Whether you’re playing Limited, Standard, or Commander, there’s no hiding from Magic’s love of tribes. With creature types being a vital part of a set’s worldbuilding, tribes are among the most essential MTG mechanics. Despite their importance, Magic’s litany of tribes isn’t immune to changes. Whether it’s the death of the Tribal card type or a significant overhaul to a tribe’s mechanics, you never know how things may change.
For better or worse, one of the most prominent tribes in MTG, Elves, is the latest to be fundamentally changed. Previously, even as recently as Kaldheim, Elves have been one of Magic’s most synergistic tribes. With lords that buff the power and toughness of Elves, cards that create Elf tokens, and many more than draw you cards, Elf decks practically build themselves. This has made Elves a consistent powerhouse in plenty of formats, such as Historic and Commander.
As we mentioned, however, Elves are about to change in a big way. As detailed in a Blogatog post by MTG’s Lead Designer, Mark Rosewater, Elves no longer predominantly care about “going wide.” Instead, White is the color that will focus on going wide as an effective strategy. For the uninitiated, Rosewater handily explains that “going wide is about winning the game by attacking with a lot of little creatures. It usually involves making tokens.”
Typically, this is something that Elves have excelled at in the past. With Elvish Warmaster, Canopy Tactician, and Beast Whisperer, it’s remarkably easy to build a legion of small threats that could still attack for lethal damage. In the future, however, Elves will have a new purpose. Instead of being their own exciting archetype, it appears that Elves will now become little more than a tool for Green to utilize.
As Mark Rosewater explains, “newer Elves will push more towards ramp and the ability to cast bigger creatures.” While this may seem like a significant downgrade from Elvish Clancaller, this isn’t uncommon territory for Elves. As Rosewater noted, “Llanowar Elves is a perfect example” of green needing little creatures that enable ramp.
Big Creatures, Big Changes
Alongside the change to Elves, Mark Rosewater also detailed that green has recently seen several core changes. As touched upon when talking about Elves, green is no longer so concerned about going wide. Instead, green will focus on doing what it’s best known for, going tall with massive creatures. This isn’t always as exciting as a board of perfectly synergistic Elves, but Gigantosaurus gets the job done.
Alongside the renewed focus toward ramp and going tall, green is also losing some of its card drawing abilities. Previously, cards such as Beast Whisperer and The Great Hedge have allowed green a near inexhaustible supply of gas. For better or worse, WotC is now “moving away from those kinds of effects in green,” according to Rosewater. To encourage going tall, it’s even been suggested that green can get a card that lets you “draw cards equal to the power of target creature you control.”
In answering a Blogatog question, Rosewater noted that “play a big creature, draw a card” effects are “still green.” This could potentially herald the return of the Temur clan mechanic, Ferocious. Appearing in the Khans block sets, Ferocious triggers an advantage for the player if they control a creature with power four or greater. This mechanic has also appeared without the Ferocious keyword on several cards such as Warden of the Chained and Garruk’s Uprising. Due to it fitting so well with green’s new goals, we wouldn’t be surprised if it returns before too long.
Not All Bad News
Thankfully, while this is a significant change to what Elves and green can do, the ramifications shouldn’t be too substantial. After all, a green deck can still utilize multicolored cards to do all it could do before. For instance, if you want to go wide, Selesnya will still be your best bet. Drawing cards? That’ll be the domain of Golgari or Simic multicolored cards. Ultimately, this should keep green’s Rampant Growth in check and prevent it from doing everything.
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Beyond strengthening the color identity of green, it is currently unclear why these changes are being made. It may have something to do with the “eternal world” for which WotC is now designing. As outlined in 2022’s State of Design post, through this new philosophy, Wizards “must be better about understanding how current designs play with older designs.” As Mark Rosewater states, “it’s not enough to make something cool in a vacuum. We have to shape it such that it complements what has come before it.”