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:
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
Wizards of the Coast announced its latest in the Duel Decks series Zendikar vs Eldrazi just before the launch of Battle for Zendikar. This seems like a good deck to pick up for new players who want to get some Eldrazi’s with the annihilator ability. These are some of the favorite creatures for casual players along with the usual tribes Elf, Goblins, Merfolks and Vampires. Seeing as this is Zendikar as well, we might see some Elves since the first spoiler is the green Avenger of Zendikar. I do feel that Vampire is another very popular tribe that should be in this Zendikar vs Eldrazi.
1st at Grand Prix New Jersey Legacy on Nov. 16th 2014
It was a daily double last weekend with Treasure Cruise decks winning both this and the Modern GP in Madrid. Despite that though there was not an abundance of Treasure Cruise swarming the top 8 with a total of 10 copies between 4 decks, and they were each a distinct archetype. It wasn’t even the bogeyman UR Delver which won which was the other deck running the full 4 copies and there was an amazing diversity between all 8 decks.
1st at SCG Edison Standard Open on Sep 27th 2014
As we bid a fond farewell to RTR/THS Standard and all its mono-colored shenanigans we see how quickly everything becomes new again with both decks sitting at the final table in the wedge colors. There was also in the final a Mardu Midrange deck which in and of itself is a beautiful work of art which simply did not draw well against an amazing draw of the Jeskai tempo deck. But for us today we are interested in this Red, White and Blue beast of a list which was able to battle through 13 rounds and stake its flag first at the summit of this opening weekend.
Khans of Tarkir intro packs will be available at your local store starting on the prerelease and then as long as supplies last. Each clan’s pack include a alternate art rare and are ready for Open Dueling.
Well, we’re back to school and back to the grind. For some this is the worst time of the year because it signals the start of the boring and mundane for yet another year. For others it is a time of excitement as things start all over again with fresh beginnings and fresh options. For those of us who play Magic, the specter of rotation and the imminent arrival of Khans means there is lots of buzz in the air. The end of September can’t come fast enough!
This isn’t an spoiler article because we are hard at work here at Three Kings Loot prepping our review, but we’ve got good stuff on the burner. However, with Khans being on the horizon and Constructed being in a bit of holding pattern until the rotation, I thought this would be a perfect chance to highlight some casual decks I’ve been rocking, some relatively inexpensive and fun decks to liven up your Casual games. These are all 60 card decks that are perfectly viable in a duel situation, but are better suited to playing a multiplayer setting. Let’s see what I’ve been brewing.
The first deck is my take on what can only be called a Modern Mono-Green Devotion deck. A number of months ago I posted a decklist for a budget Mono-Green Devotion deck here on Three Kings Loot. It has done reasonably well for me since then, but decks are like living organisms that change and evolve and this deck is no different. With cards like Chord of Calling, Genesis Hydra, Hydra Broodmaster there are yet more powerful options to sink a ton of mana, there is no reason not to change a few cards to do a few more powerful things. However, the addition of a card from an older set is REALLY what I wanted to add to the deck…and that was Craterhoof Behemoth. This just smacks of being the best thing you can do to dump a ton of mana either by hard casting it, Chord of Calling for it, or Genesis Hydra for about a billion and grabbing it too. Here’s the list.
I was rocking this is in a 4 person free-for all game and was in the driver seat. My opponents had allowed me to resolve a number of creatures, a Voyaging Satyr and a Nykthos. I had all the tools needed to start going off and just needed some huge mana sinks. Sure enough, up comes a Polukranos and we’re off to the races. I cast “Big Polly” and get set to Monstrosity him…but sadly have to target the stupid Biovisionary in the stupid combo deck my pal was playing, a Fleetfeather Cockatrice because I had no flying defence, and some other random creature. Stupid Cockatrice and the Deathough ability. Oh well. I get my turn back and top deck… Hydra Broodmaster! OK! So, cast it, and then set up the Monstrosity…and make 10 10/10 Hydra Tokens! OH YEAH! Let the beat down plan begin. I start smashing stuff around and just making a wreck of the board. Then, out of nowhere, my buddy slams a second a Biovisionary, casts Polymorphist Jest, and turns his mana dorks into Biovisionaries…and we all lose. Damn it! Lesson learned…kill the stupid combo deck…no matter how durdly the combo is.
Next, I shuffled up my Mono-Red Goblins deck. I have no real expectation that Mono-Red Goblins will fare well in a multi-player game. They are far too fragile and just not suited to trying to fight a number of opponents. However, things are going my way. I land a Foundry Street Denizen, Legion Loyalist, and then…KRENKO! Oh yeah. A couple of Krenko activations later and I have a ton of goblins, had just smacked one opponent for 20 points of damage and was in good shape to start taking the game over. Everything changed with one card…Scouring Sands…and wipes out all the Goblin Token…and I get thumped. Ok…I know Goblins are fragile, but it is a terrible feeling to have your board wiped out by Scouring Sands because NOBODY plays Scouring Sands. However, I lost to Scouring Sands and I wanted to cry (well, not really).
The last deck today is one that is clearly a Casual build because it is such a silly concept and packs such a ridiculous mana base there is no way to describe it. Here’s the list and I’ll talk about it afterwards.
This deck plays on the interaction between Kor Skyfisher and Spark Trooper. Most opponents won’t bother to block what amounts to a Ball Lightning because they know that it will be sacrificed at the end of the turn. Sure, they eat 6 but they are banking on the creature no longer being a threat. However, during your second main phase if you can cast the Kor Skyfisher you can return the Spark Trooper and re-use it. Once I established that interaction it became a matter of digging up a host of creatures who a) return stuff to my hand to be re-used or b) have good enter the battlefield triggers. Now, this is a very mana hungry deck so playing it in a duel is suspect, but in a slower multiplayer game it is just perfect.
Well, I shuffled it up and suggested a couple of minor adjustments to our game. I suggested that we all play at the same time and play with a Howling Mine effect. The Howling Mine is hardly earth shattering, but the “everyone plays at the same time” is…interesting. It makes resolving spells really tricky, but boy was it fun! So, we had 1 player eliminated leaving 3 of us still playing. It was a tricky situation but I decided to throw caution to the wind and swing to take out the opponent to my right. The whole team went and was delivering somewhere up to 35 points of damage…but in the process the opponent to my left hit me. All the while, the opponent to my right wound up and lashed out with Nefarox with some ridiculous amount of Exalted triggers caving in the guy to my left. So, all in one turn all three of us just straight up die ending the game in a weird finale. It was a fun variant and something we will do again, but most definitely not the way to play every single time.
All three of these decks would fall into a pretty budget friendly category and highlight how you can make some fun decks with just a pile of funny cards and do some damage at your next Casual Night. The Mono-Green deck is probably the most pricey of the decks on this list, but the cards on it can totally be substituted for and can revert back to the Budget deck list I had previously. However, the new twists on it could make for a fun deck because of the powerful things you can do with the crazy amount of mana that can be generated. The UWR Skyfisher deck is pretty unreliable because of the wonky mana base and the fact that half the plays in the deck set you back, but when it works…dear LORD…does it work. And Goblins…well…they’re Goblins and will always be funny. When they work, they work awesome. When they fall flat on their face, they fall flat on their face hard.
There we have it, three fun builds, three fun games, and some random feel bad stories about how to lose a game despite being in a dominant position. I’m not sure what lesson to draw from the last two apart from perhaps playing the politics game a little more, but regardless of the lessons learned it was fun. It was refreshing to sit down and just sling some card board and relax with some friends with nothing on the line. I’ll have to make a point of playing this way more often just to keep things fresh.
Thanks for reading again this week…and until next time keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.
by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791 on Twitter
1st at Grand Prix Kobe on Aug 24th 2014
Now here’s a deck that calls straight to my heart. As I’m an Aggro player in the blood Red has always been a color I most associated with. I’ve followed burn through Standard from year to year, Extended back in the day, Legacy while Mental Misstep was legal, and of course now in Modern. The two main draws of this deck is that there are few lifegain issues in the meta as Soul Sisters is not the most popular deck choice while you’re deck has a wealth of removal to deal with many of the life gaining creatures in Pod decks, and with a largely fetch/shock manabase common to the format most decks do between two and six damage themselves in the first two turns.