Thursday 9 February 2012

Heads up cube deck analysis: Part 1 - Elves

Edric, Spymaster of Trest
I am trying to cover as much as possible and, still having not finished the rather culled A cube reviews I am trying to play some classic decks that are based around B cube cards. This will allow me to touch upon some of the most powerful cards in magic that only really fit into one deck. These cards are worth of mention but if I ever get round to reviewing them it will be a long way off. Seeing them in context tends to be more useful any way. So, with that in mind and having done goblins previously I did elves as one of my two decks in this heads up gentleman's cube. I also quite wanted to try out Edric, Spymaster of Trest as he has seemed powerful thus far in less well suited decks.

Elves has been around since the dawn of my cube and is unlike any other deck really. It is somewhere between agro and combo and may be built with an emphasis on either aspect. Without disruption elves is one of the most powerful creature decks as it snowballs out of control very fast. While not as fast as affinity it will quickly out power the agro artifact decks. It is still a very fast deck and highly consistent on top of this. Elves does have some major Achilles heals, mainly that it suffers savagely to mass removal, particularly red mass removal. Elves also typically struggle with fliers as the various archer type elf cards are way to weak and narrow to include in most elf decks. The mass removal is such a problem with only green and blue lacking it in their colours. Most elves are cheap and make mana or more elves, all of which die and leave you with nothing in hand or play to a single mass removal effect. Not only does mass removal kill all your threats they kill most of your mana too. Without haste or burn elves cannot do much to affect the other player, even if they have held back cards, after mass removal. Elves is also an auto loss to goblins or any deck that plays a Goblin Sharp Shooter, although the two classic tribal titans have not crossed paths since Beast Within has arrived for green.

A weakness to mass removal is a necessary balance on elves which tend to auto win against unprepared decks due to their insane power left unchecked. Elves may be built to reasonably have a chance against mass removal which leaves a fairly balanced deck although best when not scouted or known. The version I have built is not especially standard as I was testing several new cards and ended up building a very midrange elf deck that was neither pure agro or pure combo. My match ups were to be big red and zoo. Here is the list;

Priest of Titania
25 Spells

Wirewood Symbiote
Llanowar Elves
Fyndhorn Elves
Jogara Treespeaker
Arbour Elf
Heritage Druid
Quirion Ranger

Wirewood Hivemaster
Priest of Titania
Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
Elvish Visionary
Wirewood Herald
Viridian Emissary

Viridian Shaman
Caller of the Claw
Wood Elves
Elvish Archdruid
Edric, Spymaster of Trest

Birthing Pod
Garruk Wildspeaker
Sylvan Messenger

Deranged Hermit
Green Sun's Zenith
Chancellor of the Tangle

15 Land

9 Forest
Gaea's CradleTreetop Village
Tropical Island
Misty Rainforest
Breeding Pool
Gaea's Cradle

Other Considered Cards

Ezuri, Renegade Leader
Beast Within
Elvish Scrapper
Primal Command
Dryad Arbor

I misconstructed my deck and should have played Ezuri for sure as I frequently found myself wanting any overrun effect to win the game on the spot and neither of my other two were tutorable. I should probably also have played more in the way of answer cards as I really struggled against certain cards, most notably Inferno Titan. Beast Within would have been fine, as would opposition. Primal Command doesn't deal with the Titan but it deals with many other problem cards and serves some additional functions in the deck adding a great deal to your longevity. While some of these changes would add a lot to the late game they would seriously hamper early game consistency. Playing against a big red deck I was certain to be facing cheap mass removal and thus early consistency is not as important as late game action. I should have cut Viridian Shaman and two of either a low impact one or two drop elf or a land and played Primal Command and Beast Within instead to cover me better against big red and Eruzi to give the deck some extra punch. Opposition is a bit double blue and I wanted to maximise my forest count for Rofellos and Arbour Elf.

On top of trying out the new Edric I also wanted to see Birthing Pod and Green Sun's Zenith in elves. While Pod has proven its self for the A cube the Zenith has never impressed and elves seems like a place it will be better than most other decks. Because of Birthing Pod I played Sylvan Messenger which is a very weak card, particularly without any recruiter effect that goblins enjoy. The only other interesting four drop for elves is Chameleon Colossus who is far more powerful than Messengers but offers no synergy. Both Pod and Zenith were excellent in the deck but both was a little greedy as there are subtle counter synergies. Edric was far better than Regal Force, particularly with the Pod, but this doesn't come as much of a surprise as Edric is balanced for multi-player formats. The 'may' option to draw is handy too as 40 card elves is not unknown to deck itself to death. I am sure Edric will stay in the A cube as he has performed very well in all showings.

Wirewood Symbiote
The general idea of the deck is to make a mana elf on turn one followed up by some more serious mana producers so that you have the option of making you whole hand on turn three. A god draw can Overrun for the win on turn three but turn four is far more likely and only then if not disrupted. Serious card advantage is required to power through disruption and this comes in the form of Edric and the various comes into play effect creatures come in to play. Sometimes elf decks make us of Skullclamp for this but unless you have lots of token generation you do not always want to be clamping off your elves. Recycle also saw a lot of play before Regal Force came along but was a little risky. While the card advantage monsters don't offer all that much or even very cost efficiently they are elves and therefore buff the other creatures. They also allow for repeat uses in combination with Wirewood Symbiote, which is the best creature in the elf deck. While he is pretty narrow he is incredibly powerful in the right deck allowing you to ramp your mana production, recur effects and protect your guys from removal. The Symbiote should basically always be the first target for a removal spell.

Wirewood Herald and Caller of the Claw offered me some protection against mass removal, as do a few of the bigger threats which will either bypass the removal like Garruk, or Chancellor against red, or can be held in hand to quickly recover such as Deranged Hermit. Treetop Village is also a help here but not quite as significant. Wirewood Hivemaster is a bit of a luxury who helps power up Gaea's Cradle and Overrun effects but gets in the way of your curving out well. He tends to bait some removal which is nice but unless you suspect the removal it is generally not right to cast him before mana producing elves in the early stages of the game. Tokens are nice to Pod into Symbiote too.

Heritage Druid is also a bit of a luxury card and is infrequently useful due to being so cumbersome to make effective. He does offer a very vague form of haste to your guys but only in mana production, which is best in combo versions but far less appealing for aggressive decks. Having a decent number of one mana 1/1 elves is very useful in the early turns to ramp up most effectively as they may be cast with spare mana to enhance your other mana producing effects. For this reason the one mana luxury and utility elves are far more appealing than those costing more mana.

The weakest cards in the deck were in no particular order Heritage Druid, Viridian Emissary and Shaman, Wirewood Symbiote and probably one of the forests. Predictably elves lost to big red and beat zoo but was good fun to play and informative as to how new cards can feature in various builds.

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