Elves have been around since the beginning of Magic. Llanowar Elves jumped onto the scene in Alpha and since then it's given headaches to opponents and editors alike (seriously, how can ONE card be PLURAL?!?!). Anyway, you can thank the latter for the creation of Elvish Mystic, a nod to grammar experts at Wizards that also had the side effect of giving Elves another four copies of everyone's favorite one-drop mana dork.
And that means Elves are always competitive. They certainly are in Legacy, where combo versions reign supreme and are at times one of the format's defining decks. It also means they can break out in Modern at any time, and in the past 18 months they certainly have. Michael Malone took down Grand Prix Charlotte in 2015 with Elves, and since then the deck has received upgrades in the form of Dwynen's Elite and Shaman of the Pack. Both do incredible and irreplaceable things for the deck and have completely shaped the way the deck functions.
That's not to say there aren't plenty of ways to go about building it. The traditional builds are still quite potent, as World Champ Seth Manfield demonstrated last week.
That build harnesses the explosiveness of Elves and reinforces the "combo" potential of Nettle Sentinel, which can tap for mana with a Heritage Druid in play and then untap when you cast another spell. Using the combo to make a lot of mana can flood the board quickly and surprise opponents.
It may seem blasphemous to not pair Heritage Druid with Nettle Sentinel, but Magic Online user Axksel did just that, and I drew some inspiration from his list to come to the 75 I played. It's true that the Nettle Sentinel combo is potent when active, but when you don't draw both halves you end up with a pile of 2/2s that, while solid attackers, don't contribute any value beyond that. Cutting those suddenly frees up a lot of room for other cards.
Namely, more lords.
Imperious Perfect finally makes the leap from casual favorite to Modern standout. It's a one-elf army against grindy decks, and another pump for your team against others. Alongside Elvish Archdruid and Joraga Warcaller this version of Elves has a much higher chance of staying outside of Pyroclasm/Kozilek's Return range, which is important in Shadows over Innistrad Modern.
There are also some key Shadows over Innistrad cards that make nice additions. Duskwatch Recruiter is exactly the kind of value creature you don't get when you squeeze in Nettle Sentinel, and both sides of the werewolf do great things for the deck. Its inclusion allows you to cut down on some number of Lead the Stampede and still retain the long-term card advantage plan, while making the Lead the Stampede and Collected Company run even better.
Elves has a problem of drawing nothing but mana dorks and having its lone threats removed, leaving you spinning your wheels and drawing Elvish Mystic off the top. But the innocuous inclusion of Westvale Abbey changes all that since the Elves deck makes mana better than any other in the format, allowing you to create clerics, not to mention supplying out plenty of Elves to feed to Ormendahl, the Profane Prince. Turns out it's not just in standard that the prince will make you pay.
The philosophy behind the sideboard lies in the answer to this question: am I going the Chord of Calling route or not? If you choose not to you can load up on extra copies of powerful options including Creeping Corrosion, Kitchen Finks, Dismember, or even removal options in black. That's a fine plan because it's doesn't dilute your deck with more non-creature spells and allows you to stay streamlined.
The other option is to play Chord of Calling and the toolbox that comes with it. That's what I opted to do, and I was happy with that decision. On-demand access to Reclamation Sage, Scavenging Ooze, Spellskite and Thrun, the Last Troll is vital against certain decks, and moving forward I would take this route.
The other update to the deck is cutting the white sideboard cards that were mainly only there for Chord and replacing them with Dismember and a new favorite in Stain the Mind. Stain the Mind is better suited to Elves than any other deck in the format, and having access to it changes the face of the previously-questionable combo matchups for Elves.
Moving forward I believe Elves is well positioned, and has good matchups against some of the top decks in the format, including the always-present Affinity menace. Not only is it a proven threat to win a Grand Prix, but Elves will always be a great FNM choice, and I had a blast playing it this week.
Thanks for reading,
@Chosler88 on Twitter/Twitch