Elves is a tribe dear to me and easily my favorite in Magic: The Gathering lore. I started playing back in 2002 and Onslaught was my first prerelease. I then quickly built an Elf Combo deck, spending my next couple of years jamming these pointy eared fellows. My love for Elves continued over the years, and I’ve played them in most formats like Legacy and Modern. I even have the Modern Elves deck mostly foiled out (damn Cavern of Souls being so expensive!). It’s such a sweet tribe!
With the inclusion of Kaldheim, Elves are supported even more and we got some really nice cards to add to the deck (at least in Historic) to a solid tier 1.5.
These, plus the powerhouses of Jumpstart Elves certainly have to be enough to put up a solid deck and compete with the best of the format, right?
Well, I started brewing this deck to try and find out what we had here. Considering we don’t have more 1 mana value elves that tap for mana, we can’t “combo” kill as easily in Historic as it is in Modern, but that doesn’t mean we can’t aggro out our opponent fast enough in Historic.
Version 1 of the deck was Mono Green. For reference, this is the list I went 5-2 in high Mythic with it:
I noticed that the deck was really good but Craterhoof Behemoth was more often than not, just a win more card, and I either usually won before I needed it or was ended up being stuck in my hand forever. I also noticed that Faceless Haven was terrible whenever I drew it and that our sideboard was lacking options.
Then, I turned into a Black splash. Even though I didn’t love any Black cards a lot for the main deck, cards like Thoughtseize, Skemfar Avenger, and access to removal made too much sense. With access to Overgrown Tomb, Blooming Marsh and Darkbore Pathway, we can splash the second color easily without hurting our manabase too much.
This is my latest iteration of the Golgari deck where I have a 80%+ win rate in over 30 matches in high mythic, peaking at #41.
Collected Company: The backbone of any green aggro deck in historic. Elves can really take advantage of this spell and generate either a ton of bodies, a ton of stats or some utility out of these. It’s the best card in the deck.
Llanowar Elves and Jaspera Sentinel: The base of any elf deck is actually generating a lot of mana quickly. Sadly we don’t have a partner for Llanowar Elves in Historic, and Jaspera Sentinel is as close as we have to a second elf mana dork. I do hope we get Boreal Druid or Elvish Mystic in the next Historic Anthology to really push this deck over the top.
Elvish Archdruid: This is the best elf in your deck. Most of the time you manage to untap with it, you’re going to win. The amount of mana it generates it’s off the charts. It makes it so that your one drops and Dwynen’s Elite are essentially “free”, and even pumps the rest of the team. You really want to find them with Collected Company to maximize the chances of him surviving for a turn.
Imperious Perfect: Sometimes you just need lords. With so many bodies around, these add pretty quickly. These 6 plus the 4 Archdruids puts us at 10 and makes Collected Company also a combat trick on offense. We only play 2 Imperious Perfect because the token generating ability is a little slow and our lords sadly don’t stay for long on the battlefield (they either get killed or just overrun the opponent very fast).
Allosaurus Shepherd: These are our win conditions. The way this elf deck works is you build a board of 6+ elves super fast, then you pump them and win. Warmaster also helps with the going wide plan by pumping tokens himself. He also triggers with tokens so pair him out with a second Warmaster or Imperious Perfect for extra value!
Realmwalker: This little shapeshifter wants to join the fun and he ensures you have a lot more to play during your turn. This is card advantage packed onto a CMC 3 elf and it’s excellent.
Castle Garenbrig: The castle is excellent in a deck so mana hungry like this one. It works wonderfully at helping us cast more elves in a turn, it activates Allosaurus Shepherd and Elvish Warmaster a turn earlier. It’s even great with Realmwalker and Elvish Clancaller. I can see us running just 3 of them, because they can sometimes be annoying with fewer forests in our deck, though.
Cards that didn’t make the cut
Craterhoof Behemoth: Pumping your team +2/+2 is usually enough and your cheap elves already do that. This guy, even though it wins on the spot, is more often than not just win more.
Matchups and Sideboard Guide
Before the usual matches, I want to make sure to give you a tip for when you’re playing combo or high synergy decks. Usually, you don’t want to add too many cards in a matchup unless they’re super good, because for each card you add you’re actually making your main game plan weaker. This is why I try to add a maximum of 4 to 6 cards in a matchup even though there’s still some cards left in my sideboard that can work in that matchup.
Rakdos and Jund Sacrfice (Good-ish)
|+4 Shaper’s Sanctuary||-2 Jaspera Sentinel|
|+2 Reclamation Sage||-1 Allosaurus Shepherd|
|+1 Scavenging Ooze||-2 Elvish Clancaller|
Shaper’s Sanctuary is really good against them, as even pinging your guys with Mayhem Devil nets you cards. Rakdos is a bit harder because Dreadhorde Butcher is such an annoying card. This looks like an awful matchup on paper, but works much better than it looks and it’s one of my favorite matchups to play.
|+2 Crippling Fear||-2 Realmwalker|
This matchup is good cause they don’t pack a lot of removal and your deck is faster.
Azorius and Esper Control (Even)
|+3 Thoughtseize||-4 Jaspera Sentinel|
|+2 Skemfar Avenger||-3 Allosaurus Sheperd|
|+2 Shaper’s Sanctuary||-2 Elvish Clancaller|
|If they have lots of enchantment/artifact removal and Grafdigger's Cage also add +2 Reclamation Sage||-2 Imperious Perfect if you added the Reclamation Sage|
Thoughtseize and Skemfar Avenger are your sweeper protection, Sanctuary helps with spot removal. Try to open fast and keep Collected Company to rebuild if they get a sweeper. Red-based control decks are harder because Anger of the Gods is a hell of a card against us.
Gruul Aggro (Great)
They add a lot of spot removal post board, but that mostly slows them down and still can’t keep up with killing all of your elves. This is a pretty good matchup and one where they can only steal a game with a big Embercleave hit.
Rakdos Arcanist (Good)
|+4 Shaper’s Sanctuary||-2 Jaspera Sentinel|
|+1 Scavenging Ooze||-2 Imperious Perfect|
|-1 Allosaurus Shepherd|
Shaper’s Sanctuary really messes up the decks that rely on spot removal to slow you down. I’ve found this matchup to be good so far.
Mono Red Aggro (Bad)
If this matchup was more popular, you’d have to add a couple Elder Gargaroth to fix it in the sideboard. Mono Red just can kill all of your creatures while attacking you their ones until you’re dead.
CoCo Angels (Even-Bad)
|+1 Heaven // Earth||-1 Realmwalker|
This is as pure of a race as I’ve found in Historic the last few days. If you can’t present 30+ damage by turn 5, you’re probably dead. They can make huge angels and gain 100+ life pretty easily when unopposed.
This is all, hope you guys give this fun deck a shot. As long as there aren’t many sweepers or decks packed full of removal running around, Elves should be a big player on the Historic metagame!