Elvish Pioneer

Another week of Pioneer has come and gone, and I have to say I’m still loving this format. Not only has the meta yet to settle down (meaning all brews have a reasonable chance of winning), but I’m coming across some really fun and interesting decks pretty much on a weekly basis. Without the crutch of Modern staples like Path to Exile and Lightning Bolt, players are having to think outside the box, and it is leading to some great innovations.

What’s more, the card pool just has about enough answers to stop most degenerate decks from becoming an issue, and Wizards of the Coast are making sure to update the ban list regularly in order to keep the format fun. Overall, I and many others are very excited to see where this format goes, especially in terms of the competitive scene.

Now I’ve been trying a lot of different decks out over the last few weeks as anyone that has been watching my Tuesday morning streams will let you know (#ShamelessSelfPromotion). Whether it is doming people with burn spells of “Dredging” back a ton of creatures from my graveyard, it doesn’t seem to matter. As long as I get to play Pioneer, I am a happy chappy.

Today I want to share with you a list that I’m still working on, but has proven promising in initial testing. It combines two of my favourite things in Magic: aggressive strategies and tribal synergies. Today, we are going to look at Elf Tribal.

Now it’s important to note that Pioneer Elves has more in common with its Modern sibling than its more combo-orientated Legacy or Pauper brethren. This deck’s game plan is simple. Get down a bunch of Elves as quick as possible, buff them up, and swing in for lethal. No muss, no fuss, just effective aggro to carry the day. But how do we start this pointy-eared murder party?

The first thing we will need is some mana dorks to ramp us up and allow us to empty our hand super-fast. Full playsets of Llanowar Elves and Elvish Mystic will do the job quite nicely, often giving us access to three mana on turn two. But what are you going to do with three mana? Why, cast a Steel Leaf Champion of course. A 5/4 that can’t be chumped by smaller creatures is a great way to quickly pile on the pressure, and can often just carry the game on its own.

However, if we don’t have the “nut draw,” there are still plenty of effective plays we can make. Dwynen’s Elite gives us three power and toughness spread out over two bodies provided we have at least one elf on the battlefield, which pairs up really nicely with our playset of Elvish Clancaller. Being one of only two Anthem effects in our deck, the Clancaller is vital to providing us with the hitting power we need to finish up the game.

Next up we have another playset, this time in the form of Thorn Lieutenant. This 2/3 Elf Warrior not only provides a decent blocker in the early game but can be pumped into a real beast if we have the mana to spare. Not only that, but they are also a pain to get rid of since, if they are targeted by our opponent, we get a 1/1 elf creature token out of the deal. For our final two-drop, we add some card draw with Elvish Visionary.

This gives us a decent number of elves on the battlefield, but as stated earlier we will need ways to buff them up in order to pose a threat. That’s where Dwynen, Gilt-Leaf Daen comes in. Along with our playset of Elvish Clancaller, Dwynen will give us six “lord” effects for the deck. Now, as a four-drop, she is slightly higher on the mana curve than I would normally be happy with, but we have fewer choices than Modern or Legacy, so we will just have to take what we can get. ‘But James!’ I hear you cry, ‘what happens if we end up in a board stall and can’t get through for lethal?’

Well, that is where one of my favourite Magic Origins cards comes in. Shaman of the Pack is capable of draining obscene amounts of life from our opponent provided we have a decent board state. Getting down one or two copies in quick succession will often finish up the game in quick order. The last nonland additions to the deck are a playset of Collected Company and three copies of Chord of Calling.

An objectively powerful card, Collected Company allows us to (at instant speed) grab two cmc 3 creatures from the top six cards of our deck and put them straight onto the battlefield. This can be devastating if we hit a Shaman of the Pack or two with a full board, or even allow us to rebuild after a board wipe. Chord of Calling, on the other hand, is more mana intensive but allows us to get any silver bullet we may need before or after sideboarding.

When it comes to lands, we are only running only nineteen. Playsets of Blooming Marsh, Overgrown Tomb and Llanowar Wastes each provide us with untapped green and black mana, teamed up with six Forests. The only other land is a single copy of Westvale Abbey to provide us with an alternative win condition.

Creatures (34)
Llanowar Elves
Elvish Mystic
Dwynen’s Elite
Elvish Clancaller
Thorn Lieutenant
Elvish Visionary
Steel Leaf Champion
Shaman of the Pack
Dwynen, Gilt-Leaf Daen

Spells (7)
Collected Company
Chord of Calling
Lands (19)
Blooming Marsh
Overgrown Tomb
Llanowar Wastes
Westvale Abbey

Sideboard (15)
Scavenging Ooze
Reclamation Sage
Fatal Push
Assassin's Trophy

When it comes to sideboard options we are running a full playset of Reclamation Sage to handle Artifacts and Enchantments and two copies of Scavenging Ooze to snack on opponents’ graveyards. Fatal Push and Assassin’s Trophy provide removal post-board for the matchups where they are required, while a full four copies of Duress gives us some disruption when we come up against control decks.

And that is Tribal Elves for Pioneer. I’m still fine-tuning the deck, but I feel it has legs and will perform well as the meta grows and evolves. But I would love to hear what you think. Is this the kind of deck you will be running at your local Pioneer events? Or do you have something spicy up your sleeve? Why not let us know about it in the comments below. While you’re there, you could like and subscribe to keep up to date with all we do here at Master of Magics.

We also have a Patreon, so if you want to support future content for the site consider becoming one of our Patrons. Just $1 a month would do so much to help us create more of the content you enjoy. If you have any ideas for new and exciting decks you want me to look at, you can contact me directly @MTGTengu over on Twitter. But until next time, remember: no matter the game you play or where you play it, Good Luck and Have Fun.

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