Help Building my First Competitive Elf Deck
Posted on March 5, 2022, 8:30 a.m. by ionlyplayelves
Hi all, I just started playing commander and would like some feedback on how to improve my deck.
Disclaimer: This is my first commander deck. https://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/lathrils-relentless-elves/?cb=1646486747
At the moment the deck is mostly the Lathril, Blade of Elves pre-construct but I'd like to start obtaining cards to get rid of some higher cost cards and really fine tune this deck.
Some of my goals: 1. My #1 goal is to find cards that I can untap with so that I may replay abilities that deal direct damage, pump up the elves, or even provide more mana. Need to do more research here. 2. Add lands that with abilities or that add value vs the basic lands. 3. Add a board wipe to combo with Poison-Tip Archer for more direct damage 4. Add Planneswalker. Looking at getting Tyvar Kell 5. Replace End-Raze Forerunners with something stronger, cheaper (if possible) that still buffs the elves. 6. Add more efficient elves with lower mana costs. There are some cards in this deck that are too expensive for what they do.
I'd appreciate any help. Thank you!
Hi ionlyplayelves and welcome to commander! This is the best format there is, and elves rock. I also play elves in most formats, and am working in completing my Ezuri, Renegade Leader primer at the moment. Once it is finished, one section will be on the similarities and differences between the three primary elves commanders in EDH, Ezuri, Lathril, and Rhys the Redeemed. One of the big takeaways is that there are a lot of similarities. You should think of Lathril as a primarily green deck with a black splash. You're happy to have black for excellent tutors, premium GB Elves like Shaman of the Pack, and removal, which lacks in mono-green. Most of your creatures should be classic green elves though. You want to cheat on your lands as much as possible and play all of the best dorks. I run 29 lands with no problem in Ezuri, and in Lathril I'd try to get it down to 32 if possible and 34 at most. You want Llanowar Elves, Fyndhorn Elves, Elvish Mystic, and other low cmc dorks, along with all of the super-tappers (Elvish Archdruid, Circle of Dreams Druid, Priest of Titania, and Wirewood Channeler. There is an infinite mana combo with any of these with Whispersilk Cloak and Sword of the Paruns that you should totally use. The big difference with Lathril is that you are an aristo-elves approach, so you want to add in a bunch of sacrifice outlets so that dead or alive your elves are always doing damage. There weren't enough of these in the precon. You also want aristocrat payoff cards even if they aren't elves like Blood Artist, Syr Konrad, the Grim, and Falkenrath Noble. You also should play Exsanguinate and Torment of Hailfire, which are devastating with your super-tappers and game-winning with infinite mana. Beyond this, I think my list might give you a lot of ideas. The primer is still in progress, but there is a lot there, and many cards from Ezuri will also be good in Lathril. You can find it here- Elfpocalypse Now! (Under Construction). Please feel free to add in any more questions or card analysis. I love to help, and I played GB elves in modern before EDH, so they have a special place in my heart!
March 5, 2022 10:26 a.m.
When you say competitive, the only decks I'm aware of offhand are Nath of the Gilt-Leaf (not really an elf deck), Marwyn Elfball, and Selvala Brostorm. Get your playgroup into proxies and you'll be cooking with gas.
March 5, 2022 4:03 p.m.
Grubbernaut is referring to cEDH, which is a high-budget, broken form of commander that plays out more like the legacy format. I think what you are looking for is a powerful tribal deck to run at the top end of what most would call casual or regular commander. If you are inspired by shows like Game Knights then this is probably what you are going for. This might be a good introduction to the idea that people mean different things when they talk about competitive!
March 5, 2022 5:07 p.m.
Guerric thanks again for all the insight. I really appreciate it. Yeah I'm looking for a powerful/fun elf deck that's "top end" or the best it can be.
Some questions as I go through all the comments:
- What are dorks?
- What are aristo-elves?
What are your thoughts on adding some of these? I know you spoke about Llanowar so that's going in but how about the rest? Thanks!
March 7, 2022 10:52 a.m.
Happy to answer some of those! Dorks are one mana creatures that tap for mana. Llanowar Elves is the iconic one, but there are lots of others. Most of them are elves, but there are dorks that are not as well. They are generally powerful in almost any commander deck because they help you ramp your mana so early, whereas in most colors they only have Sol Ring if they aren't playing uber-expensive legacy cards.
Aristocrats are an archetype where creatures dying gives you life while draining your opponents' life totals. An iconic example would be Blood Artist, though there is an enchantment version in Bastion of Remembrance.
Llanowar Elves you definitely want and Doom Blade is great removal. Elvish Visionary and Dwynen's Elite have been all stars in modern, but they don't make a huge impact in commander. So I do play them, jut not in my commander deck!
March 7, 2022 11:34 a.m.
Thanks Guerric, I've gone through the deck again and found some additional cards I'm thinking of removing in favor of more efficient ones or just to make some more room for the cards you recommended.
What are your thoughts on removing these as well?
Casualties of War - "expensive" but provides removal Gnarlroot Trapper - with all the dorks I have in nthe deck, I don't like that I have to pay 1 life to add mana but the deathtouch ability is nice I just don't attack often as I like to use the elves and tokens to deal direct damage with abilities or the new sac tactic im trying to do Pact of the Serpent - is this a good card? It's low cost but I'm not sure if others play themed decks as I do with elves so I'm not sure of its efficiency for its slot. Cultivator of Blades - I don't attack often so I'm not sure how usable this is Farhaven Elf - 2 for 1 land for its ability but given that I have so many dorks I'm looking at, is it worth the slot? Springbloom Druid 2 for 1 land creature and shuffles. Same concern as above. Wood Elves - Same cost as the previous 2 but only brings in one land. Twinblade Assassins - I don't see my creatures dying enough other than the sacrificing to justify this, but maybe I'm wrong. Thoughts? Miara, Thorn of the Glade - Paying 1 mana and 1 life seems expensive to draw a card. Binding the Old Gods - I like this saga but wanted to get your feedback on it. Should it be taking up a slot? Moldervine Reclamation - Again, don't see my creatures dying other than the sacrificing but it sounds like a great card for that. Is it worth the slot?
March 7, 2022 5:52 p.m.
I can definitely see removing Casualties of War. It is devastating in the right context, but it does cost six mana, and while you'll have much more than most, it sometimes better just to play more mana efficient single-target removal spells like Beast Within, Go for the Throat, Hero's Downfall, etc.
I actually like Gnarlroot Trapper because it's another dork. I think if you build this right you'll have a lot of lifegain and the one won't bother you too much, and of course the deathtouch is a nice bonus.
I think Pact of the Serpent is a great card. You could potentially draw a crazy amount of cards with it, but for three mana it will be great even if you get only three to five.
I hear the argument on Twinblade Assassins. Five mana is a lot for something that will only draw you one extra card on each of your turns, provided that something dies. This is on top of the fact that creatures are the easiest permanent type to kill. Phyrexian Arena would give you the card automatically. Dark Prophecy would give you one any time one of your creatures dies. Grim Haruspex will give you one any time a non-token creature dies. Beast Whisperer gives you one whenever an elf ETBs. These are all very good rates, unlike Assassin. You need to have 10-12 pieces of card draw in the deck, but this is a suboptimal one. I also think if you get this going right you'll have a lot of things dying, and Miara, Thorn of the Glade will be a powerhouse. Moldervine Reclamation is similar. Last week my friend who play's Lathril had something like twenty-five elves on the battlefield (which is easy to do when you play Lathril right!) I had to board wipe him to keep us alive, but he drew a quarter of his deck and gained 25 life. Needless to say, it was a temporary reprieve at best! It's a good card.
You definitely want Farhaven Elf, Springbloom Druid, and Wood Elves in any elf deck in commander- they are the best there is. Fetching your lands and ramping them onto the battlefield while leaving a body behind that can attack and block and be anthemed by your lords is really great.
Binding the Old Gods is kind of meh. I think your instinct is correct there! It costs 4 mana and is slow and grindy for what it does. Sure, we need to kill stuff and ramp lands, but when we kill stuff we'd rather just use Doom Blade for 2cmc.
Cultivator of Blades isn't essential, but it's very easy to underrate. At minimum it gives all of your elves +3/+3 when you attack till end of turn. If Elvish Archdruid is out its +4/+4. If you tap Timberwatch Elf to dump ten counters on it and then immediately attack, your opponents are going to die that turn. The best part is that they'll never see it coming the first time you do it!
March 7, 2022 9:57 p.m.
I also just wanted to add, in case you don't know, that I'd highly recommend watching the "New Deck Building Template" episode of The Command Zone podcast if you haven't. It's really great in giving a basic blueprint in terms of how much of what thing to put in your deck. They also mention that you sometimes need to modify it for certain situations, and some of that is relevant here. Normally, they would say that every deck should have the following-
1) 37 Lands 2) 10 pieces of ramp (defined as cards which give you more mana than you are "supposed to" have on a given turn assuming one land drop per turn. So if you play a land on turns one and two and Sol Ring on turn one, then on turn two you'll have access to four mana rather than just two) 3) 10-12 pieces of card draw. This can be a mix of burst and repeatable draw. Draw is important not just to give you options and stuff to do, it helps you not miss your land drops also. 4) 8-10 pieces of targeted removal 5)3 board wipes 6) If your deck cares about a certain thing (such as elves) you want to have at least thirty of that thing
They then clarify that oftentimes these categories overlap, which makes cards especially good. Reclamation Sage is both an elf and a removal piece. Beast Whisperer is both an elf and card draw. Llanowar Elves and Farhaven Elf are both ramp and elves.
For elves, we want much more ramp than in a normal deck, since that is what elves do best, and we want fewer lands, because we'd rather play Elvish Mystic than a land, since the mystic can be pumped up with anthems and sent to attack and kill our opponents. We still want a couple in our opening hand so we can't go too crazy, but we definitely want to cut it. Modern Elves plays only 18 lands when most decks play twenty four, and Pauper Elves only plays 13. My Ezuri deck plays 29, but I can afford to be riskier with Ezuri because he can protect my dorks by regenerating them if they are board wiped. In my Ezuri deck, I play twenty pieces of ramp, most of which are also elves. I think for you I'd recommend starting at 34, and if later on your having no problem with that you could try going to 33 or 32. I'd make sure to have at least fifteen pieces of ramp, which aside from Sol Ring should probably all be elves, but that is just my recommendation!
Just make sure you are not short on these categories. If you can't draw cards you'll just top deck and playing will become boring. If you don't have enough removal you won't be able to take out problematic stuff your opponents play. Having the right balance makes so much of a difference!
March 7, 2022 10:12 p.m.
How would I know which cards are legal in commander?
I have a couple of old cards I'm looking into but I'm not sure if they're too old such as Eladamri, Lord of Leaves
March 11, 2022 7:55 a.m.
Almost all cards are legal in commander unless they've been banned by the rules committee due to broken combos or linear gameplay. Eladamri is legal (albeit wicked expensive in real world $ due to the reserve list), and I play him almost every game when I play my elves deck because he rocks. There are no cards that aren't legal simply because they are too old. If you want to look a card up on gatherer (Wizards' site) it will have a section on legality, and you can see all the formats a card is legal in. You can also find a comprehensive list of all banned cards on the rules committee's website here- https://mtgcommander.net/index.php/about-us/
March 11, 2022 8:01 a.m.
The Reserved List is a list of cards that will never be reprinted.
March 11, 2022 11:11 a.m.
Wizards years ago what I believe is a mistake in that they guaranteed certain valuable cards would never be reprinted so that their value would be preserved over time. There is a lot of pressure from the community to get rid of it since it puts certain formats (such as legacy and vintage) behind an unscalable paywall. In any case, cars that are on the list only go up in price. So I got my copy of Eladamri years ago when he was 5 bucks. Recently he was $100. He's come down a bit, but he won't be reprinted, meaning there won't ever likely be a huge price drop. This only applies to paper. IF you play Magic: Online it's not really a thing. IF you have a copy, good for you!
March 11, 2022 12:02 p.m.
March 12, 2022 1:11 p.m.
I know it's out of tribe, but Toski, Bearer of Secrets is amazing for card draw and fits in this kind of "green weenie" archetype, and if youre planning on going competetive, you can't worry too much about that stuff.
Ivy Lane Denizen is also an idea.
I'd also recommend Green Sun's Zenith and Yisan, the Wanderer Bard. Yisan is especially good with things that can untap him to let him tutor multiple times in a turn, but he benefits more if there are more creatures in the deck. Definitely get some 1 cost 1/1s with deathtouch. Theres also Elvish Mystic, a corollary to Llanowar Elves So annoying to deal wth. Demonic Tutor Diabolic Tutor and Increasing Ambition are decent too if you want more tutors. Beyond that, idk, Respite or something. Respite is a little troll, but there are niche circumstances where it can be funny, like, some guy with infinite tokens swinging out at you because he thinks it must be over, then you using that to gain infinite life and somehow taking him out next turn while hes tapped out.
March 14, 2022 4:51 p.m.
Ok! I'm back and finally updated my deck. Removed a ton of cards and added most of what you guys recommended along with some others I found online.
- I should be receiving Torment of Hailfire this week, trying to think of what to remove for this card. Thoughts?
- Copperhorn Scout looks like a viable strategy for the deck as I want to untap creatures to retap Lathril, Blade of the Elves for direct damage. Thing is, how often will I attack or will it be safe to attack to keep him alive and make this worth a slot. Thoughts on that?
- I really wanted to add Living Death into the deck, but was concerned on everyone's creatures coming back from the grave. Should I add it as a way to end the game if I have the right cards in the deck?
- Thoughts on leaving Throne of the God-Pharaoh in?
- Overall thoughts/feedback on deck changes?
Pinging Guerric for thoughts :)
March 21, 2022 10:22 a.m. Edited.
ionlyplayelves Happy to help! I'll take a look at it later when I have a bit of time and offer some thoughts!
March 21, 2022 10:24 a.m.
March 21, 2022 11:55 a.m. Edited.
I'd replace Mobilize with Copperhorn Scout. The cmc is the same, and scout is an elf for when that matters, and the scout can be used repeatedly. The problem with Vitalize and Mobilize is that they are one-offs and thus often low impact, but at least the former is an instant allowing you to use it during your opponents' turns for a surprise move.
Cards like Torment of Hailfire are just better than things like Gruesome Scourger and Radiant Epicure which at 5cmc will often just not do enough to justify the cost. It's always good to think of the floor of the card and not just the ceiling. If you have one other creature out and play those cards it will feel bad. With Hailfire, even if you only cast it for five each opponent is going to have to choose between sacrificing up to three permanents or taking up to nine to the face, which will be a good return on investment.
Living Death is especially amazing with Syr Konrad, the Grim and can double as a board wipe and win con. If you cast it with Syr Konrad out, first all creatures in all graveyards will do damage to each opponent as they are exiled from the graveyard, then opponents will take damage for every creature killed and put into the graveyard. Its just crazy powerful. Also, if you have a sac outlet you can always sac all of your stuff first so you can get everything back. Its just unbeatable.
I feel like Throne of the God-Pharaoh could do some work but probably fits better in a different deck, but that's just me.
The Meathook Massacre is pricey in money for a reason- its sort of a catch all. It can be a boardwipe, or not, but either way its an extra aristocrat effect of a permanent type people remove the least, so its good!
I'll post some other thoughts on the deck page itself, but I wanted to answer your above questions here.