Jumpstarting Jurassic Elves with Allosaurus Shepherd

You love Elves, Dinosaurs, and Legacy, and you dislike being interrupted? You hate it when Force of Will gets in the way? Then Jumpstart's new Allosaurus Shepherd may be exactly the right card for you: an uncounterable, Allosaurus-loving Elf to protect your green spells — all for just 1 mana.

I was always a huge fan of the Allosaurus. In my childhood it was one of my favorite Dinosaurs and I also loved the artworks on Pygmy Allosaurus and Allosaurus Rider. Now I am very happy to see the Allosaurus archetype enter one of my favorite Legacy decks of all time: Elves.

Allosaurus Shepherd

Goblins and Elves were recently blessed with two wondeful, new cards: Conspicuous Snoop makes its way into all formats via M21, while Jumpstart adds Allosaurus Shepherd specifically to Legacy and Vintage. The Shepherd has no flashy combo potential like the Snoop does. It is more of a hyper glue for an already pretty explosive strategy. It will make Elves a solid force to be reckoned with. Before we take a closer look at the updated deck and the card itself, it's useful to take quick inventory of Elves before Allosaurus Shepherd.

Elves Before Allosaurus Shepherd

Gaea's Cradle

Elves has been one of the pillars of Legacy for a long time. Just like Goblins, the format is hard to imagine without Elves. The deck is a creature combo build that often wins on turn three with a lethal Craterhoof Behemoth. It either draws into the Behemoth via Glimpse of Nature generating tons of mana with Gaea's Cradle or it cheats Craterhoof into play via Natural Order.

The deck was hit by the tragic banning of Deathrite Shaman in June 2018 and saw no major updates since, besides maybe Archon of Valor's Reach. While Elvish Reclaimer has made its way into Legacy, it is a better fit for Lands and Depths than for Elves. A deck with Cradle, Glimpse, and Order is of course still powerful, but it lacks the overall versatility it enjoyed with Deathrite. After the loss of the Shaman and the printing of Plague Engineer, it became more of a fringe strategy over time. It is mostly played as a black-green deck nowadays to have access to discard and Abrupt Decay or Assassin's Trophy. There's no doubt in my mind that Allosaurus Shepherd will give Legacy Elves a big boost.

Jurassic Elves with Allosaurus Shepherd

allosaurus shepherd

Allosaurus Shepherd gives the deck an edge against all archetypes running Force of Will: Snowko, every Delver variant, Sneak and Show, Infect, Stoneblade, Cephalid Breakfast, Esper Vial, …. This makes for a sizeable share of any field; Legacy players still love their counter magic. A Shepherd on the battlefield makes every one of your opponent's counterspells a dead card. While there are many decks without counter magic — Dredge, Reanimator, Maverick, Lands, Depths, Goblins, et cetera — the Shepherd now improves the matchup against blue, the most important color of the format, by a lot. Plus, some number of nonblue opponents traditionally fought Elves with Chalice of the Void; the Shepherd laughs about that too.

Just to make it clear how good this card is: Gaea's Herald sometimes appeared in sideboards of Elves decks in the past and made your creatures uncounterable for the cost of 2 mana. The Shepherd costs one mana less, can't be countered itself, and makes all of your green spells, including Glimpse, Order, and Green Sun's Zenith, uncounterable. It is just insane.

As if this was not enough, the card features an alternative win condition, turning your Elves into sweet 5/5 Dinosaurs in addition to their other types. (Supposedly, the Elves are riding those Dinos.) At this point I wonder why Wizards did not decide to give it hexproof and 4 toughness … Why do those Dinos not have haste? Isn't it unnecessary that the Shepherd can be killed or exiled by Lightning Bolt, Forked Bolt, Swords to Plowshares, et cetera? Jokes aside, decks like Delver and Snowko must rely on such removal to get rid of the Shepherd in a hurry from now on. Otherwise games won't take very long.

Does the deck still need to splash black for discard when immune to conterspells? Monogreen is possible, but splashing for black is probably still optimal to deal with certain threats. I think that cards like Plague Engineer and Toxic Deluge will play an important role in keeping Elves in check. I personally like to play one singleton copy of Elvish Archdruid to effectively resist Plague Engineer, but Toxic Deluge is best discarded.

Elves of the Void?

Chalice of the Void

Another astonishing possibility is the integration of Chalice of the Void into the Elves deck itself. The Shepherd would prevent itself and all those little 1-mana Elves from being countered by Chalice on one, which is the common set-up in Legacy. Incorporating Chalice would improve the Storm and Delver matchups for example. Chalice could protect your Elves from all relevant 1-mana removal spells like Bolts and Swords.

There is a danger that you end up with Chalice as a dead card in your hand, when you want to set it to one but can't because you're missing the Shepherd. Worse yet would be to have Shepherd killed after setting it to one and suffering the traditional consequences. Four Shepherds and four Green Sun's Zenith may not be enough to prevent that. In the end, the deck could gain a lot of game with the inclusion of Chalice, but it might not be worth the risk, outside of specific matchups.

chalice of the void concordant crossroads

I also see a possible list without Natural Order and Craterhoof Behemoth but with Concordant Crossroads that primarily relies on Allosaurus Shepherds' activated ability to kill the opponent. The combo would be one mana cheaper than hardcasting Behemoth. A disadvantage of this shell would be that the Allosaurus ability would be vulnerable to Stifle and therefore negate the biggest advantage of Shepherd: being immune to counter magic.

Dinosaurs in Vintage?

In Vintage, Elves was never a thing, because for the longest time 1-mana spells were haunted by the mental misstep that is Mental Misstep. Even after the restriction of Mental Misstep, the deck was a little too fragile to fight through the massive disruption of the format and it was a little too slow to compensate that weakness. The deck needs to draw a critical mass of Elves when it resolves Glimpse of Nature. It cannot waste too many slots on, for example, discard. But thanks to Shepherd it no longer needs to do that to get around counters. The big upside of the Vintage version is the availability of Deathrite Shaman to complete the deck.


Wizards continues to print crazy good green cards. I hope this one does not get hit with the ban hammer like Once Upon a Time and Veil of Summer before. If Legacy Elves becomes a major deck again and people start playing the deck in Vintage from time to time, it will be a slap in the face for the ones who consider or considered buying the deck, because Gaea's Cradle might go through the roof even further. It spiked in price even before the announcement of Allosaurus Shepherd and it will possibly continue to do so. Good news for the bank account is the simultaneously announced Jumpstart reprint of Craterhoof Behemoth.

The printing of Allosaurus Shepherd might be further indication that there will be no unbanning of Deathrite Shaman in Legacy. The deck would probably be too strong with Shepherd and Shaman I suppose. The Shepherd could appear in other Legacy decks as a possible sideboard support. I'm thinking of Maverick, maybe Infect, maybe Lands … Whether this happens or not, the Shepherd will certainly be the next big thing for Legacy Elves.

Prepare to bolt the Shepherd …

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.

6 Comentarios

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RoaldL(10.08.2020 08:14)

First off, thank you for the interesting and well written article.
As an avid Elves! Player between 2014 and 2019 I've always known the deck could not last forever, WotC would never print more efficiënt combo elves so all new cards would automatically be for the grind plan. (Elvish Reclaimer, Wildborn Preserver, Archon of Valor's Reach)
Add to this the increased efficiency in other decks (Dreadhorde Arcanist turns every bolt into a DIY Forked Bolt) and I think we're not coming back from the brink this time. Delver used to be 60/40 for me and is now more like 45/65.
At least two of the three people best known for playing Elves! In the Netherlands think this way (me and a friend, there is one more but I don't know her that well and she stopped playing the deck a while ago, so 3 for 3 I guess) I sincerely hope I am wrong and my pet deck will emerge from the fringe to be a real contender once more, your article has given me a glimmer of hope, though for now I am on UR Delver and Dark Depths.

Regards, Roald Landheer

ctobehn(13.08.2020 18:00)

RoaldL Thank you for your comment Roald! It seems people tend to play the Shepherd as a singleton copy main deck. Green Sun's can grab that one copy. I would probably tend to one more copy, but that's another thing. I am happy to see Elves more often now. We will see what happens in the future. I am a big Dark Depths fan also. I recently wrote an article on budget Vintage with a Dark Depths list.

fayaballard(25.06.2020 16:51)

In the possible chalice version, do you think possible to find room for more than 1 Cavern of Souls as additional "work around chalice" card? That way there would be essentially 4 Shepherd, 4 Zeniths and in some measure 4 Caverns and the creatures would be all Elves essentially. The thing I really find cool about having chalice in Elves is that the deck could be one of the few to actually be able to set Chalice to 2, 3 or even 4 without much problems a lot of times.

ctobehn(26.06.2020 08:25)

Fayaballard I am a little afraid that four Caverns could impact the engine with Wirewood Symbiote. The deck needs a critical amount of Forests to get the Wirewood/Quirion/Heritage engine going. Maybe rather one or two Caverns? Can't say for sure. I guess there is only one way to find out :)

ComfortablyNumb(24.06.2020 21:49)

Excellent article. Do you think Elves could go straight GW instead of black splash, and just use swords to plowshares and other white sideboard cards like RIP and Stony Silence? Could also nicely run Horizon Canopy ..... Thoughts?

ctobehn(25.06.2020 11:53)

ComfortablyNumb Thank you! Of course, those cards are excellent sideboard choices, but with white you have no way to get rid of most problematic cards like Toxic Deluge or Bolt, Forked Bolt etc. Playing white you are vulnerable to Massacre as well (at least if you play a Savannah or Plains, no problem with Canopy though). Thoughtseize also gives you information if the coast is clear.