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Welcome to the Competitive Ezuri Primer. While the name may lead you to think this is a guide to playing cEDH Ezuri, that isn’t quite right. Ezuri doesn’t quite have what it takes to be a real competitive commander, but this is hopefully the absolute best version of Ezuri Elfball that can be made, putting it a little under cEDH in power level. Also, this primer is a counterpart to WizardSpartan’s and is meant to show what budgetless combo Ezuri can do, rather than aggro. WizardSpartan’s primer on aggro Ezuri can be found above.
First, why play Ezuri? Well, of all available elf commanders, he is the only one to have a win condition on him. His ability to overrun all of our elves gives us an excellent mana sink and he can regenerate key combo creatures, all while being relatively cheap. As for elfball, it’s a fast, creature-based ramp strategy that centers around one thing: MAKE MORE MANA. Elves are low cost, so getting off the ground and rebuilding after a wipe can both happen very quickly. With the enormous number of infinite mana combos present in this deck, all we need is any combination of key pieces to win. Unlike other combo decks that often need a few specific cards for their combo, we just need infinite mana, Ezuri, and one elf for each opponent. That is incredibly easy to accomplish, leading to this deck having explosive wins from seemingly weak board states.
The most fun thing about elfball, to me, is trying to solve the puzzle of squeezing every last bit of value out of your cards until you draw into a combo piece. Should I tap the Cradle now, or use other mana and hope for creatures? Should I commit my big mana to dumping my hand, or should I play Ezuri and hold up enough to regenerate what I have? Do I use Glimpse of Nature this turn, or do I wait and double down on next turn when I’ll have more mana?
I would look elsewhere if you don’t enjoy creature-based strategies or having little interaction. This is mono green fast combo; we’re reliant on creatures, we don’t have counter spells, and our few pieces of interaction are to prevent wins or crack a lock. We suffer under stax, and board wipes mean resetting our progress to almost nothing. If this sounds unfun to you, there are plenty of decks out there that have what you’re looking for.
Now, for the fun stuff. How do we win? As stated earlier, our main win condition is Ezuri himself. We make infinite mana, pump the team, and swing with infinity/infinity trample elves. Because this strategy is reliant on combat, turbofog is basically our worst nightmare. To deal with this, we have Helix Pinnacle as a backup win condition. If we have infinite mana, we can usually get Temur Sabertooth and something that lets us draw on casting a creature/creature ETB. This lets us draw into Pinnacle; after that, we just have to dump 100 counters onto it and pray that we get to untap. Our other backup is Craterhoof Behemoth, in case something happens to make Ezuri unavailable.
There are a number of cards in the deck that might not make immediate sense, but are in fact vital to our strategy.
Why include three artifacts that accomplish the same thing?
Well, we’re in mono green. We don’t have artifact tutors or great draw options, so we just run a lot of redundant combo pieces and pray we draw one of them.
While more dorks is always great, these are cheap enchantments that can make mana immediately and, most importantly, they enable infinite combos with Argothian Elder.
This costs a lot of mana, you don’t care about life gain or counters, and there are cheaper draw spells.
Yes, but this is a repeatable draw effect that makes mana. And, it usually comes in cheaper. There are several ways to make this come in very cheap, and the card draw is nice. This still hasn’t been tested enough to be a sure thing, but it seems good here.
Why would you run symmetrical effects like these?
Aluren enables certain infinite combos with Cloudstone Curio (blow up all artifacts and draw your library with Reclamation Sage and Elvish Visionary), but it also allows us to conserve mana that we need to spend on big spells and combo pieces if we’re trying to dig for a win. Concordant Crossroads is one of the few blanket haste enablers available to green (actually, the only other option is Akroma’s Memorial). There are plenty of times when we need dorks to tap the turn they come down or we need creatures able to swing once we finally find a combo piece.
Useful for the reasons mentioned above.
Even a weaker Veil of Summer is great and U/B ruin us.
Comes in untapped and the only things we really care about recurring are combo artifacts.
Let's us play solitaire. We don't tend to cast many spells on other people's turns, anyway.
Good at preventing interaction on our turn, since everyone's lands will tap for G. Also ruins multicolor decks that rely on lands. Be careful of overconfidence, though. Force of Will can still hit us.
Keeps our opponents' lands tapped, so they can either play on their turn or someone else's, not both.
With a bounce effect, clears the board of all artifacts/enchantments. Plus, it's an elf, so it adds to our big dorks.
Possibly the best draw effect in green. Play a card, draw a card is an incredible effect for us. I'd honestly pay twice as much mana for this effect.
Slows us a little, slows our opponents a lot. We're only running 3 artifacts that even have a tap effect.
The mana, life, and +1 counters are nice, but holy shit another draw effect on creature ETB. Solid gold for us.
Protects big dorks from removal, untaps them for big mana, and can be bounced for infinite untaps.
Is it as good as Heroic Intervention? No, but it does save us if someone exiles Ezuri before a board wipe.
These are cards you might expect to see here, but don’t.
This card is a great infinite mana sink that also gets around fog; why not use this as one of the backup wincons?
Walking Ballista has a few fatal flaws: it’s an artifact creature, it still relies on damage to win, and it’s not an elf. The fact that it’s an artifact creature means that it’s vulnerable to split-second removal like Krosan Grip and Sudden Spoiling. These will get rid of it before it ever has a chance to shoot, instant speed ability or not. It relies on damage, so someone can prevent it or Teferi’s Protection, float some mana, and remove the Ballista after it resolves. Finally, the Ballista doesn’t contribute to cards like Priest of Titania and Elvish Archdruid. It will make mana with Gaea’s Cradle, but none of the elf-specific effects. As such, it’s basically a dead card outside of combo turn.
It’s a green staple that makes a lot of mana cheaply.
It’s also an enchantment that doesn’t draw us cards. Making more mana isn’t really what we want to spend slots on at this point. To extrapolate a little: this can't go infinite, and in almost every case, this won't help us go infinite. It can be great ramp and should certainly be considered for any tuned green deck. The reason we run Utopia Sprawl and Wild Growth over this is because they enable Argothian Elder combos and this doesn't. The reason we run mana dorks over this at 1 cmc is because they pump our big dorks to make infinite mana.
IT'S SOL RING. COME ON.
This was a tough decision. Yes, it’s a staple and yes, it’s a mana-positive rock. However, the deck is to a point that Sol Ring becomes a dead card more often than not. We’re also not running Mana Crypt, Mox Diamond, Chrome Mox, etc… It can be great in the early game for ramping out a draw engine or getting out a fast combo piece. It can be good later for rebuilding after a wipe. Still, it doesn’t help us play a large portion of our cards that require only green mana. We don’t need to rush Ezuri out, and our priority early on is playing as many mana dorks and card advantage pieces as possible to look for a win. In mid and late game, Sol Ring doesn’t draw us cards and we’re usually not in dire need of MORE mana. I wouldn’t call it a bad include, but I cut it after several games in which it stalled out my engine (drawing a rock when I needed to play a creature to keep digging) and I haven’t missed it since. I’m always happier to keep a Llanowar Elves in my opening hand than if it were a Sol Ring.
Mana doublers (and the pinnacle of green bullshit that is Nyxbloom) are great for big mana decks, but this isn’t big mana. It’s INFINITE mana. These cost a lot to play, and we don’t care if Priest of Titania taps for four mana or forty-seven mana. All that matters is we have enough to go infinite with one of our combo pieces, and that can be accomplished more efficiently without these cards.
This makes TONS of mana. Look at all those green pips!
Yes, but it's also just another big dork. I took out Viridian Joiner despite it costing one less and having an easy setup because this deck doesn't need another big dork. It already functions smoothly and finds what we need with draw and tutors. A 4 cmc creature is a dead card in crucial early turns and, later on, this can't even be protected by Ezuri. Cool card, but it doesn't need to be here.
This is repeatable card draw AND an elf.
Since this deck isn't meant to compete in cEDH (it really can't), the meta typically looks a little different. There are games in which other players always have blockers, or don't play green, or just run ridiculous amounts of low-cost removal (looking at you, Toshiro Umezawa storm decks). I have considered this card and I'm still a bit on the fence, but for the moment it's out. This is one that might vary based on local meta and be up to individual players.
Green has very little removal outside of artifacts and enchantments. Why not run one of its best options for creatures?
This is fast combo. We run some interaction and protection because we can’t always goldfish and pray for good draws. However, those cards have to be cheap and effective enough to deserve a slot. We run Kenrith’s Transformation and Song of the Dryads because the former draws a card and the latter turns the permanent into a land, making it very hard for colors without enchantment removal to deal with. Lignify is a little too easy to get around by just blocking with the creature or blowing either card up, then recurring the creature. It might get added in at some point after more playtesting, but right now it doesn’t quite make the cut.
You need Ezuri to win, why not protect him?
We make infinite mana. If he dies, we just play him again. If he gets hit by Darksteel Mutation or stolen, we pivot to a backup. Another card I wouldn’t call a bad include, but I can’t find a slot that isn’t better filled already. Even putting the Greaves on another dork can mess us up in the small number of cases in which we have a big dork and a combo piece but no creature to put the Greaves on. We can play Ezuri, but casting him before we go infinite can cause other problems. This deck is resilient enough without them that I don't think they are currently worth a slot, but someone could potentially change my mind.
More tutors means more consistency; why not run all that you can?
Pod-style tutors make us sacrifice (or discard) creatures that we would really rather be playing. We’re running nine tutors and, for the moment, that appears to be plenty. Should that change, these are under consideration.
This makes non-dorks into mana makers, and only costs G. Why not?
We only have five elves that don't already tap for mana, and this doesn't gain any benefit from Leyline of Abundance. Not a bad card, and in a deck with access to blue certainly the best infinite mana engine (search for Momir Vig Hackball lines using Heritage Druid, Nettle Sentinel, and Phantasmal Image), but doesn't seem worth it here.
This saves us from Grave Pact effects. Those seem pretty bad.
Yes, sacrifice hurts, but this deck is very resilient and I, personally, just don't see enough Grave Pact oriented decks that get going fast enough to stop me to include this. If your meta is big on black aristocrats, this is probably an auto-include.
Prevents our stuff from getting countered.
Creature spells can't be countered. Our most important pieces are artifacts, and this doesn't protect them. It also doesn't keep someone from using instant-speed removal in response to an untap trigger on one of our dorks. If playing into a control-heavy meta, this is certainly worth considering, but it usually doesn't feel useful against standard interaction.
It's another stax effect that hurts our opponents.
It also prevents us from saving our board with Ezuri or dumping things at flash speed. An interesting card, but probably a little too awkward here.
This card makes your creatures into walking laundry lists of keywords.
Seriously? Does anyone actually run this?
Goes infinite with Quirion Ranger and a big dork, and prevents "destroy target nonland permanent."
But, it's a dead card outside of combo turn and there's plenty of removal that can still hit forest-elves.
It makes colorless, which isn't helpful for early ramping into dorks, which often cost G.
Not repeatable and it's expensive.
Fantastic card for protecting elves. Sadly, shroud means that none of our infinite combos work, because we have to target elves to go infinite.
We run a lot of tutors already, and this is just a limited version of Natural Order.
Only good for grabbing big lands, which are a backup plan anyway. Not worth the slot, in my opinion.
Was in for a while, but it's not an elf and recursion honestly isn't that important for us. The only card that can't be replaced in our combo is Ezuri.
Was in for a while, but we can usually find another draw engine, so this often just sits on the field for 3 mana.
Same as Eladamri, plus it takes up a slot. Not a bad include, but I can't find a card in here that I wouldn't rather have.
Another card that can be added back in if more recursion is necessary.
Another non-basic that gives fewer targets for things like Utopia Sprawl, but the effect doesn't really do much for our game plan. We don't typically chump block with mana dorks, and they're usually all being used for mana.
Already covered this one. Seriously, this deck doesn't need the extra mana and this can turn a game-winning turn into nothing if you Glimpse of Nature and hit this before another draw effect.
Outside of a T1 Tabernacle, there aren't many lands that I would waste a land drop blowing up. Even then, you'd have to have this ready for the Tabernacle. Slows us down without enough value for doing so, I'd say.
Better and worse than Lightning Greaves. They don't prevent comboing off, but they do require mana to shuffle them around. Not a bad include, but I can't find a slot for them.
This comes in tapped as a land, so it's basically only a cantrip. Even then, I'd rather run a draw spell over this.
Often not game-winning without another pump effect, plus we don't really need another combat-based win condition. If we could tutor for it, maybe, but for a luck-of-the-draw card, not worth it.
Another big dork I was running for a while. The requirement of an Ezuri Overrun to prime his infinite mana combo isn't too bad, but it doesn't do much outside of combo turn.
As has been said several times, this is fast combo. Emphasis on fast. In the name of all that is holy, do not keep a hand that doesn’t have a T1 play, preferably a mana dork. In fact, if you don’t have a decent idea of what you’ll be doing on turns 2 and 3, the hand might still need to go.
A good baseline for a keepable hand is 2-3 lands (non-forests are a risky keep), a 1 CMC dork, and a T2 play. That could be another ramp piece or card draw. Assuming your hand meets these criteria, there are a few cards you should look out for and some you should avoid.
Sword of the Paruns and Umbral Mantle are both great early keeps if you have the ability to go infinite or a big dork waiting to go infinite in hand. Not so great if you have three Forests and three functional reprints of Llanowar Elves.
All of our stax is low cost and powerful. Even something as innocuous as Thorn of Amethyst can launch us into a winning scenario, given that most people are going to ramp with things like Rampant Growth or Sol Ring, while we just want to play Llanowar Elves and all of their friends. Assuming the hand meets the baseline, stax pieces are an excellent addition.
One of the strongest T2 plays you can make is a land, this card, and another dork. That’s a bit Magic Christmas Land, but this is still an incredible early card.
This usually draws you a card the turn it comes down and turns into a discount Cradle soon after. Fantastic early keep.
Both are cheap, powerful draw engines that you want out as soon as possible. The Library is strong enough that it’s occasionally worth keeping a hand that doesn’t quite meet the baseline just for this card.
Cheap enough to not disrupt our early ramp, this can let us blow up a particularly nasty stax piece or value engine early in the game.
Literally any card in this section is worth having in the opening, since we build fast and our opponents can hold back for an early wrath or removal spell/counter.
Can turn an otherwise okay hand into a perfectly sculpted masterpiece.
Despite not making colored mana, this is a great early land that will often turn an early big dork into solid gold. Especially if you somehow manage to get Argothian Elder, too.
There’s just no reason to keep a high-costed card early on unless we’re literally going to win with what’s in our hand. (Forest, Llanowar Elves, Llanowar Tribe, Leyline of Abundance, Umbral Mantle, Staff of Domination, Regal Force would be the exception.)
We don’t want to cast this for less than 15-20 mana, typically, so it’ll likely sit in our hand for a while.
The current version of this deck doesn't really run recursion, but there are several good choices available for a meta in need of ways to get things back. That being said, even in those cases, it is unlikely that recursion is going to be a high priority early in the game, so it's always better to prioritize building our engine over potentially saving some broken parts.
That’s basically it. Outside of these, most cards are fine to keep. This deck is highly optimized, so most of the deck is cheap and effective enough to keep in an opening hand.
Most of the combos in this deck are pretty straightforward and can be separated into a few basic categories which I'll name based on the card I most associate with the combo: Umbral Mantle routes, Argothian Elder routes, and crazy Temur Sabertooth bounce-house nonsense.
These are nice and easy, impossible to mess up. We take Umbral Mantle (or Sword of the Paruns / Staff of Domination) and one big dork, let's say Priest of Titania. Priest of Titania has to tap for four mana, so we need three other elves. After that, equip the Priest, make mana, spend three of it to untap, and repeat. As long as we are making at least four mana per loop (need six for Staff of Domination, but it lets us draw our deck once infinite), we've just gone infinite. Play Ezuri, pump your elves to infinity/infinity, and swing at each opponent. Always leave the big dork untapped in case you need mana for Ezuri's regenerate, and I would suggest not attacking until you've done basically everything else you can. It's a lot easier to guarantee a win with half our deck on the board than with three really big elves.
These are very similar to the last section, but they use lands to go infinite instead. In particular, we need Argothian Elder, Wirewood Lodge, and any land that makes more than one green mana. Let's use Gaea's Cradle for this example. With Argothian Elder, Wirewood Lodge, Gaea's Cradle, and literally any other creature, we're set. Just tap the lands for mana, untap with the Elder, then tap the Cradle for mana and use Wirewood Lodge to untap Arogthian Elder. We can now loop this to make infinite mana, since we net G each loop. This works with Wild Growth and Utopia Sprawl on a basic forest, too.
Okay, this is where things get a little crazy. I'll go over a couple of common examples, but these combos are where people who really know how to make the most of their mana will help this deck shine. A little careful thinking can be the difference between going infinite and accidentally making ~2 mana. I know it's a lot of sub-sections, but I'm actually going to separate this into three: Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced.
The easy version of a bounce combo is to have Temur Sabertooth or Cloudstone Curio (CC needs a creature in hand, too) with Concordant Crossroads and a big dork in play. Make mana with the dork, bounce it to our hand, replay it, and repeat. This is mana intensive, so it requires a dork that can make its casting cost + three more mana. For example, Priest of Titania costs 1G. For this loop to work, we need four other elves in play. That way, Priest of Titania makes GGGGG. We use GG to bounce her and GG to replay her, netting G. This combo basically can't work with Marwyn, since she loses her counters when she gets bounced. Aluren and Cloudstone Curio cut down on costs by removing either the bounce cost or the casting cost, meaning smaller dorks can still go infinite.
Now things get a bit trickier: no Concordant Crossroads. That means that we can't just bounce our big dork to replay it because it won't be able to tap when it comes back down. Without Concordant Crossroads, we're dependent on untappers. This is where Wirewood Symbiote comes in. With a big dork, Wirewood Symbiote, and a bounce engine, we can go infinite. Wirewood Symbiote can bounce something once per turn, but bouncing Symbiote gets around the restriction. Basically, tap the dork, bounce something (Ezuri if need be) to hand to untap dork, make more mana and replay the creature, bounce Wirewood Symbiote to hand and replay it, and loop. The intermediate version of this uses Cloudstone Curio or Aluren/Temur Sabertooth. With CC, we only need a dork that makes GGG:
This is for when you really want your opponents to feel like they got robbed at gunpoint. This version uses only Temur Sabertooth, Wirewood Symbiote, a big dork, and something to bounce (which can be Ezuri with a big enough dork).
Wirewood Symbiote can be used once for every time it comes down, so this takes a lot of mana, but a dork that taps for Gx5 is usually enough. For example:
End the combo by bouncing WS and replaying it, so we have access to double our big dork's output during combat, if needed.
There doesn't seem to be anything particularly good for Ezuri in Kaldheim. Blessing of Frost might get swapped in for another draw spell, but it would require an Ezuri pump first. 5GGGG seems a bit steep for what's likely to be around five to seven cards. Still, we make lots of mana and five to seven cards can make a difference.
There are two budget lists for this deck, priced at $100 and $400, respectively. Those lists can be found here
Well, that does it for this primer. Hopefully, I’ve covered everything you need to know to pick up and pilot this deck or decide that it’s not for you. If anyone has any questions, I would be happy to answer them in the comments. Credit to WizardSpartan for giving me the idea to make my own primer, and his primer on aggro Ezuri is great, too.
The joint primer thread for WizardSpartan's and my lists can be found here: https://deckstats.net/forum/index.php/topic,55346.msg162147/topicseen.html#new.
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