Trials and Tribal-ations- Elves

There are a lot of creature types in Magic.  There’s Squirrels, Horrors, there are two creatures with the “Eye” creature type, and there’s my favorite- Beebles.  Now there’s a sixth Salamander.  One of my favorite creatures hits 3 great types: Coiling Oracle is a Snake Elf Druid.  Chances are that at some point in your odyssey as a planeswalker you’ve wanted to build a tribal deck.  There’s something about Magic that makes you want to align yourself with a race, and fight by their side.  Before I played Magic, when I played the VS. System, I saw an image of Greg Staples’s Serra Angel and decided if I ever started playing Magic, I would fight with an Angel deck.

After VS. effectively died, I did make the jump to Magic, and quickly discovered there were precious few playable Angel creatures with costs below 4 or 5 mana, and that if I wanted to play in Standard (I came in during Shards of Alara, and wanted to play with all the new cards) I would have to settle for a team that received the aid of Angels.  I was all-in on Bant (and still am).  This is one of the first lessons if you want to build a deck that is A) based on a tribe (creature type) and B) not terrible- you’ll probably have recruit the aid of a few creatures outside the tribe.  Whether it’s at the low end of the mana curve with Angels, on on the beefy end with Rats, your tribe might need a little outside help.  This brings me to the next point about building with tribes (or any deck, really)- know what your deck is going to do to win.  Think more strategy and less specific combinations, for example “control my opponent’s creatures long enough to drop large flying creatures they can’t deal with” or “overwhelm them with lots of small creatures” or “deal them lethal damage with recurring burn spells”.  Look at the synergies of your tribe and let those guide you toward building win conditions into a deck.  Remember- games are rarely won in one or two turns.  Wins are generally earned by gaining incremental advantage turn after turn.

The first tribe I want to look at, Elves, is probably one of the most popular and prevalent tribes in Magic history.  Elves do a lot of things well.  Elves can produce lots of Green mana very quickly, some Elves can put +1/+1 counters on creatures, some Elves make lots of 1/1 Elf tokens.  There are a lot of options to play with.  Elves also have a lot of Lords (creatures that give benefits to all other creatures of a certain type).  When building Elves, you can combine effects to come to a win condition.  It could be “produce a lot of mana and start playing huge creatures”, or something more like “make lots of token creatures and boost their power and toughness”.  Elves thrive on playing more and larger creatures than the opponent.  Here are some suggestions to get your gears turning:

24 Elf Creatures:

4 Llanowar Elves

4 Heritage Druid

4 Elvish Archdruid

4 Wolf-Skull Shaman

4 Nettle Sentinel

2 Ezuri, Renegade Leader

2 Imperious Perfect

4 Non-Elf Creatures:

2 Master of the Wild Hunt

2 Wolfbriar Elemental

9 Non-Creature Spells:

4 Beast Within

3 Slate of Ancestry

2 Coat of Arms

23 Lands:

19 Forest

4 Oran-Rief, the Vastwood


Here we have a the combination of Heritage Druid and Nettle Sentinel gaining lots of mana, along with the Llanowar Elves and Elvish Archdruid, and eventually casting Wolfbriar Elemental kicked tons of times for lots of 2/2 Wolf tokens.  Master of the Wild Hunt makes his own tokens, and uses the Wolves from Wolfbriar Elemental and Wolf-Skull Shaman to kill problem creatures.  Everyone knows that Elves love Wolves.  Meanwhile Imperious Perfect can be boosting the Elves while adding to the army.  Beast Within deals with problem permanents, and only gives the opponent an easily blocked measly 3/3 Beast in return.  Slate of Ancestry assures that you won’t run out of spells to play, and Coat of Arms makes all of your Elves HUUUUUUGE.  When you’re coming up with deck ideas make sure every card plays a specific role, and plays it well.  This deck is fun, but I like things a little more…sneaky.  Elves and Wolves is somewhat obvious, but how about Elves and…Snakes?  Let’s do this:

17 Elf Creatures:

4 Llanowar Elves

2 Viridian Acolyte

2 Simic Guildmage

4 Coiling Oracle

2 Quirion Dryad

3 Gaea’s Skyfolk

8 Snake Creatures:

4 Lorescale Coatl

2 Patagia Viper

2 Winged Coatl

3 Non-Elf, Non-Snake Creatures:

3 Murkfiend Liege

9 Non-Creature Spells:

3 Simic Signet

3 Curiosity

3 Tezzeret’s Gambit

23 Lands:

8 Forest

7 Island

4 Terramorphic Expanse

4 Oran Rief, the Vastwood

Now THIS is a deck.  We have Simic Signet, Llanowar Elves, and Viridian Acolyte for mana ramping and/or color fixing.  We have the Lorescale Coatl and Quirion Dryad getting bigger and bigger with +1/+1 counters, while the Simic Guildmage shifts counters around.  He can even move Curiosity to an unblocked creature before damage!  If you really wanted to get crazy you could throw in a Simic Sky Swallower.  I have a deck very similar to this built, and it is a ton of fun.

There are so many possibilities within this one tribe.  Elves has enough depth that it is possible to build an all-elf deck, if you take the time to do it right.  Remember to formulate a game plan, think about how you are going to accomplish that, and build cards in that take you down that road.

Here’s a link of some of the best Elves, (But not all Elves, explore Gatherer on your own!)


Here’s a quick glossary of the tags I’m using:

Ramp- Gaining extra Mana either by searching out more lands, or adding mana with an ability.

Legendary- A legendary creature (remember, there can only be one copy of any legendary permanent on the battlefield at a time.  If a second permanent of the same type and name is cast, both go to the graveyard.)

Lord- A creature that has abilities that benefit all other creatures of its type.

Value- A creature spell that gives you more than just a creature.

Tutor- A spell that searches for another spell from your library.

Beats- A beefy creature who likes to attack.

Colors- W: White, U: Blue, B: Black, R: Red, G: Green


 Card Name  Set  Function   Function 2  Color
Farhaven Elf SHM Ramp G
Civic Wayfinder RAV Ramp G
Viridian Emissary MBS Ramp G
Sylvan Ranger M11 Ramp G
Llwanowar Elves Core Sets Ramp G
Arbor Elf WWK Ramp G
Fyndhorn Elves IA Ramp G
Joraga Treespeaker ROE Ramp G
Elvish Archdruid Core Sets Ramp Lord G
Joraga Warcaller WWK Lord G
Imperious Perfect LRW Lord Tokens G
Rhys, the Redeemed SHM Legendary Tokens G/W
Ezuri, Renegade Leader SOM Legendary Lord G
Bloomtender EVE Ramp G
Rhys the Exiled LRW Lord G/B
Coiling Oracle DIS Value U/G
Momir Vig, Simic Visionary DIS Legendary Tutor U/G
Simic Guildmage DIS Counters U/G
Immaculate Magistrate LRW Counters G
Devoted Druid SHM Ramp G
Elvish Harbinger LRW Tutor G
Elvish Promenade LRW Tokens Tribal G
Mercy Killing SHM Removal Tokens G/W
Hunting Triad MOR Counters Tokens G
Jagged-Scar Archers LRW Removal G
Elvish Visionary ALA Draw G
Essence Warden PLC Life G
Bloodbraid Elf ARB Value R/G
Fauna Shaman M11 Tutor G
Fierce Empath SCG Tutor G
Heedless One ON Beats G
Heritage Druid MOR Ramp G
Lys Alana Huntmaster LRW Tokens G
Masked Admirers LRW Draw G
Tolsimir Wolfblood RAV Legendary Lord G/W
Mul Daya Channelers ROE Beats Ramp G
Nath of the Gilt-Leaf LRW Legendary Tokens B/G
Nissa’s Chosen ZEN Nissa G
Nissa Revane ZEN Nissa Planeswalker G
Oracle of Mul Daya ZEN Ramp G
Priest of Titania US Ramp G
Quirion Ranger VIS Value G
Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary UD Ramp G
Vigor LRW Beats Non-Elf G
Sylvan Messenger AP Value G
Timberwatch Elf LE Beats G
Wood Elves Core Sets Ramp G
Master of the Wild Hunt M10 Tokens Removal G
Wolfbriar Elemental WWK Tokens Non-Elf G
Wolf-Skull Shaman MOR Tokens Kinship G
Dungrove Elder M12 Beats Non-Elf G
Gaea’s Revenge M11 Beats Non-Elf G

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