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Elements of Deck Building


Hello, everyone! The release of Core Set 2020 brought with it a lot of cards for a tribe that has put up some pretty impressive numbers in Standard events. That tribe is the Elementals. This week, I have a few different builds of Elemental tribal decks that you can use in your local events to take down the competition. Let's take a look at our first deck.

Temur Elementals

The first Elemental build I have for you is probably the one that has seen the most play. Let's get started by looking at Temur Elementals:

Living Twister
It's no secret that Risen Reef is a heck of a card. In a deck specifically dedicated to playing Elementals, it allows you to either ramp your mana, thus allowing you to play additional Elementals each turn, or it draws you a card. If it wasn't so fragile, it would be the perfect Magic card. However, even though it basically dies whenever it gets sneezed on, it's the engine that makes this deck run so efficiently.

If you're able to get Omnath, Locus of the Roil into play while you have a copy or two of Risen Reef on the battlefield, you can use Omnath's ability to put a +1/+1 counter on a Risen Reef to help make it more difficult to kill. Alternatively, you could just put that counter onto nearly any other creature in this deck to make them even more of a threat.

A nice combo in this deck is the interaction between Living Twister and Omnath, Locus of the Roil. Living Twister allows you to return a tapped land you control to its owners hand, for the cost of one Green mana. If you return any of your lands that tap for Green mana to your hand, you can play that card as your land drop for the turn, triggering Omnath's ability and allowing you to grow your Living Twister with the +1/+1 counter.

Mono-Red Elementals

The next Elemental deck I have for you ditches all other colors in favor of being Mono-Red. Let's take a look at it:

Runaway Steam-Kin
As I mentioned before, Risen Reef is an engine card for many Elemental decks. Since this deck only plays Mono-Red cards, there must be some other sort of engine in play. In this deck, I would consider Runaway Steam-Kin to be the engine card. While it doesn't allow you to draw additional cards, it acts as both a beefy creature as well as a way to ramp your mana. Feel free to attack with Runaway Steam-Kin when you have three +1/+1 counters on it if you happen to be holding either Shock or Heartfire. If your opponent blocks, you'll still have the ability to remove three +1/+1 counters from it to create three Red mana. Then, use that mana to either destroy the creature blocking you or to deal direct damage to your opponent's dome.

This deck plays a creature that doesn't get as much love as it should - Thunderkin Awakener. With Thunderkin Awakener, whenever it attacks you can return a creature from your graveyard to the battlefield tapped and attacking. That creature will be sacrificed at the end of your turn, so it will go back to your graveyard to be used again on future turns. This works especially well when you have a copy of Scampering Scorcher in your graveyard for Thunderkin Awakener to target. You'll be able to bring back the Scampering Scorcher, who conveniently brings along two 1/1 Elemental creature tokens with it. Those tokens don't enter the battlefield attacking, but they'll stick around after your turn ends and Scampering Scorcher is sacrificed. If you do this for multiple turns, you can quickly outnumber your opponent's forces.

This deck also runs the entire line of Core Set 2020 Chandra's. Both Chandra, Novice Pyromancer and Chandra, Acolyte of Flame offer loyalty abilities that either create Elementals or boost ones currently in play. Chandra, Awakened Inferno doesn't help your Elementals in any way, but she does punish all non-Elemental creatures in play (both yours and your opponents) by dealing three points of damage to them with her -3 loyalty ability. She also offers a way to win the game once the battlefield becomes congested - the emblem created with her +2 loyalty ability. If you're able to protect her, you can create multiple emblems over a few turns, and that damage will really add up.

Cavalcade Elementals

The final deck I have for you this week takes advantage of the low power value of most Elemental creatures. Let's take a look at it:

Cavalcade of Calamity
This deck takes all of the best Elementals from the Mono-Red deck I showed you earlier and splashes some sources of Green and Blue mana to allow you to play Risen Reef. Between Risen Reef and Runaway Steam-Kin, you shouldn't have problems casting all of the Elementals in this deck. One thing to notice is that all of the Elementals included in this deck (including the ones created by Chandra, Acolyte of Flame) only have one point of power. This is important because your main win-condition is by attacking with a copy (or more) of Cavalcade of Calamity in play. If you're able to attack with a large number of tiny creatures, the damage Cavalcade of Calamity deals can be enough to reduce your opponent's life total to zero outright, or it can lower it enough that you can defeat them by casting a Shock or Lightning Strike directly at the opponent.

I mentioned earlier the combination between Thunderkin Awakener and Scampering Scorcher. Thunderkin Awakener can also return Scorch Spitter to the battlefield when it attacks. I point this out because Scorch Spitter will enter the battlefield attacking, which is different than simply being on the battlefield and attacking. Since it enters the battlefield attacking, Scorch Spitter will not deal one damage to the player or planeswalker it's attacking, as it never actually attacked. This interaction is a little weird, so I wanted to make sure I pointed it out before you played this incorrectly at your local event.

If you have Scorch Spitter on the battlefield along with Chandra's Spitfire and attack with both at the same time, you'll deal a point of damage with Scorch Spitter's ability to the target of your attack. That will trigger the ability of Chandra's Spitfire, since the damage dealt by Scorch Spitter's ability isn't combat damage, giving it +3/+0 until the end of the turn. Pretty nifty, huh? You can also trigger the +3/+0 bonus of Chandra's Spitfire by attacking with it while you have a copy of Cavalcade of Calamity on the battlefield. That makes Chandra's Spitfire very valuable in this deck, as it has flying and might be able to swoop in for a ton of damage over a small amount of turns.

Wrapping Up

The Elemental tribe is one that is a lot of fun to play. They are spread out over enough colors to allow a variety of different types of Elemental decks to be playable. If you have an Elemental deck you'd like to share, I'd love to see it. Feel free to post it in the comments below.

What do you think of these decks? Do you have any suggestions for improvements? Let me know by leaving a comment below or you can reply to me directly on Twitter (@mikelikesmtg), or email me directly at mikelikesmtg@gmail.com. Also, feel free to share this article with your friends anywhere on social media. And be sure to join me here again next week as I continue my search for innovative decks in Standard. I'll see you then!

- Mike Likes

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