Historic Elves Deck and Sideboard Guide
Table of Contents
Elves are a beloved tribe that players try to make work as much as possible. Arguably the most recognisable Elves deck is the Legacy version with Glimpse of Nature. However, there have been numerous attempts to make it work in Modern, Pioneer, Explorer, and… Historic!
And Historic is the format that we’re going to focus today. Historic has got a few cards that other MTG Arena formats lack and they do pack a punch. The biggest highlight is Elvish Archdruid that contributes to the most explosive, storm-esque draws.
This deck is excellent if you like linear strategies that ask the opponent whether they have the proper interaction against you. Most of the time though they won’t since elves outscale anything that the opponent might be doing very fast. If the opponent doesn’t start disrupting you as early as turn one, they will be in trouble and you become that much more likely to come out on top.
The key base of the deck is the same for most green creature decks, regardless of the format, namely eight one-mana Elves. Elvish Mystic and Llanowar Elves are functionally the same and are fully interchangeable. They allow you to play a three-drop on the second turn, while the opponent could have only played a two-drop. By this merit alone, it’s clear that your draw and overall gameplan is sped up.
If we get into the specifics of what exactly is played ahead of schedule, it makes the situation even more dire for the opponent. Turboing out Elvish Archdruid on turn two makes for pretty disgusting turn threes. Alternatively, you can play a two-drop and a one-drop like Elvish Warmaster into Jaspera Sentinel.
On top of that, the play//draw discrepancy is even more apparent. If you do that sequence on the play, it further limits the opponent’s options to counteract what you’re doing and/or outscale you.
For those reasons, when playing against Elves, turn one removal is at a premium to disrupt those degenerate, fast draws. When you’re the one wielding the elven weapon, you want to see Elvish Mystic or Llanowar Elves in the opener as often as possible.
Since there aren’t any more than 8 one-mana Elves, we have to extend our choice by Elves that also produce mana but have some condition attached. Jaspera Sentinel requires you to have a different creature in play to ramp you.
In practice, it means that you cannot go Jaspera Sentinel into a three-drop. However, the lines of two-drop into one-drop are still on the table, as you can tap the newly played two-drop for mana.
In some spots, being a 1/2 might come relevant when you’re hit by End the Festivities type of effect.
Still, it’s an extension of previously mentioned better mana Elves.
Allosaurus Shepherd is a Legacy all-star that has been printed into Historic. If you’re playing against a counterspell deck, it’s clearly very powerful. It allows you to slam creatures into open mana and leaves you with just one thing to worry about – mass removal. Without it though, you’d also have to try to bob and weave around Absorb and Censor. Against non-blue decks, it’s a simple 1/1 for one with a relevant card type.
However, as the game progresses, it gains in value. It’s not uncommon to win games on the back of its activated ability, turning all the unassuming 1/1s into formidable 5/5s that close the game in one attack.
This card strikes the balance between being an early drop that facilitates the plan but also a mana-sink for when you haven’t drawn a payoff.
One of the lords effects in the deck. This deck won’t always win by going off fully and flooding the board with an insurmountable number of creatures. It happens frequently that you’re just going to send the few creatures you have into the red zone. Turning all the 1/1s into 2/2s literally doubles the clock and the buff effect gets that much better the more creatures you have. With just three creatures in addition to Clancaller, you’re getting Clancaller itself and 3 power and toughness extra.
It won’t come up terribly frequently but if you are mana flooded with no payoff you can sink your mana into Clancaller’s activated ability to tutor out another lord.
The better of the two lord effects. Leaf-Crowned Visionary’s first line of text is exactly the same to Clancaller’s. The same rules and dynamics apply.
However, the big difference is the second line. For each Elf spell you cast, you may pay a green mana and if you do, you draw a card. I’d divide this effect into big turns and small turns.
On small turns, you will draw one, maybe two cards with it. The idea is that you play more of your mana Elves but get to draw a card for each, essentially being neutral on resources but still progressing the boardstate. It’s particularly strong in the face of point removal where the opponent tries to keep the board in check but suddenly you’ve added a few creatures to the board at no card cost.
On big turns, it acts almost as a combo piece. With Elvish Archdruid that generate copious amounts of mana, you can play a third of your library in a single turn. With multiple Leaf-Crowned Visionaries, you might even draw most of the deck. This will happen usually against other non-interactive strategies which is the ideal scenario since our linear plan is going to overcome most opponents’ linear plans.
Two bodies in one card. This aspect alone plays into what the deck does very well. First, you get two Elves for Elvish Archdruid, so it adds more mana. On top of that, a 2/2 and a 1/1 are better than a 3/3 when you have lord effects.
With one lord you’re getting a 3/3 and a 2/2 instead of a single 4/4. Basically, more buff bang for your elven buck.
Last but not least, it works better with convoke at the top end in Ancient Imperiosaur.
All in all, the card itself isn’t particularly impressive on paper but interacts very well with the strategy.
This is a similar body-populating effect to Dwynen's Elite but even stronger. Elvish Warmaster offers another body every single turn. Since the condition doesn’t limit you to only *your* turn, Collected Company can also helps you make body’s on the opponent’s turn.
Similarly to Allosaurus Shepherd, it has an activated ability that’s a good mana sink. Combined, that gives you 6ish cards that have incidental mana sinks. Thanks to it, you don’t have to commit to too many slots that are pure mana sinks which increases the deck’s consistency and overall power.
Arguably the best creature in the deck. Not only is it a lord but it also has the Circle of Dreams Druid effect. Therefore, it plays into the aggro plan but also the storm plan.
A common play pattern is untapping with Archdruid that has no summoning sickness, playing out creatures using all your mana sources that are *not* the Druid, and once you don’t have any other mana left, you activate it. This way, you will add the most mana with Druid, since you’ve increased the number of creatures on the board.
A single Collected Company that flips Elvish Archdruid and, say, Elvish Warmaster can turn an empty board into a very scary situation for the opponent.
Those Elf decks have multiple types of topend. Some have none, some play Realmbreaker, some go for Craterhoof Behemoth, and this version plays Ancient Imperiosaur.
I think this slot could be any of the aforementioned although they might necessitate slight changes in the build.
Imperiosaur’s upside is that it’s relatively easy to deploy early so it will very infrequently rot in hand, contrary to Craterhoof. Once you manage to deploy it, you’re not getting punished for your trouble thanks to ward 2.
Sometimes you might have tricky spots where it’s better not to convoke but pay raw mana – especially when you have Elvish Archdruid generating copious amounts of it.
There aren’t many noncreatures in the deck but the ones that are in the deck are pretty strong.
If there is any noncreature card that you will see in almost all green creature decks, it’s Collected Company. It’s often even splashed in otherwise nongreen decks just to have access to this effect.
In essence, it’s a pure 2-for-1. You get two creatures from a single card which is great in attrition matchups. Considering that some of our creatures make creatures, it can actually generate mutliple pieces of cardboard if you hit, say, Elvish Warmaster and Dwynen's Elite.
You can also catch the opponent off guard with CoCo in combat, flipping over two lord effects, pumping the entire team.
Last but not least, it’s great in the face of mass removal. You can pass the turn and after Supreme Verdict resolves, you play Collected Company and re-establish your board presence.
The best Elf planeswalker. Freyalise, Skyshroud Partisan is a super powerful turn two play in this deck which is very much attainable. You will immediately get to untap the mana Elf and deploy another creature. On following turns you can still tap a mana Elf, untap it with Freyalise, and use it again.
If you decide that mana is not the bottleneck, you can minus it to seek an Elf card. After a single plus, you can seek five times which is *very* difficult to keep up with for other interactive fair decks.
If undisrupted, you will get to ult and summon Regal Force. In a deck that has a board full of creatures, Regal Force provides unbelievable card advantage.
Best Of One
This deck is even stronger in Best of One. If you like climbing the Bo1 ladder, this deck is perfect.
It’s actually very difficult to budgetify the deck, since you do need cards like Collected Company, Elvish Archdruid, Leaf-Crowned Visionary, or Elvish Warmaster. However, you can play only Forests as a budget concern.
Matchups and Sideboard Guide
Rakdos / Jund Midrange
|+2 Snakeskin Veil||-2 Ancient Imperiosaur|
|+1 Heroic Intervention||-2 Jaspera Sentinel|
|+1 Freyalise, Skyshroud Partisan|
Here, I change the lowest impact one-drop and the most conditional piece of cardboard into another planeswalker and a bunch of protection spells. Your linear plan is still very powerful so it will all depend on their draw.
They will do a decent job disrupting you from going off fully so average creature beatdown with 1/1s and lords will win more games than you think.
If the opponent leans more into graveyard synergies, side in Scavenging Ooze as well.
You’re both pretty fast and explosive. Game one they will be the ones interacting with you, mainly with Portable Hole. Depending on the version, there could be burn spells or Metallic Rebuke.
Postboard, you will both be much more interactive so the games will tend to slow down. It will be a bit more about trading resources.
If they want to go aggressively on the ground, you will have plenty of creatures to chump block with. You’re mostly scared of them attacking in the air – sometimes you might have to kill Ornithopter so that you don’t die to Michiko's Reign of Truth off the top.
|+2 Primal Might||-3 Freyalise, Skyshroud Partisan|
|+1 Elder Gargaroth|
Speed is the name of the game. You’re both tribal decks that have a powerful key turn. The main difference is that they can just make land drops and slam their big payoff while you have to amass a critical number of creatures and sets of synergies.
Keep hands that goldfish very well and can threaten a turn four kill. If you have access to removal, kill their mana-reducing lords.
|+2 Primal Might||-2 Ancient Imperiosaur|
|+1 Freyalise, Skyshroud Partisan||-2 Jaspera Sentinel|
|+1 Snakeskin Veil|
Difficult matchup, since they can interact with us well and apply pressure. We can easily outrace decks that just want aggro and grind through point removal against reactive strategies but here the opponent has both.
On the flipside though, they might draw the wrong half and our focused linear plan will just win.
Don’t try to outsmart your mulligan decisions – keep solid, linear hands that have a plan and make them have the right removal at the right juncture.
|+2 Primal Might||-2 Ancient Imperiosaur|
Pure race. The most honest tip is to be on the play. Both parties have *very* little interaction so you have two main decision points – keeping a hand with Primal Might and/or mulliganing into a very strong proactive hand. Just deploying creatures to hope to win via fair aggro won’t get you far.
Tips and Tricks
- Collected Company cannot be countered when Allosaurus Shepherd is on the field.
- With multiple Leaf-Crowned Visionary, you can have to pay one gree for each trigger if you want to draw one card for each.
- Elvish Archdruid can add mana and then be untapped with Freyalise, Skyshroud Partisan for a huge mana boost.
- Jaspera Sentinel has reach – it can matter when you have to block in the late game.
- If two Elvish Warmasters enter play at the same time, they both see each other and each will make a token.
- If you play one Elvish Warmaster and then another one, the second entering will trigger the first one. Then, that first Warmaster will produce a token whose entering the battlefield will trigger the second Warmaster. The end result is that both trigger.
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