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Getting Nassty – Elves in San Jose: Part 1

Going into the SCG San Jose Open weekend, I was extremely excited. I had a deck for both formats that I was relatively confident was the best deck. Coincidentally both of those decks were Elves. Of course, many of you probably don’t believe the “coincidentally” part of the last sentence, but I really wasn’t forcing myself to play Elves. In fact, I was almost committed to playing Ad Nauseam for legacy before Wrapter showed me Intuition Elves.

I do tend to test Elves in most formats, but I don’t default to playing it. For example in Extended, I don’t think Elves is close to the best deck, so I almost certainly won’t be playing it at GP Atlanta.

As you know if you’ve been reading my past articles, the Standard Elves deck is something I’ve been working on for the past month or so. I even won a free flight to GP Atlanta with it. After that tournament, my friend Greg Hatch took the deck to a local 2k and top 8ed. Since then, he’s been as hooked on the deck as I am. Together, we decided we were going to combine our experiences with the deck in both tournaments and Magic Online to tighten up the deck. Here is a quick sample of the way Hatch and I were thinking about the deck:

Hatching Plans

Greg Hatch: i wish i could play 2.6 monument
Greg Hatch: 3 just seems like a lot
Matthew Nass: do you think 2 or 3 is closer to right?
Greg Hatch: i think as long as we agree that nissa belongs in the maindeck then we only have 4 sots dedicated to overrun effects
Greg Hatch: like what if we ran 2 garruk 2 monument
Matthew Nass: drawing one of each seems better than two of either
Greg Hatch: would that be good to diversify or loose to spread

If you want to see the full brewing conversation, click here.

After a ton of brewing and back and forth, here is the list we settled on:

 

You may notice that a lot of the card choices we settled on were things I had previously dismissed. It is important to trust others and be willing to retry and rethink things, especially in different contexts. I wasn’t a huge Leyline or Monument fan, but Hatch convinced me to retry them and they both (especially Monument) ended up performing reasonably well.

Overall, the maindeck felt very tight. The 2/2 Garruk/Monument split was perfect, and having a Copperhorn Scout to tutor for without having to draw it often was convenient. With the lower Scout count, Ezuri happily dropped to three. Having only two Nissa’s Chosens in the deck was never a problem.

The sideboard felt underpowered, but I feel like that is more a function of being a mono-green deck that is synergy based than the board card choices. The fact that Autumn’s Veil doesn’t counter Jace’s bounce ability (which I didn’t know going into the tournament) makes me reluctant to play it, but it is still an option.

When Saturday rolled around, it was time to get things started. Due to my club level from last year, I got free entry and free sleeves for the tournament. Hatch and I found all the cards for the deck, sleeved it up and we were ready to go. I had given the Elves list to a couple of friends, and they seemed to also be on board with the deck. Wrapter was ready, and one more local player, Orie Guo, played Hatch and my 75.

As usual, I don’t remember the details from a lot of my rounds, but I’ll try to give you the highlights.

In the early rounds, I faced a GW Quest, a UW control, and a UB control. The Quest deck beat me in game one with a Sword of Body and Mind, but I was able to use Nature’s Claim and Acidic Slime to take him down in games two and three.

The UB deck never drew Consume the Meek, and simply lost to a stream of card advantage from planeswalkers, Vengevines and Monuments. [card]Tectonic Edge[/card] protected my planeswalkers from Creeping Tar Pits.

The UW match went very similarly to the UB match, as most of my successful matches against control decks do.

Round four had me in a feature match (not under camera) against UG Genesis Wave. In game one, we both mulliganed and had bad draws. He had an early Frost Titan which was at parity with my board. I eventually played a Joraga Warcaller with five kickers (thanks, Archdruid!) and the swing put him down to 2. Unfortunately, he ripped Genesis Wave on the very next turn. He hit a second Frost Titan and a Jace which bounced the Warcaller. I replayed the Warcaller with one kicker, as I didn’t need more than that for all of my creatures to be lethal. On the next turn, he played yet another blocker which gave him just enough to keep all of my creatures in check. He attacked with his Titans and eventually put me in a position where I had to chump. If I had replayed my Warcaller with more kickers, I could’ve potentially traded one of my creatures for Frost Titan. Unfortunately, that mistake cost me the game, as he eventually Overran with Garruk, preventing me from even chumping.

In game two, the exact opposite happened: instead of each having bad draws, we both came flying out of the gates. He had a turn three Frost Titan while I exploded with an army of Elves. As it turns out, army of Elves beats Frost Titan as I took down game two with an Ezuri Overrun.

In game three, he once again came out of the gates, this time with a turn three Primeval Titan. I was able to put up a fight against the Titan, but two turns later he played Genesis Wave for eight. It hit a Jace and two more Titans, which sealed up the win.

In the next few rounds, I battled against a BR mid range deck, a Valakut deck, a RUG deck and UW control. I don’t remember everything from these rounds, but the BR deck had a lot of trouble with Leyline of Vitality, and in game three I won without Leyline through 3 Arc Trails and 3 Staggershocks just by grinding him out.

The Valakut deck also got shut down by Leyline, as he could not Pyroclasm away my board when I had an Archdruid and a Leyline in play.

The RUG matchup was very tight, but there was one particularly sweet game. In game three, my opponent went turn two Lotus Cobra turn three Oracle of Mul Daya Lightning Bolt, Mana Leak. Once he was out of gas he ripped Frost Titan, Inferno Titan, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor consecutively. He lost that game. The Bolt took out an Archdruid and the Leak countered an Ezuri, but I simply kept playing threats. I eventually got multiple planeswalkers going and was able to take down the game and the match.

The UW match was an interesting one. I kept a one land Arbor Elf hand, and got punished by a Spreading Seas. The UW deck applied very little pressure, and I eventually came back to win the game. In game two, I used Autumn’s Veil to Force through a Monument. From there, it was relatively easy to pull out the win.

With those wins, I was able to draw into top 8. In top 8, I played against my friend Steve Edelson. Steve top 16ed GP Portland and I am excited to see what he can do at Paris. Anyway, against Steve I simply played carefully around Spell Pierce and forced through Monument.

Just like that, I was in top 4. This year Starcitygames decided to have the top 4 of the Standard play on the Sunday before the Legacy starts. I wasn’t exactly excited about waking up at four A.M., but I was ready to do what was necessary to take down the title and get some money and club level points.

The next day I faced Adam Prosak with RUG in top four. He utterly demolished me. He played Garruk, double [card lightning bolt]Bolt[/card] to swing the tempo in game one, and played Pyroclasm, Bolt against my land-light hand game two. The matchup isn’t bad or good really, but this match certainly showed how you can lose it.

If you look at some of the stories above, a lot of them involve some pretty ludicrous things. Beating a turn three Frost Titan without removal! Beating turn two Cobra turn three Oracle, Bolt, Leak! The deck is that powerful. If you look at the results of people playing my 75, it seems to suggest the same thing. Me, Wrapter, and Greg Hatch (who all played the same 75 and were familiar with the deck) posted a combined 21-6-1 record. Orie (who is by no means a bad player) unfortunately went 2-3 which I think was due to unfamiliarity. The deck is very hard and unnatural for most people to play, and even Wrapter said he had no idea what he was doing half the time when playing. It walks the thin line of being both a beatdown deck and a combo deck which makes it very tough to decide lines of play. If you want to play this deck (which you should since it’s the best deck) you should test like crazy with it before playing it in whatever tournament you have in mind.

The list had been tuned a fair amount going in, but there are a few changes I would make. The Leatherbacks really underperformed, so even though it’s a little awkward, I think I would play one Sylvan Ranger and the fourth Vengevine instead. The sideboard was relatively tight, but if anyone can think of a better anti-control card than Autumn’s Veil, I’m all ears.

My next article will have a discussion of the legacy Intuition Elves deck Wrapter designed. I’m sorry I keep talking about Elves, but as I said I think both the Standard deck and the Legacy deck are criminally underplayed and I really want to shed some light on how they work and why they are so powerful.

On another note, I would love your opinion on a couple things in the comments. First of all, I’m going to start doing videos. Is there anything in specific you’d like to see? I’m happy to do any format and any deck, so your suggestions are welcome. Secondly, I was wondering what you guys thought of inserting my chat about the deck with Hatch in the article. One of the things I love about Magic is brewing, and I feel like these chats can give you guys some idea of how the brewing process works. Did you like it? Was the link to the longer chat interesting or did you just want the snippet? Would you like to see more of my Magic-related chats in the future? Thanks for the feedback, and good luck with Elves!

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