Tribal decks have a long pedigree in Legacy and Elves has traditionally been one of the most powerful creature decks Legacy has to offer. Combining the ability to generate a large board very early with powerful card draw engines, the small green creatures in this deck add up to be much more than the sum of their parts. With the printing of Allosaurus Shepherd, Elves has moved to the top of the Legacy metagame and has become a real force in the format. Today, I want to take a look at a list that Michael Bonde used to win the recent Legacy Showcase Challenge.
Legacy Elves Deck List - Michael Bonde
Core Game Plan
Elves is a very versatile deck with a number of plans that can be executed. First and foremost, the goal is to deploy cheap, mana producing creatures early and pair that with Gaea’s Cradle to generate a substantial mana advantage. Then, this generally allows the Elves player to go down one of three routes. The first is using Glimpse of Nature to power out a huge sum of creatures, powered by Heritage Druid’s mana ability and the aforementioned Gaea’s Cradle. The second is casting an early Natural Order to get Craterhoof Behemoth and attack your opponent for a lethal amount of damage (this usually pairs with the Glimpse plan). The third is to pair Elvish Visionary with Wirewood Symbiote to create a card advantage engine that can be difficult to break up. If all else fails, Elves can take the role of an aggro deck, where you can just attack with the 1/1s and 2/2s you played early to overwhelm your opponent.
There are a lot of directions this deck can go, so let’s take a look at some of the cards that make this engine work.
This is the newest inclusion to the Elves force and it has provided a substantial power boost for the archetype. It completely blanks Force of Will and other counter magic as cards that can interact with the payoff spells, like Natural Order, which makes it essential for blue decks to hold up removal spells which can be a difficult task. It has additional functionality in negating the effect of Chalice of the Void, which was previously a very problematic card for Elves. On top of all of this, it acts as a win condition by itself, and gives you a place to put extra mana and kill your opponent relatively easily.
This card easily makes the list of most powerful cards to enter the format in 2020, and as long as it is around Elves will continue to be a powerful force.
These cards function as a mana engine in the deck. Both of them can be used the turn they are played and they turn all future elves played into mana-producing creatures which makes Glimpse of Nature an extremely potent card engine. Heritage Druid is by far the most effective of these and playing one of them often generates a substantial mana boost. Birchlore Rangers doesn’t quite provide the same boost, but it certainly provides enough mana to generate a smaller advantage early and start the card engine with Glimpse of Nature in the mix.
This card pairs extremely well with the previous 2 cards and when a Glimpse of Nature is active, this is what really allows the Elves player to start generating a ton of mana. Being a 2/2 is a relevant feature as well, as many players bring in cards that kill X/1s against Elves, and this will help you maintain a board in the face of a small wrath.
One of the non-elf creatures in the deck, Wirewood Symbiote provides a lot of resiliency to the creatures in the deck. With it in play, all of your elves are protected from removal spells. In combination with Elvish Visionary this provides a card draw engine, and in combination with any mana producing creature it can provide a mini mana engine. While a Glimpse of Nature is active, this allows the elves player to re-cast creatures and generate additional cards. All of this adds up to make this one of the most important creatures in the deck.
One of the more innocuous looking cards in the deck, Elvish Visionary provides a lot of value in this deck. As previously mentioned, it can become a card advantage engine when combined with Wirewood Symbiote, which is one of the core engines of the deck. Even alone, the body adds a lot to the board, combining with Gaea’s Cradle and Heritage Druid to generate mana. Elvish Visionary is often one of the best cards in the deck to find some extra action in the mid-to-late game.
Quirion Ranger is one of the best mana engines in the deck, as it pairs with Dryad Arbor and Llanowar Elves to generate a quick burst of mana. If you’re light on lands, Ranger can help you hit land drops and in conjunction with Dryad Arbor can provide an endless blocker for larger creatures that are applying pressure to your life total.
This card does it all in Elves. It functions as a mana dork on turn 1, searching up Dryad Arbor, a mid-game card or mana engine, searching up Visionary or Heritage Druid, a win-condition, searching up Craterhoof, and provides access to a toolbox of creatures.
This is the primary combo element of the deck. It often demands a Force of Will, as it will pretty easily allow the Elves player to win the game if it resolves. Just about every creature in the deck costs 1 or 2 mana, and once a Heritage Druid is in play most creatures you play become free to cast.
Natural Order is the other combo element of the deck. Craterhoof Behemoth is the most common target to tutor up and if you can resolve a Natural Order the game will likely end on the spot. This isn’t the only way to put a Behemoth into play, as this deck generates enough mana to simply cast it or Green Sun’s Zenith for it. This list has trimmed a copy of Natural Order because Allosaurus Shepherd fills the role of Craterhoof Behemoth to some extent.
This deck doesn’t flood on simple mana dorks like this since Green Sun’s Zenith functions like a Llanowar Elves in most cases. Having an extra copy provides some additional consistency, and makes Quirion Ranger a little bit better.
These are tool box targets for Green Sun’s Zenith. While they do slightly hurt the consistency of the deck, they are both haymakers in the matchups they are good in, so having access to them in game 1 is a huge deal. Ooze is excellent against any deck relying on the graveyard, like Hogaak and Reanimator, but also is excellent against Delver decks. Ouphe is primarily a Storm hate card, but can be equally devastating against the random artifact decks that exist in Legacy.
This is one of the most powerful lands every printed and it is explosively powerful in Elves. The mana advantage this provides is downright ridiculous and drawing one of these early will let Elves pull way ahead in the early game which will often translate to a fast combo kill. It has gotten even better with the printing of Allosaurus Shepherd, as it easily provides the extra mana to activate its ability.
A lot has been said about this card already, but Arbor is a key piece to this deck. It’s primary function is as a 1 mana creature that taps for mana (with Green Sun’s Zenith), but it does a lot in this deck (such as being a surprise green creature searched up off of a fetchland).
One of the key reasons to play black in the deck, there are a fair amount of problematic permanents Elves might face. Dreadhorde Arcanist and Grafdigger’s Cage are two of the biggest offenders, but cards like Trinisphere and Ensnaring Bridge can pose issues, as well. Having access to Abrupt Decay will make those cards less impactful and can really help in a fair amount of games.
The other major reason to run black, Thoughtseize is a well-rounded answer for a wide range of decks. It can take Plague Engineer or Dead of Winter from Snoko or a variety of cards against the different combo decks of the format. The versatility and efficiency of the card makes it a key piece of disruption in the post-board games.
Fast combo decks can be a huge problem for Elves, and Mindbreak Trap can make lives difficult for those players. This is best against Storm and Oops, All Spells, but might have additional utility against other, less popular combo decks.
Reanimator is by far the worst matchup for this deck, but Leyline of the Void is a huge swing in the matchup. It provides additional hate against decks like Dredge and Hogaak, and is generally one of the most important cards in the sideboard.
This is a bullet to search up with Natural Order that can end the game in short order against a deck not prepared to answer it. It’s best against Delver, but can definitely pull some weight against Snoko decks, as well.
Tips and Tricks
- Playing Allosaurus Shepherd in the same turn that you plan to cast a game winning spell will not only help that spell resolve, but potentially add some protection to the Shepherd.
- In combination with Wirewood Symbiote and Elvish Visionary, Dryad Arbor can provide a decent amount of mana to get an engine going.
- Don’t forget that you can untap creatures to block with using Quirion Ranger and Wirewood Symbiote (perhaps if you have a large Scavenging Ooze).
- Glimpse of Nature almost always has to be countered, so you can throw it out at any point as a bait spell if the goal is to resolve a Natural Order.
Sideboard and Matchup Guide
This can be a close matchup at times, but the Elves deck is definitely favored. Allosaurus Shepherd is a critical card, and once you can get a Progenitus in play it’s all but over. Dreadhorde Arcanist can run away with the game, so it is important to have some interaction for that.
This is the worst matchup Elves can face, and it’s possible you even want Mindbreak Traps here. This matchup isn’t about killing your opponent, but more about stopping them from killing you. Mulligan to Leyline as much as you can afford, and if you can’t find it, but can disrupt them with a Thoughtseize, heavily prioritize finding Scavenging Ooze as fast as possible.
This is a deck with a lot of removal and countermagic, so it can definitely be difficult. Plague Engineer and Dead of Winter are the most common wrath effects, so discard and Abrupt Decays can come in handy. I don’t think you want to go overboard on those effects, though, at risk of hurting your game plan. Instead, I like trimming on some X/1 creatures, and attempting to shift towards a Progenitus plan, which is pretty difficult for them to answer.
In: 4 Leyline of the Void
Hogaak is an explosive deck, but so is Elves and they might struggle to interact in a meaningful way. Leyline is an important card, as it can just shut down their game plan post board, but with a fast enough hand it might not be necessary to find.
This matchup isn’t about grinding, it’s about racing. The disruption you bring in is pretty impactful in the matchup, and it should be enough to slow them down while you set up a kill.