I think one of the things that has fueled my success as a deck designer since day one is my detachment from tournaments. I am very much a casual player by nature, and a competitive player by happenstance. I love to brew, and the rest flows from there.
I have “skipped” many important tournaments in my career. I have “skipped” many PTQs without qualification. I have “skipped” Grand Prix within 3 hours drive. I even “skipped” the 2011 Magic: the Gathering World Championships, and consequently fell off the Pro Tour.
See, I never really saw it as “skipping” tournaments because I don’t have to go. It’s not mandated that I play in Magic tournaments. When I find myself with a Magic tournament coming up, and no deck, I am under immense pressure. Either I build a brew in time or I play someone else’s deck. Sometimes I don’t brew a winner in time. This can burn me.
Really I just love brewing. I used to sit in the back of class and build decks in my head. My binders were filled with 4x deck lists. Even now, when I workout, drive, whatever, gears are turning. When an idea is promising, I have to bring it to life. And when it comes to life, and it LIVES, and it WINS, THAT is when I go to a tournament. And THAT is when I have a great chance of winning. When I go to a tournament with a purpose.
So if I “skip” tournaments, that’s fine. I’m just out here brewing. When I build something that I just have to prove, I’ll take it to a tournament. It might mean missing out on chances to play on the highest level Magic circuit, but I will never burn out doing this. This is what I enjoy.
Intruder Alarm Elves
Some of us find ourselves returning to the same archetype over and over. It might be 5 colors in draft. It might be red aggro in Standard. It might mean Elf Combo in Eternal formats.
This is for the Elf Combo players.
I know many of you want to play Elf Combo in Modern. I know many of you are disappointed that the deck hasn’t established itself at all. I know many of you will play the deck anyway, win or lose. So let’s try to win.
I’ve been working.
What I’ve found is a deck that produces a staggering amount of turn 3 kills.
We’ve also found a deck that gets smashed by [card]Pyroclasm[/card] a lot.
These are the pros and cons. The deck is crazy fast, and produces memorable win-out-of-nowhere games. The deck also produces lots of games where you stumble for a turn and get swept back to 1 land. Personally, I’m all right with that, at least for a while. I want to play Elf Combo, so I’m going to play Elf Combo!
Modern Intruder Alarm Elves
This is the deck I’ve been playing. There is certainly room for improvement (especially the sideboard), but every card is in here for a reason. I will explain why.
Intruder Alarm Elves
4 Forbidden Orchard
1 Temple Garden
1 Overgrown Tomb
2 Breeding Pool
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Dryad Arbor
1 Gavony Township
3 Arbor Elf
4 Heritage Druid
4 Joraga Treespeaker
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Nettle Sentinel
4 Beck // Call
3 Elvish Visionary
3 Intruder Alarm
4 Elvish Archdruid
1 Ant Queen
1 Regal Force
1 Craterhoof Behemoth
3 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Relic of Progenitus
1 Intruder Alarm
1 Viridian Shaman
3 Creeping Corrosion[/deck]
Intruder Alarm vs. Cloudstone Curio
Curio is powerful yes, but I think [card]Intruder Alarm[/card] is much better in this deck. [card]Intruder Alarm[/card] can set us off with only 1 [card]Llanowar Elves[/card] in play and 1 spare mana available. Curio can’t even come close to that.
Curio can generate infinite mana with [card]Heritage Druid[/card] and [card]Nettle Sentinel[/card], it can gain infinite life with [card]Essence Warden[/card], and it can draw the deck with [card]Elvish Visionary[/card]. But it requires a lot of resources to get this going. It doesn’t do all that much in a low resource game where all we have is 1 fetchland grabbing a [card]Dryad Arbor[/card] and a couple of cards in hand. [card]Intruder Alarm[/card] can set us off from here.
I mean, imagine a mulligan like this.
This appears to be a mediocre mulligan. Not spectacular. And it is vulnerable to a spot removal spell. But it is also infinte power on turn 3. Do you see it?
[card]Breeding Pool[/card], [card]Joraga Treespeaker[/card]
[card]Forbidden Orchard[/card], level [card]Joraga Treespeaker[/card].
Tap [card]Joraga Treespeaker[/card], tap [card]Breeding Pool[/card], play [card]Intruder Alarm[/card].
Tap [card]Forbidden Orchard[/card], untap [card]Joraga Treespeaker[/card], tap [card]Joraga Treespeaker[/card], fetch for [card]Dryad Arbor[/card], untap [card]Joraga Treespeaker[/card], [card]Summoner’s Pact[/card] for [card]Ant Queen[/card].
Play [card]Ant Queen[/card]. Untap [card]Joraga Treespeaker[/card]. Make an Ant. Untap [card]Joraga Treespeaker[/card]. Make an Ant. Untap [card]Joraga Treespeaker[/card]. Make an Ant. FOREVER.
THIS IS POWER.
This is a mulligan to 6 with no additional draws. Yes, we can lose to [card]Summoner’s Pact[/card], but presumably we will have more than 6 total cards by our turn 3. If we do, maybe we have an extra Elf, and maybe we can get [card]Craterhoof Behemoth[/card] for a clean turn 3 kill. BOOM!
[card]Cloudstone Curio[/card] is good, but it requires more to get going than [card]Intruder Alarm[/card]. [card]Intruder Alarm[/card] goes nuts with [card]Forbidden Orchard[/card] and all of our fetchlands. It’s just too crazy. It’s a must play.
Beck // Call
This card is really absurd. First of all, it triggers off of every creature. This means [card]Vendilion Clique[/card]s and it means [card]Pestermite[/card]s. It also means [card]Forbidden Orchard[/card]s and fetches for [card]Dryad Arbor[/card]. It also means 1/1 Spirits.
Yes, 1/1 Spirits.
See, the traditional disadvantage of [card]Glimpse of Nature[/card] is that if you draw it on an empty board, it does nothing. This is not the case at all here.
A top decked [card]Beck // Call[/card] does THIS:
Eight mana is a lot, but it’s not too much for an Elf combo deck. Our mana base is designed for this, and it comes up often. Fusing is absurd. Really absurd.
If we draw it early, it might mean a clean combo kill with Heritage/Nettle, or it might mean a clean combo kill with [card]Intruder Alarm[/card]. It might just be a handful of cards. But the potential for power is absurd.
This is really the power of the deck. [card]Forbidden Orchard[/card] has a huge disadvantage of often cutting off our angle of beatdown. It can also put immense pressure on us. But most of the time we are combo’ing, and when we are combo’ing, having these lands works wonders.
Let’s say [card]Intruder Alarm[/card] is out. [card]Forbidden Orchard[/card] untaps all of our creatures. This is [card]Gaea’s Cradle[/card]-esque. Any fetchland untaps all of our creatures. This is double [card]Gaea’s Cradle[/card]-esque.
They also draw extra cards with Beck. Drawing extra cards is good.
Arbor Elf vs. Elvish Mystic
This is a good argument. [card]Arbor Elf[/card] does NOT work with [card]Forbidden Orchard[/card]. [card]Elvish Mystic[/card] does NOT give us blue. Blue can be important for fusing [card]Beck // Call[/card], casting Beck and [card]Intruder Alarm[/card] in the same turn, or casting a blue spell mid-combo.
I prefer [card]Arbor Elf[/card]. If we draw all [card]Forbidden Orchard[/card]s, that’s horrible, but that doesn’t come up too much. I think it’s worth it.
I see a lot of Elf players skimp on this card. I think it’s amazing. Sure, it’s especially weak to [card]Lightning Bolt[/card], but it’s especially robust against [card]Pyroclasm[/card]. It produces a LOT of mana by itself and is the best kind of card when we are light on resources.
It is our best card with [card]Intruder Alarm[/card]. We don’t have to worry about getting swept too much, because they need to sweep our one guy.
It also levels up to 5, which usually isn’t very relevant, but it does happen a surprising amount.
Nettle Sentinel/Heritage Druid
These guys are a given. They are the original mana engine combo. Tap, untap, tap, untap, tap, untap, we done here??
It’s worth saying that I think 4 [card]Nettle Sentinel[/card]s might be too many. I’m still playing 4, but we’re not beating down that hard and if we have an [card]Intruder Alarm[/card] we don’t really need [card]Nettle Sentinel[/card] at all. I like 4, but I’m open to the idea of going down to 3.
Ant Queen vs. Imperious Perfect
[card]Imperious Perfect[/card] is great. It’s an Elf. It pumps our Elves. And it works with [card]Intruder Alarm[/card]. It is also expensive, doesn’t produce mana, and needs to live a full turn to use [card]Intruder Alarm[/card].
[card]Ant Queen[/card], on the other hand, is big, robust, and hasty. You can throw her down and produce an army out of nowhere. The opponent doesn’t get to see it coming. They don’t get to blow her up with a [card]Lightning Bolt[/card].
She is bountiful. And yes, this is a center for ants.
Building the Sideboard
I am satisfied with the main deck. It might not be perfect, but I bet it’s within a couple cards of optimal for this strategy. The sideboard, and HOW to sideboard, on the other hand… well, this is tough.
First of all, what are we sideboarding out?
I’ve found [card]Summoner’s Pact[/card] can be cut sometimes. Four is a lot, especially if they are blowing up all your creatures. You can’t really cast it if you aren’t going off in some capacity. But, if we do cut it, it makes it much harder to combo. So do we cut it or leave it in?
[card]Elvish Visionary[/card] is a card that I’ve been sideboarding out sometimes. I know a lot of people love this card but I just don’t think it’s that strong. It provides nice value but it doesn’t have the raw power that our other combo cards do. It’s probably expendable.
All right, so what do we want to sideboard against?
[card]Pyroclasm[/card] is common in Modern, and it is vicious. It can completely wipe us out, and it is often impossible to play around. What’s a guy/gal to do?
Well, for starters, imagine a start of [card]Llanowar Elves[/card] into [card]Intruder Alarm[/card]. Say our opponent has [card]Pyroclasm[/card]. What do they do? If they don’t play it, we actually have a legitimate shot at combo’ing off and killing them. THIS is our main way to play around [card]Pyroclasm[/card], so the best thing we could do is have 4 [card]Intruder Alarm[/card]s.
1 [card]Intruder Alarm[/card].
I’ve also been trying out [card]Fecundity[/card]. It’s reactive, but it’s also solid against other kinds of spot removal and grind-y decks. It doesn’t always work well with [card]Forbidden Orchard[/card], but it’s something. I’m not sure it’s necessary, but I do like it.
It seems that we can’t sideboard much out without diluting our combo. So why not sideboard ONLY the most impactful cards?
4 [card]Relic of Progenitus[/card]
[card]Relic of Progenitus[/card] is a powerful tool against any graveyard-based strategy. It’s the best we have in green.
3 [card]Creeping Corrosion[/card]
1 [card]Viridian Shaman[/card]
[card]Creeping Corrosion[/card] is really impactful against artifact-based decks. It can win the game singlehandedly.
3 [card]Inquisition of Kozilek[/card]
Maybe this could be [card]Thoughtseize[/card]. It requires us to play an [card]Overgrown Tomb[/card], but it feels like the best tool we have against other combo decks. There are a lot of cards that really hurt the other decks, but those cards can hurt us too. Think [card]Ethersworn Canonist[/card], [card]Trinisphere[/card], and [card]Chalice of the Void[/card].
[deck]3 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Relic of Progenitus
1 Intruder Alarm
1 Viridian Shaman
3 Creeping Corrosion[/deck]
Sideboarding Intruder Alarm Elves
Less is more. If it’s not obvious what should come in, it probably shouldn’t come in at all.
We play a critical mass deck. We need every piece to be working, or the deck doesn’t work. If we take out too much, the deck flounders.
For this reason, I try to never sideboard more than around 4 cards. The opponent may have an opportunity to drastically adjust their strategy against ours, so this will mean post-board games tend to be harder than game ones. This is the way of the world for the Elf Combo player.
Playing Intruder Alarm Elves
The deck is truly a treat. It’s complex, it’s fast, and it’s powerful. It’s a bit of a glass cannon, but we can’t have it all. For those of y’all out there who find yourselves coming back to the little green men over and over, I hope this approach opens your eyes to the possibilities and means more winning.
Questions!! Comments!! Think there’s something I forgot?!