In the shuffle of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt release hype, we had a deck come completely out of left field to win a Modern Challenge.
- 4 Eldrazi Obligator
- 4 Reality Smasher
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
- 4 Matter Reshaper
- 4 Bonecrusher Giant
- 4 Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer
- 4 Fury
Maybe it’s a meme? Maybe it’s good? That’s the best endorsement we get? Do the people winning with this deck even know if it’s good?
I got in the queues and battled to try to give you the answer.
Pro Tip: The fact this article is published and not titled “Why Mono-Red Eldrazi Is Garbage” means the deck isn’t bad.
Return to Monkey
If you’re looking at this deck and have been playing Modern for a few years, you might be thinking about a very specific Eldrazi deck.
- 4 Simian Spirit Guide
- 2 Spellskite
- 4 Endless One
- 4 Eldrazi Mimic
- 4 Reality Smasher
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
- 4 Matter Reshaper
The original “Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch, Eldrazi Winter, Eye of Ugin is banned forever and dominates No Banned List Modern” format features an iconic Mono-Red Eldrazi deck that looks a lot like this deck on paper. You even get to re-Monkey up with Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer replacing Simian Spirit Guide.
But in practice, this isn’t the right comparison. First off, Ragavan is a Monkey; Simian Spirit Guide is an Ape. Second, the closer comparison is to this Eldrazi deck.
- 1 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 2 Spellskite
- 4 Drowner of Hope
- 1 Eldrazi Mimic
- 4 Eldrazi Displacer
- 4 Reality Smasher
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
- 4 Matter Reshaper
Mono-Red Eldrazi is the successor to classic Bant Eldrazi. Ragavan is a clean swap for for Noble Hierarch, and condensing down to a single color makes the notoriously bad Bant Eldrazi mana much better. If you’re looking for another clean swap, Ancient Stirrings has swapped out for the London Mulligan. If you fondly remember Bant Eldrazi, I would strongly advise giving Mono-Red Eldrazi a try. The same applies to people who have appreciated cards like Glorybringer and Kazandu Mammoth in more recent Standard formats.
If we bring up Bant Eldrazi, it’s probably worth discussing the other post-Eye of Ugin Eldrazi deck: Eldrazi Tron. We even saw a bit of Eldrazi Tron recently during the week that Mono-Green Tron broke back onto the Modern scene. What would make us want to play Mono-Red Eldrazi over the other Chalice of the Void Eldrazi deck?
A few things…
The first is that Urza’s Tower is at a low point right now due to the clear success of Tron. I’m not just talking about sideboards like this one featuring a full eight pieces of Tron hate. Spreading Seas is showing back up. We see tons of Blood Moon and Alpine Moon in sideboards since they are broadly useful outside of just beating Tron. Urza’s Saga is part of that, and a bunch of decks just playing fast and loose with their manabase is the rest. The Tron draws from Eldrazi Tron weren’t even a reliable part of the deck to begin with, and are even less of a factor with so much hate directed in that direction.
You can point to Fury for the second reason to play Mono-Red Eldrazi, but Bonecrusher Giant is also a player here. Another big strike against Urza’s Tower decks right now is their minimal amount of early interaction, which is critical in actually getting to your relevant plays against Mono-White Hammer (Lurrus) or honestly just against opposing Ragavan decks. Playing red lets you load up on early interaction that also does some solid attacking and blocking.
Getting bodies out of your interactive slots is a game-changer for Eldrazi decks. None of your cards are Murktide Regents that solo a game through basically anything; you just have ground doofuses that get into actual combats. And Eldrazi certainly aren’t the most efficient threats in Modern. They’re just about having a lot of very solid things to brawl that also tank removal spells well. The idea is that your opponent will be forced to trade with basically everything you do, come out a bit behind on each exchange, and eventually miss a beat and die. It’s Jund, but you’re using the combat step to trade cards instead of Thoughtseize.
You, of course, need ways to handle their threats that would otherwise make combat bad for you. If you play a bunch of Lightning Bolts, it’s easy to draw too few Eldrazi and end up on the wrong side of them drawing a small amount of removal or one big thing. If your answers are also 4/3s and 3/3 double strikes, numbers are on your side. When Mono-Red Eldrazi plays against Azorius Control right now, it actually has an edge because all of its removal attacks.
Eldrazi Obligator is the capstone on all this. It’s another answer-threat hybrid card, one that functions at its best when you have a bunch of other threats that will capitalize on the Threaten attack turn, and Eldrazi Obligator naturally handles a lot of the things that red removal traditionally misses. Murktide Regent is the exact kind of card that should scare your mono-red midrange deck that is instead a liability against uncounterable Threaten.
So maybe Mono-Red Eldrazi is better than similar decks right now, but why is Mono-Red Eldrazi winning? It’s hard to believe everyone forgot to put Thought-Knot Seer in a deck for months. It clearly wasn’t a good idea to play Thought-Knot Seer for a long time, and now…. well, is it a good idea?
Part of it is that the metagame is finally stable enough to start folding in on itself with answers, and those answers are not selected to handle Eldrazi. I mentioned that Mono-Red Eldrazi doesn’t have classic “drew too much removal” midrange issues against Azorius Control, but Azorius Control also just doesn’t have good answers against Mono-Red Eldrazi. It’s all Prismatic Endings and Counterspells against your Thought-Knot Seer off Cavern of Souls deck. Izzet Midrange is in a similar spot when you blank their Lightning Bolts and Counterspells and force them to use four Unholy Heat to manage basically every creature in your deck.
It’s worth mentioning that the Eldrazi are still good cards in 2021. Thought-Knot Seer is still great. I’ve even been impressed with Matter Reshaper. Yes, I said that. Take your screenshots in case I feel shame later and ask Cedric to delete this. Matter Reshaper just does work when you’re actually a bulky aggro deck and not a weirdo Ramp-Stax deck. With Bonecrusher Giant, Ragavan, and Eldrazi Obligator to flip for full value off the death trigger, Matter Reshaper is more Geralf’s Messenger than Coiling Oracle in this deck.
Possibly more important than people shifting to a bunch of answers that aren’t good against Reality Smasher, people aren’t playing the threats that really outclass Reality Smasher either. One reason we probably haven’t seen a ton of Eldrazi leading up to this is that Construct tokens tend to outsize them. The early weeks of Asmor decks and the later Mono-White Hammer (Lurrus) wave were both bad times to play Eldrazi decks, but now Asmor is nowhere to be seen and Puresteel Paladin is on the lower end of the better decks in the format.
There was also that brief moment where Grixis Death’s Shadow (Lurrus) got some Dress Down-related hype, and that’s another matchup I’m not excited to play. If your opponent has a few big threats like Murktide Regent, you have a few answers to manage them, but if they’re reliably producing multiple things bigger than an Eldrazi a game in an efficient fashion, you’re going to run into a brick wall.
If the metagame is asking you to balance the upside of Eldrazi being good against the premium answers of the format and them being bad against a specific class of threats, the tiebreaker for Mono-Red Eldrazi actually being good should be whether Chalice of the Void is good. Right now the answer is an obvious yes, and it has been yes for most of the Modern Horizons 2 era of the format.
The sideboard Blood Moons are also a huge reason to play this deck, which is kinda funny considering Eldrazi decks’ history of struggling with that card. But with Prismatic Vista for Wastes and the mono-red manabase, you just get to function normally most games under Blood Moon. Meanwhile, Blood Moon massively overperforms in this deck where it’s backed up by a ton of castable and hard to answer threats. Leaving your opponent half functional with Blood Moon can often be a liability if you’re light on threats or your threats get outclassed. Here neither of those happen, and your opponent’s half-working deck typically fails to deal with a fully functional normal deck from the Mono-Red Eldrazi side.
Flex Slots, Manabases, and Sideboards
There are lots of easy four-ofs in this deck, as with most mono-red midrange decks. These are the good cards that you can actually cast, so you play them.
These are the good red midrange creatures and the good Eldrazi, play them. The next-best card on the red threats list is Seasoned Pyromancer, and there are a few things I don’t love about that card in this shell. There’s value in all your creatures having heft to get into brawls. Maybe you can get away with a couple of those in the flex slots as bonus creatures, but it can’t be a core four-of.
Dismember is exceptional in this deck since you force the things bigger than 5/5 into combats the -5/-5 wins, but four copies put a lot of strain on your life total. I’m not a fan of the Abrade currently sitting in that spare slot though, and would look to replace it with fun-of whatever you want to try.
Shatterskull Smashing is almost entirely in this deck because it’s a land with good colors. Count the other red sources and think about how tough it is to get double red for spells to actually cast it. You can’t afford a ton of tapped lands, but I can imagine playing one or two Spikefield Hazards for castability value.
The one big thing I would want to work on in the maindeck is seeing how much extra value you can extract from your lands. While the majority of your cards are solid standalone threats, your lack of direct card selection or advantage tends to rear its head and create more games where you have mana flood or screw issues. This becomes even more apparent once you start trying to cast Fury the normal way and Eldrazi Temple decides to stop helping, and you have the classic red midrange issue of wanting to draw exactly five lands and no more or less. The chip shots from Ramunap Ruins are nice and can add up with all your other stuff, but you aren’t really a burn deck adding up damage in two- and three-point increments.
I think the solution to both of these problems is sneaking some creature-lands in the extra Mountain or spell flex slots. I did mention there’s concerns with tapped lands, but a couple Den of the Bugbears or something in the Sea Gate Wreckage ballpark certainly wouldn’t hurt.
The other big thing to work on is the sideboard. Obsidian Charmaw has not impressed me since I’m not sideboarding in another hard-to-cast five-drop against control. The excessive amount of Tron hate just isn’t required right now and the slots could be used better. It’s the one obvious cut. The other cards are fine, but I don’t think any of them is a must-have besides Blood Moon. If you think you can do better with anything else in those slots, go ahead and make the swap.
A quick rundown of those good-but-could-be-improved slots:
- Relic of Progenitus is a card, but is mostly the graveyard hate card of choice for its applications against the Rakdos-centric Lurrus decks. It has been okay at mitigating Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger and fast Dragon’s Rage Channeler draws, but I’m unsure it makes a significant enough difference to be worth keeping around.
- Warping Wail is a counterspell against the cascade decks with some side implications against Boros Burn (Lurrus) and Dimir Mill (Lurrus). I remain unconvinced it’s better than Thorn of Amethyst.
- Engineered Explosives is fairly narrow in this mono-color deck, mostly mopping up Rhino tokens from Temur Crashcade or assorted cardboard from Mono-White Hammer (Lurrus). I have not liked it against “Zoomer Jund” (Lurrus) since it has felt like it always trades poorly on mana or cards for Urza’s Saga tokens or a random one-drop. The two use-cases I mentioned are important enough to make me want to keep it for now, but don’t get tricked into sideboarding it in when it looks like a normal card in the matchup.
Tips and Tricks
Mono-red big creatures isn’t the most complex archetype to play, but there are still a few things you can do to maximize your chances of winning.
Mulligans are extremely important for decks like this without card advantage or selection. Similar to old Eldrazi decks, if you don’t have Eldrazi Temple or Ravagan for mana acceleration, you should be really thinking about if your opening hand is worth keeping. You aren’t auto-shipping everything without one of those cards, but you need to really be able to convince yourself the hand is good if it doesn’t have one. That applies twice as much on the draw.
One of the easy ways to fill in the blanks on the opening hand question is the companion check. If your opponent reveals Lurrus of the Dream-Den, non-acceleration hands that have creature removal are suddenly fine.
On the flip side of this, if I’m on the draw against Lurrus I’m going to be a bit more critical of my Ragavan draws. I actually trim Ragavans against Mono-White Hammer (Lurrus), and against Jund when they can both freeroll it with a Wrenn and Six ping or just have their own one-drop to block it.
If you have questions about the rest of my sideboarding, it’s fairly loose. Use the following shortcuts:
- Take out Chalice of the Void or Dismember if the card is obviously bad.
- If you think Blood Moon could be good but not a 100% hit, sideboard in three or four on the play and one or two on the draw.
I keep mentioning how double red can be difficult at times. If you aren’t using the anti-Counterspell text on Cavern of Souls and are wondering which creature type to name, it’s probably Elemental or Incarnation for Fury. Giant is probably the next best option for the Stomp plus Bonecrusher turns.
One thing to keep in mind with any Eldrazi Temple deck is picking up nut draw equity with your Eldrazi Temple. If your hand has two Eldrazi Temples, or one Eldrazi Temple and a Thought-Knot Seer, and you don’t have a clear reason to play a specific land on Turn 1, play the Temple. The few percent of the time you hit the out and Turn 2 Thought-Knot Seer is just the greatest.
Overall, Mono-Red Eldrazi has been impressive. We aren’t looking at a super-resilient Tier 1 deck like Temur Crashcade or Izzet Midrange, but as a metagame call it has a place in Modern moving forward. Some days you just want to mush people with big creatures and Chalice of the Void, and Modern now has the perfect deck to represent that classic play style.