First off, congratulations to Matt Nass, winner of the 5K event this weekend! Here’s his decklist.
Josh: So who are you, and what are the highlights of your Magic Career?
Matt Nass: I’m Matt Nass, and unfortunately most of the highlights are depressing. This year alone I have 4 PTQ, top 4’s none of which I won, a States second place and a Regionals top 8; receiving a box or less as prizes every time. I also had a 5k top 4 which actually gave a decent prize and then just won the 5k yesterday. I also cashed at GP: LA after coming in exactly 128th to make day two.
Oh and before this Nationals i had qualified for Nats back to back years, so I guess that’s something
Josh: Fair enough, how was winning the 5k this weekend? Was it a big boost for you after the number of disappointments you’ve had this year?
Matt Nass: It really was. Actually winning something is pretty cool since I have a reputation for choking when something is on the line. Of course, the awkward part is that because we split nothing really was on the line. I think when I win my first PTQ that will be a bigger boost, but this certainly didn’t hurt.
Josh: Well I mean splitting does curb the risk, but still you thoroughly dominated the finals match and it looked like you breezed through most of the top 32 playoff.
Matt Nass: Keyword being most. I was pretty sure I was dead Round One.
Josh: What in that one match particularly stuck out?
Matt Nass: I was playing against Jund down a game on a mulligan to 5 on the play, plus I made his list so I knew he had 8 sweepers. Then, miraculously, I won even though his draw was fine. Ironically he had a Clasm heavy draw and his only real threat was Boggart Ram-Gang which Forge-Tender shut down. Then I proceeded to rip running [card]Primal Command[/card]s which kept him from drawing gas while getting me two Ranger of Eos.
Those in turn got some more BFT and random dudes and so I beat him down.
Matt Nass: Elf Combo is just so resilient and powerful, it can do basically anything
Josh: Speaking of the deck, were you happy with your decision? Did you feel it was the best deck for the tournament? I know hindsight and all that, obviously it won you the tourney, but were you comfortable with it?
Matt Nass: Yeah, on the whole would be pretty weird if I won the tourney and wasn’t happy with the choice. I do regret playing it untested since I had headaches galore from thinking so much and was punting all over the place. Sunday was the worst.
Matt Nass: It isn’t particularly good against Jund, Fae, or 5cc, but it’s just so resilient that it doesn’t really matter
Josh: Is that purely on the back of Ranger of Eos and Primal Command? A big crack on the deck when it first came out was how it was either reliant on a million 1/1’s or 1-2 key cards resolving to really work.
Matt Nass: Yeah, well Ranger and Primal are definitely the most powerful cards. Regal Force isn’t bad either, but those two are definitely on another level. Also, it turns out a million 1/1s are pretty great; basically broken.
Josh: Yeah, you seemed to win a lot of games without actually comboing out and just playing 5-6 Elves on the table. Even without Archdruid that usually got you there.
Matt Nass: Yeah absolutely, especially in post board games, the deck is closer to a synergistic aggro deck like Affinity than a true combo deck Also, semi-comboing is pretty great, like you really don’t have to put all of their lands back on top of their deck the turn you cast Regal Force. That’s more of an ideal scenario, but a bunch of decks just can’t do anything relevant to you with the extra turn. I mean usually don’t get punished if you miscount mana and thus can’t combo fully (Not that I would know*).
*see feature match
Josh: Heh, yeah definitely. What did you mean earlier when you said “its not particularly good against Jund, Fae, or 5cc, “: People always love to use percentages or favorable / neutral / non-favorable to describe matches so a little clarification would probably help
Matt Nass: Sure. So against Jund they have a lot of spot removal and usually 4ish sweepers main and 4ish more side and that’s a lot to fight through. Because the deck is so resilient and powerful it can, but it’s not as easy as other match-ups like Kithkin or Time Sieve.
Frankly, the deck is pretty lousily positioned if all you look at are the decks running problem cards for you. It just turned out that its bad matches are 50/50 because Elves is just a step above on power level, so it doesn’t matter.5cc has sweepers and counters, but fortunately also has lots of tap lands and a slow clock which make it not too bad. And sometimes they keep terrible hands like Pool. Pool, Exotic Orchard Not that anyone who writes for ChannelFireball would ever do that…(That hand was fine! – LSV)
Fae has some spot removal and counters, and sometimes sweepers in the board and a better clock than 5cc. So on paper none of those sound very promising to play against, let alone multiples times, but it turns out it doesn’t matter and with reasonable play you can still play them all around 50/50. Then you have byes versus the decks that aren’t hostile to you
Josh: So in a way it’s like the Elf combo deck in Extended, only there’s no incredibly strong control deck to keep you locked out of the metagame. You have ‘bad’ matches, but they’re all reasonably winnable
Matt Nass: I guess that’s fair. Although, the Extended Elfball deck did sort of die when the format became hostile to it.
Josh: So other than the Elf deck, what were your other choices lined up for the 5k? I know in a previous flight you piloted Time Sieve combo.
Matt Nass: Yeah, that deck just isn’t as resilient as Elf Combo. It has different problem cards, but it just doesn’t fight them like Elfball does. One deck I sort of wanted to play was 5-CC w/ a burn plan, like a lot of the controlling spells people play like Ajani Vengeant, Lightning Bolt, Cruel Ultimatum, and Volcanic Fallout have an element of burn to them. Even something like Negate can be replaced with Countersquall to pack even more of a punch.
In the mirror it’s fantastic because once you bring in more burn in the form of Blightning and Anathemancer you can’t lose. Plus, unlike other burn decks you don’t have problems w/ cards like Runed Halo because you’re ready with the powerful controlling spells like Esper Charm, Cryptic Command and Countersquall. Banefire is another great burn spell in the mirror, and then for the aggro decks you’re not as strong Game 1 but can just board in boring old Plumeveil and Wall of Reverence six-pack and play like 5cc is supposed too.
Clearly people haven’t been getting enough value out of Cruel Ultimatum 🙂
Josh: Heh, always got to make your 7 mana spells better.
Matt Nass: There’s also that Jund splash Doran list that wrapter (Josh Utter-Leyton) made and Fuentes tried that seemed very solid, but probably wasn’t playing enough spells to be powerful.
Josh: Needs more Baneslayer.
Matt Nass: Well I was trying to make it aggressive, But yeah maybe that’s the solution.
Josh: I understand what you were going for, but it seems like aggro just can’t hang after a while once the Cascade stuff or Walls + Wrath plans start kicking in though. Blightning vs. Jund in the semis, was basically Jund getting its ass kicked until turn 5 and then winning the game in 2-3 turns off cascade spells.
Matt Nass: Yeah I think Ancient Ziggurat has to get cut and Bituminous Blast added and that might be enough. I still think it’s reasonable to be aggressive, but you have to make sure you stay on the same power level as other decks in the field. Blightning is also broken in half and it would be nice if that card could find a spot in the deck.
Josh: Ok, last couple of things. Are there any particular tips / traps / sideboard advice you want to give about elves?
Matt Nass: Basically 2-3 Regal Force come out when you think their deck is too disruptive to combo (Jund, Fae, 5cc) and don’t play 7 Fae hate cards since it dilutes the deck too much and it doesn’t actually work. The best plan is just play Threshers and cross your fingers, don’t bother with Stags.
When you have 1 Force left in your deck make sure it’s still in your deck before planning on Primaling for it, if it’s in your grave just shuffle and search since Primal Command is ordered sweetly.: if it’s in play just “accidentally” put into your grave and then see above.
See the Kithkin feature match, if you want to know how to execute this, jokes on me though since i had 4 Regal Force in my deck since that was vs Kith.
Josh: Haha, seems strong, just pretend Regal Force has one toughness.
Matt Nass: Only other thing is test, sounds obvious, but this deck isn’t like TEPS where the rituals say how much mana they make, you actually have to count and think things through, and ordering sometimes matters. Then there’s small tricks like Archdruid + Devoted but those aren’t monster issues and you’ll pick them up pretty quick.
Josh: Right, is boarding a big deal with the deck? You mentioned not diluting it accidentally and I noticed you had to cut cards like Archdruid and such which are normally pretty solid to fit in more answers
Matt Nass: As odd as it sounds, Archdruid at a whopping 3 mana is the clunkiest card in the deck that gets affected by removal and also, is not part of the combo. Like it doesn’t actually help that much, you still need Heritage Druid to do anything spectacular. And in that particular case it was against Kith where I can’t board out Regal and I needed answers to Canonist to come in. I also scouted him for Path, Unmake and Harm’s Way and I beat him with Archdruid Game 1 after he let me untap with it so I was relatively confident it was just gonna die a lot.
Josh: Gotcha. Alright I think I’ve got enough information to make readers happy, anything you’d like to throw in there? Maybe a bash at people for stealing boat brew from you?
Matt Nass: Oh yeah, this Elfball list was made by Brian Kowal, of course!
Josh: Hahaha, well thanks for your time Matt and congratulations on your win again.
Well, I hope you enjoyed reading some of Matt’s thoughts on the Elf Combo deck and the format. I’ll see you next week folks.
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom