Elementals are the real deal


Coming off the heels of War of the Spark, M20 is proving to be one of the most influential core sets of all time. Between Risen Reef, the colour-hosing cycle and protection coming back, this set has made huge waves in Standard. We’ve seen the format take a huge shift away from Esper Hero and Sultai Dreadhorde toward a new midrange creature deck — Temur Elementals.

So what has caused this shift?

Well for starters Risen Reef is an absurd engine that allows for a ridiculous early mana advantage if unanswered. Leafkin Druid has supplanted Paradise Druid and Incubation Druid as the two-drop of choice to combo with Reef. This combo of early mana generation allows for green decks to play the game at an impressively fast clip without falling behind on cards because of Reef’s ability. The combination of fast mana and incremental advantage is incredibly strong in Standard.

This, in conjunction with creature removal in Standard being sparing due to the high number of planeswalkers in the format has helped propel this deck to the top of the format early on.

Esper Hero certainly has the tools at its disposal to adapt as the format moves forward. But, the deck does just have a fundamental weakness to Reef strategies. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of time to tinker with Esper builds but right now I’m interested in playing some sweet Elementals!

Why Temur over straight Simic or Sultai?

Omnath, Locus of the Roil.

This card is the whole package when it comes to a midrange threat in Standard. It does a great job of taking out opposing Risen Reefs and picking off the pesky creatures or planeswalkers that are popular like Teferi, Time Raveler.

The list above is close to stock from what I have seen at this point from Temur. Basically there is a core build to this deck from one to five on the curve and the variation is largely in the top end. This Standard format is quite unique in that there are quite a few ways of going over the top of your opponent. Last format, the card that did this the best was Command the Dreadhorde.

While this card has gotten a great new enabler in the form of Cavalier of Thorns, it has fallen behind in the current metagame. There are three better ways you can go over the top in blue decks in this format. This is where I started to iterate on the elemental shell.

Option 1: Mass Manipulation. This is one of the more common choices we are seeing as the top end for Temur Elemental decks. It does a great job of closing out the game and works incredibly well with the large amounts of mana you generate with Risen Reef and Nissa, Who Shakes the World. One card to watch out for in post board games is Veil of Summer if you’re going to be manipulating as it is a monumental blowout. Stealing your opponents board is going to end the game, so it’s no surprise to see this as the most common way of going about things.

Option 2: Flood of Tears. This is a way of going over the top of Mass Manipulation. It plays incredibly well with Nissa as it doesn’t bounce your creature lands. That being said, it also doesn’t bounce opposing creature lands. So there are board states where this won’t be that great. Also as removal gets more prevalent in the format, getting to four non-token permanents to cheat something into play isn’t a trivial task. While I do like Flood of Tears, and it doesn’t suffer from the Veil of Summer problem, I’m still unsure if this or Mass Manipulation is better as the top end.

Option 3: Nexus of Fate. The ultimate top end. One that isn’t going to care about either of the aforementioned cards. This is the direction I’ve been taking the list:

The issue here is that sometimes your deck is very clunky without having access to Wilderness Reclamation like other Nexus decks, and you need a planeswalker or a clock in play to accumulate advantage with Nexus of Fate. It’s possible that splashing red for Omnath is an option that would help the deck find more late-game card advantage so that’s something I’m looking to try going forward.

If I had an event tomorrow and wanted to cast Risen Reef I’d be looking in the direction of Nexus over the alternatives, but one of the most powerful things about these decks is that there are so many ways to build around the shell.

All in all, Elementals is here to stay. I think there is definitely more room for the format to shift as we are in its infancy. I can see Esper Hero or Esper Control evolving to the point of coming back as a top contender. I’m really excited to see how things shake out with the rotation of Ixalan through M19 in the fall.

July is going to be an exciting Magic month for me: SCG Worcester, SCG Philly, and MC Barcelona! I look forward to seeing everyone at the events to come!