Going to Llanowar

Chantelle Campbell Standard

Dominaria Prereleases have wrapped up (and they were a blast!), and the Draft Leagues are open. With all of the new cards evaluated, the eyes of the masses are turning to Standard, and the splash that these powerful new cards will have on our favorite rotating format. But there’s only one card that I’m excited about – a card that is, in my opinion, one of the most powerful cards from the new set. A card that was previously deemed too broken for Standard! It’s a one-drop, and its name is Llanowar Elves.

One-drop mana dorks have been in Standard throughout Magic’s history. However, in recent years, Wizards of the Coast has shied away from these effects due to their ability to power out game-swinging three-, four-, and five-drops a turn early. And that’s exactly what I intend to do now. But where do I even start in this wide-open new meta? By looking to the past, of course.

R/G DinoMight

4 Deathgorge Scavenger
2 Ghalta, Primal Hunger
2 Glorybringer
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Merfolk Branchwalker
4 Regisaur Alpha
4 Rekindling Phoenix
1 Rhonas the Indomitable
3 Thrashing Brontodon
4 Abrade
1 Blossoming Defense
4 Struggle // Survive
3 Aether Hub
6 Forest
3 Hashep Oasis
5 Mountain
4 Rootbound Crag
2 Sheltered Thicket

Sideboard
2 Aethersphere Harvester
2 Atzocan Archer
2 Carnage Tyrant
2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
2 Lifecrafter’s Bestiary
2 Magma Spray
2 Sweltering Suns
1 Thrashing Brontodon

I had been piloting an aggressive, curve-out Dinosaurs deck before the release of Dominaria, and similar lists had been putting up solid results in Leagues before the U/R God-Pharaoh’s Gift deck broke out. With so much main-deck graveyard disruption and artifact and enchantment hate in the format, I believe that this is a solid proactive choice going forward. Llanowar Elves most easily slots into builds like this that are looking to apply pressure at every stage of the game. This deck has a bevy of three-mana creatures looking to be run out on turn two, such as Deathgorge Scavenger, Thrashing Brontodon and Rhonas the Indomitable. You can continue casting threats ahead of the curve from there, from Rekindling Phoenix to Regisaur Alpha all the way up to Ghalta.

The Aether Hubs in the main deck provide an untapped green source on turn one, though they can also help power up the Aethersphere Harvester when it comes in from the board. I think a sideboard like this is best for a more open meta, where you have answers to any threats brewers can throw at you. Other cards to consider include Atzocan Archer and Shivan Fire if you’re expecting to face more aggressive strategies; you can also add Nissa, Steward of Elements or increase your Carnage Tyrant numbers if you’re expecting to sit across from more controlling decks.

Mono-Green Stompy

Red-Green decks have access to powerful threats like Glorybringer and Chandra, as well as a suite of answers that includes Abrade and Magma Spray. However, if you opt for a Mono-Green build, you’ll be rewarded with a more consistent mana base and more mana-efficient threats such as Steel Leaf Champion and Rhonas’s Last Stand. The goal of decks like this should be to ramp out Ghalta as quickly as possible, and cards like Rhonas’s Monument can help you do just that.

3 Deathgorge Scavenger
2 Ghalta, Primal Hunger
3 Jadelight Ranger
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Merfolk Branchwalker
3 Resilient Khenra
2 Rhonas the Indomitable
3 Thrashing Brontodon
4 Steel Leaf Champion
4 Blossoming Defense
3 Rhonas’s Last Stand
3 Rhonas’s Monument
15 Forest
4 Hashep Oasis
3 Scavenger Grounds

Sideboard
2 Aethersphere Harvester
3 Atzocan Archer
3 Carnage Tyrant
3 Heroic Intervention
2 Lifecrafter’s Bestiary
1 Skysovereign, Consul Flagship
1 Thrashing Brontodon

This deck is more reliant on ramping out its threats and applying pressure as quickly as possible, with little disruption to your opponent’s game plan. Heroic Intervention in the board helps provide some resiliency against sweepers, and Skysovereign can shoot down any must-answer threats.

GW Aggro

This list is a bit of a departure from the previous one in that you’re not simply trying to ramp out a Ghalta as quickly as possible. Instead, Green-White relies on cheap, mana-efficient and recursive threats to apply hard-to-answer, go-wide pressure on opponents. In addition to Llanowar Elves, this deck also receives powerful upgrades from Dominaria in cards like Shanna, Sisay’s Legacy and Seal Away.

4 Adanto Vanguard
2 Jadelight Ranger
4 Llanowar Elves
3 Merfolk Branchwalker
3 Resilient Khenra
2 Shanna, Sisay’s Legacy
2 Cast Out
4 Legion’s Landing
3 Seal Away
4 Appeal // Authority
4 Servo Exhibition
2 Sram’s Expertise
8 Forest
4 Hashep Oasis
7 Plains
4 Scattered Groves
4 Sunpetal Grove

Sideboard
2 Aethersphere Harvester
1 Cast Out
3 Deathgorge Scavenger
3 Heroic Intervention
2 Ixalan’s Binding
3 Knight of Grace
1 Nissa, Vital Force

This is also a departure from previous lists in that you aren’t using Llanowar Elves to power out three-mana creatures a turn early, as most of your spells cost two mana. Instead, you want to empty your hand as quickly as possible, with cards like Sram’s Expertise assisting you in building a board presence while running out your threats quickly. One of the primary avenues to victory for this token-based strategy is Appeal // Authority, while Merfolk Branchwalker and Jadelight Ranger give you some late-game card draw. Like Mono-Green Stompy, you’re weak to sweepers, but effects such as Heroic Intervention and vehicles like Aethersphere Harvester out of the board can help to mitigate that.

Conclusion

While Standard is currently the Wild West of deck brewing, I’m excited to spend that time with my favorite Elves. There are so many other strategies that could benefit from the additional of Llanowar Elves, from ramp to Winding Constrictor decks, but one is certain: I can’t wait to cast this card in Standard.

 

Header design: Justin Treadway
Header image: “Llanowar Elves” by Chris Rahn