Elves is now a pretty strong deck when it’s just plain old monogreen, and offers certain advantages in staying so (namely less damage from lands, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, Cavern of Souls, and Pendelhaven are more consistent, and we’re not really hurt by Blood Moon), but exploring a splash is always important to see if we can create an even better version of the deck.
What to splash?
Blue’s main draw (pun unintentional) is counterspells, which don’t fit in a proactive mostly aggro deck like ours. Coiling Oracle would make for a nice upgrade over Elvish Visionary, Hurkyl’s Recall is great (although not a creature), Bribery and Alchemist’s Refuge are intriguing, and blue helps with Spellskite, but overall I don’t think it’s quite enough.
Black offers disruption which poses a similar issue — it could be useful mainly against wrath or to slow down our opponent enough for us to win before them, but generally, I think we’d rather just race. There’s also Prowess of the Fair (note it counts as an elf for Heritage), which might be good, or just inferior to creatures.
Red really just gives us Magus of the Moon, which would probably be a great idea in greedy metas that also have a lot of Amulet, but otherwise, it doesn’t offer enough.
So, we’re left with white, which happens to offer a ton of things we want: hate for Burn, Affinity, Amulet, and much more. Even better, most of the cards we want are creatures (good for our Collected Company toolbox, and because we’re an aggressive deck). Let’s take a look at what white brings us.
What White Does
Kataki, War’s Wage: This man-creature-lady-god-whatever thing almost always annihilates Affinity, strapping their resources so hard they can do little but swing for small amount of damage and hope it’s enough. Often they won’t even be able to do that. Affinity is a hard match for us if we don’t draw hate cards, and this is the best one of all for us, made easier to find courtesy of Company and tutors.
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben: What do you do when disruption is ruining your day? Disrupt the disruption, of course. This young lady can be a real nightmare for most of the top decks in the format right now by doing a lot of work against opposing disruption and Burn (which can be tough), among other things. This makes her relevant enough I have to consider maindecking her. The big problem with her is she hurts Company, which can be annoying sometimes at 4cmc, let alone 5. Given Company is the whole reason the deck is now viable, this is troublesome.
Aven Mindcensor: An elegant way to hurt Amulet, Scapeshift, and Tron, all of which are difficult matchups. As ever, we love the instant speed. (Scapeshift? Mindcensor in response. No Scapeshift? Company end of turn.)
Kor Firewalker: A nasty, near unbeatable card for Burn, which can otherwise be a tough deck to beat if you’re running Elves. We do need it turn 2 for it to be good most of the time — this could prove difficult to achieve with our manabase.
Those are the toolbox creatures. Now let’s take a look at a couple of non-creatures.
Worship: We’ll rarely have trouble keeping this turned on, and many decks have few or no answers for it (take that, BGx!). More, since we run little or no artifacts or enchantments mainboard, our opponent is likely not going to board in any hate for it. And even when they do, we’re just going to run it as a 1-of, so we’re likely gaining more than they are from that exchange. I could see this being a monster versus most of the top decks right now. Thalia makes it maybe more expensive than it’s worth, so that’s another reason to not run her.
Horizon Canopy: Mana fixing that doubles as a cantrip — yes, please. I like this card more because splashing white likely means we have to cut back on non-basics that don’t tap for two colours, but we still want some kind of land-based advantages.
Gavony Township: Speaking of land-based advantages, this is a great one, furthering our backup beatdown plan. Yeah, it taps for colourless only, but squeezing in one should help a lot more than it will hurt (as is the case with Nykthos in monogreen).
With all that in mind, here’s where I would start with for an Elves list splashing white:[d title=”G/W Elves by Sean Ridgeley”]
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Heritage Druid
4 Nettle Sentinel
4 Devoted Druid
4 Fauna Shaman
4 Elvish Visionary
4 Elvish Archdruid
4 Ezuri, Renegade Leader
1 Scavenging Ooze
4 Collected Company
4 Windswept Heath
4 Razorverge Thicket
2 Horizon Canopy
1 Gavony Township
2 Temple Garden
1 Burrenton Forge-Tender
4 Essence Warden
1 Setessan Tactics
3 Kataki, War’s Wage
2 Scavenging Ooze
1 Aven Mindcensor
1 Reclamation Sage
Tweaking G/W Elves
Whether or not to use Thalia is still a debate in my mind and is something I will likely test in the future, but for now my instinct tells me this is right. Possibly I will put her sideboard, if only for Burn.
I was testing 3-4 Ooze in the monogreen build, and while it was great against all the Delver, Abzan, and other decks about, it was usually terrible versus Burn and Affinity, so I feel like 1 main, 2 side is an okay balance. It will be relevant more often against Burn and Affinity this way, and still seen fairly often in the matchups it’s great in.
The landbase should maybe be tweaked to not be hurt so badly by Blood Moon. Another downside of it is our Burn matchup is now worse, and it was already less than desirable.
All that said, I’m pretty happy with this list as a first iteration. In future articles, I’ll have testing and daily footage and impressions to determine whether Elves is really better off for white or not. Until then!
Sean is a Magic Online grinder that’s been playing Modern since 2012. His background comprises a combined 10 years of journalism study and practice. You can find him on Twitter @regalforce.