Build a Powerful Elves Deck with Voja, Jaws of the Conclave

Voja, Jaws of the Conclave | Art by Valera Lutfullina

Wolves and Elves and Counters, Oh My!

Have you ever wanted to build a deck that grows Elves and Wolves out of control? Then this new Murders at Karlov Manor commander, Voja, Jaws of the Conclave, is the perfect friend for you! Voja has never been printed as its own card before, but has been hitting the table as a Legendary Token since all the way back in Ravnica, City of Guilds as the loyal companion to Tolsimir Wolfblood. But now that the Friend to Wolves died protecting Trostani, Voja is on his own, and he is no slouch as a lone ranger. Voja's first card to himself is an absolute powerhouse, rewarding you handsomely for controlling both Elves and Wolves. On attacks, he puts a +1/+1 counter on the whole team for each of your Elves, and then draws a card for each of your wolves. If that doesn't end games quickly, I don't know what will.

Commander players love building kindred decks, so who could resist the offer of building around two of the top creature types in the game? Or, well, at least one of them... Elves are the second most built around type on EDHREC, with a whopping 53,822 decks. Wolves, on the other hand, are sixty-fifth, with only 1,026 decks. Wolves have long been overshadowed by their more supported Werewolf cousins, but they still have their die-hard fans, and Voja, Jaws of the Conclave is an incredible new tool. However, the Elves players are definitely making the most use of Voja. 4,332 of his 5,095 decks are built around Elves, compared to only 233 built around Wolves, and it's not hard to see why. Adding +1/+1 counters to your whole team is a ridiculous payoff, which threatens to end the game in short order, and drawing cards too is just as ridiculous. Voja, Jaws of the Conclave is a Wolf himself, and will always draw at least one card. It's not like drawing cards will ever be bad, and we are definitely going to play some powerful Wolves in this deck, but adding +1/+1 counters just plays so well with the go-wide strategy that Elves lend themselves to.

Deckbuilding From the Ground Up

In decks like these, I like to start with cards that act as the foundation of the strategy, and then branch off from there. One of the reasons Elf decks are so powerful and popular is that the foundational package is so strong. Llanowar Elves and friends start the game on turn one, and accelerate into even more powerful plays. Six of the top ten most played creatures in Commander on EDHREC are mana dorks for good reason, and Elves decks can take advantage of these cards better than anyone else. Cards like Priest of Titania, Elvish Archdruid, and Circle of Dreams Druid continue the theme of mana production, and have the power to make absolute heaps of mana. And some of the most powerful utility creatures in green just happen to be Elves, from Reclamation Sage to Beast Whisperer.

This is a great start, but what's great about Voja, Jaws of the Conclave is that he isn't just a generic Elf commander. He offers a great cross-section of synergy with Wolves and +1/+1 counters as well. My next step was to look up every card that says both "Elf" and "Wolf," and there were quite a few heaters in that list. Wren's Run Packmaster and Wolf-Skull Shaman are receiving new life from this commander, and every version of Tolsimir fits into this deck like a hand in a glove. Just like the old saying goes, "A wolf is an elf's best friend." Or something like that.

There are also some seriously powerful crossovers between Elves and +1/+1 counters. Gyre Sage and Incubation Druid both add oodles of mana once they're carrying some counters, and Devoted Druid can convert +1/+1 counters into untaps, which it can then turn into mana. Who knew that what Elves really needed was more mana dorks? In another vein, Joraga Warcaller goes absolutely nuts with Voja, Jaws of the Conclave. It can give itself some counters, and buffs all your other Elves for each +1/+1 counter on it. But it doesn't care where it got those counters, so when [elVoja, Jaws of the Conclave[/el] buffs the whole team, Joraga Warcaller will make that buff count double on all the other Elves. It's only played in 18% of Voja decks, and I think it's being slept on; it's an incredibly powerful lord in this strategy.

There is also a small subset of Elves that can produce mana equal to their power, and which function similarly to Gyre Sage. Alongside the massive pumps that Voja deals out, these cards can pop off. Marwyn, the Nurturer is an Elves staple, but I also found Selvala, Heart of the Wilds on Voja's EDHREC page. One card I did not see was Viridian Joiner. This unassuming common can make gobs and gobs of mana, and deserves its slot.

Of course, the easiest way to build around two creature types at the same time is to include creatures that are both of those types. Since Voja's attack trigger counts separately for each type, any Elf Wolves will give +1/+1 counters and cards. Sadly, there are no Elf Wolves, but there are some powerful Changelings! Masked Vandal, Realmwalker, and Taurean Mauler are great cards in their own right, and only get better in this deck. Mirror Entity works very well with a team full of +1/+1 counters, as those counters will still add beef to your creatures' stats after Mirror Entity increases their base size. Activating it before attacks will also make Voja, Jaws of the Conclave dole out counters and draw cards for every creature, regardless of what types it was beforehand. In that vein, both Shields of Velis Vel and Volatile Claws can turn all of your creatures into every type for a turn, and often act as very cheap ways to draw tons of cards (since the bottleneck in this deck is usually the number of Wolves, not the number of Elves). I had never even heard of Shields of Velis Vel before I saw it on Voja's EDHREC page. It's played in 18% of decks, and it fits here perfectly. If you like those one-shot effects, Maskwood Nexus can turn everything into a Changeling, permanently. That gets out of hand fast.

Using Big Mana (aka Winning the Game)

One of the scariest parts of Elves decks is their ability to add ludicrous amounts of mana, and this deck is no different. Voja draws enough cards that using a lot of mana won't be too much of a challenge, but why not try to use it all? If that Priest of Titania is tapping for twenty-five green, you might not be able to spend it all on Elvish Mystics and Beast Withins. Wolfbriar Elemental plays out very well in this deck, acting as both an X spell and a way to make Wolves. Hangarback Walker more straighforwardly turns mana into damage, and can use its ability to repeat that effect if you make it to the next turn without having won. Hollowhenge Overlord can Flash in as a surprise, and acts as an exponentially increasing Wolf engine, and Craterhoof Behemoth needs no introduction. It will end games.

Of course, Voja can also end games, especially with an effect that gives Trample. Bramblewood Paragon is an Elf that gives Trample to anything with a +1/+1 counter on it, which every creature will have after one Voja attack. Triumph of the Hordes almost always ends the game immediately by effectively reducing all opponents' life totals to ten.

Finally, there are a couple ways to turn +1/+1 counters into direct damage without attacking. All Will Be One is an all-star here, and so is Shalai and Hallar. Did you know they're also an Elf? I sure didn't before building this deck, but now I do. Get ready to do some math, because these cards combine with Voja to do an amount of damage equal to the number of Elves you control times the number of creatures you control. Luckily for those of you in favor of a more "math is for blockers" approach, this will often be way more than enough.

Sneaky Combo Time

One card I did not see anywhere on Voja's EDHREC page was Turntimber Ranger. In most situations, this card works fairly well in this deck. It's an Elf and it creates a Wolf when it comes into play, and it sometimes creates another Wolf when a Changeling enters the battlefield. But alongside Maskwood Nexus, it can make as many Wolves as you want. Since the Wolf tokens are also Allies with Maskwood Nexus in play, each will re-trigger Turntimber Ranger's ability, until you decide to stop. Watch out, though: if you make more Wolves than you have cards in you library, attacking with Voja will make you lose the game. But if you have an All Will Be One or Shalai and Hallar in play, you won't even need to attack. Turntimber Ranger also puts a +1/+1 counter on itself whenever it triggers, so you can use those counters to deal infinite damage.

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The Decklist

Voja, Jaws of the Conclave

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Commander (1)
Creatures (43)
Instants (11)
Artifacts (4)
Sorceries (2)
Enchantments (2)
Lands (37)

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My goodness, this deck gets out of hand fast. It's not difficult to play Voja on turn three or four, at which point Ward 3 will protect it for at least a turn, and by then it may be too late. Voja adds so much power to the board and so many cards to your hand that life feels easy, and so many of the deck's little cross-synergies really show through when you draw so many cards. I really like including a cheeky infinite combo in a deck like this, since you will often see close to half of your deck, especially after a Shields of Velis Vel or Beast Whisperer. There are so many different angles that Voja rewards, and I know it's going to be a mainstay at tables of all power levels. It turns out that, just as the saying goes, "A wolf is an elf's best friend." Or something like that.

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Jesse Barker Plotkin started playing Magic with Innistrad. He was disqualified from his first Commander game after he played his second copy of Goblins of the Flarg, and it's all been uphill from there. Outside of Magic, he enjoys writing and running.

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