Much Abrew: Elfball (Explorer)

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Hello, everyone! Welcome to another episode of Much Abrew About Nothing. One of the most exciting aspects of Dominaria United is the cycle of powerful two-mana tribal lords. Today, we’re heading to Explorer to take one of them out for a spin in Elfball: Leaf-Crowned Visionary! If you think about the most powerful Elf deck in Magic—Legacy Elves—two cards make the combo-y, card-draw-heavy tribal deck work. The first is Gaea’s Cradle, which is sadly on the Reserved List and pushing $1,000, to provide oodles of mana, while the second is Glimpse of Nature, to offer piles upon piles of cards. Well, we sort of have both now in Explorer! While it takes an extra step and a bit of extra mana, Growing Rites of Itlimoc quickly becomes an upgraded version of Gaea’s Cradle, while new Dominaria United addition Leaf-Crowned Visionary (along with Beast Whisperer) does a pretty good Glimpse of Nature impression, even if it does cost us a mana for each card we draw. Backed up by a bunch of mana dorks and other Elf payoffs like Elvish Clancaller and Elvish Warmaster, does this mean that combo Elfball deck can be a thing in Explorer? Let’s get to the video and find out on today’s Much Abrew About Nothing!

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Much Abrew: Elfball

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Discussion

  • Record-wise, Elfball was great. We finished 4-1, with our one loss coming to Grixis Control, which is a tough matchup thanks to the endless sweepers, although we also ran pretty poorly by flooding out. Otherwise, we managed to beat Mono-Blue Spirits, another Elf deck, Izzet Phoenix, and perhaps the best deck in the format, Rakdos Midrange.
  • Elfball’s game plan is pretty simple: make as much mana as possible and then draw as many cards as possible, which should eventually let us overwhelm our opponent with a big board full of Elves. As for mana, we’ve got a ton of mana dorks, like Llanowar Elves and Elvish Mystic, and our Gaea’s Cradle, Growing Rites of Itlimoc. Meanwhile, for card draw, we have Beast Whisperer and Leaf-Crowned Visionary, which reward us for playing a bunch of cheap Elves by drawing us cards as we cast our creatures. While it is a bit annoying—especially in the early game—that we have to pay a mana to draw with Leaf-Crowned Visionary once our deck gets going we make so much mana it doesn’t really matter and we’re often drawing five or more extra cards each turn. 
  • In some sense, drawing and playing most of our deck is a win condition in and of itself. While none of our Elves are especially powerful as attackers, if we can make enough of them, we can win by beating our opponent down with random 1/1s and 2/2s. But we have a couple of plans if we need to speed up the process. First, we can just flood the board with our lords Elvish Clancaller and Leaf-Crowned Visionary. Things like Llanowar Elves turn into real threats once we get a few on the battlefield. We also have Elvish Warmaster, which we can use to pump our team +2/+2 and give them deathtouch. This usually lets us win in one attack; if our opponent manages to survive, we’ll likely sweep away most of their board so we can win next turn. While it costs seven mana to activate, thanks to Growing Rites of Itlimoc, we sometimes get to the point where we can activate it multiple times each turn.
  • Perhaps the most awkward part of our deck is the sideboard. We don’t really have access to removal since we’re mono-green; instead, we focus on protecting our Elves with things like Shapers’ Sanctuary (which is great against targeted removal) and Heroic Intervention to fizzle sweepers. One thing to consider for the future is splashing into a second color specifically to get better sideboard cards. Adding black would give us hard removal and Thoughtseize, while blue would offer counterspells to protect our board. While there is a slight cost to playing a second color since we’d need dual lands that might sometimes come into play tapped or cost us some life, the power we gain from the sideboard might make it worthwhile.
  • What are Elves missing in Explorer compared to in Pioneer? It’s really just one card: Shaman of the Pack. Shaman of the Pack is a great finisher for Elf tribal, giving us a way to burn our opponent out of the game immediately, rather than waiting for our creatures to lose summoning sickness to be able to attack. If Shaman of the Pack did exist on Arena, it would be an easy four-of in the deck, which means in the long term, it’s very likely that Elfball will end up a green-black deck once we get a few more cards added to the client.
  • So, should you play Elfball in Explorer? I think the answer is an easy yes. If you like tribal decks and drawing tons of cards, the deck is a blast to play and competitive. While adding another color to upgrade the sideboard could be worthwhile, even in its current form, the deck is surprisingly good and super fun!

Conclusion

Anyway, that’s all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.