In the long history of the Magic game, there have been many Elementals. Some preferred Water, some Fire, some Wind or Earth. As Magic evolved, so have its elementals. Some elementals go rogue, like Silvos. We, as players, even created our own elemental in the form of Forgotten Ancient. One day I'll probably make an elemental deck depicting the evolution of Magic Elementals, but today I want to talk about one in particular--War Elemental.
War Elemental is a cool card not only because of its abilities, but also because it opens up a whole new door for what sort of things Elementals are made of. Will we see a Sword Elemental? Perhaps a Power Elemental? I'd love to see what a Speed Elemental would look like. This new breed of Elemental can show off what they're about without being confined to the old standby color mechanics.
So what makes War Elemental so great, anyhow? Start by looking at the casting cost: --trips red. I don't care that the card does, if it's a triple colored-mana casting cost it automatically makes the card cool. Look at Necropotence, Patron Wizard, and Infinite Authority.
I bet you didn't know what Infinite Authority did, huh?
Ok, so maybe all those spells aren't super cool, but something about them makes me want to shuffle them up in my deck. Zombie Trailblazer or Necropotence--it doesn't matter.
The next thing that makes War Elemental appealing is the crazy card text. It implies that the folks who know the most rules will probably be able to best use this card. Note that you can play War Elemental, stack its ability, and then damage your opponent. This gives the Elemental counters and means you don't have to sacrifice it when the ability resolves.
The last and most important reason why War Elemental rocks is plain and simple...it's going to deliver a savage beating. Do the math. Sure it's a 1/1, but soon it will be a 5/5, then a 10/10, then who knows? A little bit of damage to jumpstart War Elemental goes a long way.
You're probably asking yourself where is the deck? Sure War Elemental is an interesting card, but is there a deck that can support it? The answer is, well, yes.
Building on a Budget - Prepare For War
Playing The Deck
For as much as I rambled on about War Elemental, I could go on for just as long about Slith Firewalker. This will be the best Slith in Constructed--even seeing play in Extended. Ideally, you'll be attacking it on turn two. Once you do that, just clear the way for the Firewalker with burn and watch it grow. You can also use Goblin Grappler to clear the path--preferably trading the Grappler for a larger creature via Bonesplitter.
When you play War Elemental, make sure you've either already attacked this turn and dealt damage, or have an instant-speed burn source like Shock or Pyrite Spellbomb handy to damage your opponent while the sacrifice ability of the War Elemental is on the stack. This will leave you with a 3/3 War Elemental and, if you haven't attacked yet, you can make it even bigger! It's not uncommon for War Elemental to get to 5/5 the turn you cast it.
Once you're able to attack with War Elemental, things get spicy--5/5 will be a memory after damage resolves. You can get tricky by sending burn to your opponent's head before attacking or after she blocks to increase the size of the Elemental. This might effectively force your opponent to chump block, lest the 8/8 actually hit her and become 16/16. Usually, people have a chance to come back from situations where fatties are hitting them, but not early in the game.
Fireshrieker, while difficult to cast and equip without losing tempo, is your best friend. This card is amazing with the Slith (it gets two counters instead of one) and just plain sick with the War Elemental. A 3/3 War Elemental with Fireshrieker will become an impressive 12/12 after everything is said and done. Fireshrieker's also good with Goblin Grappler. Sure, it doesn't make a huge difference, but provoke and first strike work wonders together--especially if a Bonesplitter is also involved.
Tips On Playing The Deck
- You can often use Shrapnel Blast to get to threshold and do the final points with your Barbarian Ring.
- If you play a first turn Grappler and a second turn Slith, trade the Grappler with any 1/1 your opponent might have played to block.
- Don't be afraid to use your burn to take a chunk out of your opponent's life total. You'll find that your hand often gets clogged with burn spells if you don't start using them. However, it is generally better to burn a creature.
- Try to save your Shocks and Pyrite Spellbombs if possible. You can use them to great effect when you topdeck a War Elemental and have no creatures to attack with.
- The best spell you can play the turn after you cast War Elemental is Violent Eruption. You can kill a blocker and make the War Elemental a little bigger to boot.
Adding Money To The Deck
The first card I would add to this deck is Grim Lavamancer, taking out the Barbarian Rings. The Lavamancer gives you long-term burning power, which is exactly what the deck needs.
I would also add Wooded Foothills and Bloodstained Mires to fetch Mountains from the deck and make your graveyard bigger. Then add Chrome Mox, since it's wonderful with Slith Firewalker. First turn Mox, Firewalker is a combo that makes other Extended decks hurt--imagine what it will do in your casual games.
Siege-Gang Commander is another card that could make the cut--giving you lots of ways to burn your opponent and lots of critters to equip. Both will come in handy, even if the Commander is a bit slow to come out.
Overall, this deck is a fun way to explore an interesting card. I'm sure there are plenty of other ways to utilize War Elemental, but this seemed the most practical to me: Smashing Face.
Until next time, flip a coin if you want permission to attack.
NateHeiss on Magic Online