This past weekend, Regional Championships in both Lille and Calgary took place as the first group of Regional Championships this season. Unsurprisingly, many of the best performing decks such as Lotus Field combo and Rakdos variants have solidified themselves as Pioneer staples. However, for players looking to play something spicy, there were some interesting decklists that performed well.
Recently, we went over a unique Gruul combo deck built around Bard Class that made use of Ruby, Daring Tracker as a new tool from Wilds of Eldraine. Today, we’re going to take a look at a cool typal strategy that got 2nd place in Sunday’s Magic Online Pioneer Challenge. This deck is none other than Abzan Elves, which also got a cool upgrade from Wilds of Eldraine. Elves has been relatively underrepresented in the Pioneer metagame, but the deck is very fast and good at punishing decks that don’t pack a ton of removal. Let’s take a closer look at how the deck is constructed.
Most of the Elves in this deck fill one of two specific roles. The first are mana dorks in the one-drop slot. Cards like Llanowar Elves, Elvish Mystic, and Jaspera Sentinel give this deck a mana boost that helps make casting multiple spells on the same turn easier. This mana also helps the deck cast some of its payoffs, such as Collected Company, ahead of schedule.
Speaking of payoffs, the second group of Creatures in this deck are Creatures that reward you for sticking to an Elf-themed gameplan. Leaf-Crowned Visionary is a top-tier Elf lord, buffing your whole team for only two mana. That’s not all, though. Every time you play an Elf, you can pay a green mana to draw a card. This card is excellent in racing situations as well as grindy matchups, making it a great card across the board.
The next payoff, which helps give this deck a big boost of speed, is Shaman of the Pack. Shaman of the Pack lets you win games without even entering combat. With a handful of Elves in play, getting to cast Collected Company and Chord of Calling to find multiple copies of these can potentially end games alone.
Finally, Elvish Warmaster helps increase your board presence by providing additional Elf bodies. It’s very common to cast a mana dork on turn one, then cast Warmaster and another one drop on turn two, triggering Warmaster. It’s turn two, and you already have four Elves in play, making Leaf-Crowned Visionary and Shaman of the Pack extremely scary cards.
Playing at Instant Speed
As scary as Shaman of the Pack is normally, this deck gets a lot of its power by being able to play cards on the opponent’s turn. After the first couple turns are spent building a board presence, you can now lean heavily on Collected Company and Chord of Calling to pull you further ahead. The simple threat of Collected Company or Chord of Calling being able to find Shaman of the Pack at Instant speed forces the opponent to play scared.
Chord of Calling in particular is a scary card to play against after sideboard, as there a bunch of utility Creatures that can be searched for in a variety of situations. Being able to search for Selfless Spirit or Guardian of Faith in response to a board wipe, for example, can be absolutely backbreaking for the opponent. Specific cards like Yasharn, Implacable Earth against Rakdos Sacrifice can singlehandedly win games, making Chord of Calling even more powerful than it may appear at first glance.
One of the downsides to playing Chord of Calling and Collected Company in a deck dedicated to Elves is that your room for removal is very limited. That being said, this deck got a very strong addition from Wilds of Eldraine that fits perfectly into the deck. This card is none other than Werefox Bodyguard. This card is quite similar to Brutal Cathar, letting you exile an opponent’s Creature until it leaves the battlefield. Werefox Bodyguard, however, is an Elf, making it much more synergistic.
Additionally, it has Flash, which works quite nicely in a deck that already has Chord of Calling and Collected Company to cast at Instant speed. Getting to react to the opponent and cast cards as necessary depending on what the opponent does is very strong.
Strengths and Weaknesses
The Elves deck certainly has a lot going for it against decks without a ton of interaction. This deck can effectively race decks like mono-green devotion. However, with cards like Leaf-Crowned Visionary, Collected Company, and Vivien, Monster’s Advocate out of the sideboard, this deck is surprisingly resilient to single-target removal spells. Chord of Calling helps a lot against board wipes in sideboarded games as mentioned too.
This deck is also relatively consistent. It has a high density of mana dorks and impactful spells. Despite being an Abzan deck, the deck is mostly green-centric, and cards like Werefox Bodyguard and Shaman of the Pack can be effectively cast using Secluded Courtyard and Unclaimed Territory. The release of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan is also set to bring Cavern of Souls to Pioneer, which will provide this deck with another decent upgrade.
Despite being a bit more resilient than it looks against typical removal, this deck does struggle against decks like Izzet Phoenix that play a bunch of cheap removal alongside Treasure Cruise to refuel. While tutoring for Yasharn is powerful against Rakdos Sacrifice, quick draws with Mayhem Devil can be extremely difficult to beat, as Mayhem Devil can decimate a board of cheap Creatures in short order.
Given the rise in Izzet Phoenix, especially after Izzet Phoenix emerged victorious at the Regional Championship in Calgary, playing Elves definitely comes with a bit of a risk. Still, the deck is quite fast, and the power of Collected Company cannot be overstated. If you enjoy go-wide typal strategies, consider giving this deck a shot.