Magic Origins attempts to be similar to what is typical of a Core Set in terms of not making the set have too much of a theme. What I mean by this is that blocks have themes to them, in the way Theros block was with enchantments, and so on. There is one thing that stands out about Magic Origins though, and that is the printing or reprinting of some very strong tribally affiliated cards. Of course there are plenty of different creature types within the set but the ones which stand out to me as having the highest impact on the current Standard format are Elves and Goblins, and right now I'm going to be going over Elves. The other cards which give a benefit based on tribe, as in the case of Cruel Revival with Zombies, may not be quite ready for Constructed, but can be super important in Limited.

Elves is perhaps the most intriguing tribe because there are multiple different directions which you can go in. I could see an argument for going straight monogreen but there is also a strong incentive to pair green with black. There is even the option to splash another color other than black. The first and most important thing, which is easy to overlook, is that the best one mana accelerant in the format which has already seen a lot of play isn't in Magic Origins, and that of course is Elvish Mystic. Without Elvish Mystic the elf deck wouldn't be quite strong enough to compete with the top tier decks of Standard, but as it is Elvish Mystic will be around for a little while longer. This may be all the time that Elves needs to become a major player in the current Standard metagame. I am going to post a couple lists which are still tentative and won't contain any sideboards. I will say that these are lists which I do believe have potential, though are not extensively tested.

Here is what a straight Monogreen Elves deck looks like:

DECKID=1243857

This to me is a good starting point when looking to go straight Monogreen Elves, however there are definitely some issues here. For starters in a straight monogreen build there really is only one good one mana creature worth playing, so the games which don't involve a first turn Elvish Mystic will always look very different than the ones which do. The other primary issue with going just green is there aren't quite enough elves to keep the creature base only to that creature type. The Whisperwood Elementals, Genesis Hydras, and the Hornet Queen are solid finishers, but make the tribal cards a bit worse, and you really can't play too many creatures that aren't actual elves.

The most important reprint for this deck is undoubtedly Elvish Visionary. Elvish Visionary is a key piece to any elf deck whether it be in Standard, Modern, or Legacy, so this is an easy four-of in any elf strategy. The reason why this innocuous 1/1 is so important is that it replaces itself by cantripping, it's cheap, and of course it has the creature type "elf." This is plenty, as it works well with any of the other elf synergies. One of these new elf synergies is Dwynen's Elite, which is the other key two-drop. With most of the creatures being elves it is usually pretty easy to make an elf buddy when Dwynen's Elite comes into play, however it helps if you played a one-drop elf on the first turn, if you actually want to cast Dwynen's Elite on turn two. The card which I first thought of when seeing Dwynen's Elite was Wirewood Hivemaster but the two cards are still distinctly different. While Dwynen's Elite doesn't continuously spout out 1/1s, it is still good enough to play. If you want to add another mana accelerator Leaf Gilder is an option, but it is a bit underwhelming.

Even though one of the two-drop creatures is initially only a 1/1, it does help enable some of the big mana convoke spells like Obelisk of Urd and Chord of Calling. Both of these spells are much better if you have small dorks sitting in play already. I don't think Chord of Calling needs to be a four-of but it provides redundancy in that it just increases the elf count most of the time, or sometimes you want to grab the Hornet Queen or a Whisperwood Elemental. Obelisk of Urd is an absurdly powerful card that still hasn't seen a ton of play because the tribal creatures in the last few sets have been a bit underwhelming. This is the best way to make the elves into much larger creatures, and it works well with Dwynen, Gilt-Leaf Daen. Dwynen, Gilt-Leaf Daen plays the role of an Elvish Champion sort of card but the life gain it provides makes any super aggressive deck or burn strategy into very good matchups.

This Monogreen Elf deck may look very similar to a Green Devotion deck, and there is no arguing that there are some similarities. There are three copies of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and one Foundry of the Consuls just because they are essentially a freeroll with such a good mana base in a single color deck. I will say though that right now I am in favor of adding an additional color, to provide an additional one-drop and upping the count of elves. Here is an example of a Green/Black Elves deck:

DECKID=1243858

Keeping up the elf count is very important, which is why adding black helps so much. There actually aren't that many elves that are legal in Standard right now, which is why the options of a monocolored version are quite limited. Gnarlroot Trapper provides that second one-drop that you really want, and is also a mana accelerator. The other ability of Gnarlroot Trapper is also very important as it helps your small elves attack through larger blockers on the other side of the table. This version does play Collected Company which you can't accelerate into with the Gnarlroot Trapper, but that's alright, as Collected Company is the only noncreature spell in the deck. This helps keep up the creature count and, more specifically, creatures which are less than four mana.

There are some concessions which you do have to make in order for Collected Company to work in this deck. There are some sweet big creatures that it would be nice if you could play like Gilt-Leaf Winnower but having the full twenty nine creatures to hit off Collected Company is very appealing. Reclamation Sage is here because it's a creature that can be hit off Collected Company while also being an elf, however there are of course decks which won't have enchantments or artifacts, and this is the card you are most likely to board out. With that said, whenever you do hit an artifact or enchantment with Reclamation Sage it feels really good. Another three drop which is in the deck because of Collected Company is Courser of Kruphix. Courser of Kruphix is one of the best options in terms of three mana creatures, in the format. While Courser of Kruphix isn't an elf, I find that I am very rarely unhappy to have Courser of Kruphix in my green deck. There are some additional fetchlands in order to help maximize Courser of Kruphix, and this could be a reason to also include some amount of Chord of Callings as well.

There is some obvious overlap between this elf list and the previous one. A lot of these creatures are from Magic Origins, and are pretty much going to be a given in any elf deck. Initially I wasn't sure how great Nissa Vastwood Seer would be but this is the exact type of deck this card thrives in. Even disregarding its ability to flip, this guy is certainly worth playing. Any elf with a comes into play trigger is inherently going to create card advantage as in this case you are getting a built in two-for-one. It is true that since this deck tops out at four it is a bit harder to use the extra lands effectively, which is one argument for not playing Collected Company. It could be correct to actually go down to three Nissa Vastwood Seer since they are legendary, and with Collected Company it is easy to see a situation where two end up in play.

There is one creature in the deck which doesn't work with Collected Company, and that is Sylvan Messenger. This card is very exciting, and I would argue there should be four copies in any elf deck. For those that remember how important Goblin Ringleader was to the old goblin decks, the same idea can be applied here. The idea of having a bunch of creatures which replace themselves immediately upon coming into play is nice. Even when playing against the worst enemy of this deck, board sweepers, Sylvan Messenger gives you a legitimate shot. Even though you can't hit Sylvan Messenger off Collected Company it still seems worth it to play the full playset, which should help speak to its power level. This is the guy that really incentivizes fully committing to the tribe.

The other black elf also incentivizes tribal synergies and that is Shaman of the Pack. Shaman of the Pack alongside Gnarlroot Trapper are the primary reasons to be black. Shaman of the Pack is also a win condition which is a three mana elf, which is very good for obvious reasons. There isn't as much of a need for a big finisher card like Obelisk of Urd, when you have Shaman of the Pack in your deck. Both Gnarlroot Trapper and Shaman of the Pack are great additions in the deck, but there is an opportunity cost to adding black. Gnarlroot Trapper is a card you really want to be able to cast on the first turn of the game, which is no easy feat. There are three copies of Mana Confluence to help mitigate the issues with the mana base. It is tough to have a bunch of sources for both Gnarlroot Trapper and Elvish Mystic, and the mana base ends up being quite painful. In addition to the mana base being painful, so is the activation on Gnarlroot Trapper. This version doesn't have quite as good a matchup against the most aggressive decks.

There are clearly a few different directions in which Elves can go in. Personally I like the idea of adding black as there are more options to choose from. To me it's not clear if Collected Company is necessary, as it may not be worth giving up access to Gilt-Leaf Winnower. The reason why Collected Company is here is that it is apparent that it is a card worth going out of your way to include, after witnessing its rise to power in both Modern and Standard. I understand that there is a legitimate concern that the printing of Languish may make this type of strategy significantly worse. This could be true, but on the other hand there are ways to play around sweepers, in addition to sideboard options. It should become a bit more obvious in the next few weeks whether Elves can be a top tier archetype.

Thanks for reading,

Seth Manfield