Elves is one of the most beloved tribes in the history of Magic. It’s also one of the few tribes that has seen real success across a variety of formats, as it was once a top contender in Standard and still puts up some solid finishes in both Modern and Legacy. Small creatures that can produce a ton of mana and synergize well together is a recipe for success, and that holds true when using only commons.
The first thing to note about Pauper Elves is the incredibly low land count: 13. This means that you must be playing a lot of mana creatures because you’re going to have a ton of 1-land hands.
You have a wide variety of what are effectively Llanowar Elves. With Elvish Mystic and Fyndhorn Elves both being functional reprints of the Alpha common, you have access to effectively as much of this effect as you want. In Standard, mana creatures that only cost a single mana seem to be a thing of the past, but you can play 8-12 of them in Pauper.
You also have Birchlore Rangers to help accelerate your mana and provide color fixing. Birchlore Rangers is especially nice as a way to use Elves that are just entering the battlefield to continue to produce mana. Birchlore completely ignores summoning sickness, and with a ton of 1-mana creatures in the deck, you can flood the board quickly.
Priest of Titania is your big mana card. The Priests can tap for mana equal to your total number of Elves in play, and since Priest itself is an Elf and you are likely to have several more on the battlefield at any given time, this can allow you to empty your entire hand in a single turn.
Sylvan Ranger gives you access to more mana sources while giving you an Elf on the battlefield that you can use in a variety of ways. A large percentage of your cards care about having Elves in play, so this is a pretty big bonus. Nettle Sentinels doesn’t have the same power level in this deck without Heritage Druid, but it still combines nicely with Birchlore Rangers to provide a smaller version of that effect and add a bunch of mana on any given turn.
Quirion Rangers is where your payoffs start. Untapping a mana Elf while returning a land to your hand can equal multiple extra mana in a turn, especially since you’re relatively unlikely to hit many land drops with your low land count. Untapping Priest of Titania can equal oodles of mana.
Elvish Vanguard gets onto the battlefield cheaply and start to grow out of control. While this is nothing more than an eventually massive creature, the fact that it can grow to such an absurd size is still very powerful.
Finally, you reach your big payoffs for being so entrenched in the Elves archetype as this list has access to 40 Elves in the main deck. Wellwisher can put your life total way out of reach in absurdly quick fashion. This will start tapping for 3-4 life as early as turn 3 and that number can easily reach 20+ in no time. Having the ability to untap Wellwisher with Quirion Ranger really makes things get crazy. You also have Essence Warden to make sure that your life total is never in jeopardy.
Timberwatch Elves is a threat to end the game whenever you get to untap. Having just a handful of Elves on the battlefield means that Timberwatch can tap to deal huge amounts of damage. Leaving any creature unblocked with a Timberwatch and Quirion Rangers on the battlefield likely means that the opponent is dead.
The real way to flood out the board and the biggest payoff for playing 40 Elves is in Lys Alana Huntmaster. Lys Alana will give you an extra Elf token for every Elf spell you cast. This means that your 40 Elf spells can produce a mound of Elf tokens, and you can even use these tokens with a Birchlore Rangers to keep casting more Elves and keep the chain going.
You have 40 Elves and 13 lands, leaving room for a handful of powerful spells to complete the package. These start with your card advantage package. Lead the Stampede is expensive, but it’s a great way to flood the board out after a sweeper or similar effect. With 2/3rds of your deck being creatures, you’re likely to get a nice return. Assuming the board already has a fair number of creatures, Distant Melody can draw huge numbers of cards. Follow up with a Birchlore Rangers to totally empty your hand of Elves.
Once you have all of this mana on the battlefield, especially with access to Priest of Titania, you have a couple copies of Viridian Longbow to help close out the game. This is a great way to break the mirror and shut down other go-wide decks. If you draw a bunch of cards and have access to Priests and Nettle Sentinel without summoning sickness, you can even equip your Nettle, make mana with Birchlore Rangers to keep casting Elves and untap the Nettle, and machine gun down everything, including your opponent. Once you’re drawing enough cards, you find more Quirion Rangers to untap your Priest and make sure that mana is never an issue.
Elves is likely the most powerful tribe in the history of Magic, and it certainly doesn’t need anything but commons to prove its power level!