Onslaught Limited Review: Elves
Tuesday, March 18, 2003
This is the final installment of my series evaluating the cards of Onslaught for the purposes of Limited play. You can find the seventh installment here.
No tribe improved more with the addition of Legions to the Onslaught Block Limited environment than the elves did. The additions of Timberwatch Elf and multiple 2/2 elves for two mana make every other card in the tribe better, because that’s a base of power and speed that the little guys just didn’t have before.
The one problem with these demi-humans is the lack of late-game punch, making their beastly green counterparts an excellent fit, especially if you have Wirewood Savages in your pile. This isn’t to say monogreen’s the way to go: red and black are both excellent counterparts. Ironically, they both have a fair number of beasts too. It seems like in the scheme of the things, elves are the handlers.
Silvos, Rogue Elemental
Silvos has always been nuts, but green wasn’t always the color you wanted to be. Now, with no one picking green in Onslaught and so much green in Legions, the biggest pit fighter is seeing his value soar. Not like it needed to. On a pure power basis, there are few cards in the set that top Silvos and most of the ones that top him are a lot more expensive. An automatic first pick.
Kamahl, Fist of Krosa
Because I’d rather be green, Kamahl is very close in value to the new, improved Sparksmith and that pick is really going to depend on your personal preferences. That said, Kamahl is a powerhouse, either providing a fast and easy kill method or a nearly impenetrable defense. He’s especially fun with recurring damage sources like Lavamancer’s Skill and Sparksmith, which allow you to kill all of your opponent’s land.
While the effect isn’t as constantly devastating, the Spider is comparable to Kamahl in power by virtue of how much you’re getting for the mana you spend. Some decks instantly roll over and die to the activated ability, others have no way of penetrating a defense bolstered by a toughness of seven and against decks that fall into neither category, it’s still a good deal for five mana. A great card.
With two very playable enchantment kill morphs (Nantuko Vigilante and Daru Sanctifier) in Legions, Proportions falls behind the cards in front of it on the list because it’s easier to deal with than they are, but really, it can be just as strong or stronger than any but Silvos. The math here is simple: creatures who gain 8 on both sides are strong. Too strong. It’s a beating.
This is one of those cards that got better with Legions. Yes, there are some games where creatures trade non-stop, leaving this as an unspectacular five caster, but in others, the table will quickly get to eight or nine creatures and then the Beetle dominates.
Another riser on the charts. The Savage is now harder to kill and triggers more often thanks to Legions’s extensive green reserves, creating an oft-times ridiculous card-drawing engine that just can’t be overcome by conventional weapons. I dislike the fact that you often are casting a 2/2 on turn three that can’t really attack or block, but a turn later, when the Undorak, Vorine or Canopy Crawler hits play, you’ll know it’s more than worth it.
The Glade is falling down the list a bit now because the format is so aggressive. The Glade, while slow, is a one card soft lock, essentially sending the message “kill me now, because you’re dying soon”. Yes, it’s mana intensive and yes, that means that your opponent can run you over with fast creatures, but more often than not, a collection of 3/3 token creatures attacks, then attacks, then attacks some more. Then you go to game 2.
It’s frustrating: seems like half the time I cast Gigapede, my opponent has a Battering Craghorn or Daru Lancer in play, completely nullifying its strength and now that Crown of Fury is far more playable, that pattern with repeat itself. First striking annoyance notwithstanding though, Gigapede is an excellent creature, capable of single-handedly breaking the lock at a reasonable price.
Non-creature spells are at a premium and boy is this a good one. Whether it’s four points of instant damage to the head, card advantage in its cycling function or a way of helping one large creature survive the gang block, the Boost will always prove not only useful, but flexible. A very strong card.
In a tribe with no other evasion cards, the Riders really stand out as a way of breaking through when the opposing defense has you otherwise stymied. A great target for Wirewood Herald, one trick to consider with the Riders in times of desperation is attacking when the only potential blocker is a wall: people often forget they can be used to stop them.
I can’t think of an Onslaught card whose value has escalated more than the mana elf. With games now often coming down to who gets their men down the fastest, Wirewood Elf gets your bigger, badder men on the table faster than your opponent can react and the tempo advantage that comes with that usually means that you need the lead that so seldom seems to change in this format.
The Warrior’s strength has diminished a little by the presence of a number of strong two-casting cost green creatures in Legions, but by virtue of its size: casting cost ration, the Warrior still has to be considered a strong card. The Warrior’s color intensity is still an issue you should try to resolve by running ten forests when possible, but even in a deck with eight or nine, it’s a card you have to run.
Incredible with Nantuko Husk, this elf provides its own merits, trading with a morph creature and leaving a couple of insects in their collision’s wake. The insects can easily team up to trade for another 2/2, and that spells card advantage. We all know that’s a good thing, right?
Fewer ways for the Wisher to die plus more playable elves for the Wisher to bind with means good times for the Wisher. Creatures that don’t interact with the field of play frustrate me normally, but this little girl just wins games on occasion, and that’s a pretty good effect for two mana. Obviously, you’ll want to be using your judgment on this card’s strength in the second pack; if you have no elves and you see one in a booster, you may want to downgrade its draft value a tad.
Very powerful, the Wurm’s obvious drawback can be found in the upper right hand corner, where there seems to be a misprint. Eight mana is a lot for any effect and a creature that doesn’t evade or trample has to be deemed mediocre at that cost. I’d still play it, don’t get me wrong. Just don’t draft it too high. You’ll find other ways to spend your mana.
The most frustrating thing about the Basilisk is the creature type, which, in a set where such things can matter so much for deck unity, it stands alone. That said, the Basilisk can gain you card advantage by surviving morph combat or nullifying an opposing trick and can trade for their biggest attacker if held back on defense. There have been one or two decks I’ve drafted where he hasn’t made the grade, but those decks were absolutely ridiculous.
Another much-improved elf, I liked the Herald a lot before Legions, but it never seemed to function as your deck’s second Timberwatch Elf back then. Now, people should be deathly afraid of the possibilities of the 1/1’s death and oft-times that means they won’t attack as long as it’s untapped. Don’t stupidly attack with it assuming your opponent will take it out with larger creatures: They can usually handle the one point of damage.
More creatures with more tribally-oriented abilities mean more situations where Tribal Unity can prove to be a wrecking ball. Do remember though that your opponent’s creatures of the named creature type get the bonus too: you could be in for a rude awakening when your opponent’s 8/8 elf takes out your Tusker.
One former Sideboard writer once referred to this card as being better than Barkhide Mauler and I told him flat out: not only was he wrong, but it wasn’t close. The simple fact is that as long as your opponent has even a single card in hand, casting the Wurm brings risks with it. At the same time though, it can definitely be defined as massive, so it should probably make your deck more often than not.
Total judgment call here. Put the pack down, count your elves and decide if the Pride’s going to make the grade. With enough elves, it’s a 10th pick card that will trade for one or more creatures or save your own from opposing burn and at that cost, its definitely worth its mettle. At worst though, it’s a good sideboard card for the green mirror, because if you don’t have the elves, someone has to.
It constantly surprises me to see how late this card goes, because it can prove a real surprise for your opponent, sometimes proving a game winner. That said, it is situational and the morph cost is somewhat expensive, so I’d take it easy on drafting it too high.
If nothing else, this is a good sideboard card against those annoying blue-red Rift decks, but the Boon can prove a strong element of your own deck if you have seven cyclers or so to go with it. More often than not, one activation recoups the card used, so there’s potential for card advantage here: it’s just hard to realize.
Once in a while, the Rangers prove to me more than just another morph, boosting your Wellwisher’s ego and providing the extra mana of any color you need to help cast those last crucial spells. I’m the first to admit it doesn’t look like anything great, but hey, sometimes we use inferior cards to gain superior results.
Best as a sideboard card, the Resolve can be a very good solution to ‘Smith, Skill or decks that rely on constantly killing your men to gain the advantage. Naming elf and getting a couple of Wellwishers going can be game over a lot of the time.
Chain of Acid
By the end of triple Onslaught, I had no problem with main decking the Chain, but this is a new day, one with no artifacts, enchantments or non-basic lands coming out of the third pack and that means the Chain has dropped in value. A good sideboard card, but given the choice I’d rather have Naturalize.
Obviously, this will move up with the number of elves in your stack, but the Heedless One relies too much on other creatures surviving to be good, especially considering a chump block will turn into a trade if your opponent has a way of killing your other elves.
One of the two weak Couriers, Everglove’s bestowing of trample seldom matters with creatures who before activation are 1/1 or 2/2 and it’s still a danger to be card and tempo disadvantage. Try to avoid playing it.
Always a potential sideboard card for the green mirror, if you have enough elves now, you could consider maindecking the Guidance, especially if you have Invokers. This week my opponent activated Smokespew Invoker twice in one turn because of the Guidance. I didn’t win.
A good card to grab in case you get a Timberwatch Elf or two, the Taunter is seldom a card I’ll ever want in my deck, proving to be the equivalent of a very dangerous Wave of Indifference, a card I’d rather not run if at all possible.
As with most tribal cards, the Vanguard can move up the list pretty fast with other elves in your stack. If you’re reasonably certain you’ll be able to attack with it as a 2/2 on turn three, it becomes a very viable card.
Voice of the Woods
Sorry kids, the Voice is a lot of fun, but far too conditional to be a consistent deck choice. That said, if I got up into the 11-12 elf range, I’d probably have to run it.
I hate this card with a passion, its ability getting you an extra card once every five turns if you have eight creatures of the type you’re naming. You need to draw two cards this way to eliminate the disadvantage in casting a card that otherwise does nothing. Of course, if you need a wizard for your Lavamancer’s Skill, you might want to get this desperate.
I’d need a LOT of Wellwishers to make me want to risk my mana this way… there just aren’t many other tap abilities in the tribe. It becomes more playable if you get a lot of the larger elves in Legions.
Crown of Vigor
Sorry guys, it still doesn’t do enough, regardless of how tribal your deck is.
Eight mana is a lot, probably too much for the effect, because you have so little control over how many creatures are in play in Limited. Too bad too: if you could consistently get your opponents to no creatures, the card would be pretty nutty.
Words of Wilding
2/2s are great on turn two. They aren’t too good on turn ten.
There are exactly two artifacts, Tribal Golem and Slate of Ancestry, that I’d ever care about in this format. One can regenerate, the other ends the game with one activation.
As much as I love tempo, I’m unwilling to mortgage turns 2-33 for it.
Just draft bigger creatures and attack.
It’s a rare… grab it for the binder.
It isn’t even rare… just sad.