Playing Tempo/Aggro Hybrid
The deck centers around Nath of the Gilt-Leaf. Nath lets you create a powerful engine to net a large amount of elf warrior tokens by slowly whittling down the opponent’s resources – mostly cards in hand. Nath comes stocked with a tempo shell for fixed card discard and a few kill spells to take care of already present threats. The hybrid comes from you consistently pushing and playing aggressively with elves and gaining momentum through the tempo shell. Since this deck has a lot of slower, finite plays, it should be played aggressively when the tempo ramps itself up with the help of ramp spells and discard magic and defensively when you are struggling to maintain board presence.
Going All In
Nath of the Gilt-Leaf has cards that can immediately disrupt all matter of hand presence, and some cards like Sadistic Hypnotist can combo quickly with Nath to make everyone except for you dump their entire hand, netting you a medium to large amount of elf warrior tokens. The aggressive strategy is to throw your elves at anyone without blockers and most of the time even if they do, because the deck runs the package of elf lords like Elvish Archdruid, Elvish champion, and Imperious Perfect, and a few more just to make your elves stronger together. Playing it close to the vest is always a good strategy with the earlier plays but as soon as Nath is on the board, you should prepare to dish out some serious damage after you make your opponents discard a lot of cards. The deck has only one way to give everything haste and that’s Concordant Crossroads, which has been omitted for consistency reasons, but to counter the lack of haste the discard spells should keep your opponent’s off of you for a turn while you prepare your elf alpha strike.
Making them discard
The discard concept is the focal point of the deck, and keeping a consistent volley of discard spells can keep your opponent’s down for a few turns. The main discard spells fit into a few categories.
- Mind Shatter, Monomania, Persecute, and Wit’s End: These types of discard spells fit into the trouble category because they target a player. Generally, you don’t want to paint a target on your back, and only if you’re absolutely sure you can handle it should you use these spells, but if you do, they can cause a massive amount of discard and force a good advantage over a single player.
- Creeping Dread, Bottomless Pit, and Necrogen Mists: All of these enchantments offer slow, progressive discard and are usually not seen as too threatening, so setting these up when you have an opening can really power up your big plays.
- Oppression, Painful Quandary, and Larceny: All of these enchantments offer quick, forceful discard, usually forcing your opponent’s to play more cautiously because the discard is all triggered in some way, and usually whenever they cast a spell.
- Ill-Gotten Gains, Delirium Skeins, and Death Cloud: All fit into the category of mass discard for everyone which has the benefit of a lot of discard for one spell but the downside of painting a large target on your back. Some decks enjoy discard and want you to do it more but the other ones will get aggressive towards you quickly, so use these ones wisely.
- Geth’s Grimoire, Sadistic Hypnotist, and Waste Not: These are the most powerful utility cards in your deck. Sadistic Hypnotist paired with Nath of the Gilt-Leaf causes all opponent’s to discard their hands by creating elves and sacrificing them to create more while cutting down your opponent’s hands. Geth’s Grimoire is your strongest draw engine and Waste Not offers benefits based on what is discarded but always when something is.
With this assortment of utility and discard, the table may want to kill you first, so before that happens the deck has a few other options for play styles and a few for resistance.
Food for Thought
While playing with this deck, it felt consistent, but I playtested it with a few other variants, and personally I didn’t choose some highly valuable cards and ideas for varying reasons, but they were good and fun nonetheless. Here are some cuts I made that might spark your interest to make things a little more spicy:
- Craterhoof Behemoth and Avenger of Zendikar: Packing a few elves on the table is really the easy part, but swinging with a good amount of them for one power each wasn’t the best offense, so Craterhoof Behemoth can be used in this deck to clean out an opponent with a smaller army, but I ran cheat spells like Defense of the Heart and Tooth and Nail to get him out which clogged up the deck and made it less about the discard focus. Avenger of Zendikar seemed good too at first, but it was a dry threat every time I used it.
- Asceticism, Yavimaya Hollow, and Lightning Greaves: While I am still trying to fit these into the deck, most of the time they were targeted too easily and players scoped out how necessary Nath was for my main plays, so these were the first things to go on my end, switching me to a slower pace, but I think they are still strong additions to any variant piloting Nath of the Gilt-Leaf needing protection.
- Sheoldred, Whispering One and the reanimator subtheme: While a good backup plan to have, it started to take up a ton of space, and at the end of it I ended up making the deck mostly about reanimating, which took away the novelty of the idea, so I cut it, but a little bit here and there would also be a splendid addition to the list.
- Unnerve, Megrim, and Bloodchief Ascension: All have the power to be excellent secondary win conditions, and truly do more work than I gave them credit for, but it was a personal choice and they would shine in a lot of decks.
Covering Your Back
Nath of the Gilt-Leaf has no protective properties so he is an east target for removal. For starters you actually want to use a majority of your discard spells before you play Nath, in the hopes of clearing out what they would use to remove him. Another plan is to watch the board unfold, and watch the other players battle it out while holding kill spells to handle immediate threats and board wipes for the armies, playing the part of a control player. The deck’s main resources are it’s creatures, so preparing accordingly with Skullclamp, Geth’s Grimoire and Necropotence to gain card draw and allow yourself a full rotation of turns to set up. Once you have an army of elves, pumped by a lord or two, knocking one player out of the game is easy, and if everyone is already in a position of getting back their resources, another kill should be easy as well, and that last player probably won’t have the spells to bounce back either depending on how much access to discard you have.