Three Letters

Posted in Feature on August 21, 2008

By Chris Millar

Hi, all. Welcome to Elf Week! Can you think of a better time to dip into the old mailbag? I can, but that would mean I'd have to rewrite the previous sentence. Never look back!

Dear Chris,

My name is Rophellos. As you have probably guessed, I'm an Elf with a lot of can-do spirit. You might remember me from such decks as Elves!, Elf-Ball, and Rophellos 'N' Toast (which, by the way, is also a wonderful breakfast entrée). My parents gave me such an unusual name in order to avoid copyright infringement. So far, so good. I have neither a surname nor a job title, making me a lot like Bjork, Bono, and other Earth Elves you are probably familiar with.

I am writing on behalf of all the other made-up Elves to thank you for your continued dedication to Elfkind and your tireless efforts in Elf-advocacy. If it weren't for your slavish devotion and near-constant Elf-promotion, I reckon we wouldn't have seen Elf Week until the release of the four or fifth Elf-focused tribal block. Thanks to you, we've had two official weeks and countless unofficial ones. I have to say that it's nice to finally be in the spotlight and to be recognized alongside the many other iconic and timeless creature-types in Magic such as Squirrels, Cephalids, and Myr.

One thing I am still curious about, though: Why do you like us so much (because it's really over the top)? I have a feeling that we share an affinity for Forests, seeing as you're a Canadian and all. Otherwise, I'm drawing a blank. Is it because, by our very mana-making nature, we let you do cool things faster? Around the fortress, I'm fond of saying, "To Elves, turn 2 is turn 3 and turn 3 is turn 6." Of course, turn 4 is turn 1; cursed Wrath of God! Could this be a part of your borderline unnatural affection? After all, we do live in an accelerated culture and have become inordinately impatient. Is it because we play so well together, but we also play well with others, especially the bigger-boned among us? Some say it takes all kinds to make the world go 'round, so why not put all of those kinds in your deck? Leave no Child of Gaea behind, I say. Perhaps instead you enjoy the fact that we often allow you to play out your first few turns on autopilot, with such scripted and warmly familiar openings as Llanowar Elves into three-drop? For the nostalgic, I'm sure that's like living in a time warp where Magic is still the same way it was when you first started playing it. Of course, the three-drops are Kitchen Finks and Boggart Ram-Gang nowadays, instead of the forbidding Walls of Wall of Brambles and Wall of Ice, but the warm fuzzy is still the same. Maybe you like the idea of creating a gigantic army, gaining tons of life, and going "infinite" in uncountable different ways. Heck, maybe you're so smitten with us because of our Co-Ed Ranger Summer Camp.

Or is it just the pointy ears?


Thank you for your letter, Rophellos. The answer is "Yes."

To Infinity and Then Even Further!

Nettle Sentinel
Recently, Going Rogue author Tim Willoughby went, um, rogue with, among other things, a bunch of cool Standard decks built around the green Isamaru, Hound of Konda, Nettle Sentinel. Getting a free untap whenever you play a green spell is very abusable, especially with cards like Heritage Druid that let you tap creatures for some useful effect. Another such card is Onslaught's Birchlore Rangers, which only requires two Elves to do its thing but produces only one mana (of any colour) as a result. Now, with both Nettle Sentinel and the Rangers in play, as long as your subsequent green spells are one-mana Elves, you can basically play as many of them as you want by tapping the Sentinel and the new Elf to make enough mana to play the next one. You can fill the table with dudes in a heartbeat.

Since I wanted to be playing so many creature spells, I thought that Glimpse of Nature would be a great way to keep the Elves a-flowing and that, with so many spells being played in a turn, a stunningly original storm kill (Grapeshot) would also fit in nicely. Of course, when I'm making Elves, I'd prefer to win with Elves, so a pair of Lys Alana Huntmasters joined the fray. A Cloudstone Curio, a Huntmaster, Birchlore Rangers, and any one-mana Elf combine to make an infinitely large Elf army. It also doesn't hurt that Birchlore Rangers, Nettle Sentinel, and the Curio allow you to generate an infinite storm count (as long as one of the Elves starts the turn in your hand).

Man-o'-War Elves

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There are many other ways you could take this. Roar of the Crowd has proven itself to be a viable kill-card for decks that make tons of Elves very quickly. Viridian Longbow and similar cards could be fun to put on your Nettle Sentinels. You could also just beat down with the aid of super-cheap pump spells like Gather Courage and Barkshell Blessing which can be convoked or conspired with Nettle Sentinel, essentially for free (It'll untap after you use it to pay the costs for the spell).

The Elf in the Room

Dear Chris Millar,
Regarding your article "Marriage Return":

My fave cheap and great combo:

-Devoted Druid (Best combo card)
-Presence of Gond
-Conclave's Blessing

I like unlimited mana and Elves.
–Áron K.

A man after my own heart, what with the mana, Elves, Conclave's Blessing and all. How does it work? Well, with both Auras attached to your Druid, you can tap it to make an Elf with Presence of Gond. Conclave's Blessing sees the new Elf and gives the Druid a +0/+2 bonus. The increased toughness allows you to put two -1/-1 counters on the Druid, while keeping it at 0/2, which means you can untap it twice. Tap it once for (if you want the mana), untap it, and then tap it again to make another token. The new token grants another +0/+2 bonus, which allows you to start things all over.

Devoted Druid
Mantle of Leadership

While it's tough to turn down an opportunity to make a Conclave's Blessing deck (where it is actually a good fit!), I'm going to pass up the chance because you can use a similar card in Standard: Mantle of Leadership. Instead of a +0/+2 boost, your Druid will get +2/+2 each time an Elf token comes into play. Not only will this allow you to make infinite tokens and mana, but you can make an infinitely powerful Devoted Druid as well (Just use all of your untaps to make tokens). Throw in an Essence Warden and you can gain infinite life. Use Coat of Arms instead of Mantle of Leadership and you can make infinite infinitely large Elves. Once again, there are many ways you can build a deck around this basic combo. Here's one of them:

Gond, Baby, Gond

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This Goes to Elven

Dear Chris Millar,
Regarding your article "Marriage Return":

What do you think about Razorfin Abolisher and Sheltering Ancient? I'm sure their kids would be lovely, if only slightly less grotesque than Rootwater Shaman.

–Shian Y.

Razorfin Abolisher
Er, what does this have to do with Elves and Elf Week? Well, it's a starting point. Razorfin Abolisher is a creature that I meant to include in last week's column. I made a mental note of its existence and combotacularity, but like Magic's Mental Notes, it ended up in the bin with a bunch of other cards. The combo with Sheltering Ancient is pretty neat (as long as your opponent doesn't run out of creatures on the board), but the really cool part about Razorfin Abolisher is that it can bounce creatures laden with any type of counter. You can put a variety of odd counters on creatures, like the polyp counters from Coral Reef, the music counters from (who else?) Musician, the training counters from Sensei Golden-Tail, the matrix counters from Life Matrix, and the magnet counters from Magnetic Web. Of course, +1/+1, -1/-1, charge, age, time, and fade counters work just fine, too. I'm going to build around Musician because not only does it put music counters on other creatures, but it puts age counters on itself. Since it's Elf Week, I'm also going to use the only Elf I could find that can put counters on other creatures: Immaculate Magistrate.

In honour of Gaea's Skyfolk, and since two of the three creatures I plan to use are an Elf and a Merfolk, respectively, I thought it would be fun to build an Elf / Merfolk hybrid deck. Last week, I talked about one combo featuring a member of each tribe: Seeker of Skybreak and Wake Thrasher. That one's in here, too. The deck can do all kinds of things, like exploit comes-into-play abilities by bouncing your own guys, make an arbitrarily large Merfolk, and, um, put music counters on things. What more could you ask for, other than Wild Pair to make things that much easier?

Wild Pairing

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Some cards that would be worth trying out include Ley Line, Erithizon, and the graft creatures (to get counters on your opponents guys), Fate Transfer (to get those counters off), and Thousand-Year Elixir, Magewright's Stone, Seedborn Muse, and Murkfiend Liege to help Seeker of Skybreak make the most of your creatures with tap abilities.

The last deck for this week was inspired by the previous one. If Merfolk and Elves can team up for a day, why can't Elves and Goblins? Sure, they're long-time enemies, but they'll just have to get over it. This has been made easier by the fact that Shadowmoor and Eventide have given us a few green Goblins, so we won't even have to touch red or even green-red hybrid.

Hungry Spriggan

This deck comes from my strange desire to put Hungry Spriggan and Pendelhaven in the same deck. I don't know why this "combo" holds such appeal for me, but I really feel like I'm getting away with something whenever I give my 1/1 Goblin +1/+2 before it attacks and gets an additional +3/+3. I don't know why, but I giggle every time I think about it. To a lesser extent, I am giddy at the prospect of pumping Twinblade Slasher in the same way. It's impossible to explain. Pendelhaven Elder even allows me to pump both creatures at the same time! It's all too much.

Swirling Spriggan
Of course, Hungry Spriggan isn't the only Spriggan to come out of the woodwork lately. Swirling Spriggan has also arrived on the scene, doing a passable Blind Seer impersonation. It also happens to complete the ballyhooed Bloom Tender + Umbral Mantle combo, given that it can make one of your creatures all five colours. What can you do with all the mana? There are many options. With Rhys the Redeemed, you can make infinite Elf tokens by moving the Umbral Mantle over from your Bloom Tender. With Mirror Entity, you can make your whole team infinitely big. You could also keep changing the colour of your Spriggans, but that won't do a whole lot to be honest.

There's one other thing that Swirling Spriggan is good for. For an extra two mana, you can have Might of the Nephilim give a creature +10/+10. Not too shabby. The final card in the deck is probably too cute, but whatever. With Pendelhaven Elder able to turn almost all of your creatures into 2/3s, Wave of Reckoning has a good chance of becoming a one-sided Wrath of God, or, at least, a one-sided Wave of Reckoning, which is almost as good. With all the 1/1s in the deck, it might be worthwhile to include cards like Ensnaring Bridge, Noetic Scales, Meekstone, or Marble Giant to keep the big boys off your back.

Spriggan Traps

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The Future of House of Cards

Now that the fun part is over, let's get serious for a minute. I'm somewhat sad to report that next week will be my last week here at House of Cards. "Sad," because I will surely miss the weekly thrill of seeing my article go up and the rush of getting instant feedback from all the great Johnnies out there, but "somewhat" because I've been doing this for a long time now and, frankly, I need a break.

Have no fear, though. I will still pop in now and then for feature articles, but more importantly, the powers-that-be are committed to providing you with top-notch Johnny content each week, which is why I'm happy to announce that long-time House of Cards contributor and two-time guest columnist Noel deCordova will be taking over my duties full-time two weeks from now. I think Noel did a great job filling in for me in recent weeks, and I'm sure the many thousands of Magic cards will appreciate the fresh set of eyes. I wouldn't be surprised if Noel squeezed in a pun or two.

Until next time, have fun with Elves! (You know you want to!)

Chris Millar

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