[Planeswalker Spotlight] Elspeth Tirel

Hi everybody, and welcome back to Strictly Average MTG. My apologies for the long delay. This past month has been a bit hectic due to things both inside, and outside, of Magic: the Gathering for yours truly. However, I am back to work writing articles about this great game.

As promised with the previous article, today I have another entry in the Planeswalker Spotlight series. It’s been awhile, almost a whole year in fact, since I have had an article focused on a single planeswalker; the last one was about Sarkhan. Today I want to look at one of my favorite planeswalkers, appearing alongside Sarkhan in Shards of Alara. Today’s subject will be Elspeth Tirel.

Elspeth has been an interesting tale. Escaping from the Phyrexians, appearing on Bant then taking part in the wars on Alara, joining Koth of  the Hammer to fight the Phyrexians on Mirrodin/New Phyrexia, and eventually arriving on Theros and meeting with Ajani Goldmane once again. There have not been many true “heroes” in the game of Magic: the Gathering, but Elspeth is clearly a hero of the people on each world she visits.

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Let’s take a look at her cards, and brew some decks.

Elspeth, Knight-Errant

Creature (14)
Geist of Saint Traft
Wall of Omens
Snapcaster Mage
Restoration Angel
Vendilion Clique
Grim Lavamancer

Planeswalker (3)
Elspeth, Knight-Errant

Instant (16)
Path to Exile
Lightning Helix
Lightning Bolt
Spell Snare
Logic Knot
Mana Leak
Spell Pierce
Unsummon

Sorcery (2)
Supreme Verdict

Land (25)
Flooded Strand
Celestial Colonnade
Field of Ruin
Island
Scalding Tarn
Glacial Fortress
Hallowed Fountain
Steam Vents
Arid Mesa
Plains
Sulfur Falls
Sideboard (15)
Surgical Extraction
Reflector Mage
Celestial Purge
Dovin’s Veto
Baneslayer Angel
Settle the Wreckage
Timely Reinforcements
Crucible of Worlds
Disdainful Stroke
Ceremonious Rejection

How the deck works

A wise robot once said: “A good offense is the best defense”, and this deck emphasizes that. In a world full of decks that look to either lock you out of the game, or win quickly, you may not be able to afford to sit back on counterspells to get you through the game. You also want to curve out your plays to either maintain tempo with your opponent, or gain it yourself.

  • Using Lightning Bolt, or Path to Exile early on keeps the threats from coming your way and allows you to play your bigger creatures while the opponent tries to recover.
  • Wall of Omens can provide some defense, giving you time to either find an answer, or deploy your threats.
  • Elspeth, Knight-Errant can get your creatures through the opponent’s defenses too, and can help you pressure their planeswalkers. Giving Geist of Saint Traft +3/+3 and flying can deal up to nine damage to an opponent. Most combat is done on the ground, so this boost can help you close a game quickly.

A deck like this used to be what those who didn’t play Splinter Twin would sleeve up, and it might be time to give a deck like this a spin. You don’t do anything fancy here, but you do pack quite a punch.

Elspeth Tirel

Creature (5)
Wall of Omens
Emeria Angel

Planeswalker (8)
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Elspeth Tirel
Sorin, Solemn Visitor

Instant (7)
Path to Exile
Fatal Push

Sorcery (15)
Lingering Souls
Inquisition of Kozilek
Thoughtseize
Wrath of God
Damnation
Martial Coup

Land (25)
Plains
Concealed Courtyard
Field of Ruin
Marsh Flats
Isolated Chapel
Shambling Vent
Swamp
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Vault of the Archangel
Sideboard (15)
Rest In Peace
Timely Reinforcements
Celestial Purge
Stony Silence
Collective Brutality
Baneslayer Angel
Anguished Unmaking
Crucible of Worlds
Bitterblossom

How the deck works

Tokens, tokens, tokens. That’s what this decks wants to provide you. A never ending swarm of creatures forcing your opponent to deal with them. Trample is not on a lot of creatures so these can be used as blockers, and then eventually attackers. Using planeswalkers, or abilities on creatures to generate tokens for no additional mana is also a benefit of the deck.

  • While your early turns don’t produce a lot of present on the board, you are being proactive with discard spells such as Thoughtseize, and spot removal such as Fatal Push.
  • Once you have a few tokens out Sorin, Solemn Visitor can provide your creatures lifelink to help you stabilize your life total.
  • Your goal here is to have several creatures in play to be able to alternate between the first two abilities of Elspeth Tirel. Gaining three, or more life every other turn can provide you the time you need to attack the opponent for the win.

Orzhov tokens has been a strategy in Modern for many years. Primarily looked upon as a strategy for new players into Modern, do not discount its potential at your next Friday Night Magic (FNM). Having a board presence that must be answered to avoid being overwhelmed can put a lot of pressure on your opponent.

Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

As much as I enjoyed playing with Elspeth, Knight-Errant when she was in Standard, it is this offering from Theros that is my all time favorite. There were many who thought that this card was “bad” because it cost six mana to cast. However, along with Jace, Architect of Thought she helped The Senate deal with the Pack Rat menace in one of the best Azorius Control decks to ever grace Standard.

Today though I want to look at another way Elspeth, Sun’s Champion can be utilized in a deck.

Creature (13)
Tarmogoyf
Siege Rhino
Grim Flayer
Scavenging Ooze
Tombstalker

Planeswalker (4)
Liliana of the Veil
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

Instant (9)
Assassin’s Trophy
Fatal Push
Path to Exile

Sorcery (9)
Inquisition of Kozilek
Lingering Souls
Thoughtseize

Land (25)
Verdant Catacombs
Concealed Courtyard
Marsh Flats
Blooming Marsh
Nurturing Peatland
Overgrown Tomb
Shambling Vent
Swamp
Forest
Godless Shrine
Plains
Temple Garden
Windswept Heath
Sideboard (15)
Fulminator Mage
Nihil Spellbomb
Kambal, Consul of Allocation
Collective Brutality
Collector Ouphe
Thrun, the Last Troll
Liliana, the Last Hope
Kaya, Ghost Assassin

How the deck works

One of the things I have noticed with both black and green decks is that either they win handily, lose the same way, or run out of gas as several turns go by where no one is winning or losing (usually against an Azorius deck). Going up the curve to play bigger threats forces the opponent to answer them, or eventually lose. There have been several games I have witnessed where if the opponent made a big mana play they would have won, and this is where Elspeth, Sun’s Champion can help.

  • Again just like with other decks we have looked at having early plays of discard, and removal help a lot.
  • Here you want to be as mana efficient as possible, playing your best card every turn. If you are going to face a board wipe, such as Supreme Verdict, hold a few creatures in hand so you can play both the turn after your current creatures are destroyed.
  • Although Elspeth, Sun’s Champion is only a singleton in this deck, keep in mind that having that one card late in the game can turn the corner in your favor. Your opponent would have used other answers on earlier threats allowing this planeswalker to more than likely stick around.

While you can build this deck without her, keep in mind the power she yields when putting three 1/1 creatures on the board every turn. Some decks have a hard time dealing with that.

In Conclusion

While Elspeth has not had a lot of representation on planeswalker cards, the ones where she has appeared have been powerful. Each one can be built around to provide you either an extra win condition, or be the center of your build. Take a look at each one carefully before starting with your Elspeth build.

Which Elspeth is your favorite? Let me know by leaving a comment below, and follow me on both Facebook as well as Twitter. NEXT WEEK I will get back to some more Modern talk with a deck I have been playing recently.

Until then…

TAP MORE MANA!!!

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