Ban Eldrazi Temple

Two-time Pro Tour finalist Shaun McLaren is ready to drop the hammer. The debate is raging on both sides of the Eldrazi discussion, and Shaun McLaren may be the most credible champion yet for the anti-colorless movement!

Grand Prix Washington, DC: March 11-13!

There were six Eldrazi decks in the Top 8 of Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch and two Affinity decks, making it one of the strangest looking Top 8s in Magic history. Having six of a brand-new deck in a format as unforgiving as Modern is unbelievable.

Eldrazi completely dominated the tournament, including winning the tournament in the hands of Jiachen Tao.

Modern is one of the most diverse formats, or was one of the most diverse formats, and Eldrazi decks held their own against the entire field. I suppose we’ll have to look for diversity in Modern within the different types of Eldrazi decks now.

Well, it might not be quite that bad.

But before we dig into the health and future of Modern, let’s take a look at the tournament through the eyes of a player unfortunate enough to not be playing an Eldrazi deck.

The Pro Tour

My Pro Tour didn’t go so well. I got eliminated on the first day and didn’t find a reasonable Jeskai deck to play.

You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the Abzan deck.

I wanted there to be a reasonable Jeskai deck. I certainly tried everything, but I don’t think there was one that was worth it vs. the field, the biggest problem being the diversity of the format and the unknowns making a reactive deck unappealing. I’m a Spike before I’m a Jeskai mage.

Abzan at least proactively attacks the hand, which enables it to beat anything. I was packing a full suite of Inquisition of Kozilek, Thoughtseize, and Liliana of the Veil, specifically designed to abuse the combo decks that I expected to be running rampant.

I essentially sacrificed the G/R Tron matchup and only ran one Fulminator Mage to focus on the rest of the field. Having access to one Fulminator Mage is nice, since it’s decent but not great in plenty of matchups. One of the biggest problems with Fulminator Mage is that it’s fairly slow against the aggressive Eldrazi decks.

Chalice of the Void is a great card right now that can singlehandedly win plenty of matchups, including Infect, Burn, Living End, and G/W Hexproof, while still having lots of utility in other matchups.

I actually liked the deck a lot and was happy with everything except my result and the fact that Eldrazi decks were the real place to be. Ultimately I got put in awkward situations all tournament and couldn’t quite squeeze out of them.

What about Abzan vs. Eldrazi?

Abzan isn’t helpless. It is consistent at attacking the hand, which is good against Eldrazi. There are ways to tweak further including more Dismember, more Damnation, and more Path to Exile.

Liliana of the Veil is fairly poor against creature-lands and Eldrazi Scions. Right now, beating the Eldrazi decks seems like a steep uphill battle for Abzan. The explosiveness of the deck is hard to top.

But realistically, who wants to talk about Abzan right now?

The Enemy

I think the Eldrazi decks are “too good.”

Initially I dismissed most versions of Eldrazi because they are inherently unstable in their manabase. Hands without Eldrazi Temple or Eye of Ugin are downright embarrassing. It turns out the payoff is good enough that the risk is worth it.

Rather than talk about the strengths of the deck itself (I’m certain they be plenty of that in the coming weeks from those more qualified), I’ll talk about the upsides of the deck’s existence and what it might mean for the future of Modern.

The Upsides

There are some upsides to the existence of the Eldrazi decks.

Busted Eldrazi decks do encapsulate what makes Magic great in some ways. The danger is necessary to make the game good and exciting. Without a busted card or deck appearing every now and then, the game gets less fun.

Eldrazi are cool.

Even a trainwreck can be fun to watch for a little while (if there’s no one actually getting physically harmed); sure, there are plenty of millions of dollars in damages and plenty of terrible repercussions, but it can be an exciting event nonetheless. There’s no such thing as bad press, which kind of applies here. It’s fun to talk about the deck.

The Downsides

Eldrazi decks make for volatile, non-interactive games. The deck can have unbelievable hands a lot of the time or mulligan to five a lot of the time. Magic is a fun game. I’d like to play it sometimes.

Having a non-diverse format makes for less interesting games. Generally mirror matches are less fun to watch.

The deck is banworthy and bans suck. Accidentally wrapping up a loaded AK-47 and giving it to your gun-obsessed kid as a Christmas present is a mistake. Sure, you’re gonna take it away from them, but I bet they’re not gonna be happy they didn’t get a chance to play with their new toy.

Having a deck that’s dominant sucks. Imagine you let your kid keep the loaded AK-47! Why not, right? They’ll have fun playing with it for a while at least. Sure, everything’s peachy for the kid, but I’d imagine the neighbors will not be too happy and eventually pick up their own machine guns and start firing back.

So what’s the best option? I say take the gun away, and take it away quickly before too many people invest in a machine gun and get attached.

The Answers

So is one dominant performance proof that all the Eldrazi need to be taken out back behind the shed and then… sent to a nice farm on the other side of the Multiverse? There is potential that the format can adjust. I would prefer to just raise my pitchfork and call for a ban, but I suppose you could at least attempt to beat the deck first.

How do you hate out Eldrazi decks? There are plenty of hate cards for a deck like Affinity that will keep it in check despite its power and speed. It’s unclear that cards or strategies that crush Eldrazi decks even exist.

Living End might seem like a natural foil. Of course, Chalice of the Void on zero scoffs at this notion.

Painter’s Servant neuters Eldrazi Temple and Eye of Ugin by giving the Eldrazi a color. But it is a card that otherwise sees no play and costs two mana, which might be too slow for its effect.

Blood Moon is nice, but is again a little on the slow side and doesn’t have too many homes at the moment.

Worship is a great option, but it doesn’t see much play right now and costs four and can still get blown up by a Ratchet Bomb.

Ensnaring Bridge is a promising one. Unfortunately that means Lantern Control may likely end up being the apex predator of the format, which might be a little bit shortsighted. What happens when we’re overrun by Lantern Control?

The problem with beating Eldrazi decks is that they’re capable of such fast starts and there don’t seem to be too many auto-wins against them in the format.

Having a deck so good that the entire format revolves around it is not fun. Caw-Blade was a good example of deck that was incredible, but some people still attempted to beat ’em rather than join ’em. Decks would be built specifically just to beat Caw-Blade and still fail or barely succeed getting above a 50% win rate.

This is not usually a good strategy. Even if there is an obvious best deck by a mile not everyone will be playing it, which means you’re still need to care about the rest of the format and will probably be sacrificing your win rate against the rest of the field just to beat the best deck. Even if Eldrazi decks can be contained, it might still be very bad for the format overall.

The Dearly Departed

Banning Splinter Twin seems like it was a mistake in retrospect.

Would it be okay if Splinter Twin just showed up in Modern next week and pretended it was still legal?

But would Splinter Twin even solve the Eldrazi issues? It might. It has access to plenty of good tools, including Blood Moon, Remand, consistency in the form of Serum Visions, and a quick combo kill.

Splinter Twin is very unlikely to be unbanned and might not be enough even if it was, though.

The Options

An immediate ban – I think this is the best option for the health of Modern, but I doubt it will happen. It would be premature not to give the metagame a chance to adapt.

Do nothing for a while and see if the format self-corrects – The Eldrazi deck is somewhat unstable and might be overthrown thanks to a big target on its back. We’ll get lots of high-level feedback from Grand Prix Detroit and The SCG Tour®. If the format still seems overrun by Eldrazi in the coming months, I would strongly hope for a ban in the next Banned & Restricted announcement to keep Modern healthy.

Do nothing for a long while – This is the most likely option. Maybe the format sorts itself out, maybe it doesn’t. Hate cards can be added to future sets. Modern might suffer a little in the coming year if the Eldrazi decks remain on top. We may have to wait another year before the next Banned & Restricted list touches Modern.

The Ban

The obvious way to attack the deck is through the manabase, which makes for two reasonable candidates to ban.

Eye of UginEye of Ugin goes in G/R Tron decks, which are not a problem. Format diversity is a good thing, so I wouldn’t want to hurt Tron decks for no reason. Eye of Ugin is potentially the most powerful card in the Eldrazi deck, but it can punish a player who draws them in multiples.

Eldrazi Temple – This seems like the clear ban candidate to me. It’s good in multiples and contributes to the deck’s best draws. It’s possible the deck would survive in some form, but unlikely.

The Oath

I personally think the ban is coming. It’s simple a matter of what and when.

The Modern format may sort itself out. Eldrazi decks may not be as good as they appear to be at the moment, or there might be a simple solution in the format. Having most of the pilots of the deck be very good players also helped contribute to its success.

I would love to see a ban on Eldrazi Temple if the forecast for tentacles in the sky hasn’t drastically cleared up in the near future.

Last, I just want to remind everyone that these are just the ramblings of one Pro. It’s easy to get caught up and forget we all play a great game. It’s hard to balance Magic and Wizards of the Coast does a great job.

What do you think? Am I jumping the gun on calling for a ban? Or is the Eldrazi menace unstoppable without outside assistance?

The Oath of Modern may just be: Save Modern. Ban Eldrazi Temple.

Grand Prix Washington, DC: March 11-13!