Top 10 Elves of All Time
Casual players love Elves. It is one of the most enduring tribes at kitchen tables over the years. Elves, Slivers, Zombies, and Goblins are probably four of the five most popular tribes being rocked all across the block. Sure, it’s been a while since we’ve had an injection of elvish tribal love, with two recent blocks Elfless (Theros and Innistrad—and I’m glad we were minus Elves in blocks in which they made no creative sense. I don’t want to see Wizards stretch the concept of the block to shoehorn Elves in.) Still, we all know it’ll be a short period before we see the next Lorwyn or Onslaught.
With all of the love that people have for Elves, it seems to be a great tribe to investigate a little better. When playing casual Magic, what are the best Elves ever printed? What are the true icons and powerhouses?
Why There Won’t Be Elf Lords on This List
However, I don’t just want the Elf list to look like a list of ten good-stuff creatures that just happen to have the Elf creature type. These need to be the best Elves. This has to be a distinct Elf-feeling list to really be an Elf list. Therefore, the Elves included are more than just people with pointy ears.
The Top 10
So, what are the Top 10 Elves of All Time (for Casual or Multiplayer)?
To begin with, I pulled out every Elf from Gatherer that met my criteria and that I thought would potentially be a Top 10 candidate. I easily winnowed away a few here and there, and I was left with eighteen entries (not eighteen cards. Some entries include more than one card).
What color combination had the most Elves in my final eighteen? G/U had three entries. We had one B/G and two G/W. Sorry, Gruul, but none of your best Elves made my cut to eighteen. Your only entry in the first list, Bloodbraid Elf, didn’t make it to the final eighteen.
Honorable Mention #1 – Momir Vig, Simic Visionary – Basically clocking it at Number 13 on our countdown is the good Mr. Vig himself. Frankly, I’m not even sure how the second ability is blue. No one would question that ability on a mono-green card. He’s as green as can be, and he suits the Elves quite nicely as such. Every time you play a green creature, you can Worldly Tutor for free. That’s a nice package for most decks to build around. Sure, you have the blue creature trigger that will reveal the top card and draw it if it’s a creature, but you can imagine the power of Momir Vig even in a deck with few to no blue creatures. Shoot, run him in a mono-green deck with a few mana accelerants like Birds of Paradise. Even outside of it, you cannot doubt his legendary goodness. If he sticks, he breaks things.
Honorable Mention #2 – Fierce Empath – The first common on our countdown is this fun trick from the way-back machine. You have to adore the card because of its sheer flexibility in a color that loves to cast big, expensive creatures. Still, you can use it to tutor for mana-fetching (such as Krosan Tusker), removal (Woodfall Primus and Arashi, the Sky Asunder), mass creature-making (Avenger of Zendikar), card-draw (Regal Force), and so forth. Plus, those are just mono-green options. Imagine if you included Steel Hellkite, Duplicant, or Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre. Then, start thinking of great creatures in other colors, and you have a very flexible and abusable creature with a cheap enters-the-battlefield trigger to assist the team.
All right, now let’s begin by taking a look at the Top 10 list, already in progress.
10. Master Biomancer – Only two gold Elves made the Top 10. I wanted to ensure that every gold Elf here felt like an Elf and like a green card. And this does. Like Momir Vig above, this ability is very green, and it hardly needs blue in it at all (save that it was printed in a guild-themed set, so it had to). But take the ability and strap it on a creature in any other set, and its mono-green. The Biomancer is a powerful tool to amp up the threat level of your guys quickly. A humble Elvish Pioneer is now a 3/3 dork. Quirion Sentinel is a 4/3 for 2 mana. Wren’s Run Vanquisher is a 5/5 for 2 mana. It scales quickly. The potency of the Biomancer cannot be overstated. Creatures are quickly at a lethal level because each one comes into play with 2 +1/+1 counters. Plus, if you amp up the Biomancer with extra power, the number of counters on your dorks rises considerably. From Rancor to Forgotten Ancient, get ready for a pounding.
8. Quirion Ranger – One of the single best 1-drops ever printed for green is this little common from Visions. It has enabled a lot of tournament decks, but its power is not purely in that realm. It is a tool for Spikes and Johnnies the world over. Spike loves the cheap cost and powerful ability; Johnny loves the combo potential. Not every green creature on this list should be about mana accelerants or beaters. The Ranger is a masterpiece of synergy. You can bounce a Forest back to your hand in order to untap a creature (but just once per turn). Why would you want to do that? Well, for one, it can produce an extra mana in a pinch by bouncing a tapped Forest and replaying it. Plus, if you untap a creature that tapped for mana, you squeeze 2 mana out of her. But that’s not enough, right? So, consider some other effects: untapping Timberwatch Elf or Immaculate Magistrate. What about either Number 5, Number 6, or Number 2 below? You can move into other colors for Arcanis the Omnipotent or Avatar of Woe. It suits any Commander deck with a green legendary creature that rocks a tap ability. You get the idea. There is a lot of versatility here.
6. Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary – So powerful in Commander that he was banned as a commander, meet the man who could make the mana. Not only does he downright abuse cards such as Quirion Ranger, he also is a nasty mana accelerant all on his own, unlike fellow mana-tappers like Wirewood Channeler or Priest of Titania, which require other creatures to work. This just requires Forests, and you’ll have those easily. It’s among the sickest turn-two plays green has, and it can prepare a table for a sudden hand drop (where someone plays his or her entire hand). He is powerful, but he has limits. He’s not great outside of mono-green, his reliance on Forests keeps people from playing awesome nonbasics in mono-green, he’s easy to kill, and he just makes mana—and he has little other board presence. Still, for what he does, he does it well.
Yet, he just misses the Top 5. So, what Elves did make the cut?
4. Edric, Spymaster of Trest – Say “hello” to the highest-charting gold Elf. Both green and blue have the ability to draw cards when a creature deals damage to a player—and this pushes that to a multiplayer level. Ever since he has been printed, Edric has been a force at the multiplayer tables. He was the dominant force from the first set of Commander decks, and it appears that he’ll stay on top after the second round of decks just came out with another load of legendary critters. Even in duels, he is very powerful, just as a Coastal Piracy on legs for 1 mana less. In multiplayer, his value is enhanced as he encourages people to attack each other for cards, and that helps you win the game, too.
Top 3 time!
2. Fauna Shaman – To my mind, this is an Elf that has really improved with time. At first, it was good; then, as I played the Shaman, it moved into great, and now it’s a downright house in Casual Land. The ability to have Survival of the Fittest on a stick is quite appropriate—it’s harder to abuse and easier to deal with. The Shaman’s ability to discard a creature to tutor for a creature is very powerful. In the early game, discard that expensive creature for one that is on-curve or that accelerates your mana. Later on, feel free to discard your less-powerful early drops for a potent late-game beastie. And you can always discard a creature to retrieve the right answer to a problem (such as Acidic Slime). The result is an engine that is always on tap to improve the deck you are playing. And that’s why the Fauna Shaman rocks the block at Number 2 on our list.
But it did not make #1. What did?
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this look at some of the best Elves ever printed for Casualalia. Let me know what you think—and what your own Top 10 list would look like!
See you next week,