Elementary My Dear Omnath: Temur Elementals in the New Standard
Standard rotation is happening this month! Throne of Eldraine is joining Standard, but we're losing four sets right along with it. This means a fresh starts for everyone and Rone thinks Temur Elementals is one of the biggest benificary of this new Standard!
Hello everyone! After my last two articles on the Modern B&R announcement, I want to talk about another format I love – Standard. Rotation is upon us and so is a brand new fairy tale themed set!
My fellow Insight writers have been covering the rotation in more detail, like Hans in his Cards to Pick Up Before Standard Rotation article or Kumagoro in his extensive review of each set leaving standard, which you can find here.
Since the topic of rotation itself has all of these articles already, I decided instead to look forward at a deck that caught my eye the moment Core Set 2020 released: Temur Elementals.
Let's get started with the basics. This deck was a flash in the pan when the set launched, but it fell off and ended up below the radar. The midrange strategies of the format, like Esper Hero, had a huge card pool and were already well supported and developed. Elementals just couldn't compete.
Additionally, the end of a Standard format is typically underrepresented, as most players are just waiting for rotation before jumping back into Standard. I'm of course going to be looking forward at what Elementals might look like post-rotation, but it's important to establish a baseline so let's look at a recent elemental deck from earlier in the month.
Temur Elementals / IwillCRUSHyou / MTGO Standard League 12.09.2019
|4Breeding Pool||3Cavalier of Thorns||3Chandra, Awakened Inferno|
|2Forest||3Hydroid Krasis||2Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer|
|4Hinterland Harbor||4Leafkin Druid||3Nissa, Who Shakes the World|
|4Rootbound Crag||4Llanowar Elves||4Lava Coil|
|4Steam Vents||4Omnath, Locus of the Roil||2Shock|
|4Stomping Ground||4Risen Reef|
|1Chandra, Awakened Inferno||4Fry||4Healer of the Glade|
|4Veil of Summer||2Vivien Reid|
There are two main losses on this list, Llanowar Elves is the biggest one, since it seems no other one mana dork will show up in Eldraine, aside from Gilded Goose, but the goose is a significant step down from the elves.
The second issue we have to face is the mana base, without the enemy check-lands cycle from Dominaria, both Hinterland Harbor and Sulfur Falls alongside Rootbound Crag from the Ixalan block out of the equation we need some replacements; however, I will go deeper on that later.
Although some sideboard choices like will be missed, the strategy heavily relies on Core Set 2020 alongside with some other Standard all-stars, which is a great upside when facing rotation.
An Elemental Army
If you check Scryfall for Elemental-matters cards for the upcoming standard, discounting Throne of Eldraine, you end up with this.
There were four elementals in Guilds of Ravnica, the most famous one being Runaway Steam-Kin. There were four in Ravnica Allegiance, but none have seen much play. War of the Spark gave us Living Twister and finally, as a point of comparison, Core Set 2020 gave us a whopping 31 elementals, including the Cavalier cycle, and two legendary ones: Omnath, Locus of the Roil and Yarok, the Desecrated. Other than Yarok, the majority of elementals in the set are in the Temur colors, so that's likely where you'll end up when building an elemental deck.
As for Throne of Eldraine, there are no elementals as the set is all about faeries, knights, and food. That doesn't mean the set offers nothing, but it does limit how many creatures we're likely to pull from the set. So, let's talk Temur Elementals and the cards it cares about:
One Mana Elementals
Scorch Spitter: I only recommend this 1/1 red lizard for a red aggressive elemental build. Generally speaking, it's better suited to the Mono Red Aggro deck that will surely emerge in the future, likely around Cavalcade of Calamity.
Healer of the Glade: This is a very narrow choice unless you are facing a lot of aggressive decks. Keep it away from the main deck and, in the event that you really need the life gain, run a couple in the sideboard.
Two Mana Elementals
Leafkin Druid: This creature is the best way to ramp into a turn three Omnath, Locus of the Roil or turn four Nissa, Who Shakes the World while efficiently blocking early threats thanks to the Druid's three toughness. Later in the game, when you've got a full board, it will produce an extra mana, giving you even more mana to work with. Not essential, but definitely a nice upside.
Thunderkin Awakener: At first glance, this card might now look that impressive, but its reanimation ability enables some crazy plays. One of the best cards in Elementals is Risen Reef. It's very easy to remove though, and there is a huge chance that it will be the priority removal target the second it lands. With Awakener, we can bring it back each turn and then, as an example, sacrifice it with Neoform to look for another handy elemental.
It synergizes with Cavalier of Thorn as well, getting fuel from its milling ETB trigger. Omnath grows Awakener as well, allowing you to reanimate bigger creatures. My current build runs two copies.
Runaway Steam-Kin, Lightning Stormkin and Creeping Trailblazer: I'm putting these together as they all are betters suited to the more aggressive red versions of the deck. In the midrange build, they are quite mediocre and, as such, I've added only a single copy of Creeping Trailblazer to my list.
Three Mana Elementals
Risen Reef: This card is the centerpiece of the Elemental strategy and without it, Elementals likely wouldn't be playable. Basically, it's a better Coiling Oracle that generates card advantage the moment it hits the battlefield. If unchecked, it creates a "snowball effect," providing card advantage with each new elemental, and it scales with itself very well, doubling all your triggers if you manage to get a second one on the field.
Another great synergy involves Risen Reef plus Chandra, Acolyte of Flame's 0 ability, which gives you two reef triggers per turn and casting an Scampering Scorcher pushes it to three. The Reef is an obvious playset in my deck. It's hard to overstate how good it is.
Cloudkin Seer: A 2/1 flying body that cantrips isn't very impressive but it's a good Neoform target if we are looking to gain some card advantage. This is the reason why I've included one in my mainboard, but it's definitely a flex slot.
Living Twister: The power and toughness of the low cost elementals isn't particularly impressive, but this creature definitely helps to fix that problem, which is why I run a single copy of the card. It dodges Lava Coil and blocks bigger creatures. Later in the game, it can become relevant to deal the last points of damaged with our lands or simply replay our Temples to scry and trigger Omnath's ability.
Overgrowth Elemental: another sketchy three drop that looks more like a sideboard choice against aggro match-ups. However, running one in your library means you can tutor it up with Neoform against grindy match-ups.
Four and Five Mana Elementals
Omnath, Locus of the Roil: Omnath is the other pushed elemental from Core Set 2020 and overall the third incarnation of this legendary creature that started as plain green, then evolved into the Gruul combination and finally shows up here with Temur colors.
A four mana 3/3 doesn't look exciting, but don't underestimate it. It comes with two very important abilities. When it enters the battlefield, it deals damage to any target equal to the number of Elementals you control, which ranges from bad to an instant kill on your opponent or their creature/planeswalker. There are some situations where I have chained multiple Omnaths together in order to win the game.
Secondly, whenever a land enters the battlefield, you get to put a counter on an elemental you control, so you can pump either Omnath itself or Thunderkin Awakener to bring back other elementals or a Leafkin Druid so it can start attacking. The fact that Risen Reef can ramp you makes them the perfect couple.
But that's not all! In the late game, when you have eight or more lands, each additional land draws you a card! It's good immediately, as you scale up, and in the late game, it's the card that will keep you in even the grindiest of matchups.
Scampering Scorcher: Another aggressive card for red elementals that really synergizes well with both Risen Reef and Thunderkin Awakener. One copy is enough for me as my list is more midrangey.
Cavalier of Thorns: Finally, our top end creature that helps us deal with fliers while also ramping and bringing crucial cards back to the top of library when it dies. It is mana intensive though, so I've narrowed it to two copies.
So now that we've covered the elementals, what else do you need. Well, let's start with the second most important card type post War of the Spark. Let's talk walkers:
Chandra, Acolyte of Flame: This three mana Chandra, which came along with Core Set 2020, is the cheapest of the three elemental-themed Chandra. The thing that makes it special, however, is that it makes two elementals with its 0 ability, which is definitely useful for our Risen Reef inspired machinations. Its minus ability allows you to flashback your instants and sorceries, which is useful perk for recycling cheap spells like Neoform, Lava Coil, and Fry.
Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer: Honestly, I haven't tried this walker yet but I have played against in a rotation-proof Jeskai Walkers build and she was actually a huge pain. She's pretty good at slowing down opposing creatures and, additionally, creates a rather potent 4/4 flying elemental ready to either attack or protect your walkers.
Nissa, Who Shakes the World: This walker from War of the Spark is one of the most busted things you can do in Standard if you play green; she kind of doubles your mana, depending on how many forests are on the battlefield. She also provides a steady stream of 3/3 elementals and usually ends the game shortly after using her ultimate.
Chandra, Awakened Inferno: My pick for a top-end finisher. She has good single target and one-sided board wipe removal and her + ability guarantees an end to the game (even if only in the long term). She is also great against U/G Flash and other decks with a lot of permission, as she will always land thanks to her "can't be countered" clause.
The Remaining Spells and Mana Base
As painful as it might be to admit, there are usually noncreature, nonplaneswalker cards that are worth including, and here are some of the best:
Shock / Lava Coil: If you play the Aggro version. You might need to pack some removal for the likely aggressive meta that you'll start out against post rotation. Since we don't have many one mana creatures, the easiest way to deal with cheap opposing threats is cards like Shock and Lava Coil. For the midrange version, I recommend reducing the number in the main or relegating them entirely to the sideboard.
Neoform: As a Birthing Pod lover, I enjoy playing creatures from my library directly onto the field, and this card does it for the low, low cost of two mana. Obviously, we are losing a card in the process, but being able to fetch Risen Reefs or Awakeners, which can potentially recoup that disadvantage makes the card a great inclusion.
Hydroid Krasis: Okay, this isn't a noncreature, but it isn't an elemental so it doesn't fit above It's mostly a concession to the meta and to the power of this card. It gives you a blocker, life, and cards. What's not to like? If only it was a Jellyfish Elemental.
This card does depend on the metagame though. If, post-rotation, there are a lot of Narset, Parter of Veils floating around, I would probably cut some or all of these.
Mass Manipulation: Finally, a small mention to a silver bullet that can steal (literally) some games. In a meta that often results in stalled boards, this card shines as a huge game-winning play. We have lots of mana so it's great to have the singleton copy when you need it.
Mana Base: Before we move on, just as a reminder, we are losing the Check Land cycle. The Temple cycle count goes up as a result, meaning more turn one tap land scry plays. Alongside the twelve Shock Lands from the Ravnica cycle and some basics, the deck is still fine mana wise, but getting triple green for Cavalier of Thorns can take a bit longer than you might expect.
Temur Elementals / Rone / Throne of Eldraine Standard
This is my current configuration before Throne of Eldraine is released. I had a lot of fun on the Magic Arena Standard 2020 event where there are no Goblin Chainwhirler, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, or Nexus of Fate.
A few notes: the three copies of Arboreal Grazer are concession to Mono Red and other fast decks, where I need to get to four mana as quickly as I can if we are on the draw. It's also great to sacrifice it to grab Thunderkin through Neoform.
Secondly, I run a tutor-able copy of almost every elemental I mentioned, which might be wrong, but in a best-of-one a world of with no sideboard, this is worthwhile to help cover the wide range of matchups.
It, again, is hard to overstate how crazy Risen Reef can get, where it can draw you 3-5 cards a turn, completely drowning your opponent in the value. The most important thing to try and do is survive until you can stabilize and get the Elemental-engine going.
Red Elementals / Frank Karsten / Standard League 12.09.2019
|4Breeding Pool||4Creeping Trailblazer||3Shock|
|1Forest||4Lightning Stormkin||2Icon of Ancestry|
|6Mountain||3Living Twister||1Chandra, Awakened Inferno|
|1Rugged Highlands||4Omnath, Locus of the Roil|
|4Steam Vents||4Risen Reef|
|4Stomping Ground||4Runaway Steam-Kin|
|2Temple of Epiphany||2Scampering Scorcher|
|3Temple of Mystery||4Scorch Spitter|
This a well-tested version posted by Frank Karsten a few weeks ago; I have also tried it and it's way faster than my personal brew. Here, it's all about attacking and the interactions between elements are a little less important. You're trying to close the game quickly in this version though, as top-decking Scorch Spitters and Runaway Steam-Kin feels terrible.
To close out, I want to encourage brewing. Rotation is the premiere time for a wide open format, and the more you test and brew, the more likely you find that one deck that works for you, whether it's this Elemental deck or you're messing around with the new cards from Throne of Eldraine. I hope you enjoy your pre-release weekend and have a lot of fun.
As usual, thank you so much for reading and please leave your comments or questions below or you can hit me up on my shared Twitter account.
Talk to you in a couple weeks!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.