The Eldrazi have been freed into this world, and there is no going back.
If you attended one of the Prerelease Events this past weekend, you should count yourself among the lucky: you're alive and well after brushing shoulders with one of the most terrifyingly destructive forces in the multiverse. Of course, if you attended a Prerelease that chances are you did feel the crushing blow of the Eldrazi. That's bound to happen with so many of the annihilating creatures bounding around.
I'm feeling a little low this week as I wasn't able to make it to the big Prerelease near me (I was firmly committed to already awesome personal plans). Seeing the looks of surprise mixed with horror when the big guys finally got a chance to truly shine in the spotlight is something I sorely missed. Sunday was my day to get in on the action, and much of the initial "sticker shock" of seeing the Eldrazi had worn off—but not for me: I was primed for seeing massive damage. The curiously fiendish yet comfortably paced combination of effects that bring the Eldrazi to life was a surprising switch from the breakneck battles of speed that define Zendikar and Worldwake. As I've said before, and not alone, "I love the fatties." And getting to play with virtually all fatties all the time was a very special experience for me. But there was more to this weekend than cracking packs and shuffling up 40 card decks. Now that the Rise of the Eldrazi cards are out and about my first instinct is to find them homes outside of the Limited decks in which they started.
While I could go into laborious detail about things that make Magic so much fun, I'll skip straight to one headlining feature: you can do almost anything you want. In the variety of rules and ways to build decks (whether it's Limited, Standard, EDH, Pauper, or any of the countless other choices) it's easy to overlook that building a deck with just the "No more than four of anything nonbasic" rule is, perhaps, the greatest way to dig into everything that the latest and greatest does for you. Of course, if you happen to have favorite formats, then by all means key into what unlocked your box of fun—today I'm going a little laissez-faire to see where the path of the Eldrazi will take me which, if I know me, means hitting both ends of the "how to use new cards" spectrum.
Aside from a very mean It That Betrays deck, there is another type of deck I am looking forward to piecing together. While the Eldrazi are certainly surprising to those who have not yet seen them, those of you familiar with the telltale pattern of "making some Eldrazi Spawn tokens and pushing out some mana ramping" know that an Eldrazi can't be far behind. But what if all of that ramping was used for a different effect, one that is generally predictable as well but has its telegraph masked by the Eldrazi threat?
This deck isn't your everyday burn deck, then again when is one of my decks an everyday day? While red has its share of mana-producing spells (like Seething Song), the fact that Eldrazi tokens can be popped for mana to use for anything is an easily overlooked proposition. By amassing a bonanza of Eldrazi Spawn tokens, you're also building up a critical mass of hidden mana, and when the time is just right you can pop your swarming brood for a burst of burn. Banefire and Urza's Rage are "will hit no matter what" punches, while Rolling Thunder and its quite similar cousin from the future Comet Storm can articulate the point to multiple targets with ease.
Spawning Breath and Growth Spasm provide the fast mana you'll be looking for (with a single Doubling Season thrown in for the heck of it) while the collection of Eldrazi critters will skitter out and net even more mana. You can even go the beatdown route if your opponent isn't showing creatures on the board and, if you're lucky, you'll see removal "wasted" on your beatsticks while your mana ramps to the sky. The Broodwarden gives your brood +2/+1 (making them 2/2s for those of you counting at home), which can be an unpleasant surprise. And speaking of unpleasant surprises, Gamble provides a flavorful way to play with your Eldrazi: you may hit pay dirt and nab the card needed to win, or get burned by the random discard effect. Using the superpowers of Zendikar is never a sure thing.
In terms of the Eldrazi themselves I was very serious last week when I said that It That Betrays is the most intriguing and exciting Eldrazi for me (because I secretly like to do really mean things to other players). I hashed out a pretty creature unfriendly deck, but like most things there is an answer for the powerful sacrifice effects of annhilator. Rise of the Eldrazi itself includes something that completely and utterly wrecks my plans: Tajuru Preserver. This not-so-ordinary dork single-handedly puts a stop to many of the Eldrazi shenanigans and lets you block the horrific monsters as you would normally. While there isn't anything particularly normal about blocking a massive 7/7 or larger beatstick, at least you won't have to sacrifice your stuff doing it.
That said, there is nothing wrong with still sticking to the theme of blasting through and doing what you set out to do. For me, this is both trying my hand at finally making a Karn, Silver Golem EDH deck (something for another day) as well as a purely colorless deck. Artifact decks have been around forever, and I remember trying to build one with lots of copies of Ornithopter and Phyrexian Walker. Turns out it was harder than I thought to beat down with creatures with 0 power. Today, in the modern age of Equipment and epically awesome artifacts, it's much easier to make a deck chock full of artifacts and ways to hit home hard.
Playing with just colorless options is a little unusual. Duplicant and All Is Dust provide much-needed removal and Yotian Soldier is both early defense and a vigilance-based offense once some Equipment comes out to play. Without the need to worry about color, lots of strong colorless ramping effects get to see the limelight: Mind Stone and Sol Ring come down early, curving into Scuttlemutt and Worn Powerstone, which is then generally followed by something big. Having a variety of powerful creatures, like Sundering Titan and It That Betrays, backed up by just-as-powerful effects, like Darksteel Reactor and Myr Matrix, brings a refreshing variety to an otherwise coldy consistent deck. The package of land provides lots of colorless mana (with Temple of the False God looking pretty neat next to Zendikar's false gods) as well as some additional tools in being able to strip away nonbasic lands. The more colorful the deck you play against the better the odds that they'll be using some concoction of lands providing multiple colors—and you'll be ready to pounce.
While going fully colorless brings out my mean side, it doesn't have to be that way: there are quite handful of really fun cards that fit into something more organic: the Stack. While those of you who missed my first pass through the wonderful world of Stack should catch up here, there are quite a number of you who askd "How do I build a Stack?" To recap clearly, the Stack (or specifically speaking your Stack) is all about the things you find wacky, unique, epic, or awesome but, above all, fun. Stacking is meant as a unique alternative to building decks, as the randomness of "What's on top of the library?" is a powerful allure.
Rise of the Eldrazi is a step or two slower than Zendikar and Worldwake are in terms of Limited—Draft and Sealed—and it lets the set's bigger, better, and greater fatties shine brighter than anywhere else. In terms of pure fun, for me, anytime I can pile more fatties into a deck and cast them too is just like the proverbial cake: simply incredible. If you wanted my advice on building a Stack, Rise of the Eldrazi is the perfect example of a place to start. I'm not the biggest fan of "Top X Cards" lists, but here are, perhaps, the five most amazingly fun cards to throw into a Stack:
Kabira Vindicator is one of several levelers—creatures with level up—that could easily appear in this list. The Vindicator is both a nice place to run through extra mana but also plays nice with any other creatures you happen to cast too. Getting a Glorious Anthem or two stapled onto your growing beatstick is pretty awesome.
Copying spells with things like Twincast and Fork is always a hot thing to do. In a Stack where many of the spells are funky fresh and dripping with hilarious results, copying something once or even twice is a sure-fire recipe for smiles all around.
If drawing and cast spells one at a time from the Stack is a positive prospect, what if I could do it six times at once? Sure, you might lose a few things along the way, but constantly cycling through the strange and wonderful things you throw into your Stack makes Hellcarver Demon look less like a painful experience and more like a Stack supercharger. Make sure you have enough Stack for it to tear, through—the Demon will make it worthwhile to hide in a deeper starting library.
Having some considerable toughness makes Valakut Fireboar an unlikely card for red: something you can, generally speaking, block with. But that's not all it can do. Throw it into an offense attack, and suddenly things are reversed, literally, and you can smack in for serious damage.
Gigantomancer is a stalemate breaker: when every critter you have is potentially a 7/7, combat math is pretty much wrecked. Being able to convert extra creatures into Verdant Force–sized monstrosities is never something to sneeze at in Stack. Bonus points for stacking a fully charged Kabira Vindicator with Gigantomancer. Wow.
Alright, so this is way over five, but it's pretty obvious that the Eldrazi themselves can jump right into a Stack and make a big splash right out of the gate. Kozilek, Butcher of Truth, Ulamog's Crusher, All Is Dust, and even It That Betrays and others all fit well into a world where you can always draw a land and find lots of time to keep drawing cards.
And speaking of It That Betrays, last week's deck building challenge got a lot more interesting a day after it posted when the full set spoiler went up. So, in a rare extension, now that Rise of the Eldrazi has had a chance to temper in the daylight you can go ahead and incorporate anything from the set into a Singleton (only one copy of any nonbasic card) deck that shows off It That Betrays. It doesn't need to be the more tightly restricted EDH but those decks would count too. I love some of the submissions I've already received, so don't count on an additional week beyond to finish up your deck. Show me what you're up to and let It That Betrays betray what you've been cooking.
It already knows anyway. See you next week!