As I alluded to in a past entry, I’ve been playing around with Modern Elves after my friend Tony talked up his list at a Modern event at Twenty Sided Store.  He said he had been doing decently with it on Magic Online, and it had the added benefit of being a cheap deck to put together in digital form.  It has the explosive lord factor of Merfolk and the best draw spell in the format, Lead the Stampede.  Since the deck plays no other non-land, non-creature spells, Lead usually hits for 2-4 creatures, and it’s not uncommon to end up drawing five cards off it in total.  At the end of the tournament I asked him for his list and he happily obliged.  This is his ideal list:

Creatures: 4x Arbor Elf, 4x Llanowar Elves, 4x Heritage Druid, 4x Nettle Sentinel, 4x Joraga Warcaller, 4x Bramblewood Paragon, 4x Wren Run Vanquisher, 4x Imperious Perfect, 4x Elvish Archdruid, 2x Elvish Champion

Spells: 4x Lead the Stampede

Lands: 2x Horizon Canopy, 2x Cavern of Souls, 14 Forest

Now, having played Legacy Elves at one point (the aggro version more than the combo version), I knew some changes I wanted to make from the start.  First, I knew that I wanted to run 4 copies of Fauna Shaman.  It’s one of the best Elves in Modern, it can upgrade bad top decks, and it presents another must-kill threat to take some removal pressure off of the lords.  I also was unsure that I liked Bramblewood Paragon in the 75.  On the one hand, it did give trample to your creatures; on the other hand, it’s a bad top deck, doesn’t buff creatures already on the field, and many of the elves that most need the backing of a lord to provide a reasonable threat are druids, not warriors.  With that in mind, I made a few changes to end up with the following list:

Creatures: 4x Arbor Elf, 4x Llanowar Elves, 4x Heritage Druid, 4x Nettle Sentinel, 4x Joraga Warcaller, 4x Imperious Perfect, 4x Elvish Archdruid, 4x Elvish Champion, 4x Fauna Shaman, 1x Ezuri, Renegade Leader, 1x Regal Force

Spells: 4x Lead the Stampede

Lands: 4x Cavern of Souls, 14 Forest

Running Fauna Shamans make a singleton Ezuri main make some sense, since he’s good in matchups where you face Supreme Verdict, and he’s a great mana sink when you get the mana engine online.  Similarly, Regal Force has been used in Elves for extra gas in the late game, and as a singleton it shouldn’t end up trapped in your hand too often (and if it is, you can always pitch it to an active Shaman).  I moved from a two and two split of Cavern of Souls and Horizon Canopy to four Caverns, since the sole point of a Canopy in a deck like this is to cycle it if you run low on gas, and having Fauna Shamans and access to a Regal Force makes that less necessary.  18 lands seems a bit low, but with a large number of mana dorks it should be enough.  I tried playing through it with 20 lands, and while the deck was still powerful, it doesn’t really want more than three lands on the board, and ripping a land off the top feels awful when you’re in a position where any elf will serve to significantly advance your board state.

Dana (partner) and I ran the deck through both Spirit Jund and Teachings.  Teachings was a tough match-up, and it was what made me feel solid enough on Ezuri’s value to put two more copies of the card into the (very rough) sideboard.  Dana’s version of Teachings runs Consume the Meek in the main and a second copy in the side, and that card is a blow out that not even Ezuri can stop… but he’s still good against Supreme Verdict, and that’s the bigger problem since by turn five your opponent should be bleeding heavily enough to make the wrath effect less back-breaking than it is at four mana.  Still, I took some games, and while it’s not the best match up for the deck, it didn’t feel insurmountable.  Next we played against Spirit Jund, and that was a more even matchup for Elves.  Short of Tarmogoyf, Jund’s creatures are quickly outclassed by the combined power of several lords, and there are enough threats to overwhelm their removal.  The matchup is even better now that Spirit Jund lists are moving to Rakdos Charm instead of Jund Charm, but Elves definitely have some play against the top dog in the format.  The only thing to watch out for in the matchup is the two-edged sword that is the Elvish Champion.  On the one side, Spirit Jund tends to have a forest or two on the board unless specifically trying to play around the Champion, and making their team unable to block ends the game quickly.  On the other side, their most explosive creature, Bloodbraid Elf, is an Elf with haste, and Champion does not discriminate in who it pumps.  A hasty unblockable 4/3 quickly changes the state of the race, which is something to play around.

Anyway, I still think the list could use some tuning, but it’s not a terrible budget option for playing Modern.  With tight play, the deck could even do decently in a PTQ or other serious tournament.  As for which list is better, well, it depends on one’s play style.  Tony’s list is more explosive, but is also more vulnerable to being blown out by an untimely wrath effect or targeted discard and removal.  My list is a bit more resilient, but it’s a turn or two slower, and that can be the difference between beating a deck and losing to its combo.  Either way it’s a fun deck, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to have an amusing time at a Modern tournament.

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