Eldrazi Tron in Barcelona

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The additions of Modern Horizons and War of the Spark have completely shaken up the Modern format.  

Just recently, we saw the banning of Bridge from Below and I fully expect another card to be taken out of the Hogaak and/or dredge decks at the next ban announcement. We’ve seen both classic Dredge and the new Carrion feeder builds put up impressive win rates through a dramatic amount of graveyard hate — Leyline of the Void alone was the most played card showing up in nearly half the decks at Barcelona. With only a handful of overlapping cards Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis himself will likely need to permanently enter the void to keep this menace in check.

Going into this Mythic Championship Team FaceToFaceGames was well aware of this menace and while we didn’t predict there would be quite as many Hogaak decks as there ended up being we felt reasonably prepared for the matchup. As is true of many Modern tournaments we all essentially decided to play what we were comfortable with. The six of us fielded 5 different archetypes — four of which were team approved and what we considered the top decks in the format. Eli played his variation of the hot new Urza deck to a Top 16 finish. Edgar chose Jund after being very impressed with the addition of Wrenn and Six finishing in 23rd. Pete played “The Gaak,” while Nassif and myself chose Eldrazi Tron as our weapon of choice. Shaheen — to the surprise of approximately no one — chose Azorius  Control despite our plees for him to play something else. He had promised to play something else, but then went and won a trophy with it the week before the event. This unfortunately broke his PT/MC streak of qualifying for Day 2 at 11.

While I don’t believe I’ve ever played Tron in a sanctioned match, I’ve played a few Eldrazi variants over the years, but have not done so recently. The deck just has not gotten any new toys while other decks have gotten stronger rendering a Turn 2 4/4 into a Turn 3 5/5 simply not good enough. Walking Ballista had helped the deck a bit, but in my view it wasn’t enough to get the deck into Tier 1.

Enter Karn.

Karn, the Great Creator gives the Eldrazi deck a brand new angle of attack. He is an extremely versatile tool to reinforce your giant monsters. Karn and Lattice provide a potent prison combo, he provides maindeck hate against artifacts and functions as a value engine against the control decks in the format. In previous iterations of Eldrazi I’ve leaned towards the Bant variants due to access to powerful sideboard options, but what the Tron variant lacks in versititly it makes up for in raw power. With Karn entering the picture this lack of good sideboard options really allows the deck to utilize him the best. You’re able to employ three to five slots as pure tutor targets without any worry of losing valuable sideboard slots — those cards weren’t doing much for you anyway!

My choice of Eldrazi Tron in Barcelona was predicated on two other things as well. First, and fairly obviously, is the new London mulligan which I’ve written about previously. While I didn’t evaluate Eldrazi Tron specifically, I did show how much easier it is for classic Tron to put together a fairly consistent Turn 3 Tron through aggressive mulliganing and I believe the improvement seen is somewhat comparable. The second is the open decklists being provided at this event. While some decks may gain through in game decisions, I believe E-Tron gains the most for mulliganing purposes. As the deck already mulligans very well, this added information allows you to hone your mulligan strategy for each archetype. You know exactly how crippling your Turn 2 Chalice will be, whether you really need to dig for Tron + Karn or if you just want to keep any playable seven against Thoughtseize. I believe this deck might have the widest range of power between a “playable” hand and a truly powerful one. Just looking for lands and spells simply doesn’t cut it for this deck, therefore you should expect to be mulliganing roughly half of your opening sevens.

With all of that said our team believed Eldrazi Tron was a powerful contender and clearly one of a handful of Tier 1 decks. Gab and I finished a very respectable 13-7 playing the deck and I believe it was a solid choice for the weekend. However, with no open decklists at the next modern event I play, I expect I’ll probably choose something else dependent on what WotC decides to do with the next ban announcement.


The list is fairly stock, I believe there are maybe four or five optional slots in the maindeck and three or four in the sideboard. In the main I believe the All is Dust and Endbringer slots are optional and I could see swapping a land for another Mind Stone. Some lists play Simian Spirit Guide over Mind Stone, but I prefer the mid-game cycling consistency as I don’t believe a Turn 1 Chalice is as backbreaking as it has been in the past. Ugin, the Ineffable, Karn Liberated, Oblivion Stone and Mystic Forge were all considered in this slot. I decided I preferred the Eldrazi spells mostly due to them being essentially cheaper due to Eldrazi Temple. Mystic Forge played well in testing, but I decided to keep it in the board due to the expected meta. Going forward I could see myself playing a Forge in my maindeck.

The primary way you can customize this archetype is in how you craft your manabase. I believe the list should have at least two Wastes, one Ghost Quarter and one Blast Zone, but I see the other land slots as fairly interchangeable. If you’re expecting a lot of Field of Ruins I’d suggest a third Waste, Blast Zone is excellent vs midrange decks, Ghost Quarter is good against other Tron decks, Cavern of Souls is obviously good vs Blue control decks, as is Sea Gate Wreckage. We also considered Gemstone Mine for a quick boost, but after doing the math and realizing it would statistically come up roughly once a tournament we preferred to have a tutor target for Expedition Map. Haunted Fengraf and Scavenger Grounds were other lands we considered in this slot. I decided to go with three Blast Zone as a flexible removal option which I believe really helps improve the humans and midrange matchups and has other applications across the board. In retrospect I think I’d have preferred to go with a third Wastes over the Sea Gate Wreckage as Field of Ruin is a fairly common way of losing to Azorius Control.

In the sideboard I consider 12 of the cards to be non-negotiable. The three card Karn tutor package Lattice, Bridge and Liquimetal Coating which never get boarded in, the six card anti-graveyard package, the fourth Ballista and two Spatial Contortions. The Ballista is one of the few cards which is a pure value Karn target while also a great card to board in for a variety of matchups. The Contortions are key against Humans and any other creature decks. That leaves us with three slots which I decided to use on Mystic Forge, Sorcerous Spyglass and Basilisk Collar. As mentioned previously Forge is an excellent value engine vs midrange or control and I believe it is especially good in the mirror. Collar is good in the mirror, against Burn and other aggro decks. Spyglass is mostly a Karn target, and I chose it over Pithing Needle as Chalice is frequently set on one. Some other cards I considered were Crucible of Worlds, which I just haven’t found to be effective enough in any matchup, Trinisphere, Witchbane Orb, Wurmcoil Engine, Relic of Progenitus, second Grafdigger’s Cage, Warping Wail, Oblivion Stone or a third Spatial Contortion.

I won’t do a full sideboard guide for the deck as I believe the choices are either obvious or marginal. For example when you want your Leylines and the Cage I never really figured out what was best to cut, but you’re mulliganing so aggressively for Leyline, Tron and Karn the other cards just don’t matter as much. The Crypt I usually leave in the board for Karn to tutor.

Matchup Guide

Hogaak and Dredge

I believe Hogaak is overall an even to slightly positive matchup. With that said, game one is a problem and your only way to consistently win is getting Ensnaring Bridge into play as fast as possible. You can occasionally win games through your big monsters when they need to mulligan and don’t have a quick ‘Gaak’, but if I don’t have either Karn or Tron in my seven or six card hands I’m almost always mulliganing to five. Game two becomes fairly positive where they need to dilute their deck with answers to Leyline and even just slowing them down for a turn or two can stall them enough to race whatever they’re doing.

Dredge is a bit worse than Hogaak as they can beat ensnaring bridge game one with Conflagrate and Creeping Chill, but you have a better chance of being able to race them especially when on the play. I follow essentially the same mulligan strategy.

Jund

Despite what I’ve seen some people online saying about this matchup, I believe it to be quite positive for Eldrazi Tron unless Jund is packing big mana hate in the board such as Alpine Moon or Damping Sphere. This is one of the few matchups I’m happy keeping essentially any combination of lands and castable spells. When sideboarding I trim some Chalices for Forge and Spatial Contortion if they have Dark Confidant, but essentially touch nothing else.

Humans

This matchup is fairly even, possibly a bit negative. As I discussed above, I chose a lot of my flex slots with this matchup in mind. A lot of the matchup rests on the effectiveness of Reflector Mage and Deputy of Detention against our big threats. We shouldn’t be mulliganing too aggressively in this matchup, as long as we either have a sweeper effect or can quickly add to the board the hand is likely keepable. Blast zone, Walking Ballista and All is Dust are the key cards here. Post board we need to get all of the Chalices out of the deck due to their ineffectiveness versus turn one vial and Cavern of souls.

UW Control

This is likely one of our worst matchups. They can effectively trade with our threats and can also effectively keep us off Tron with Field of Ruin. We also don’t really have any haymakers like Karn Liberated to just slam. Karn, the Great Creator is our deck’s best card in this matchup and we need to try and craft the game to getting him resolved. I usually trim All is Dust and Dismember in this matchup, but it can depend on what threats are coming in from their sideboards. Mystic forge definitely needs to get in the deck and Spyglass is also a good option.

Phoenix

I believe this matchup is fairly positive. Chalice of the Void completely dumpsters them and they don’t interact very well against our non-boltable bodies. The one key threat from their side is Thing in the Ice and ensuring we can kill it or lock out the Awoken Horror from attacking with Ensnaring Bridge is key. Aria and Blood Moon can also be problems, but we have ways to effectively beat both of these cards, keeping Mind Stone around can be quite important and if there were more Blood Moons in the format I’d consider a third or even a fourth to ensure we have colourless mana. When sideboarding I usually cut Reshapers for the graveyard package, I’m not sure there’s much else we need from the board.

Urza Thopter Sword

A break out deck from this event which Eli had been testing for awhile. I’m sure he’ll have more to say on the deck after his excellent finish. I believe this is a very good matchup for Eldrazi Tron with four maindeck artifact hosers in Karn. Our cards are essentially all good against them, turn one Chalice on 0zerocan be quite devastating, we also have Dismember to disrupt Urza and Reality Smasher is a pain for the usual chump blocking plan. Post-board we also get the Leylines to put a damper on the combo, I usually cut All is Dust and Matter Reshapers here.