Post-Deathrite Elves (Legacy): An Inquiry

By Matt Pisarski

Axl Rose once sang “where do we go now?” His question is a pertinent one that is on the mind of a lot of legacy players as we enter into the post Deathrite Shaman era of legacy. One thing we know for sure is the format will be in a strange place for a while. For Elves, Deathrite was our late game grinder, graveyard hate, and a one cost mana dork. There is obviously no single card we can replace it with that will take over all those roles for the deck, so we need to ask what is the best card/combination of cards we can put in its place? This article isn’t one that sets out to be so ambitious as to give all the answers, but I am interested in starting a discussion of where the deck can go with its late game grinder banned out of the format.

To find out where one is going, you’ve got to look back to where you’ve been and in that vein of thought, I took a look back at pre-shaman elves, watching the combo elves list evolve from playing Emrakul, The Aeons Torn as their win condition, to Mirror Entity until finally people began toying with the idea of Craterhoof Behemoth. Natural Order wasn’t even a main deck staple until 2013. As I watched the list evolve to a more streamlined combo list after the release of RTR and DRS, I wondered if we should return to those older lists. Yet, it wasn’t until Natural Order and Behemoth were in the list that elves really became a top tier legacy deck. It doesn’t make sense to go back to Elfball or the mirror entity deck because our combo works so efficiently while navigating tight lines for that coveted turn two win. I think we need to at least try to stick to what works rather than altering the deck to a modern format style beat down deck.

Based on that line of thinking, 2 Llanowar Elves, 1 Birchlore Ranger, and 1 Fyndhorn Elves have replaced my play set of Deathrite Shaman in an effort to streamline the combo, with the second Birchlore ranger giving me access to colored mana for sideboard cards. As long as my one mana mana dorks survive on turn one, I can use my untaps for guaranteed mana, where Deathrite was reliant on fetch lands being in the graveyard. In the games that are an absolute drawn out grind, we still can go wide with the sheer number of creatures in our deck and hopefully drag out the win even without our one mana planeswalker. I think we still have a solid game one against a lot of the field if we go all in our on the combo. Without play testing, this is all speculation, but even without testing, the combo should still feel the same, if not quicker now that we have more access to consistent mana on turn two.

So, now we have the sideboard to consider. Deathrite allowed us some extra slots because of its inadvertent graveyard control, so with it out of the list I’m very tempted to play Leyline of the Void in the sideboard. My thought process behind this change is that Leyline is a powerful card against so much of the field. Dredge, Reanimator, Lands, and even hits Delver and Infect if they try to delve for Gurmag Angler or Become Immense respectively. Blood Moon, which has been played in some lists that have found success, also seems like a good hate piece to bring in since decks with greedy mana bases have lost stabilization through Deathrite and will now be more reliant on dual lands. The rest of the sideboard that I plan to run is the typical black package: Surgical Extraction, Thoughtseize, Cabal Therapy, and Abrupt Decay.

It would be great to hear from anyone who took the time to read this, so let me know your thoughts on this list and cards you think might keep Elves a competitive deck in the format.


Lands (20)
Dryad Arbor
Verdant Catacombs
Windswept Heath
Wooded Foothills
Cavern of Souls
Gaea's Cradle

Creatures (29)
Elvish Visionary
Nettle Sentinel
Quirion Ranger
Wirewood Symbiote
Heritage Druid
Llanowar Elves
Birchlore Rangers
Craterhoof Behemoth
Reclamation Sage
Scavenging Ooze
Fyndhorn Elves

Instants and Sorceries (12)
Green Sun's Zenith
Glimpse of Nature
Natural Order
Crop Rotation
Sideboard (15)
Surgical Extraction
Cabal Therapy
Blood Moon
Leyline of the Void
Abrupt Decay