So this weekend I battled down in Riverside with a deck that didn’t include four Seachrome Coasts. In fact, in the vein of Travis Woo, I decided to play the most powerful deck with basic Forests available. That deck was GR Elves, which is one of the fastest decks in the format, and the best Bonfire of the Damned deck to boot. Here’s how I got there.
Issues with GW Elves
My biggest issue with GW Elves is its reliance on Elvish Archdruid. The deck just didn’t have enough power cards available without an Archdruid in play. Running a single [card ezuri, renegade leader]Ezuri[/card] is a sick joke when it’s the third best card in the deck, and you’ve already maxed out on the other two cards. Seriously, why are extra Ezuri being left out of Elves? Why mess around with Village Bell-Ringer when your Ezuri actually threatens lethal on turns 4-5, can be cast early as sweeper protection, and provides a great defense with regenerating Elves?
So after cutting Bell-Ringer and noting that Restoration Angel is pointless once we’ve moved toward a deck that goldfishes Pod and other decks that can’t interact with you on turn five, why keep the white at all? At that point switching over to red seemed like an easy decision, as I still keep a [card kessig wolf run]sweet spell land[/card] and gain Bonfire of the Damned. You know, in the actual best Bonfire deck in the format—where you can miracle for lethal on any reasonable board, or hardcast it on turn five for 4-5* damage and just win with a plain ol’ alpha strike soon after.
*My best Miracle was 14, and my best non-Miracle was 21 when I was trolling an annoyed Bant Pod player. My best correct-play, hardcast Bonfire in GR Elves was 7.
This was my original GR list:
After battling about 30 matches with the deck on Magic Online, most of which involved me crushing the green mirror, I was ready to make some changes to the deck before the PTQ. I knew I needed to play against Delver players who would make good decisions, instead of taking the most aggressive line of play every time. Paying multiple idiot taxes on Gitaxian Probe and swinging with unflipped Delvers into my mana Elves, assuming I would never block, was a little presumptuousness. Trading off with your soon-to-be [card insectile aberration]3/2[/card] is going to give me equal or more time than keeping my Elf.
Changes to GR
I drew inspiration from Travis Woo’s article on his Green Summer deck and an article by John Cuvelier on GR Elves. Over time, I realized that GR Elves was more powerful than the GW iteration and that I wanted to tweak the deck.
I can just c/p what Travis Woo said about this card:
“Primeval Titan on the third turn is going to win you the game the same as a Soul of the Harvest. If they have a spot removal spell, you are left with two extra Kessig Wolf Run which will make you a favorite to win. Primeval Titan is much, much more flexible than Soul of the Harvest.”
You may not get Glimmerpost (though it remains a sideboard option), but Kessig Wolf Run is only a slight downgrade from [card gavony township]Township[/card], and you can usually kill in one or two shots. Plus, a 6/6 trample that can snap swing for 10 on the following turn—even if they Bonfire the rest of your team—is a really important option to have.
Sometimes you just want a card that let’s you brawl and can survive a Bonfire. I don’t love having more than one in the main deck because of all the Vapor Snags, but I like having the option to fetch him up and protect an Archdruid or Ezuri.
Sometimes you just want to kill people on turn five from a board of a couple Llanowar Elves and an Elvish Visionary. You may also want to Demonic Tutor a double Overrun sometimes. These things happen.
The deck doesn’t need any of these and does a worse job as a finisher than Primeval Titan, Craterhoof Behemoth, and Wolfir Silverheart. All the above threats can present a scary board position without additional help from your hand. Soul, on the other hand, is a complete blank when it’s the last of your gas. Besides that, I noticed most of your draws are blanks at that stage of the game, so even though all your creatures gain cycling, that isn’t particularly strong when they don’t generate mana via Heritage Druid like old Elves decks.
Genesis Wave didn’t beat sweepers and it didn’t immediately end the game. It has no early game utility, and when cast for small amounts just doesn’t do a whole lot. Bonfire of the Damned clears out threats early, immediately ends the game once you set-up your mana, and gives you a way to interact with people and planeswalkers outside of attacking. This is the best Bonfire of the Damned deck in Standard and you would do well to take full advantage.
Fervor just doesn’t do enough for the slots you sacrifice in order to play it. The only time it makes a major difference is when you play a gigantic spell—at which point you should already winning. After cutting Genesis Wave, it loses its purpose—converting a large Wave into an immediate kill. Honestly Craterhoof Behemoth just does a better job as a threat and after cutting Soul and Wave, there’s no pure engine that gains from having haste.
The new revised entry:
First off, thanks to everyone who said hi to me at the PTQ. Always fun hearing from people who read my work.
Wins: UW Delver, 2 RUG Delver, Zombies, UW Odd
Losses: UW Delver, Mono G Fight (bonus loss in round 8 to UW Delver)
In the end I went 5-2, playing the last round since my carmates were locked for Top 8 and I had already lost my bubble match. Play against UW Delver, get punished for playing too aggressively in game two against a mulligan to five that was better than most eight card hands, and mulligan to oblivion for the final game of the tournament.
My other two losses came against my friend and carmate Jacob Wilson piloting UW Delver (He finished 4th), and I lost a close three games against Mono-G Fight. Usually I crush green decks by virtue of better speed and Bonfire, but Ulvenwald Tracker is a big game against me, and he made sure to keep hands with him available.
The SoCal PTQ had a Top 8 of seven Seachrome Coast decks and a Wolf Run Blue. After watching the Wolf Run player’s Top 8 matches, I was shocked that the deck made Top 8 to begin with. It reminded me of how embarassing Gitaxian Probe is when you can see just how bad some keeps are. Sam Pardee (Smdster on MTGO) won the PTQ after telling me that Seachrome Coast was the only thing worth battling with. While I don’t fully agree with his assessment, I did have 72 of the same 75 sleeved up before going with Elves.
Besides that, it’s just hard to argue with the results. Seachrome Coast decks are the best option as long as you properly tweak your deck to keep up with the metagame. I think Delver and UW Midrange are likely the two best decks in the format, with Pod and Elves just slightly behind. Green decks have the higher overall power level, but the more people want to tweak their Seachrome decks against you, the harder a fight it’ll be.
As I said, I think Elves is one of the most powerful things you can do in this format and, barring a massive surge in popularity, won’t suffer from much sideboard backlash.
Birthing Pod of all flavors: Bye. They can’t interact with you until it’s too late to matter. If they play Naya Pod they have a one- to two-turn window to interact with you via Bonfire of the Damned or they just get Ezuri Overrun or Hoofed. Bant Pod can legend rule your Ezuri via clones, but eventually you cast and active on the same turn or Hoof anyway. They can’t sweep your board, so overextending doesn’t exist against them.
I used to sideboard in Torpor Orb until I realized the extent to which I was ahead in this match-up. Board in Acidic Slime if you run it and Arc Trail for the rub-ins, otherwise your main deck will be perfectly fine.
Ramp: Good. For Ramp to beat you they need a hand with more than one sweeper, a Titan, and they can’t afford to stumble at all. Most Ramp decks aren’t built to beat you unless they emulate the old versions, with eight maindeck sweepers and Inferno Titan. You can survive a Primeval Titan hit and just attack back for 3x as much. Mutagenic Growth and Ezuri both go a long way in keeping your team or Archdruid alive, which is what you need to go over the top. Bonehoard is also a straight beating when the plan post-board is wiping you multiple times, leaving your Germ and future Elves larger than Titans.
UW Delver: Eh. Game one is a matter of Delver keeping your three-drops off the board. If they can do that while applying pressure, you’ll lose. If you only eat a Gut Shot or two, you can potentially overwhelm them and power through Mana Leak. Bonfire of the Damned on turn two or three just to wipe a [card delver of secrets]Delver[/card] or [card geist of saint traft]Geist[/card] is a legitimate play, and oftentimes if you can slow them down a few turns, you can undo most of the damage Gut Shot/Vapor Snag cause. In general, the biggest threat to you is Gut Shot, Snapcaster Mage – Gut Shot, into Geist of Saint Traft—most starts are beatable. I hate the versions with Spectral Flight since the card makes Geist very tough to deal with, and I can’t shut it down via Viridan Corrupter.
I lost twice to UW Delver at the PTQ, beating one, and two of the RUG variants—which have better cards against me in Pillar of Flame, Arc Trail, and Bonfire of the Damned. So while I still feel a bit bad for dropping two matches to Seachrome Coast, I feel that my Delver match is perfectly reasonable.
Sideboard options largely break down into three categories:
I have yet to figure out the ideal boarding plan for the matchup and I may not have the proper cards in the sideboard. Personally I’m going to try a combination of 2 & 3, and even recommend Cavern of Souls if you want to go real hard.
UW Midrange: Slightly worse than other Seachrome decks. Midrange can’t pressure you early, but Day of Judgment and Gideon Jura are both cards you dread. Not as much worry about Delver and early Gut Shots, but their ability to punish you for setting up kill turns makes this a lot harder. Thankfully for green players, people refuse to play UW Midrange.
Zombies: Terrible match. This is your scariest match among the commonly played decks in the format. They have a ton of early removal, including Arc Trail*, and the ability to pressure you. You can’t trade with their creatures and Bonfire of the Damned isn’t the stone-cold killer it is against green decks. Unless you’re killing, them outright you can’t typically smallball them with 2/2 beats, so your ways to win fall on hoofing it or multiple Bonfires.
*Arc Trail is the bane of your existence.
So while my trip to Riverside didn’t end in a Q, I did get to field test Elves outside of MTGO, and it did well enough. I’ll likely keep playing Elves and take a break every now and then to Seachrome Coast with midrange, and hopefully figure out the Delver match. For the future, if you want to play a deck with a lot of raw power behind it and dominate in the green mirrors, play GR Elves.
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom