Is ten Llanowar Elves enough?

Exactly when I can’t really seem to find the time to finish one of the articles I am working on, Ole Bonnichsen sends me an email containing a write-up of his latest indiscretions in the A40 league. Enjoy – not least the crazy deck pics! – Emil

by Ole Bonnichsen

Last month I participated for the first time ever in the Alpha 40 Worldwide League with a sub-optimal Red-Green deck built around the Channel Fireball combo. The deck was fun to play and I loved putting my opponent on edge, as at any time I could combo for the win with just two cards. Since then, I have purchased a Sol Ring, some green cards and a couple more Juggernauts. This month I wanted to play Mono-Green Aggro. I took inspiration from a previous Alpha 40 League finalist’s list containing twelve (!) Llanowar Elves. I already had six Elves from last month’s deck, plus four that arrived in the mail recently, bringing me to ten. The eleventh is on its way, but it still has not arrived. Anyway, onto my list for this month.

Other similar decks I have seen do not run Sol Ring, but include a Mox Emerald instead. I do doubt I will ever own any Alpha power and I wanted to include my most expensive Alpha card so far in the deck, so Sol Ring was in for good or bad. It should probably just be the eleventh Llanowar Elves or merely another Forest. For example, if my opening hand included both Llanowar Elves and Sol Ring, which would be the best choice to play first? If you do not have a Juggernaut, you should probably just play the Elves. Then again, if you have a Juggernaut in your opener, a Sol Ring means that you can potentially play a Juggernaut on turn 2. It also helps in the casting of bigger Hurricanes, so works well with those six cards in the deck. Additionally, it could help paying for Power Sink as well as eating artifact removal, which may otherwise have targeted a Juggernaut. I will have to test further regarding this.

Apart from the large amount of Llanowar Elves and Giant Growths, the deck maxes out on the Moderated List cards Berserk, Juggernaut and Hurricane. A single Regrowth is also included for recursion of important cards. The idea of the deck is to mana accelerate with Elves and then later swing for a big chunk of damage with a Giant Growth’ed and Berserk’ed creature and then finish off with a Hurricane if needed. Opposing Counterspells and Power Sinks are probably not your friends in this plan. Nor are Lightning Bolt, Earthquake, Fireball, Disintegrate, Wrath of God, Disenchant, Shatter, Swords to Plowshares or Chaos Orb to name a few. So clearly, I needed a fair amount of luck to do well this month, particularly since I did absolutely zero testing before my first match. Whatever happens though, the deck looked like a ton of fun and I could not wait to play some more Alpha 40.

Match 1 vs UR Burn

My opponent won the die roll and opened with an Island. My guess was that there would be some number of Counterspells or Power Sinks in my future. My opening hand included Llanowar Elves and Sol Ring. I did not have a Juggernaut in my hand, so I played the Elves. As predicted, my opponent Power Sinks my first Berserk, which he swiftly follows up with a Control Magic on my Juggernaut. He finishes me off with Fireball and Disintegrate.

Game 2 was even more burn to my face with double Lightning Bolt, Fireball, Disintegrate and Psionic Blast. I could not find enough ammunition to get through his counter wall, particularly after he played a Wheel of Fortune making me discard a hand with some combination of Giant Growths and Berserks. It was, however, very cool to see an Alpha Wheel of Fortune being played in a game. A 0-2 loss.

Match 2 vs UW Control

In game 1 my Sol Ring ate a Disenchant, which unfortunately took me off a turn 2 Juggernaut. My opponent had an extremely strong opening hand and subsequent draws, and I could not do much against his Swords to Plowshares, Wrath of God and Power Sink. Jade Statue slowly finished me off and just before my demise, my opponent played a Steal Artifact on my Juggernaut, thereby further sealing my fate.

Game 2 my opponent could not draw his answers and I managed to hit him down to five life with just three Llanowar Elves, all the while sandbagging my Giant Growths and Berserks, waiting for the right time to strike. He did eventually manage to find Disrupting Scepter and Jade Statue, but it was too late at this point. I made my main attack and got through his Swords to Plowshares and counters using three Giant Growths, two Berserks and a Hurricane.

Game 3 he played a beautiful Alpha Chaos Orb, which he then copied via Copy Artifact on the following turn, leaving him with only one untapped Plains. I had a Juggernaut, a Llanowar Elves and three Forests in play. I also had a pretty good hand containing some number of Giant Growths and a single Berserk. However, I did not like my chances against two Chaos Orbs and possible counter magic and removal the following turns. I turned the Juggernaut sideways to attack, as you have to do every turn anyway with Juggernaut. My opponent responded by tapping his Plains and activating Chaos Orb. This revealed there was no Swords to Plowshares in his hand. I decided to take a huge gamble anyway and forced my opponent to hit his flip or die to a double Giant Growth’ed and Berserk’ed Juggernaut. I doubt this was the correct play, but it was certainly the most entertaining one! Here is a screen dump of the board state just before the vital flip.

Unfortunately, my opponent did not flinch and he hit his Chaos Orb flip, although he did say that his hands were sweating under the pressure. From that point on, the control deck took over with two Jade Statue, a Braingeyser for four, Wrath of God, followed by an Ancestral Recall. A 1-2 loss, but definitely the most fun situation that I have come across in Alpha 40 so far. Flip or die!

Match 3 vs RG Channel Fireball

My opponent led with Forest and Llanowar Elves, followed by more Elves the next turn. It could have been a mirror match, but once a War Mammoth and a Mountain hit the table, I knew it would be some variant of the Channel Fireball deck. Luckily for me, my opponent did not seem to have the combo pieces in his hand and I was able to attack with a trampling 22/9 Juggernaut. The 3/3 War Mammoth blocked of course, but I also had two mana available to play a Hurricane for the last damage. A very quick game 1.

Game 2 had an early Fireball on two of my Elves and my two Juggernauts were both bolted by the same Lightning Bolt via a Regrowth. Such a good card. My opponent attacked me many times with two Giant Spiders and then finished me off with a Disintegrate.

Game 3 must have been a slow opening hand for my opponent, as he was forced to burn a single Llanowar Elves with a Fireball, which he then got back using Regrowth the following turn, only to die to my Juggernaut with double Giant Growth and a Berserk. A 2-1 win.

Match 4 vs Mono Black

I win the die roll and unsurprisingly open with Forest into Llanowar Elves. My opponent plays a Swamp and a Black Vise, which deals two damage to me in my upkeep. In my main phase, I play two more Elves and attack for a single damage. My hand is stacked with three Giant Growth and a Berserk, so I am feeling confident at this point. My opponent plays a Black Knight and passes. On my turn, I do not draw a third Forest, but instead a forth Giant Growth. At this point, I do not have enough mana to swing and win. I need five mana to play all four Giant Growth and a Berserk to get through his Black Knight. I end up just attacking with the three Elves and turning the one blocked by Black Knight into a 4/4, thereby killing the knight. If he does not play a creature on his next turn, I can swing for the win. My opponent taps out to play Pestilence. Phew. As it turns out, winning the die roll was quite important, not to mention my opponent not having any Dark Rituals or another creature after the Black Knight. I proceed to attack with one Llanowar Elves on my turn and use the three Giant Growth and a Berserk to turn the 1/1 creature into a 20/10 monstrosity.

Game 2 was a longer game. I start by drawing two no-land hands in a row, and I mulligan down to six cards. Over the next turns, I play a couple of Elves and a Juggernaut. Drain Life takes care of one of the Elves, but the Juggernaut manages to avoid death when his Chaos Orb flip misses its target. My opponent plays a Sengir Vampire on his turn, which then dies to my attacking Giant Growth’ed Juggernaut. My hard working Juggernaut is then Paralyze’d, but I am lucky again and find a follow-up Juggernaut. My opponent also finds another Sengir Vampire, but he also dies, this time to a Hurricane for four damage. I attack with my second Juggernaut bringing my opponent to 9 life. The non-Paralyze’d Juggernaut then dies to a Drain Life, bringing my opponent up to 12 life. I now have a Paralyze’d Juggernaut, two Llanowar Elves and four Forests in play, while my opponent has a lone Black Knight and some swamps. On my turn, I pay four mana to untap the Juggernaut, who then attacks for the win with the help of the last Giant Growth in my hand and a Berserk, dealing my opponent 14 trample damage after running over the Black Knight. A 2-0 win.

Match 5 vs UW Control

My opponent wins the die roll and leads with Tundra. Such a beautiful card and the first Alpha dual land I have seen played in the Alpha 40 League. In terms of the match-up though, this Tundra is bad news. I only have one Elves in my hand, and it quickly meets a Swords to Plowshares. Over the next three turns, I do not draw into any Elves or Juggernauts, while my opponent plays a Jade Statue and an Icy Manipulator. I finally find a Juggernaut, but he gets Disenchanted at the end of the turn he is played. Now my opponent plays a card I have not seen from the other UW Control players: The Hive. A cool Mono Artifact that can generate 1/1 flying tokens for five colourless mana. I still do not draw anything relevant, but my opponent is not stopping, and plays a Braingeyser for four. This game is probably over now, but my opponent playing The Hive makes me hold on to see what other surprises he may have. A Wrath of God kills my second Juggernaut and then my opponent finally attacks with his Jade Statue for the first time. I had been waiting with a Berserk since he cast the Jade Statue so many turns ago, and I finally get to play my green removal spell. To my surprise, he does not play any counter magic to save his Jade Statue. My guess is he either has none, or more likely is saving it to counter the more important Berserks. Sure enough, my opponent has three Power Sink in his hand, which counter a Hurricane for one, and two separate convoys of Giant Growth and Berserk. Under the Alpha rules, Power Sink is an amazing card. It is an Interrupt, which means that while I can tap mana in response, I can only use the mana to cast Interrupts, not Instants. In addition to this, my lands are tapped and my mana pool is emptied. All this happens at Interrupt speed, so no chance to play Instants like Giant Growth or Berserk. I die to The Hive tokens.

G2 was kind of a non-game as I am forced to keep a one-land hand, which also only has one Llanowar Elves. My opponent has possibly his strongest opening of Tundra into Sol Ring, which he uses on this following turn to Wrath of God my lonely creature. The match then continues in a similar fashion with a Juggernaut answered by Disenchant, a second Elves answered by Counterspell and a third Elves answered by Swords to Plowshares. I die to a Jade Statue. A 0-2 loss.

Final thoughts

A big thank you to all my opponents for sharing their deck pictures to include in this tournament report. I really appreciate it.

The Mono Green Aggro deck I played this month looks like a ton of fun, and it definitely was! It was so satisfying to pump a 1/1 Llanowar Elves into a 20/10 giant berserker that tramples over everything. The deck is hyper-aggro, but it does seem to lose a lot too. Obviously, I should have done some actual testing before entering the league this month, and I for sure punted some games that could have been wins, but mistakes and losses feel meaningless when you are playing with such beautiful Alpha cards. See you next month!

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