At The Gathering – Our New Eldrazi Overlords

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Friday, April 23rd – Rise of the Eldrazi has had its prerelease, and many players are now preparing for Launch parties this weekend, whether they be 6 packs of RoE for sealed, or Triple Rise of the Eldrazi drafts, Eldrazi Standard, and more.

“I, for one, welcome our new Insect Overlords.”
~Kent Brockman, “Deep Space Homer”

Rise of the Eldrazi has had its prerelease, and many players are now preparing for Launch parties this weekend, whether they be 6 packs of RoE for sealed, or Triple Rise of the Eldrazi drafts, Eldrazi Standard, and more.

This past weekend’s Prerelease was amazing. I want to go over the sealed pool, how it was built, and I’d ask the readers to comment on how they would have built the pool.

As an aside, I truly love prerelease weekend for Magic: the Gathering. It is what is good in life. Conan, tell them what is good in life:

To rip the boosters, to see the cards strewn before you, and to hear the indifference of the women.

Before the prerelease, we had FNM. I played a tweaked Boss Naya deck to 4-1, which was good enough for 3rd. I lost to an interesting White Weenie deck, which was actually more of a FirstStrike.dec, and when combined with Basilisk Collar was very dangerous.
After FNM we had the Midnight Prerelease. Seeing as how our local store has been having ownership issues, we had to travel 50 miles north for our prerelease. This was a nice chance to visit with friends and acquaintances that we don’t get to see as often.

Here is the sealed pool I was given.

Not of this World
Ulamog’s Crusher

Affa Guard Hound
Caravan Escort
Dawnglare Invoker
Deathless Angel
Guard Duty
Hyena Umbra
Kor Line-Slinger
Kor Spiritdancer
Makindi Griffin
Puncturing Light
Soul’s Attendant
Stalwart Shield-bearers
Wall of Omens

Aura Finesse
Crab Umbra
Distortion Strike
Drake Umbra
Merfolk Observer
Merfolk Skyscout
Mnemonic Wall x2
Skywatcher Adept
Bala Ged Scorpion
Bloodthrone Vampire
Contaminated Ground
Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief
Dread Drone x2
Essence Feed
Inquisition of Kozilek
Last Kiss
Nighthaze x2
Nirkana Cutthroat
Perish the Thought
Skeletal Wurm
Suffer the Past
Vendetta x2
Zof Shade
Zulaport Enforcer x2

Brood Birthing
Forked Bolt
Goblin Arsonist
Goblin Tunneler
Heat Ray
Lavafume Invoker x2
Lagac Lizard
Ogre Sentry
Rapacious One
Soulsurge Elemental
Surreal Memoir
Vent Sentinel
World at War

Ancient Stirrings x2
Aura Gnarlid
Boar Umbra
Daggerback Basilisk
Gravity Well
Growth Spasm
Kozilek’s Predator
Might of the Masses
Nema Siltlurker x2
Nest Invader
Snake Umbra
Spider Umbra x2

Keening Stone
Prophetic Prism
Sphinx-Bone Wand
Warmonger’s Chariot

I’ll give you a moment to look that over, and figure out how you would build.

My initial perception was that Red is pretty strong, and I have legitimate bombs in White (Deathless Angel) and Black (Drana, which more than one opponent thought was cool, seeing as how it was my exclusive preview card.)

I felt that if I went with the red build, I would be playing a tempo/aggro game, with no real answers to any resolved Big Guns other than to hope they were within burn range. After reading Monty Ashley’s Wizards of the Coast Employee Only prerelease report here, I decided I wanted to be able to do something against our new Eldrazi overlords, should it come to that.

With that in mind, I decided to go primarily into White and Black, with a splash of Blue for 4 cards. Here is the 40 card deck that I put sleeved up for battle:

1 Kenning Stone

1 Affa Guard Hound
1 Caravan Escort
1 Dawnglare Invoker
1 Deathless Angel
1 Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief
1 Makindi Griffin
2 Mnemonic Wall
1 Nirkana Cutthroat
1 Ulamog’s Crusher
1 Soul’s Attendant
1 Stalwart Shield-Bearers
1 Wall of Omens

1 Guard Duty
1 Narcolepsy

1 Puncturing Light
1 Regress
1 Smite
2 Vendetta

1 Corspehatch

7 Plains
7 Swamp
4 Island

I included the Eldrazi to have something big, and also because the Tournament Organizer was giving away the new Rise of the Eldrazi play mat to the first player to kill their opponent with a hard cast Eldrazi. (No alternate options or other cheating into play) While I know some people had both better and more Eldrazi, (the 1st place finisher had 4, including 2 Mythic. Must be nice) I decided to follow the Cedric Phillips mantra; You can’t mise if you don’t try.

I ended up 3-1-1, and I wasn’t particularly disappointed with the deck. The format is a lot slower than Zendikar sealed, and the deck functioned remarkably well overall. Keening stone won many games in which I cast it, as two activations was typically enough.

I did have one game where I activated it for 7, then untapped and was about to activate it for what I assumed would be the win. Turns out, my opponent was running a 53 card deck, which made me not quite able to mill him completely out. Lesson: Count the Library, don’t just assume that they’re playing 40 cards exactly (or even 41)

Soul’s Attendant was very awesome, although I, along with many others, I imagine, missed the optional trigger more than once. However, he provided such a bonus that missing those few points never mattered, at least not in any of my games. While life gain alone can’t carry a deck, I foresee this card being useful to help make the painful removal cards, as well as the plethora of spawn tokens, an added boon.

Removal is good, as always, and anything that can remove Eldrazi is even better. Regress will be quite good, as it can essentially Time Walk an opponent who taps out for almost any Eldrazi.

Mnemonic Wall is tricky, because it pushes you towards playing more Instants and/ or Sorceries, but you really want to have plenty of creatures. I expect it will be good as a combo chump blocker/ additional removal spell. I don’t know how much it will play in U/W control, but the time/card it buys is valuable. I could see it as a poor man’s Nucklavee, a card I liked quite a bit in Five-Color Control decks of yesteryear. That being said, Nucklavee eventually went out of style, and Mnemonic Wall may never even make it to the show. Only time and Patrick Chapin will tell.

The new Eldrazi are already showing up in EDH, locally, where a hypothetical Channel into Prerelease-foil Emrakul could be an interesting turn 2.

However, the Rise of the Eldrazi card that actually ended the game, in concert with Channel, was Repay in Kind, with a Syphon Soul to finish the whole table off. Could Channel be the next EDH card banned? It certainly makes for broken starts with these new colorless Eldrazi.

Standard looks to be affected by some sort of Big Monster deck, whether it be Polymorph, Summoning Trap, or Big Mana Ramp strategies.

Personally, I’ve been testing out all three, in one deck even.

I introduce Polly Tramp:

The deck has power behind it, no doubt, and the synergy between many of the cards makes for a smooth coalition between the three strategies.

For Example, Garruk Wildspeaker is both a mana accelerant and a token producer, and even helps in the end game when you may need to trample with an Eldrazi, although that situation has only come up once so far, when I needed the extra damage with a token and an Eldrazi to avoid being dead to a top-decked Bolt from Mono-Red.

Growth Spasm works for both acceleration and Token production, which can also make even more mana, if necessary. I’ve had games where opponents try to keep the deck off of tokens, to avoid Polymorph, and they end up ramping it directly into Kozilek, Butcher of Truth.

The deck runs Kozilek over Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre largely because 11 mana is a lot more than 10. It may seem small, but there is a huge difference. The deck runs 26 lands and 6 search effects, but getting to 11 is usually 2-3 turns longer than 10. Also, the deck could certainly use the card draw Kozilek generates, even if he is countered.

Deprive and Negate are there largely to help protect your combo when you try to go off, which is why Negate is preferable, but Deprive is growing on me for its ability to reset a Halimar Depths.

The Eldrazi temples also help with the acceleration into hard-casting your 7 Eldrazi, while not causing any significant slowdown effect to your actual combos.

As for the choice in fatties, Iona is good for being able to shut down most deck’s viable removal. Jund generally has no outs to a resolved Iona on Black short of triple Bolt, and by that time you should be pretty ready to kill.

To be honest, your worst fear is Day of Judgment, as it will destroy any of your on-board killers. That alone may be a reason to switch to Ulamog, but most decks are running spot removal in the form of Path to Exile (in White, naturally) which still nails Ulamog.

Overall, I think this deck will occupy a tier 1.5 spot, good enough to surprise, but not able to match the ridiculous consistency of Jund or even Naya. However, in many different forms, it will definitely be a meta- game player for Game Days and Regionals Nationals Qualifiers in the coming months.

Further testing with different Eldrazi and different support cards will be on many players’ dockets for the coming weeks. Some potential changes already on the drawing board include Awakening Zone and Realms Uncharted. Both are intriguing options in place of other mana and token strategies.

Good luck in your Standard brewing.

Until next time, this is Jeff Phillips, reminding you: Don’t make the Loser Choice.

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