It is fitting that with the 25th anniversary of Magic: The Gathering that one of its most iconic tribes, Elves is seeing a sort of rebirth, thanks to Dominaria. Llanowar Elves, thought to be to strong for Standard, and removed from the format years ago, made their triumphant return to the format recently, and they are still a powerful little creature, but they don’t seem, right now, to be running over or ruining the format. There is very good removal in the form of Fatal Push to control the mana accelerating elves, so they might not be as scary right now as they could but they are still good enough to see play even with the risks of getting blown out with removal.
Dominaria did some pretty good things for Standard, but I think the best one is how sometimes I can look at lists and get Standard lists confused with tribal lists. Goblins are seeing play because of Siege Gang Commander and Skirk Prospector in mono red God-Pharaorh’s Gift decks. Constructs are doing well enough in mono blue lists. Of course, Ixalan tribes are still seeing play, with the lone exception being a tribal Pirate Standard deck, I’ve not really seen one of those, but have for Vampires, Dinosaurs and Merfolk. Cats still get play representing one of the Amonkhet tribes, and Standard is in this really neat, though weird place right now. There is not a whole lot of organized play going on for the format in the paper world, with team and limited events taking up the bulk of the StarCity and Grand Prix offerings right now. The Pro Tour is still weeks away, and while there are dominate decks in the format, it does not truly feel solved yet.
That lack of solution has been really nice for someone like me, who is looking at decklists every day to find the coolest ones!
Today’s deck is a mono green aggro deck packed to the brim with mana dorks and strong mid range type creatures. There are sixteen elves in the deck, with twelve of them being the kind of of elf that produces mana. Llanowar Elves, the iconic one drop leads the way and is backed up by Servant of the Conduit and Druid of the Cowl, the former being a short term burst of mana thanks to the energy mechanic, and really works well with Rishkar, Peema Renegade, and the latter a 1/3, which blocks really well in the format. Speaking of Rishkar, the counter ability is really nice, but the mana ability that the elf grants seems a bit redundant. Maybe Marwyn, the Nurturer could see play here, but it’s probably better off to spread the bonus around like Rishkar does instead of making a giant elf like Marwyn would end up being. The elf pay off is Steel Leaf Champion, a 5/4 for GGG which is really hard for most decks to block. Coming in to play as soon as turn two, early creatures can’t stand in its way, and when buffed by Verdurous Gearhulk, it can get truly problematic. Against some decks the champion could be 9/8 unblockable creature. That’s very impressive! Walking Ballista makes an appearance as well, because it’s just a super great creature.
Blossoming Defense acts as a pump spell and protection from targeted removal. Hexproof is a heck of an ability. There are also six vehicles in the deck, Aethersphere Harvester, which is easy to crew can spend energy to gain lifelink. The life gain from this vehicle can be very important. Skysovereign, Consul Flagship is a bit harder to crew, because Crew 3 is greater than Crew 1, but provides reusable removal of sorts, triggering to deal three damage to a creature or Planeswalker when it comes in to play or attacks. These vehicles are super additions to the deck, because outside of the Champion there is no real evasion in the deck. Karn, Scion of Urza is the final non land of the deck, giving you additional cards to really stomp down on the opponent.
I have a couple of doubts about the mana base. Scavenger Grounds is a necessary evil because of the amount of graveyard shenanigans in the format, but it does make casting Steel Leaf Champion a bit harder. Memorial to Unity allows us to find another creature, but comes in to play tapped, which could be disastrous in certain situations. Are these cards worth the small chance of disrupting your own game plan? Probably, the lands help us out in certain matches, but I am oftentimes filled with fear about stuff like this.
Standard really is cool right now, lots of stuff is seeing play, so take advantage of a format that is not fully solved and enjoy it!
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