Eldrazi Taxes, #SCGMKE, And Team MGG

SCG Players’ Champion Jim Davis returns to talk about his kooky Modern deck, the growing success of his new Magic team, and of course, to humiliate himself by wearing a Pittsburgh Penguins jersey!

Join us at Grand Prix Charlotte May 20-22!

Holdover from last week. Congrats to Mark Nestico for winning our bet and good luck to his Penguins.

I played seven rounds at #SCGMKE after my two byes on Day 1, losing the last round to not make Day 2.

My deck was a melding of the more traditional Death and Taxes/Hatebears deck with many elements from the Processor-based Eldrazi decks, and Wasteland Strangler is the glue that holds it all together. Your early-game is based around being able to Flametongue Kavu your opponent’s creatures and your late-game is based around constantly using Eldrazi Displacer to Flicker Wasteland Strangler over and over again, preferably alongside Flickerwisp.

Given that it is such an integral piece to the deck, I ask you this question:

How many of my opponent’s creatures did I kill with Wasteland Strangler over seven rounds at #SCGMKE?

(Cue Jeopardy! Music.)

Oh boy…

Yep, that is correct.

I successfully killed zero of my opponent’s creatures in seven rounds with Wasteland Strangler at #SCGMKE. I must say my opponent’s creatures, because I actually killed one of my own creatures against teammate Andrew Jessup. He was trying to kill my Tidehollow Sculler with a Lightning Bolt under it, and in response I Aether Vialed in a Wasteland Strangler to exile the Lightning Bolt and give the Tidehollow Sculler -3/-3 so he wouldn’t get the Lightning Bolt back.

So this is the point where I complain about how unlucky I was and blame variance for my poor tournament right?

God… I’m so unlucky!

Actually, that’s not really my style.

Truth be told, the deck is really just somewhat underwhelming. It’s easy to feel like you are getting unlucky, but often the problem is that your deck just isn’t working right. Many times in the tournament I would draw a pair of Leonin Arbiters with no Ghost Quarters or Path to Exiles, or a Wasteland Strangler with nothing exiled, and so on. Modern is a brutally fast format, and you really can’t afford to durdle around and hope things fall together.

The biggest issue is that the deck feels like two different decks: a fairly common and underwhelming Death and Taxes deck, and an Eye of Ugin-less Eldrazi deck.

The bridges that bring these two somewhat displaced strategies together are Tidehollow Sculler, Flickerwisp, and Path to Exile.

Tidehollow Sculler is a card that fits right in with the “Hatebears” strategy that these decks usually employ, being a small disruptive creature that tries to keep your opponent off-balance for long enough to finish the job. Flickerwisp is also a staple of Death and Taxes decks, providing a lot of utility and again a temporary respite. Last, Path to Exile is good enough even without the Leonin Arbiter and one of the best removal spells in the format.

These cards all fit the bill when it comes to “small and disruptive white creatures,” but the key synergy that makes the deck work is that they all exile things.

This is turn provides food for Wasteland Strangler, which in turn incentivizes you to play Eldrazi Displacer, which incentivizes you to play even more Eldrazi and Eldrazi Temple.

While the deck is definitely not bad, the issue is that it’s also just not that good. Many of your cards are weaker than the average card in Modern, which makes the deck poor from a power-level perspective, and many of your synergies are decent but pale in comparison to the broken things you can be doing in Modern.

You’re trying to assemble Flickerwisp and Wasteland Strangler while your opponent is trying to assemble Scapeshift and seven lands.

You’re trying to assemble Ghost Quarter and Leonin Arbiter while your opponent is trying to assemble Blighted Agent and Become Immense.

You’re trying to assemble Eldrazi Temple and Thought-Knot Seer while your opponent is trying to assemble Burning-Tree Emissary and Reckless Bushwhacker.

The list goes on and on.

And while you have disruption, it’s somewhat slow and based around fragile creatures. The deck also has no true card advantage engine, no nut draw, and no card manipulation. When the deck comes together, it is solid and reasonable, but when things go wrong, it has major issues. It is also very slow to get started, in a format where most decks can effectively have you dead on turn 3 or 4.

The deck has no turn 1 plays other than Aether Vial, and Aether Vial isn’t even that good in the deck for many of the reasons the deck itself isn’t that good. It’s fine when it works, but it’s dreadful when it doesn’t.

I think half the games I lost at the Columbus Invitational were due to mulliganing to six and then drawing two Aether Vials. Aether Vial is an overrated Magic card, and the deck provides no card draw or card advantage to keep the cards flowing through your Vials. If you ever draw two Aether Vial and don’t have a good hand with a ton of gas, you likely won’t even end up using both of them.

This is a large reason why I chose to play only three Aether Vials, and also to play two Relic of Progenitus. Relic of Progenitus helps to provide you food for your Wasteland Stranglers and gives you a bit of smoothing as a cantrip, while being a nice payoff when your opponent is actually using their graveyard. The goal was to make the deck run a little more smoothly, but this fix was akin to putting a Band-Aid on a broken arm.

So How Do We Fix It?

What I would like to do is to just play the Eldrazi part of the deck and skip out on the whole Aether Vial, Leonin Arbiter, Ghost Quarter package. The Death and Taxes part of the deck just seems fundamentally weak and poor in such an aggressive and proactive format.

The issue is that the early-game cards just aren’t there for Eldrazi deck. Without Eye of Ugin to power out cards like Eldrazi Mimic and Eldrazi Skyspawner much earlier than they should ever see play, there just aren’t enough good cards to fill out the low part of the curve.

While Eldrazi Displacer is fantastic, especially in conjunction with Wasteland Strangler, such a grindy combination just doesn’t seem fit for Modern as it’s currently made up. There’s just too much speed, too many decks that punish you if you stumble. As such, if you’re looking to play Eldrazi in Modern, something like Gerry Thompson’s G/R Eldrazi deck based around World Breaker seems much better.

It’s very important to recognize when a deck is good, and when a deck is good for a format. The deck does some powerful things but is just not what you want to be doing in Modern right now.

As to what you should be doing? I wish I had a good answer.

I try not to complain, but Todd’s really hit the nail on the head here when it comes to Modern. It is so hard to feel prepared for everything that is going to come your way, and it’s also really hard to not play a proactive deck that can at least just get lucky and kill your opponent really quickly if you’re playing against a bad matchup.

Still, we shall endure and keep testing and try to figure it out.

Oh… who’s “we,” you say?

Team MGG

If you missed Nick Miller’s excellent interview article last week, you may have been watching SCGLive last weekend and wondered why Andrew Jessup and myself have such a similar sense of style.

No, we both don’t just have an unhealthy love of the color yellow.

SCG Tour ®Milwaukee was the debut of my new Magic team, Team MGG, brought to you by MetagameGurus.com.

The team consists of Pete Ingram, Kevin Jones, Andrew Jessup, and Dan Jessup, with me as captain, and is managed by Frank Pendl and Rick Meditz. We’ve been working on the team for about three months now and I couldn’t have been happier with our launch and the very positive reception we have gotten. We were formed to play primarily on the SCG Tour® and will be at every event for the rest of the year.

I couldn’t be prouder of all the work we have done so far, and there is much more to come. Make sure to check out the website and follow us on Twitter to be the first to know about everything going on in the world of Team MGG.

And look for us at the next SCG Tour® stop on the calendar at #SCGINDY!

Join us at Grand Prix Charlotte May 20-22!