Feature Article – ELVES! is Back, and is Just What the Doctor Ordered

 

First off, I would like to introduce myself. I am best known in the Magic community for winning PT San Diego two years ago with Jacob Van Lunen. Since then I have been on the Pro Tour, taking a short break to check out life in the Caribbean for half a year. This is the first year I will be able to attend every Pro Tour and I am really looking forward to it. I love playing Magic and sharing my opinions about it, and hopefully you all like what I have to say and keep reading. After all, they don’t call me “the Doctor” for nothing.

First, the decklist:

Everyone thought that with the loss of Birchlore Ranger and Wirewood Symbiote that the elf deck was dead. I even thought that, before I saw a much slower list that someone had played in Austin. It was pretty top-heavy, playing Elvish Archdruid, Primal Command, and other clunky spells. After some tuning, the above list is what I came up with for the online PTQ on Jan 14th. My overall record was 5-3; not that respectable at first glance, until you consider my losses. One was to a Dark Depths deck that went Thoughtseize turn one then make a 20/20 turn 2 both games, and the other two were both game three’s where I had lethal Grapeshots on the stack and ran out of time. My good friend (and the other 2HG PT Winner) Jake Van Lunen was watching me play the PTQ, and we both decided we wanted to run it at a PTQ in Connecticut two days later. Disaster nearly ended the PTQ for me before it began. My friend who was bringing me the deck got lost on the way to the site and nearly didn’t show up in time. A quick thanks to the Tournament Organizer and Head Judge for delaying the start of the tournament and allowing a few extra people to get there in time. My friend showed up with no time to spare at the end of the player meeting.

Round 1 – Chester Li

I’ve played with Chester before, many times. He is a great guy, and has been known to dominate the dance-off scene. I had no idea what Chester was playing, but it turned out to be probably one of the worst matchups for my deck. He was playing Blue/Red faeries with maindeck Firespouts and a Kiki-Jiki / Pestermite combo kill. Game one his first spell was Firespout, which wiped my board. He then Spellstuttered my next 2 spells and played a Kiki-Jiki. Close Game. Normally against a Fae deck my sideboard Blood Moon plan works very well, but in this case it did nothing. Game 2 was similar and I was handed my first loss in round one; not exactly where I want to be.

0-1

Round 2 – Mike Gemme

His turn one Artifact Land revealed him to be Affinity. The Affinity matchup is a tricky one. You are much faster than they are; you just have to make sure you don’t drop low enough for them to be able to dump all their modular counters onto a guy to kill you. I was on the play for game 1, and I killed him on turn 3, so it wasn’t particularly close. My sideboard was very prepared for Affinity, with both Viridian Shamans and Ancient Grudges. Game 2 his start was land, Ornithopter, Springleaf Drum, Arcbound Worker, Frogmite, Frogmite. I just played turn one Boreal Druid which didn’t seem fair. Turn two things started looking up when he attacked and passed. I quickly Viridian Shaman’ed his Springleaf Drum to keep him off colored mana. The game came down to him needing to rip a Shrapnel Blast or Cranial Plating over two turns, after I played a bunch of guys and Grapeshot to put him on a clock. His next two draws were unexciting and I picked up my first win.

1-1

Round 3 – Dan

Game one was unexciting; his first play was a turn 2 Pentad Prism off Mountain, Mountain, which he then used to Ponder. I killed him next turn. I wasn’t sure what he was playing at this point, but thought it was either Hive Mind or Dragonstorm. I decided not to sideboard at all to keep my deck as fast as possible. This time he got 2 counters on his Pentad Prism turn 2. I tried to go off on my turn 2, but ran out of 1 drops to play. He untapped, cast Seething Song into Hive Mind, and killed me. Game three he cast his Pentad Prism turn two again and I killed him turn 3 again.

2-1

Round 4 – Chris

Chris was playing Kibler Zoo, a matchup I think is very good. They have a bunch of removal but it is hard for them to keep a clock on you and stop you from comboing off. Game one he goes Nacatl, Punishing Fire, Grove of the Bunwillows, and I never had a chance. Games 2 and 3 weren’t close, as I got an early Blood Moon and that easily bought me enough time to combo off and kill him.

Round 5 – Mystery Opponent (UW of some kind)

Sorry for forgetting my opponent’s name. This match was solely decided by a mistake made by me. I had the choice of casting Weird Harvest and killing him next turn or casting Summoner’s Pact and trying to kill him on turn 3. I chose to Weird Harvest for 2 Heritage Druid and 2 Nettle Sentinel. He got 3 Meddling Mages and a Vendillion Clique. He untapped and played 2 of the Mages, naming Heritage Druid and Glimpse of Nature. GG.

I sideboarded in the Blood Moons and Jittes.

Game 2 I get a quick Jitte active but he rips one of his own. The game ends up stalling out after I play [card]Blood Moon[/card] and he plays Chalice for 1. I eventually start beating with an Elvish Visionary and it takes about 10 turns for me to kill him.

Going into game 3 we don’t have much time left and my opponent is still playing pretty slow. I get a Jitte active early and its looking good for me until he rips one of his own. We draw the game.

3-1-1

So I need to win out and hope breakers are good enough. I like my chances.

Round 6 – Mystery Opponent Number Two (with another UW deck!)

Sorry, I forgot my opponent’s name again. He led off with a suspended Visions and then 3 Meddling Mages, locking me out of the game. Game 2 was close until I drew a Curio to gain infinite life. Game 3 I went off on turn 3 and he scooped, even though I sided out both my Manamorphoses and couldn’t kill him that turn.

4-1-1

Round 7 – Jason Ford

He mulled to 4 game one, so I slow played until my hand was perfect to go off with. He was playing something with Life From the Loam, Lightning Helix, and Path to Exile. I sideboarded in the Blood Moons and landed one on turn 2. As usual, this bought me enough time to easily combo off. Jason was a great guy and took his bad luck with class, something not a lot of people are able to do.

5-1-1

Round 8 – You know the drill

Sorry to my opponent: I didn’t write down your name. He was playing dredge, and he killed my first guy with Darkblast. Who plays Darkblast main?? Honestly.

I sideboarded in the 6 Blood Moons.

Game two he Darkblasted my first guy again. I decided not to play and more guys and try to build up to combo off in one turn. He had some bad dredges and I managed to gain infinite life one turn and he scooped.

Game 3 I had a turn 2 Blood Moon in my opener unless he had Darkblast again. He didn’t, and never cast another spell.

6-1-1

Round 9 – Sharbel Chalhoub

Sharbel is a good friend of mine and it was a shame we had to get paired together. He was a lock for Top 8 with a win or draw but I needed a win to get in. He understood how much the PT means to me and scooped me into the Top 8. Thanks again Sharbel!

Jake was X-1 going into the last round and drew into the Top 8. It really felt great to have both copies of my deck in the Top 8 of a 260-person PTQ. Jake and I looked over the Top 8 decks and decided on our sideboard strategy. I was playing against Zoo and he was playing against Dredge.

Quarterfinals – Stephen Ruck

I was on the draw and I shipped back my first 7. I kept a decent 6, but drew all lands and his Zoo deck made short work of me.

Game two I didn’t have Curio or Glimpse, so I had to Weird Harvest for 4, then next turn cast a bunch of guys, then Witness back the Weird Harvest, and then cast some more guys. I didn’t draw anything relevant off my Elvish Visionaries, so I only could Grapeshot for about 13. That was good enough to put him to 3, and he didn’t draw anything relevant on his next turn, so we were on to game 3.

In game 3 I mulliganed into a 6 card hand with a turn 2 Blood Moon, but he started on Forest, Plains, Mountain. He killed the first few guys I played while bashing me with a Goyf.

6-2-1

So I was out, but Jake could get revenge for me in the semis. Game one Jake went off on turn 3. Game two went a little longer, and Jake had everything he needed to win, but Stephen had a Path to Exile and Lightning Bolt to slow Jake down. The result was Jake attacking over two turns for the win instead of winning that turn.

So, it was Jake against hometown hero Robert Beverly in the finals. Beverly was playing a 5-Color Zoo deck.

Game one Beverly came out quick with 1-drop, 2-drop, and then a lot of removal. On the deciding turn, Jake had all the cards he needed to gain infinite life but Rob clearly had removal with 4 lands up. Jake started to try and loop a Heritage Druid and two other one-drops with Cloudstone Curio to make Rob believe he wanted infinite spells for a Grapeshot. When Jake asked if he could infinitely loop the creatures, Rob went into the tank. The result was a Path to Exile on Jake’s Heritage Druid. This was just what Jake wanted, and he used his second Summoner’s Pact of the turn to get another Heritage Druid and then used the Essence Warden in his hand to gain about a trillion life.

Game two, Jake kept a hand that had Forest, Llanowar Elf, and Blood Moon, hoping to get there with a fetch land in the first two turns. He didn’t and Rob’s deck made short work of Jake.

Game three was very unexciting as Rob tanked on turn 2 about playing a creature or leaving up removal. He finally decided to play a creature and Jake went off the next turn.

I think I am even happier having Jake win the PTQ, as it will be great to have him on the Pro Tour again. Sorry if the game reports seem a little boring, but the deck really just goes off that fast. If your opponent doesn’t have a lot of disruption it is very hard for them to win. I think Jake said it best when he said it felt like he was playing a Legacy deck in Extended.

So with the PTQ a success we got in the car for a long drive back home and talked about what we would change about the deck. Here is the updated list.

I know it looks pretty similar, but the main deck is very tight. We added the second Essence Warden because it is very easy to gain infinite life with the deck but sometimes they can deal with your first Essence Warden. The sideboard will most likely change over the coming weeks as the metagame changes. If you expect a lot of Firespout and Pyroclasm effects you can add one Temple Garden and some Burrenton Forge-Tenders. If you expect the deck will rise in popularity, add some more Jittes and some Ethersworn Canonists for the mirror.

Now I will tell you some things I learned from playing the deck for the past week. There are a few interactions in the deck which create infinite loops that you should memorize if you plan on succeeding with the deck. They all involve having Cloudstone Curio in play. First, 2 one-drops and a Heritage Druid is infinite spells. You always want to play the Heritage Druid third so you can at least get three mana. Then, with the Curio on the stack tap all three for mana and bounce one of the other two. Replay it and bounce the other one drop. Replay that, bounce the Heritage Druid and replay it. You have an infinite loop you can repeat as many times as you want. This works in the deck multiple ways. You can gain infinite life with Essence Warden, or Grapeshot your opponent, or draw your whole deck with a Glimpse of Nature. The next one is Nettle Sentinel, Heritage Druid and Elvish Visionary. Again, play the Druid last and with Curio on the stack tap all three for mana then bounce the Visionary. Replay the Visionary, untapping the Nettle Sentinel, drawing a card, and returning Heritage Druid. Replay the Druid and you have an infinite loop that can draw you as many cards as you want.

Now I will give you a quick sideboarding guide for the matchups you can expect to face.

Zoo/Bant Beatdown

+ 4 Blood Moon
+ 2 Magus of the Moon
+ 2 Jitte

– 1 Manamorphose
– 1 Weird Harvest
– 4 Summoner’s Pact
– 1 Eternal Witness
– 1 Boreal Druid

I’m not sure how good the Blood Moon plan will be in the next couple weeks against Zoo. Now that they know about it they should have some basics to fetch (if they don’t already).

Tezzerator/ Thopter Combo

+ 2 Viridian Shaman
+ 3 Ancient Grudge
+1 Fracturing Gust
+ 4 Blood Moon

– 4 Summoner’s Pact
– 1 Weird Harvest
– 1 Eternal Witness
– 1 Manamorphose
– 2 Essence Warden
– 1 Cloudstone Curio

This is the one match I haven’t played a lot of so I’m not exactly sure about the sideboard. The plan is to hinder their mana with the Blood Moon and the use the artifact removal to destroy their combo pieces and Chrome Moxes.

Dredge/ Scapeshift

+ 2 Magus of the Moon
+ 4 Blood Moon

– 1 Manamorphose
– 1 Weird Harvest
– 3 Summoner’s Pact
– 1 Eternal Witness

These two matchups are just about who is faster, but you get to bring in the Blood Moons which make it very hard for them to win.

Affinity

+ 2 Viridian Shaman
+ 3 Ancient Grudge
+1 Fracturing Gust

– 1 Manamorphose
– 3 Summoner’s Pact
– 1 Weird Harvest
– 1 Eternal Witness

The Blood Moon effects aren’t good here because they can dump their hand on the table quickly and still have [card]Springleaf Drum[/card] for colored mana. You are just trying to manage their board until you can go off.

The deck is not easy to play and I wouldn’t recommend just picking it up for a PTQ, especially not an online PTQ unless you can click very fast and make quick decisions. Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave me any comments about the deck or any questions you have.

Chris “The Doctor” Lachmann

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