What would Elspeth do?

Toward the end of Lorwyn-M10-Alara Standard, I was playing Team Elspeth, a majority green-white deck that tried to overpower Vivid-dependent decks by accelerating out early beaters, planeswalkers, and Primal Commands to gain tempo. Although the deck’s specific target is absent from the current Alara-M10-Zendikar Standard, some variation on it is probably playable, and BTSume asked me to consider what a revamped Team Elspeth would look like, so here we go.
Click through to the extended entry for a deck list and some commentary.

Team Elspeth, Nissa edition

20 Creatures:
Llanowar Elves
Noble Hierarch
Nissa’s Chosen
Knight of the Reliquary
Acidic Slime
16 Spells:
Path to Exile
Maelstrom Pulse
Elspeth, Knight-Errant
Nissa Revane
24 Land:
Marsh Flats
Verdant Catacombs
Sunpetal Grove
15 Sideboard:
Celestial Purge
Luminarch Ascension
Behemoth Sledge
Baneslayer Angel
Martial Coup

Nissa falls smoothly into the role Garruk played in the previous build, which just as naturally means we need to have her Chosen present in force. One of the nice upsides of replacing Garruk with Nissa is that this deck now presents two different “increasing threat” planeswalkers, as both Nissa and Elspeth count up. I’m used to losing Nissa to a Blightning in the Jund matchup, but I think I’m okay with that here, since she’s reasonably likely to have come down on turn three and this deck has the lovely tendency to have the discouraging “backup planeswalker” play ready to go (that was always the most hilarious moment in playing the old deck — they blow a couple spells to take down Elspeth, and I play backup Elspeth).
Knight continues to be a beatdown house in the deck, bolstered by the upgrade from a pair of Terramorphics to eight fetches. The fetches let me splash for Maelstrom Pulse without murdering the deck, which is nice — and they can then be cashed in for the other colors I need once I’ve picked up the black for the Pulses.
The Primal Command slot is now taken up by Acidic Slime, which we hope to have down on turn four, and sometimes on turn three. I think there’s still a lot of value in taking out a land in the Jund matchup, since that deck has such clunky mana. Those will be sideboarded out in favor of the Baneslayers in other matchups, however.
I was a little reluctant to slot in those Baneslayers since (1) I don’t currently own any and (2) they’re so expensive. However, this is already a shockingly expensive deck — I’ve horrified people in the past by revealing that it has four copies of Elspeth, and that was back when the mana base didn’t clock in at $150+. However, they are appropriate, so in they go. If you don’t have them, you might have some luck with Battlegraces, which was what I used on and off back in the prior Standard. Anyway, with the new recognition of Nissa’s value (pro tip – planeswalkers that primarily gain loyalty are good), the overall cost of this deck is only going to go up.
I’ll close by pointing out that even though this deck is not particularly elf-centric, the Llanowars interact nicely with Nissa’s life gain ability.

2 thoughts on “What would Elspeth do?

  1. Great to see the updated deck list! I used a variant of your original list to come in third at our big constructed tournament for Zendikar. It would be interesting to see how it will play with Nissa in it over Garruk.

  2. As will I, Mike. You know, I didn’t expect TE to go this way, but the Nissas do seem like a thought-provoking and testing-needed addition.
    Thanks for the shoutout, and I’m glad to see GWx doing well. I like to think you were always ahead of the curve.
    (Also good to see the site back, seems like it was down for a long time)

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