Where Have All The Eldrazi Gone?

Eldrazi have been down and out a bit lately, but Jim Davis thinks it may be time for a big return! Today he analyzes the different varieties and which is best for SCG Indy!

Where is my turn two Thought-Knot

Where is my Chalice on one

Where is my topdeck Smasher

Where have all the Eldrazi gone?

Okay… maybe Thought-Knot Seer isn’t quite John Wanye, but you
get the idea.

The Modern metagame has been quite active in the last year or so, with new
exciting decks like Humans, Ironworks, and Hollow One popping up, while old
favorites like Tron and Jeskai Control continue to thrive. However, one of
the most consistent and flexible cores in the format, once completely
broken but brought back to earth by the banning of Eye of Ugin, has been
notably absent lately.

While there have been almost a dozen different varieties of Eldrazi decks
in the past few years in Modern, the core of pretty much all of them has
been full playsets of Thought-Knot Seer, Reality Smasher, and Eldrazi
Temple. The surrounding support cards may change, but these three cards are
the reason you want to play any Eldrazi deck. Speed, pressure, and
disruption for a small cost creates a very good recipe for success.

So if that’s the case, where have all the Eldrazi gone?

While Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher are powerful threats, when it
comes down to it they’re only mid-sized compared to some of the other
threats in the format. In a lot of ways, Eldrazi decks end up playing out
like “super” midrange decks- they aren’t exceedingly fast or play a ton of
interaction, but they go big on their difficult to answer threats and seek
to quickly overwhelm any deck near the middle of the spectrum.

The problem is that three of the most popular decks in Modern this year
either go well under or well over even the “super” midrange deck.

B/R Hollow One decks are also adept at putting 4/4s and 5/5s onto the
battlefield on turn 1 and 2, while backing it up with resilient go wide
threats as well. Humans in particular is excellent at building large
battlefields very quickly, and Champion of the Parish is quick to outclass
all but the largest Eldrazi. Speaking of the largest Eldrazi, Tron is
another deck that excels at going over the top of Eldrazi. All three decks
have been very popular recently, with Humans especially being huge for a
large chunk of the last six months.

However, Modern is a very cyclical format.

Jeskai Control was a non-factor for a few years, and has now slowly
resurged into one of the format’s most accomplished decks (despite what my
Team BCW teammate Ross
has to say
); various Death’s Shadow decks have gone from super fringe to “best deck
in the format,” to fringe again in less than a year; Infect was once one of
the best decks in the format, then completely disappeared, and recently won
the 2018 Season One Invitational.

Modern is a wild place, which is likely one of the reasons it’s so well
liked. There are also just so many decks that it’s very easy to forget
about certain strategies, and while they may be forgotten for good reasons,
it’s very easy to overlook them when things shift once again. And in case
you haven’t been paying attention, interaction is back in style right now
in Modern in a big way.

Grixis Death’s Shadow, Jeskai Control, Mardu Pyromancer… There’s a reason
that decks like Humans, Affinity, and Elves have fallen out of favor. Sure,
this has been a boon to decks like Tron which look to prey on such
removal-heavy strategies, but if you know what you’re gunning for, Tron can
be beaten. You know what card is prevalent in all three of these decks and
is laughable against Eldrazi?

The tide is shifting again… so is it time?

The question is, what form will Eldrazi come in?

The first twelve cards in any Eldrazi decklist are easy; four copies each
of Thought-Knot Seer, Reality Smasher, and Eldrazi Temple. I’ve always said
that if Eldrazi decks could be 30 or 40 cards, they would be totally busted
because of how often they would draw these cards. Unfortunately, though,
they aren’t, and the remaining 48 support cards you surround these twelve
with can vary a lot.

While we’re familiar with most forms of Eldrazi decks in Modern, we have a
new entry which has been slowly making waves online.

Similar to the old Eldrazi and Taxes deck, yamakiller has cut all most of
the crappy cards those decks usually play like Aether Vial, Flickerwisp,
Wasteland Strangler, and Blade Splicer, and fully embraced a much more
Legacy-esque no-one-drop mana curve to fuel Chalice of the Void. Skipping
on one-drops sure feels better than trying to cast Tidehollow Sculler in a
deck with four copies of Ghost Quarter and four copies of Eldrazi Temple!
Eldrazi and Taxes has been around forever and never really done anything,
so seeing someone work on an improvement is great.

With four Eldrazi Temple, four Simian Spirit Guide, and three Gemstone
Caverns, this deck is capable of some very powerful openings. Playing
Chalice of the Void or Thalia, Guardian of Thraben on turn 1 is very
powerful, as is Leonin Arbiter which is hell on any deck relying on
fetchlands or other land searching effects (while adding some nice splash
damage against other searchers like Gifts Ungiven). Adding this Ghost
Quarter/Strip Mine element to the deck vastly improves your matchup against
Tron decks, as well as slower decks looking to get deeper into the game.

Soft but fast disruption and hard to deal with fast Eldrazi is a nice
recipe for success.

A slightly less new deck, Serum Powder Eldrazi is nevertheless a similar
and powerful disruptive deck that trades in the white cards for a bunch of
utility lands as well as an intriguing new element:

We’ve already established that Eldrazi decks are basically just
Thought-Knot Seer, Reality Smasher, Eldrazi Temple, and 48 other cards, so
why not ensure that we draw the good cards more often? Serum Powder sees
occasional play in niche scenarios like Vintage Dredge, but if getting to
free mulligan sometimes is all we were getting it might not be enough. But
don’t fret, there’s more!

Eternal Scourge is already a very reasonable card against any sort of
grindy deck like the aforementioned Grixis, Jeskai, or Mardu decks, giving
you a never ending threat to cast over and over again that can’t be stopped
by removal (and can be rebought by Scavenger Grounds), but it’s the
interaction between Eternal Scourge and Serum Powder that’s a work of pure

Every time we Serum Powder mulligan and an Eternal Scourge is involved, we
essentially get to add that card to our next hand for free at no cost. This
means it’s very possible to mulligan up to eight or even
nine cards with this deck! And we’re doing this all while searching for our
Eldrazi Temples and best cards. Lastly, Serum Powder isn’t uncastable; it
can give us a colorless source if we’re facing down a Blood Moon and in a

I played this deck on my stream a while back to a 5-0 finish and was very
impressed. It certainly has the same struggles with Humans and B/R Hollow
One that other Eldrazi decks have, but as the format shifts away from those
decks it starts to look awesome again.

Of course, if we’re going to go full colorless, there’s always time for
Todd Steven’s favorite (and my least favorite) deck.

I’ve always hated Eldrazi Tron, but there’s no denying it does a great job
at beating up on the format’s various fair decks while having game in other
places as well. No deck in Modern is capable of more stupid draws, and if
my experiences either playing against this deck or
watching Todd Stevens pilot it are any indication, despite the rigid rules
of math and probability it draws natural Tron basically every other game.

Adding Endbringer to the threat suite also adds another hard to kill threat
on top of the usual Eldrazi suspects, giving Eldrazi Tron a robust and hard
to answer threat base. Between huge Eldrazi and Chalice of the Void, you’d
be hard pressed to find a deck better positioned against the card Lightning

Right now Lightning Bolt is probably the most played card in Modern, but a
year ago this was not true at all. I even
wrote an article
about how underplayed Lightning Bolt was at the time, and a large reason
for that was how popular Eldrazi decks (Eldrazi Tron in particular) were.

If you want to beat up on Jeskai players, Eldrazi Tron is a great way to do

The last Eldrazi deck we’ll look at is the most fair of the bunch, as it
does offer the possibility of more turn 2 Thought-Knot Seers but at the
cost of playing a bunch of very vulnerable mana creatures and other weak

When things go well, R/G Eldrazi is going to have some really busted draws;
any time you draw a mana creature (that lives), an Eldrazi Temple, and a
Thought-Knot Seer, you’re going to have a very good time. The problem is
that the deck has a ton of air in it as well. Bloodbraid Elf is fine but
can never really hit your good cards, and you’ve just got a ton of mana
accelerants and Lightning Bolts that can leave you very threat-light.

The good cards are good, but the bad cards are pretty embarrassing, and
therein lay the biggest issue with the deck: your good draws are great, but
your bad ones are pretty bad. Just imagine drawing this opening seven in
round one of #SCGINDY:

Three lands, four on-curve spells, and zero chance to beat a reasonable
draw from any deck in the format. Of course though, for every hand like
that, there’s one like this:

Which of course, is the rub.

Overall the R/G Eldrazi deck is the least impressive of the four; its bad
hands are just too bad. and it does a very bad job at making cards like
Lightning Bolt ineffective. Getting to play Ancient Stirrings is nice, but
not worth the overall lack of power.

If you’re going to play an Eldrazi deck, Chalice of the Void is where you
want to be. Max out your early disruption, and then slam giant aliens until
the cows come home. Any of the first three decks seems like a solid choice
for #SCGINDY, all with
slight upsides and downsides based on the matchups you expect to face.

The important thing to remember is that you can’t keep a good alien down.

Just because Thought-Knot Seer and friends haven’t been making waves lately
doesn’t mean they should be ignored. People are historically slow to move
in Modern, and even slower to move in on decks that have fallen out of

Let Aaron Barich’s win at the 2018 Season One Invitational be a lesson to
anyone who’s forgotten old great Modern decks… they always come back!