After twenty-five years, you start to think that certain things just aren’t coming. Merfolk has Lord of Atlantis, Humans got both Mayor of Avabruck and Thalia’s Lieutenant, and you can see things like Wizened Cenn and Sporecrown Thallid in some of Magic’s lesser tribes. But I’d given up hope that Elves would ever get a 2-mana “lord” in the traditional sense of the term. Well, with Core Set 2019, it’s finally here, and it doesn’t disappoint.
Elvish Clancaller is a pushed, undercosted lord for the very best tribe in MTG. Yes, Elves is the best tribe, bar none. Goblins and Merfolk did some cool stuff in their time. If Humans or Eldrazi hang onto the title of best deck in Modern, then they can check back in 20 years to see if they’ve caught up to the historical dominance of Elves. Elves sees at least some play in every single format, and Elvish Clancaller is likely to as well.
What it Does
On a basic level, Clancaller is great because it’s cheap, and because it’s an Elf. But the activated ability, which searches for additional copies of itself, is also fantastic.
Anyone who remembers Rebels will remember how powerful an ability like this can be in a stalled game, no matter how expensive the activation cost may be. That being said, the activation cost of Elvish Clancaller is remarkably affordable, particularly for a tribe whose creatures tend to generate extra mana! Clancaller is a perfect foil for Settle the Wreckage, both because it generates value without attacking and because it’s a mana sink for any extra Forests your opponent might give you.
The ability also comes at instant speed, which means that you can pass the turn with the intention to search at the end of the opponent’s. Alternatively, you can make a big attack and your opponent will be forced to respect the threat of an additional lord hitting the battlefield, even if you intend to spend your mana on something completely different post-combat.
Many tribal lords are expensive, or legendary, or both, which creates an incentive not to play the full four. On the contrary, Elvish Clancallers are stronger in multiples, which is a huge deck-building plus! The ability to jam four payoff cards into your deck without unbalancing your mana curve is incredibly exciting. And you’d better believe it will make those Collected Companies stronger in Modern!
Elvish Clancaller in Standard
It might come as a surprise how many strong creatures from the last few years happen to be Elves. Llanowar Elves should jump to mind, but I’ll bet that at least a few readers don’t realize that Steel Leaf Champion and Rishkar, Peema Renegade are both Elves as well. Metallic Mimic and Marwyn the Nurturer are existing cards that pay you off for packing your deck with Elves. Finally, M19 brings a couple of new toys, including Thorn Lieutenant and Reclamation Sage, which I expect to be an awesome card in the current Standard environment.
Since Mono-Green Steel Leaf Stompy is already a strong deck in Standard, it only requires shifting a few cards here and there to build an Elf deck that’s almost guaranteed to be competitive.
A subtle strength of this deck is the way that Marwyn and Rishkar can generate massive amounts of extra mana to fuel Clancaller and the various other mana sinks in green. Blossoming Defense is an efficient play that protects your lords and can make you feel a little safer going into a hairy combat step.
Sigiled Sword of Valeron and Vivien Reid both seems like strong 1-of additions that give you extra flexibility when you draw them. The Sword gets out of hand quickly, particularly if you stick it on something like a Steel Leaf Champion. It’s also nice for ensuring that Rhonas, the Indomitable and Ghalta, Primal Hunger operate at their full potential. Vivien Reid’s +1 ability provides excellent card advantage and card selection in a deck with 50+ possible hits. And her -3 ability allows you to build in some answers to Glorybringer and Lyra Dawnbringer, which would otherwise be problem cards for mono-green.
If you’re an Elves aficionado, then this is a deck that you definitely can build for week 1 and win some games with. That said, Goblin Chainwhirler and Fumigate make Standard a hostile environment for the people of Llanowar. Quite honestly, I’m more excited about Elvish Clancaller in Modern, where there are even more payoffs for the Elf tribe.
Elvish Clancaller in Modern
Modern Elves has always felt to me as though it was on the brink of greatness. I’m hopeful that Elvish Clancaller might put it over the top.
I’ve desperately wanted another 2-drop creature for those games where you can’t play Llanowar Elves or Elvish Mystic on turn 1, or where you do play one and your opponent is ready with a Lightning Bolt. Waiting until turn 3 to add to the board is unacceptable, but you can’t just play 24 1-drops or else your deck will lack power. Dwynen’s Elite, while an awesome card, doesn’t really count as a 2-drop in these situations. But Elvish Clancaller does.
Similarly, I’ve always wanted one more payoff card beyond Elvish Archdruid and Ezuri, Renegade Leader. I’ve even gone so far as to play with Joraga Warcaller—a decent card that’s an awful hit off Collected Company—or with Imperious Perfect, which is simply a bit underwhelming. Clancaller slots in perfectly to improve the deck’s late game while still keeping the mana curve nice and low.
It pairs well with Collected Company for obvious reasons. But it also boosts the power of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. In a deck with devotion, the double-green mana cost is an upside, not a downside! Similarly, it provides a mana sink to use your giant chunks of mana on.
Modern is a fast and brutal format, but you also need to be prepared for things to slow down. You play a lot of games with Elves where your opponent sits behind a Tarmogoyf and neither player can profitably attack. Maybe they even Thoughtseize your Collected Company to take some of the wind out of your sails. Elvish Clancaller allowing you to win in board stalls like that (or at least serving as one more must-kill creature) is a huge plus.
Whatever home you create for it, I’m confident that Elvish Clancaller won’t disappoint. Elves players have been waiting an awfully long time for this, and you can count on Clancaller still being an important card by the time Magic’s 50th anniversary rolls around.