Bringing The Eldrazi Back To Modern

Looks like the Eldrazi aren’t gone from Modern after all! GerryT has the details on his Top 64 finish at #SCGMKE and where he wants to take the deck.

Join us at Grand Prix Charlotte May 20-22!

Last weekend, I brought the Eldrazi back to Modern.

I started with the Team Mox build of the deck:

From there, it was pretty obvious that Endless One, while useful for triggering Kozilek’s Return and Sanctum of Ugin, was not very powerful. When you had busted Eye of Ugin starts, Endless One was a reasonable threat. With this deck only having access to four Eldrazi Temple, Endless One was rather anemic.

The downside was losing the consistency of Sanctum of Ugin, but I didn’t think it would be a big deal. In exchange, I got a bunch of other sweet toolbox lands to Sylvan Scrying for, such as Kessig Wolf Run, Cavern of Souls, Ghost Quarter, and Miren, the Moaning Well (although I didn’t end up playing that one). How badly did my deck need to be able to grind when I already had World Breaker and Kozilek’s Return?

As it turns out, it was a big deal. While I didn’t actually lose to any grindy decks, the games were more difficult than they should have been. It felt like I made a mistake by not getting inevitability out of my manabase. Instead, I had to focus on being aggressive. Overall, that’s not the worst place to be, but it’s pretty awkward when you’re also trying to World Breaker people.

With Sylvan Scrying, I went pretty deep searching for playable, sweet lands.

The thought of playing Primeval Titan also crossed my mind, at which point a Khalni Garden seemed worth it to tag team with Kessig Wolf Run. In the end, I chose to keep it simple. Fungal Reaches may have been good, though.

This deck is slightly different from the busted Eldrazi decks. You aren’t going to mulligan every hand without an Eldrazi Temple; doing so would be suicidal. Your range of opening hands becomes anything with a Talisman of Impulse, Lightning Bolt, Eldrazi Temple, Ancient Stirrings, Sylvan Scrying, and maybe Kozilek’s Return. Ideally, you want a hand that can kill something and then play an early Thought-Knot Seer, but it’s not vital.

I was winning a lot.

“So what you’re saying is that the deck is 60% to win a random match instead of 80%, but you don’t have to play mirror matches? Hmm, maybe I should look at tickets to #SCGMKE…”

-Brad Nelson

Brad’s quote isn’t too far out of line. Despite Modern being a fast format where you need to interact quickly or threaten a fast kill, Eldrazi still holds up. It isn’t the nigh-unbeatable monster it used to be and is simply one of the viable decks.

Unsurprisingly, the games where I had Eldrazi Temple were much easier than the games where I didn’t have it. I basically just made the switch from Endless One to Sylvan Scrying, added some Flame Slashes as additional removal, changed the manabase, changed the sideboard, and called it a day.

I went 8-1 on Day 1, 2-4 on Day 2, and finished in 36th place. Todd Anderson went 0-3 and promptly dropped. Overall, it was an uninspiring weekend.

However, I wasn’t playing my best and can pinpoint the exact spot I lost each of my matches. Sometimes it was because I played poorly, didn’t have a very good sideboard, or lost to a topdeck. Most of those problems are fixable! If I could run back the tournament knowing what I know now, things would be much different.

“When you’re not actively excited to draw your sideboard cards, something has gone horribly wrong.”

-Michael Majors

Going forward, I could start with tuning G/R (and I’ll certainly be doing that), but I’d rather work on other color combinations for right now. If I had to play G/R again, I might play something like this:

I suggested Tarmogoyf originally and kinda got laughed at by my teammates. That shouldn’t have deterred me at all, but it did. During the tournament, there were moments where I felt threat-light, and having the potential of having a creature live through a “flashed back” Kozilek’s Return is certainly notable. You won’t be pumping your Tarmogoyfs on your own (although we could go down the Oath of Nissa route), but that’s what your opponents are for. If nothing else, Tarmogoyf gives me a pseudo-removal spell against opposing Tarmogoyfs, which G/R struggles to actually remove from the battlefield.

Past that, I’m being a little greedier with my manabase, adding an additional land but cutting a Talisman of Impulse and a Sylvan Scrying. It was easy to get flooded and those were definitely the worst offenders. Drawing exactly one Talisman of Impulse is fine, but drawing multiples is not.

The Sanctum of Ugins and Ghost Quarters take away from our colored sources but provide a bunch of utility. During #SCGMKE, I frequently felt like I wasn’t getting enough mileage out of my lands. The singleton Raging Ravine seemed to over-perform, but that may have only been because of how threat-light I actually was.

Affinity, G/W Hexproof, and Ad Nauseam were not very popular, so a Natural State can certainly go. At least if they were Nature’s Claims, I would have been able to bring them in against my Burn opponent. Instead, they mostly rotted in my sideboard all weekend. I think one is worth keeping due to the randomness of Modern, but it’s certainly possible that it would be better served as something like All Is Dust.

Crumble to Dust would have been insane for me! I faced Valakut-based decks three times and Tron twice. Each of them felt manageable, but tough. If I drew a Crumble to Dust at any point, I probably couldn’t have lost to those decks, and that’s exactly the type of sideboard card I’m looking for.

Harmonize might be trash, but it’s a great way to refuel after a discard spell, and it’s a reasonable card to bring in when you don’t have much of anything for the matchup.

Jim’s maindeck looked great aside from only playing three Aether Vials. You don’t just make that cut randomly, so I imagine he felt like he was flooding on them, but the deck operates so much differently with an Aether Vial than without that I can’t imagine cutting one.

While I don’t know what happened to Jim, it looks like his sideboard suffered similar problems to my own. Stony Silence appears to be very weak in this metagame, Burrenton Forge-Tender is fringe, and Reality Smasher is likely unnecessary and slow. I can’t imagine there were too many matchups where he went to sideboard and actually had multiple cards he wanted to bring in.

I do like the “Eldrazi and Taxes” strategy, but I can’t help but wonder if adding Eldrazi Temple and some cutesy tricks actually improves on the Mono-White strategy.

I think a deck like this could be legitimately good. Your removal is much better than the G/R version’s. While you lack mass removal, having Eldrazi Displacer and Drowner of Hope more than makes up for that. I could see a world where playing Eldrazi Skyspawner is still correct, although I’m not happy about what it does to the mana. For now, I want to try keeping the blue splash to a minimum.

If you’re trying to accelerate into Eldrazi and back it up with removal and disruption, you can do better than G/R. Perhaps that involves trying a bigger W/B deck, similar to the original Eldrazi decks that popped up when Battle for Zendikar was released. If we’re not using Wasteland Strangler, then I want to be playing Drowner of Hope.

Another possible addition is Eldrazi Mimic. Drowner of Hope should be coming down soon after Reality Smasher, giving you at least a couple of powerful Eldrazi Mimic triggers per game. My fear is that without being able to play it on turn 1, it will become useless quickly.

If you’re not casting Eldrazi Mimic on turn 1, chances are you’re casting Ancient Stirrings looking for an Eldrazi Temple. If that fails, you want to cast Sylvan Scrying for an Eldrazi Temple, which will enable turn 3 Thought-Knot Seer. Unless you naturally draw Eldrazi Temple and Eldrazi Mimic, you probably won’t have time to slip it onto the battlefield. Overall, I’d rather build toward assembling Eldrazi Displacer plus Drowner of Hope.

Is Nimbus Maze worth playing? I’m certainly on the lookout for any sort of triland that isn’t just another painland. Calciform Pools might be worse than Adarkar Wastes, but I don’t think I can realistically jam eight painlands and be happy about it. Grove of the Burnwillows is definitely the best part about being G/R.

Timely Reinforcements is a huge upgrade over Feed the Clan, despite being weaker against Skullcrack effects. Getting a pile of blockers against Zoo is excellent, especially without access to mass removal.

The Tron matchup is much weaker, but there is more natural resiliency to Wurmcoil Engine, plus there are some Negates to disrupt them. If you can stop them from getting to Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, you should be fine.

This one is a bit more aggressive than the decks that Willy Edel has posted, but I like that stance better.

Sea Gate Wreckage is nice in B/G mirrors and all, but the games are often about who sticks a threat. At times, Sea Gate Wreckage can’t cough up the right answer, especially in B/G where your removal is more limited. I’d rather focus on trying to get ahead and staying there instead of trying to play a grindy game.

With a real clock, I actually like my chances against decks like G/R Tron and Burn, at least better than I would with normal Jund or Abzan. Thought-Knot Seer is a huge boon in matchups like G/R Tron and Scapeshift that are traditionally problematic.

Yes, the mana is not great. You will often not be able to curve a discard spell into Tarmogoyf. However, the necessity to do that early is waning with fewer combo decks around. Your turn 3 will probably be a bunch of one-drops, or a Thought-Knot Seer, which is a beater plus discard spell all in one. Overall, I don’t feel like the loss in tempo is all that noticeable.

Perhaps Eldrazi Temple and Reality Smasher are not worth the hassle, but how would be ever know that if we didn’t try?

This is still doable, perhaps even more so than it was pre-banning. Sometimes Eye of Ugin got in the way of using your real spells, like Expedition Map and Oblivion Stone. More copies of Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth certainly helped that. Without Eye of Ugin, we have less explosive Eldrazi draws and have to focus on being a Tron deck.

I could see a world in which Simian Spirit Guide and Chalice of the Void is a worthy combination to play maindeck. That would take some of the sting out of not having natural Tron or an Eldrazi Temple in your opening hand. It would basically increase your range of keepable hands.

Is Eldrazi Viable?

If I didn’t think so, this article wouldn’t exist. While I may not have won the tournament, I finished in the money, which isn’t bad for a first outing. As I noted in the article, many improvements can be made to the list I played, plus there are various options for other colors.

With no shortage of Modern tournaments coming up, you know what I’ll be working on.

Join us at Grand Prix Charlotte May 20-22!