Hi, I'm Chris Kronenberger from Cleveland, Ohio. I am currently obtaining a degree in Geophysics from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. I've tuned my Magic skills with other Ohioans such as Dan Musser, Max Jacob, Bobby Kovacs, Mark Sun, Ross Koblentz, and Eric Rill. I won SCG Legacy Open: Louisville with my Mono-Blue Control brew. I lost my win-and-in for Top 8 at Grand Prix Columbus and ended up in 12th. Those around me consider me to be one of the most knowledgeable people on the Pauper format.
Pauper is one of those things that just makes sense to me. A format with a power level higher than Modern, diversity amongst winning decks, and no rotation (plus it's dirt cheap)!
I truly understand why they removed these cards from the format. Storm was on a power level above any other deck in the format, and Daily Event results showed this. I am a firm believer that a healthy format usually contains some sort of combo deck in it to keep things (e.g., aggro) in check. However, this combo deck was a bit too powerful. It put too many restraints on what was playable in the format. Rather than dilute its power, it seemed necessary to remove this deck from contention. There is still a powerful storm card legal in the format, Temporal Fissure. This card was not as heavily played as red storm cards, but it will most likely fill the void in combo now. It was always a tad to slow, but now it's Temporal Fissure's time to shine!
Invigorate's banning is a little harder for me to grasp. There was a time when Infect completely dominated and Cloudpost just did not have a way to combat their quick creatures and endless pump spells. However, Infect has not been that dominant in quite some time. In fact, a green deck filled with pump spells and infect-less creatures sees more play. Perhaps with the absence of Grapeshot and Empty the Warrens, Infect would have become the unprecedented best deck, and Wizards wanted to make sure this wouldn't happen. We will never know. Regardless, Invigorate was easily one of the most powerful cards in Pauper, so banning it is justifiable.
Is it coincidence or fate that my new deck's most abysmal matchup (Grapeshot Storm) just got banned? Is this news too fantastic to be true? I think it's a sign of good things to come in Pauper, and this is one of them.
Is That Abrew Acoming?!
Distant Melody is a card?!
Apparently, people have been rocking out Elves in Pauper for a bit of time now....
Sadly, it didn't take long to figure out why this deck doesn't win often. The mana base is complete garbage, which forces you to play more garbage: Birchlore Rangers, Sylvan Ranger, and Islands. When it does win, the deck is flipped on the board, turned sideways, and the clock nears zero. Short of four Timberwatch Elf, all this deck can do is turn 20 1/1s sideways. Half the time you cast Distant Melody, your opponent will play Electrickery in response. To win in Pauper, your deck has to be streamlined. You have to be able to win quickly and play powerful cards. Elves can't handle the blueth!
Cutting blue is easy. Now what? We head over to Gatherer to get some ideas. After a month's worth of games in the tournament practice room, we have some deck designs. Llanowar Sentinel might work well with Birchlore Rangers and Priest of Titania. What's better than summoning four 2/3s in Pauper? (Two Grapeshots.) Yeah, that strategy may be a little slow. How do we win more quickly...Timberwatch Elf! Tag team this man with a Quirion Ranger and we've got ourselves a COMBO! Thankfully, they don't test for performance enhancing drugs in Magic because there's no way these Elves are all-natural.
Tonight's Starting Lineup
- 4 Elvish Visionary
- 3 Essence Warden
- 4 Fyndhorn Elves
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Multani's Acolyte
- 3 Nettle Sentinel
- 4 Quirion Ranger
- 3 Safehold Elite
- 4 Timberwatch Elf
- 10 Forest
Our ideal turn 2 play is a Timberwatch Elf. If you can add some amount of Quirion Rangers to the mix, we are capable of winning on turn 3 (it's rare though). The only problem here is that we can only play four Timberwatch Elf. How can we count on winning that way? By playing these filters—Manamorphose, Gitaxian Probe, Elvish Visionary, and Multani's Acolyte—we should be able to find our buddy.
At first, Manamorphose and Gitaxian Probe may seem like odd cards to play in Elves. They are combo cards, and that's exactly what they are here. This deck has a COMBO and wants to find it. Of the two cards, Gitaxian Probe is better because it often gives us relevant information. All the thinning in this deck essentially makes it play like a 40-card deck, which helps with consistency.
Elvish Visionary has been a staple in Elves since his printing. He fits especially well into the design of this Elves deck. This type of cantrip allows us to filter quickly through our deck as the game progresses.
Multani's Acolyte is the original cantrip Elf. Sure he may have echo, but you gain an additional power with him. His body fits into the aggro role this deck occasionally takes. You pay for his echo almost every time you cast him.
A turn 1 mana dork is essential to an explosive hand. You won't have them in every opener, but when you do, you are vehemently faster. Playing more than eight dilutes the deck of win conditions.
Quirion Ranger is this deck's MVP. She allows you access to an explosive early game with Llanowar Elves. If you miss a land drop, it lets you tap a land and then replay it, which nets a mana for the turn. She actively doubles your Timberwatch Elf and Wellwishers, allows attackers to have vigilance, and even after you board in Viridian Longbow does some busted things.
Nettle Sentinel may appear to be out of place, but when it comes down to it there aren't too many things more efficient than a one-mana 2/2 vigilance creature.
Safehold Elite is an Elf that is hard to kill, and the deck's greatest weakness is a rainfall of removal. Elite is a nice body that sticks around, which helps maintain a board presence.
Essence Warden keeps us out of reach. This maindeck slot seems to switch between Essence Warden and Wellwisher. Wellwisher is obviously the more powerful card; however, Essence Warden can gain you life the turn you cast it and is more aggressive.
Spidersilk Armor is the best defense we have against things like Fireslinger and Electrickery. It helps your 1/1s to attack into 1/3s without peril. It also gives everything reach, which is quite annoying for Delver players.
Daily Event Record
jacinator + danabeast7 + Arew:
This record was compiled prior to the bannings. Many of the losses were to the powerful Storm decks. This Elves list, short of gaining life, had no way to interact with them. Occasionally, you could race them, but their clock was too consistent for that to be a reliable plan.
Now that those decks are gone, I see no reason for this deck to fall short of averaging close to a 3-1 in Daily Events. Cloudpost decks will surely become more popular now, and some variants of Post are bad matchups. However, no other matchup was as lopsided for Elves as Storm was.
The Bad Guys
When sideboarding, I never follow a cemented set of rules for every situation. It often varies from game to game. These boarding plans are not set in stone but are simply guidelines to help you out.
Game 1 is rough. The best way to win is with a never-ending Rancor. If they keep a removal light-hand, your chances of winning are much higher. However, if they have a million burn spells, you won't have much of a chance to win. They can also blow us out with their maindeck Electrickery. If the game goes too long, their end game will trump ours. We have zero ways to deal with Ulamog's Crusher, and he's almost impossible to race.
Be careful when casting Spider Umbra; you usually have to wait for a window to play it because you cannot afford to get two for oned. Blastoderm is relatively tough for them to deal with, so he can really go the distance. Sadly, this is one of our worst matchups.
Essentially the same as U/R Post. I believe the black version is a slightly better matchup; however, it's still not good.
Recently, this deck has become a significant portion of the metagame. Luckily for us, the matchup is a cakewalk. Timberwatch Elf and Wellwisher are both near impossible for them to overcome. If the game goes long, there's no way you can lose. The only times I lost were when I had a slow hand and they had an oppressively fast one. Weather the early storm and you'll be fine.
Spoiler: They bring in their own Longbows and Hornet Stings.
I have not played against Infect since the bannings. I do not know what the deck will be like post-bannings (or if it will be played at all).
This matchup consistently goes to long games. We are usually the control player here; their best chance to win is quickly because our end game is much better. Spidersilk Armor shines in this one. Suture Priest can be a real pain to deal with, but if you can play Essence Warden, the Priest is neutralized
After board, watch out for Holy Light and Standard Bearer. Standard Bear locks down Quirion Ranger, Timberwatch Elf, and Rancor, so the game becomes difficult to win. This matchup tends to be a good one. Just play conservatively, as the late game favors us.
Amazingly, Delver is a quite favorable matchup. Cards like Wellwisher, Timberwatch Elf, and Spidersilk Armor can take over the game. The key to this matchup is to resolve one of them. If you ever have an opportunity to cast them when they are tapped out, take it! If not, try to bait out counters with less relevant Elves. This is another matchup where the late game favors us. If you can win quickly (generally on the play), do it. Otherwise, play to survive that turn 1 flipped Delver. They may have Echoing Truth (depending on the lists after the bannings), so your Spidersilk Armors aren't always safe.
We are generally too quick for their counters. They have no good way of removing our Elves, and because we play less lands, we can out topdeck them if the game goes long. We just have too many cheap spells for them to counter. If the game stalls, we can use Viridian Longbow and Quirion Ranger to machine-gun them out of the game.
Out: 3x Essence Warden
This deck plays a go big style that we are quicker than. They have annoying cards like Sea Gate Oracle and Memory Lapse. Resolve a Timberwatch Elf and you are in good shape. Rancor can also help go the distance. The post-board games play very similarly to the pre-board games. This is a matchup we can win; their late game beats ours, so try to avoid getting there.
In: 3x Blastoderm
Out: 3x Essence Warden
If they have Cuombajj Witches, you may be in trouble, but the best way to combat the Witches is Spidersilk Armor. If they play an early Witch, you almost need to wait til you draw a Spidersilk Armor before you can drop many creatures. After board, they have every piece of removal printed in black. With that said, the games go long. To combat their Ravenous Rats effects, use Quirion Ranger to return a land and discard that. Geth's Verdict can also take care of Blastoderm, so try not to leave him out alone.
This can be a tricky one. They play a plethora of burn (usually as removal) and have a fast clock. Generally, you have to stabilize before you can attempt to win. Things like Sparksmith can throw a wrench in that plan, but when this happens, don't overlook our ability to race them. Make sure to stay out of burn range and always be ready for a Goblin Bushwhacker. There's a good chance they bring in some amount of Electrickery.
Esper Fissure Storm
The thing about this combo deck is that it is fairly slow. Elves easily wins on turn 4; however, that doesn't always happen. Temporal Fissure is occasionally cast early as a defensive measure, which doesn't set Elves back very far. Play to the fastest clock you can manage and I would say this is in your favor. They generally bring in some removal and Standard Bearer. After board, the matchup becomes worse for us because they have more relevant things to bring in than we do. If this deck becomes more popular, additional sideboard options may need to be explored for this matchup, but as of now, it hasn't been an issue.
In: 2x Viridian Longbow,
U/G Fissure Storm
This is basically the same story as the Esper version except we have a better board for it. Gleeful Sabotage is a major setback for U/G, which makes us better after boarding.
And we are off to the races! They have a very fast clock and can slow ours down. However, if they throw all their removal at our dudes, we can out attrition them and chump kill their Kiln Fiend. These board decisions are under the assumption that they are playing Kiln Fiend. Otherwise, forget the Fogs and bring in Spider Umbra. Like all red matchups, be ready for Electrickery.
Out: 4x Gitaxian Probe
Oftentimes these guys are packing Krark-Clan Shaman—watch out for him. There are several different variants of Affinity, and sadly all of them play huge guys that are hard to deal with. The best tools you have are Timberwatch Elf and Rancor. Stay at a respectable life total because they run Galvanic Blast and sometimes Fling. They usually have access to Electrickery, so be wary of this. Gleeful Sabotage is obviously quite valuable in this one. Sometimes attacking their mana base with Sabotage is the right call.
U/R Kiln Fiend
This deck has a nasty habit of winning after they untap with a Kiln Fiend. Our best bet is to gain a small amount of life and win on the swing back. If they don't play a turn 2 Fiend, we are in much better shape. The Fogs are the best things you have here, and as always, watch out for Electrickery.
Out: 4x Elvish Visionary
Hexproof Aura Wielders
This is one of our best matchups. They do not interact with us, and we can just assemble a more powerful board than they can. Timberwatch Elf and Wellwisher are a nightmare for them. As good as the matchup is pre-board, it gets even better post. If you don't make mistakes, you should win.
Pauper is now in a state of change. I can guarantee you that Elves has a place in this format. It has the explosiveness and consistency that has historically made Elves great.
Disagree with what I say? Tell me in the comments!
-Basking In Basic Land Paradise