Open the Front Door!

Posted in Reconstructed on July 2, 2013

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

Last year around this time, I previewed a door. A very specific kind of door. It looked something like this:

>> Click to Show
Door to Nothingness

This time around, I have another door to show you.

Wait! Don't run away! This time I'm not going to try and push you through the door I'm showing off. No, no. This door is a bit different than last year's. It'll still help you end games... but in a much more traditional way.

I think it's adoorable that I have back-to-back door previews. I'm just the Doorkeeper, I suppose.

Doorkeeper | Art by Kev Walker

Enough preamble. It's time to show you the card from Magic 2014 I'll be previewing today. Take a look!

>> Click to Show

Door of Destinies first appeared in Morningtide to much fanfare. Players were excited about the prospect of using this Door in their tribal decks, allowing their Elves and Kithkin and other tribes to grow huge.

Unfortunately, Morningtide also contained cards like Bitterblossom, Reveillark, Vendilion Clique, and others. The format shifted to an ultra-powerul Standard format with one of the scariest boogymen to visit Standard in years: Faeries. Door never really had its chance to shine.

But could now be the time to try kicking open the Door once more?

Today we're going to find out.

There are a ton of different tribes people sent me to build around. Everything from Advisors to Insects to Boars (?!?!), and more! But let's take this in a more traditional direction and see if we can give the Door the glory it once sought but never quite achieved.

It's time for Elves.

Taz's Elvish Path

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The Battle Plan

The core of a deck like this is to quickly produce mana, build up an army of Elves, and then either run over your opponent with large Elves the old fashioned way, or run over your opponent with Elves the Craterhoof way. Door of Destinies helps the first plan significantly.

So, why exactly is Door at its peak potential in a deck like Elves?

The power in Door is the ability to quickly build up counters. The best way to achieve that? Being able to play a lot of one creature type. Elves are great for this for two reasons.

First and foremost, they are mostly inexpensive creatures to cast, meaning you can churn a lot of them out fast. Second, many of them also produce mana, meaning you can dump your hand quickly—and get to cast Door before your hand is already devoid of Elves.

The other benefit of Door over past cards in this vein like, say, Coat of Arms, is that your Elves are far better after a board sweeper like Supreme Verdict. Even if your opponent clears every one of your Elves off the battlefield, if your Door already has four counters on it, your meager follow-up of Arbor Elf is going to start off as a muscular combat machine. More of a GRRRRArbor Elf, if you ask me.

We're going to want to load this deck up with a lot of low-mana Elves and then have a few endgame cards on top of our Door of Destinies. Attack, grow huge creatures, and smash—that's the plan.

Card Breakdown

What should stay and what should go? Let's take a look through the deck and find out.

Arbor Elf

Arbor Elf is one of the cornerstones of a strategy like this. You always want to have access to him on turn one, and he can start churning out larger creatures faster than your opponent can reasonably deal with them. Turn-one Arbor Elf into turn-two Elvish Archdruid is your best draw. I'd happily play more copies if I could. (If only there were more one-mana Elves in the format that made mana. Hmmm...)

Elvish Visionary

This little guy always looks so innocent—but he's a powerhouse in a strategy like this. Not only does he dig you deeper into your deck and pump how much mana your Elvish Archdruid makes, but his body is more relevant than ever in a Door of Destinies deck. He ticks up the counters on your Door by one, and then also ends up being huge thanks to the Door. I definitely want to keep all four.

Zameck Guildmage

Something crucial about any tribal strategy is that you hit a critical mass of that tribe. In this deck, being an Elf grants huge advantages: working with Door of Destinies, amping up Elvish Archdruid, and being cast for free with Descendants' Path are some of the benefits Elves have around these parts. The key, of course, is that they are an Elf.

Zameck Guildmage is mana intensive and redundant in multiples, so normally I wouldn't play the full boat of four here. However, because of their Elven nature, this is a time I'm willing to make an exception. An extra 2/2 for two is still welcome in this deck when that 2/2 is suddenly a 6/6 that was cast for free.

Gyre Sage

Gyre Sage hits many notes that should be welcome in this deck. It's an Elf. It makes mana. What's not to like?

Well, the problem is it's pretty hard to evolve. Your cheap Elves don't do it, and Elvish Archdruid doesn't even help since Gyre Sage gets larger from the Archdruid and no longer evolves. You can occasionally go crazy with a Master Biomancer, but most of the time, Gyre Sage is just going to be a two-mana 1/2. You could play it over Zameck Guildmage for color considerations, but I'd rather have the extra base power and an ability that is very relevant when it turns on late game as opposed to an ability that becomes weaker as the game goes on. This Sage can go.

Elvish Archdruid

Along with your one-drop mana Elves, Elvish Archdruid is a key component of Standard Elves decks. Not only does he pump your team, allowing you to hit for more damage, but his mana generation is simply absurd. Untapping on turn three with six mana at your disposal and unloading a major threat from your hand can be incredibly difficult for many decks to beat. They have to remove it or lose—you definitely want all four of these.

Master Biomancer

Besides just being an incredibly fun card to play with, Master Biomancer fits well in this strategy. It's another card that kicks up all your creatures into huge monsters. Deploying it on turn three is frightening for your opponent, as it acts like another must-remove card. I like Biomancer enough here that I'm happy to bump it up to four copies.

Golgari Decoy

There are some neat tricks you can pull with Golgari Decoy, making it large and then forcing your opponent to block it and lose his or her creatures while your others run right past. You even get the mana in this deck to scavenge it out.

However, Golgari Decoy doesn't have quite the impact on the board that I'd like a four-drop in this deck to have. It's only a 2/2 at base stats, and its ability is incredibly situational. It's also usually only good if you're already winning. Decoy doesn't quite fit the bill here.

Yeva, Nature's Herald

Yeva can be quite versatile, especially in a deck like this one where you stand a lot to gain in combat from casting instant-speed creatures with a Door of Destinies on the battlefield. However, at four mana, she doesn't fit into the small end of creatures while also not having the impact that I want my late game Elf cards to have. I'd rather play other options—goodbye, Yeva!

Craterhoof Behemoth

Craterhoof Behemoth is one of the best endgames you can have in a deck like this. This deck is full of mana generators and little creatures that swarm the board—a combination that Craterhoof Behemoth thrives on. I only want to play two copies because you only need one and it's weak in your opening hand. Taz has the numbers right here.

Descendants' Path

Descendants' Path can be a pretty hit-or-miss card. Well, okay, it is literally a hit-or-miss card, but it's figuratively one too.

In a deck with twenty-five Elves, you're going to hit slightly less than half of the time. This means that it'll work, on average, every other turn. Would you play a card that said, "Every other turn, draw a card."?

Well, it depends on the deck.

In this deck, it is helping you hit a critical mass of creatures and give you a little bit of card advantage. Additionally, it also does cast the creature, which is certainly better than just drawing a card. (Note that Path does cast the creature, meaning it triggers Door of Destinies!)

Something else to note is that, if you miss with Descendants' Path, it sends that card to the bottom of your library. So even if you hit a land, you still clear it out of the way to try and draw a spell. This makes multiples pretty reasonable.

In this kind of tribal deck, I want all of the card advantage and card quality I can find. All of the benefits of Descendants' Path add up. Not only do I want to play it, but I even want to kick it up to four copies. In board stalls or against control decks the card advantage/quality is going to go a long way.

Creeping Renaissance
Garruk, Primal Hunter

I like the idea of these slots a lot. They are there to recoup cards and get ahead.

For five mana in Creeping Renaissance, you get to pick back up every Elf that traded, was Supreme Verdicted away, or was on the wrong side of a burn spell. With Garruk, you get to unleash an army of 3/3s or pick up a few cards.

However, I'd love it if this slot was a bit more synergistic with the deck. If it could get you more Elves or play into your endgame better.

Fortunately, M14 has just that:

For only one mana more, Garruk can find you a fistful of creatures, deploy a Craterhoof Behemoth onto your opponent's face, and threaten an absolutely crazy ultimate.

And in this deck, you can cast him starting on turn three.

I don't want to be overloaded on this expensive slot, but three copies of the brand new Garruk feels great.

With all of those changes in mind, that brings the deck to:

Gavin Verhey's Destined Elves

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And there you hav—

...Oh, what's an Elvish Mystic? Oh, don't worry about it for now. You'll know soon enough. Trust me when I say that it's an Elf (not some kind of Elvish Impersonator), and that it's a perfect fit for this deck.

In any case, there you have a take on Elves in the new Standard! Door of Destinies headlines your ability to win with small guys, while Garruk, Caller of Beasts is put front and center to add a large new punch to the archetype. If you're looking for a fun way to kick of new Standard, give this new spin on an old Elvish favorite a try!

Honorable Mentions

What were some other top-notch tribal decks people sent in this week? Let's take a look!

Tim's Tribal Pigs

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Swijsen Rudi's Krenkovian Experiment

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Ale Kliegman's Construct Chaos

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Nakayama Ryo's Insecter Haga

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Ezra Lucas's Getting Ratted

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Mark Ian Alloso's Dark Humans

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Ian's Golgari Zombies

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FAILER's Semi-Solid Surge

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Laurids's Vampire Control

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James K.'s Naya Elementals

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Shohei Hashimoto's "Hearty Demons"

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Abraham Parker's Mutating Wizards

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Epicsnailman's Werewolfs Rule

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Matthew Moreno's Esper Spirits

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Mike Paddock's Ladies Leading Lizards

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T.Ulven's Too many Advisors

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Quinn's Path of the Warrior

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