New Tech for Legacy MTG Elves! Artisan Elves Deck Guide

Elves has been a mainstay of Legacy for a long time now and has largely maintained the same core for almost a decade now. However, over the past few months, Elves players have been diligently testing the archetype and tuning a version that steps away from almost all of the traditional elements of the archetype. This deck, which I call Fiend Artisan Elves, has been putting up some great results recently and is well-positioned in this metagame. Recently, Magic Online player Testacular (Curran Delahanty) put up a solid Top 16 finish in the Legacy Challenge and this seemed like as good of a time as any to cover the archetype.

This deck looks quite different from the Elves decks most people are used to so let’s jump right in and take a look at why you might build you deck in this way.


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Legacy Fiend Artisan Elves by Curran Delahanty


Game Plan

Unlike traditional Elves decks, this is primarily a midrange toolbox deck that shares more similarities to a deck like Maverick. While this deck does have a small combo element in Natural Order, you will mostly spend time playing to the board with reasonably sized creatures and threaten your opponents with the ability to search up just about any threat at any time. This will leave opponents struggling to keep up as you begin to overwhelm them. Part of the reason this works is because of the power of Gaea’s Cradle, which this deck finds more often than other Elves decks due to Elvish Reclaimer. The boost of mana provided by Cradle will bury your opponents in short order and provide you with enough of an advantage that you can easily take over the game and threaten to kill your opponent. 

Card Choices

Let’s start with the most unique (and arguably most defining) card of this version. Fiend Artisan is an awesome card in this deck. It doesn’t take much work to be a massive threat by itself, which provides this deck with a two-mana threat that can easily outscale your opponent’s pressure. The fact that it dodges Lightning Bolt a decent amount of the time makes it really annoying to interact with. On top of that, it threatens to start finding more copies of itself or any of the key threats from the toolbox, which will quickly make your opponent’s life difficult. While this particular build of the deck has a fairly modest toolbox, you can go pretty deep with it, which makes this deck problematic to play against. 

Like Fiend Artisan, Elvish Reclaimer is another marquis card of this version. Reclaimer not only significantly increases the consistency of finding Gaea’s Cradle, the most powerful card in the deck, but having access to a small toolbox will really help answer some of the issues you might face. On top of that, Reclaimer becoming a 3/4 makes it a fairly impactful threat and this can leave opponents falling behind early and give you the opportunity to capitalize on your early pressure.

Green Sun’s Zenith is always at the core of Elves decks. The flexibility and consistency it provides a deck like this is second-to-none. Being able to access the core pieces of this deck, such as Fiend Artisan, as well as the various bullets makes Green Sun a core aspect of the deck. I’ve grouped Dryad Arbor here since that’s one of the most common targets for it, allowing the deck to have access to extra copies of a mana dork, which really makes it function. 

There aren’t that many decks that can take advantage of Once Upon a Time, but Elves is the perfect shell for it. Having it in your opening hand significantly increases the deck’s consistency. Since this deck is both a creature-based and land-based toolbox deck, being able to find both your key elements, such as Cradle or Artisan, your singletons, such as Endurance or Bog, or even the pieces that allow you to function early, such as Llanowar Elves or Forest, makes this a great inclusion here. This deck also tends to have enough mana in play to off-set the two-mana cost later in the game, which makes it function like a faux-Green Sun’s Zenith, which is also pretty nice.

Weirdly, these are not that common in traditional Elves decks. They don’t do as much when you’re actively comboing off with Glimpse of Nature, so they don’t quite fit as well in that context. Here, though, you’re trying to set up powerful two, three and four-mana plays, such as Fiend Artisan, Grist or Natural Order, so having six copies of this effect is pretty great here.

Allosaurus Shepherd is certainly one of the most powerful Elves printed in recent years and can really make the lives of opponents that rely on countermagic very difficult. This deck doesn’t lean into the full four copies because it actually doesn’t play that many Elves, so the pump ability is not quite as impactful as it is in Combo Elves. Still, it does have a meaningful impact on the game and it can easily help you end the game against any Force of Will player. 

Depending on how you define “combo,” Natural Order is the last combo element still remaining in the deck. Having access to the ability to kill opponents out of nowhere has been a marquis feature of the Elves archetype for more than a decade now, and Natural Order and Craterhoof is a big reason for this. However, unlike “Combo Elves,” this is not the primary plan that the deck is working towards, which is one of the reasons we only see a single copy of Craterhoof here. In fact, this deck tends to Natural Order for less common targets, such as Grist or Endurance, far more than traditional versions of Elves. Additionally, this deck is playing a single copy of Progenitus as a haymaker threat that lines up perfectly in the present metagame. I don’t think this is a necessary choice in the main deck, but against decks like Delver and Initiative, it can easily end the game in short order.

These are part of the creature toolbox of the deck. Endurance has more than earned its worth in Legacy and seeing as this deck essentially has access to way more copies of it as a result of tutors, Endurance will often come down when you need it. Ouphe is far more narrow, but there are more than enough decks that will struggle to beat it, so running a single copy makes perfect sense.

Grist is perfectly suited for this deck. It’s a resilient threat by itself, it can be found with any creature tutor and it can answer just about any creature that might show up. Being three mana means that you might be liable to flood on them if you play too many of them, so two copies is a really solid compromise. 

Snuff Out is a big part of the reason this deck can be built like this. It allows you to fully assume a midrange role and have an efficient answer for (almost) any meaningful threat. Most Elves decks don’t turn to removal spells in the main deck, but considering that this version is leaning into individual card power rather than cards that entirely work together, Snuff Out makes a lot more sense here.

I don’t often discuss the cards that are not included, but since this deck is significantly straying away from the core elements of traditional Elves variants, I think it’s important to comment on. While there is no denying the power of the traditional Elves engines, this deck is almost entirely eschewing those engines for more resilient, heavy-hitting ones. Drawing extra cards with Visionary is nice, but it doesn’t impact the board quite as heavily as a card like Fiend Artisan might. Additionally, against decks that are trying to remove all of your creatures, leaning into cards like Heritage Druid, which require a fairly developed board, can be a tall order. Artisan Elves is trying to maximize the impact of each creature as a standalone threat and build its engines around that, which makes it a more resilient approach to the archetype. On top of that, Artisan Elves is far more resilient to effects like Plague Engineer, which are traditionally devastating against Elves decks, which further increases the resilience. 

This deck is often endearingly called “Cradle Control,” since Gaea’s Cradle makes this deck really hard to manage. It provides an incredible amount of mana, which allows you to easily blank cards like Daze and enables all of your key tutors. Additionally, it allows your most explosive starts and can even enable you to cast Craterhoof Behemoth from your hand with relative ease. There’s a huge difference between games with and without Cradle, which is part of the reason this deck leans into Elvish Reclaimer

The Mana Base

A fairly traditional mana base, this deck needs to run more Bayous than other Elves decks because of Snuff Out. Remember that your fetch lands can always get Dryad Arbor, which is a key synergy of this archetype.

These are part of the land toolbox, which is fairly modest. Bojuka Bog can slow down Delver decks and fully keep all-in graveyard decks in check. Lair is a nice way to get some extra power out of your lands and take advantage of the huge amounts of mana you produce with Gaea’s Cradle. 


I reached out to Curran about this because I was having trouble seeing the reason for it. Essentially, Gaea’s Blessing is an anti-Painter card that has some additional utility against random graveyard decks. In fact, he started turning to it as a way to disrupt delirium out of Delver. This makes sense to me and while it is not the best anti-graveyard card, it is an excellent card against Painter, so this is a great way to get some extra mileage out of a single sideboard card. 

Vendetta is a somewhat costly removal spell to cast but it has almost no limitations, which makes it an inefficient option out of the board.

Combo decks can be really difficult for this deck and having a variety of ways to disrupt them is important, since not all of them rely on the same angles of attack. Thoughtseize is generally the best among them, since it effectively disrupts any deck you might play against. However, despite costing one-mana, it might actually be a bit too slow at times, so you can’t completely rely on it. Mindbreak Trap is way faster and more effective against turn one combo decks, but it doesn’t always disrupt combo decks that can play around it. Chalice rounds this out since resolving it on one or zero early can completely lock out opponents but there are plenty of situations where Chalice isn’t good enough.

These are some of the best cards you can ask for against graveyard decks. While Endurance isn’t quite as devastating as Leyline, it fits the deck’s game plan more effectively and has more applications (Doomsday/Delver). A single Leyline might seem random, but thinking of it as a fifth Endurance that you can mulligan into against decks like Reanimator makes sense to me.

This is a sideboard toolbox package that you can find with Fiend Artisan which can help in a variety of situations: Opposition Agent is a haymaker against Doomsday and decks like Storm, Plague Engineer is devastating against other small creature decks and Haywire Mite is a cheap way to answer problematic artifacts and enchantments, such as Urza’s Saga and Ensnaring Bridge. 

Tips and Tricks

  • I mentioned it earlier, but I think it’s worth reiterating that Natural Order does not always have to get one of its marquis targets. Finding cards like Grist or Endurance can help keep Murktide Regents/Dragon’s Rage Channelers in check in situations where you can’t kill your opponent and would otherwise lose the race. 
  • Chip damage matters a lot in a deck like this so always be on the lookout for a spot to get a quick hit in.
  • Endurance can target yourself to put Craterhoof Behemoth back in if it was Thoughtseized or otherwise interacted with.

Sideboard and Matchup Guide

Izzet Delver

Izzet Delver

Out: 1 Collector Ouphe, 3 Natural Order, 1 Craterhoof Behemoth, 1 Progenitus

In: 3 Endurance, 1 Gaea’s Blessing, 2 Vendetta

Cutting Natural Order is a commitment to taking a more midrange approach, which this deck is more than set up to do. Your threats can easily outsize their removal and you can easily play through their countermagic. At the same time, they need to respect your ability to combo them, which will influence their decisions. For the most part, time your removal and Endurances appropriately and you should be able to navigate through this matchup in a fairly straightforward manner.


Mono-White Initiative

Mono-White Initiative

Out: 1 Bojuka Bog, 1 Endurance

In: 2 Vendetta

This is a light sideboard approach because this matchup is actually pretty reasonable. Initiative is still one of the most powerful decks in Legacy, so you can only be so well-positioned against it. However, the combination of cheap threats and efficient removal goes a long way in this matchup. On top of that, they don’t have the tools to manage a Progenitus which will end the game in short order. 


Four-Color Control

Four-Color Control

Out: 1 Collector Ouphe, 

In: 2 Thoughtseize

Elves has traditionally been tricky for control decks to play against and while this version’s engines don’t threaten control in the same ways it used to, there are more than enough tools in this deck to make their life difficult. Progenitus is pretty effective against this version of control and will sidestep a lot of the removal they have against you, so overall I think this is a pretty reasonable matchup.




Out: 1 Progenitus, 1 Bojuka Bog, 1 Lair of the Hydra, 2 Grist, the Hunger Tide, 4 Snuff Out

In: 2 Thoughtseize, 2 Mindbreak Trap, 1 Chalice of the Void, 3 Endurance, 1 Opposition Agent

While you do have a ton of effective tools in this matchup, you will likely need them quickly. More than anything, you need to have the ability to disrupt them early, so value that highly when mulliganing. Other than that, make sure you can apply consistent pressure and force them to go off before they’re fully ready (and cross your fingers that you dodge their best draws).


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