How are the players in Bologna trying to beat the Eldrazi?

Posted in Event Coverage on March 5, 2016

By Frank Karsten

Eldrazi is the consensus best and most-played deck in Modern right now, but everyone else also has this knowledge. As a result, there is an opportunity to exploit the field with a strategy tweaked against the Eldrazi menace. Of course, you could go for the tuned-for-the-mirror blue-white Eldrazi (whose Eldrazi Displacer and Drowner of Hope give an advantage against opposing Endless One and Reality Smasher) but that's not particularly innovative. Instead, I sought out several Gold pros and other accomplished players who registered different archetypes. 

Marco Cammilluzzi, captain of the Italian team that won the 2015 World Magic Cup

Marco Cammilluzzi – Bant Company – Grand Prix Bologna 2015

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Marco Cammilluzzi showed up with an innovative Bant Company deck capable of awesome plays against Eldrazi. How does Collected Company into Intrepid Hero and Phantasmal Image sound? Copy their Reality Smasher, then shoot it down! Or a Company into Reflector Mage plus Meddling Mage? Bounce their Thought-Knot Seer to draw a card, and then name it so they can't replay it!

"Two weeks before the tournament, I started thinking about a deck that could defeat Eldrazi," Cammilluzzi told me. "Affinity seemed like a good idea, but I never played it and I think you need a lot of practice to play it well. So I looked further and found Knight of the Reliquary as a huge creature that is definitely good against them, Phantasmal Image as an incredible answer to Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher, and Intrepid Hero to shoot down all big Eldrazi. Collected Company ties it all together. I played lot of games, and think I have a good matchup against Abzan Company and Eldrazi."

22-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor Martin Jůza

Martin Jůza – Bogles – Grand Prix Bologna 2015

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Martin Jůza registered Bogles, an archetype that he praised in his article on ChannelFireball earlier this week. This deck tries to go over the top of Eldrazi: If you thought that an 8/8 Endless One was huge, you've never seen a Slippery Bogle with Ethereal Armor, Rancor, Daybreak Coronet, Unflinching Courage, and Hyena Umbra!

"It just crushes the Eldrazi decks," Jůza said. "They have a bunch of targeted removal and you have hexproof creatures. And once you get a huge lifelinker with vigilance, they can't realistically attack or block anymore." Jůza also explained that hate cards like Spellskite or Liliana of the Veil are on the decline, which was another reason for him to choose the deck. "Of course, as it turned out, I lost to Spellskite in Round 4 and Liliana in Round 5, but overall there is not much hate against me."

Alessandro Portaro, a Top 8 competitor of the very first Modern Pro Tour in 2011

Alessandro Portaro – Blue-white Control – Grand Prix Bologna 2015

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Alessandro Portaro, a control player at heart, went with blue-white control. "Right now, you obviously shouldn't play a deck that can't beat Eldrazi," he said. "My blue-white deck is a little over 50% against Eldrazi, and I like to play control, so it was an easy choice for me."

This deck exploits the fact that the Eldrazi fall to removal spells just like any other creatures, so Portaro has four Supreme Verdict in addition to several Dismember, Path to Exile, and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. "Supreme Verdict is the most important card against Eldrazi," he said. "It also helps make the deck good against Affinity and Abzan Company."

(8) Martin Müller, one of the best players in the world right now

Martin Müller – Living End – Grand Prix Bologna 2015

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Martin Müller opted for Living End, a deck that got better positioned now that that most Eldrazi players have removed Chalice of the Void or Relic of Progenitus from their deck. "Initially, I was pretty set on playing Eldrazi myself," he said. "But after playing it on Magic Online and thinking about it, I anticipated a lot of mirror matches on Day 2, and that's a 50-50 matchup with not a lot of play to it. So I switched to Living End."

"It's not hugely advantageous against Eldrazi, but I'm probably favored," he continued. "I'm not playing any Shriekmaw, Ingot Chewer, or Pale Recluse--the way to beat Eldrazi is to reliably and quickly sweep the board with Living End, so I'm playing more Jungle Weaver and Simian Spirit Guide instead. Rest in Peace from their sideboard can be annoying, but it still costs them a full turn to play it, and that gives me the time to find Beast Within."

Gold level pro Lukas Blohon, before he gained approximately a googolplex life

Lukas Blohon – Abzan Company – Grand Prix Bologna 2015

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Lukas Blohon pledged his allegiance to Abzan Company. "I chose it because I have a lot of experience with it, and I think it has a good matchup versus Eldrazi," he told me. "I went as far as playing 2 Worship maindeck. I'm not sure if that's good or not, but Worship should beat Blue-White Eldrazi at least in Game 1. Sometimes these decks run an out [such as Cyclonic Rift, Essence Depleter, or World Breaker] but even then they need to draw it, and in the meantime you can set up the infinite life combo."

"I designed the deck to assemble the combo (of Viscera Seer, Melira, Sylvok Outcast, and Kitchen Finks) as soon as possible. The Eldrazi deck can't beat that. I'm also playing 4 Fiend Hunter in my 75; that card is great against Eldrazi too."

Denmark's own Simon Nielsen, who has completely locked out his opponent under a Bridge

Simon Nielsen – Lantern Control – Grand Prix Bologna 2015

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Simon Nielsen chose Lantern Control. "I think it's really good versus Eldrazi," he said. "It plays Ensnaring Bridge, which is really hard for especially the blue-white version to beat. They have to use Eldrazi Displacer with Thought-Knot Seer to get cards in my hand, but I have Pithing Needle to stop that. Red-green versions have World Breaker, which is a problem, but you can Pithing Needle it, you can have Spellskite or multiple Bridges to protect yourself, or you can mill their lands."

"I think my deck is well-positioned: it's good against the decks that are good versus Eldrazi, such as Affinity and Abzan Company, and bad against the decks that are bad versus Eldrazi, such as Jund and Burn." But all next-level metagame considerations aside, his choice came down to one simple fact: the unwieldy Eldrazi cannot cross an Ensnaring Bridge. Heck, they can't even get past the tollbooth!

So there you have it: Six different non-Eldrazi decks. But this was just a selection from the many anti-Eldrazi strategies here in Bologna. Other players focused on attacking Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple with cards like Blood Moon, Spreading Seas, or Painter's Servant; or they concentrated on nullifying all of their turns with Fog and Walk the Aeons. We'll have more in-depth deck techs and breakdowns later for you this weekend!

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