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B/G Elves: A Modern Powerhouse

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Today I would like to take some time to do a deep dive on one of my favorite decks in Modern that I think is fairly underappreciated: bg Elves. This deck is not only extremely consistent, but I think it is doing something fairly powerful in the absolute sense. Let’s start by taking a look at my current decklist before we dive into a breakdown:


The first thing I’d like to point out is the backbone of our deck - our one-mana accelerants:

Elvish Mystic
Llanowar Elves
Elves of Deep Shadow

One of the ways the list I prefer for Elves differs a bit from some others is that I am all in on playing mana creatures, having a full twelve. The starts this deck has when it has a mana creature, versus when it doesn’t, feel like night and day. Because of this I want to maximize my ability to always have an accelerant in my opener by playing as many as possible. Past this, Elves of Deep Shadow also helps enable our Black splash.

After our accelerants we have a couple of elves that help enable some of our more explosive draws:

Heritage Druid
Dwynen's Elite

While many of our elves tap for mana already, Heritage Druid allows them to do so right away. Dwynen's Elite is great simply because it makes more than one elven body. Heritage Druid and Dwynen's Elite are especially powerful together - enabling some of our most powerful draws. A common sequence that is our best start looks like:

Turn one: Mana Elf

Turn two:

Some of the most powerful payoffs for playing this tribal deck are our selection of “lords” which power up our creatures in various ways:

Elvish Archdruid
Elvish Clancaller
Ezuri, Renegade Leader

After our Heritage Druid starts, turn two Elvish Archdruid is probably one of the strongest plays this deck can make. Not only does it make our board stronger, but it allows us to generate large amounts of mana to play out the rest of our swarm to the board very quickly. Elvish Clancaller is a cheap lord effect that also can act as a mana sink when we get into a board stall against another creature deck.

Ezuri, Renegade Leader is our ultimate “go over the top” card for breaking basically any stall. His 5 mana ability is often lethal just once and, with Archdruid, we can often activate it twice in the same turn. While Ezuri cannot regenerate himself, being able to regenerate other elves can often allow us favorable combat steps even when we can’t spend 5 mana.

The last elf I have yet to mention in our main deck is the reason we play Black cards:

Shaman of the Pack

I cannot emphasize enough how powerful Shaman of the Pack is. This card steals games we would not come close to touching otherwise. It often lets us close games out a turn faster, giving us the velocity we need to win races that many Modern games turn into.

The last few cards in our main deck are our only non-Elf spells we are playing:

Scavenging Ooze
Collected Company
Lead the Stampede

Scavenging Ooze is just a quality Magic card that increases our threat count, while also acting as a main deck hate card for graveyard decks. Some of the harder matchups for Elves are the ones where they kill all of our creatures. Scavenging Ooze really shines in these matches, because it can become a lethal threat very quickly by eating all of our fallen creatures.

Collected Company is the card advantage glue that ties this deck together. It increases our threat density and helps us find our powerful elves more consistently. One of the things I really like about this deck is how consistent its Companies are. Not only because we have a high creature density, but also because rarely are we looking for specific elves. Instead, we are just looking for more bodies, so any hits will do.

Lead the Stampede is a concession to the fact that we can only register four copies of Collected Company. This is another card that helps us generate a critical mass of threats, while also helping us generate some card advantage in the grindy matchups.

When it comes to the sideboard, we have some more Leads when we want to grind. Damping Spheres to help us race Tron / Storm. Assassin's Trophy and Reclamation Sage to help us pick off problem permanents. Surgical Extraction and another Scavenging Ooze to help against graveyard decks.

Lastly we have a couple copies of this card:

Stain the Mind

While Stain the Mind is useful against narrow combo decks like Ad Nauseam, the reason this card is actually in our sideboard is because of wu Control. In my experience playing this matchup, everything revolves around how many copies of Terminus they find and how quickly they find them. While we can sometimes beat one Terminus, we are a strong favorite in games where they do not cast any. Because of this I think Stain the Mind is a good way to attack these control decks.

The following are some sideboard notes for some of the more common matchups in Modern. While this list of matchups is obviously not exhaustive, you should be able to extend the ideas here to apply to most matches you will face.

VS Tron

In:

Out:

Game 1 this matchup is a pure race that often favors whoever is on the play. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Oblivion Stone are the best cards against us and, with Ezuri, we can even regenerate a lot of our board through Oblivion Stone. Post board things tend to get much better for us, as we get to bring in both Damping Sphere and Assassin's Trophy.

VS Humans

In:

Out:

This is a good matchup for Elves. We do not care about a lot of their interaction and our linear plan tends to race them effectively.

VS uw Control

In:

Out:

This matchup is favorable when they do not find Terminus and hard if they hit Terminus early. The most important thing to being successful in this matchup, is learning to identify when we can pace ourselves to beat a sweeper and when we need to push all in and make them have it. Post board taking away their Terminus with Stain the Mind is priority number 1.

VS br Hollow One

In:

Out:

This matchup is another race, but one I think that Elves tends to be a bit ahead in. Our main deck Scavenging Oozes are aces here, but post board they will often have Grim Lavamancer which can give us a hard time.

VS Burn

In:

Out:

This matchup feels close to a coinflip when we are on the draw, with Elves being solidly ahead when we are on the play. Searing Blaze / Searing Blood and Grim Lavamancer are their most impactful cards. Post board, some Burn decks will have Ensnaring Bridge as well, which is why Reclamation Sage comes in.

VS Jund

In:

Out:

This matchup is a bit of a slog, since they have so much spot removal. Liliana, the Last Hope is probably one of their best cards against us, since it generates a repeatable removal effect.

VS Storm

In:

Out:

This matchup is tough. Their linear draws tend to be a bit faster than ours, and we have minimal amounts of interaction. When you bring in Stain the Mind, Grapeshot is the first thing you want to name, because we can sometimes beat Empty the Warrens.

VS Dredge

In:

Out:

This matchup hedges completely around how quickly they find and cast a large Conflagrate. It is important to remember that you can stop the Dredge player during their draw step, after they have dredged, to exile Conflagrate with Ooze or Surgical before they get to their mainphase to cast it.

The last cards I want to talk about tonight are specifically some of the cards I am electing not to play in this configuration of Elves:

Nettle Sentinel
Devoted Druid
Chord of Calling

Nettle Sentinel is probably the card people ask me about the most with regards to Elves. In my opinion, Sentinel qualifies as a “win more” card. It serves to make our best draws better, while being fairly poor in our average draws. By playing more mana creatures and no Nettle Sentinels, we increase the quality of our average draw, which I think is important.

While I can see the appeal of adding an infinite combo to Elves with Devoted Druid, playing a 2 mana 0/2 creature runs counter to our plan of beating people down with tiny Green creatures. Not only is 2 mana slow, but not having a single point of power on its own means it cannot help out attacking without a lord.

Finally, for the same reason I think Elves is an awesome Collected Company deck, I think it is a poor Chord of Calling deck. Often we are just looking for more elves, and not specific elves. This means paying a mana premium to get a specific elf is often not what we want to be doing. This is not a toolbox deck - it is an aggro deck. Get attacking.

The last thing I would like to close on today is sharing a budget version of this Elf deck. While the focus of my content here is mostly competitive, Elves is a deck that can still be very strong while being a good introduction to the format. The following deck list is less than $300 here on CSI as of my posting of this article:


The swaps here are:

Wrapping Up

My next major Modern event will be the Invitational in December. Elves is currently my front runner for playing in this event, because it is a consistent deck with a proactive game plan. If you want to see some videos of this archetype in action - you can find some on my YouTube channel here.

What are your thoughts on my configuration and thoughts on bg Elves here? Let me know in a comment below!