The draft started out well enough. I opened Priest of the Blood Rite and shipped a decent, but not strong, first pack over to Jeff. After a second pick Claustrophobia and a third pick Wild Instincts, I began settling into green and black. At the end of a decent first pack, I was simply putting together good playables with only a bit of synergy. The usual limited shenanigans. Filling out my curve… getting some interactive spells. At some point early in pack two I noticed several Thornbow Archers pass by. My mind flashed to a discussion LSV was having about the Gotta Catch Em All creatures, specifically Faerie Miscreant and Thornbow Archer, and how they can, given the right circumstances — and by right I mean there are enough opened at the table — you can move in on a one-drop blue black deck.

Now, I was solid black and green, so the miscreants would have to wait. But I thought, if I can wheel these Thornbow Archers and get a few more on the wheel in pack three — 4 total would be a good number — I can build around these guys and take advantage of them en masse. And luckily enough, they did come back, and two more wheeled to me in pack three. Suddenly the sweet, sweet synergies emerged and I put this neat little machine together for my TDL match.

Wide Elf Stance

Creatures (17)
Thornbow Archer
Shambling Ghoul
Timberpack Wolf
Elvish Visionary
Eyeblight Assassin
Nantuko Husk
Shaman of the Pack
Deadbridge Shaman
Pharika’s Disciple
Sylvan Messenger
Llanowar Empath
Rabid Bloodsucker
Priest of the Blood Rite

Spells (6)
Might of the Masses
Reave Soul
Wild Instincts
Read the Bones
Lands (17)

Sideboard (3)
Aerial Volley
Infernal Scarring
Touch of Moonglove

Normally, I don’t condone this sort of behavior, drafting these janky one drops. In fact, I aside from a few Cleric of the Forward Orders, Timberpack Wolves, and Undead Servants, I haven’t given much thought to these little elves. But I had a few things going for me when my teammates and I laid out our draft pools. We had most of the green cards. They had most of the blue and black cards. Which means they most likely would be opening on Sigiled Starfishes and Maritime Guards, and other early defensive creatures. I also had cornered my way into a deck with a very clear game plan and strategy.

thornbow archer




mightofthemassesIf you’re going to go in on this style of deck… a very aggressive black/green elf-based deck with a full constructed playset of Thornbow Archers, certain cards go from solid playable to downright combo cards. Nantuko Husk, Might of the Masses, and especially Shaman of the Pack are all cards you want to have at least one of in your black green decks anyway, but with the ability to go wide when we swarm the board with multiple janky 1/2’s, these cards become solid finishers. Each game I closed games out, or pulled far enough ahead in tempo, with each of these cards that, were I to draft this archetype again, I would want double of each card.

Nantuko Husk, while absolutely stellar in the black red deck with threaten effects and token producers, gives your black green janky Thornbow Archer deck the ability to make use of the life loss trigger without totally suiciding your creatures into your opponents threats. Might of the masses was a finisher and a removal spell at one mana, and the set up cost in this particular build was, well… just playing out the cards. And after you play it once, your opponent lives in fear of you having either another one or blowing them out again the next game. Shaman of the Pack is an excellent card in the ‘elf’ deck anyway, so it doesn’t need much explanation or justification here. But it combos very well with the archers, as you can cast the shaman pre-combat, hit them for 3-5 life, and then swing in for the rest with your archer triggers.

Other cards that played out well were the cantrip creatures — the Llanowar Empath and the Sylvan Messenger — because you’re often going to be deploying threats faster than your opponent and need to refuel, and Wild Instincts. Yes, I know, a fight card is a fight card, but with cmc 4 a fight card goes up in value when you can deploy creatures at 1, 2, 3. The tempo loss was often backbreaking… much moreso than if I was deploying bigger, slower threats.

I had a blast with the deck, and went 2-1. My final round opponent flooded the board with Fetid Imps and Returned Centaurs and, with a couple of mulligans and slow keeps, I fell quickly to his slow, early defensive plan.

I would highly recommend drafting this deck, but not forcing it, because as bad as the Gotta Catch em All creatures are at 1 per starting 23, at 4-5 you can start to take advantage of the critical mass, and black green was a solid archetype for the Thornbow Archer.

Since my LGS is taking a month off of hosting events in order to complete some renovations, I took it upon myself to get some testing done at another shop in Manhattan. It’s a strange feeling to play at a different shop when you become committed — loyal, really — to your LGS. And the place definitely felt unfamiliar, cool. I brought my Tarmo Twin list to get a few reps in. After a quick 2-0 over Jund and Merfolk, I split the prize pool with my round three opponent and we played our games out. “For practice,” he said. I agreed. I needed to cram in some more games, and I was curious as to what he was running.

It was my first time playing against the boogeyman Grishoalbrand deck I had heard so much about. He drew his opener and immediately apologized, showing me a Faithless Looting, a Griselbrand, and a Goryo’s Vengeance.






“I’m sorry man, I got my nut draw.”


He almost waited for me to concede to him. We hadn’t even started playing yet.

“Just show me how the deck works,” I suggested. I wanted to see how it went so I could know when to disrupt it.

He casts looting, discarding Griseldad, then passes. I untap, play an island, and pass. He plays a land, reanimates Griselbrand, and draws 14 cards, going to 6. He discards Worldspine Wurm to Nourishing Shoal, gaining 11 and putting him to 17, then draws 14 more cards, going to 3. Using Manamorphose into a few rituals, he casts Through the Breach for Borborygmos Enraged, discards 8 lands, and kills me.

Just like that, we were sideboarding.

Over the next two games — yes, I won one of them by bolting him in response to a Nourishing Shoal — he didn’t go off later than turn 3. The deck, he said, was awesomely consistent, and he often went off turn 3, and sometimes on turn 2. It was just a matter of knowing when to mulligan. In our third game he Inquisitioned me, then played Defense Grid, then went off. It felt almost as fast as Legacy Reanimator. It was hard to interact with due to redundancy and speed.

I can’t believe I hadn’t seen it before, and that it wasn’t running rampant in the metagame. I guess a few timely discard spells can tear it apart, but when I am playing 6 one mana counters and 6 two mana counters after board, I shouldn’t feel like I have a bad matchup against a combo deck. I’d be interested to see how far the deck goes and whether it gets enough attention to warrant some wrangling down by the mothership.

I’m off to a PPTQ on Sunday with Tarmo Twin. With a little luck and some good sideboarding I think I have a good shot! Next week I’ll go over the results!

Derek Gallen lives and writes in Brooklyn, New York.

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