Welcome back to another rousing edition of Playing Dumb Decks To Win Dumb Prizes. This month I’ve been deep in the lab, brewing and testing to bring you the best elf deck the format can handle. Green just isn’t gonna be enough, where we’re going we need all the colors…ok except for blue, but the team at Playing Pioneer told me five color elves would be way more catchy so blame Ruckman on twitter. *Ruckman Note: I did suggest playing Glasspool Mimic to hit full 5c.*
This deck is all creatures, so let’s start with the mana base. Getting the obvious out of the way; this deck, and many other tribal decks, work simply because we now have access to four copies of Unclaimed Territory and Secluded Courtyard. These eight lands give us all five colors of mana with no life payment as long as we are only casting creatures of the same type, in this case Elves. Secluded courtyard will even let us activate Deathrite Shaman and Elvish Warmaster’s activated abilities. Just make sure you say the word “elf” when you play these and you’ll be fine. We follow up with three copies of Mana Confluence, and sheesh this card is dangerous. It gets the job done, but the 3-4 life we’re going to lose over the course of a game is going to be very relevant in the matchups where racing matters. Hands with just two Confluences are going to cost you 7-8 life over the course of the game, and in this highly aggressive format you really can’t keep hands like that. It’s a necessary evil as the deck has lots of colored pips on the spells we are casting, but it’s always best to make sure you need the mana before tapping this land. An added piece of advice if you’re new to decks playing Mana Confluence, I always like to keep this land a bit to the side away from the rest of my lands; just to help remind myself I’m paying life when tapping it. That’s it for lands we can play that make every color so now we need to weigh options between the two and three colored lands. Three colored lands come in tapped so they are a bit slow in our deck with nine one drops, but we have a lot of colors to make so two of the triomes are a nice choice of mana fixing since they are cycleable if we draw them late. Of the triomes Ziatora’s Proving Ground and Jetmir’s Garden provide the coverage for the deck’s most used colors. Green is our most used color, followed by white and black, so our two colored lands should reflect that. Two Temple Garden and two Branchloft Pathways for our green and white lands, and two Overgrown Tomb and Darkbore Pathways for our green and black lands. In regards to the Pathways, I always find it best to hold off on playing them as long as possible so we have as much information as possible before deciding what side to play. Finally the deck plays one lonely Forest, just in case we get Boseju’d or hit by a Field of Ruin. All these lands sure will look nice on our board, but they won’t win unless we use them to cast lots and lots of creatures.
This deck goes W I D E, but word of warning: you cannot fear the Anger of the Gods, you also can’t beat Anger of the Gods in most games. If your meta is filled with people packing Anger then I would advise not building this deck, but as most of the format is focused on answering single threats we can normally expand our elf army without fear. Let’s start with the green elves who do a lot of heavy lifting, four each of Llanowar Elves and Elvish Mystic. Most hands should have a mana-elf in them or a tapped land. The explosive power of these dorks is widely known in Pioneer, even getting named “8-elf decks”. We aren’t racing to one big spell though, we want to use the extra mana to start casting two or three spells a turn as quickly as possible. One of the best cards in the deck is Elvish Warmaster, which we are playing four copies of. Warmaster will fill the board with tokens and provide an end game clock with its seven mana overrun ability. Important to note: Warmaster will trigger on any elf, even an elf token. The only restriction is it will only trigger once per turn, this means two Warmasters will trigger each other and result in two elf tokens. I often found myself waiting to cast Warmaster until I could attempt to get at least one trigger out of it, as it tends to be the biggest lightning rod for our opponent’s removal. Dwynen’s Elite will do its best Warmaster impersonation, making an extra elf body if we control another elf, which isn’t very hard in this deck. Just gaining two elves from one card will help create lethal swings, that’s obvious but also set up for big Shaman of the Pack turns. The two bodies entering at the same time will also trigger our Alliance cards like our next two elves.
The newly printed Gala Greeters has been an amazing inclusion, when creatures enter the battlefield we can have a treasure, 2 life, or a +1/+1 counter? I suggest always taking the treasure first, then the other modes are just gravy. This card doesn’t look like much at first but after making two or three treasures, and fixing our mana, your opponent won’t underestimate the Greeters again. Our other Alliance card is Rumor Gatherer. Scry 1 every turn is easy enough, but with a Warmaster or Elite you will easily be scrying AND drawing every turn. A bit greedy with double white pips, but all it takes is one of the tribal lands you’ll be casting it no problem. The last pay off to our super wide board, and also the reason to play elves in pioneer, is of course Shaman of the Pack. Shaman burns our opponent on ETB equal to the number of elves we have in play, and is often how the deck steals games out of nowhere. I generally expect to deal 5-8 damage with this card per ETB. Of course, be sure to stack triggers from Warmaster for extra damage. If only we could have more copies of our big payoff cards…….
Well let’s turn up the heat, really let the kitchen spices flow, what’s better than an elf? How about an elf that tutors any elf? Well thanks to Rocco, Cabaretti Caterer we can use all our excess mana dork and treasure mana to tutor any creature from our deck. Now normally this fetches a copy of Shaman to end the game on the spot, but the flexibility of this card really is what drove me to add red to the deck’s already greedy mana base. Even just getting a mana dork and Rocco for four mana is a great deal, triggering alliance twice and widening our board. But, since we can easily tutor whatever we want… lets play some cool one-ofs we can tutor when needed. Ok lightning round, let’s GO! Deathrite Shaman to hate yards and gain life, Emmara, Soul of the Accord to make lifelink tokens, Masked Vandal to exile artifacts or enchantments, Skemfar Avenger to redraw against board wipes, Sylvan Messenger to rebuild And Beast Whisperer to really extend a lead. What more could you want in this deck?
Oh yeah, Collected Company… I mean that’s just a freebie right? Green deck with thirty plus targets for company and lots of ETB’s? Yeah that’s a given. This card often steals games, really this whole deck just steals games; just don’t grab Rocco off of company as you won’t be able to tutor anything from his trigger, at least until Dryad Arbor finds its way into Pioneer. Other than that just cast on the opponent’s end step for max value. Let’s wrap things up and take a peek at, what I believe to be, a very strong sideboard.
Our sideboard is where dreams are made, and our opponents dreams are crushed. Speaking of which, we can’t talk about crushing dreams and winning unwinnable matchups without three copies of Skylasher. This bug is gonna win games against mono blue; it eats a creature, then buys so much time while you continue to do your elf thing. I’d also bring this in against various Ledger Shredder decks, even though it won’t be an allstar there as Skylasher will die to shock. To dunk on the mono green menace we play three copies of Phyrexian Revoker. Name Karn and lock them out of their sideboard, also good against Witches Oven/Oni-Cult Anvil decks or any other deck that wants to play planeswalkers. For all those decks that want to cast a lot of spells we play two Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, even if she eats a two mana shock she still threatens to set our prowess opponents back a turn or two. Two copies of PVDDR himself, Elite Spellbinder, will let us delay board wipes and slow down combo pieces. Meanwhile, an extra Masked Vandal lets us destroy artifacts and enchantments that might disrupt us. Setessan Petitioner may not be an elf, but our two copies will let us gain a lot of life in the race against mono blue or mono red. Double green seems rough on our mana base, but naming “Druid” on an extra unclaimed territory could get us the second green we need for this life point swing. Finally against our worst matchup, AKA rakdos midrange, we need two extra Sylvan Messenger. Drawing more and more elves is the only way to really brute force our way through this ultra removal heavy deck. Keeping the army rebuilding is the most important thing in this matchup, and while I considered playing removal spells or even Ravenous Chupacabra to answer such stone wall threats like Kalitas, ultimately I won games where I drew more cards. Rakdos is the ultimate one for one deck, trying to go one for one with them wont go over well.
Dinner is Served
I had a BLAST building and playing this deck. I think this deck is a great recommendation for players who really want to go wide and laugh at the prospect of a Supreme Verdict, because even if your opponent wipes the board you can still find a way to steal those remaining life points. If your meta is filled with mono green, I really like the matchup for the elf player; they are generally forced to win through Cauldron Combo because of how clogged the board gets, potentially giving an extra turn or two to win through Shaman triggers. In all my testing I found this deck to stumble on its mana every now and then, and once my test partners learned to wait to remove a Warmaster or Gala Greeters to disrupt my mana or my board presence the games got a little harder. A lot of wins will come from players not knowing how to play against you, or not knowing what your cards are/what cards you could possibly tutor for. It’s the perfect fit for players that want powerful tribal synergies and a tool box strategy without playing Humans. Let me know what dumb decks you’ve been playing, and even better, what dumb prizes you’ve won recently.