Hello again, folks. Today we’ve got another C14 deck to fix up, and this time we’re working on the Green one, Guided by Nature, led by the Planeswalker Freyalise.
So at its core, this deck seems to be about two things: Elf Tribal, and ramping into fat monsters (oh, there is also the faintest traces of a wolf-token thing going on, but not really). There is, fortunately some overlap there – Elves can produce ludicrous amounts of mana if not properly thwarted, making your Big Green Monsters much easier to cast. But “Plan A” for this deck seems to be just amassing a horde of elves and going to Lethal Town with a big Overrun or similar effect. Many of the larger creatures seem like utility spells that happen to have large, threatening bodies attached (see: Soul of the Harvest, Tornado Elemental, Terrastodon).
In fact, Freyalise herself, the deck’s commander is basically just a utility/support card, not a win condition. She ramps, draws cards and Naturalizes things. Which, for flavor/story reasons, makes some sense. She does play better than she looks on paper, but she’s still a little underwhelming, in my opinion. That said, the deck itself can do some pretty nutty things, if a bit inconsistently. That’s one of the things I am hoping to improve today as we make changes – better consistency.
One other thing I’ve noticed about the deck is Titania, the other new commander option in the deck. Titania is awesome and looks really interesting to build around. But she is very much at odds with what the current Freyalise deck wants to do. There are a lot of cards in this deck that feel like concessions to making Titania relevant and useful, but sort of dilute the main goal of the deck, which is mostly just making elves and monsters and Overrun-ing for the win. I like the idea of a Titania deck and I like the deck we currently have, but making the two mesh well together is asking an awful lot. I gave it my best, because I really wanted to keep as much of the original intact as possible, especially the newly-printed cards, and especially awesome ones like Titania.
So, in light of that, I’m just going to preface this by saying up front, even though I’m trying to keep Titania in the deck and will end up making a few more changes to make her better, I strongly believe that the correct approach would be to cut Titania and any of the cards dedicated to making her work, in favor of making the Freyalise portion of the deck better and more consistent. Keeping a small subset of the deck as a mini-Titania deck within a larger deck that doesn’t really have a lot of overlapping synergy is really not a good plan, but for now, in the interest of getting to play all the New and Shiny I can, I have made up my mind to do it anyway, for the time being, at least.
As usual, I want to start by tinkering with the mana base a bit. There are some really high-impact cards we want here.
Out: Haunted Fengraf, Jungle Basin, 5x Forest
In: Yavimaya Hollow, Nykthos, Gaea’s Cradle, Homeward Path, Wasteland, Treetop Village, Wirewood Lodge
So, I get why Haunted Fengraf was included, but seriously, it’s pretty bad. I’d rather have Hollow and just use it to try to keep the most important guy alive. As for Jungle Basin, I’ve already talked about how bad the Karoo lands have been for me. Though this is the one deck that can arguably get away with, I think Nykthos is obviously just way better. Gaea’s Cradle is just a big, fat “Duh” in any Elf deck. Homeward Path? Mostly just had one laying around and didn’t want my stuff getting took. Wasteland is sort of Titania tech, but mostly just a good card (Strip Mine is fine too, if you don’t have Wastelands). Treetop Village probably doesn’t do much, but can be useful to have around. Wirewood Lodge, on the other hand, is very crucial – untapping Priest of Titania or Imperious Perfect, for example, can be pretty good.
In addition to the lands themselves, the ramp package needs a bit of work as well.
Out: Moss Diamond, Commander’s Sphere, Overrun, Primordial Sage, Sylvan Ranger
In: Exploration, Elvish Harbinger, Garruk Wildspeaker, Skyshroud Claim, Heritage Druid
Exploration is a lot more conditional and sometimes can be a real dud, but when it works it’s really awesome… whereas the Diamond pretty much always does its thing, yet is never impressive or exciting. Mostly, though, I just found myself drawing a LOT more lands than I could play with this deck. If Azusa, Lost but Seeking were an Elf she’d definitely be going in too. Actually if I had another copy of her available, she’d probably go in anyway. Elvish Harbinger is also three CMC and taps for a mana, but instead of drawing a random card, you get to Worldly Tutor for an Elf! Garruk is replacing Overrun because he’s like an Overrun that also ramps and makes beasts. Skyshroud Claim just had to go in somewhere, and after making other changes, I couldn’t find anything better to cut. The Sage is fine, but always feels weaksauce next to the superior Soul of the Harvest. I’m not too sure about Heritage Druid yet – she’s obviously awesome in 60-card Elves, but I just don’t know if she’ll work as well here, especially since so many of my cheapest elves already tap for mana… but I had to give her a chance. We’ll see…
Next up, the Elves. There are a LOT of Elves in Magic. Seriously, there’s like a brazillion of them. And a lot of them are craptastic, but there are still enough good ones you simply won’t be able to fit them all in. I have a stack of about 12 or so I’d like to run, but in the end I was only able to fit THREE of them in!
Out: Sylvan Safekeeper, Thornweald Archer, Drove of Elves
In: Wirewood Herald, Fauna Shaman, Yeva, Nature’s Herald
Sylvan Safekeeper is a Titania card, but even with her in play, I’m not terribly excited to use this guy. Out he goes in favor of the imminently-Skullclamp-able Wirewood Herald. Thornweald Archer is pretty “meh” – he’s great at holding off flyers but pretty useless otherwise. Meanwhile Fauna Shaman is anything but “meh”, and is another good Wirewood Lodge target. Drove of Elves is fine, and I’d consider keeping them… but Yeva was just too good to pass up and the Drove was the only suitable cut.
Now we add a few cards I really wish were Elves, but alas bear the wrong creature type… and wind up being worth running anyway.
Out: Assault Suit, Titania’s Chosen, Elvish Skysweeper
In: Master of the Wild Hunt, Eternal Witness, Scavenging Ooze
Master comes in to replace the completely non-synergistic and off-theme Assault Suit as the one card I could find to bolster the “wolf token tribal” micro-theme the deck seemed to be hinting at. Howl of the Nightpack also got considered, but frankly I just couldn’t fit it in. If I cut the Titania stuff later, it’s definitely on the short list to get a slot, though. Wolves are awesome. Titania’s Chosen is an elf, but not a very good one. He gets big but that’s about it. Witness is not an elf, yet is still one of the best green creatures ever. Scavenging Ooze is also an all-star Green dude, alas not an Elf, but is again too good not to run.
There are a few more cards I’d like to upgrade to better things that fulfill the same roles.
Out: Loreseeker Stone, Grim Flowering, Tornado Elemental, Terastodon, Desert Twister
In: Wild Pair, Creeping Renaissance, Hornet Queen, Bane of Progress, Krosan Grip
Wild Pair subs in for the Stone, though I can see running both if possible. But even though it isn’t drawing cards, Wild Pair still represents card advantage and value, with the added bonus of being able to selectively tutor up things. I have not as of yet made sure everything in the deck has a valid Wild Pair pairing, but I will eventually…
Speaking of Wild Pair targets, though, Hornet Queen is awesome coming in off a Fauna Shaman or Elvish Harbinger or whatever. It’s also awesome in a deck with Doubling Season and is pretty good at holding off ground and air threats, whereas Tornado Elemental just kills flyers but doesn’t have much defense potential post-ETBF effect. Plus, I just don’t want both – my Tornado Elemental killing all my Hornets? Awkward! Bane of Progress is awesome, cheaper than Terastodon, doesn’t give my opponents anything back for what it kills, and is a card I like but don’t get to run very often because I usually have way too many artifacts and enchantments for it to be good. There are still a few of those things, but most of the time I think I can live without them.
Grim Flowering was actually pretty alright. I think I drew 9 cards off it the first time I ever cast it… but I also found that a lot of the time, I’d be just as well off, if not better, getting back all my dead guys instead of just drawing that many random cards. Plus the flashback part makes it more awesome, forcing your opponent to have multiple sweepers to keep you in check. Finally, I just couldn’t hack that six-mana utility spell. Replacing it came down to a toss-up between Krosan Grip and Beast Within. I love both, and Beast Within has the advantage of being about to kill way more things, but in the end I picked the Grip because, frankly, when has that card EVER been bad?
Oh, crap, I believe I mentioned Doubling Season in that last paragraph, but haven’t actually added it yet! Doubling Season is overwhelmingly awesome in this deck (not that that is unique, DS is awesome in a crap ton of decks), and there was literally just no way in hell I was going to not add it. It’s awesome with Freyalise, Hornet Queen, Imperious Perfect, and probably like a dozen or more other cards. It’s also about the only way I could stand to keep Sylvan Offering in the deck. Getting twice as much as what I give my opponents is acceptable.
So, it absolutely, positively HAD to go in. I really didn’t want to cut a new card for it, and there weren’t many reprints left that I could cut. After a lot of very tough deliberation, I narrowed down the last card to get cut to two candidates: Collective Unconscious, and Praetor’s Council. Neither is a card I particularly wanted to cut. Collective Unconscious has the distinct disadvantage of being an absolutely terrible top-deck immediately after a Wrath, which in my book is a pretty big no-no. Meanwhile the Council is a pretty sweet post-Wrath play, but that’s generally about the only time it feels worth it’s hefty mana cost. In the end, I kept Collective Unconscious and gave Praetor’s Council’s slot to Doubling Season. I understand and accept that this is probably blasphemy amongst mono-Green devotees but I feel like Creeping Renaissance gets the job done well enough.
With that final change decided upon, the final outcome looks like this:
Freyalise, Llanowar's Fury
Priest of Titania
Ezuri, Renegade Leader
Wren's Run Packmaster
Yeva, Nature's Herald
Master of the Wild Hunt
Lys Alana Huntmaster
Titania, Protector of Argoth
Soul of the Harvest
Bane of Progress
Song of the Dryads
Wave of Vitriol
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
I think this is a good starting point, but I feel like there’s a lot more work that can be done here. As I said above, stripping the whole Titania portion of the deck and replacing it with more synergistic and thematic stuff would help. Overall, though, it’s still capable of much more powerful things. I do still feel like it needs a bit more draw. Going up against a deck with lots of removal and sweepers, this thing could easily run out of gas, and being in top deck mode probably spells doom for a deck like this, where your topdecks can be pretty garbage.
It’s also missing a TON of staple-y cards, and unfortunate necessity, I think, in keeping the theme and synergy of the deck intact as much as possible – but if we were able to make room for some things like Acidic Slime, Beast Within, Windstorm, Greater Good, etc… I think that’d be ideal. But, I’m not sure how to fit all that generic Good Stuff in without diluting the Elf plan too much. Not to mention the handful of cards I’ve actually cut from the original list, despite kinda wanting to keep them (Praetor’s Council, Primordial Sage, etc…).
Basically, the problem with elves is, most of them are actually pretty bad individually, but their strength is in their numbers and their synergies. So you kind of have to risk overextending with a deck like this, and against even a moderately control-oriented deck, you really run a high risk of getting blown out and running out of gas. So more draw and more anti-sweeper tech could help. But also, keeping some of the fatties in the deck seems reasonably smart – if you can’t get there with quantity, maybe you can get there with quality. Or to put it another way, why play lots of little threats when one giant one will do?
Given these potential issues, I think it will take me quite a long time to get the balance just right – we want enough elves that they can do the powerful things elves do, but not so many that they are basically our only viable game plan. We also need enough utility that we can interact with other players rather than just goldfishing our deck and hoping that works out.
As usual, there are quite a few cards that wound up on the chopping block and didn’t manage to get included in my list. Most of these will be fairly obvious, as most staples are, but here are some examples anyway.
Craterhoof Behemoth (played out, but inarguably appropriate nonetheless)
Greater Good (depends on fatty count, though; too many elves and this becomes much less playable)
Garruk, Caller of Beasts
Coat of Arms
Door of Destinies
Survival of the Fittest
Eldrazi Monument (I really need to fit this in)
Champion of Lambholt (oh, how I wish she were an elf!)
Gilt-Leaf Archdruid (spicy, but this would seriously piss people off in my group)
Bow of Nylea
Baru, Fist of Krosa (Imagine casting Scapeshift with this guy and a full battlefield…)
Boundless Realms (also works well with Baru)
Even with this extensive a list, I’m probably forgetting or overlooking a ton of great stuff, but that’s just Green for you. Too much good stuff, not enough room to squeeze it all in! But that’s a good thing, too, because it means you have to actually make choices, and you could basically build the same deck I did, but still have way different cards in it. A lot of choices come down to personal preference or specific metagame concerns, rather than their being one objectively right answer.
Good luck with your builds, and let me know if you happen upon any great tech or discover an awesome interaction.