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Beckoning the Elves

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Modern

We’ve all been there. You’re sitting there twiddling your thumbs as your combo opponent is playing with themselves. You do your best to interact with your opponent. Maybe you’re keeping track of the storm count or maybe the color(s) of mana they have available to them. Eventually they find what they need and you die a terrible death. These decks have been limited in Modern since the banning of Seething Song a few months ago; the only deck to simulate said misery upon was Eggs. And now even Eggs has received the banhammer with Second Sunrise biting the dust. What does this leave for the Modern combo players out there? Take a gander at this:

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Wizards banned Glimpse of Nature before Modern even became an official format. I have a feeling it was sheer fear after seeing what Elves can do in Legacy, but it has prevented Elves from breaking through and becoming a competitive archetype in Modern. It’s been fringe Tier 3 deck that never really got much consideration. Without a Cloudstone Curio staying in play, the deck could not function competitively. But the creation of Beck//Call suugests maybe Wizards felt bad for Elves. After all, the little green men have always had an impact on older and deeper formats. Heck, I’ve even been known to play Elves in Standard. Beck is essentially Glimpse of Nature with an addition blue mana in its casting cost. This is a good way of balancing the card without making it too overcosted and unplayable.

My initial reaction is, yes, this should revive Elf combo even though it is going to be much harder to combo off because of the casting cost. You cannot chain multiple ones with ease like you could in traditional Elf combo. Normally, you would tap three Elves via Heritage Druid to get GGG and use that mana to, say, cast Glimpse of Nature before continuing to drop out Elves. It starts to get awkward when your draw engine skews away from green, which should, in theory, slow down the deck enough to make it more on par with Modern’s kill speed. After some thought, I’ve come up with an initial list:

Nettle Sentinel/Heritage Druid: These cards are the backbone of the deck, enabling you to generate absurd amounts of mana with relative ease.

Llanowar Elf/Arbor Elf/Deathrite Shaman: Our basic mana accelerants act as cheap cantrips when we have our Beck going off.

Fauna Shaman/Summoner’s Pact: These tutors find what we need to either kill our opponent or to combo off.

Elvish Visionary/Coiling Oracle: Our natural cantrips help a lot against decks that kill our dudes. Elvish Visionary is also a big player in conjunction with Cloudstone Curio. If you have a Nettle Sentinel, Heritage Druid, and Elvish Visionary with a Curio in play, you are able to draw your deck.

Beck/Cloudstone Curio: These are our combo engines that enable us to go off. Either one really requires a Nettle Sentinel and Heritage Druid to utilize them well.

Elvish Archdruid/Craterhoof Behemoth: Using Craterhoof Behemoth as our finisher makes pretty good sense. We also have Elvish Archdruid to anthem our team and add exorbitant amounts of mana.

Honorable Mentions

Scryb Ranger: This may be a very good one-of and resembles a slightly more expensive Quirion Ranger.

Regal Force: I debated a lot before cutting Regal Force, but I think it’s realistically just a win-more card. If you’re able to generate that much mana, you are probably going off anyway.

Elvish Archdruid: There’s a reason why I only have one in the initial list. When you cast Beck, you’re not going to want to draw Elvish Archdruids. Archdruid is a very good elf, but its more expensive than you want when you’re trying to draw your deck.

Chord of Calling: Most of the time, this is going to be just a worse Summoner’s Pact.

Elves of Deep Shadow: If black becomes a bigger player in the deck and/or sideboard, we may want to consider adding this in the main.

Phantasmal Image: Because we are already in blue, this may be a sweet addition. My main concern is when it’s dead while you’re trying to go off because of its blue cost.

This is probably very close to what most people have envisioned when it comes to updated Elves. It should play out very similarly to the Legacy version; although obviously not as fast, it has the same key cards used to go off and draw your entire deck. And there is always Plan B to use Beck (it would be extremely unlikely to cast Call except in very rare circumstances) in a below-average green beatdown deck. You can expect a surge in Elves when Modern season starts up again, and there are two fairly obvious choices to combat the archetype. Because Elves will be weak to repetitive disruption, Jund makes perfect sense. It has access to Jund Charm maindeck along with Lightning Bolt, Abrupt Decay, Olivia Voldaren … and the list goes on. Another bad matchup is traditional U/W or U/W/r, because access to countermagic and board sweepers will give Elves a big headache.

It’s in the Details

At first glance, Beck does the same thing as Glimpse of Nature. You play a creature, you draw a card. But what it actually says matters a great deal. When a creature enters the battlefield, you draw a card with Beck, as opposed to when you cast a creature with Glimpse of Nature. What’s the big deal? Simply put, Beck is going to have multiple homes.

A very interesting interaction is the card Zombie Infestation. As early as Turn 3, you can make a critical mass of Zombies or even go as far as drawing your entire deck while making Zombies in the process. All that is needed to accomplish this goal is a Turn 1 mana dork, Turn 2 Zombie Infestation, and Turn 3 double Beck. To be more reasonable, a Turn 2 Zombie Infestation and a Turn 3 Beck still can yield quite the frightening army. Mashing these cards into Dredgevine would be a suitable home, and this is a reasonable preliminary list:

This deck definitely abuses the Beck and Zombie Infestation synergy. Plus you get added value in cards like Vengevine, Bloodghast, Fatesticher, and Gravecrawler, turning Beck into a two-mana Ancestral Recall or better. It gets even crazier when you have Blasting Station in play. It’s decks like this that makes me think Beck is the real deal and will be a Modern staple for time to come.

John Cuvelier
Gosu. On MTGO
@JCuvelier on Twitter

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