Elves in Extended

Feb 15th, 2018
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  1. The Extended PTQ season has started and today I’ll tell you which deck I would play if I would be allowed to participate. I played Glimpse Elves in Pro Tour Berlin (where I finished just outside the money) and ran it again in the Extended portion of the World Championships in Memphis (where I went 4-0 and subsequently drew into the Top 8). Glimpse Elves is clearly the best deck in Extended, no doubt in my mind. It has the capability of producing a turn two win, it contains an absurd amount of synergy, it is explosive, it runs the best creature tutors in the format, and is still absurdly powerful. While some players may claim that Zoo or Faeries beats Elves, I actually think that Elves is well-positioned in the current metagame. I dare to say (based on loads of playtest games) that a Zoo deck that comes prepared with Umezawa’s Jittes, Jund Charms and even many more hate cards still has less than a 50% chance to beat a well-tuned Elves deck in the hands of an experienced player. My personal record against Faeries is positive as well and I don’t fear the deck. I am happy with my Elves version and think it stands up to opposing hate very well. Moreover, I would expect the hate against Elves to subside a bit (that’s how those things historically tend to go; the Elves hype wears off and people start worrying about other decks while Elves is still just as strong) which makes the deck an even better choice for PTQs or GPs!
  3. This is the version I would run, with a metagame of mainly Faeries, Zoo, and Elves in mind:
  5. Maindeck:
  7. 4 Birchlore Rangers
  8. 4 Elvish Visionary
  9. 4 Heritage Druid
  10. 4 Llanowar Elves
  11. 1 Mirror Entity
  12. 4 Nettle Sentinel
  13. 1 Regal Force
  14. 1 Viridian Shaman
  15. 4 Wirewood Hivemaster
  16. 4 Wirewood Symbiote
  18. 3 Chord of Calling
  19. 3 Summoner's Pact
  20. 4 Glimpse of Nature
  21. 1 Thoughtseize
  22. 1 Umezawa’s Jitte
  24. 4 Gilt-leaf Palace
  25. 3 Forest
  26. 3 Windswept Heath
  27. 3 Wooded Foothills
  28. 1 Horizon Canopy
  29. 1 Overgrown Tomb
  30. 1 Temple Garden
  31. 1 Pendelhaven
  33. Sideboard:
  35. 2 Burrenton Forge-Tender
  36. 1 Elvish Champion
  37. 1 Mycoloth
  38. 2 Orzhov Pontiff
  39. 2 Viridian Shaman
  40. 2 Umezawa's Jitte
  41. 2 Gaddock Teeg
  42. 3 Thoughtseize
  44. If I attend GP Hannover, the list I will play is certainly not going to differ more than a few cards from the above. Some of the card choices should be self-explanatory. You definitely need to play 4 Glimpse, Birchlores, Heritages, Llanowars, Nettles, and Symbiotes. Those are the key cards of the deck that make the combo engine “tick”, so you cannot play less than 4 of them. The other cards may be up for debate and I’ll explain those in depth soon enough. But before that, I’ll give you some insight in the final slots that I’m not 100% sure on and that I may consider changing (mainly based on metagame fluctuations):
  45. -You may want to cut a Wirewood Hivemaster and add an Essence Warden if you expect lots of mono-red burn decks.
  46. -You may want to run 4 Chord of Calling and 2 Summoner’s Pact instead of 3 and 3 (or even 4 Chord, 3 Pact, and no Jitte) based on personal preference.
  47. -The sideboard is heavily customizable based on what you expect the most popular decks are going to be in your tournament, as is usually the case with sideboards. In my opinion, an Elves sideboard needs to include at least 1 Burrenton Forge-Tender, 1 Elvish Champion, 1 Orzhov Pontiff, and 1 Gaddock Teeg. These creatures can single-handedly answer the worst your opponent will throw at you and with 3 Chord of Callings in your deck, you need at least one of them since they make your Chords so much better. For example, if you play 0 Forge-Tender you have 0 virtual copies, while if you play 1 Forge-Tender you have 4 virtual copies, and that’s a big increase. Playing more of them is fine based on metagame expectations (I have a few of them as two-offs right now). Furthermore, you would like to have a couple extra Thoughtseize, Umezawa’s Jitte, and Viridian Shamans, since those cards are good against a majority of decks and you will want to board them in versus a variety of decks, so their usefulness is high. You can fill out the last couple slots with additional copies of the cards mentioned above as you see fit and/or matchup-specific cards (such as Choke, Thorn of Amethyst, or Mycoloth) if you expect a metagame filled with a certain specific deck. However, before finalizing your sideboard you should always make a general sideboard plan against the most popular decks. This prevent awkward “unbalanced” situations where you discover during a tournament that you have more cards in your sideboard against a certain matchup than you have bad cards in your maindeck that you want to take out. I’ll provide such a sideboard guide at the end.
  49. The category of cards that most players run, but in different numbers:
  50. Elvish Visionary – This guy increases your odds of drawing a Glimpse and it can create an absurd amount of card advantage with Wirewood Symbiote. Maximizing the combo with Symbiote is already enough reason for me to include four Visionaries. Something I also really like about Visionary is that allows non-committal second turns. I’ll explain what I mean with that by means of an example. Imagine you play turn 1 Heritage Druid and have a good hand with Glimpse of Nature or Regal Force or something that will put loads of mana to good use. Now, on turn 2 you could play Nettle Sentinel and a Birchlore Rangers, planning a big turn 3 in which can go off. Or, you could just play Elvish Visionary and delay playing the Nettle Sentinel or Birchlore Rangers for a turn. In the former case, you leave yourself wide open to a devastating Pyroclasm or Engineered Explosives. In the latter case, your key combo pieces are still safe in your hand and your opponent will have to make a tough choice between burning a Pyroclasm on a seemingly harmless board or potentially losing to Glimpse or Regal Force or something like that on his next turn. So, Elvish Visionary allows “safe” routes against hate cards and I would definitely run four.
  51. Wirewood Hivemaster – It is very important in your fight against Engineered Explosives; not only is this a creature that doesn’t die to an Explosives for one, but the steady flow of zero-cost tokens it produces will diversify your casting costs against Explosives even more. Furthermore, Hivemaster is very good in the mirror match, as you also get tokens from your opponent’s Elves. After sideboard you are quite often in a situation where you have Hivemaster in play and Chord of Calling in hand. Then, if your opponent tries to go off with Glimpse and has played six Elves, you can fetch Orzhov Pontiff by convoking with the tokens you got. Hivemaster also gives you a lot of chump blockers, which helps to buy time against Zoo. I personally like to play four of them, but if you really want to cut an Elf for something else, I admit this is probably the worst one left in the deck.
  52. Chord of Calling – The best tutor in the deck. I like it better than Summoner’s Pact because you don’t have to worry about paying the upkeep. A Pact can be dangerous if you don’t have four lands in play, as a Pyroclasm or Engineered Explosives that sweep your mana-producing Elves spells imply that you lose on your next upkeep. Chord of Calling is “safer”. Furthermore, Chord is invaluable after board as it can search Burrenton Forge-Tender or Orzhov Pontiff. Moreover, the convoke mechanic turns Wirewood Symbiotes and Insect tokens into “sources of mana”, which often comes in handy. And I also like that Chord of Calling is an instant, especially when playing against Faeries. Often a Faerie player will pass with mana open and then you can just smell he has some counterspell. So instead of walking right into it, just ship the turn back and Chord on his turn. Faerie players are never happy when they might have to counter something on their own turn as then they may not have enough mana left to counter something on your turn. So you definitely want many Chords. At the same time, you don’t want to see multiple Chords in your opening hand, since that is usually too slow. A hand full of Chords will lack the quick punch on the first turns of the game. Therefore I prefer to only play three. But the first Chord is often so nice that I can also fully understand four.
  53. Summoner’s Pact – This is frequently one of the first cards I board out since it is so dangerous against board sweepers. Nevertheless, in game 1 you will face less hate than in the post-sideboarded games, so in game 1 your plan is usually to try to go off as fast as possible. Summoner’s Pact can provide you with the extra Nettle Sentinel or missing Heritage Druid that you might need to finish the big Glimpse turn, and for that purpose it is perfect mid-combo. Three copies is (more than) enough since, just like with Chord, drawing two of them may lead to clunky and slow games. To be honest, a 4 Chord – 2 Pact split is also perfectly fine. I am kind of torn between the 4-2 or 3-3 distribution (or even 4 Chord-3 Pact and cut a non-creature card like Jitte) myself, so if you have a personal preference towards either, then go with that.
  55. And for my remaining maindeck choices (including discussion of some cards I do not play):
  56. Viridian Shaman – Most decks in Extended, except for Elves, run a couple artifacts. Being able to search for an answer to Umezawa’s Jitte or Tidehollow Sculler is important, but being able to destroy a Chalice of the Void on one is perhaps even more significant. Therefore, you really want one in the maindeck to fetch with Chord of Calling and Summoner’s Pact. Remember that you can re-use it with Wirewood Symbiote.
  57. Regal Force – When you only have loads of mana elves in play but not much action otherwise, this is the card you want to tutor for. I like to have access to it in game 1, but it is not essential. I actually board it out quite often.
  58. Thoughtseize – I added two Thoughtseize to my deck for the World Championships in order to have some pre-emptive answer to maindeck hate cards and I was quite content with that choice. Thoughtseize is an all-round catch that works against everything, from Night of Soul’s Betrayal to Jund Charm. Furthermore, in this deck I use the Mirror Entity kill which does not always win the game outright on your Glimpse combo turn. If your opponent has more blockers than the number of creatures without summoning sickness you have, Mirror Entity is not going to cut it. Playing a Thoughtseize that snatches away a Firespout or something (i.e. your opponent’s only chance to get back in the game) will make things easier for you.
  59. Umezawa’s Jitte – I have changed my 2 Thoughtseizes to 1 Thoughtseize and 1 Jitte after Worlds. The main reason is that I like one-offs. They give you more options during the game and they confuse your opponents. But I also like Jitte better than Thoughtseize against Faeries (i.e. I’d rather resolve a Jitte than a Thoughtseize since it’ll have more impact on the game) and since the metagame seems to be stocked with Faeries decks I’d rather have access to a Jitte in my maindeck. Lastly, I had lost a game in Berlin to Worship in game 1 (I drew my deck but had no card that could destroy a creature or enchantment) while I would have clearly won if I had Jitte in my deck.
  60. Mirror Entity – This one may need some explanation. Mirror Entity fills three roles in the deck. The first role is as a win condition. The turn you “go off” with Glimpse you can quickly make tons of mana. Once you have multiple Nettle Sentinels in play and a Heritage Druid, you gain mana for every green spell you play and getting to 20 mana is easy. Once you have found Mirror Entity, you can untap all your creatures without summoning sickness with Wirewood Symbiotes, activate Mirror Entity, and attack for (hopefully) the kill. Sometimes your opponent has more blockers than you have attackers, but even then you can Thoughtseize him, keep a hand full of 7 good Elves just in case he topdecks a Damnation, and usually win on your next turn. The second role of Mirror Entity is as an infinite mana combo. It works as follows: (1) Get Mirror Entity, Heritage Druid, Nettle Sentinel, and Wirewood Symbiote in play (2) Activate Mirror Entity for one, turning Wirewood Symbiote into an elf. (3) Tap Wirewood Symbiote, Nettle Sentinel and Heritage Druid for three green mana. (4) Return Wirewood Symbiote to your hand and untap Heritage Druid. (5) Replay Wirewood Symbiote and untap Nettle Sentinel. (6) Repeat from step 2. Every iteration yields one green mana, so in the end you can untap all your creatures with Wirewood Symbiote and attack with 1000/1000 creatures. A word of warning: don’t replay Wirewood Symbiote a million times if you had played Glimpse that turn, otherwise you’ll deck yourself. The third role of Mirror Entity is as a Chord of Calling target. I’ve won a fair share of games where I just had a couple tiny non-threatening Elves in play, subsequently played Chord of Calling for Mirror Entity at the end of my opponent’s turn and won out of nowhere. Randomly drawing Mirror Entity is never bad and often actually game-winning (as opposed to other kill cards which you are often unable to cast). Finally, remember that Entity is an Elf as well, so don’t forget to get a token from Wirewood Hivemaster or save it from removal with Wirewood Symbiote.
  61. 0 Predator Dragon – This may seem to offer a “cleaner” kill than Mirror Entity, but I’ve never felt the need for a Predator Dragon in my deck. The argument for Predator Dragon over Mirror Entity would be that if your opponent has more creatures in play than you have creatures without summoning sickness, Mirror Entity does not facilitate a kill the turn you go off, whereas Predator Dragon would. However, as I have explained above the odds of your opponent dealing with your entire board full of creatures via Damnation and subsequently your hand full of 7 good cards are extremely slim. Drawing a Predator Dragon randomly is usually very bad since you cannot cast it (unless you have Birchlore Rangers and an insane amount of Elves).
  62. 0 Grapeshot or Brain Freeze (plus Eternal Witness) – These kill conditions are inferior to creature kill conditions, since you cannot search for them with Chord of Calling.
  63. 0 Essence Warden – I played four in Berlin and played none in Memphis. While Essence Warden is a fine one-drop Elf that buys you time till you can ‘go off’, it is not a crucial part of the engine and does not help to battle the hate. Expecting a lot of board sweepers and hate cards versus Elves, I decided to cut them from the deck and make room for cards that combat hate or make the deck more consistent. However, it may not be bad to run one Essence Warden. Against decks like Mono Red Burn, being able to tutor up a life gainer with Chord of Calling could actually win you some games. If you expect to face lots of red decks, I’d suggest adding one Essence Warden and cutting (probably) a Wirewood Hivemaster.
  64. 0 Weird Harvest – I greatly dislike this card and would never run it over Chord of Calling. I did test with it quite a few games for Berlin, but everyone agreed that Chord of Calling was superior, especially when you have the ability to do a Chord of Calling for three and win with Mirror Entity out of nowhere. Weird Harvest only makes the deck faster if you get dream hands with multiple Nettle Sentinels, Birchlore Ranger and Heritage Druid.. The main downside of Weird Harvest is that it is symmetrical; your opponent gets just as much mileage out of it as you. Zoo decks will search Mogg Fanatics or maybe even Ethersworn Canonist; Faeries decks will search a set of Spellstutter Sprites; and opposing Elf decks gain just as many combo pieces as you. If you ever play Weird Harvest for all your mana and pass the turn, your opponent gets to play his creatures (which are often just as good as your creatures) earlier and will wreck you with them. If you ever have access to loads of mana, you may just as well Chord of Calling for Regal Force. And often you will try to do a Weird Harvest for three and keep two mana open to play the Nettle Sentinels / Birchlore Rangers / whatever you search for. Then you’ll come to the conclusion that while you can play a ton of creatures, you still cannot go off that turn and subsequently lose to the creatures your opponent searched. Furthermore, Chord of Calling is a lot easier to play with than Weird Harvest. With Chord, you only have to select one creature. Weird Harvest forces you to figure out the optimal combination of creatures for any X smaller than or equal to the amount of mana you can product minus two. Do yourself a favor: the deck is already hard to play; adding even more complexity is not necessary.
  65. 0 Elves of the Deep Shadow – I actually put one of these in my deck once I added Thoughtseizes to the main, but cut it afterwards. I do not think Deep Shadow is necessary. The deck already has enough mana sources (and also enough Overgrown Tombs and Gilt-Leaf Palaces to get black, for that matter) and too often you’ll notice that you cannot spend the black mana. I mean, the card is not bad, but I do not think it is better than any card that is currently in the deck.
  67. The mana base:
  68. I don’t think I have to explain the Gilt-leaf Palace (essentially a Bayou in this deck) or the singleton Pendelhaven (I don’t like a second one because drawing doubles in a deck with only 17 lands can be wrecking). The interesting choices in my deck, however, are the fetch-lands. I run 3 Windswept Heath, 3 Wooded Foothills, and of course 1 Overgrown Tomb plus 1 Temple Garden. Many other versions play extra Overgrown Tombs, extra Horizon Canopies, or extra basic Forests instead. There are two main reasons why I prefer the fetch-lands. Firstly, they thin your deck. I actually think this deck-thinning effect is overrated for most decks (like Zoo, where you hope to only have 5 draw phases in the entire game) but in a deck like Elves which tries to draw its entire deck in the Glimpse combo turn, increasing the odds of drawing a creature rather than another land will add up after drawing lots of cards and that difference is significant. Furthermore, they fix your mana in the best possible way. You essentially have 7 Overgrown Tombs and 7 Temple Gardens. If you played a combination of Overgrown Tombs and Horizon Canopies instead of the fetch-land setups you would have less black or white sources. Since (especially after sideboard) you play a reasonable amount of white and black cards you want to be able to cast them. There after downsides, of course: you lose life from your fetch-lands and sometimes run into a Stifle, but they are outweighed by the advantages in my opinion. I want to play at least 3 Forests since you want to have the opportunity to search basic lands with your first three fetch-lands. If you play less than 3 Forests, you may be forced to search a dual land (with 2 damage attached) while you’d rather have a basic land too often for my liking. Especially against decks like Mono Red Burn you don’t want to take unnecessary damage. More basics also helps against Blood Moon effects. That still leaves one land slot. At first I simply had another Windswept Heath, but then I caught on to Horizon Canopy. Canopy helps to mitigate land-heavy draws and is better than any other land in the mid-to-late game. However, you don’t want to get multiple Horizon Canopies as your only lands since that is too painful. Hence, running one seemed perfectly fine.
  70. My sideboard (including discussion of some cards I do not play):
  71. 2 Burrenton Forge-Tender – After sideboard you will face Pyroclasms, Slice and Dice, Firesprouts, Jund Charm, etcetera. Clearly, you need some kind of defense, preferably a creature card (because then you can search it with Chord of Calling and you like to have as many creature cards in your deck as possible because you’re playing Glimpse of Nature). Burrenton Forge-Tender fits that role perfectly and because the mana-base of the deck offers enough white mana sources it is not hard to just play it on turn 1 or 2 and hold back Kird Apes, Keldon Marauders, etc. The second Forge-Tender is not as important as the first one but I would expect to face enough red burn spells to run two.
  72. 1 Elvish Champion – When your opponent plays Night of Soul’s Betrayal, you would like to be able to search an answer to it with Chord of Calling. Preferably something that ensures your creatures will actually live through the Betrayal, rather than a card like Nullmage Sheperd that will only destroy the Night of Soul’s Betrayal after it has slaughtered your board. Elvish Champion is what you’re looking for. Furthermore, it is also a very nice tutor target against decks like Zoo and Rock because of the Forestwalk ability. This can win you quite a few games and this is why I prefer it over Imperious Perfect.
  73. 2 Orzhov Pontiff – One of your trumps in the mirror match, so you definitely need one of them as a Chord of Calling target. Not only can Pontiff massacre your opponent’s board of Elves, but you can also search it with Chord of Calling in response to your opponent’s Pontiff and choose to boost your creatures. You also like to have access to it to destroy Goblin Sharpshooters. The second copy is not as essential as the first one, especially if you do not expect to face many Elf decks. However, if you do expect a reasonable amount of Elf decks, then the second Pontiff is the best sideboard addition you have. Hard-casting it is easily do-able (unlike Goblin Sharpshooter). Furthermore, sometimes you want to cash in a second Chord of Calling for another Pontiff and sometimes you have Pontiff and Chord in hand but no white and black mana in play. In those cases, having a second Pontiff in your deck is important.
  74. 2 Viridian Shaman – Even though you already have one in the maindeck, there are so many annoying artifacts that you want to have access to multiple ways to destroy them. Chalice of the Void, Umezawa’s Jitte, Tidehollow Sculler, Ethersworn Canonist, etcetera. The decks against which you board in additional Shamans in will have more artifacts than you have Shamans, so if you randomly draw one it is always good. How many you should play depends on how many Tezzeret / Affinity / other artifact-heavy decks you expect, but two (plus one main) feels like a fine number.
  75. 2 Umezawa's Jitte – The best answer to your opponent’s Jitte is your own Jitte. Furthermore, you will discover that you will win many post-sideboard games against Zoo and Faeries on Umezawa’s Jitte. Your deck has enough mana to easily pay for all the equipping cost and the long-term advantage of Jitte counters will add up. Playing four seems too much because you don’t want to be stuck with multiples in your hand, but I have found that having access to 3 Jittes will help immensely against Faeries. Their creatures are all so tiny and you will be glad to have a way to kill Sower of Temptations or Wirewood Hivemasters that were taken over with Threads of Disloyalty.
  76. 2 Gaddock Teeg – This is mainly there to help you beat Urzatron decks. If it stays in play, they can almost never win. It not only stops arch-enemy Night of Soul’s Betrayal, but also Chalice of the Void, Engineered Explosives, Gifts Ungiven, Condescend, Damnation, Persecute and then I probably forgot a couple cards as well. I like to battle Night of Soul’s Betrayal with pre-emptive creature cards if possible. So I don’t like Gleeful Sabotage or Nullmage Sheperd or stuff like that. They only do something after Night of Soul’s Betrayal has already come down and sometimes don’t do anything if your opponent didn’t draw Night of Soul’s Betrayal. Gaddock Teeg (and also Elvish Champion) are always good, also in games where your opponent didn’t draw Night of Soul’s Betrayal. Furthermore, they draw you cards off Glimpse. I like to play 2 Teeg rather than just one because Urzatron decks still have some removal (Smother, Deathmark, etc.) so being able to search a second Teeg after the first one died can be crucial. Moreover, don’t forget that Gaddock Teeg is good against many other decks, like Mind’s Desire, Death Cloud, of Tezzeret. Teeg clearly shuts down the namesake cards of those decks, but also many other cards in control decks. Finally, I would like to point out that in case you expect loads of Goblin decks in your tournament (unlikely), I would consider playing 1 Teeg 1 Gaea’s Anthem instead of 2 Teeg, since Anthem is good against Goblin Sharpshooter while still helping against Night of Soul’s Betrayal.
  77. 3 Thoughtseize –Against combo decks you want to take out their combo pieces (such as Glimpse of Nature in the mirror match). Against control decks you want to discard their hate cards (such as Night of Soul’s Betrayal or Chalice of the Void). Against Faeries you want to take out their Umezawa’s Jitte or Engineered Explosives or Spellstutter Sprite. You will board in Thoughtseize against almost every deck since almost every deck will have some kind of hate or sideboard plan against you. The only exceptions are Zoo and Mono Red Burn, since the 2 damage is too much against them. There are just too many decks you want the full four Thoughtseize against after board and they are such wonderful multi-purpose answers to any hate cards, so you will be using them a lot.
  78. 1 Mycoloth – I was convinced by Belgian players in Memphis to add this to my sideboard. The idea is to put it in as a win condition against Zoo. The rationale behind this is that you prefer to cut Mirror Entity and Regal Force against Zoo because they are too easily destroyed or too expensive to hard-cast, respectively. Mycoloth is still a fine win condition after a big Glimpse turn and, most importantly, is great when you randomly draw it. I could get behind this reasoning and drew it once that day when playing against PV’s Zoo deck. It was unfortunately just a vanilla Durkwood Boars that game because I didn’t want to sacrifice anything in that particular game situation but I still won the game on it because a 4/4 dominated Wild Nacatls. So my experience with is a little mixed, but the rationale behind its inclusion is sound. If you expect Zoo to be a reasonable portion of your metagame (and I still consider Zoo to be one of the top decks in the format) then keep the Mycoloth. But you only board it in against Zoo (while it’s okay against Faeries, I prefer to keep Mirror Entity as a kill condition against them), so if you have different metagame anticipations then feel free to cut it.
  79. 0 Vexing Shusher / Gaea’s Herald / Leyline of Lifeforce – It’s nice against Faeries, but to be honest their countermagic never gave me many problems. If I smelled their had a hand full of counters, I would just not play anything for a while and wait for a turn in which I would play out my entire hand, leaving them with insufficient mana to counter all my spells in that turn and afterwards with dead counters in hand. This takes a bit of practice, but if played right countermagic should not worry you that much. Their Umezawa’s Jittes and Engineered Explosives and flying beatdown were more problematic in my experience. Hence, I don’t see a need for anti-countermagic cards.
  80. 0 Fecundity – It’s not particularly bad against mass removal or Zoo decks, but (a) three mana is a lot and often they will have killed your board before you are able to play Fecundity (b) your opponents will use it as well, so when for example your opponent sacrifices Mogg Fanatic to kill your Llanowar Elf, Fecundity helps him just as much as you (c) I dislike non-creature cards in general as this does not draw you a card with Glimpse of Nature (d) drawing a ton of cards won’t help you if your opponent has just destroyed 10 Elves with Jund Charm and is now attacking you with 3 Wild Nacatls unopposed for the final damage. For these reasons I am not a fan of Fecundity and prefer to go with other sideboard plans.
  81. 0 Gleeful Sabotage/Nullmage Sheperd/Seal of Primordium/Viridian Zealot/Naturalize/Krosan Grip/Indrik Stomphowler – The advantage of these cards over Viridian Shaman is that they destroy enchantments. I will always prefer Shaman against any artifact (since it is an Elf and you can re-use it with Symbiote, which is huge). But apart from Night of Soul’s Betrayal there simply aren’t any note-worthy enchantments that you need to prepare for. Pyrostatic Pillar perhaps, but a Burrenton Forge-Tender works just as well against that. I already explained that I prefer proactive rather than reactive cards like Gaddock Teeg over Gleeful Sabotage versus Night of Soul’s Betrayal and I’ll leave it at that.
  82. 0 Brain Freeze – I had this in my sideboard in Berlin so that I could swap Mirror Entity with Brain Freeze if I needed a more “sure” kill condition and as “tech” in the mirror match. The first reason was perhaps valid in an unknown format where you would have no clue whether you might face infinite life combo decks or something like that, but now that the Extended format has become more explored, I don’t think there is a matchup where you can’t just win by attacking with creatures. The “tech” in the mirror match was that if your opponent started the Glimpse combo, you would respond to the thirteenth-or-so creature he would play by Brain Freezing his deck in response to the Glimpse trigger and win the game. However, opponents may see this coming nowadays or they may Thoughtseize you first and often you don’t have a Birchlore Rangers to get blue mana. So basically I don’t think Brain Freeze is needed anymore.
  83. 0 Blasting Station – Not bad in the mirror match, especially with Wirewood Hivemasters around, and a fine alternative win condition versus Worship or something like that, but I prefer additional Orzhov Pontiffs in the mirror match and I think Blasting Station is too narrow.
  84. 0 Steely Resolve – Many of my post-sideboard game plans involve targeting my own Elves with Umezawa’s Jitte, so this kind of gets in the way.
  85. 0 Pendelhaven – I am not playing a 16 land version that sometimes needs a 17th land; I already have 17 lands maindeck and don’t want a second legendary land.
  86. 0 Caller of the Claw – I had Caller of the Claw in my sideboard in Berlin, but it is often too clunky to keep so much mana open just in case your opponent may have a Damnation. Furthermore, it is not really Chord-friendly. You can’t, for instance, keep 4 creatures and 2 lands open to search Caller of the Claw in response to Damnation, because if you try that then Caller comes into play before the Damnation resolves. You can’t float convoke mana like regular mana. I prefer to play around mass removal with cards like Umezawa’s Jitte (then you only need to keep 1 or 2 creatures in play at any time), by discarding them with Thoughtseize, or by simply playing some Symbiotes and/or Visionaries and hold key Nettle Sentinels in my hand to control the damage.
  87. 0 Choke – Now that the metagame appears to become infested with Faeries decks, Choke may not be a bad card to have. I can easily understand running 1 or 2 of them. The reason why I decided not to put them in my own sideboard is that I am unsure what the standard Faeries version will look like. It may be that most players will opt for a mono-blue version and then Choke is very good and will win the game on its own if it resolves. It may also be that most players will choose a black-blue version with Secluded Glen, River of Tears (on top of Mutavault, Riptide Laboratories, and Chome Moxes) and then Choke won’t lock down enough lands to make a big impact on the game. And after playing game 1 you may not know which versions your opponents have. If my memory serves me well, I had a match in Berlin where I played turn 1 Nettle Sentinel, my opponent played turn 1 Island and Engineered Explosives, and then I won on turn 2. Then how do you sideboard? You have no idea how many Islands your opponent has in his deck so you have no idea whether Choke will be worth it. The same principle also holds if you win on turn 3 or 4, of course. Since I am not sure whether Choke is going to be game-winning or mediocre, I prefer to finish my sideboard without them. But if it becomes clear that the “standard” Faeries build that everyone plays is mono-blue, I will add Chokes.
  88. 0 Thorn of Amethyst – Good against Mind’s Desire combo but against little else. Since Desire combo does not constitute a big part of the metagame right now you don’t need this.
  89. 0 Ethersworn Canonist –Mind’s Desire combo is still not played much. However, some players like Canonist in the mirror match for situations where you have a good board advantage and want an insurance against an opponent’s Glimpse. I think that is too narrow and prefer Thoughtseize and Orzhov Pontiff for the mirror, which have wider applications.
  91. The ubiquitous matchup and sideboarding guide
  93. VS Elves
  95. Your plan is to combo off as soon as possible. This is obvious but even more true in the mirror match, since quickly making lots of Elvish attackers isn’t going to cut it and Umezawa’s Jitte is too easily negated by an opponent who Chords up Wirewood Symbiote to fizzle combat damage. After sideboard you really need an opening hand with some action, be it Glimpse of Nature, Orzhov Pontiff or Chord of Calling (for Pontiff). Lots of mana Elves and a Pact (for Regal Force) will also suffice if you see a chance of winning turn 3. A hand with a Thoughtseize is also nice since you can take out opposing Glimpses and such a hand would increase greatly in value if you also have some Symbiote+Visionary action or Wirewood Hivemaster madness. A hand without any of those key cards should be mulliganed right away. I guess the same principle also holds for all other matchups, now that I think of it (replace Orzhov Pontiff with sideboards cards of that matchup and the same mulligan advice holds). A hand with 2 lands, 2 Nettle Sentinels, and 3 Llanowar Elves is simply not going to win you the game in Extended and six new chances on a Glimpse of Nature are better.
  97. Some random tricks and tips:
  98. -If your opponent has Wirewood Hivemaster, morph Birchlore Rangers instead to deny him the token.
  99. -If you have Mirror Entity, Wirewood Symbiote, and Orzhov Pontiff in play, you can make everything an Elf and return the Pontiff to your hand.
  100. -If you’re mid-combo, try to cast Thoughtseize as soon as possible to check whether your opponent is sitting on Chord of Calling (and planning a big Pontiff).
  101. -Try to keep a creature in your hand if possible at all times. This will make a big difference if you topdeck Glimpse of Nature.
  103. Sideboard in: +2 Orzhov Pontiff +3 Thoughtseize
  104. Sideboard out: -1 Viridian Shaman -1 Elvish Visionary -1 Wirewood Symbiote -1 Symmoner’s Pact -1 Umezawa’s Jitte
  106. VS Faeries
  108. Engineered Explosives and Umezawa’s Jitte are your arch-enemies, but you have Viridian Shaman, Thoughtseize, and your own Jittes to battle them. Pulling off the combo against Faeries is hard since they can counter your Glimpse (Spellstutter Sprites are particularly annoying). Sometimes you can bait a counter early on with a random creature, Thoughtseize away their last counter, and win with Glimpse after all, but this doesn’t always work. So you’ll have to learn how to win the game by attacking with lots of Elves. Wirewood Hivemaster will help to build an army that is diversified versus Engineered Explosives, but watch out for Threads of Disloyalty that turns said Hivemaster against you. Morphing Birchlore Rangers is a nice answer to an Explosives on one too, by the way. Wirewood Symbiote plus Elvish Visionary will yield lots of incremental card advantage if unopposed. Resolving a Chord of Calling for Mirror Entity can also win the game outright.
  110. A key plan against Faeries is to deny them the ability to use their countermagic well. Play 2 one-drops instead of a two-drop if your opponent has only one mana open (which could mean Spell Snare). Play a two-drop instead of a one-drop if your opponent has two mana open and no Faeries in play (which could mean Spellstutter Sprite). Wait until you have more lands or mana before playing a key card like Glimpse of Nature in order to play around Mana Leak. Often it is actually better not to play anything and just say go, waiting for a better moment to cast your spells. It’s bad to play a spell which get Spellstuttered and have the same thing happen to you in the next turn. Rather, wait until they only have 3 mana open and then play 3 spells in one turn. They won’t be able to counter them all. So try to plan in advance.
  112. Not everyone likes Thoughtseize against Faeries, but I do. They always have a good card to take out; especially Engineered Explosives or Umezawa’s Jitte are important targets that you need extra answers for. In the worst case, you will discard a counterspell and know exactly how many counterspells they have left in their hand. A downside of adding Thoughtseize is that you put more non-creature cards in your deck, which makes your Glimpses worse. However, most Glimpses won’t resolve anyway against them, so it’s not all bad.
  114. Regarding the cards that you sideboard out, Regal Force is often too easily countered so you take it out; Summoner’s Pact is too risky against Engineered Explosives; cutting a Heritage Druid means an Explosives for one is less devastating; and Wirewood Hivemaster can be risky against Threads of Disloyalty. You may want to add a second Viridian Shaman against artifact-heavy versions; in that case, leave a Thoughtseize in the board.
  116. Sideboard in: +2 Umezawa’s Jitte +3 Thoughtseize +1 Viridian Shaman
  117. Sideboard out: -1 Regal Force -3 Summoner’s Pact -1 Heritage Druid -1 Wirewood Hivemaster
  119. VS Zoo
  121. They have a lot of burn, so most of your Elves won’t live long. Going off early may therefore be hard, as without living Nettle Sentinels it’s hard to keep on going. Try to play some Llanowar Elves and Elvish Visionaries in the beginning, since if they burn those you don’t lose any vital combo pieces. Once the game goes long, the Elf deck is favored, since your cards give more synergy and incremental advantage than your opponent’s cards. If your opponent has no burn left for your Wirewood Hivemasters and Wirewood Symbiotes then they will provide you with a lot of action and allow favorable blocks. Eventually you’ll get some improvement with Chord of Calling, Umezawa’s Jitte, or Glimpse of Nature. Casting a Glimpse, subsequently casting 3 or 4 creatures and then passing the turn is perfectly fine against Zoo (especially since there is a decent chance that you will draw another Glimpse and can continue your combos next turn). You don’t have to go off in one turn. You just need to find more Hivemasters / Forge-Tenders / Symbiotes / Jittes / win conditions (like Mycoloth, Mirror Entity, or Regal Force) than they can deal with and you will then slowly but steadily win the game. They don’t have flyers or combos to break through after all and will often have spent their burn on your creatures. Just remember to keep out of Tribal Flames range. Note that in some games you can actually race the Zoo deck, since they take a lot of damage from their lands and you can easily have 4 creatures out as early as turn 2 and start attacking with Wirewood Symbiote backup.
  123. After sideboard you take out cards that you are not happy to see in your opening hand for cards that you do like to see in your opening hand.
  125. Sideboard in: +2 Umezawa’s Jitte +1 Elvish Champion +1 Viridian Shaman +2 Burrenton Forge-Tender +1 Mycoloth
  126. Sideboard out: -3 Summoner’s Pact -1 Regal Force-1 Mirror Entity -1 Thoughtseize -1 Heritage Druid
  128. Well, that concludes what I would expect to be the ‘big three’ decks in the current Extended metagame. But Extended is a deep format with lots of viable strategies, so let’s go over some of the remaining decks. I’ll admit I don’t have much playtesting experience against these decks, so I won’t have that many useful comments to make. The following sideboard plans are based on theorizing rather than game hours, but I hope they still prove to be good guidelines.
  130. As some general rules of thumb, when picking the cards to board out, you can start with your one-offs: Viridian Shaman out against decks without artifacts, Thoughtseize out against decks with burn, Jitte out against decks that don’t have creatures and/or don’t have hate cards versus your combo plan, Regal Force will be cut very often (it’s weak against decks that destroy your mana Elves too easily and/or counter expensive spells to quickly and it also becomes worse after board if you have taken out Summoner’s Pacts and/or put in Mycoloth), Mirror Entity out if you don’t require a win condition. Subsequently you can often take out Summoner’s Pacts, except against combo matchups where you need to set up a big Glimpse turn quickly or against decks without removal for your mana Elves. But often Summoner’s Pacts will be taken out. Finally, if you need to make room for more sideboard cards you can take out a few random Elves. Taking out 1 Heritage Druid, for example, won’t hurt your combo potential significantly so your base strategy is not hurt much, and taking out a one-cost card is often smart against decks with Engineered Explosives or Chalice of the Void. But don’t cut more than one since then you might have trouble finding it when you need it mid-combo. You can also easily lose a Wirewood Hivemaster and/or Elvish Visionary, especially if you put in other 2-drops. Taking out a Wirewood Symbiote against removal-light decks is also fine.
  132. VS Deathcloud Rock
  134. Your deck is much faster than theirs, so try to overwhelm them with Elves or Glimpses quickly. If all goes well you should have won before they even have the chance to play Damnation. After sideboard they will probably have Night of Soul’s Betrayal, and the sideboard plan was made with that in mind.
  136. Sideboard in: +1 Elvish Champion +2 Gaddock Teeg +3 Thoughtseize
  137. Sideboard out: -1 Viridian Shaman -3 Summoner’s Pact -1 Regal Force -1 Umezawa’s Jitte
  139. VS Mono-Red Burn
  141. This matchup often comes down to them burning you and you attacking them quickly with lots of Elves. It’s pretty straightforward. They could have anything after board: perhaps Pyrostatic Pillar or Martyr of Ashes or maybe Slice and Dice or something else. Searching Burrenton Forge-Tender with Chord of Calling is a key play since it will answer any of those sideboard cards. And there’s also the artifact guessing game. Do you put in Jittes? Do they put in Smash to Smithereens? If you have Jittes and they have no Smash, then Jitte will probably win you the game if you draw it; they’ll have to target your Elvish Visionaries instead of you with their burn. If they have Smash and you have no Jitte, then they could be stuck with dead cards in their hand and lack the final twentieth damage. Even then, I still prefer to add Jittes based on the old wisdom of “there are no wrong threats, but there are wrong answers”.
  143. Sideboard in: +2 Umezawa’s Jitte +2 Burrenton Forge-Tender +1 Mycoloth
  144. Sideboard out: -1 Thoughtseize -1 Viridian Shaman -2 Summoner’s Pact -1 Regal Force
  146. VS Swans Combo
  148. They may have Blood Moon maindeck, so keep that in mind when you sacrifice a Windswept Heath. They will also likely have Firespout and Engineered Explosives as well as countermagic to foil your plans, so game 1 will be tough. After sideboard you fortunately get Burrentons and Thoughtseizes to battle those sweepers and also their Chain of Plasma combos. Keep on the lookout for Chalice of the Void; if you know he has those then you may want more Viridian Shamans after board (take out an extra Heritage Druid in that case). Right now I keep one Shaman, just-in-case and it’s also fine versus stray Moxen or Explosives.
  150. Sideboard in: +3 Thoughtseize +2 Burrenton Forge-Tender
  151. Sideboard out: -1 Umezawa’s Jitte -3 Summoner’s Pact -1 Regal Force
  153. VS U/B Tron
  155. Their Night of Soul’s Betrayal is quite insane against you, but you get enough sideboard cards to fight back. In game 1, well, you can try to attack with 1/1 Nettle Sentinels and morphed Birchlores, but generally it’s better to try to win before they hit 4 mana.
  157. Sideboard in: +2 Viridian Shaman +2 Gaddock Teeg +3 Thoughtseize +1 Elvish Champion
  158. Sideboard out: -3 Summoner’s Pact -1 Regal Force -1 Heritage Druid -1 Wirewood Symbiote -1 Wirewood Hivemaster -1 Umezawa’s Jitte
  160. VS TEPS
  162. This is just a combo race where you try to go off the turn before they can win. A bunch of beatdown Elves plus a Thoughtseize can also win you a game. Burrenton Forge-Tender helps against any Pyroclasms or Firespouts they might have for games 2 and 3 and Gaddock Teeg could spell game over if it sticks.
  164. Sideboard in: +2 Gaddock Teeg +3 Thoughtseize +2 Burrenton Forge-Tender
  165. Sideboard out: -1 Viridian Shaman -1 Elvish Visionary -1 Wirewood Symbiote -3 Symmoner’s Pact -1 Umezawa’s Jitte
  167. VS Goblins
  169. Your main worry here is Goblin Sharpshooter, but fortunately they don’t have Goblin Matron anymore. Apart from that, your combo usually works better and faster than their Fecundity plus Skirk Prospector plus Empty the Warrens shenanigans. Jitte is too easily fizzled by their Sledders and Prospectors, so you should take it out. Forge-Tender unfortunately doesn’t work against Sharpshooter, but it still buys you time. Pontiff does kill Sharpshooter. Playing a Mycoloth when they have Fecundity in play would seem like a lot of fun.
  171. Sideboard in: +1 Burrenton Forge-Tender +2 Orzhov Pontiff +1 Mycoloth
  172. Sideboard out: -1 Umezawa’s Jitte -2 Summoner’s Pact -1 Regal Force
  174. VS All-in Red
  176. Try to fetch basic lands rather than duals in order to play around Magus of the Moon in game 1. Expect Martyr of Ashes, Trinisphere, and Chalice of the Void after sideboard. I would guess they take out Blood Moons to make room for those but you never know.
  178. Sideboard in: +2 Burrenton Forge-Tender +2 Viridian Shaman +2 Thoughtseize
  179. Sideboard out: -1 Regal Force -3 Summoner’s Pact -1 Umezawa’s Jitte -1 Heritage Druid
  181. VS Dredge
  183. They don’t have answers to your Glimpses, so you should just try to combo off as quickly as possible. Darkblast is annoying. Thoughtseize is incredible if they kept a hand with only one Magus of the Bazaar / Glimpse the Unthinkable / Ideas Unbound. Regarding the singleton creatures you board in: Pontiff is there to destroy Magus of the Bazaar, Burrenton Forge-Tenders to remove Bridge from Belows and Gaddock Teegs prevent Dread Return. I keep Viridian Shaman just in case they might have Chalice of the Void after board. Even if they don’t have it, you can always destroy a Mox. Lastly, Jittes help to destroy their Magus of the Bazaars and to remove their Bridges (kill a creature of your own).
  185. +1 Burrenton Forge-Tender +1 Gaddock Teeg +1 Orzhov Pontiff +2 Umezawa’s Jitte +3 Thoughtseize
  186. Sideboard out: -3 Summoner’s Pact -1 Regal Force -1 Heritage Druid -1 Wirewood Hivemaster -1 Elvish Visionary -1 Wirewood Symbiote
  188. VS Affinity
  190. I wouldn’t worry much about this matchup, since they lack cards to interfere with your game plan. If you’re not comboing them out, you can also easily win by assembling the Wirewood Symbiote plus Viridian Shaman engine. After sideboard they might have Ethersworn Canonist or Krark-Clan Shaman, but you should be able to handle that.
  192. Sideboard in: +2 Viridian Shaman
  193. Sideboard out: -1 Thoughtseize -1 Umezawa’s Jitte
  195. VS Tezzerator
  197. They have a lot of good cards against you. Apart from the annoying Chalice of the Void, they also run tons of mass removal: Firespout, Engineered Explosives, and after board sometimes even Slice and Dice. Plan A is of course still the combo. Plan B is to use Viridian Shaman against their Chalices (or find a Gaddock Teeg before they can play it), counter Firespout with Burrenton Forge-Tender and then try to win with Umezawa’s Jitte, keeping only one or two creatures in play at a time to play around mass removal but still having a fast clock due to Jitte. Your deck really plays completely different after sideboard; it’s more like a concoction of good-stuff creatures and backup cards.
  199. Sideboard in: +2 Viridian Shaman +2 Thoughtseize +1 Gaddock Teeg +1 Umezawa’s Jitte +1 Burrenton Forge-Tender +1 Mycoloth
  200. -3 Summoner’s Pact -1 Regal Force -1 Mirror Entity -1 Heritage Druid -1 Wirewood Symbiote -1 Wirewood Hivemaster
  202. Conclusion
  204. I hope you have gained more insight into my card choices and sideboard plans for the Elf deck. I know I haven’t said much about how the Elf deck works exactly or how you should stack all your triggers when running the combo, but that is something that is best learned via experience. You need enough test games with the deck in order to be able to solve all the combo puzzles. If you don’t have enough time to playtest sufficiently, don’t play Elves. The deck is pretty hard to play. But if you put in the time and effort, you’ll discover that Elves really is incredibly strong and that it can keep up with the hate cards.
  206. Good luck in your PTQs and/or GPs!
  207. -Frank Karsten
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