Ugh. I actually wanted to have this article published three weeks ago, so sorry about that. I have moved on to a new deck in Pauper by now, which I will talk about on the next installment of #theweeklywars. But I still think Elves is a strong contender in Pauper and I’ve been toying around with slots a bit towards the end of the year, so I felt like this was still an article worth writing.
The first list is what I started out with once I decided I wanted to try some things, the second is what I arrived at and what I would be playing right now (I have last played the list this week, so don’t consider it old).
#96 — Quirion Ranger can feed discard spells.
I feel like there’s enough material for an entire article on things you can do with Quirion Ranger.
In Pauper, when you’re playing against Mono Black, they might sometimes cast Wrench Mind or Liliana’s Specter. When they do, you can simply use Quirion Ranger on a random creature to discard a Forest. This doesn’t come up a lot, but I have lost a game for missing this interaction. This also translates to Legacy where you might face Hymn to Tourach or Liliana of the Veil.
#97 — Quirion Ranger can be used twice in one turn cycle.
Sometimes you need to activate Wellwisher or a creature equipped with Viridian Longbow three times in order to win. You will eventually run out of lands to activate Ranger, but you can activate it both on your own and your opponent’s turn. Nothing spectacular when you read the cards, but still relevant and worth knowing about, especially when playing against Elves.
#98 — Burn kills you out of nowhere.
Maybe I just have a Burn problem; I always seem to underestimate how quickly the deck can deal loads of damage (which is ironic because I played a lot of Burn in Modern). I think this is amplified in Pauper compared to Legacy because Legacy Burn doesn’t have Thermo-Alchemist nor Needle Drop, which represent free damage.
You (and by that I mean myself) should always pay close attention to how much mana and cards they have to figure out how much time you have before they kill you — sometimes you have to rush your lifegain creatures out there despite being exposed to removal.
#99 — You don’t have to cast Distant Melody on Elf.
This has not yet come up for me, but it is worth noting that many of the deck’s creatures shares types outside of Elf. Sometimes you are in a position where your opponent can’t interact with you, but if they get to untap, you’re dead.
In those situations, you usually need to draw Wirewood Pride (or whichever combo-finisher you’re running) to close out the game, but your board has a tendency to get out of hand — you cast two Melodies and end up with 15 cards in your deck but no Wirewood Pride. Another Melody on Elf would kill you, but maybe you can cast it for Druid or Warrior to still draw some extra cards without killing yourself.
#100 — River Boa’s Islandwalk is randomly relevant vs. Elves.
Managing your land drops might be the single most underrated aspect of Magic. So many games are lost on stuff like fetching or leading the wrong land, and it can be hard to realise these mistakes because they often don’t manifest until much later in the game.
In the case of Pauper Elves, I have lost games because I prematurely played my Island and I have lost games for keeping it in hand. Land destruction is very rare in Pauper (and especially bad against Elves), but not being able to activate Quirion Ranger can cost you the game. On the flip side, if you keep your Island in hand and then get hit by a discard spell that hits lands or Chittering Rats (which is catching on in UB Control alongside Ghostly Flicker), you might also lose.
#101 — Abundant Growth does not impress.
Getting to the things I’ve been trying out, Abundant Growth has been on the top of the list for a while. Many lists have been opting for Abundant Growth over the Island / Visionary / Sylvan Ranger split I’ve been running, so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
My experience with Abundant Growth has been rather disappointing.
It’s at odds with Quirion Ranger: You sometimes have to cast Growth to draw a card, then you have to activate Ranger but haven’t drawn another land and suddenly you can’t cast Melody anymore. It’s cool that Growth still cycles when you don’t need the mana, but the cards I cut for Growth also do that — Visionary straight up cycles while bringing a body and the land from Sylvan Ranger is often pretty close to a full card as well, at least in grindy matchups. those two cards also trigger Vanguard, Huntmaster and Bowmaster, giving you even more value.
Still, there is one thing I did like about running eight rainbow sources:
#102 — Lumithread Field is a great effect, but…
…it requires you to run Abundant Growth, which I don’t think you want to. Lumithread field makes a lot of matchups better though — you don’t have to super awkwardly trade against Goblins and it shuts off Electrickery and Nausea effects. It’s very hard for Control decks to beat you when they don’t get to use sweepers. Definitely makes me want to try Spidersilk Armor, but I’m already bringing four CMC 3 cards against control in Thermokarst., so that just might make the deck too clunky. Also, speaking of sweepers:
#103 — Elvish Vanguard is actually pretty deece.
I used to think Vanguard was just worse than Visionary; boy was I wrong. My thinking was that Visionary was better against sweepers because it allowed you to commit to the board without losing cards to sweepers, but I didn’t consider that there’s no unconditional sweeper in the format, to the point where Evincar’s Justice is the closest one to a Wrath of God effect. Fortunately it’s not hard to get Vanguard to a 3/3 the turn you play it.
Unlike Visionary, Elvish Vanguard applies very real pressure and frequently just runs away with games by virtue of being the biggest creature on the board and dealing absurd amounts of damage.
I was actually considering cutting all my dedicated anti-sweeper cards (currently back on Magnify) and just running more Vanguards and Visionaries; especially in tandem they work very well against sweepers. If you’re looking to tinker with my list, that’s where I would start.
#104 — Essence Warden and Tangle are not interchangeable.
I can’t remember who it was, but another Elves player on MTGO urged me to try out Warden. I hadn’t been very happy with the red matchups, so I decided to give it a try — I thought I was mostly worse than Tangle, but I wanted to see for myself.
I was right, Warden was much worse in the matchups I wanted Tangle for (Bogles, Izzet Blitz, Stompy, Affinity). But I was also wrong, given how much better it was against Goblins and Burn, while also being very good against the various Squadron Hawk decks.
At this point, I am running Warden over Tangle, but I don’t consider it the same slot. I could easily see myself running both, given the right meta changes. I still think it’s very interesting how similar these cards’ effects are (essentially, both are lifegain spells) but how they actually fill very different roles.
Figuring out optimal splits of removal spells is a challenge in every single format and it’s interesting to see that the same kind of thinking is relevant here.
Thanks for reading!