Budget Magic: $75 (22 tix) Standard Green Black Elves
by SaffronOlive // Aug 13, 2015
안녕하십니까 Budget Magic lovers, it's that time again. This week we are heading back to Standard to showcase a Budget Magic deck that seems well positioned in the post-Pro Tour Magic Origins, post-Grand Prix San Diego metagame: Green-Black Elves. This is also (by accident) the longest edition of Budget Magic I've ever produced, featuring videos of six different matchups. I'll let you in on a Budget Magic secret: since I typically record in the two-man queues on Magic Online, some weeks it takes 10 matches to get videos for three different matchups (because you run into Mono-Red Aggro five matches in a row or run into people playing tier four decks that don't really make great viewing). But other times the matchups line up perfectly and things are pretty easy. Well, this was one of the easy weeks. I played six matches in a row and basically won the lotto of recording videos in the 2-man queues; every single opponent was on a different deck, and even more surprising every single deck was a tier one/two archetype. Plus, we just kept winning, which made me want to keep playing the deck anyway, so I kept the cameras rolling for all six matches. Anyway, let's get to the videos and then we'll talk a bit more about the deck. First a quick reminder — if you enjoy the Budget Magic series and the other video content here on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish Youtube Channel to keep up on all the latest and greatest.
GB Elves Intro
GB Elves vs GW Constellation
GB Elves vs Mono Red Aggro
GB Elves vs RB Dragons
GB Elves vs UR Ensoul Artifact
GB Elves vs GR Devotion
GB Elves vs UR Tutelage Mill
As you can see in the videos, this deck absolutely killed it going 5-1 over the course of the six matches with our only loss coming to GR Devotion. GR Devotion is a tough matchup since Polukranos, World Eater and Dragonlord Atarka are pretty good against a horde of x/1's and x/2's, but I'm pretty sure I lost game two (and the match) due to a punt. In what ended up being a pretty epic game two, our opponent at 14 life went monstrous with Polukranos, World Eater (10:05 in the video) sweeping away four of our creatures and leaving us with a single 1/1 Elf Token against an 11/11 Polukranos, World Eater, two Sylvan Caryatids, a 2/2 Satyr Token, and an active Xenagos, the Reveler. We immediately had to chump Polukranos, World Eater with our Elf Token (or we would have dropped to 1 life and been dead on board the next turn) leaving us with an empty board.
Our way to winning this game was to amass enough Elves that we could chump for a couple turns and finish off our opponent with multiple copies of Shaman of the Pack (or Chord of Calling finding Shaman of the Pack). The next turn we untapped with five mana, cast a Sylvan Messenger and hit the absolute nuts: a second copy of Shaman of the Pack along with two copies of Dwynen's Elite. We used our last mana to play a Gnarlroot Trapper and passed the turn. We knew we had to chump Polukranos, World Eater for the rest of the game, and this is where the punt came in.
Our opponent went to attacks and I, without really thinking, immediacy chumped with the Gnarlroot Trapper rather than the Sylvan Messanger — obviously a 2/2 is better than a 1/1, right? Well, we ended up drawing our out (a copy of Chord of Calling) but we were one mana short (remember that Gnarlroot Trapper produces one mana) of being able to play [[Shaman of the Pack, Shaman of the Pack and Chord of Calling for Shaman of the Pack (over the course of two turns, while chumping in between). This line would have allowed us to drain for five, five, and six and win us the game. Basically, I didn't play to my outs and it cost me a perfect 6-0 record.
In my opinion these two cards are the reason to play the Elf deck in our current Standard meta. I am especially proud of the Temur Sabertooth addition to the main deck because previous builds of the deck were playing things like Hornet Nest in this slot, and Temur Sabertooth is about a million times better. The cat does three very important things: first, it shores up one of the decks major weaknesses in sweepers like Anger of the Gods, Crux of Fate and End Hostilities. It not only protects itself by becoming indestructible, but it protects a couple other creatures as well by returning them to our hand. It also allows us to chump indefinitely in the late game while we are waiting to draw into a Shaman of the Pack to finish the game. Second, it blanks our opponent's targeted removal since we can just pick up any creature that finds itself on the wrong end of a Hero's Downfall or Ultimate Price. Finally, it is basically our expensive-but-Standard-legal Wirewood Symbiote. The deck actually has a ton of enters the battlefield abilities between Sylvan Messenger, Dwynen's Elite, Elvish Visionary, Reclamation Sage, Gilt-Leaf Winnower and Shaman of the Pack. Being able to pick up these creatures and reuse their abilities allows us to grind out value (and eventually our opponent) with seemingly under-powered creatures. Probably the most exciting thing we can do is "combo" off our opponent with just one copy of Shaman of the Pack, but there are some tier one decks that just can't beat infinite copies of Gilt-Leaf Winnower (Azban Control for instance) or Reclamation Sage (UR Ensoul, UR Tutelage Mill, and any Constellation deck).
Speaking of Reclamation Sage, being able to run four copies in the 75 is the other reason to play this deck. This card is extremely well positioned in the post-Pro Tour, post-Grand Prix San Diago metagame. It is an uncounterable way to kill Sphinx's Tutelage against the UR Mill deck since the deck only plays Negate, it is an uncounterable way to kill pretty much anything wearing Ensoul Artifact on turn three since the deck plays only Stubborn Denial, and if Ensoul Artifact is on a Darksteel Citadel, it can kill the Ensoul Artifact itself. It kills basically every card that matters against Abzan or GW Constellation, it kills Hangarback Walker (which is everywhere), and even removes Aqueous Form from Bant Heroic (the most problematic enchantment since it disallows chumping). Basically, Reclamation Sage does it all and being the only deck in the format that can play four copies (since it actually works well with our Elf synergies) is one of the big allures of the deck.
Chord of Calling is the most expensive card in the deck, but there really isn't any way of cutting it; it truly is the glue that holds the deck together. It lets us find whatever piece we are missing and makes sure we always have a Dwynen, Gilt-Leaf Daen or Temur Sabertooth when we need one without having to run four copies of either. In our deck it's just better than Collected Company because many of our most important cards are four-drops and because hitting the one piece we really need is far more important than hitting two random Elves. It also allows for explosive plays where we can spend all of our mana casting Dwynen's Elites and Elvish Mystics (which are basically free, since they add one/two mana for convoke) and still tutor for whatever we are missing with Chord of Calling.
Speaking of things that only the Elf deck gets, how about eight copies of Elvish Mystic, a card that is so broken (according to Wizards) that they are moving away from printing it in Standard again? Gnarlroot Trapper is almost an Elvish Mystic since the only main deck cards it cannot cast are the two copies of Temur Sabertooth and three Ultimate Price. It also almost makes the rest of our creature unblockable since leaving up the deathtouch ability typically has that effect. This second ability also makes it a slightly-less-bad topdeck in the late game which is a nice bonus.
Dwynen, Gilt-Leaf Daen might be the worst Elf lord ever printed, but she is also the only Elf lord legal in Standard so we pretty much have to play her. The one thing she has going for her is reach, which is something about 70 percent of our opponents don't seem to understand until the slam into her with a Thopter Token or she chumps a monstrous Stormbreath Dragon. The lifegain also isn't the horrible in aggro matchups. Being legendary is really annoying since we can't stack up the Crusade effect like we could with Elvish Archdruid or Elvish Champion, so if BFZ gives us a better Elf lord, watch out — this deck could get even better.
Since we are already playing almost all of the best Elves in Standard, there are not many changes to make until Battle for Zendikar hits the format in a couple months. While I don't think Nissa, Vastwood Seer is essential to the success of the deck, playing a copy or two as a Chord of Calling target is probably correct. Even the manabase is almost as good as it gets. If you have a play set of Temple of Malady, I would cut one Swamp, one Forest and two Jundle Hollows and run the scryland in their place, otherwise you are pretty much good to go.
Finally, Whisperwood Elemental is a strong sideboard addition. It provides another counter to sweepers, especially Languish which is the one wrath that Temur Sabertooth can't dodge. It might also be worth including a couple copies of Plummet or Hero's Downfall in the board, since multi-color dragons and planeswalkers can be problematic, especially if we are behind on board.
This deck seems super awesome and I really believe it has a good matchups against many of the most played decks in Standard. It has the ability to grind with Temur Sabertooth, play the control game with Sylvan Messenger and Reclamation Sage, and combo-kill with Shaman of the Pack and Chord of Calling. What more could you want? Give it a try, I don't think you'll be disappointed. As always, leave your suggestions in the comments and you can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive.