Elves Making a Comeback with Kaldheim
- Marin Magda
With Kaldheim giving us so many new Elves, it's no surprise how everybody thought the tribe was finally making a big return. However, it's been out of the meta for so long that everyone lost count. It would probably take a miracle … Are the new cards, together with the most recent bans, just that?
Most of the Elves from Kaldheim are "too cute" for Modern. They are a much better fit for the power level of Standard, and we have already seen a few decklists that showed some promise early on. In addition to Elf-specific payoffs, one of the minor mechanics of the latest set is effects that scale with the number of creatures of the same type, whatever that may be. One of these cards is an element in a neat little combo …
Surprisingly, a Sultai version was among the first proposed for the Standard Elves of 2021. It splashes blue and black only for Mystic Reflection and Skemfar Shadowsage. The plan is to slam an Elf or two each turn, target the Shadowsage with the Reflection, and then cast Elven Ambush for three copies of the Shadowsage, resulting in massive, likely lethal life loss for the opponent.
Such a finishing move is undeniably cool. However, we don't have many one-drops, which severely limits aggression as an alternative route to victory. The deck runs a bunch of four-drops, including Canopy Tactician, and even with added velocity from Realmwalker, probably the most influential Elf on our list, it feels way too slow. Still, here's the original if you're willing to try it out.
|Sultai Elf Reflection by Adam "yoman5" Hernandez|
The second Standard list is, expectedly, more of an aggressive one. Because Elves are not strong enough to work in Standard all by themselves, Sam Black has thought of an interesting workaround. He's put them with some of the best party cards and made what I think is a pretty serviceable deck, at least at the FNM level or for lower Arena ranks.
Not only does Tajuru Paragon work great as both an Elf and a party member, Shapeshifters do, too. Masked Vandal offers a body with whatever creature type is missing and a handy artifact/enchantment exile effect on top. Then, once you have a full party, you get to exploit cards like Squad Commander, Tazri, Beacon of Unity, and Coveted Prize to the fullest. I just wish there was some way to incorporate Realmwalker.
|Five-Color Party Elves by Sam Black|
It's still a bit early to tell for sure, but I'm not too optimistic about the chances of Standard Elves at the highest level of competition. At least there is plenty of jank material, as well as places to start for enthusiasts of janky decks. And tribal Magic is inherently a numbers game, meaning that any new Elf released, whether with an effect supporting its kin or just with decent stats, could change the calculus at any time. So we're looking forward to Strixhaven and meanwhile turn our attention to larger formats …
Fabled Passage and Elves don't really go well together, but with all the real fetch lands, Modern might be a better home for Realmwalker. What's more, it's already happening, as Monogreen and Golgari Elves are seeing a definite resurgence. Both of these have finally received some serious toys to play with. Naturally, Realmwalker is the first one to come to mind because it lets you look at the top card of your library, then fetch away to avoid bumping into land drops. Secondly, Elvish Warmaster is almost a strictly better Dwynen's Elite, or at least a much bigger threat. It may not create a token right away, but it doesn't require you to have another Elf already in play, and it's just plain better in every other way.
There is another card that sees play in Golgari Elves from time to time. Skemfar Avenger is a decent beater that can draw you lots of cards. It is bad against certain decks, though, because its own death won't draw you anything. Aggressive red decks can single it out without breaking a sweat. So Skemfar Avenger wasn't as well received, but at least all variants of Golgari Elves now run both Realmwalker and Elvish Warmaster. Overall, Golgari Elves are already able to deliver consistent 5-0 performances on Magic Online.
|salvisr's Golgari Elves, 5-0, Modern League, February 16|
The monocolored counterpart has always remained in the shadow of its big black-green brother. It relies on creatures that are Warriors almost as much as Elves, although ideally they're just both. Bramblewood Paragon makes it easy to pump up your other creatures, even beyond the reach of some burn spells, and trample makes it much easier to go for the kill. What's great about Elvish Warmaster and Realmwalker here is that both are Elf Warriors. The synergies compound and also stretch to include the Elf Warrior tokens that the Warmaster generates. It's hard to tell whether or not there's room for Warmaster and Dwynen's Elite, but one can at least try to cram them both in.
At the end of the day, it is hard to tell how good these decks will perform in the brave new meta after the bannings. The possible rise of Burn and Prowess decks looks worrisome, though perhaps the old-school tech of Leyline of Vitality can help here. While matchups will decide their fate either way, one thing is for certain: thanks to the additions from Kaldheim, the Modern Elves decks themselves are now in a better shape than they ever were.
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