Budget Elves

Posted in Building on a Budget on March 24, 2010

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

Last week we made a budget-friendly version of Jund that specializes in mirror matches. This week I'd like to focus on my inner Timmy. Some of my favorite reoccuring themes in Magic are tribes. Slivers get the nod as my favorite tribe for obvious reasons, but Elves have always been a close second for me. Elf decks always seem to flow beautifully for me. Just playing a generic Elf deck would probably be pretty boring, though. I'd like to introduce you folks to an exciting new card interaction.

I have received a bunch of emails since the release of Worldwake that pointed out the interaction between Joraga Warcaller and Quest for the Gemblades. The potential of something like this is really absurd. An active Quest for the Gemblades becomes a very scary board presence. At first, I was skeptical of using Quest for the Gemblades; I assumed that it would be situational most times and outright mediocre if I did not draw a Joraga Warcaller.

I was wrong, though. I found that an active Quest for the Gemblades made my opponent play a very different game. Especially when playing in the casual room, I found that the enchantment created a lot of interesting and fun game scenerios. The current Standard environment seems to have far too many copies of Day of Judgment and Martial Coup flying around for an Elf deck to make any waves, butMagic is not always about attacking a metagame. Sometimes you just need to embrace the building desire to attack with an army of 7/7 Elves!

Lets start by discussing the cards I chose to play with.

Arbor Elf and Llanowar Elves: Classically elvish to the core, these are staples in this type of strategy.Arbor Elf and Llanowar Elves allow us to dump our hand as quickly as possible in the early game. Their usefulness doubles up at the later stages of the game when they turn into gigantic monsters via Joraga Warcaller.

Joraga Warcaller: An obvious inclusion.

Elvish Archdruid: Another Elf lord. Elvish Archdruid combos pretty nicely with Joraga Warcaller, as you can use all the mana you generate to kick Joraga Warcaller many times.

Elvish Visionary: A body that replaces itself with another card is always a welcome addition.

Quest for the Gemblades: An on-board trick that makes life very difficult for your opponents, it also combos very nicely with Joraga Warcaller.

Nissa's Chosen: A 2/3 body for two mana is a pretty good deal.

Nissa Revane: Nissa is awesome in this deck. She also happens to be the least budget-friendly card, though. If you cannot find this mythic rare, she is not Nissasary. You can replace her with any of your favorite Elves.

Overrun: Another classic Elf finisher. Overrun seemed like an obvious inclusion to me.

Vines of Vastwood: This is one of the best green tricks ever printed. It can save your creatures from virtually any removal spell and can even mess with our opponent's Equipment or Auras if it catches them trying to attach.

Leatherback Baloth: Every Elf needs a pet. Oh, I'm also a big fan of playing 4/5s on the second turn.

Budget Elves

The deck is surprisingly easy to build on Magic Online. A lot of players have mentioned that recent online trade values seem low. This is just another reason to download the client if you have not triedMagic Online yet. You can build decks on a reasonable budget and find someone to game with at any time of the day!

As of this writing, here's what the rares were trading for on Magic Online:

Joraga Warcaller .4 tickets x 4 = 1.6 tickets
Elvish Archdruid 1.4 tickets x 4 = 5.6 tickets
Nissa Revane 5.5 tickets x 2 = 11 tickets
Oran-Rief, the Vastwood .4 tickets x 4 = 1.6 tickets

Total ticket cost of rares = 19.8 tickets

All the commons and uncommons in this deck can be easily gotten for a tenth of a ticket or less. So you should be able to trade for the entirety of the deck for under 25 tickets.

I put the deck together on Magic Online this past week and played some games with it. The first three games I played were in the tournament practice room.

I won the roll and kept Arbor ElfLlanowar Elves,Leatherback BalothNissa RevaneOverrunForest, andOran-Rief, the Vastwood. I played my Forest and Llanowar Elves and passed the turn. My opponent played a Goblin Guide and attacked, putting a Forest into my hand. I drew an Elvish Archdruid, played my Forest, cast Leatherback Baloth, and passed the turn. My opponent attacked with his Goblin Guide, and I revealed a Nissa's Chosen. I blocked the Guide, and my opponent finished myLeatherback Baloth off with a Lightning Bolt. I drew theNissa's Chosen, played Oran-Rief, the Vastwood, castArbor Elf and Nissa's Chosen, and passed the turn. My opponent cast a Hell's Thunder and attacked me down to 14.

I drew a Joraga Warcaller, cast Nissa Revane, searched up another copy of Nissa's Chosen, activated Oran-Rief, attacked for 2, and passed the turn. My opponent cast an Earthquake for 3, destroying my Nissa and my whole team except the 3/4 Nissa's Chosen. I drew a Forest, played it, cast Elvish Archdruid, activated Oran-Rief, the Vastwood, attacked for 4, and passed the turn. My opponent played a fifth land and unearthed Hell's Thunder to put me at 10. I drew another Joraga Warcaller, cast it kicked twice, activated Oran-Rief, and attacked with my 7/8 Nissa's Chosen. My opponent drew for the turn and conceded.


I lost the roll and kept Nissa's ChosenJoraga Warcaller,Quest for the Gemblades, three Forests, and Oran-Rief, the Vastwood. My opponent played a Lavaclaw Reachesand passed the turn. I drew Arbor Elf, played a Forest, cast Arbor Elf, and passed the turn. My opponent played aSavage Lands and passed back. I drew another Oran-Rief, the Vastwood, played Oran-Rief, cast Quest for the Gemblades, and passed the turn. My opponent played aSprouting Thrinax and passed the turn back to me. I drew a Nissa's Chosen, played Nissa's Chosen, activated Oran-Rief, the Vastwood, played another Oran-Rief, and passed the turn. My opponent cast a Bloodbraid Elf, flipped into aLightning Bolt that dispatched of my Arbor Elf, and passed the turn.

I drew Vines of Vastwood and attacked with Nissa's Chosen. My opponent double-blocked, and I killed the Bloodbraid Elf. I played my land, cast Nissa's Chosen, activated both Oran-Riefs, and passed the turn. My opponent cast another Bloodbraid Elf, flipped into Sprouting Thrinax, and passed the turn. I drew Llanowar Elves, played my land, cast Joraga Warcaller without kicking it, cast Llanowar Elves, activated both Oran-Riefs, sacrificed Quest for the Gemblades targeting Joraga Warcaller, and attacked with a 10/11 Nissa's Chosen. My opponent blocked with Sprouting Thrinax and made three 1/1 tokens, then played a fifth land and cast Maelstrom Pulse targetting my Joraga Warcaller. I cast Vines of Vastwood on it in response, but my opponent had a Terminate in response to that, and the Warcaller died.

On my turn, I drew another Quest for the Gemblades, cast it, attacked with my 4/5 Nissa's Chosen, which was chumped, and passed. My opponent played a sixth land and cast Broodmate Dragon. I drew a Forest and attacked with both my creatures. My opponent blocked my 3/3 Llanowar Elves withBloodbraid Elf and a Dragon and chump-blocked the Nissa's Chosen with a Saproling. I cashed in my quest to take down the one Dragon and passed. My opponent attacked for 4 in the air, played anotherBroodmate Dragon, and passed the turn. I drew a Forest, attacked with my 4/5 Nissa's Chosen, which was chumped by the last Saproling, and passed the turn. My opponent attacked for 12 in the air, castSiege-Gang Commander, and passed the turn. I conceded.


I won the roll and kept Llanowar ElvesElvish Archdruid,Quest for the Gemblades, two Joraga Warcaller, and twoForest. I cast Llanowar Elves and passed the turn. My opponent cast a Fieldmist Borderpost and passed the turn. I drew another Elvish Archdruid, played my land, castElvish Archdruid, and passed the turn. My opponent castKnight of the White Orchid, searched up a Plains, and passed the turn. I drew a Forest, played it, cast Quest for the Gemblades, cast another Elvish Archdruid, and attacked for 3 with my Llanowar Elves. My opponent chose to take the 3 damage. My opponent played a fourth land and cast Day of Judgment.

I drew a land, cast Joraga Warcaller kicked once, and passed the turn. My opponent cast a Mind Spring for three and passed the turn. I drew another land, cast another Joraga Warcaller kicked twice, and attacked for 4. My opponent played a sixth land and aBaneslayer Angel. I drew a Nissa Revane, cast it, searched up a Nissa's Chosen, and passed the turn. My opponent attacked Nissa for 5 and went back to 18. He played a seventh land and passed the turn. I drew Oran-Rief, the Vastwood and attempted to bash back, but my opponent had a pair of Path to Exile for my Joraga Warcallers. My opponent attacked for 5 with Baneslayer and played a second copy of the 5/5 Angel. I lost the game shortly thereafter.


I decided to play a few games in the casual room to see how it went:

I won the roll and kept Overrun, two Arbor ElfLlanowar ElvesJoraga WarcallerForest, and Oran-Rief, the Vastwood. I played Oran-Rief, the Vastwood and passed the turn. My opponent played a Sunpetal Grove and passed the turn. I drew a Forest, played it, cast Arbor Elf, activated Oran-Rief, and passed the turn. My opponent cast Naya Hushblade and passed the turn. I drew anotherOran-Rief, the Vastwood, played it, cast Llanowar Elvesand another Arbor Elf, activated Oran-Rief, the Vastwood, and passed the turn. My opponent cast a Bant Sureblade, attacked for 3 with the Hushblade, and passed the turn. I drew another Forest, played it, cast Joraga Warcallerkicked once, activated both Oran Riefs, and attacked with two 5/5 Arbor Elves. My opponent cast a Knight of New Alara and passed the turn. I cast Overrun and attacked with everybody, and that was the game.


I lost the roll, mulliganned, and kept Nissa's Chosen,Elvish ArchdruidNissa RevaneForestForestForest. My opponent played a Naya Panorama and passed the turn. I drew Overrun, played a Forest, and passed the turn. My opponent played a Forest, cast Wild Nacatl, and passed the turn. I drew a Leatherback Baloth, played my Forest, castNissa's Chosen, and passed the turn. My opponent played a Plains, attacked with his Wild Nacatl, popped his Panorama to find a Mountain, and hit me for 3, he cast anElite Vanguard after combat. I drew a Forest, playedLeatherback Baloth, attacked for 2, and passed the turn. My opponent played a fourth land and cast Marisi's Twinclaws. I drew an Elvish Visionary, played my fourth land, cast Nissa Revane, searched up a Nissa's Chosen, and passed the turn. My opponent played a fifth land and passed the turn. I drew Llanowar Elves, castElvish Visionary, drew a fifth land, played it, cast Elvish Archdruid, and passed the turn. My opponent cast an Inferno Trap to kill my Archdruid on my end step. My opponent tapped out for Sigil of Distinction, equipped it onto his Marisi's Twinclaws and attacked for 12. I took the damage, then on my turn I cast Overrun and the game ended.


This deck is a lot of fun to play. Competitive gaming can be a lot of fun, but sometimes you just want to attack with an army of green monsters. If you wanted to make this deck more competitive, you could probably splash red for Bloodbraid Elf and Lightning Bolt, use Eldrazi Monument over Overrun, and work on the curve a bit. The deck is easy to build and will certainly do well in the casual room or at your local Friday Night Magic.

Happy brewing!

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