section.

    Quirion Ranger
    4

    This card used to be played as a 1 or 2 of at most. But now that we are playing 2-3 colors, it has become helpful to have some kind of protection for our dual lands so the Ranger count has gone up to 4 in most builds.

    This guy allows you to continue being productive even off one land. You just tap your land, use Ranger to bounce it to your hand, then replay it and tap for mana again. He (she?) becomes much better with a Llanowar effect or Dryad Arbor on the field. You can generate 4 mana by tapping Llanowar/DRS/D.Arbor, tapping a land, using Ranger to bounce land and untap Llanowar/DRS/D.Arbor, then replaying the land and tapping it and Llanowar/DRS for another 2 mana.

    For this reason you can sometimes keep land-light hands if they include a Ranger. Do note that the return ability is part of the cost, so nobody should ever be able to Wasteland your duals with an unused Ranger on the field. Also, the Ranger can perma-block ground guys with a Dryad Arbor on the field, acting as a pseudo-Maze of Ith for ground attacks. You just block with Arbor and bounce the land before damage. This interaction isnít super awesome since it means you canít play any other lands ever, but sometimes thatís okay when you need to keep a Goyf/Jitteíd dude busy for a few turns.


    Wirewood Symbiote
    4

    This is half of the Best Friend Team. He is actually the best elf in the deck (even though he isnít an elf) and an opponent who knows anything about Elves will kill it over any other creature you play. That said, plenty of experienced players will still forget that the Symbiote can protect its elven friends and you will get occasional value out of bouncing elves out of the way of Lightning Bolts.

    This guy is similar to Quirion Ranger in that it will allow you to perma-block ground guys using the same rules trick. Just block and return the blocker before damage is dealt. This not only keeps Goyfs busy but can also keep an opponent from putting counters on an Umezawaís Jitte or from gaining life from Batterskull as both of those equipments require damage to be dealt in order for their effects to take place.

    Note that you can use Ranger/Symbiote only once per turn, but that includes your opponentís turn as well so you can effectively get 3 untap effects each full turn (same goes for Quirion Ranger). Get used to returning stuff with Symbiote on your opponentís EOT, unless of course you have a reason to leave the dude on the board (Craterhoof in hand?). And be aware that a smart opponent will wait for you to use Symbiote on your turn and then Bolt/Decay/STP it on your end step. Anticipate that.

    Also, if you are holding a Glimpse or want to play towards topdecking one, then randomly bouncing any elf EOT (assuming you have no Visionary) can be a nice way to set up the Glimpse play and get more value.

    Elvish Visionary
    4

    This is the other half of the Best Friend Team. Visionary paired with an unmolested Symbiote will draw you a ton of cards while perma-blocking some poor ground creature on the other side of the table.

    Donít forget to bounce the Visionary on your opponentís EOT. Also note that some people will counterspell this guy or Stifle its draw trigger, so donít go crazy and autodraw yourself into a warning or gameloss. Always announce the draw trigger like a polite mage should.

    When comboing off, always tap these guys first for your Heritage mana, as they will often be the first to be returned with Symbiote, leaving you other untapped elves with which to attack/go off.

    c) The Guardians of Gaea


    Craterhoof Behemoth
    1-2

    This card completely changed Combo Elves because it can win on the most precarious of board states. Having access to him with Natural Order and Green Sunís Zenith makes it extremely easy to find your wincon and seal up the game. It has become standard protocol to run 2 copies to eliminate the Feel Bads of having your lone copy stuck in your hand, making you unable to Natural Order/GSZ into your wincon.

    Craterhoof + 3 attackmode elves in play = 24 damage. Anything beyond that is gravy. However, sometimes in the act of going off you may end up with a lot of tapped elves. In those instances you will need to put enough elves into play such that your Craterhoof + whatever available attackers you have will be given a +X/+X high enough to kill your opponent. It is not unheard of to attack with just the lone Craterhoof for lethal. Also remember you can use Quirion Rangers and Wirewood Symbiotes to untap dudes for the Hoof attack.


    Wren's Run Packmaster
    0-1

    Yeah. This isn't a prank. People are playing this card! It offers a great way to seal those fair matchups since it gives us a great outlet for excess mana while providing a 5/5 body that can't be Bolted or Decayed. And having a midrange GSZ target at 5 mana total is situationally very useful. It is also a pretty good card against Miracles since you just stick it and commit nothing else to the board - just pump mana into this guy and force them to deal with it. Also, thanks to the Champion mechanic, you can plop this guy down to get a faster recovery after a Terminus. Ideally you would have Championed an Elvish Visionary . And don't forget, you can respond to the Champion trigger. Perhaps by tapping the Packmaster to Heritage Druid for Wolf mana!! Another thing to remember, opponents can certainly respond to the Champion trigger. But once the trigger resolves and you choose an Elf to Champion, they do not get an opening to respond. So they can't just Bolt your guy once you decide to champion him. They only way to "fizzle" a Packmaster in response to the Champion trigger would be to wipe your entire board. The More You Know (tm).

    d) Utility Guys


    Viridian Shaman
    0-1

    This guy can sometimes be played maindeck depending on your meta (right now itís pretty good!) and level of paranoia. In postboard games using Harmonic Sliver/Qasali Pridemage is slightly more versatile, but being able to bounce Shaman with Symbiote to kill multiple artifacts is very techy sometimes. Playing this guy is just a matter of preference. But with all these damn TNN+Equipment decks running around, having access to maindeck artifact removal isnít a bad idea.

    Scavenging Ooze0-1 main, 0-1 side
    This guy has lost some value with 4 maindeck DRS but it is still a very good card to have access to, especially since we can generate stupid amounts of mana. He also beats an opposing DRS. Sometimes games will run long and in attrition wars where you end up with a bin full of fallen elves, this guy is a major trump card. He also makes Tarmogoyfs look silly.

    e) Spells

    Green Sunís Zenith
    (GSZ) 4

    Properly playing this card will separate a master elven mage from an apprentice elven mage. The utility provided from this thing is unfair.

    Generally, you want to play these like Gaeaís Cradles or Glimpses -donít go firing them off unless itís absolutely necessary. It just so happens that sometimes it is absolutely necessary to play them on the first turn for a Dryad Arbor. But usually you will be using them to fetch out that final combo piece, the other half of the Best Friend Team, or a lethal Hoof.

    Remember, you can search for a creature with CMC X or less. Keep that in mind when playing around Spell Snare and Counterbalance. You can also cast them for X=0 just to shuffle them back into your deck in case you are in a precarious Glimpse chain that might possibly deck you. You should never deck yourself on purpose with this deck. If you do that we will kick you out of The Great Forest.



    Natural Order
    3-4 main, 0-1 side

    This card wins you the game. You use it to grab a cheap Craterhoof and swing for super lethal. Usually.

    Do be aware that sacrificing a creature is part of the cost of playing the card, so even if this gets countered you will lose a dude. Also, itís impossible for your opponent to stop you from casting it by killing one of your guys, assuming you donít give him priority at some weird time.

    Another thing, donít be afraid to burn a NO as an expensive GSZ. Certain game states will call for this card to be a really stinky Green Sun. Just roll with it and be creative. It can also tutor up your sideboard hate cards like Gaddock Teeg and Scavenging Ooze.


    Glimpse of Nature 4

    This card is an extremely efficient draw engine that keeps Elves firmly planted (if only tentatively) in the Combo side of the metagame, but it is actually not the primary tool we use to win games. However, opponents fear this card perhaps more than they should, and you can use that to your advantage.

    This card is at its best after we have developed a bit of mana, allowing us to play Glimpse with enough mana left over to play a few guys and hope we hit gas. But it will most commonly be used to bait countermagic out of your opponentís hand. It is both Ancestral Recall and Hymn to Tourach.

    Less experienced players may make the mistake of overvaluing this card in regards to mulligans and may even play it way too early. Against blue decks you should anticipate a Spell Pierce/Daze/Force and plan accordingly. Unless you plan to toss it out early to clear the way for your Natural Order.

    Also, trying to combo off too early and assuming this card will always draw you gas will sometimes come back to bite you in the ass. Casting Glimpse with only a single creature in hand can be very bad. Or very good if you are a lucksack!

    Glimpse is a fickle master and you must nurture it to see it grow. Set up your board such that if Glimpse resolves, you can cast at least 2 elves and still have some mana left to get dirty. Otherwise you may be burning a Glimpse for no reason. Now, that is not to say you canít sometimes cast a Glimpse simply for value. Most of your Glimpses will be ďValue GlimpsesĒ in the sense that you wonít win that turn, but you will draw enough cards to set yourself up to win the following turn.

    You can even cast it just to untap a Nettle Sentinel or feed a DRS if you really need to race. And donít feel bad if you cannot win after drawing several cards off a Glimpse. Even if itís just an Ancestral Recall, thatís pretty good. Donít feel entitled to wins just because you tapped a Forest for this thing.

    Note: Glimpse will not give you a draw if you play a Dryad Arbor or drop a creature into play from a GSZ.

    f) Lands

    Dryad Arbor
    1-2 main

    You can play this Turn 1 off of a GSZ for zero. You can also get him with a fetchland. The best Dryad Arbor is the one still sitting in your deck. He counts as a creature for Gaeaís Cradle and Craterhoof Behemoth and can be block-bounced with Quirion Ranger. Most lists play 2 copies now.

    Why?

    Essentially, the Dryad Arbor counts as 2 mana with a Gaea's Cradle out and 2+(you can hit crazy numbers!) mana with Quirion Ranger/Wirewood Symbiote out.

    We play a second copy to ensure that we can always grab one (in case the first dies or you get the first with an early GSZ and are later able to freely fetchland into another) and because having 2 on the board makes for double the pleasure, double the fun. If you can ever afford to leave a fetch up (and in this deck, you often can) you can set up your next turn very nicely by EOT fetching for that 2nd Dryad Arbor. Especially when we have so many Cradles flying off of the top of our decks.

    And when Glimpsing, you can use Wirewood Symbiote + Dryad Arbor to bounce and replay another 1CMC elf to "rebuy" a dude+Glimpse draw in case you start to brick mid-combo. The more Symbiotes, the better. And then of course there is the pleasant and sometimes ridiculous interaction between Quirion Ranger + Dryad Arbor (for block/bouncing or making extra mana) or even Wirewood Symbiote + Quirion Ranger + Dryad Arbor, bouncing Quirion Ranger to use its ability twice in a single turn!

    Playing the second copy simply means we can do all these things more often.

    Once you get enough games under your belt, you will begin to see all the ridiculous applications of this simple little land. I'm sure there are plenty more that I simply cannot remember right now.

    Gaeaís Cradle 4
    This card creates stupid amounts of mana and if you can you should play the full set. If you can only get your hands on a couple, then just fill in the gaps with Crop Rotations.

    When holding this card, always wait as long as you can before dropping it. People love tagging it with Wastelands so donít offer it up unless you have a replacement in hand or just desperately need the mana. Also, while comboing off, wait as long as possible before playing your land for the turn. Sometimes all you need is to draw into a Cradle to hit that mana boost and properly dump you hand on the table. If you get too excited and play a Forest only to draw into a Cradle, you will be shamed and banished from Rivendell for the rest of forever.

    IV. Sideboard Options

    a) Graveyard Hate

    Scavenging Ooze
    If he isnít in the main, then you can run him in the side. That choice is up to you and your meta, but you want at least one copy in your 75.

    Bojuka Bog
    This can be grabbed with Crop Rotation as a tutorable answer to graveyard decks. This can supplement Scavenging Ooze as graveyard hate as itís a bit faster and can be used without giving away information to the opponent until the last possible moment.

    b) Removal

    Abrupt Decay
    This card is necessary for beating up Counterbalance, RIP/Energy Field, Engineered Plague, Ensnaring Bridge, Cursed Totem, Chalice of the Void, Umezawaís Jitte, Grafdiggerís Cage, Grim Lavamancer, flipped Delvers, Goblin Sharpshooters, etc. Thatís a long list, huh? You will be boarding these in often.

    Harmonic Sliver
    Qasali Pridemage

    Choosing which to run is a matter of taste. The Sliver can Naturalize something and still be around as a blocker or Cabal Therapy food whereas the Pridemage will force you to block first, Naturalize later. But the Pridemage can kill equipment before they can hit us (instant speed removal!) so there is additional value there. If you are ever in the situation where you need to kill something and only have access to, and mana for, a lone Natural Order (Not a GSZ), then being able to just NO for a Harmonic Sliver and blow something up is marginally helpful. But thatís exactly what the distinction here isómarginal. Most people go with the Pridemage because itís better against equipment.

    c) Combo Hate

    Cabal Therapy
    Thoughtseize
    Duress

    Other combo decks are a turn faster than us so we need to slow them down a bit in order to have a chance at winning. Enter: Discard. The flagship discard spell (for us anyway) is Cabal Therapy. With this card, the reward for knowing your opponentís deck and what it wants/needs is just insane. That said, some people are uncomfortable using the card. It is admittedly very difficult to play well.

    For a fantasmo guide on how to rock Cabal Therapy, check out this article (http://www.channelfireball.com/home/...erapy-session/) from Caleb Durward.

    You will want 4-7 discard spells for your sideboard regardless, so you can mix and match however you like. The safest bet is Thoughtseize or Duress for the super conservative. These spells are also better against decks with a variety of unpredictable threats, like Esper Stoneblade. That deck has a handful of targets we might need to call with a Therapy. But if we use a Thoughtseize, we can just fire it off and we will definitely hit something.

    However, against faster combo decks, Therapy shines because they have fewer critical targets to call, and being able to flashback on the same turn is extremely helpful. Also most combo decks have no removal. Utilizing the Flashback on Therapy against a deck with removal can set you pretty far behind.

    Remember that every fetchland represents a Therapy flashback because you can grab a Dryad Arbor and pitch it to Therapy.

    When bringing in a full set of Cabal Therapy, you may want to consider siding out some number of Glimpse of Nature. I know that sounds counter-intuitive but think of this: Therapy is better with guys on the board. Glimpse is better with guys in your hand. The two often do not play well together. Also, if you are boarding out dudes for Therapies, then that makes both your Therapies and Glimpses less effective since both require a critical number of dudes and you just took out at least 4. No good. You might not want to cut Glimpse necessarily, but when bringing in the full set of Therapies, just be aware that you don't want to overload on spells postboard. Something has to get cut. It won't feel good. Thatís sideboarding for you.

    Mindbreak Trap
    See above. You really need a lot of help against pure combo. Also it allows you protection from certain turn 1 kills that can come at you before you ever make your first land drop. There is some debate about which combo-hate cards should come in to supplement the discard plan. This is fine for bigger events where anything can happen, but in local metas you may not have to pack this kind of hate.

    Thorn of Amethyst
    This card helps against combo as well as some control decks. The primary reason to run this over something like Mindbreak Trap is the ability to just slam it on the table and not worry about having it in hand on the turn the combo player goes off. Most of the combo decks you are afraid of, outside of Belcher, also run some form of discard to protect their combo turn. So Mindbreak Trap isnít always as effective as we might like. However, at 2 mana, this card might still be in your hand when the Storm player kills you.

    Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
    This card gives us a bit of card diversity while providing an effect similar to Thorn of Amethyst. And being able to serve in for 2 damage is not something to ignore.When deciding which anti-combo cards to run, you have to think about the metagame you play in and what kind of decks you expect to face. You can also simply ignore the strict anti-combo cards and just save these slots to help shore up other matchups. Praying to dodge the combo decks is not an unrealistic way to approach the matchup. Some people go 1/1 with Thalia and Thorn to diversify their threats.

    Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
    This guy was a joke when he was first suggested by catmint. But now he is a staple in our sideboards. That just goes to show, you never know what will work until you try it.

    You can get this guy with a Natural Order as early as Turn 2. He sends Storm, Show and Tell, OmniShow, and High Tide decks to Frown Town. He typically comes in against faster combo decks that lack removal or blockers. He isnít so hot against control or midrange decks because they often have removal or blockers for him. Some people run Taiga in the main to make it easier to hardcast this guy. Other ways to get him into play include GSZ=6, Deathrite Shaman for :R:, or Birchlore Rangers for :R:.

    Swan Song
    One of the newer sideboard suggestions, this card allows you to take on the fastest combo decks in the format. If they give you a turn, this card gives you a chance. It can also come in against Sneak Attack, Miracles, and even the mirror match. This tech has not yet gained widespread adoption, but like Ruric Thar, it has a chance to become a sideboard staple. Go test it!

    Gaddock Teeg
    This guy comes in against most combo, Terminus, Supreme Verdict, Sneak Attack, and sometimes Force of Will. Be aware that he shuts off your own GSZ/Natural Orders, so only play him when denying your opponent is more important than denying yourself. You might also want to board out some number of Natural Order when bringing in Teeg to limit this kind of nonbo. You would leave in the GSZ as a way to find the Teeg to begin with.

    d) Utility

    Progenitus
    Prog comes in when you anticipate board sweepers or E.Plagues or even just lots of spot removal - basically against any deck that makes it difficult to keep guys on the board. Sure, he can die to Perish. But in those kinds of games you just need to put some inevitability on the board. And if Progenitus is anything, itís inevitability. He also comes in against fair decks that have no way to counter your spells.

    Worldspine Wurm
    This guy serves a similar role to Progenitus. However, it's most often brought in against Sneak Attack (since it can get sacked to an Emrakul Annihilation trigger and still swing for big damage) and against Jund/Shardless/Liliana decks that might be able to easily dispatch a lone Progenitus with sacrifice effects. Against any deck running Swords to Plowshares, you would not want to bring this guy in since they can just STP it and undo all that hard work you did to get Mister Wurm into play.

    Natural Order #4
    This comes in against decks that have no counterspells to stop it. Or against some noninteractive matches where you are just racing. This is our scariest card so we might as well have a full set against decks that have their shields powered down. Also, sometimes you can bait a counterspell with a Glimpse and then punish them with a NO while their hand is light. Most lists leave the 4th NO in the board to prevent them from clogging up our hand in Game 1s. It is possible to have too much of a good thing.

    Pithing Needle
    This card might not seem like a powerhouse but it can shore up a lot of our problem matchups. Hereís a quick and dirty list of some of the things this can shut-down for us:
    Grim Lavamancer
    Griselbrand
    Senseiís Divining Top
    Umezawaís Jitte
    Stoneforge Mystic
    Batterskull
    Pernicious Deed
    Engineered Explosives
    Sneak Attack
    Jace
    Liliana
    Phantasmagorian
    Aether Vial
    Karakas
    Mother of Runes
    Goblin Sharpshooter

    K Iím getting bored. You get the picture though. This card can cover our asses in all kinds of ways. Props to Julian for coming up with this as a way to beat the Miracles matchup. This card is especially nice because it allows us to just turn things off rather than Abrupt Decay them. This takes some pressure off of our already very busy Abrupt Decays and gives them a bit more flexibility. Always look for new and interesting ways to use this. With enough creativity, you can shut down a surprising number of strategies.

    Meekstone
    This card hoses Delver decks, RUG, TNN, and Merfolk. It is also a huge Nonbo with Progenitus. You primarily bring this in against Tempo decks. Again, it takes some pressure off of your Abrupt Decays because how we can just ignore Delver and go on with the rest of our forested lives! You arenít too worried about this card making your Hoof get stuck in the attack zone because usually he attacks for lethal and you play 8 untap effects.

    Karakas
    If you are running Crop Rotation, then this is a great sideboard choice. It comes in against Show and Tell decks as well as against Reanimator. If you want to get techy you can bring it in when you bring in Gaddock Teeg. That gives you the option of bouncing Teeg, playing NO/GSZ, then replaying Teeg to keep yourself protected from whatever crazy stuff your opponent might want to do. Your mileage may vary on that play.

    V. How to Play the Deck (and not get Lost In The Woods)

    a1) The Basic Combo AKA How to ďGo OffĒ
    UNDER CONSTRUCTION
    a2) Advanced Strategy
    UNDER CONSTRUCTION
    b) Mindset/Alertness/Triggers AKA How you *really* play Elves!
    People often ask me ďHow do I play Elves?Ē as if I could just tell them one thing to do to help them figure it out. But there is no single thing to remember or to keep in mind. So I just tell them the truth - Donít Miss Anything.

    Donít miss a trigger. Donít miss an opportunity to make a single (which usually leads to more chances to make more later!). Donít miss a potential untap on your Nettle Sentinel. Donít miss your Wirewood/Quirion untaps. Donít miss a chance to attack with a 1/1. Donít miss a land drop (jk!). Donít miss a potential DRS activation. Donít miss the chance to EOT bounce something. Basically, when you pilot this deck, just sing Aerosmith's "Don't Want to Miss A Thing" to yourself over and over.

    You want to check for anything you could have missed before passing the turn. Just do a quick visual check and ask yourself ďIs there anything I could be taking advantage of right now?Ē I have seen plenty of players just forget to do things EOT or pass the turn when they could have played an additional creature or whatever. There are a million small interactions going on in this deck. Itís impossible to memorize all of them. But it is possible to always stay alert and always be looking for interactions.

    Even experienced pilots will miss things. But the goal is not perfection. It is improvement.

    For the same reason, you should never fall for an on-board interaction on your opponentís side of the table. As an Elves pilot, you are supposed to be the king of small interactions. If you fall for somebody elseís tricks, then you should be a sad, sad pointy-eared guy. Shame on you!

    To practice NEVER MISSING ANYTHING you can goldfish this deck all day. But that wonít really teach you how to play it. And thatís okay. Youíre just trying to learn the mechanics. More on that later. But how do you learn to actually *play* the deck in a live event? Well, youíre going to have to deal with disruption...

    c) How to Deal with Disruption

    Counterspells Suck!
    The best way to beat a counterspell is for your opponent to simply not have one! There are several ways to accomplish this:
    1. Run it out there - they donít have it.
    2. Bait them with something you donít care about - you cast your real spell and they donít have it.
    3. Throw Discard at their hand until they donít have it.
    4. Put THE FEAR into them. Cast your semi-real spells in such a way that they donít quite know what to counter and what not to counter. Eventually they counter the wrong thing and wonít have it for your real spell.

    When trying to bait counterspells in this way, your MVPs will be GSZ for a mysterious number, Elvish Visionary, and Glimpse of Nature. Sometimes you will try 1-4 and they will have more counterspells. Unfortunately, that sucks. Try to assemble your Best Friend Team, draw some cards, and try again. Sometimes the other guy just has it. You canít win them all.

    Also, be sure to always watch your opponentís eyes. You donít have to *look into* his eyes. Just watch how they react when they draw their cards and resolve their Brainstorms and whatnot. Most players give away tons of information with their face and body language. Once you get a handle on your deck and donít need to stare at the board to figure out your own gameplan, you can focus on reading your opponent during their turn. You are the Elves pilot. You are the master of the on-board interaction. So figure it out and then stop looking at it. And start looking at your opponent.

    Removal Sucks!

    Vs Spot Removal - You will want to run out your Heritage Druids as late as possible, since those can be integral to going off. Or, actually, you can run them out as early as possible if they arenít needed for your particular game plan, since most opponents will kill them immediately, clearing the way for other things. It depends on the kind of hand you have drawn and the particular lines you are taking.

    You also may want to hold back on dropping Wirewood Symbiotes too early since those are key for chaining Visionaries for card advantage. But at the same time, dropping a Symbiote forces them to shoot that instead of whatever else you have out, in case you feel like a specific gamestate calls for protecting a dude right here and right now. It really depends on the matchup and the board, but generally you just want to be careful about which elves you leave exposed on the table and be very deliberate about how you sequence your plays. I canít give you specific advice because each hand will value a particular elf more than another, so what you are trying to protect will vary from hand to hand.

    Also, be aware that smart opponents will want to shoot stuff in response to you playing other stuff, in order to prevent those two cards from interacting (Best Friend Team anybody?). So be ready for that.

    Vs Board Sweepers - You typically want to bring in some discard to knock the board wipers out of their hands while trying to assemble the kill as quickly as possible. The best way to beat a board wipe is to kill them before they have enough mana to play it, obviously. But against RUG or decks running 2 CMC spells like Rough/Tumble or Pyroclasm, you will need some discard to help out. Also boarding into NO+Progenitus helps against decks with damage based board wipes. The decks with Wrath effects, however, are typically a bit slower and give you more opportunities to use discard effectively. Going aggro mode and dropping a Gaddock Teeg is also an option in those situations.

    Discard Sucks!
    This is fairly simple, but you just want to play out your hand as quickly as possible. Just dump the damn thing. No need to slowroll. If a deck is running Hymn, you want to cast your hand as quickly as possible. This can sometimes make you feel gross when you topdeck your Glimpse only to see all your dudes on the board, cast to preemptively dodge discard, but thatís just how it goes sometimes.

    Also be aware that they will sometimes attack into your Best Friend Team and then post-combat cast discard to take away your Visionary forever and ever. Sometimes, depending on the soulread you have, it may be best to take that Goyf swing and bounce the Visionary EOT to dodge Hymn.

    VI. How to Evaluate Opening Hands
    There are about five (5) kinds of hands outside of the obvious ManaScrew or ManaFlood. And depending on what kind of hand you draw, your gameplan will change drastically. I know that sounds super obvious, but this deck has several gears it can run on, and knowing which you are on will help a lot. Because if you are committed to going dude/aggro mode, sometimes that makes it difficult to combo out when you finally draw a Glimpse. But if you are on a speculative Glimpse draw, you will know not to just go crazy and play your hand out before you can properly set up a Glimpse turn. Of course, drawing into a Natural Order will usually supercede any plan you happen to be on.

    One rule of thumb to keep in mind, an Elvish Visionary (or two!) can always make a hand better. Think of it like a Brainstorm as far as hand evaluation..

    a) The Perfect 7
    This includes 1-2 spells, preferably different ones, and 1-2 lands and a mix mana/utility dudes to fill out the rest. We are an equal-opportunity deck. We want our hands to be full of diversity. The ideal hand will have a GSZ or mana dork for T1 acceleration into T2 board development into T3 win.

    b) The Imperfect 7 (Utility)
    Similar to The Perfect 7 but instead of having DRS/Heritage Druid/Llanowar Elves, you have something like Nettle Sentinels+Quirion Rangers+Elvish Visionary or whatever. These are just on the edge of being meh. If you have an Elvish Visionary these can sometimes be salvageable. Generally these hands are keepable but are always kinda disappointing. If one of your spells is a GSZ, then you should be alright.

    d) The Dude-Draw
    These draws arenít the best things in the world. If you have an Elvish Visionary then these become alright. Depending on the matchup, though, I will gladly keep these and just go on the beatdown plan.

    Sometimes you are forced keep these hands against Ponder/Brainstorm Combo decks because A) those are bad matchups anyway and mulling to death is bad and B) those decks have a tendency to durdle pretty hard. If you just present a decent clock you can often beat them up before they coddle their combo together. Alternatively, you can run these hands in hopes of topdecking a NO/GSZ/Glimpse. Thatís an 11 card out and with a dude heavy hand, you can usually present enough mana to take advantage of your boomboom spells.

    e) The Spell-Cleaver
    If the spell you are flooded on is Green Sunís Zenith, then you can work around that. Obviously you will be operating at a slightly slower pace, so keep that in mind. But opening a grip with lands + 3 GSZ isnít terrible. You can still play Magic. However most other spell-heavy hands will be instant mulligans.

    This is also why we run only 3 Natural Order in the main. Drawing 2 in the early game is sometimes :( . And drawing more than 2 Glimpse of Nature is usually somewhat gross because you wonít typically have enough dudes in hand to take advantage of your Glimpses. Regardless of how gross your hand is, there is always the opportunity to win off of a single resolved Glimpse and being able to run a couple out allows you to eat some counterspells. But usually these get mulled.

    f) The ClunkerHoof
    These are hands in which you draw your Craterhoof (or Regal Force). These can sometimes be salvageable if the rest of the hand has a lot of action, but oftentimes these hands are essentially mulls to 6. If the hand, minus the Hoof, is something I would keep on a mull to 6, then I would just keep these hands. Mulling to 6 isnít worth potentially mucking up your lands/dudes ratio just to not have to see the Hoof in your hand. These hands are also less gross when you are running 2 Hoof in the main. And we can realistically craft together 8 mana without too much difficulty with a decent 6. Itís not like youíre holding a Progenitus.

    VII. Sample Hands
    UNDER CONSTRUCTION
    a) Sample Strong Hands
    b) Sample Mediocre Hands
    c) Sample Weak Hands


    VIII. Mechanics
    Forget about matchup strategy and sideboarding tips and reading your opponentís poker face. This deck requires all of that plus some boring technical stuff!

    When bringing this deck into tournament play, you will need to be very clear about your actions and triggers and mana and basically everything. Unless your opponent is the kind of person who leaves his online banking password taped to the outside of his laptop, I would guess that most players will not trust that you just have the win. They will want you to be very clear about how you work through your combo. For most players, its a standing rule to make the combo guy play out his shenanigans on the off chance that he messes up and throws away the game. Donít let that happen to you!

    Also, be cognizant of your pace of play. If you are a derpy Elves player who takes forever to work through the combo, people will moan and groan when they see your name on the pairings sheet. Be polite and considerate. Try to combo out quickly, clearly, and Craterously. Nobody likes watching another dude ineptly touch his deck for ten minutes straight. Bazinga!

    a) Counting Mana
    I use an abacus but you can use dice, tokens, sticks of spearmint chewing gum, whatever! Just make sure you have a clear and visible way of showing how much mana you are floating. I personally do not like dice because it takes me a few seconds to find the right number and if I do that 10-15 times while spending and gaining mana, it can be a bit annoying for both my opponent and myself.

    Whatever you do, donít just verbally count your mana out loud unless you are some kind of genius. Opponents can get confused if you go through your interactions too quickly and they will often ask you to back-up a few triggers to double check you have as much mana as you say you do, so you will need some item to track it with. Also it helps to have a static place for the number to sit (not in your head!) so you can take a break and add up other numbers, like Craterhoof damage or whathaveyou, without getting confused. That way you can work out how you will continue to play out the combo without stopping, thinking of new numbers, and then forgetting the mana number you had in your head. In longer tournaments this will save you a ton of brain drain over the course of the day.

    b) Once-Per-Turn Abilities
    If you have watched anybody pilot this deck on SCG Open coverage, you are likely familiar with the common practice of flipping cards upside down to indicate their usage. Make a habit of doing this with Quirion Ranger and Wirewood Symbiote. I believe most people are accustomed to this practice but I felt like I should put it here just for posterity.

    c) Summoning Sickness
    In the process of comboing off, or just doing tappy, bounce, tappy chains, you will often end up with half your field summoning sick and the other half not. When you finally land your Hoof, you definitely need to know what is and isnít sick, and with a board full of elves in various positions, that can sometimes be really confusing. And some people are inclined to just pick up three elves, slap them together, and activate them for Heritage Druidís ability without keeping careful track of what is and isnít summoning sick.

    As a general rule, just keep them separated into different sections on your playmat. I typically keep my summoning sick guys behind my lands while going off. If you really want to pick up three Nettle Sentinels and tappy tap them together, then at least verbally announce which is sick just so your opponent knows what is going on.

    d) Land Drops
    There will be game states where you will be digging and comboing and doing all kinds of things...and then you draw a Gaeaís Cradle that can win you the game, if only you were allowed to play it. But through all the craziness of your comboing, neither you nor your opponent can remember if you played your land for the turn. This is an awkward and unpleasant place to be.

    To avoid this, always announce your land drop for the turn. This will serve as a reminder to you as well as your opponent. And be cognizant of dropping lands as you work through your combo turn. Donít just drop a Forest unless you absolutely positively need it to continue comboing. You will inevitably draw a Cradle soon after and feel like an idiot. And if a Cradle is an out for you (it usually is), just make sure your opponent is aware of where your land drops are as you work through the turn. You never want to be in a position where you ask, ďDid I drop a land this turn?Ē Iím not sure what the technical rules are, but I feel like an opponent can just say ďYesĒ and if you honestly donít remember, then the truth of the matter becomes slightly irrelevant. As far as a mediating judge is concerned, you donít remember and your opponent just said ďYesĒ. Best to just avoid all that and maintain clarity through your combo turn.

    e) Short-Cutting
    While comboing, once you have established a series of plays that always has the same result, you can announce to your opponent that you will begin shortcutting to save time/sanity. For example, if you have two Nettle Sentinels in play along with a Heritage Druid and a resolved Glimpse of Nature, you can cycle through that chain a few times and then announce ďFor every 1CMC guy I play, Iíll gain 2 mana, 1 card, and that guy will be tapped for the next iterationĒ or something like that. Otherwise you can sometimes get lost in the minutiae of manipulating the operations of this deck. And your opponent will become even more bored and frustrated with you. Shortcut. Itís the gentlemanly way of playing combo.

    IX. Sideboarding
    Link to Julianís Guide
    I have added Julian's excellent Sideboarding Guide to the post below this one (because this first post was about to hit the character limit!) and if you are looking for detailed sideboarding tips, you should check out the next post in the thread or just CLICK HERE!

    X. Tournament Reports
    Here are some fun tournament reports to read from around the interwebz. Mostly from this here website! I have listed the pilot, their placing, and the number of Swiss rounds they played in so you can get an idea of how big that tournament was.

    -Julian23 BOM Champ 15 rounds
    -Julian23 Undefeated 6 Rounds BOM Trial + Sideboarding Guide
    -nudon T4 6 Rounds
    -danyul T8 @ SCG SEA 9 Rounds
    -Julian23 Undefeated 6 Rounds
    -pocari79 T8 5 Rounds
    -Kayradis 3rd 5 Rounds
    -danyul T4 7 Rounds
    -danyul T4 7 Rounds
    -igri_is_a_bk 15th @SCT STL 9 Rounds
    -danyul T2 7 Rounds
    -danyul T8 @ SCG SEA 9 Rounds
    -chinEsE girl T8 7 Rounds
    -chinEsE girl T8 7 Rounds
    -danyul T4 6 Rounds

    XI. Recent Finishes
    UNDER CONSTRUCTION
    XII. Required Reading
    UNDER CONSTRUCTION
    XIII. Honored Elven Warriors
    As seen HERE.

    -Reid Duke, Guardian of Gaea
    -Julian, Lieutenant of Llanowar

    You can find the old SpeedOfDark Elf thread here.
    Last edited by danyul; 04-05-2017 at 01:35 AM.

  2. #2
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    Re: Elves!

    (Julian's) Elves Sideboarding Guide (with a bit of help from Tammit67)

    As seen in Part 1 of Julian's BOM Champion Tournament report over on SCG which you can find here:
    http://www.starcitygames.com/article...n-Part-1-.html

    Part 2 (without any specific sideboarding tips) can be found here:
    http://www.starcitygames.com/article...en-Part-2.html

    Quote Originally Posted by Julian23
    A lot of you guys have been messaging me with questions about how to sideboard with this deck. Because you're playing almost zero reactive cards in the maindeck, sideboarding with Elves doesn't come as naturally as with most other decks. So let's just get right into medias res here.

    Disclaimer: Don't blindly mirror my sideboarding if it doesn't suit the strategic approach you are following for any of these matchups. Mindless sideboarding without accounting for what you are actually seeing out of your opponent while neglecting the strategic thoughts behind the exchanges you make is a sure way to just lose. Losing sucks.
    Miracles

    +3 Abrupt Decay
    -3 Heritage Druid
    +2 Pithing Needle
    -2 Glimpse of Nature
    +2 Thoughtseize
    -2 Nettle Sentinel
    +1 Natural Order
    -1 Viridian Shaman
    +1 Progenitus
    -1 Craterhoof Behemoth
    (+1 Scavenging Ooze if they have Snapcaster)
    (-1 Quirion Ranger)

    "Ach! Hans, run! It's a miracle!"

    This is Shiva, destroyer of worlds. Our matchup against Shiva is awesomely bad, and I advise staying away from it at all costs. Seriously, game 1 against Miracles is a really tough one. I've spent dozens of test games trying to find a practical way of actually grinding out Miracles in game 1óyes, I'm that crazy. In the end, the best advice I can give you is trying to close out the game as soon as possible. Because you don't have the tools to efficiently fight neither Counterbalance nor Top, your best bet is to put them on the spot for having Terminus as soon as possible. Remember, that when bad odds are still the best odds you can get, it's the absolutely right play to go for it. Way to often do I see people complaining about somebody making a perceivably "bad play"ólike playing right into Terminusówithout actually understanding that odds of winning the game on the spot at 30% is still better than your regular game 1 percentage against Miracles of about 20% if you try to grind it out.

    After sideboarding things become way easier. Which doesn't mean that you're not still the underdog. I like siding in the Progenitus package, as unlike your other Natural Order options Progenitus can only be handled by Terminus, which means that your other NOs will stay live. I also used to side out both Craterhoofs here, but once you manage to shut down Sensei's Divining Top with Pithing Needle, the Hoof kill actually becomes semi-viable again and requires them to have a Brainstorm into Terminus to stop it. The rest should be pretty much self-explanatory. If Thoughtseize them on turn 1, always aim for their Sensei's Divining Top unless there's an incredibly convining other card you want to take.

    In case you're running Gaddock Teeg, here's a trick for you; if your opponent Swords to Plowshares your Gaddock Teeg during a crucial moment (e.g. a lethal attack), you can Abrupt Decay his Top in response. This leaves him with the decision to either save his Top and be unable to cast his Terminus or lose his Top and risk losing the game right away.

    RUG & BUG Delver

    +3 Abrupt Decay
    -2 Heritage Druid
    +2 Thoughtseize
    -2 Nettle Sentinel
    +1 Natural Order
    -1 Viridian Shaman
    +1 Progenitus
    -1 Craterhoof Behemoth
    +1 Scavenging Ooze
    -1 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
    -1 Glimpse of Nature

    Your matchup against the supreme tempo decks of the format is really tricky. Especially against RUG, Natural Order can sometimes become more of a liability, so consider siding out the Progenitus package on the draw (in which case you might also not use the Thoughtseizes). Against BUG Delver, I'd always want to keep in the Natural Orders as their clock is just a tad slower than RUG's because their tempo suffers from a slightly higher mana curve.

    Strategically, you will often find your first three or four creatures being instantly removed, so plan ahead and try to lose some Symbiotes instead of actually good ones. Especially Deathrite Shaman is of highest importance since it helps a as it basically shuts down almost all of their win conditions over time. Thoughtseizes should usually go for either their hard countermagic (in order to resolve Natural Order) or big blowout spells like Toxic Deluge. Note that Golgari Charm can be very annoying but will usually not stop you from Natural Ordering, so don't give it too much credit. Abrupt Decays are there to buy you time against Delver or remove problematic permanents like Grafdigger's Cage (very annoying) or Engineered Plague (less annoying). Generally speaking, I don't really mind Engineered Plague all that much as you can still easily setup Natural Order.

    While most BUG variants are rather easy and should favour Elves, RUG is one of the harder matchups you are going to face, especially on the draw. Feel free to derivate from my sideboard strategy if you think you found an approach that works better. Just make sure to let me know about it!

    Jund

    +2 Abrupt Decay
    -2 Heritage Druid
    +1 Natural Order
    -1 Viridian Shaman
    +1 Progenitus
    -1 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
    +1 Scavenging Ooze
    -1 Craterhoof Behemoth

    Jund is definitely one of your better matchups. They might have access to all the answers (Punishing Fire, Engineered Plague, Liliana of the Veil, what-have-you) but often run into problems actually putting up an offense while disrupting you. Their best bet is casting Hymn to Tourach or Thoughtseize after your second turn in order to hit an otherwise devastating Natural Order. After sideboarding, expect Engineered Plagues. If they also sideboard Grafdigger's Cage, you want to go up to three Abrupt Decays.

    Merfolk

    +2 Pithing Needle
    -1 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
    -1 Heritage Druid

    Sideboarding Abrupt Decay is exactly what that pesky water mages want, so you should refrain from it. Spending two mana early on will get you nowhere against Merfolk as chances are it won't even change their clock. Instead, you should side in Pithing Needles and name either Aether Vial or Mutavault, most likely the former one. This will usually slow down their clock by two turns and is an investment I'd gladly make early on.

    Death and Taxes

    +3 Abrupt Decay
    -2 Heritage Druid
    +2 Pithing Needle
    -2 Nettle Sentinel
    +1 Natural Order
    -2 Glimpse of Nature
    +1 Progenitus
    -1 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed

    The good news: they will be dead to Progenitus, rare corner cases like a Mirran Crusader with Jitte aside.

    The bad news: they will usually have access to Aven Mindcensor aka Grafdigger's Cage on a stick. This is basically all that happens in this matchup. Try to go for a Natural Order as soon as possible, preferably when they are unable to flash in the annoying Bird Wizards from Future Sight. Bonus points if you've even got the Abrupt Decay ready. You can try to find out whether they have the Mindcensor by using your GSZ aggressively in situations where they could actually have it. Other than that Pithing Needle is there to either stop Aether Vial, Umezawa's Jitte or Mother of Runes protecting the Mindcensor; you might also want to just name Wasteland / Rishadan Port if your mana is vulnerable.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tammit67 View Post
    As Legacy Champs draws nearer over here in Philadelphia, I'm going to start posting more frequently my test results, sideboard plans, and general matchup analysis. While probably borderline useless to the elf veterans, hopefully it can save a few of you some trouble.

    Matchup analysis:
    Elves vs Death and Taxes

    Elves is highly favored preboard, highly favored to favored post board.

    Current configuration:

    3 Misty Rainforest
    3 Wooded Foothills
    2 Verdant Catacombs
    2 Forest
    2 Bayou
    1 Tropical Island
    4 Gaeaís Cradle
    2 Dryad Arbor
    4 Deathrite Shaman
    1 Llanowar Elves
    4 Quirion Ranger
    4 Nettle Sentinel
    3 Heritage Druid
    2 Birchlore Ranger
    4 Elvish Visionary
    4 Wirewood Symbiote
    2 Craterhoof Behemoth
    1 Reclamation Sage
    1 Wrenís Run Packmaster
    4 Green Sunís Zenith
    4 Glimpse of Nature
    3 Natural Order

    Sideboard:

    1 Null Rod
    2 Thoughtseize
    3 Cabal Therapy
    2 Swan Song
    3 Abrupt Decay
    1 Scavenging Ooze
    1 Natural Order
    1 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
    1 Progenitus


    How their deck works:
    Death and taxes primarily will attempt to attack mana development in any matchup, but their game plan is quite ineffective here. D&T will look to set up port/waste/thalia to keep opponents from developing meaningful board states while chipping away life totals through smaller disruptive creatures backed either with mother of runes and/or equipment. Hands without vial often have to choose between spending resources to hinder the opponent or lay a threat.

    We are a turn 3 deck that isn't going to fold because natural order costs 5 or because a creature gets swords'd.

    Preboard Overview:
    Between 5 mana dorks, 3 heritage, 2 birchlore and 4 GSZ for turn 1 arbor, we can develop our board faster than they can and a single cradle activation undoes turns of work on their end. The game usually ends turn 3 or 4 after glimpse or natural order resolve. Hands without either of these bombs might still be fine but you'll need symbiote + visionary or a naturally drawn Craterhoof since the 1/1 beatdown plan gets quickly outclassed on the ground. Reclamation sage does wonders in answering potential equipment situations, as well as Phyrexian revoker, Spirit of the Labyrinth, and to a lesser extent Aether Vial.

    Aven mindcensor is the most backbreaking play they can make although fewer lists are running it. It turns off a primary win condition and flies to allow equipment to be useful. Mirran crusader blowouts are also a possibility.

    As we are pretty favored here, we really want to focus on how we lose games and avoid those pitfalls. I'll cover my common losses later.

    Cards they might bring in:

    Rachet bomb
    Ethersworn cannonist
    Grafdigger's cage
    Council's judgement
    Spirit of the Labyrinth
    Holy Light
    Cataclysm


    Boarding
    : -2 Nettle Sentinel, 2 Glimpse of Nature, 1 Craterhoof Behemoth (-1 heritage)|| + 3 Abrupt decay, 1 Natural Order, 1 Progenitus, 1 null rod
    Reasoning: Glimpse might be the worse of the engines in this matchup, partially because how strong Natural Order is and how we are adding dead draws mid-chain to compensate. Abrupt decay answers everything short of batterskull. I don't mind heritage druid in the matchup since I basically am only looking to produce 4 mana in the face of some number of ports/wastes. (It has been mentioned null rod might be a good addition that I've overlooked)

    Postboard Overview:
    They will have more hateful permanents but are still completely at the mercy of your draw step. Reclamation Sage along with abrupt decay or wirewood symbiote will remove whatever they have standing in your way. The onus is on them to draw the right effects at the right time while we do not have an answer handy.

    Progenitus is the main gameplan, followed by glimpse chains (for value or unlikely combo) and the long Reclamation Sage grind. Some lists have 2 council's judgement in the 75 however, so don't be afraid instead to just go for a non-lethal hoof swing to drop them within deathrite range for the next turn.

    How we win:
    Generate board presence through their typically low disruption starts and end the game with the usual bomb. They have the option of disrupting us or pressuring us but cannot do both before the above happens.

    How we lose:
    • Turn 1 Deathrite/GSZ off a fetched bayou meets swords and wasteland. AVOID THIS, especially if we are on the draw
    • Keeping a weak had that produces a lot of mana but nothing else and let them set up equipment.
    • A greedy natural order gets mindcensor'd
    • They present a lot of removal/disruption as we draw uncastable cards
    • Their hate piece coincides with our drawn method of winning (Cage > Natural Order/GSZ, Spirit > Draw engines)
    • All in on Progenitus meets their 2 of council's judgement


    A special note:
    Protection from green via Mother of runes or Mirran crusader and Jitte/Sword of fire and ice can be played around. Morph Birchlore ranger, unmorph him and bounce him with symbiote. Especially in a 2 birchlore list, there is little excuse for equipment to connect without a flyer being present. if you are getting beaten frequently by this, consider changing GSZ priorities or mulliganing durdling hands that give D&T time to set up.
    Shardless BUG

    +1 Abrupt Decay
    -1 Birchlore Rangers
    +2 Thoughtseize
    -1 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
    +1 Natural Order
    -1 Craterhoof Behemoth
    +1 Progenitus
    -2 Heritage Druid

    Shardless BUG is actually one of your best (blue) matchups and one of the reasons why I believe that Elves is currently excellently positioned in the metagame. Pre-board the only cards you really care about are Force of Will and Discard. Fortunately, a lot of lists have lately been cutting back here, especially on countermagic. But even if they manage to disrupt your early on, their biggest problem comes in the form of an agonizingly slow clock. Tarmogoyf has issues actually connecting through Quirion Ranger and Wirewod Symbiote while the rest of their creatures is just way too slowó or just die to Viridian Shaman.

    After sideboarding your Natural Orders become even better, as they will often lack an actual out to Progenitus. A very common line of play is them tapping out on turn 2 for Engineered Plague with you untapping into Natural Order. Watch out for Grafdigger's Cage (and to a lesser extend Envelope) though and side in more Abrupt Decays should they have it (as they should).

    U/W/R Delver

    +3 Abrupt Decay
    -3 Heritage Druid
    +2 Thoughtseize
    -3 Nettle Sentinel
    +2 Pithing Needle
    -2 Glimpse of Nature
    +1 Natural Order
    -1 Craterhoof Behemoth
    +1 Progenitus

    This matchup pretty much plays out the same way as other tempo decks. Side in the Needles as an additional way of dealing with Grim Lavamancer and Umezawa's Jitte. Unless they are running the in my opinion subpar Meddling Mage instead of Ethersworn Canonist, side out two Glimpse of Natures. Your main plan in this matchup is Natural Order for Progenitus. With the current switch from Geist of Saint Traft to True-Name Nemesis, don't be afraid of siding out Nettle Sentinels; if they play Elecktrickery, though, I'd rather cut something else.

    Storm

    +3 Cabal Therapy
    -1 Craterhoof Behemoth
    +2 Thoughtseize
    -3 Elvish Visionary
    +2 Mindbreak Trap
    -3 Wirewood Symbiote
    +1 Natural Order
    -1 Nettle Sentinel
    (+1 Scavenging Ooze against ANT, not TES)
    (-1 Glimpse of Nature)

    There's not a whole lot I can tell you about this matchup. Name Lion Eye's Diamond with blind Cabal Therapys in order to stop (most) turn 1 kills and then flashback on your next turn. Your main goal here is to delay them just long enough for you to dive right into Ruric Thar, the Unbowed. That's why I think Mindbreak Traps are still ok in this matchup. However, if you expect a lot of ANT (instead of Belcher, Spanish Inquisition etc.), consider exchanging the two Traps for Thorn of Amethyst. Also note that due to your usually very quick early game beats delivered by Nettle Sentinel they will often be forced into Past in Flames, which means Deathrite Shaman + Quirion Ranger become super effective.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tammit67 View Post
    Matchup Analysis
    Elves vs AnT/TES

    Elves is highly unfavored preboard, unfavored (to even?) postboard

    Current configuration
    Same as previous.

    How AnT/TES work: they are looking to cast 10+ spells in the same turn, sometimes backed by discard to clear the way. We don't have a meaningful way of interacting with them preboard outside of graveyard management and racing and unfortunately, we are a turn slower on average.

    Preboard overview: TES is certainly a worse matchup than AnT. TES rarely cares about its graveyard and also is a little faster. Don't expect to get to turn 3 often against TES. You can identify TES byt eh rainbow manabase and lack of basics. Multiple chrome mox, paired with burning wish and rite of flame are also telling. If your opponent is named Bryant Cook, you might also assume TES.

    AnT on the other hand can be slowed down (albeit slightly) with deathrite shaman and scavenging ooze if you run ooze. Natural order into Ruric Thar, the Unbowed or a hoof kill are the avenues of victory we are looking for. AnT has terrible Ad Nauseum flips despite it being the name of the damn deck and will attempt to either chain infernal tutors into tendrils of agony or past in flames into tendrils. If you have a chance outside of them bricking for 5 turns, it is going to be off the back of a quick combo or deathrite preventing threshold'd cabal ritual and past in flames.

    Cabal ritual alone isn't enough to distinguish between the two storm variants anymore, but if you see 3+ cabal rituals and/or basics and/or grim tutor, it isn't TES.

    Hide the splash you are playing. If you are splashing white they will certainly bring in bounce, same with red. Not fetching Tropical Island will hide possible swan songs. Mindbreak trap/thorn of amethyst/surgical extraction might already be on their mind during boarding, no need to give them a better clue.

    Similarly to the Death and Taxes matchup, one side is pretty heavily favored. It is less about how tight elves is playing and more about how well the opponent is playing and with which decisions they follow through.

    Cards they board:

    Chain of Vapor
    Grapeshot (Burning wish)
    Void snare (Burning wish)
    Slaughter pact
    Abrupt Decay


    Boarding:: -4 elvish visionary , 3 wirewood symbiote, 1 wren's run packmaster, 1 reclamation sage, 1 craterhoof behemoth, (1 Glimpse of Nature against AnT if I'm on the play) || + 1 Null rod, 2 thoughtseize, 3 cabal therapy, 2 swan song, 1 natural order, 1 Ruric Thar, (1 Scavenging ooze if I'm on the play)
    Reasoning: If I'm going to win, it is going to be through speed, not some grinding gameplan. Go up to the full set of natural orders to help get Ruric Thar down. Hands without some form of disruption aren't keepable. Scavenging ooze is useful against the GY reliant AnT deck but often too slow if I can't power him out on the play. AnT also almost universally only runs a single copy of tendrils as the win condition, so removing it with deathrite would be game over. Remember Birchlore can give you blue mana and you don't always have to optimize your attack in order to bluff having one (But if it is going to give them an extra turn by doing so, probably not worth it). Surgical extraction is useful once again against AnT but not TES.

    Note: Not everyone has this much stuff to bring in, but identifying what cards to take out is a matter of determining how the game is going to progress. "Faster games don't need Visionary, longer games aren't as reliant on heritage combo" is basically what I've been doing after looking over Julian's SB'ing from his victory over at the BoM(Link here).

    Postboard Overview
    : Since Elves has been running some form of hateful permanent since Gaddock Teeg, some form of antihate is usually finding its way in for the storm pilot and it is probably chain of vapor. Leaving fetchlands uncracked is useful to hiding a blue splash, but be careful! Older TES lists ran silence, so if you try to fetch in response to a spell to swan song and get silence'd, you are screwed.

    Mulligan aggressively and look to survive until turn 3. Postboard games are a lot about how much disruption you are packing and can present in a timely manner and hands that do not provide heavily in speed or disruption are suspect. Thankfully, the disruption is usually really effective at letting us chain into more disruption or a win condition.
    Elves!

    +3 Cabal Therapy
    -1 Viridian Shaman
    +2 Thoughtseize
    -1 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
    -2 Elvish Visionary
    -1 Wirewood Symbiote


    The mirror match is all about speedóso practice your die rolls! Once you're done, remember to always name Natural Order with Cabal Therapy. You should definitely not sideboard Mindbreak Traps here; especially on the play, diluting your deck in this way is a prime example of playing not to lose where in fact you should look out to capitalize on your huge tempo advantage. On top of that the Trap will almost never stop Natural Order.

    Dredge

    (+2 Thoughtseize on the play)
    (-1 Viridian Shaman & -1 Elvish Visionary)
    +1 Scavenging Ooze
    -1 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed

    You're rather soft to Dredge, but at least on the play you should often be able to simply outrace their Zombie army with the help of Craterhoof Behemoth. Once you're on the draw in post-board games, try hitting either their discard outlets or card draw spells with Thoughtseize.

    Here are some more suggestions for sideboarding. As mentioned before, always adjust your configuration to what you actually see out of your opponent. Usually two or three Heritage Druids come out against removal-heavy decks in order to make room for the Progenitus combo (in which case you can easily cut one Craterhoof Behemoth). I also like siding out two Glimpse of Natures against decks with access to Ethersworn Canonist. The rest should be pretty much self-explanatory.

    Painter

    +3 Abrupt Decay
    -1 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
    +2 Thoughtseize
    -2 Nettle Sentinel
    +2 Pithing Needle
    -1 Craterhoof Behemoth
    -2 Heritage Druid
    -1 Glimpse of Nature

    Sneak and Show

    +3 Cabal Therapy
    -1 Viridian Shaman
    +2 Thoughtseize
    -1 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
    +2 Pithing Needle
    -1 Elvish Visionary
    -2 Wirewood Symbiote
    -1 Heritage Druid
    -1 Nettle Sentinel

    Omni-Tell

    +3 Cabal Therapy
    -1 Viridian Shaman
    +2 Thoughtseize
    -2 Elvish Visionary
    +1 Natural Order
    -1 Wirewood Symbiote
    -1 Heritage Druid
    -1 Nettle Sentinel

    Maverick

    +3 Abrupt Decay
    -1 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
    +1 Natural Order
    -2 Glimpse of Nature
    +1 Progenitus
    -1 Heritage Druid
    -2 Nettle Sentinel

    Reanimator

    +3 Cabal Therapy
    -1 Viridian Shaman
    +2 Thoughtseize
    -1 Elvish Visionary
    +1 Scavenging Ooze
    -1 Wirewood Symbiote
    (no need for Needle as they will just Elesh Norn you)
    -1 Heritage Druid
    -1 Nettle Sentinel
    -1 Birchlore Rangers
    Last edited by danyul; 09-03-2014 at 04:09 PM.

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    Re: Elves!

    Awesome primer Danyul!! Congrats on all the work!

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    Re: Elves!

    Cool. I do think adding Beck to the list of playable spells for those that want more than 4 Glimpse effects might not hurt. Also, if you are playing the mono green version, Vexing can help you get around counters.

    Love the pics too. Make me smile.
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    Re: Elves!

    Thank you for the hard work danyul!!!

    I find this primer inspiring and, though I don't own any NO, I would build this deck with more creatures, an Emrakul and one or two beck//call.
    I'm busy at work in this period but I'll try to build it as soon as possible.

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    Re: [DTB] Elves!

    Nice primer!

    I've moved the threads and added a link to the old one at the top. Leave the link in place for a month or two until this thread has gained "critical mass" so to speak, then you can move it to the bottom of the primer.
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    Re: [DTB] Elves!

    Finally something which is worth being called an elves primer. Thx Daniel for putting this together and hopefully keep it up to date.

    I just fear the last passage of that primer is the official invitation to continue the discussion about the Priest/Archdruid Budget lists here; especially if the old Combo Elves thread will be replaced with this one.
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    Re: [DTB] Elves!

    Very nice work. Funny read and some good tipps. Maybe you/we can contribute a little bit more to specific matchup guides including boarding plans versus the very common matchups. That is an area where also a lot of debate happens so I think it is important to include different take on things until the community figured out what is the optimal plan.

    For example I am sure some people bring in Decay versus esper to handle jitte, whereas I think cabal therapy is much more important due to supreme verdict and the opportunity to pick up Jitte after SFM resolved.

    Versus RUG you can make an argument for cabal therapy to deal with rough/tumble, however I think against such a removal heavy deck every body counts and flashing back therapy is not an option. In this matchup I feel to be the control deck and therefore want decay to kill delver trying to stall the ground with wirewood/quirion before eventually an ooze/glimpse/NO takes over. In this matchup being manascrewed is the biggest issue and since EVERY dude makes mana (with cradle) I am pretty sure cutting 0 creatures is correct. Some competent opponents will bring in fluster storm in addition to pierces making it really tough to rely on GSZ and the other good sorcery spells.

    Your take on aggro is a little bit too generic I think. Jund should be the current core focus and I would not describe the matchup as positive. It can be quite tough if they have a lot of cheap removal early on. The key is to puke out as many creatures as possible and post-board I would go for Progenitus (with a 2nd arbor) and make sure there is always another creature on the board.
    Currently playing: Elves

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    Re: [DTB] Elves!

    I can do a write up vs Goblins if it is needed. I have played Goblins for years and know them very well.

    Also after rereading your post I am looking on Ebay for a compact abacus... you have been a bad influence on me... The idea itself though is a very good one.
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    Re: [DTB] Elves!

    What a great primer! Awesome work danyul!

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    Re: [DTB] Elves!

    Thanks everybody for the kind words! Your critiques have been noted and I will work on addressing those throughout the week. I agree that the matchup coverage is weak but I told everybody I would have it finished by Sunday and I wanted to turn this in on time! I'll definitely shore that section up though, among others. There is still work to be done.

    I also want to go comb over the old thread to bring up the talking points people were discussing and port them over here.

    @Dicebox
    I use an old Duelist abacus(https://www.magiccardmarket.eu/The_D...43p260788.prod) but they are a bit hard to find and expensive at that. Cheaper alternatives would be a Max Protection abacus (http://www.abugames.com/item208204-n...---Yellow.html) but you can also have people customize them out of your favorite Magic card. Something like this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWNI2OmO0JU). Lots of Alterists know how to make those for a nominal fee (~$30).
    Good luck!

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    Re: [DTB] Elves!

    @Danyul: Great work! - now we can discuss the real things

    @Dice_Box: all tricks are welcome ;)
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    Re: [DTB] Elves!

    Wrong picture of Elvish Visionary. Thread needs more Oblivion Ring. Viridian Shaman especially and Scavenging Ooze as well should be promoted as standard options: Playing Shaman main is not paranoia, it's common sense. Not playing Shaman main is just plain greedy.

    In other news, I has Cradles <3
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  14. #14

    Re: [DTB] Elves!

    Good job Daniel! It looks much more polished than your first draft. I would probably add the discussion we had about not boarding in cabal therapy on the draw against belcher since they'll most likely be able to empty their hand t1 anyways. Only traps (if you run them) and pridemage/sliver/shaman should be brought in on the draw.

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    Re: [DTB] Elves!

    Very comprehensive primer! I would mention Beck // Call as possible 5th Glimpse of Nature. I mean if Ruric Thar, the Unbowed is mentioned as experimental card so Beck should be too. And maybe you may add some tips related to mirror match, e.g. sideboarding Cabal Therapy when you are on draw.

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    Re: [DTB] Elves!

    Nice primer, but I don't see any mention of Nissa's Chosen.

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    Re: [DTB] Elves!

    Quote Originally Posted by lordofthepit View Post
    Nice primer, but I don't see any mention of Nissa's Chosen.
    Thats because it does not go into to the deck. There is both no space for it and no strong reason to run it.
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    Re: [DTB] Elves!

    "If you cannot handle the swings,"

    ..you don't play no limited hold'em aka Legacy.

    Just had to get the Rounders reference in there. Great primer, thank's a lot. What I'm now looking foward to is detailed matchup analysis, especially the mirror match.
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    Re: [DTB] Elves!

    Nice primer Daniel! Thanks for putting in the work! The only thing I would like to see in more detail, is the "SB-Strategy section". Everything else is very well written imo.

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    Re: [DTB] Elves!

    Ok, a quick write up on dealing with Goblins.

    Goblins.
    Matchup: Favorable.

    Goblins is an Aggro Control deck that wins though fast creatures and cheating things into play. They also lock down the mana of the opponent in a controlling way to limit the possible responses that can be thrown against them. They achieve this by using cards like Goblin Lacey and Aether Vial to bring into play cheaply more expensive cards than most legacy decks play. They use Port and Wasteland to lock down greedy mana bases and they excel at the mid range game. None of this matters a whole lot to us. They will generate quite a large card advantage over most decks, sometimes even us with the right start, using cards like goblin Ringleader or tutors like Goblin Matron. The deck also runs some very strong CitP effects that it abuses with Vial. Stingscourger when played at instant speed can throw a spanner in the works. Sometimes Goblins splash White. If they do this the most likely card to see is Thalia. Not a great issue for us.

    Their control is weak against a deck that does not really need Lands to play. A first or Second Turn Mana elf will all but make the control aspect of this game a non issue. They will attack your Cradles though and try and keep you off your Dual lands. Bring out Basics early, keep any Duals you need to play off colour cards in your hand until you need to play that spell. If possible show as few colours as you can. Also do not rely on DRS to fix all your mana issues for you. While you may have a large amount of mana for him to target, he himself will be the target of burn. Play your opens a bit more defensively.

    Game one:
    A turn one Lackey is best blocked. Open with a DRS or a Nettle if you have them. You need to block him and they are both are safe from a turn two Gempalm. They may use some other burn to push him though, if that has happened get ready for a race. From their hand, the things to watch for are Sharpshooter and Siege-Gang Commander. Sharpshooter may not be in their main board, but Commander ALWAYS will be. Its strengths are that it enters with a trio of tokens and it can deal directed damage. Watch for open Vial's. If it is ticked up past 3 then get ready for one of the bigger creatures, Siege, Krenko or Ringleader. Another MVP is Piledriver. Playing goblins this one card has won me games more than any other. When it attacks, block it. It does not have trample so do not fear it.

    Game Two:
    Expect Sharpshooter, Pyrokinesis and possibly Chalice of the void. Bring in anything you have that can add defence to your Creatures, Discard and Art hate. Do not dilute your combo to do this though, your speed is something they can not match. Sharpshooter will be their MVP. If they fetch for it, make them discard it. Also the other strong advantage you have is that you can see what they get off of Ringleader. This makes Therapy a much easier card to play in this match up. They will likely have cut Vial due to its slow speed but if they do play one it is sometimes best to save your hate, just in case they do have Chalice. If you have Jitte too bring that in. Nothing else hurts like Jitte. Most of their Creatures only have 2 defence. Its painful.

    Conclusion:
    Your speed is their bane. Their higher cost cards, a reliance on getting unblocked hits against you to cheat things in or the slow Vial means that it can almost be a bye game. At the same time they do have burn, they can slip in Lackeys past you and they have some nasty drops. If they burn out your combo feel free to go into Agro mode. You have the ability to drop far more creatures than they do and much faster. Also Jitte if you get stuck. The card is pure printed evil.


    Turned out not to be quick....
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