One of the things I always wanted to do alongside the MtG:U series is create a series of deck primers for Pauper. This isn’t going to be the ne plus ultra of Elves primers; it will, instead, be a work in progress. I will continue to add onto it and update it so that it grows and, as much as possible, remains accurate for a changing meta.
I’m interested in suggestions and additions, namely: which cards should be added / removed from the primer; which match-ups should have more or different information, and; which are your favorite pre-existing articles about Pauper Elves? Let me know in the comments and I’ll add your information into the article.
Elves is a fun list to play and it is a strong Tier 2 contender against a lot of lists. It has a very strong game against Delver, but a very tough match-up against MBC. It can beat most aggro decks handily and, if unimpeded, has a stronger mid-game than most other lists in the format. Below we’ll look at some list choices, starting with the mana base.
Building Elves: Mana
Most Elves lists run a very low amount of land and a very high amount of mana dorks.
8x Mana Elves – Elvish Mystic, Llanowar Elves, Fyndhorn Elves
4x Quirion Ranger
4x Birchlore Rangers
0-4x Sylvan Ranger
0-4x Priest of Titania
0-4x Springleaf Drum
0-4x Abundant Growth
0-4x Land Grant
Use any combination of mana elves that you like, just don’t use the ugly Fyndhorn Elves. The 1x Island is there for those running Gu Elves for Distant Melody. I’ve seen Springleaf Drum used for this purpose as well, which has the upside of turning all of your elves into mana dorks, but the downside that you can’t go searching for it. Sylvan Ranger is pretty much here to fetch your 1x Island, since you either need that or Birchlore to hit your Melody. Arbor Elf is not mentioned because he is almost always worse than running a real mana dork; land can be destroyed (or bounced, or turned into an Island) and then he won’t do anything for you.
While Abundant Growth can be nice in that it draws you a card and gives you U mana, it has the major downside of messing with your Quirion Ranger activations. Elves works with a single forest in play a lot of times, and if you bounce it (as you often will) you lose your Growth.
People use Land Grant to thin their decks, but I think it is generally better to leave it out and just run the land you need. The amount of thinning it does is not worth a lot.
Building Elves: Utility
Most of our list is about getting elves who can help us get more elves. Some of our elves serve another purpose, however.
One is a 1-drop that gets you life automatically, assuming everyone keeps playing creatures. The other is a 2-drop that can gain you insane amounts of life, assuming you get to keep creatures on the board. Both have their ups and downs; I tend to prefer Wellwisher because it can run away with games against aggro decks, especially with a Quirion Ranger in play, and I find it to be generally more consistent.
While Archer usually gets a full 4x in the sideboard, it can creep into the main as well, usually if the pilot expects to run into a lot of Delver.
The Longbow can be a good option to keep in the main since it does a lot of what the Archer does without being as limited; equipping a Longbow onto a Nettle Sentinel can do some real damage and can even be a win condition if the board gets clogged and you can’t get through with a regular attack.
These are less regular contributors in most Elves lists, but worth a mention here.
Herder is probably the most interesting in the “gains trample” category, though Augur has the benefit of including ‘Giant Growth’ in its ability and includes an 0/3 body for one mana, which can be nice against some removal.
Running out of steam in an Elves list is a sad thing.
Of these, Huntmaster and Visionary are seen most often. Llanowar Sentinel used to see more play but isn’t included as often, now. Coiling Oracle is an interesting addition in a list running more U, while Wirewood Herald can get you any Elf you need, assuming you can get him to die somehow. Fierce Empath is an interesting inclusion, especially if add Aurochs Herd to your list.
Building Elves: Resilience
You’ll almost always see armor in the main AND sideboard, since it not only makes your guys NOT die to Electrickery but also works extremely well against Delver. It doesn’t help much vs Crypt Rats, though, which is why you’ll occasionally see Wrap in Vigor.
Building Elves: Win Conditions
Having a bunch of little elves doesn’t usually win you the game (though it can). These are some of the heavy hitters that make a difference.
Timberwatch Elf is pretty much an auto-include, while Branchbender is his lame cousin who sometimes shows up as Timberwatch 5-8x. Mob Justice is a great way to win without needing to attack and pairs particularly well with Lys Alana Huntmaster. Justice also gets around Fog effects and CoP: Green; both of which can be relevant.
The most common way for Elves to win is with Timberwatch Elf. He is a 4x in almost every Elf list. There are some other combos that are fun, though, and can be played within the Elf shell.
Both creatures are Elves, so they fit right in. Add Wirewood Herald to dig for the combo Elf you need and then you just need to pull Gond. With an Essence Warden in play as well, you can gain infinite life, nulling the fact that your opponent might kill all your tokens before you can attack.
Add in enough mana dorks and you have infinite mana. Viridian Longbow is a win-con, or Wellwisher can get you infinite life. I played this a bit on video if you want to see how it works. Helix also goes on Nettle Sentinel really well. Banishing Knack can be helix x5-8 if you need more for some reason.
This is a natural combo built in to most elves lists, but it’s worth mentioning on its own. Add in a Melody for card draw and this is the premier way to get all your elves on the table.
Building Elves: Sideboard Options
Building Elves: Sample Decklists
Garruk17 has been winning Dailies with this list most recently:
4 Birchlore Rangers
3 Elvish Mystic
2 Fyndhorn Elves
3 Llanowar Elves
4 Lys Alana Huntmaster
4 Nettle Sentinel
4 Priest of Titania
4 Quirion Ranger
3 Sylvan Ranger
4 Timberwatch Elf
4 Distant Melody
3 Viridian Longbow
2 Spidersilk Armor
1 Spidersilk Armor
4 Gleeful Sabotage
4 Scattershot Archer
We’re out of time this morning, but I know there are other lists and resources we should add. Let me know in the comments and I’ll continue working on and adding to this article. Thanks!