Kaldheim is bringing us another pair of pre-constructed Commander decks. If you want to get your hands on one but don’t know quite how to upgrade it, look no farther. In this Elven Empire Upgrade Guide I am going to brainstorm five unique deck ideas based around the face commander: Lathril, Blade of the Elves
I will offer ideas for cards to include as well as cards to remove from the precon. Additionally, I will highlight new cards that are coming out with Kaldheim.
A Brief Note on Budget
First, I want to make a quick note about these upgrade recommendations. These lists have a lot of ideas, but they definitely don’t include everything. Feel free to do your own research and find your favorite cards to upgrade the deck with.
Second, there are going to be way more ideas in this article than one deck can handle. You can follow any one upgrade path and focus on that, or pick and choose your favorite parts of multiple paths to make the deck your own.
Third, I am not considering any budget restrictions when making these recommendations. I only want to brainstorm as many fun ideas as possible. Unfortunately, this means that some of the cards I recommend might be outside of some people’s budget ranges. If they are available, I will also do my best to include budget options for a card or effect.
Regardless of your budget or play style, this article will have a ton of great suggestions for powering up your Phantom Premonition deck. If you would like to purchase the deck, you can order it on Amazon here.
Elven Empire Decklist
And without further ado:
*Cards from Kaldheim are grouped separately. The rest of the cards are reprints.
General Elven Empire Upgrades
No matter how you ultimately build the deck, there are a few basic upgrades that you should consider.
The Mana Base
The Elven Empire deck leans heavily into green. Many Elves tap for mana, often green mana. As a result, there is much less of a need for a lot of dual lands. However, in the interest of consistency, some of the tapped lands can be replaced with:
- Darkbore Pathway
- Llanowar Wastes
- Nurturing Peatland
- Overgrown Tomb
- Twilight Mire
- Undergrowth Stadium
- Verdant Catacombs
- Woodland Cemetery
General Lathril Synergies
Most versions of this deck are going to focus on utilizing Lathril’s abilities. This means that there will likely be many tokens on the board and some tapping and untapping shenanigans. For this reason, these are a couple of cards that work with all versions of Elven Empire:
General Elf Synergies
Mana rocks work just as well in this deck as in other decks, but I would say they are not necessary. Since Elves make mana so abundantly, playing a Llanowar Elves over a Moss Diamond is probably more effective in this deck.
These are a few cheap Elves that tap for mana:
- Deathrite Shaman
- Elves of Deep Shadow
- Fyndhorn Elves
- Gnarlroot Trapper
- Incubation Druid
- Llanowar Elves
- Llanowar Visionary
In addition to these, you are welcome to try to run more traditional ramp spells like Rampant Growth and Three Visits. However, I believe that you would probably be fine just using creature dorks as ramp.
There are a couple of cards in the precon that that both synergize with Elves and remove opponents’ permanents. Depending on if you have a meta that requires more removal, you could run Elvish Dreadlord, Crippling Fear, Kindred Dominance, and Eyeblight’s Ending.
- Collective Unconscious
- Genesis Wave
- Guardian Project
- Kindred Summons
- Return of the Wildspeaker
- Rishkar’s Expertise
- Shamanic Revelation
- The Great Henge
The rest of these are generically good, assuming that there are more Elves in your deck. If you are choosing to go with a version of the deck that doesn’t play many if any Elves, typical tutors work just as well.
What to Take Out
Taking cards out of this deck mostly just involves trimming the fat. The deck is pretty focused, but some of the Elves just are not that good. These are my recommendations for cuts:
- Elvish Rejuvenator
- Golgari Findbroker
- Jagged-Scar Archers
- Llanowar Tribe
- Masked Admirers
- Voice of the Woods
5 Ways to Upgrade Elven Empire
These are the five directions I thought of taking this deck:
- Elf Ball
- Life Gain
These are not the only ways to upgrade this deck, just the ones I came up with. If you think of another cool idea, let me know in the comments below.
At the beginning of each the next sections I included a range of numbers. That range is what I expect this deck to be able to perform at on a 1-10 power scale (Based on the power scale established by the Command Zone Podcast). For more information on the Commander power scale, you can take a look at the table below.
|1-2||Jank||Very little synergy among cards. No Commander staples. Under powered on purpose.|
|3-4||Casual||Some synergies, but lacking the strong ones. The deck still lacks focus. Mana curves mostly neglected. A deck that a new player would build.|
|4-6||Focused||Synergy exists, the deck has a focused gameplan, although it doesn't always win in the exact same way, usually after turn 13. Includes staples and a small amount of tutors. On the same power level as most Commander precons.|
|7-8||Optimized||Powerful and varied synergies between the cards. A decent number of good tutors. Good mana curve. Has an efficient and consistent way to win on turns 10-12 (level 7) or 7-9 (level 8). Some social rules — like no mass land destruction, no consistent combo wins — still exist.|
|9-10||Competitive||The most powerful decks, on competitive EDH level. Quick and explosive, can win on turns 4-6 (level 9) or 1-3 (level 10). No social rules, no jank cards. Only the most powerful commanders and strategies can reach this level.|
Actual power levels may vary, but let those numbers be a guide when considering upgrading this deck in those ways.
1. Elf Ball (6-8)
Historically, the most popular way to play Elves is called Elf Ball. This refers to casting a lot of small Elves that tap for more mana, which allows you to cast more Elves, which tap for mana, and so on. In the end, they make enough mana to cast a spell that increases their power and toughness and swing out for a lethal attack.
Typically, Elf Ball decks are able to run four copies of cards like Priest of Titania, Elvish Archdruid and Heritage Druid. In Commander, we are unable to run multiple copies, but there are a good amount of redundant effects.
More Elves, More Mana
In addition to the previously mentioned cards, there are more that all add large amounts of mana if you have a lot of Elves:
- Elvish Guidance
- Gaea’s Cradle
- Growing Rites of Itlimoc
- Joraga Treespeaker
- Leyline of Abundance
- Wirewood Symbiote
Make Your Elves Bigger
Speaking of board wipe protection, the biggest weakness to Elf Ball decks is not being able to recover after all of your creatures die. Hopefully, Lathril can help make a bunch of Elves quickly, but avoiding the board wipe all together is typically a better alternative. Heroic Intervention, Golgari Charm, and Wrap in Vigor can save you from this kind of situation.
Finally, there are a couple of lands that go better in this version of the deck than any other. Wirewood Lodge can serve as a backup Wirewood Symbiote. Castle Garenbrig is sort of a budget version of Gaea’s Cradle. Gilt-Leaf Palace is just another dual land that can enter the battlefield untapped.
New Cards From Kaldheim
The only new cards that are not already in the precon are:
If you are cracking Kaldheim packs, these give you a couple of good hits to look for.
What to Take Out
For this Elven Empire upgrade, you probably don’t need to include any of the cards that care about Elves dying. While that can be a powerful ability, this particular version wants to focus more on utilizing the creatures on the board. But don’t worry, I’ll cover the Aristocrats upgrades in just a minute.
2. Voltron (6-8)
For those who might not have ever heard of it, Voltron is a strategy that uses a single creature to beat down the opponents. Often people use Auras and Equipment to make the one creature big enough to beat their opponent in a single attack.
You might think that it is odd for a commander that is an integral part of a tribe like Elves to be considered for a Voltron build. After all, Elves are not known for having a lot of power for attacking. However, Lathril, Blade of the Elves is uniquely designed go be able to take advantage of one large attacker.
Allow me to explain myself. Whenever Lathril deals combat damage to a player, you get to make a number of Elf tokens equal to the amount of damage dealt. She starts pretty small, but if we could somehow get Lathril up to twenty-one power, she could one-shot a single opponent. This would then create enough tokens to be able to tap them and deal ten damage to the other two opponents. If the opponent doesn’t have a way to deal with Lathril and her army of little Elves, the game will be over quickly.
Different Kinds of Voltron
There are typically three different ways to build Voltron decks. In Modern, Infect decks utilize pump spells and creatures with Infect (like Glistener Elf) to kill their opponent as quickly as possible. There are also decks like Bogles that enchant a single difficult-to-remove creature (Slippery Bogle) and make them big enough to swing in for lethal. Lately, Commander has had an increase in decks that try to do a similar thing with equipment. Each of these Voltron strategies could be a reasonable way to build Lathril.
There are two different kinds of equipment that you want for this deck:
Equipment That Protect from Removal
There are seven total swords of x and y so far, and all of them are great for this deck. The best ones are probably Sword of Light and Shadow and Sword of Feast and Famine. The first one gives you protection from the most important colors while the second one gives you important protection and lets you untap your lands.
Commander’s Plate is similar to the swords, in that it gives a lot of protection. It also pumps Lathril a reasonable amount.
Hammer of Nazahn makes Lathril indestructible, but also makes it cheaper to equip more equipment, which is an important thing for this deck.
Swiftfoot Boots, Lightning Greaves, and Whispersilk Cloak all fall into a similar category, in that they make it so Lathril can’t be targeted by your opponents. Unfortunately, Greaves and Cloak also make it so you can no longer equip her, so be sure to have enough mana to pay the equip cost multiple times. You will need to equip them to another creature and then equip them back if you need to target her.
Equipment That Increase Power
- Blackblade Reforged
- Bloodforged Battle-Axe
- Colossus Hammer
- Cranial Plating
- Grafted Exoskeleton
- Grappling Hook
- Loxodon Warhammer
- Stoneforge Masterwork
- Strata Scythe
Stoneforge Masterwork and Blackblade Reforged are my favorite options for pumping Lathril, because they could potentially make her big enough to kill an opponent with one or two attacks. Cranial Plating and Lashwrithe are also a good option if you have a lot of equipment or Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth out respectively.
Loxodon Warhammer gives Trample, which can be the most valuable keyword in a deck like this. Being able to punch through an army of blockers can be the difference between winning and losing. The Lifelink is an added bonus.
Fireshrieker and Grappling Hook can also be powerful keywords. If you can get Lathril’s power up to eleven, suddenly one of these equipment are lethal on someone. Plus, you’ll make twice as many Elf tokens as you would have otherwise.
Obviously, giving a creature Infect with Grafted Exoskeleton is another great way to kill them quickly.
Auras have higher risk, but higher reward than equipment. What I mean by that is that if an equipped creature dies, the equipment stick around to be reequipped to another creature when you can. Auras, however, fall off and go to the graveyard if the enchanted creature dies. On the other hand, there are auras that can pump Lathril big enough to knock out an opponent with a single attack. There are not really any equipment that do that.
Similar to equipment, there are two kinds of auras.
Auras That Give Protection
Auras That Increase Power
- Ancestral Mask
- Eldrazi Conscription
- Endless Scream
- Epic Proportions
- Feast of the Unicorn
- Hydra’s Growth
- Mythic Proportions
- Prodigious Growth
There are other interesting Auras as well. Demonic Embrace gives Lathril Flying, a decent pump effect, and allows us to cast it again from the graveyard if Lathril dies.
Keen Sense is great to get a little extra card advantage while we beat down our opponents.
Instill Energy is a very unique green Aura that both gives Haste and untaps enchanted creature. This will let us swing in with Lathril and then activate her ability all in the same turn.
Dying Wish might help us get in those last points of damage. Furthermore, with Dying Wish on Lathril, we don’t have to worry about attacking into a big board of creatures. Live or die, she will deal the damage.
Finally, Season of Growth is not an Aura, but its a great card to have when we are targeting Lathril with so many spells. Honestly, this card would probably go really well in all three of these decks.
The third and final way to upgrade this deck to a Voltron deck is to use pump spells. This is one of the more underutilized strategies in Commander as combat tricks tend to be too weak to kill the whole table. Fortunately, Lathril gives us a small army after she hits one time, which might just be enough to close out the game.
Most of these pump Lathril +4/+4, but you might have to find ones that can do better than that. Alternatively, wait until you can chain multiple pump spells in a row to hopefully reach the coveted twenty one power in a single turn.
- Become Immense
- Blessings of Nature
- Bounty of Might
- Decree of Savagery
- Howl From Beyond
- Hunter’s Insight
- Hunter’s Prowess
- Might of Oaks
- Might of Old Krosa
- Might of the Masses
- Might of the Nephilim
- Primal Bellow
- Return of the Wildspeaker
- Revenge of the Hunted
- Scale Up
- Stonewood Invocation
- Strength of Cedars
- Tainted Strike
- Titanic Growth
- Untamed Might
- Vines of Vastwood
The best pump spells on this list are Berserk, Hatred, Tainted Strike, and Untamed Might. They have the most potential to inflict a lethal amount of damage. In addition to them, Hunter’s Insight and Hunter’s Prowess are also great because they allow you to refill your hand.
New Cards From Kaldheim
There are a few new Auras, Equipment, and pump spells, but few of them are impactful enough to be considered for this deck. King Harald’s Revenge, however, would probably fit nicely into the spell-slinger version of the Voltron upgrades. Also, if you felt like running the new Runes (Rune of Mortality and Rune of Might), they might fit in the equipment version.
What to Take Out
The cool part about this version of the deck in my opinion is that it could be built without any Elves at all. You could cut all of the creatures but one, an probably win a couple of games. As it is, you might want to at least keep the mana-producing Elves and anything else that seems to have important utility. Anything else you could probably cut.
3. Aristocrats (6-8)
Aristocrats is a strategy that has recently become quite popular in the Commander community. Named after Cartel Aristocrat and Falkenrath Aristocrat, the deck sacrifices it’s creatures to gain value, sometimes reanimating those same creatures in loops. It seems clear that Wizards printed the Elven Empire deck to push Elves, or at least Golgari Elves, toward playing like other Aristocrats decks.
When you build an Aristocrats deck, there are three main pieces that you have to balance:
- Cards that sacrifice creatures.
- Cards that reward you for sacrificing creatures.
- Creatures to sacrifice.
If any of these three pieces are missing, the decks don’t function properly.
Fortunately, Lathril, Blade of the Elves provides one of the three ingredients herself. She makes a bunch of Elf tokens that are very easy to sacrifice. The other two parts, though, are things we’ll have to add ourselves.
Cards That Sacrifice Creatures
Izoni, Thousand-Eyed is an Elf that also sacrifices creatures. However, it is usually better to have free sacrifice outlet so you can activate it whenever you need. These are rarely, if ever, Elves. Examples are:
- Altar of Dementia
- Ashnod’s Altar
- Carrion Feeder
- Phyrexian Altar
- Viscera Seer
- Woe Strider
- Yahenni, Undying Partisan
- Yawgmoth, Thran Physician
Cards That Reward You for Sacrificing Creatures
If you want to maintain the integrity of the Elf deck and only use Elves, there are a couple of options for sacrifice payoffs. Nadier’s Nightblade, Savra, Queen of the Golgari, and Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest are some of the ones that are not already included in the Elven Empire precon.
Otherwise, classic non-Elf payoffs are:
- Blood Artist
- Butcher of Malakir
- Dictate of Erebos
- Grave Pact
- Grim Haruspex
- Harvester of Souls
- Meren of Clan Nel Toth
- Midnight Reaper
- Pawn of Ulamog
- Pitiless Plunderer
- Syr Konrad, the Grim
- Zulaport Cutthroat
New Cards From Kaldheim
Pyre of Heroes is the best Aristocrats card from this set. It functions as a sac outlet, but also gives you additional value. To get the most out of it, though, you’ll probably have to focus the deck as much around Elves as possible.
What to Take Out
This version of the deck could probably cut most of the mana-dorks, since Sakura-Tribe Elder and Yavimaya Elder and other such effects are more synergistic with the deck. Also, the Elf lords can come out, since the deck doesn’t care about attacking as much.
4. Lifegain (4-7)
This version of the deck wants to take advantage of the fact that you gain life with Lathril’s second ability. It uses cards like Aetherflux Reservoir and Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose to weaponize its life total against its opponents.
Essence Warden happens to be an Elf that gains life whenever Elves enter the battlefield. If Lathril is making a lot of tokens or you are able to find other ways to make a lot of creatures, this could gain you a lot of life.
If you have a high life total, Bolas’s Citadel is a really good way to take advantage of it. This is especially true if your deck is full of cheap creatures like Elves and gains life when they enter the battlefield. This could potentially work like a storm deck, where you get to cast tons of cards in one turn, or even winning the game on the spot.
New Cards From Kaldheim
As long as you have the highest life total at the table, Cosmos Elixir will reward you with card draw. Other than that card, Kaldheim does not have a strong Lifegain draft archetype. As a result, few cards were printed in the set to support this upgrade path.
What to Take Out
The only card in the precon that deals with Lifegain is Rhys the Exiled. Any other cards can be cut at your discretion.
5. Tokens (5-8)
The final upgrade path I am going to talk about in this article is tokens. It should be fairly obvious why Lathril would be a strong commander for a token deck: she can make a lot of them.
Fortunately, green has a lot of good token synergies. Some of them are:
These all double the number of tokens you create. Plus, they stack on each other, so two of them make four times as many tokens and all three make eight times as many. They get out of control quickly.
New Cards From Kaldheim
What to Take Out
Elf tokens can probably play quite similarly to Elf Ball, which mean that you might not need to cut very many things for this version of the deck. However, if it doesn’t make tokens or pump tokens, it can probably go.
And with that, we finish another upgrade article. Thank you so much for making it to the end. Let me know which one of these builds you like best or are going to build. If you have any suggestions or comments, feel free to leave them below or find me on Instagram or Twitter.
There’s also a Collector version of this set. You can find Kaldheim Collector Booster contents here.
If you want to check the other deck, you can read my Phantom Premonition Upgrade Guide. Additionally, you might enjoy some of my other articles:
- Is White Really That Bad in Commander?
- How to Build Your First Commander Deck?
- Commander Staples: I’ve Got 99 Problems, But Staples Aren’t One
Until next time, have fun with your upgraded Elven Empire deck!