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Thread: Survival Elves

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    Nov 2009



    Survival Elves


    I'm stealing a bunch of stuff from Danyul's primer as it's a very good one. I will modify it here for premodern purposes.

    I. Overview
    II. Core Deck List
    III. Card Choices

    V. How to Play the Deck (and not get Lost In The Woods)
    a1) The Combo AKA How to ďGo OffĒ
    b) Mindset/Alertness/Triggers/maximize mana
    c) How to Deal with Disruption
    c1. Counterspells
    c2. Removal
    c3. Discard

    VIII. Mechanics
    a) Counting Mana
    b) Once-Per-Turn Abilities

    I. Overview

    Elves is an aggro/combo able to maintain very high consistency and resiliency in its games due to huge amount of redundancies and its multiple engines.

    If you're into turning 1/1's sideways, green mana and survival of the fittest then you've come to the right place.

    Survival of the fittest is arguably the strongest engine in the premodern format and elves is the deck that takes advantage of it the most due to the very large amounts of green mana it easily generates.

    II. Core Deck List

    Generally, there's 55 cards that are pretty accepted as non-negotiable. There will always be some metagames where it's not required to run all 55, but in general you're pretty safe with these.

    1 Anger
    1 Caller of the Claw
    1 Kamahl, Fist of Krosa
    1 Masticore
    1 Squee, Goblin Nabob
    1 Wellwisher
    1 Yavimaya Granger
    2 Deranged Hermit
    4 Fyndhorn Elves
    4 Llanowar Elves
    4 Multani's Acolyte
    4 Priest of Titania
    4 Quirion Ranger
    4 Wirewood Symbiote

    4 Survival of the Fittest

    9 Forest
    1 Mountain
    4 Wooded Foothills
    4 Gaea's Cradle

    III. Card Choices

    a) Mana Dorks

    4x Llanowar Elves
    4x Fyndhorn Elves

    8 single mana dorks to start your games consistently. there's no green sun zenith in this format, so you need to run as many as possible.

    4x Priest of Titania

    Priest is the most powerful creature in the deck. It enables extremely strong turns and generally when left unchecked will run away with the game.

    4x Wirewood Symbiote

    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 / Swords to Plowshares.

    4x Multani's Acolyte

    This is the other half of the Best Friend Team. Acolyte paired with a 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 Acolyte 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.

    A typical combo with survival and priest is playing acolyte, tapping priest, survival for symbiote, bounce acolyte and repeat.

    4x Quirion Ranger

    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 Dork/Priest tapping a land, using Ranger to bounce land and untap Dork/Priest, 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. It's also very good vs stifle.

    Pairs well with many cards in the deck.

    1x Anger

    Singleton for survival target. Requires mountain so be mindful about how to get it into play.

    1x Yavimaya Granger

    Used almost exclusively to get the mountain in play for haste. Also works well with symbiote.

    1x Squee, Goblin Nabob

    Powerful engine for elves. Consider 1 more in sb if graveyard hate is heavy. Also pairs well with masticore.

    1x Kamahl, Fist of Krosa

    Steals games on his own and allows for 1 turn combo kill. (keep in mind there's no Craterhoof Behemoth in this format.

    1x Masticore

    Masticore is very strong in premodern. Play 2 total in the 75.

    1x Wellwisher

    Can run away with the game on its own vs decks with light removal. I usually run 2 in the 75. Extremely good with haste.

    2x Deranged Hermit

    Don't sleep on this guy. Very powerful in premodern. Some players go up to 4 maindeck.

    c) Core Engine

    4x Survival of the fittest

    There's too many things to write about with SotF. It's just an unfair card. Your best bet is to goldfish with the deck as much as possible so that you have a clear line of thinking for each turn. Be respectful to your opponents and don't take too much time!

    If you want to end the game quickly you should probably set up a priest of titania with the expectation to next turn get anger/granger + kamahl or hermit.

    Below this line isn't updated for premodern

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

    The Basic Combo AKA How to ďGo OffĒ

    You'll mainly want to go for a priest of titania if you're looking to combo. Other options are trying to grind out games with BFF. In general the deck can be quite complex to play, so I'd recommend watching some videos.

    There's a bunch that can be found on this channel:

    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.

    VIII. Mechanics

    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!

    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.

    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.
    Last edited by mistercakes; 01-11-2022 at 04:57 PM.

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