What a monster of a deck I am bringing to you today. I cannot say this deck is wholly my creation, because it is not - this very list is currently circulating Competitive Standard, and I'm helping it. What I can tell you with supreme confidence is that this deck is fun, aggressive, resilient, and downright nasty. Elves have a rich history in Magic, some of the best Modern decks in the game are Elf-centrist deck lists that are hard to contend with even with a proper plan for combating the Qualinesti buggers. Can you say 20 basic lands?
There are moments while playing this deck when you feel impervious. This deck gives you that year 2000 feeling again - like you are strolling through Eladamri's Vineyard taking in the fresh flora. It has such a consistent and powerful mana engine that by mid-game you may not have an outlet for the abundance of resources - of course I would direct to a Thorn Lieutenant.
The draw card engine represented here is also really something special. At points you may be drawing two to three cards on a single creature spell, and when you couple that with the mana production capabilities, it may be hard not to deck yourself at times. Good thing Dimir doesn't have access to Mind Funeral or Glimpse the Unthinkable.
Also, there are no multicolored restrictions on our mana base. We run 20 Forests. I personally would run my most eclectic 20 Forests, sorting through my collection for the basics that speak to me. On a side note, the land art in Magic: The Gathering (excluding Alpha through 4th Edition) is truly marvelous. I have spent hours admiring basic lands. Try it - worth the time.
Calling the Clan...
Okay, so in Standard before Guilds of Ravnica rotation, green stompy really made a name for itself off of turn 1 Forest - Llanowar Elves, into turn 2 Forest-Steel Leaf Champion. The Champion, a 5/4 for three green mana, cannot be blocked by creatures with power two or less, which on turn three, is more than likely the power classification of the creatures your opponents will have access to. Even if they are in possession of a creature with 3 power, that's still not enough to trade equitably, and your opponent is likely in a defensive posture for the rest of the game - which can be very short indeed.
At this point in Standard, no one who frequents your local game store is surprised by turn three Steel Leaf. Most of the time, your opponent is going to have an answer to this line of play. Lava Coil, Cast Down, Seal Away, Essence Scatter are purposefully designed to mitigate this line, and should be expected.
I don't mind committing to the turn 3 Steel Leaf; most of the time that line of play wins games when gone unanswered. Slower decks looking for the "set up" frequently lose game one and turn to sideboard options for game two. But, with this Elfing Amazing deck, I prefer to Bogart the Champions for later - drawing out the removal with Beast Whisperer and Elvish Clancaller. Unchecked Beast Whisperers turn this green deck into a turn after turn elf ball. Clancaller, gone unchecked, is such a worthwhile use of our abundant amounts of mana that a savvy opponent will use spot removal to dismiss the lord.
Beast Whisperer, when represented in multiple copies on our board, delivers a compounded effect, drawing multiple cards is good for the elves. This deck is very low to the ground, and we don't mind drawing cards - what Magic deck minds drawing cards (in Standard)? I guess Experimental Frenzy doesn't like drawing cards...There.
Draw Cards and Play Them...
Clancaller is an elven lord, each elf gets a bonus to power and toughness, and it doesn't stop there. Ixalan brought a card that hasn't had much traction in Standard Competitive lists - Vanquisher's Banner. I used to love this card in pre-Guilds of Ravnica rotation. I ran it in a mono-artifact Constructs deck with Chief of the Foundry and Foundry Inspector naming "Construct" and utilizing its formidable draw power to flood the board with machines. When Karn came along, it really made the deck hum. But that was then, and this is now. Now, we are using the banner to duplicate the lord effects of the Clancaller and draw of the Whisperer. A resolved Vanquisher's Banner almost certainly spells doom.
Mana Sinks and the Abundance Thereof...
What elf deck doesn't just spit out mana? In fact, cards like Heritage Druid are Modern staples in competitive elf decks for a reason, the more elves you play the more mana you have access to. Although she is showing her age, literally and effectually, Priest of Titania was a powerhouse of elven mana production. Dominaria brought us Marwyn, a legendary creature that gets a +1/+1 counter for each elf that enters the battlefield after and taps for an amount of green mana equal to her power. She's a removal magnet, and needs to be dealt with or she quickly spirals out of control in multiple ways. She can generate fields of green mana on which our elves can skip and frolic. When the draw card engine is in play, Marwyn can singlehandedly be our second pile of lands. She can allow you to belch out elves using your forests, your Llanowar Elves, your Druid's of the Cowl, then refill your mana pool with her ability and do it all over again - elf, draw, elf, draw, elf, draw.
Druid of the Cowl could easily be just a human druid, but it's not. It's an elf, and an incredibly solid common Magic Card. It tamps down pressure from early aggro with its three toughness. It adds fuel to the fire for this deck especially when we begin lording out; even with two power/toughness effects in play it becomes a 3/5 body that swing in testing blockers on your opponents board. Llanowar Elves are a Magic: The Gathering staple. You can find them in everything from Standard to Vintage. A mana generating source on turn one, and a chump blocker in a pinch. Llanowar Elves are truly only outshined by the BOP and the Noble Hierarch, and that's high marks.
Sometimes we need to find a piece of the puzzle. Sometimes we need to go a creature up in our hand. Sometimes we need to feint left and juke right. Adventurous Impulse is a utility card, it allows us to dig deep and snag a Steel Leaf Champion, reveal it to our opponent, and distract them from the threat in front of them. Sometimes, just the knowledge of the card in your hand gives you the ability to craft your line of play in a way that catches your opponent off guard. Sometimes, we just want to see what is coming, and painful as it may be there is no creature or land card in our deck for which we can't find a use. Adventurous Impulse is a second main play, unless we need to recover quickly.
Bringing the Beats...
Thorn Lieutenant is an All-Star. When targeted by spells or abilities we get an Elf Warrior token, which pumps Marwyn, and gathers all the benefits of our Clancallers and Banners. It's a 2/3 body for 2, harkening back to other great elves like Elvish Warrior, Nissa's Chosen, and Sylvan Advocate. It acts as a substantial sink for our mana production - it can swing in with mana to burn and save itself from combat damage. It can shake off direct damage if the resources are available. Left unblocked it can act as a substantial clock for our opponent. It really does need to be in play before your Steel Leaf Champions. As I mentioned at the offset of this deck tech, Steel Leaf Champion is the Coup de grâce.
We've Got Options...
Horses. Diamond Mare has been seeing play in Mono-Blue Tempo after rotation. This magical pony gives us a little staying power in the form of a 1/3 body for two, but also represents a Wurm's Tooth effect in giving us life gain for each green spell we cast. Considering the rate at which we can roll out elves, multiple copies of the Diamond Mare in play can effectively put us well out of reach for any opposing creature decks hoping to race us in terms of life total. Vine Mare is a green mainstay in this Standard meta - it's not going anywhere. It is an excellent uncommon Magic Card; a hexproof 5/3 for four mana, and a substantial beater. We don't care if he trades equitably, the rallying elves behind him are hoping he will draw a good block and clear the way.
Occasionally, you will find yourself sitting across from a mage slinging white mana just trying their damndest to ruin your fun with Seal Away and Ixalan's Binding. Or you might find yourself getting tempo'd by a blue mage running unblockable creatures past your wall of "Will Ferrell's" enchanted with Curious Obsession. Or just maybe, you don't want to deal with the repercussions of an unchecked History of Benalia, Flame of the Keld, or Antiquities War. The Elves have you covered - 3 copies of Reclamation Sage to silence that nonsense in a hurry.
Shaper's Sanctuary did good work pre-rotation, but really shines now. It slots in over Adventurous Impulse, and crushes targeted removal heavy decks. Shaper's Sanctuary turns the lights out on one-for-one strategies. Not only do Beast Whisperer and Vanquisher's Banner trigger on the casting of the creature spell, but when we've resolved those creatures and your opponent is devoting a card in hand to you drawing your next one, well...
To wrap it up, we've got Vivien Reid, she is a GREEN Planeswalker through and through. She filters us to our best cards, and makes dropping Adventurous Impulse tolerable. She can shut down Aurelia and Lyra, Doom Whisper and Dream Eater, Niv-Mizzet and even Nicol Bolas. Successfully sticking a Vivien Reid emblem will end the game. Shame on you if it doesn't.
Closing It Out...
This deck is Elfing Amazing. You can easily dominate your next FNM, you can run up some consecutive wins on Arena, you might even win a PTQ with it if the Magic Gods smile on you. Until next time - Land, Llanowar Elves, Say Go.