Last updated on August 17, 2023

Devoted Druid - Illustration by Kimonas Theodossiou

Devoted Druid | Illustration by Kimonas Theodossiou

Of all the magical creature in Magic, elves may be the most iconic, right up there with merfolk and goblins. They’ve always been part of the game, often helping aspiring green players produce extra mana to push ahead of their opponents.

They have some of the strongest typal synergies in the game, with elfball decks capable of casting 10 spells in a single turn and hurling a Craterhoof Behemoth at unsuspecting players to close things out. But the tribe has more going for it than Llanowar Elves, so let’s rank the best elves in Magic!

What Are Elves in MTG?

Circle of Dreams Druid - Illustration by Sam Guay

Circle of Dreams Druid | Illustration by Sam Guay

Elves are cards with the elf subtype, as indicated in the type box in the center of the card. Most elves are creatures, although there are some instants, sorceries, and even enchantments with the elf “tribal” supertype. Cards that care about you casting or controlling elves see these cards as elves and count them if applicable.

Elves have been part of Magic since the game began with Alpha. There are elves in every color, but they’re mostly in green. Elves are the predominant creature used to represent green’s color identity of harmony with nature and abundant growth, which gets reflected in the type’s mechanical identity that often produces mana and makes your elves better when you have more elves.

#40. Essence Warden

Essence Warden

Essence Warden is an unassuming card that can snowball out of control. It's a color-shifted Soul Warden that’s great for green decks trying to get some life. One life for each creature adds up quickly.

It can be great for a tokens deck trying to gain life to stabilize or to set up cards like Ajani's Pridemate and Nykthos Paragon.

#39. Evolution Sage

Evolution Sage

Evolution Sage boasts a powerful, if narrow, effect. The Sage is fantastic in superfriends or counter decks that want to double up on their value whenever lands hit the battlefield. It’s also great for poison decks, especially in Commander, since infect makes you public enemy #1.

Decks that can maximize this effect want it badly.

#38. Glistener Elf

Glistener Elf

Speaking of infect, Glistener Elf is a key component of any deck seriously trying to win through poison counters. It might not be as strong as Blighted Agent, but playing play this on turn 1 into two Might of Old Krosas and a Mutagenic Growth have enabled many a turn two kill, and it’s solid even without the nuts.

#37. Elvish Piper

Elvish Piper

Who doesn’t love a 1-mana Sundering Titan?

Elvish Piper could be fantastic if it wasn’t so slow and fragile. This card doesn’t exist on its own. You aren’t playing it for anything but its ability, essentially making it a fragile enchantment. But a haste enabler or some protective elements can go a long way to making this an invaluable piece for a big creature deck.

#36. Belbe, Corrupted Observer

Belbe, Corrupted Observer

Belbe, Corrupted Observer is a fantastic Commander card. This little dude represents so much mana production.

Playing a card like Thornbow Archer or Mardu Shadowspear lets you play Belbe and produce six colorless mana on turn 2 to accelerate into fun stax pieces like God-Pharoh's Statue and Ward of Bones before your opponents can blink!

#35. Rashmi, Eternities Crafter

Rashmi, Eternities Crafter

I have a soft spot for Rashmi, Eternities Crafter as my first commander. It's a bit restrictive since the ability only triggers once a turn, but a powerful value engine in a deck that triggers it on your opponent’s turns.

You can manipulate the top of your deck with cards like Worldly Tutor and Mystical Tutor, so Rashmi's ability doesn’t just draw a card, but spells like Mystical Confluence and Torrential Gearhulk replacing themselves on your opponent’s turn is often plenty of value.

#34. Rocco, Cabaretti Caterer

Rocco, Cabaretti Caterer

Rocco, Cabaretti Caterer has proven himself a powerful commander for stax and combo decks. Having Chord of Calling in the command zone whenever you need it is incredibly strong, especially once you start bouncing it with Wirewood Symbiote.

Naya () is the perfect color combination for all sorts of creature-based combos with cards like Devoted Druid and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. This is a solid value card even outside the command zone.

#33. Gwenna, Eyes of Gaea

Gwenna, Eyes of Gaea

Gwenna, Eyes of Gaea is a great tool for decks trying to ramp put massive creatures. You get two mana toward your next creature and the color fixing is invaluable. Adding two mana in a combination of colors enables lots of multicolor cards like Omnath, Locus of All, and Niv-Mizzet Reborn which would be far harder to use otherwise.

Casting big creatures also grows this, combating the general weakness of mana dorks becoming irrelevant later in the game.

#32. Arwen, Weaver of Hope

Arwen, Weaver of Hope

Free +1/+1 counters are always welcome, and Arwen, Weaver of Hope bolsters all your other creatures for free. Arwen is a great version of this effect; three mana is cheap enough that you'll have most of our hand to follow it up with.

Unlike other cards with this effect like Renata, Called to the Hunt and Good-Fortune Unicorn, you can add counters to Arwen so your board scales in kind.

#31. Underrealm Lich

Underrealm Lich

I’ve loved Underrealm Lich since it came out. It’s great card selection and helps any deck using its graveyard fill it quickly while getting the best card of the top three. This effect is like dredging, but you still get a card without a discard outlet.

The indestructible ability is the icing on the cake, making this card advantage engine almost impossible to remove. You can’t even deck yourself since this is a replacement effect for drawing cards.

#30. Nadier’s Nightblade

Nadier's Nightblade

Sometimes token decks need something to go the extra mile and help close out the game. Nadier's Nightblade is here for those decks.

This isn’t just a Blood Artist for creature tokens, but any tokens, most notably Treasures. This is fantastic in decks that use Dockside Extortionist to make infinite Treasure, or decks that make loads of Treasure with cards like Bootleggers' Stash or Ancient Copper Dragon.

#29. Tyvar the Bellicose

Tyvar the Bellicose

Tyvar the Bellicose is an interesting card for its second ability more so than the first. Giving your elves deathtouch enables aggression, but making your mana dorks big has potential. Cheap cards like Llanowar Elves can accelerate you early and then become decent threats later.

It’s also incredibly effective with mana dorks that produce mana based on their power like Gyre Sage and, like any card that distributes counters, this goes infinite with Devoted Druid.

#28. Yeva, Nature’s Herald

Yeva, Nature's Herald

Who plays their creatures in their main phase? Yeva, Nature's Herald is basically Prophet of Kruphix if you squint and ignore half of the former’s card text.

Jokes aside, this is really good. It’s a good defensive piece because it’s hard to swing into Yeva and a bunch of open mana without knowing what it represents. It also gives far more flexibility to answers like Reclaimation Sage and Kogla, the Titan Ape.

Throw in a Seedborn Muse and you have a massive threat.

#27. Ayara, First of Locthwain

Ayara, First of Locthwain

Ayara, First of Locthwain is an excellent aritsocrats card in black-heavy decks. The slow drain from the ETB adds up, especially if you’re producing tokens with cards like Bitterblossom.

A free sacrifice outlet that draws cards is something every aristocrats deck is happy to have.

#26. Silhana Ledgewalker

Silhana Ledgewalker

While Silhana Ledgewalker is an unassuming card, this little elf enables Bogles decks from Modern to Pauper. Once you suit this pseudo-flying creature up with an Ethereal Armor and Ancestral Mask, your opponents find themselves facing down a massive, unblockable, untargetable creature that grinds them into the ground.

#25. Rhys the Redeemed

Rhys the Redeemed

Three mana for a 1/1 is a terrible rate. Six mana to copy all your tokens? Much more reasonable.

Rhys the Redeemed is fantastic top end for a tokens deck. Cards like Trostani's Summoner and Bestial Menace love this card since they already make tons of tokens. Ways to copy this trigger like Rings of Brighthearth and Strontic Resonator are the final pieces of this puzzle that drowns your opponents beneath token armies.

#24. Bloodbraid Elf

Bloodbraid Elf

Bloodbraid Elf is a long-time staple of Jund () in Standard and after it got unbanned in Modern.

This is a simple card. It’s a clean two-for-one, generating five to seven mana worth of value for four mana. There’s a great pleasure that comes from casting this and hitting a Maelstrom Pulse or Lightning Bolt to clear away a blocker before attacking. This pressures planeswalkers and players alike and is great for midrange decks.

#23. Elvish Reclaimer

Elvish Reclaimer

Have you ever wished you had Strip Mine, Gaea's Cradle, or Dark Depths when you needed it? Elvish Reclaimer is here to get it for you.

It’s fantastic in decks that care about lands, turning basics into combo pieces or value lands, or helping to fill your graveyard for cards like The Gitrog Monster or Titania, Protector of Argoth.

#22. Fauna Shaman

Fauna Shaman

Survival of the Fittest is a messed up card, and Fauna Shaman gives you much of the same flexibility. Being a creature beholden to more removal and summoning sickness makes this weaker than the enchantment but it’s far more accessible and is still great for decks that want a repeatable tutor or a way to keep throwing creatures in the graveyard.

#21. Elvish Spirit Guide

Elvish Spirit Guide

Elvish Spirit Guide is only as good as the cards surrounding it. A 3-mana 2/2 isn’t playable, and going down a card for a single mana is inherently card disadvantage.

But this fast mana is more than worth discarding a card if you can exploit this mana to play something like Chalice of the Void or Minsc and Boo, Timeless Heroes ahead of schedule.

#20. Accomplished Alchemist

Accomplished Alchemist

Lifegain decks love Accomplished Alchemist as a massive mana dork. Four mana is a lot for a creature tapping for mana, but this makes up for it by tapping for lots of mana.

A deck with a strong lifegain engine taps this for five or more mana, doubling your initial investment.

#19. Reclamation Sage

Reclamation Sage

Reclamation Sage is a staple in Commander and Cube. It’s a reasonable body with strong card typing and powerful two-for-one ability. Decks that can flicker this or rebuy it through other means get lots of triggers, blowing up valuable artifacts and enchantments.

Reclamation Sage should be one of the first cards in your green Commander decks.

#18. Marwyn, the Nurturer

Marwyn, the Nurturer

Marwyn, the Nurturer, has my vote for the best elf commander, at least for dedicated elfball decks. It’s easy to play this on turn 2. Any 1-mana elf becomes mana neutral with this in play since Marwyn taps for extra mana.

It also plays well with the various lords in the archetype; cards like Elvish Champion and Elvish Archdruid add two power, and two mana when they come into play.

#17. Elvish Archdruid

Elvish Archdruid

If there was ever a card to summarize elfball, it would be Elvish Archdruid. It does everything the archetype wants; it gets stronger when you have a bunch of elves, and it makes all those elves stronger while producing tons of mana.

This is an elves classic and staple for a reason.

#16. Heritage Druid

Heritage Druid

Speaking of elfball staples, Heritage Druid is incredible in any deck that can exploit its ability. You need a high concentration of elves, but the mana production is at a great rate.

This effect pairs well with cards that untap creatures or creatures that untap themselves like Intruder Alarm or Nettle Sentinel.

#15. Llanowar Elves

Llanowar Elves

This slot goes to Llanowar Elves, but also its functional reprints, Elvish Mystic and Fyndhorn Elves. These are staples in most formats they’re in.

Accelerating from turn 1 gives decks an edge over their opponents, and it’s hard to be more efficient than these little guys. They’re especially good in formats with high-impact 3-drops like Oko, Thief of Crowns or Teferi, Time Raveler.

#14. Quirion Ranger

Quirion Ranger

Quirion Ranger is a fantastic ramp piece in decks with mana dorks. It even helps you make land drops; you can float the mana from the Forest you’re planning on bouncing, then replay it as your land for turn.

This card has a lot of little intricacies to its play patterns, and it’s a lot of fun to figure them out.

#13. Edric, Spymaster of Trest

Edric, Spymaster of Trest

Everybody likes drawing cards, right? Edric, Spymaster of Trest gives everybody a chance at extra cards if they don’t attack you.

Edric is a fantastic commander for those who enjoy the political aspect of EDH, convincing your opponents to turn their aggression elsewhere as you compile an unblockable army with a Triumph of the Hordes lurking in your hand.

#12. Tireless Provisioner

Tireless Provisioner

Lotus Cobra is great, but what if you could store the mana for future turns? You don’t need to be a landfall deck to exploit this powerful ability. Making Food is irrelevant unless you’re packing a bunch of lifegain but making a Lotus Petal each time you make a land drop is incredibly broken.

It’s also great in decks that care about making tokens or artifacts for free, like Chatterfang, Squirrel General, or something trying to abuse Marionette Master.

#11. Oracle of Mul Daya

Oracle of Mul Daya

Oracle of Mul Daya offers ramp and card advantage by letting you play lands off the top of your library. It pairs well with cards like Augur of Autumn or Vivien, Monsters' Advocate that lets you play most cards off the top of your library.

The information it gives is also useful; knowing if you want to draw the top card of your library works well with fetch lands and other shuffle effects.

#10. Priest of Titania

Priest of Titania

Priest of Titania is basically Gaea's Cradle on a stick for elf decks. Ways to untap this like Quirion Ranger make this 2-mana elf spiral out of control.

It easily taps for more than three mana on a developed board and is crucial for decks trying to exploit the elf type to its fullest.

#9. Beast Whisperer

Beast Whisperer

What if green got some of the best ramp, creatures, and card draw?

Beast Whisperer is a must-have in any deck with a high creature count. Making all of your creatures replace themselves buries your opponents in card advantage and makes it hard for them to interact with your board. Everything you play becomes a two-for-one, so even a board wipe might not be impactful enough since you’ll have a fresh hand of cards.

#8. Selvala, Heart of the Wilds

Selvala, Heart of the Wilds

A common theme among a lot of the best elves is their ability to tap for obscene amounts of mana, and Selvala, Heart of the Wilds taps for incredible bursts of mana while drawing you cards. Green decks almost always have the biggest creatures, so you don’t need to worry about your opponents drawing too many cards off this mana and card advantage engine.

#7. Bloom Tender

Bloom Tender

Bloom Tender is narrower than some of the other options here. You only see it in Commander, and only in 4- or 5-color decks. But the potential of a 2-mana dork that taps for five mana is obscene.

If you have this in play and cast Jodah, the Unifier or Niv-Mizzet Reborn, this basically doubles your mana for the turn. The ceiling of this card is incredibly high, and you risk basically nothing since it’s only two mana.

#6. Allosaurus Shepherd

Allosaurus Shepherd

Green has multiple ways to protect your spells from countermagic, but Allosaurus Shepherd is among the most efficient and impactful. It can be a win condition for elf decks, but it’s just blanket protection for green-heavy lists.

Spending a measly one mana to blank every copy of Counterspell, Force of Will, and Fierce Guardianship in your opponents’ decks is one of the best exchanges you can make.

#5. Circle of Dreams Druid

Circle of Dreams Druid

Circle of Dreams Druid is just Gaea's Cradle on a stick. This lets you abuse it with effects that untap your creatures like Dramatic Reversal and Vizier of Tumbling Sands.

It’s more fragile than the Reserved List card, but also infinitely more accessible.

#4. Leovold, Emissary of Trest

Leovold, Emissary of Trest

The things I would do if Leovold, Emissary of Trest was legal in Commander are unspeakable enough to justify the banning. Leovold is an obscene stax piece that punishes your opponent for trying to draw cards or interact with your board.

The effect is easily abusable with cards like Timetwister and Wheel of Fortune to Mind Twist your opponents as you refill your hand.

#3. Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary

Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary

Another elf deemed too good for Commander, and with good reason. Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary is one of the best payoffs for being in mono-green.

Decks with plenty of Forests basically get to enjoy a personal Mana Flare. Playing this on turn 2 into a turn 3 Primeval Titan or Nissa, Who Shakes the World has ended many a game of Vintage Cube before it truly began.

#2. Devoted Druid

Devoted Druid

I can accept this may be a little high for Devoted Druid, but this is one of the best elves around. It goes infinite in so many ways; Swift Reconfiguration, Vizier of remedies, Solemnity.

And more combos keep getting printed. Luxor, Giada's Gift and Tyvar the Bellicose are very recent cards that add to the list of spells that make infinite green mana with this Druid. They may be unassuming, but respect should be paid to such a versatile combo piece.

#1. Deathrite Shaman

Deathrite Shaman

Deathrite Shaman does need to be in a format with fetch lands to shine, but the 1-mana planeswalker feels like a comfortable winner among elves. It does everything I lauded Llanowar Elves for, except better because this fixes your mana.

It’s also graveyard hate that also stabilizes you with life gain or pushes the last points of damage on your opponents. It does everything you could hope a 1-mana play would, and so much more.

Best Elf Payoffs

In most cases, the best payoff for elves will be more elves. The creature type is full of cards like Priest of Titania, Elvish Archdruid, and Heritage Druid that reward you for going deeper into elves.

The general idea of an elf deck is to jam as many elves into play as possible, using all those cards that tap for multiple mana to cast many, many spells a turn alongside effects like Glimpse of Nature and Skullclamp to draw a bunch of extra cards. Once you’ve flooded the board, winning is as simple as using Natural Order, or your abundant mana to jam Craterhoof Behemoth for endless damage.

Are Elves Good in MTG?

Elves can be strong in Magic. While a lot of elves are typal cards that rely on other elves to work, the creature type is broad and deep. There are tons of elves that work just fine as the only elf in the deck, like Circle of Dreams Druid, Devoted Druid, or any of the 1-drop mana elves.

What Color Are Elves in MTG?

There are elves in all five colors of Magic, but most elves in the game are green.

What’s the Best Elf Commander in MTG?

There are two strong options for Commander players looking to build an elf-typal Commander deck.

Ezuri, Renegade Leader

Ezuri, Renegade Leader gives the elves deck a win condition in the command zone, and some protection from board interaction. These are both valuable tools.

The best way to disrupt an elf deck is by killing their elves, and you’ll need a way to win the game once you’ve amassed a huge board. While the Overrun ability is a little expensive, elf decks churn out so much mana you can easily activate it a few times.

Marwyn, the Nurturer

Marwyn, the Nurturer is the best of the elf commanders. You lose protection and a win condition, but the trade for that is a commander that taps for obscene amounts of mana. Who needs Ezuri in the command zone when you can tutor it up with Chord of Calling and activate it three times by tapping your commander once?

Elf decks have lots of ways to pump the power of their elves and untap them, making Marwyn a devastating commander and the best general to lead your elves into battle.

Are Elf Decks Good in MTG?

Elf decks can be incredibly powerful in Magic. They’re often focused on using tons of mana-producing creatures like Heritage Druid and Priest of Titania to generate a massive amount of mana. And then you can play out a bunch of elves and win with something like Craterhoof Behemoth, or typal lords like Elvish Champion and Elvish Archdruid buffing all your creatures.

That said, elf decks have some weaknesses. Good board interaction makes it hard for these decks to go off. The archetype is often called “elfball” given how it snowballs out of control, so stopping the ball from rolling is a great way to beat the deck. Elves can struggle in formats with interaction that stops them early, like Fury in Modern.

What Is an Elf Spell?

Elf spells are spells with the elf subtype. Almost all elf spells are creatures, but Lorwyn introduced the “tribal” card type, which gave a few noncreature spells like Eyeblight's Ending and Prowess of the Fair the elf subtype.

Is Vivien an Elf?

Vivien is not an elf, she’s a human. Two elven planeswalkers were Nissa Revane and Tyvar Kell, though both were desparked at the end of the March of the Machine story.

Is Elvish Champion an Elf?

Elvish Champion

Yes, Elvish Champion is an elf.

Wrap Up

Elvish Piper - Illustration by Joshua Raphael

Elvish Piper | Illustration by Joshua Raphael

Elves in Magic have a rich history stretching all the way back to Alpha. They’ve always been part of the game, one of the best creature types to express green’s color identity of growth and harmony with the natural world.

They’re also one of the best creature types in Magic, with powerful typal synergies and cards like Leovold and Rofellos giving non-typal decks broken tools to play with. As long as we play Magic then we’ll no doubt have new, exciting elves.

Which is your favorite elf? Do you want to play with Leovold, Emissary of Trest or Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary in Commander? Let me know in the comments below, or over on the Draftsim Twitter.

Stay healthy, and be harmonious!


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2 Comments

  • Avatar
    Kristofer Hammerstone September 21, 2022 6:39 am

    I just finished building my elf deck for commander…it’s final form hasn’t seen play yet but it’s only three different cards that are there that we’re not the last time it played…BY FAR the most fun deck I’ve ever built to play although it gets a lot of love/hate from opponents lol!!! It ramps so good one game I played (and won) I only had two lands in play the entire time…Lathril is my commander but the deck isn’t built around her…I built it to be versatile and have multiple win cons…and this is what gets the hate…it’s also the first deck where I have had infect and while there’s only three infect elves in there the looks on players faces on cast is priceless…especially if my eldrazi monument is out!!! I love tribes in commander soooo much because of the synergy needed when you have 100 singular cards and elves are the best!!! Now that the elven army is complete time to move onto DRAGONS!!!

    • Avatar
      RD January 4, 2023 9:29 pm

      Are you running Triumph of the Hordes, that will upset people. I run mono green with the GOAT elf Freyalise and I usually play out my whole deck turn 3 or 4 going for the infinite alpha strike.

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