[Modern Magic] The Twelf Days of Christmas

Hi everybody, and welcome back to Strictly Average MTG. I hope you enjoyed the review of the eras in Standard that encompass the Pioneer format. Now that I am past that, and that the calendar has flipped to December, it is time to not only return to Modern but also review one of the decks I usually play at this time of year.

That’s right. It’s time to talk about Elves.

Not this one though.


That is a Gnome. Not an Elf. Santa’s “helpers” like to make things. They are also small, near childlike in size, and quite jovial. That’s not an Elf. That’s a Gnome. Here’s some history of Gnomes that will help with this understanding.

Now these? These are Elves.


Elves have been one of the most represented tribes in all fantasy (even outside of Magic: the Gathering). Often in the debate with Merfolk and Goblins over which is the best, anyone who has played the game at all in their lifetime will know that Elvish Mystic is a “mana dork”, and has probably heard of the term “Elfball” somewhere in their journeys.

From Dominaria through Lorywn to Zendikar, Elves have appeared in many sets, and have even become top strategies to play during their time in Standard. Today I’m going to visit the Modern version of this tribe.

Modern Elves

Creature (36)
Elvish Archdruid
Shaman of the Pack
Dwynen’s Elite
Elvish Clancaller
Elvish Mystic
Heritage Druid
Llanowar Elves
Nettle Sentinel
Ezuri, Renegade Leader
Collector Ouphe
Elves of Deep Shadow

Instant (4)
Collected Company

Sorcery (2)
Lead the Stampede

Land (18)
Blooming Marsh
Gilt-Leaf Palace
Unclaimed Territory
Nurturing Peatland
Sideboard (15)
Stain the Mind
Weather the Storm
Abrupt Decay
Damping Sphere
Reflector Mage
Collector Ouphe

How the deck works

Start your turn by playing a one-mana creature (such as Llanowar Elves), and then a turn two Elvish Archdruid. From there you can accelerate beyond the mana you have available for lands. One common line of play on turn two is (with three mana) playing a Heritage Druid into Dwynen’s Elite, then tapping those for three green mana for Elvish Archdruid. Watch out for Lightning Bolt though! Once you land a Nettle Sentinel (or two) you can chain a lot of mana together casting multiple spells each turn.

You can win by giving your army an Overrun effect from Ezuri, Renegade Leader, or having multiple Shaman of the Pack enter play. In one instance I was able to deal 21 damage to an opponent with multiple triggers from the shaman, and that was without attacking.

The differences from last year

  • Artifact hate main deck: Thanks to Modern Horizons artifact decks are a big problem. By having a focus on attacking those decks you have a better chance at securing a win during the first game of a match.
  • No Cavern of Souls: This is no longer required. The decks running counterspells are focused on cards like Collected Company as that is the card you use to get ahead. The removal they use helps make up for not countering your creatures.
  • Fewer spells: While Chord of Calling is a great card, we want to streamline the deck to make sure we are applying maximum pressure every turn.

The sideboard is focused on staying alive vs Burn, dealing with combo decks via Stain the Mind, and yes more artifact hate. Does this deck sound interesting to you? Let’s break it down with the following points below to make sure this is the right deck for you.

Why you should play the deck

There are quite a few reasons to play this tribe, and maybe one (or more) of these reasons apply to you.

  • You are faster than Merfolk, and Goblins. You are nearly as fast as Humans, but have worse top decks late game.
  • You are an aggro deck, with a combo, in an aggressive deck, that can win with a combo, while also attacking. While the deck may seem to play the same every game the outcomes aren’t always identical.
  • While appearing to be an aggro deck there are triggers to watch for, and lines of play that you do need to pay attention to in order to win. Casting a Shaman of the Pack, and with the trigger on the stack casting Collected Company is one such example to pay attention to.

The deck can be a lot of fun, and provide a lot of different paths to victory. Plus who doesn’t like playing (in my opinion) the best tribe in all of Magic?

Why you shouldn’t play the deck

  • You find aggro decks boring, or not fun to play in general.
  • Your local store is filled with decks that have a ton of removal and/or board wipes.
  • You would rather play any deck where the card you draw is better than an Elvish Mystic late in the game.

These are all valid points, and should not be discounted. While it may be difficult to avoid the Supreme Verdict decks (although Ezuri, Renegade Leader does help regenerate your team) these options may be beneficial for you. However if you are encountering issues like this perhaps there are some options you can look to try in the deck to spice things up.

Other options

This card has been in and out of my deck more times than I can count. While I love what Elvish Visionary does, especially in a deck lacking in card draw, it leaves little room for other things. With one mana removal all over the place in Modern (I see you Fatal Push) having more than 8 mana creatures is ideal, and I’m not counting Heritage Druid as that can not make mana on its own. If you do want to run this consider cutting an Elvish Clancaller or two, and perhaps a Collector Ouphe if the Urza decks are not strong in your area.

While Reclamation Sage is in the sideboard perhaps you want to run it main deck to target specific artifacts, and bring the non-Elf Collector Ouphe in to help deal with artifact heavy decks. A 2/1 is nothing to dismiss, and easily increases in power quickly due to cards like Elvish Archdruid. Remember that Sword of Feast and Famine only provides the creature equipped with it protection from black and green. The sword itself can still be destroyed by Reclamation Sage.

Maybe your opponent is doing a whole lot of nothing. Maybe you want to make additional creatures each turn. Imperious Perfect, one of the best lords for this tribe, could be what you’re looking for. It’s able to enter play off of Collected Company on your opponent’s end step, and the extra elves it makes definitely provides some synergy with Shaman of the Pack.

While not an Elf creature card herself Nissa, Voice of Zendikar is an inclusion worth considering here. Her low casting cost, and -2 ability are definitely the focus. You do have to keep in mind that the plant she will be making is not an Elf (I’ve double checked), but the +1/+1 counters she distributes to the team can provide the extra damage bonus you need to secure the win. Keep in mind if you go this route you will want to drop Pendelhaven for another land.

Once Upon A Time? In Elves? Why not. This one does require some reworking, but it can be done. This card, while still legal, can assure you have that turn one mana creature, and can help you find a Shaman of the Pack to finish off an opponent. Free spells are almost always a problem, and this card is no exception. In a deck like this with so few spells you’ll always find something, and the two mana you need to cast this is negligible in a deck full of mana creatures. You’ll want to shave a land (yes making that 17 land), a pair of Elvish Clancallers, and probably the single copy of Elves of Deep Shadow as well. I’ve played this card here a few times, and it’s quite strong (especially the first casting as it’s free).

As much as the deck is focused on being an all-out aggro you still have room for customization. You can splash blue for Oko, Thief of Crowns, Coiling Oracle, and Frilled Mystic, or perhaps red for Bloodbraid Elf, but you will want to adjust the deck accordingly.

In Conclusion

Tribal decks are some of the most expressive decks in the game. Full of customization you can build them to represent whichever your favorite tribe is. The only limit is your imagination.

Your Thoughts

What do you think of Elves? Have you played against it? Do you play it yourself? What about in formats outside of Modern? Let me know your thoughts below, and make sure to follow me on Facebook as well as Twitter.

Next Time

It’s that time of year again. Time for my predictions for the next year!

Until then…


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