House_of_Cards

Decks and discussion on a creature type that's been long neglected... at least on magicthegathering.com.

Elf Employment

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The letter W!elcome to ELF Week! Today we're going to look at ELF, the Executable and Linking Format (formerly called the Extensible Linking Format), which is apparently a common standard file format for executables, object code, shared libraries, and core dumps.

Wellwisher Whoops. What I meant to say was: Welcome to Elf Week! That squeal you just heard was me. Cause: Delight. Before I get to the decks, let me just say:

Finally!

It only took, what? Five and a half years? That's just over half a decade for green's most iconic creature type to get its week in the sun here at magicthegathering.com. Five and half years is a long time. During the time of the Great Elf-Shunning, my entire wardrobe went out of style (and stayed there), my favourite band got together and then broke up, and that carton of milk in my fridge probably expired. I'll leave it to my roommate to test that hypothesis. So the question is: Why did it take so dang long?

According to notorious elf-hater Dan Paskins, it's a shadowy cabal of goblins, and not some omniscient brain in a jar, that controls R&D. It only makes sense that a group of dimwitted red critters with a penchant for playing elf-killing games would be behind the conspiracy to keep the elves out of the spotlight. To give you an idea of how far down the list of "preferred" creature types the Elves have fallen, why don't we take a gander at the creature types that have already been celebrated here?

The first creature type theme week in the history of this site was for, believe it or not, Cephalids. Now, don't get me wrong. I love me a sentient squid. Heck, I can't get enough of the bipedal molluscs of Magic. (Hmm. Sounds like a good idea for a calendar.) Show me Clambassadors, or any bureaucratic humanoid bivalves for that matter, and I can't help but laugh. As funny as they are, they aren't green and they aren't Elves.

The next creature-type to get its own week was Squirrels, which, other than our friend Mistform Ultimus, are entirely green. On the one hand, they definitely get some points for palling around with their elf-master, Deranged Hermit. On the other hand, I had to deduct some cool points for being one of the few so-called magical creatures that currently live in my backyard. I don't have any Leviathans, Elementals, or Kavu in my backyard (that I know of), so those types just have a little more cachet.

After that we saw creature type theme weeks for Goblins, Beasts, Zombies, Dragons, Soldiers, the now-defunct Legends, Slivers, Myr, Angels, Demons, Spirits, Dwarves, and, since I've been doing House of Cards, Vampires and Wizards. Even generic Artifact Creatures got their own theme week! You can understand why my beloved Elves are feeling a little underappreciated.

I'm fully confident that if I hadn't intervened, if I hadn't put my foot down, our pointy-eared forest friends would still be twiddling their green thumbs on the backburner while we went on to do theme weeks devoted to other "iconic" creature-types like the Sponge, the Homunculus, or, god forbid, the Rigger. Even in green, I bet we'd see weeks dedicated to Lhurgoyf s (Llurgoyves?), Ouphes (Ouves?), or Wolfs (Wolves?) before we eventually got around to the Elves (Elfs?).

(Beacon of) Creation Myth

Thoughout my time here at House of Cards, I've written intermittently about my history as a Magic player, from the days when I had a legitimate answer to the question, "What colour do you play?" to the present when I have a legitimate answer to the question, "What's it like to be a famous (and handsome) Magic columnist?"

I didn't actually start out playing blue-black with Terrors and Counterspells and Merfolk Assassin and War Barge. My first decks were all red. When I opened my first pack of Revised, the card that really stuck out, the card that impressed me the most, was Earth Elemental. For all I know, the pack also contained a Sol Ring, a Bayou, a Swords to Plowshares, and the nigh-unbeatable Minotaur of the Hurloon. But it was the fatty that caught my attention. The more things change...

Soon, however, I put down my childish red things and became enamoured with the more sophisticated and adult dream-ruining offered by blue and black. After ruining the dreams of white and green mages (Note: Terror is really good when no one else plays black), I suddenly found myself alone, without any fellow wizards willing to put their dreams in my blue-black vise where I could crush them. After dabbling a bit in red-white, I finally came around. I finally became a green mage.

Green, to me, has always been about more. More lands, more mana, more colours, more creatures. Bigger creatures. Imagine for a moment that you're in a duel, and your opponent pulls out a pistol. If you're a blue-black mage, you do your best Neo impression and get ready to dodge all of the imminent enemy fire in bullet-time. If you're a green mage, you do your best Bugs Bunny impression and go get a bigger gun.

Has anyone on the planet ever said, "Boy, I really hate those green decks!"? How can you not like green? What I like most are the options. While Champions of Kamigawa was legal in Standard, you could start your deckbuilding with four Sakura-Tribe Elders and four Kodama's Reaches and then add any card you want, regardless of colour, regardless of mana cost. With some Elves in your deck, cards that cost three are a two-drop. Cards that cost five are a three-drop. By contrast, if you look at mono-red or mono-white decks, you'll find cards like Char and Calciderm at the very top of the mana curve. As someone who likes to build a lot of decks and find uses for as many different cards as possible, I see ending the curve at three or four mana as just way too limiting.

So add some Elves. Make more mana. Put a seven-drop in your deck and then play it.

50 Ways to Lord of Leaves Your Lover

The great thing about Elves—wait, one of the great things about Elves—is that you can put them in all kinds of decks. Over the years, I've seen Elves used as the backbone combo, prison, aggro, aggro-control, and mid-range decks. The only major deck-type missing from the Elf repertoire is the pure control deck, which suits me just fine. Elves are even good in wackier formats like Tribal Wars, if you can believe it!

Our 1/1 Bodies, Our Elves

As I mention above, I have a special fondness for Elves in large part because their mana-making abilities enable me to play a wider range of cards. The other reason I love Elves so much is their utility. Need to destroy an artifact? Call upon Viridian Shaman, Glissa Sunseeker, or Elvish Scrapper. Need to wax an enchantment? Summon Viridian Zealot, Elf Replica, or Elvish Lyrist. Just want to go for beats? Cycle Gempalm Strider, flip over Tribal Forcemage, or simply play Elvish Champion. Lifegain? Wellwisher or Essence Warden. You can even round up these characters with Wirewood Herald or Skyshroud Poacher.

But, really, it's all about the mana.

During Fatty Week (or Fatties Week, depending on who you ask), I wrote about one of my favourite formats: Elder Dragon Highlander. It's a format that combines all of the things I like about Magic: big decks, splashy plays, tons of variety, heaps of flavour, and random combos that don't come up enough to be truly degenerate. What really turned me on to the format, though, was the fact that each deck had to be exactly 100 cards. Otherwise, glutton that I am, I will just keep adding more and more cards. I submit this deck as proof.

I've always like big decks and highlander. No game is the same, you can use more cards from your collection, and the decks are usually at a comfortable power level. Naturally, my first deck of this type was an Elf deck. It started out reasonably well. After adding one of just about every Elf I owned, the deck hovered at around the 120-card mark. Gradually, though, with the release of more sets and the creation of more Elves, as well as the acquisition of more Elves through trades, the deck started to become too big. I never thought I'd say that you can have too many Elves or too many fatties in a deck, but you can. At least in the real world. I gave up when I found that shuffling my 300-card deck was like shuffling a loaf of bread. So this deck is a relic of the pre-Ravnica past, a fallen monument that once celebrated my love for all the Llanowar, Skyshroud, Quirion, Viridian, Fyndhorn, Argothian, Tel-Jilad, and Wirewood.

Elves Highlander

Main Deck

312 cards

Cloudcrest Lake
Faerie Conclave
60  Forest
Hall of the Bandit Lord
35  Island
Lonely Sandbar
Maze of Ith
Mountain
Plains
Remote Isle
Savannah
Seat of the Synod
Slippery Karst
Stalking Stones
Strip Mine
Swamp
Terminal Moraine
Tranquil Garden
Tranquil Thicket
Tree of Tales
Treetop Village
Wirewood Lodge
Yavimaya Coast

116 lands

Ambush Commander
Amugaba
Arcanis the Omnipotent
Argothian Elder
Birchlore Rangers
Bloodline Shaman
Caller of the Claw
Captain Sisay
Centaur Chieftain
Child of Gaea
Citanul Hierophants
Clone
Craw Wurm
Darksteel Gargoyle
Darkwatch Elves
Deranged Hermit
Diligent Farmhand
Duplicant
Eladamri, Lord of Leaves
Elf Replica
Elven Riders
Elves of Deep Shadow
Elvish Aberration
Elvish Archers
Elvish Champion
Elvish Hunter
Elvish Lyrist
Elvish Pioneer
Elvish Piper
Elvish Ranger
Elvish Scout
Elvish Scrapper
Elvish Soultiller
Elvish Warrior
Eternal Witness
Everglove Courier
Fangren Firstborn
Fierce Empath
Force of Nature
Fyndhorn Elder
Fyndhorn Elves
Gaea's Herald
Gaea's Skyfolk
Gamekeeper
Gempalm Strider
Genesis
Gigapede
Glissa Sunseeker
Harvester Druid
Heart Warden
Heedless One
Hoverguard Sweepers
Joiner Adept
Jolrael, Empress of Beasts
Kamahl, Fist of Krosa
Karona, False God
Kavu Chameleon
Kaysa
Killer Bees
Krosan Drover
Krosan Tusker
Living Hive
Llanowar Druid
Llanowar Elite
Llanowar Elves
Memnarch
Merfolk Looter
Multani's Acolyte
Mystic Snake
Nantuko Vigilante
Nemata, Grove Guardian
Nomadic Elf
Patron of the Wild
Pentavus
Penumbra Wurm
Phelddagrif
Plated Slagwurm
Platinum Angel
Possessed Centaur
Priest of Titania
Quicksilver Elemental
Quirion Elves
Quirion Explorer
Quirion Sentinel
Quirion Trailblazer
Riptide Shapeshifter
Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
Root Elemental
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Sea Scryer
Seeker of Skybreak
Shoreline Ranger
Shrieking Drake
Silklash Spider
Skyshroud Elf
Skyshroud Elite
Skyshroud Poacher
Skyshroud Ranger
Skyshroud Troopers
Spellbane Centaur
Spore Frog
Stone-Tongue Basilisk
Stonewood Invoker
Suncrusher
Sylvan Messenger
Sylvok Explorer
Symbiotic Elf
Symbiotic Wurm
Tel-Jilad Archers
Tel-Jilad Chosen
Thicket Elemental
Thorn Elemental
Thought Courier
Thousand-legged Kami
Thriss, Nantuko Primus
Tidal Kraken
Timberwatch Elf
Titania's Chosen
Tornado Elemental
Treetop Rangers
Treetop Scout
Triskelion
Trolls of Tel-Jilad
Urborg Elf
Viridian Acolyte
Viridian Joiner
Viridian Shaman
Viridian Zealot
Wellwisher
Werebear
Willbender
Wirewood Channeler
Wirewood Elf
Wirewood Guardian
Wirewood Herald
Wirewood Hivemaster
Wirewood Symbiote
Wonder
Wood Elves
Woodripper
Wurmskin Forger
Xantid Swarm
Yavimaya Granger
Zoologist

144 creatures

Aether Mutation
Altar of Bone
Biorhythm
Citanul Flute
Coastal Piracy
Coat of Arms
Commune with Nature
Crop Rotation
Crumbling Sanctuary
Crystal Shard
Cultural Exchange
Cunning Wish
Darksteel Pendant
Dawn's Reflection
Distorting Wake
Dragon Wings
Elvish Guidance
Fabricate
Fastbond
Fecundity
Hunting Grounds
Hymn of Rebirth
Insist
Intruder Alarm
Krosan Reclamation
Lightning Greaves
Long-Term Plans
Loxodon Warhammer
Mystical Tutor
Natural Order
Night Soil
Oblivion Stone
Overrun
Pemmin's Aura
Petals of Insight
Predator, Flagship
Regrowth
Revive
Show and Tell
Skullclamp
Sol Ring
Soothsaying
Spidersilk Armor
Staff of Domination
Stroke of Genius
Survival of the Fittest
Sylvan Library
Temporal Cascade
Temporal Spring
Tooth and Nail
Weird Harvest
Worldly Tutor

52 other spells


Besides just ramping up to fatties, there are a bunch of fun combos here. You can get infinite mana at least three easy ways. Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary and Staff of Domination will do it, as will Wirewood Channeler and Pemmin's Aura, as long as you have the right amount of Forests or Elves in play. You can also get infinite mana with Argothian Elder and Maze of Ith (and another land). Just send the Elder into the Red Zone, untap it with the Maze, then use the Elder to untap the Maze and another land, then untap the Elder again. There aren't a whole lot of outlets for this mana in my deck. You need to be able to unload it during your combat step, so that leaves just Killer Bees, Silklash Spider, Stroke of Genius, and Soothsaying. Not a bad lot, but with all the modern day magical innovations, I'm sure there's something better. Squall Line would be a nice place to start. Whetwheel is not so bad, either.

A Grizzly Bear with an Ability

"Check out this new elf, Riftsweeper."
"Neat."
"Yeah. It's no Mongrel, but it's still a decent bear."
"I thought you said it was an elf?"
"It is, but it's a 2/2 for two."
"A tutu for two? That sounds...uncomfortable."
"It's a Grizzly Bears with an ability."
"Um, don't all grizzly bears have abilities? Like, the ability to spear salmon with their bare claws and the ability to maul unsuspecting hikers in the Appalachians?"
"No, Grizzly Bears are vanilla."
"You mean, like, the flavour?"
"No, the flavour is that it's a magical bear from the land of Dominia."
"Oh."

Riftsweeper
"It's vanilla because it has no abilities. The Humble Budoka, however, is French vanilla because it has shroud."
"It has shroud? That's not even English. What are you, Tarzan?"
"Shroud is an ability. It means that the monk can't be targeted. You can't ping it, burn it, Boomerang it, provoke it, Swords it, or put fat-pants on it."
"But I can put pants on a grizzly bear because it's vanilla?"
"Now you're getting it!"
"So what's Riftsweeper, then? English-toffee cappuccino?"
"It's a suspend hoser."
"That sounds like something that old people would wear."
"Suspend is the block mechanic."
"A guy named Rusty is my block's mechanic."
"But it doesn't just hose suspend. You can use on anything that's been RFG'd."
"I've gotta admit, I'm RFC'd right now: Really Freakin' Confused."
"Why don't I just show you a deck?"
"Finally!"

Riftsweeper, presumably a sort of janitor of the rift (to be played by Dick Van Dyke in the movie version of Future Sight, no doubt), is more than just a Pull from Eternity-style hoser. Sure, it'll do the trick, yank those Aeon Chroniclers from outside of time and stuff them right back where they came from. But it can do so much more.

My first instinct was to pair Riftsweeper with white cards that remove creatures from the game temporarily, like Astral Slide, Parallax Wave, and, to a lesser extent, Dimensional Breach. All of these cards work well with creatures with comes-into-play abilities (creatures like... Elves) and they all facilitate Riftsweeper's ability, lobbing those enemy creatures into the æther where they can be shot down like so many clay pigeons. It seems like a long way to go for a quasi-Condemn, but all of the pieces do their usual thing in the meantime.

When you're not using your Darkwatch Elves and Elvish Aberrations to profitably slide out your Riftsweepers, Deranged Hermits, Sylvan Messengers, Wood Elves, Viridan Shamans, or Llanowar Empaths, you can bounce all of these comes-into-play creatures with your Wirewood Symbiotes.

My second instinct was to pair Riftsweeper with some old friends from Mirrodin block: Leveler and Beacon of Tomorrows. The Leveler removes your entire library from the game when it comes into play, which is conveniently where Riftsweeper wants it to be. With your whole library in the RFG Zone, you can use Riftsweeper to cherry-pick your Beacon of Tomorrows and have it shuffled back into your now one-card library. Draw your card for the turn. It's a Beacon of Tomorrows! Play it, shuffle it back in, take an extra turn, then do it all over again. If a Leveler and infinite turns won't win you the game—imagine your opponent has a Platinum Angel, for instance—bounce Riftsweeper with either Wirewood Symbiote or Cloudstone Curio, replay it, and shuffle an RFG'd Viridian Zealot or Shaman into your deck. Here's the deck:

Until next time, play this ability as a mana source.

Chris Millar

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