Elf Employment

Posted in Feature on May 30, 2007

By Chris Millar

Welcome to ELF Week! Today we're going to look at ELF, the Executable and Linking Format (formerly called the Extensible Linking Format), which is apparently a common standard file format for executables, object code, shared libraries, and core dumps.

WellwisherWhoops. What I meant to say was: Welcome to Elf Week! That squeal you just heard was me. Cause: Delight. Before I get to the decks, let me just say:

Finally!

It only took, what? Five and a half years? That's just over half a decade for green's most iconic creature type to get its week in the sun here at magicthegathering.com. Five and half years is a long time. During the time of the Great Elf-Shunning, my entire wardrobe went out of style (and stayed there), my favourite band got together and then broke up, and that carton of milk in my fridge probably expired. I'll leave it to my roommate to test that hypothesis. So the question is: Why did it take so dang long?

According to notorious elf-hater Dan Paskins, it's a shadowy cabal of goblins, and not some omniscient brain in a jar, that controls R&D. It only makes sense that a group of dimwitted red critters with a penchant for playing elf-killing games would be behind the conspiracy to keep the elves out of the spotlight. To give you an idea of how far down the list of "preferred" creature types the Elves have fallen, why don't we take a gander at the creature types that have already been celebrated here?

The first creature type theme week in the history of this site was for, believe it or not, Cephalids. Now, don't get me wrong. I love me a sentient squid. Heck, I can't get enough of the bipedal molluscs of Magic. (Hmm. Sounds like a good idea for a calendar.) Show me Clambassadors, or any bureaucratic humanoid bivalves for that matter, and I can't help but laugh. As funny as they are, they aren't green and they aren't Elves.

The next creature-type to get its own week was Squirrels, which, other than our friend Mistform Ultimus, are entirely green. On the one hand, they definitely get some points for palling around with their elf-master, Deranged Hermit. On the other hand, I had to deduct some cool points for being one of the few so-called magical creatures that currently live in my backyard. I don't have any Leviathans, Elementals, or Kavu in my backyard (that I know of), so those types just have a little more cachet.

After that we saw creature type theme weeks for Goblins, Beasts, Zombies, Dragons, Soldiers, the now-defunct Legends, Slivers, Myr, Angels, Demons, Spirits, Dwarves, and, since I've been doing House of Cards, Vampires and Wizards. Even generic Artifact Creatures got their own theme week! You can understand why my beloved Elves are feeling a little underappreciated.

I'm fully confident that if I hadn't intervened, if I hadn't put my foot down, our pointy-eared forest friends would still be twiddling their green thumbs on the backburner while we went on to do theme weeks devoted to other "iconic" creature-types like the Sponge, the Homunculus, or, god forbid, the Rigger. Even in green, I bet we'd see weeks dedicated to Lhurgoyf s (Llurgoyves?), Ouphes (Ouves?), or Wolfs (Wolves?) before we eventually got around to the Elves (Elfs?).

(Beacon of) Creation Myth

Thoughout my time here at House of Cards, I've written intermittently about my history as a Magic player, from the days when I had a legitimate answer to the question, "What colour do you play?" to the present when I have a legitimate answer to the question, "What's it like to be a famous (and handsome) Magic columnist?"

Earth Elemental
I didn't actually start out playing blue-black with Terrors and Counterspells and Merfolk Assassin and War Barge. My first decks were all red. When I opened my first pack of Revised, the card that really stuck out, the card that impressed me the most, was Earth Elemental. For all I know, the pack also contained a Sol Ring, a Bayou, a Swords to Plowshares, and the nigh-unbeatable Hurloon Minotaur. But it was the fatty that caught my attention. The more things change...

Soon, however, I put down my childish red things and became enamoured with the more sophisticated and adult dream-ruining offered by blue and black. After ruining the dreams of white and green mages (Note: Terror is really good when no one else plays black), I suddenly found myself alone, without any fellow wizards willing to put their dreams in my blue-black vise where I could crush them. After dabbling a bit in red-white, I finally came around. I finally became a green mage.

Green, to me, has always been about more. More lands, more mana, more colours, more creatures. Bigger creatures. Imagine for a moment that you're in a duel, and your opponent pulls out a pistol. If you're a blue-black mage, you do your best Neo impression and get ready to dodge all of the imminent enemy fire in bullet-time. If you're a green mage, you do your best Bugs Bunny impression and go get a bigger gun.

Has anyone on the planet ever said, "Boy, I really hate those green decks!"? How can you not like green? What I like most are the options. While Champions of Kamigawa was legal in Standard, you could start your deckbuilding with four Sakura-Tribe Elders and four Kodama's Reaches and then add any card you want, regardless of colour, regardless of mana cost. With some Elves in your deck, cards that cost three are a two-drop. Cards that cost five are a three-drop. By contrast, if you look at mono-red or mono-white decks, you'll find cards like Char and Calciderm at the very top of the mana curve. As someone who likes to build a lot of decks and find uses for as many different cards as possible, I see ending the curve at three or four mana as just way too limiting.

So add some Elves. Make more mana. Put a seven-drop in your deck and then play it.

50 Ways to Lord of Leaves Your Lover

The great thing about Elves—wait, one of the great things about Elves—is that you can put them in all kinds of decks. Over the years, I've seen Elves used as the backbone combo, prison, aggro, aggro-control, and mid-range decks. The only major deck-type missing from the Elf repertoire is the pure control deck, which suits me just fine. Elves are even good in wackier formats like Tribal Wars, if you can believe it!

Our 1/1 Bodies, Our Elves

Viridian Shaman
As I mention above, I have a special fondness for Elves in large part because their mana-making abilities enable me to play a wider range of cards. The other reason I love Elves so much is their utility. Need to destroy an artifact? Call upon Viridian Shaman, Glissa Sunseeker, or Elvish Scrapper. Need to wax an enchantment? Summon Viridian Zealot, Elf Replica, or Elvish Lyrist. Just want to go for beats? Cycle Gempalm Strider, flip over Tribal Forcemage, or simply play Elvish Champion. Lifegain? Wellwisher or Essence Warden. You can even round up these characters with Wirewood Herald or Skyshroud Poacher.

But, really, it's all about the mana.

During Fatty Week (or Fatties Week, depending on who you ask), I wrote about one of my favourite formats: Elder Dragon Highlander. It's a format that combines all of the things I like about Magic: big decks, splashy plays, tons of variety, heaps of flavour, and random combos that don't come up enough to be truly degenerate. What really turned me on to the format, though, was the fact that each deck had to be exactly 100 cards. Otherwise, glutton that I am, I will just keep adding more and more cards. I submit this deck as proof.

I've always like big decks and highlander. No game is the same, you can use more cards from your collection, and the decks are usually at a comfortable power level. Naturally, my first deck of this type was an Elf deck. It started out reasonably well. After adding one of just about every Elf I owned, the deck hovered at around the 120-card mark. Gradually, though, with the release of more sets and the creation of more Elves, as well as the acquisition of more Elves through trades, the deck started to become too big. I never thought I'd say that you can have too many Elves or too many fatties in a deck, but you can. At least in the real world. I gave up when I found that shuffling my 300-card deck was like shuffling a loaf of bread. So this deck is a relic of the pre-Ravnica past, a fallen monument that once celebrated my love for all the Llanowar, Skyshroud, Quirion, Viridian, Fyndhorn, Argothian, Tel-Jilad, and Wirewood.

Elves Highlander

Creature (144)
1 Arcanis the Omnipotent 1 Birchlore Rangers 1 Diligent Farmhand 1 Elves of Deep Shadow 1 Elvish Lyrist 1 Elvish Pioneer 1 Elvish Scout 1 Elvish Scrapper 1 Fyndhorn Elves 1 Llanowar Elite 1 Llanowar Elves 1 Patron of the Wild 1 Shrieking Drake 1 Skyshroud Elite 1 Skyshroud Ranger 1 Spore Frog 1 Treetop Scout 1 Viridian Acolyte 1 Wirewood Symbiote 1 Xantid Swarm 1 Bloodline Shaman 1 Eladamri, Lord of Leaves 1 Elvish Archers 1 Elvish Hunter 1 Elvish Warrior 1 Gaea's Herald 1 Gaea's Skyfolk 1 Gempalm Strider 1 Harvester Druid 1 Heart Warden 1 Joiner Adept 1 Llanowar Druid 1 Merfolk Looter 1 Multani's Acolyte 1 Nomadic Elf 1 Priest of Titania 1 Quirion Elves 1 Quirion Explorer 1 Quirion Sentinel 1 Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary 1 Sakura-Tribe Elder 1 Sea Scryer 1 Seeker of Skybreak 1 Skyshroud Elf 1 Stonewood Invoker 1 Sylvok Explorer 1 Tel-Jilad Chosen 1 Thought Courier 1 Urborg Elf 1 Viridian Zealot 1 Wellwisher 1 Werebear 1 Willbender 1 Wirewood Elf 1 Wirewood Herald 1 Wirewood Hivemaster 1 Caller of the Claw 1 Darkwatch Elves 1 Elf Replica 1 Elvish Champion 1 Elvish Ranger 1 Eternal Witness 1 Everglove Courier 1 Fierce Empath 1 Fyndhorn Elder 1 Killer Bees 1 Spellbane Centaur 1 Timberwatch Elf 1 Titania's Chosen 1 Treetop Rangers 1 Viridian Joiner 1 Viridian Shaman 1 Wood Elves 1 Yavimaya Granger 1 Argothian Elder 1 Captain Sisay 1 Centaur Chieftain 1 Citanul Hierophants 1 Clone 1 Elvish Piper 1 Fangren Firstborn 1 Gamekeeper 1 Glissa Sunseeker 1 Heedless One 1 Krosan Drover 1 Mystic Snake 1 Nantuko Vigilante 1 Phelddagrif 1 Possessed Centaur 1 Quirion Trailblazer 1 Skyshroud Poacher 1 Skyshroud Troopers 1 Sylvan Messenger 1 Symbiotic Elf 1 Wirewood Channeler 1 Wonder 1 Zoologist 1 Ambush Commander 1 Deranged Hermit 1 Elven Riders 1 Elvish Soultiller 1 Genesis 1 Gigapede 1 Jolrael, Empress of Beasts 1 Kavu Chameleon 1 Kaysa 1 Quicksilver Elemental 1 Riptide Shapeshifter 1 Silklash Spider 1 Thicket Elemental 1 Woodripper 1 Tel-Jilad Archers 1 Child of Gaea 1 Craw Wurm 1 Duplicant 1 Elvish Aberration 1 Force of Nature 1 Kamahl, Fist of Krosa 1 Karona, False God 1 Nemata, Grove Guardian 1 Root Elemental 1 Shoreline Ranger 1 Triskelion 1 Amugaba 1 Darksteel Gargoyle 1 Krosan Tusker 1 Memnarch 1 Pentavus 1 Penumbra Wurm 1 Plated Slagwurm 1 Platinum Angel 1 Stone-Tongue Basilisk 1 Thorn Elemental 1 Thriss, Nantuko Primus 1 Tornado Elemental 1 Trolls of Tel-Jilad 1 Wirewood Guardian 1 Wurmskin Forger 1 Hoverguard Sweepers 1 Living Hive 1 Symbiotic Wurm 1 Thousand-legged Kami 1 Tidal Kraken 1 Suncrusher
Other (1)
1 Aether Mutation
312 Cards

Besides just ramping up to fatties, there are a bunch of fun combos here. You can get infinite mana at least three easy ways. Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary and Staff of Domination will do it, as will Wirewood Channeler and Pemmin's Aura, as long as you have the right amount of Forests or Elves in play. You can also get infinite mana with Argothian Elder and Maze of Ith (and another land). Just send the Elder into the Red Zone, untap it with the Maze, then use the Elder to untap the Maze and another land, then untap the Elder again. There aren't a whole lot of outlets for this mana in my deck. You need to be able to unload it during your combat step, so that leaves just Killer Bees, Silklash Spider, Stroke of Genius, and Soothsaying. Not a bad lot, but with all the modern day magical innovations, I'm sure there's something better. Squall Line would be a nice place to start. Whetwheel is not so bad, either.

A Grizzly Bear with an Ability

"Check out this new elf, Riftsweeper."
"Neat."
"Yeah. It's no Mongrel, but it's still a decent bear."
"I thought you said it was an elf?"
"It is, but it's a 2/2 for two."
"A tutu for two? That sounds...uncomfortable."
"It's a Grizzly Bears with an ability."
"Um, don't all grizzly bears have abilities? Like, the ability to spear salmon with their bare claws and the ability to maul unsuspecting hikers in the Appalachians?"
"No, Grizzly Bears are vanilla."
"You mean, like, the flavour?"
"No, the flavour is that it's a magical bear from the land of Dominia."
"Oh."

Riftsweeper
"It's vanilla because it has no abilities. The Humble Budoka, however, is French vanilla because it has shroud."
"It has shroud? That's not even English. What are you, Tarzan?"
"Shroud is an ability. It means that the monk can't be targeted. You can't ping it, burn it, Boomerang it, provoke it, Swords it, or put fat-pants on it."
"But I can put pants on a grizzly bear because it's vanilla?"
"Now you're getting it!"
"So what's Riftsweeper, then? English-toffee cappuccino?"
"It's a suspend hoser."
"That sounds like something that old people would wear."
"Suspend is the block mechanic."
"A guy named Rusty is my block's mechanic."
"But it doesn't just hose suspend. You can use on anything that's been RFG'd."
"I've gotta admit, I'm RFC'd right now: Really Freakin' Confused."
"Why don't I just show you a deck?"
"Finally!"

Riftsweeper, presumably a sort of janitor of the rift (to be played by Dick Van Dyke in the movie version of Future Sight, no doubt), is more than just a Pull from Eternity-style hoser. Sure, it'll do the trick, yank those Aeon Chroniclers from outside of time and stuff them right back where they came from. But it can do so much more.

My first instinct was to pair Riftsweeper with white cards that remove creatures from the game temporarily, like Astral Slide, Parallax Wave, and, to a lesser extent, Dimensional Breach. All of these cards work well with creatures with comes-into-play abilities (creatures like... Elves) and they all facilitate Riftsweeper's ability, lobbing those enemy creatures into the æther where they can be shot down like so many clay pigeons. It seems like a long way to go for a quasi-Condemn, but all of the pieces do their usual thing in the meantime.

When you're not using your Darkwatch Elves and Elvish Aberrations to profitably slide out your Riftsweepers, Deranged Hermits, Sylvan Messengers, Wood Elves, Viridan Shamans, or Llanowar Empaths, you can bounce all of these comes-into-play creatures with your Wirewood Symbiotes.

Rift Slide

My second instinct was to pair Riftsweeper with some old friends from Mirrodin block: Leveler and Beacon of Tomorrows. The Leveler removes your entire library from the game when it comes into play, which is conveniently where Riftsweeper wants it to be. With your whole library in the RFG Zone, you can use Riftsweeper to cherry-pick your Beacon of Tomorrows and have it shuffled back into your now one-card library. Draw your card for the turn. It's a Beacon of Tomorrows! Play it, shuffle it back in, take an extra turn, then do it all over again. If a Leveler and infinite turns won't win you the game—imagine your opponent has a Platinum Angel, for instance—bounce Riftsweeper with either Wirewood Symbiote or Cloudstone Curio, replay it, and shuffle an RFG'd Viridian Zealot or Shaman into your deck. Here's the deck:

Riftleveler

Until next time, play this ability as a mana source.

Chris Millar

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