One of the best ways to beat Modern’s best deck in Death’s Shadow is by going wide. If you have enough creatures flooding the board, Death’s Shadow will struggle to keep up with its larger creatures and slower removal spells. As a result, one of its worst matchups is Elves.
Elves does a great job of getting on the board early. By starting with mana creatures, you’re able to both accelerate out your more expensive spells and also play multiple spells in a turn. Llanowar Elves and Elvish Mystic are functionally the exact same card, but you really want to find one in each opening hand. There are severe diminishing returns, and it’s one of the last cards you typically want to draw in the middle of the game, but on turn 1 there’s nothing better.
Heritage Druid makes sure that you can accelerate even quicker while also giving your Elves pseudo-haste. Heritage Druid doesn’t require any of the Elves to not have summoning sickness, including itself, so having three 1-mana spells will allow you to also play a 3-drop on turn 3.
Nettle Sentinel is one of your largest creatures at 2/2 and you shouldn’t have too much difficulty in a deck filled with green spells to untap it consistently. The combo with Heritage Druid is as strong as ever, and you have the possibility to cast a ton of spells in a turn with this combo.
Dwynen’s Elite is 3 power for 2 mana across a pair of creatures. This is even better than a 3/3 for 2 in this deck as you can now tap multiple creatures to Heritage Druid (meaning turn-1 Heritage and turn-2 Elite gives you immediate access to 3 more mana). The multiple bodies also allow you to go wide and are even better with all of the lords.
Elvish Archdruid provides a ton of power and resources. Pumping your entire team while giving you access to heaps of mana means you should be able to cast all of your spells and activate all of your abilities.
Having access to lots of mana means you can activate Ezuri, Renegade Leade, often multiple times in a single turn. Ezuri will protect your team with regeneration and then give you Overrun after Overrun to end the game.
Sometimes you don’t even need to attack to win. Shaman of the Pack can deal tons of damage just by entering the battlefield. It’s the only spell in the main deck that isn’t mono-green, but this provides enough power to be worth it.
Elvish Visionary doesn’t do much in this deck as there aren’t any combos or Wirewood Symbiotes to generate card advantage. Visionary does replace itself and is an Elf, so it works quite well with Heritage Druid and all of the lords, which is good enough for an inclusion.
What really makes the Elves deck work is not the Elves at all. The ability to find its most important weapons and deploy them at instant speed while accruing card advantage is where the deck truly shines. No surprise that Collected Company is the most powerful card in the deck. Finding an Archdruid and an Ezuri at instant speed sets up an attack for massive damage the following turn. Finding a pair of Shaman of the Packs will trigger both for the full amount (counting each other both times, as well) and should also end the game.
Lead the Stampede provides some additional card advantage to find the key pieces. With so many cheap green creatures, Chord of Calling can make sure you have exactly what you need when you need it. You’ll often be getting an Archdruid or Ezuri for the win, but Shaman of the Pack can simply end the game and sometimes Heritage Druid is just what the doctor ordered. You can even simply find Dwynen’s Elite when you just need a couple bodies and have everything else.
Elves is one of the best ways to attack a Death’s-Shadow-heavy metagame as no deck can go wide with as much reach as this tribal deck.