Selesnya Eldrazi And The Art Of Modern Deck Maintenance

Ally Warfield took Selesnya Eldrazi to a Top 32 finish at SCG Dallas! Designer Ryan Overturf explains what went right, what went wrong, and how his latest list looks to fix the flaws!

Last week’s What We’d Play column put me in a real bind. I said that I would submit a deck before the Banned & Restricted Announcement dropped with the intention of just copy-and-pasting Mono-Red Prowess from my Grand Prix Top 4, but the banning of Faithless Looting made this impossible. Beyond that, the unbanning of Stoneforge Mystic is something that I imagine is going to dramatically impact Modern at large.

The day the ban took effect, I spent some time hanging out with a friend who plays a lot of Modern Azorius Control as he took Azorius Stoneblade through some Magic Online Leagues. I personally have a difficult time imagining Azorius being the best Stoneforge Mystic deck, but I did learn some things watching him explore the new format.

My suspicion is that Stoneforge Mystic is going to slot best into a proactive deck, and I strongly hold the belief that in Modern you should try to play decks featuring cards of dubious legality in the format. Faithless Looting isn’t around anymore, but there are still some busted options on this front.

Eldrazi Temple is on my short list of cards made dramatically better by the London Mulligan. The old Eldrazi decks used to mulligan any hand that didn’t have a two-mana land. Now, even without Eye of Ugin, Modern Eldrazi decks can ask a little bit more of their openers.

Stoneforge Mystic just seems perfect to slot into an Eldrazi deck to me. Now, in addition to your Temple draws, you have an extremely powerful play off two regular lands. The deckbuilding process here is very much just putting the busted stuff with the other busted stuff and making the opponent figure it out.

Noble Hierarch made sense to me as redundancy on the Turn 2 Thought-Knot Seer front the way Bant Eldrazi used to do, and once you’re green, you get Ancient Stirrings and you deck gets more busted still. Karn, the Great Creator wasn’t a card that I’d personally played much of to this point, but I thought he fit the bill for what a broken Ancient Stirrings deck was trying to get up to.

The combination of Karn and Ancient Stirrings led me to build a sideboard that was mostly game-breaking artifacts because you can access these cards Game 1 and are very good at finding cards like Damping Sphere after sideboard with Ancient Stirrings. Most white decks in Modern sideboard cards like Rest in Peace and Stony Silence, but I don’t buy these cards as a significant upgrade on power level and you would have much lower access to them on top of that because Karn and Stirrings can’t find them.

Ally Warfield took the 75 I posted to the Modern Open at SCG Dallas last weekend and posted an 11-4 record, which was good for 22nd place. We were able to cover a few of her rounds over the course of the weekend, and I also go to sit down with her and record a deck tech.

We talked about sideboarding a bit in the deck tech, though I’d like to expand on that even more. This specific build really doesn’t let you sideboard much, though Path to Exile tends to play against most Modern decks anyway and your other cards are all proactive which gives them a high floor. You’re largely only sideboarding in Damping Spheres or Dismembers, and this gives you a lot of play against most of the Modern format. It’s true that Damping Sphere turns off your Eldrazi Temples, but that’s minor compared to the value it provides against Mono-Green Tron and Gifts and/or Twiddle Storm.

I put two Grafdigger’s Cage in the sideboard partly because I wanted some graveyard hate, and partly because I like the idea of mulliganing to one and beating anybody who shows up with Neobrand. Ally said that they never came up in the event and I don’t mind cutting them.

I was happy to see the list working well for Ally this weekend, though a few minor flaws with the deck have become apparent. The combination of threats and the core of the deck are definitely sound and powerful, but some of the peripheral elements need some cleaning up.

The first thing you’ll want to do is trim some of the Cavern of Souls. With Stoneforge Mystic being a Kor and not a Human, the diversity of creature types can bite you when you draw Stoneforge Mystic and Noble Hierarch. You want to keep your colorless sources up and I believe the first two Caverns to be quite good, but some more lands that produce green and white would increase the deck’s consistency. I think my starting point would be to add two more Horizon Canopies, though I could be sold on a Temple Garden as well.

The Talisman of Unities have been met with some skepticism, though I do think they add a lot to the deck. They not only fix all your mana and ramp you towards Karn, they also singlehandedly beat Blood Moon. Drawing multiples will often not be great, though I don’t think I would want to play fewer than two. The card that I’ve heard pitched in its place is Mind Stone, which functions strictly differently. I would definitely experiment with a split of the two cards.

The glaring omission from the deck is Engineered Explosives. I thought about the card when I was building the deck but settled on not being able to crank the dynamite to three being too big of an issue. The reality is that the decks that you want Explosives against are heavy on ones and twos and having the card in the 75 might’ve helped Ally in her loss against Merfolk.

Here’s the build that I would start with going forward:

In addition to what I mentioned above, you’ll notice that the Sorcerous Spyglass was turned into Pithing Needle. If you’re grabbing it, you know what you’re naming and mana efficiency is key. In retrospect, the Spyglass was pretty boneheaded of me.

I really liked what I saw from the deck this weekend. The deck presents very powerful threats very consistently. Ally put on a clinic when she played against Jund on one of our timeshifted features, and I imagine fair decks generally aren’t much of an issue.

The one matchup that I am deeply concerned about with the deck is TitanShift. I tried to come up with an artifact that would help there but the best I came up with is the Witchbane Orb, which is at best fine against them. You lean pretty hard on early Thought-Knot Seers against TitanShift, but even that won’t always do the trick. You could go hard and sideboard Leyline of Sanctity, but that card is bad and they’ll just Field of the Dead you anyway. I would be very interested if anybody has a fix for that matchup.

Outside of TitanShift being something of a nightmare matchup, I’m very satisfied with the way Selesnya Eldrazi looks and its position in the Modern metagame at large. I believe that the Karn package is superior to splashing blue and playing Bant Eldrazi and I absolutely endorse the deck going forward.