Today we’ll take a look at Elf tribal in Commander. Elves are one of the most popular tribes in Magic the Gathering, and quite powerful too. So in this article we’ll take a trip down the memory lane and see how Elf tribal in Commander developed thought the history.
When a person thinks of fantasy, often Elves are one of the defining characteristics. In Magic the Gathering, Elves have been around since the very beginning. Nearly every competitive format’s meta since the game’s inception has included some iteration of an Elf deck.
Most prominently, perhaps, is Legacy Elves. The deck tries to play as many cheap Elves that tap for mana as possible. Meanwhile, it capitalizes on cards like Heritage Druid and Gaea’s Cradle to make enough mana to finally cast a Craterhoof Behemoth to close the game out. This strategy is sometimes called Elf Ball.
The Origins of Elves in EDH
In Commander, Elves developed as a tribe a little bit differently. The very first legendary Elves in Magic were printed in Legends (1994): Lady Caleria and Marhault Elsdragon. Obviously, those creatures do little to support the Elf tribe beyond simply being Elves themselves.
Kaysa was the next legendary Elf. She appeared in Alliances (1996) and was only slightly more valuable to Elves than the first two. It wasn’t until Eladamri, Lord of Leaves was printed in Tempest (1997) that Elves finally received the tribal Commander they deserved.
Of course, Commander’s earliest ancestors didn’t exist until 1996 (around the same time that Wizards released Ice Age block). Even then, the format didn’t really take off until 2002 (Odyssey/Onslaught blocks). At that time, Eladamri and Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary (who has since been banned) were the only available Elf commanders. They both tend to utilize an “Elf Ball”-like strategy.
Magic has printed dozens of great Elf tribal commanders since that time. Multiple sets have featured Elves as a prominent theme, making sure Elf players always have new toys to play with.
However, since the format only allows for one copy of any given card, it is significantly more difficult for a player to consistently cast Heritage Druids, Elvish Archdruids, and Priest of Titanias. In addition to that, Commander decks are much more likely to run board wipes, which can ruin an Elf player’s chances of victory.
The Evolution of Elf Tribal in Commander
Surprisingly, none of this has stopped players from building tribal Elf decks.
In 2008, Wizards released a set called Morningtide. In that set, Rhys the Exiled was a legendary creature who could lead a green/black Elf deck. The very next set, Shadowmoor, contained a second iteration of the character, named Rhys the Redeemed.
This second card brought a new flavor to Elf decks. It focused more on creating as many creature tokens as possible, rather than using traditional mana dorks to ramp into a win condition. It also opened up the tribe to using white in their decks instead of mostly green with some occasional black.
Then, in 2010, the Magic story returned us to a plane called Mirrodin. In the set Scars of Mirrodin, Wizards printed Ezuri, Renegade Leader. Ezuri immediately became the go-to Elf commander, since he both protected your Elves from removal and turned them into game-ending machines all by himsElf. He is one of the most popular Elf commanders to this day.
The next year, 2011, Wizards of the Coast printed the first pre-constructed Commander decks. That set contained Edric, Spymaster of Trest. Edric does not explicitly reward you for playing Elves, but he does let you draw cards if you deal combat damage. This encourages you to include as many cheap, evasive creatures as possible, which could sometimes mean Elves.
Then, three years later, Wizards printed the Guided by Nature deck. This precon was the first deck that primarily utilized the Elf tribe for victory. Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury was both a nostalgic character from the early Magic story and a powerful leader to boost your Elf deck.
More Elf Legends and Precons
A year after Commander 2014 came a set called Magic Origins. Dwynen, Gilt-Leaf Daen was a card from that set which added another great option for someone considering building tribal Elves.
A few months later was Commander 2015. This set introduced a second version of an old favorite, Ezuri, Claw of Progress. This commander can work with numerous different themes, but Elves are a great option because they tend to have small bodies. Plus, this new card allowed people to try to brew around Elves in the Simic colors.
The next installment in the history of Elves in Commander didn’t come until 2018. In Dominaria, Wizards printed Marwyn, the Nurturer. She served a similar purpose to some of the old Legacy Elf creatures who can make a lot of mana if you have a lot of Elves.
Elves once again featured as a major theme in Commander Legends. As a result, commanders such as Abomination of Llanowar, Miara, Thorn of the Glade, Nadier, Agent of the Duskenel, and Numa, Joraga Chieftain have begun to inspire Elf players.
Elves in the 99
In addition to all these commanders, there have been several cards throughout Magic’s history whose printings represent milestones for Elf decks in Commander. Examples of these cards include:
- Wirewood Channeler – Legions (2003)
- Wirewood Symbiote – Scourge (2003)
- Elvish Champion – Tenth Edition (2007)
- Imperious Perfect – Lorwyn (2007)
- Elvish Harbinger – Lorwyn (2007)
- Fauna Shaman – Magic 2011 (2010)
- Genesis Wave – Scars of Mirrodin (2011)
- Green Sun’s Zenith – Mirrodin Besieged (2011)
- Craterhoof Behemoth – Avacyn Restored (2012)
- Deathrite Shaman – Return to Ravnica (2012)
- Reclamation Sage – Magic 2015 Core Set (2014)
- Shaman of the Pack – Magic Origins (2015)
- Collected Company – Dragons of Tarkir (2015)
- Kindred Summons – Commander 2017 (2017)
- Growing Rites of Itlimoc – Ixalan (2017)
- Beast Whisperer – Guilds of Ravnica (2018)
- Guardian Project – Ravnica Allegiance (2019)
- Finale of Devastation – War of the Spark (2019)
- Allosaurus Shepherd – Jumpstart (2020)
That’s it about elf tribal in Commander. And there are certainly more exciting Elf cards to come in the future! Kaldheim has already promised an Elf tribal theme in the main set, as well as a Commander precon built around Elves. You can find the new Kaldheim Commander decklist here.
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