Welcome back to another week of Adam Plays Magic. This time around, we're going wide with everyone's favorite pointy-eared tribe, Elves. Don't be fooled by their frail appearance. These guys have enough lords to fill an entire kingdom, and each adds their own special kind of buff.
What Does it Do?
Elves is a fairly straightforward archetype. Early mana dorks like Elvish Mystic accelerate out a low and aggressive curve. Lords like Elvish Clancaller create a reasonable stat line for the deck's creatures. Card advantage sources like Realmwalker and Collected Company keep the bodies coming.
While Elves in Pioneer has access to meaningful additions in other colors (predominantly black) like Shaman of the Pack, those cards are not available on Arena for Explorer as of now. Without that incentive, the mana base for this build is mono-green, with some utility lands in the form of Castle Garenbrig, Hashep Oasis, Lair of the Hydra, and Boseiju, Who Endures.
What I Like
This is perhaps an obvious statement, but one of the best reasons to play Elves is access to mana dorks. Elvish Mystic and Llanowar Elves in particular are the closest thing most formats have to Moxen (such as Mox Emerald). One-mana, unconditional acceleration on turn one has the potential to snowball rapidly, deploying threat after threat and reloading while the opponent is still constrained on mana.
In a format like Explorer where most of the "unfair" cards are either banned or simply not legal, getting a full suite of the "broken" stuff is a huge incentive.
Thanks to the latest addition from Dominaria United, Leaf-Crowned Visionary, Elves now has some of the best tribal redundancy in the format. Multiple two-mana lords, multiple sources of card draw, and multiple Gaea's Cradle variants in the form of Circle of Dreams Druid and Marwyn, the Nurturer creating egregious sums of mana all culminate into a lean and powerful competitor.
Elvish Warmaster is also one of the most powerful tribal payoffs that exist, period. Any game piece that creates other impactful game objects is exceptionally difficult to deal with for the opponent. When they spend a removal spell to get rid of the Warmaster, it's highly likely it has made at least one token, if not several, and all for free. If left alone, its activated ability creates a mini Overrun that utilizes the tokens it generates to close out the game immediately. There's so much packed into this creature that I'm shocked it's only two mana, especially when comparable cards like Saheeli, Sublime Artificer and Sai, Master Thopterist cost three mana.
What I Dislike
Elves is really good at doing its thing but struggles against the opponent doing theirs. There's no removal, discard, counterspells, or other forms of disruption. The archetype banks heavily on accomplishing its game plan before the opponent can accomplish theirs. Not every draw lines up properly for that to happen though.
Well-timed opposing interaction can set Elves back several turns. Sometimes the opponent kills a dork and there isn't enough mana to cast the deck's payoffs. Other times the opponent removes a payoff and the player is stuck with too many dorks.
Even with all of the card advantage sources in the deck, the engine can still stall. Realmwalker is only as good as the top card of the deck, and given twenty lands and four Collected Company, there's a roughly 50% chance to whiff. Given that Elves plays to the board, a well-timed wrath like Supreme Verdict or Settle the Wreckage can be disastrous.
And that's a wrap on another week of Adam Plays Magic. Without spoiling the video, I think that the deck is a worthwhile contender and I was able to demonstrate some powerful lines, but even the most redundant and low-curve decks are subject to clunky draws and mana trouble.
Steel Leaf Champion, while the best body on rate, was a fairly anemic inclusion. That slot may likely end up as Elvish Visionary to increase consistency in finding critical payoffs. Hopefully Explorer Anthology 2 and The Brothers' War later this year will bring more support to the archetype.
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