The Evolution of Eldrazi in an Eldrazi World

Posted in GRAND PRIX BOLOGNA 2016 on March 5, 2016

By Tobi Henke

The Eldrazi have taken over the world of Modern. Ever since their triumph at Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch, the evolution of Eldrazi decks has been focused mostly on beating other Eldrazi decks.

"Most lists that were floating around before the Pro Tour were based on Wasteland Strangler and Blight Herder, on processors. That version was playable but not very good," four-time Grand Prix champion Fabrizio Anteri outlined the origins of the archetype. "Not many people realized the power of Eldrazi creatures in an aggro shell. Colorless Eldrazi crushed at the Pro Tour. Blue-Red Eldrazi was solid against the field and turned out to have an excellent matchup versus Colorless Eldrazi."

That was the story of Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch, in a nutshell. Then the brewing began. Decks started to evolve, with players especially looking for an edge in the increasingly frequent Eldrazi mirror matches.

"People soon turned to White-Blue, Eldrazi Displacer and Drowner of Hope being the main reasons," said Anteri. "Displacer deals with Endless One and forms a powerful late-game combination with Drowner of Hope. The Drowner itself offers a great tempo swing which can help win the race. The deck is strong in all three stages of the game: early, mid, and late."

Fabrizio Anteri

However, people looking to fight the Eldrazi menace with non-Eldrazi decks were gearing up too.

"The next step was the rise of hate cards, like Worship or Ensnaring Bridge. You could fight back with Disenchant in the sideboard, but you'd still lose to it in game one," Anteri explained. "Then again, Red-Green Eldrazi with main-deck World Breaker beats those. With Ancient Stirrings as Eldrazi lands 9–13, the deck plays a lot like Tron. Kozilek's Return even is like a Pyroclasm which later turns into an Oblivion Stone."

About the Eldrazi mirror match Anteri said: "It often seems to be a dumb 'whoever has the best hand wins' or a simple damage race, but there still is a lot of interaction. Many attacking or blocking decisions, also decisions on whether to use Scions to tap, chump, or for an Eye activation. And if an opponent plays a 2-mana land, a regular land, and passes the turn, keep mana up for Dismember!" he recommended. "Thought-Knot Seer is almost certainly coming."

Anteri stressed the importance of Vesuva in the Eldrazi player's sideboard, saying, "It effectively is Eldrazi land number nine, because opponents won't keep a hand without a 2-mana land."

He predicted that many would try to beat White-Blue Eldrazi with decks built around Collected Company and Chord of Calling. "Red-Green is much better against those anti-Eldrazi decks. But it is an underdog to White-Blue," he said. "I expect that most of the Eldrazi decks this weekend will be white-blue."

Looking to add a fourth Grand Prix Top 8 to his résumé, Jasper Grimmer came to Bologna with the big, bad wolf of the format itself, White-Blue Eldrazi, albeit with a unique take on the post-sideboard games.

"The thing is, a lot of games are decided in the early turns, and there's next to nothing you can do to improve your chances there," said Grimmer. "So instead I tried to come up with a plan for those games that actually do go long."

When two White-Blue Eldrazi decks face off, the long game is in fact quite a tricky, and with the repeat spawning and routine slaughter of Eldrazi Scions often messy, affair.

"At some point both players will have the combo of Eldrazi Displacer and Drowner of Hope running, and attacking becomes impossible and/or pointless," Grimmer explained. "Especially so if Worship is involved, of course."

Grimmer pointed out that from then on it's all about mana advantage to get the most out of Eldrazi Displacer.

"Sometimes someone will develop such a huge advantage in Scion tokens that he's able to win via damage after all. Sometimes you need to run the opponent out of cards by repeatedly using Eldrazi Displacer on Thought-Knot Seer," said Grimmer. "As soon as the opponent gets a second Displacer online, which is likely due to Eye of Ugin, even the removal spells don't really do anything anymore."

Jasper Grimmer

Grimmer was sideboarding a number of Oblivion Sowers which both help with the mana as well as the decking and provide additional shots at the all-important Eye of Ugin. His most interesting tech, however, was the combination of Tomb of the Spirit Dragon and Spellskite.

"Spellskite allows you to blank the opponent's Eldrazi Displacer, by redirecting all of its activations," said Grimmer. "Paying one blue mana for every three the opponent spends is huge already, and it gets absurd when you have life to spare. You can redirect removal spells and then use your own Displacer to save Spellskite, you can redirect Drowner of Hope's ability. You can even search for it with Eye of Ugin. Spellskite does it all," he concluded.

But there's more. We've seen Eldrazi players running Essence Depleter, which is an awesome answer to Worship in particular, or Cyclonic Rift, which is an awesome answer to just about anything. We have also seen an Eldrazi deck which featured Ancient Stirrings for additional consistency but used this consistency for extra speed in curving out from Eldrazi Mimic to Eldrazi Obligator instead of blowing up the world with Kozilek's Return.

As always, the evolution of decks, the building and the brewing, the fun and the magic of Magic continues. Even in the face of an alien invasion.