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Playing Pauper: Elves

Welcome to the third installment of Playing Pauper! This week we're piloting Elves, which turned out to be considerably more fun than I expected. The deck's quick starts mean you can take over a game early, and four Distant Melody lets you draw through your deck quickly. If you've ever been a fan of Elfball in any format, this list will pique your interest.

Note the actual deck price is lower than the videos suggests due to Nettle Sentinel's price dropping over 50% recently. If you want to play this deck, make sure you pick these up before they rise in price again.

Check out the matches below, then read the sideboarding guide and the rest of the discussion below. If you enjoy Playing Pauper and other video content on MTGGoldfish, be sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish YouTube channel to keep up on all the latest and greatest.

Elves Intro

Elves vs Affinity

Elves vs Blue-Black Delver

Elves vs Izzet Blitz

Elves vs Izzet Blitz

Elves vs Affinity

The Deck

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In theory, Elves' game plan is quite simple: Drop a ton of elves, then get massive value from Timberwatch Elf, Wellwisher, or Priest of Titania + Distant Melody.

In reality, there are a ton of important decision points through every stage of the game. Do you commit everything to the board or hold back in case of a wrath? Do you sequence your early plays to be aggressive with Nettle Sentinels, or generate mana with Elvish Mystic and Priest of Titania? How many ways can Quirion Ranger be used to your advantage? (answer: a lot).

Elves is a great example of an aggressive deck that's harder to play than a control deck. Making the right sequencing decisions and knowing when to trade damage for creatures is a fine art.

The Sideboard

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Scattershot Archer comes in against decks with 1-toughness fliers such as Spellstutter Sprite or Squadron HawkViridian Longbow can be brought in against 1-toughness creatures in general.

Gleeful Sabotage is a good tool versus Affinity, Journey to Nowhere decks like Kuldotha Jeskai, and any White deck that boards in Circle of Protection: Green.

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Moment's Peace is excellent against Izzet Blitz and is sometimes worth playing against other aggressive decks as well.

Wrap in Vigor protects you from miniature board wipes like Electrickery, Evincar's Justice, or Wail of the Nim. This card should be boarded in pretty liberally since it can also protect against spot removal.

Luminescent Rain works wonders against Burn decks. If they use removal on your creatures, you generally have more creatures than they have burn. If they ignore your creatures, Luminescent Rain will buy a ton of time.

This deck is a well-oiled machine of value, and it's hard to know what to sideboard out. My first places to look are generally Viridian Longbow and Elvish Visionary. After that, I look to trim either Wellwisher or Lys Alana Huntmaster against controlling or aggressive decks, respectively.

The Matchups

Elves preys on slower decks that lack enough early interaction and removal such as Affinity or Tron. It also can outrace many of the aggressive decks in the format, especially when you draw Wellwisher.

Elves has a very hard time versus removal heavy decks that can kill 2-3 creatures by Turn 3-4 consistently. Midrange decks like Mono Black Control or Kuldotha Jeskai can be hard to overcome when they remove your best Elves, while also deploying blockers. 

If you ever have to play the mirror match, good luck, it's insane. Priest of Titania, Wellwisher, and Timberwatch Elf all count every Elf in play, not just the ones you control. Generally the person that can slam one of these creatures first is going to have the best chance of winning.

Beating Elves

If you aren't interested in playing Elves, but need to know how to beat it, here are a few tips:

  • Respect the Nettle Sentinel + Birchlore Rangers combo. Disrupt it as quickly as you can, or the Elves deck will often cast their entire hand by Turn 3.
  • Examine the board state carefully and determine what you can beat. If you can't beat the Timberwatch Elf that's pumping a creature, then don't get fancy using your only Lightning Bolt on a Priest of Titania
  • If you're playing counterspells, watch out for Distant Melody. Once Elves resolves one and draws 4-7 cards to refill their hand, your counterspells will look a lot worse.
  • If you're playing Red, be sure to have Electrickery in your sideboard. It's great against Elves and has utility against other decks as well.


I hope you enjoyed this deck tech and the videos this week. I generally favor controlling decks over aggressive ones, but continually killing opponents quickly and out of nowhere is enough to change my mind.

I always read and respond to comments in the comment section below or on the YouTube channel or on Twitter @JakeStilesMTG. Let me know what you thought of Playing Pauper this week and what you'd like to see next.  

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