Wednesday, February 17, 2010

sideboarding with and against elves

I've played a couple DEs with a barely-modified version of Matt Nass's list (aka Spergelves), and I've been incredibly impressed with Ranger of Eos. Before he won, I was always under the assumption that Ranger would be too slow and mana-intensive to be useful; spending four mana to get a guy that trades with their one-drop can't be worth it, you'd rather just Weird Harvest, untap and win, right? Actually, no, the card practically instantly wins against them, since even a terrible removal spell is better than you had before, and it plays incredibly well with Curio and Glimpse. I honestly felt like I could play against Slow Zoo all day, it was that good.

Previously, I was running the red splash for Blood Moon, but it's just really bad in the current metagame: it was in there mostly to give you game against Tribal Zoo, which no one really plays any more (surprisingly). Against Zoo with Hierarch, though, it's basically incapable of stealing games like it did, leaving you jack shit against them. I'll miss it against Faeries, but that's faded away a bit too, because of the bad Zoo matchup.

Part of Elves's success, I feel, is that people's maindecks aren't prepared for it, and unless they're super on top of the latest MTGO daily events so they know what dual land corresponds to what sideboard card, they won't know what Elves is doing post-board. If you throw some Rangers in there, however, this advantage goes away... it's a tough situation, since Nass's sideboard really is that good. Against Zoo it doesn't matter too much since you can shout at your opponent "I AM GOING TO CAST RANGER OF EOS" and they'll still lose to it, but against control, it'll influence what cards they're bringing in- if a DDT (cheesy but catchy name for the deck, innit?) player thinks you're using Damping Matrix instead of Ghost Quarter, that will influence how they play and sideboard; only a week ago, people would have brought in Hurkyl's Recall, which is now an obvious blank.

Depending on the hate that people come up with, I'm excited to try a black splash for Prowess of the Fair. I've played all of one game with it, and it was a while ago, but it won! Huzzah. Anyway, it seems comparable to Fecundity last season for obvious reasons, and definitely helps your beatdown plan, as well as the fact that it's an enchantment you can tap to Heritage Druid, and get an extra mana from Archdruid.

If I was playing a PTQ today, I'd run this sideboard (assuming two maindeck Primal Command):

4 Ghost Quarter
4 Umezawa's Jitte
3 Ranger of Eos
1 Loaming Shaman
1 Burrenton Forge-Tender
1 Elvish Champion
1 Viridian Shaman

The Champion is for any adopters of the deck or Conley devotees trying out some Bant concoction. In those matchups against midrangey decks that pack a bunch of crap like Meddling Mage, you basically just want to make your guys bigger than theirs and beat down, and unblockability seems like it'll help there. I haven't tested the mirror more than a couple times, but Champion seems like a no-brainer one-of, especially with Jitte. Speaking of Jitte, still playing four of them seems questionable, since they only come in against the moderately-played Faeries and Elves, but I feel like there's room in the sideboard to make those that much better.

There's been a bunch of talk about what the right hate cards are against the deck, and I can confidently say that by far the best one is Darkblast. Barring Pendelhaven or ridiculous Nettle-Nettle-Heritage-Archdruid draws, the deck cannot beat it if the opponent can cast it turn one. This is very different from Explosives, which you can play around by just attacking a bunch, or slow shit like Night of Soul's Betrayal where they need other cards to stop you from turn three or fouring them. Chalice is reasonable, but most of the time you can get an elf or two down before they play it, and if their draw is otherwise slow you'll have time to find artifact removal. In summary: just play Darkblast. It is good, and not just against this deck; it's really strong against Brozek Boros and DDT as well.

Also depending on what the metagame looks like, I'm excited to start testing a list resembling this:

Selfish Elves
4 Heritage Druid
4 Nettle Sentinel
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Arbor Elf
4 Joraga Warcaller
4 Elvish Visionary
4 Elvish Archdruid
1 Regal Force
4 Summoner's Pact
4 Glimpse of Nature
3 Strength of the Tajuru (SELFISH ELF)
2 Primal Command
18 land

Obviously, it's a bit more beatdown-centric, and the general idea is to be much more resilient against Darkblast and Volcanic Fallout. The disadvantage is the loss of Curio, and only eight Llanowars instead of ten or eleven, but the combo is still strong since it plays more one-drops than most Elf decks, as well as having a beatdown plan worthy of Extended. It'll be a couple days before Worldwake is on Magic Online, but I'll be trying it out the instant I can get my virtual hands on the virtual cards. I will probably start doing the Spongebob the first time I win the game with Selfish Elf.


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