Standard Abzan Elf Company
It’s been a long time since I was even remotely interested in sleeving up a deck for Standard, but with the spoiling of Shaman of the Pack that all started to change. Seeing that card made me instantly pull on my brewers hat because honestly, Collected Company right? It seemed like this pair was too powerful to dismiss at first glance but the real test seemed like it would be finding enough of the pointy eared guys to build around them to make the deck run right. This is how the idea for Abzan Elf Company started for me.
Searching up all the Elves in Standard brought up a suite of eighteen soldiers to recruit, but how many of them would truly be worthy? I knew that one main factor is the added value of Collected Company so another key was converted mana cost of those at three or less. Also, another strength of the Elf tribe is one mana accelerants or mana dorks which would be a key to powering out our gas as quickly as possible.
So let’s take a moment to look at the two main cards we are using to gel this idea together with Shaman of the Pack and Collected Company. The true power behind the Shaman lies in its ability to end games quickly and without even requiring much charge to entering the Red Zone. As for Collected Company it is a card advantage machine for green decks which is something they are often lacking, but it requires a build around commitment to execute properly. What these two ideas revolve around is a high density of creatures to pull it off and because of that synchronicity they can be meshed into each other.
We can safely say then that we are looking at that density to fall somewhere between twenty-eight and thirty-two to be consistently reliable on both fronts. Let’s take a look then at all the creature possibilities that are afforded to us in those eighteen dismissing whatever is sub par to the plan and see if we can shake out a cohesive decklist from that.
Elvish Mystic – this is our quintessential turn one play which enables us to accelerate to early action.
Gnarlroot Trapper – the other one drop mana dork, but that he can’t pay for Collected Company is a real downside.
Sunblade Elf – with an Abzan splash this little dude can be a beast in fudging up combat math with his ability.
Thornbow Archer – while I don’t expect many mirror matches there is a non-zero amount of Nissa floating about.
Dwynen’s Elite – three power and two bodies for the Shaman for just two mana is pure value in this deck.
Elvish Visionary – replaces itself very efficiently and is just total gas for the deck, so amazing to Company him in then draw another to keep the pedal to the metal.
Leaf Gilder – the other mana dork available to us but droping it turn two is way less valuable then having it active turn two.
Nissa, Vastwood Seer – while she isn’t a bad card the low land count in the deck works against her transforming reliably but if you can then ticking her up will just keeps the gas flowing.
Reclamation Sage – Another handy three drop it seems with the amount of thopter decks and incidental enchantments or other artifacts floating about he is not just another Elf body but also key utility.
Shaman of the Pack – this is the whole reason to pull this deck together. With it’s ability to just kill out of nowhere, if you are able to apply any pressure to the opponent this is without a doubt going to be an incredible finishing move. And the feel goods when you are able to drop two from a Collected Company is just indescribable.
Dwynen, Gilt-Leaf Daen – giving that boost to the team is crucial when you need to adjust the combat math in your favour and gaining some life in the process ensures you can survive to your critical turn.
Sylvan Messenger – with such a high concentration of Elves in the deck the chance to whiff is so slight and when you get to refuel your hand with another three or four creatures that is nothing to shake a stick at.
Gilt-Leaf Winnower – that he is tutorable with Chord of Calling is his prime selling point but the condition that his target can’t have equal power and toughness does leave quite a few good targets off his list. But he is big and menace helps to push through extra damage.
So there we have our options to put together our cohesive mixture. If we start at the top with the one drops it is obvious that our first eight slots are taken with both Elvish Mystic and Gnarlroot Trapper to boost our games with a turn one accelerant. But just eight turn one plays doesn’t seem enough, since often turn two we have three mana at our disposal, which left the choice between Sunblade Elf and Thornbow Archer. Looking at the Archer I wasn’t fully convinced that it was any good and thinking about the white splash for Sunblade seemed very doable with little downside due to Windswept Heath, while providing additional sideboard options as well.
Next the two drops were fairly straightforward for me as both Elvish Visionary and Dwynen’s Elite are just pure value for the cost and definitely auto-includes. Now while I did find some deck lists running Leaf Gilder I wasn’t convinced this deck wanted a turn two dork and I was happy with eight creatures for this spot on the curve.
That brings us to lucky number three. Obviously we are running with the full compliment of Shamans, but it’s the other options where numbers are the key. I really like Nissa very much and she helps not only to ensure we have mana coming to us but also keeps the gas going when she flips, IF she flips. It’s not going to be easy to get to seven lands with this deck so for that I don’t want too many in there, as well as reducing the whiffs on Collected Company. Our other option is Reclamation Sage which I like very much with some of the decks already floating around. With a 1/3 split between Nissa and Sage that gives us another eight elves added in total.
Now we start to get beyond where Collected Company is useful and we already have twenty-eight Elves in the deck so anything now beyond has to be just value for the deck. Both four drops Dwynen and Messenger are really good but we don’t want too load up, so I opted for a 2/2 split. As far as continuing to climb up the mana ladder as much as I liked the idea of a tutorable removal spell the amount of creatures that Gilt-Leaf Winnower could not destroy made me want to shy away from it.
With the creature suite pretty well locked up that left only the decision on what were the complimenting spells to the deck would shake out to. The card advantage engine consists of Collected Company and Chord of Calling which I settled on a 4/2 split. I wish there was a way to squeeze in another Chord of Calling, but I really wanted a one-of Obelisk of Urd with so many Elves in the deck. Convoke really helps keep the actual costs down so we don’t have to worry about stumbling on the more expensive spells.
As for the manabase I feel like I’ve come to a good balance considering the splash for some white cards and abilities. For the green and black side of the deck I’ve got five Forest, two Swamp, and one Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, along with four Llanowar Wastes and two Temple of Malady. Then for the white side I added one Plains to be fetched up by four Windswept Heath, and some tri-coloured choices with Mana Confluence and Sandsteppe Citadel. I really wanted to minimize the amount of lands which come into play tapped to ensure a first turn play which is why I didn’t go for a third Temple or additional Citadels.
Putting everything together the decklist looks like this:
Abzan Elf Company
by EJ Seltzer
One flex spot I’m considering is moving a Dwynen to the sideboard to add an additional Chord of Calling and possibly one of the Reclamation Sage as well perhaps to get a Hero’s Downfall into the maindeck, but I’m still debating those choices. There might also be some value to a second Obelisk of Urd instead of the Downfall to ensure tons of pressure from my creature rush.
For now the sideboard is still in flux but the main cards I have been considering include Bow of Nylea, Obelisk of Urd, Nylea’s Disciple, Dragonlord Dromoka, Hornet Queen, Duress, Eyeblight Massacre, Dromoka’s Command and Hero’s Downfall. Other options could be Nylea, God of the Hunt, Mistcutter Hydra, Whip of Erebos, Palace Siege or Abzan Charm. Of course it’s always dependent on what you’re expecting to face in your meta.
If I had to decide right now on my sideboard it would look like this:
Some of the decks I would expect to see would be:
Mono-Red Aggro – the key to this match is gaining life back to keep from dying to topdecked burn so Dwynen and Nylea’s Disciple are going to play a huge roll.
U/R Thopters – with artifact hate already in the deck it isn’t too hard to hold them off by destroying key pieces, but an Ensoul Artifact on a Darksteel Citadel is very scary to be staring down.
G/R Devotion – this matchup is the most troublesome when they are able to drop their big bombs and we aren’t able to deal with them before we get run over, but since we don’t necessarily need to attack to kill them and we have incidental deathtouch to eat through their blockers or vanquish their attackers it isn’t so bad.
Abzan Control / Megamorph – the real scary card here is Languish which can put the kibosh on our whole plan in one fell swoop so making certain to not overextend and build towards a focal turn to try and sneak in the kill under their nose.
U/W / Bant Heroic – on a similar line to the thopter deck we already have maindeck hate for their auras so this looks like something of a favourable matchup for the deck.
Jeskai Tokens – with the possibility to just gum up the board with so many creatures until they can go nuts with Jeskai Ascendancy out to pump their army and cheat out Stoke the Flames at the same time Reclamation Sage never looked so good, especially with Chord of Calling as an instant.
So there you have Abzan Elf Company, the deck I plan to give a good shake out this weekend with the Game Day tournaments going on. I plan to continue to push this deck going forward so expect to hear more about it in the near future. If you plan on going to you own Game Day then I wish you luck. Let me know anything you see in my list that could be tweaked, I appreciate any feedback. Thanks for reading.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter