Rise of the Eldrazi

Posted in Top Decks on February 15, 2016

By Luis Scott-Vargas

Luis Scott-Vargas plays, writes, and makes videos about Magic. He has played on the Pro Tour for almost a decade, and between that and producing content for ChannelFireball, often has his hands full (of cards).

So, what did well last weekend? Are there any particular decks I should talk about?

Right, our new Eldrazi overlords.

Here was our Top 8:

  • 2 Affinity
  • 3 Colorless Eldrazi
  • 2 Blue-Red Eldrazi (winner)
  • 1 Processor Eldrazi

It was robots versus aliens—just as Richard Garfield intended—and after the dust settled, the aliens won in convincing fashion.

Both Andrew Brown and the eventual winner, Jiachen Tao, played what they affectionately dubbed "Blue-Red Draft Chaff," referring to the inclusion of Modern staples Eldrazi Skyspawner and Vile Aggregate. They were two of the four members of Team East West Bowl who played the deck, and of those four members, three had nine wins in the ten rounds of Constructed.

Jiachen Tao's Blue-Red Eldrazi—Winner, Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch

Download Arena Decklist

Get used to seeing the word "Eldrazi," as it's all over this decklist, this Top 8, and this format (for now).

As is true of all the Eldrazi decks in the Top 8, this list takes advantage of Eldrazi Temple and Eye of Ugin in combination with the Eldrazi printed in Battle for Zendikar and Oath of the Gatewatch. Those two lands each essentially tap for two mana, and if you play multiple Eldrazi in the same turn, Eye can effectively add four or even six. Fast mana at that level is powerful enough to justify cards like the aforementioned Skyspawner, and when it comes to cards like Thought-Knot Seer or Reality Smasher, no justification is even necessary.

Just look at the play Jiachen made in the final game of the tournament! He was on the draw, started with Gemstone Caverns in play, and played Eye of Ugin into Eldrazi Skyspawner plus Eldrazi Mimic, with a turn-two Vile Aggregate as a follow-up. Five mana worth of spells on turn one, and a board of two 4/5s, a 2/1, and a 1/1 on turn two. That's not even the best the deck can do, and if you add in a Thought-Knot Seer or Reality Smasher you have something truly absurd.

These three are the biggest overlap between the Eldrazi lists; these are what led the Eldrazi to world domination, especially Thought-Knot Seer. A 4/4 that disrupts the opponent is exactly what a creature-heavy deck needs to compete with the fast combo that's all over Modern, and there's no matchup where Thought-Knot Seer isn't one of your best cards. Mimic is the least powerful of the three, but it leads to the fastest kills, jumping out for free if you play Eye and setting up a kill on turn three or four kill with ease.

This is the lone spell in the deck. Three Dismembers plus 33 Eldrazi plus 24 lands equals one Pro Tour victory. I ran the numbers, and the math checks out.

Besides the Dismembers, the only interaction this deck has are the two cards I want to talk about next. The rest of the cards are just (hopefully) undercosted creatures, and you want to jam as many as possible onto the board before your opponent gets going.

These two cards are what really gave this deck the edge in the mirror. Drowner puts a lot of stats onto the board and can really mess with any sort of combat, while Obligator sets up a very fast kill. They really push the aggressive nature of the deck, and both also make Vile Aggregate extremely dangerous, especially when you steal a colorless creature with Obligator.

This is the go-to list I'd look at for Eldrazi post–Pro Tour. There are definitely changes worth making, but of the three Eldrazi lists, this one was the best suited for the mirror. The four copies of Drowner of Hope and three to four copies Eldrazi Obligator are huge in the mirror, and Jiachen took down three copies of a different Eldrazi deck on his way to a Pro Tour title.

Speaking of the other Eldrazi deck, I happened to be one of the lucky folks piloting it, as I made my way into my first Pro Tour Top 8 in five years (which I'm still very happy about). I always look forward to having cause to write in this column about the deck I played, but I wasn't even the highest-finishing player with my exact 75!

That honor goes to Ivan Floch, who along with myself and Shuhei Nakamura played the Colorless Eldrazi deck that Jacob Wilson came up with and Team Face to Face Games and Team ChannelFireball tested.

Ivan Floch's Colorless Eldrazi—Top 8, Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch

Download Arena Decklist

The deck we played has some key differences from the blue-red version. Those differences helped in other matchups (note that both Ivan and I defeated Affinity in the Top 8, while Andrew Brown lost to it), but we paid for it in the Eldrazi mirror.

These are the interactive slots, along with the four Dismembers. Both hit different decks, and both can range from "awesome" to "dead" depending on what you face. Ratchet Bomb in particular is at its best against decks like Affinity and Infect, and was a key part of our strategy against them. Spellskite is mostly there to protect your Eldrazi, though it does extra work against Infect and all of its pump spells.

The blue-red version had Chalices in the sideboard, which is a much better place for them if you expect a lot of mirrors. We liked them against Burn, Infect, Affinity, and various combo decks, such as Living End or Goryo's Vengeance. Chalices were great for us in the Pro Tour, but are the first slot I'd look at changing in a new post-PT world. This is a card to avoid if you expect to face a lot of Eldrazi, as you likely should.

Simian Spirit Guide isn't only good for making monkey jokes (though it's great at that), it also lets you play Chalice on turn one or an Eldrazi a turn ahead of schedule. I do actually like this in the Eldrazi mirror, though without Chalice in the deck, it's a lot less powerful.

It's less flashy, but the biggest advantage of playing all colorless was the mana base. Nexus and Ghost Quarter are incredibly important against Affinity and Infect, and provide relevant disruption and threats in every matchup. Having no color requirements wasn't just for mana stability, though it did provide that, and all of these lands with special abilities were integral to our success.

Despite the deck being an amazing choice for the Pro Tour, I would move away from the strictly colorless build going forward. It's too heavily slanted toward a field that no longer exists, and I'd want to find ways to gain an advantage in the mirror and against the anti-Eldrazi lists that are bound to pop up.

The last Eldrazi list of the three was the most different, and was constructed using an entirely different process. Frank Lepore worked without a large team, and came up with this Sultai Eldrazi list that has a strong exiling theme.

Frank Lepore's Processor Eldrazi—Top 8, Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch

Download Arena Decklist

Once again, I want to highlight the differences, because all of the Eldrazi decks play the same core of lands plus broken Eldrazi.

This list is certainly more controlling, trading in speed for value with the addition of all the Processors. Having six one-mana cyclers also makes the deck more consistent, especially in combination with the 25th land.

Drowner of Hope makes another appearance here as well, along with Matter Reshaper, leading to a hybrid of the two lists.

Moving forward, I wouldn't lean on Blight Herder and Wasteland Strangler, mostly because I want to free up all the slots used on Relic and Claws. Strangler doesn't seem all that well-positioned, and Blight Herder requires too much support.

Cards to Try

Here are some of the cards that could be important for Eldrazi decks in the new format:

Frank already had World Breaker, but nobody had the hungriest of all the Eldrazi. The cards I think people are most likely to turn to in the coming weeks are all enchantments and artifacts, cards such as Ensnaring Bridge, Worship, and Blood Moon (though the last one isn't even that scary). As a result, including Eldrazi that can devour such things sounds like a good plan.

We had three of these in our sideboard, and they were fantastic in the mirror. The mirror is so much about Eye of Ugin activations that having a pseudo Primeval Titan is huge, and Oblivion Sower was very good: 5/8, would Sow again.

If you do add Sowers, Relic of Progenitus (which we often sideboarded in at the same time) is also worth playing, and I might even reverse my position on Blight Herder. I don't like Relic just for Herder, but if you cut Wasteland Strangler for Oblivion Sower, I could be on board.

These are all non-Eldrazi cards, but they could still be good. Crucible looks like more of a sideboard card, with the other two cards being potential ways to disrupt troublesome permanents or cards like Living End. As more people find ways to interact with Eldrazi, the Eldrazi decks are going to need more counters. At the Pro Tour, very few decks could meaningfully disrupt the Eldrazi decks, but that won't be true now.

Affinity is the other archetype to make Top 8, and I expect Affinity to continue to be a good choice after this Pro Tour. They don't need to do anything special to be competitive with Eldrazi, and Patrick Dickmann even beat the same deck as the one that won the Pro Tour. That also happens to be the Eldrazi deck that's favored in the mirror, so Affinity could easily be the place to be.

Patrick Dickmann's Affinity—Top 8, Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch

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The main thing to note here is that you should play four Master of Etheriums. Just about every Affinity deck has four Steel Overseers, Cranial Platings, and Arcbound Ravagers, but Master isn't quite as universal. It's awesome against Eldrazi, and one of the biggest threats to that deck. Unsurprisingly, Etched Champion isn't quite as good, and it's no accident that the two Affinity decks to make Top 8 each had four Masters main and Etched Champions in the sideboard.

What's Next?

That's the question on everyone's mind. As I said before, I think the first wave of reactions will involve lock pieces such as Bridge or Worship, but there are certainly more options than that. Seeing where people go should be very interesting, and I suspect that Eldrazi will be part of Modern rather than the only thing going on. Granted, they may be a big part of it, but I'm not ready to call the format solved yet.


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