Eldrazi Winter Report – Part 2

For Part 1, click here.

Day 2 of Grand Prix Detroit

After some more play testing with a couple of friends Going into the 2nd day I felt confident that I had a shot at the top 8. I looked at this event like a PTQ. I needed a record of 4-2. Going into Day 2 with an undefeated record meant I would be playing against the best players and strongest decks from Day 1. Let’s begin with the matches.


Round 10: vs. Jund (0-2)

I was not expecting to see Jund. I recognized the name of my opponent, Jonathan Delano, he had recently won the Starcity Modern Classic a week prior to the GP. However, I thought he had won with Chord and not Jund. I was punished for this misread right off the bat. I had a pretty good hand if he was on Chord, a Temple, Karplusion forest Forest, Thought-Knot x 2, Kozilek’s Return and [card]Lightning Bolt[/card], but because he was on Jund a turn one [card]Inquisition[/card] hit me hard. He took the Bolt and passed. On his next turn he played 2 [card]Thoughtseize[/card]s and removed both my Thought-Knot. From there he took me out of the game on the back of a large Goyf that grew larger when [card]Abrupt Decay[/card] was introduced to Endless One.

In game 2 I mulled again. My first mull landed on a questionable 6 card hand of Temple x 2, [card]Eye of Ugin[/card], and Reality Smasher x 3.I had a few thoughts on this keep. I felt that this hand wasn’t keepable if his first few turns were the same as game 1. The hand has 0 interactions with his early plays like [card]Dark Confidant[/card]s. With all this in mind I went down to a 5 card hand and kept it. The hand consisted of Temple, [card]Lightning Bolt[/card], Karplusion Forest, [card]Lightning Bolt[/card], and [card]Relic of Progenitus[/card]. A Scry left Thought-Knot on top. Jon Thoughtseized me on the first turn, taking one of my bolts again. I ended up drawing fairly well; going from Thought-Knot, into Temple, into Reality Smasher, into Reality Smasher. Sadly, I couldn’t get past his [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card]s he rained down.

It felt weird losing a match that I thought was favorable for me. As I thought over my match, and my assumption that Jon was on Chord, I took it to heart to never assume things. After some refreshing time out of the venue, I went back in for Round 11. I would do my best to just stay positive for the rest of the day.

Round 11 vs. R/G Eldrazi (2-0)

This was my first actual mirror match of the Grand Prix, I don’t consider my match against Mike Sigrist in Round 8 a mirror as it’s an aggro version. I was excited to play against the mirror as I had put in a lot of time preparing for it. It felt weird that this would be my first match against it as I figured it would be popular amongst the attendees. When it comes to the mirror match I knew that whoever was on the play was generally the favorite. Luckily I won the die roll. We drew our 7 cards, looked at them for no more than five seconds and said “keep”. We both laughed at what we each saw as an insane hand.

Some people might wonder what an insane hand for R/G Eldrazi is:
[sbplan]
2 Eldrazi Temple
2 Thought-Knot Seer
1 Reality Smasher
1 Eye of ugin
1 World Breaker
[/sbplan]

Two Thought-Knots by Turn 3 with Reality Smasher following up on those two is insane. You can’t cast the World Breaker with the hand above, but you have so many ways to get the G source within the first 5 draws. Of course I look at my opponents hand and it was pretty much a mirror of my exact hand. He did have two World Breakers in comparison to my one. However, I ended up casting World Breaker a turn faster than my opponent. We went to Game 2 soon after that.

The sideboard in this matchup is a bit different from the U/W matchup.

-3 Lightning Bolt
+2 Blasphemous Acts
+1 Ancient Grudge

Unlike the U/W version of the match up, your [card]Lightning Bolt[/card]s don’t hit anything, but an Endless One or Matter Reshaper so they’re cut. I included 1 [card]Ancient Grudge[/card] in this matchup to potentially draw into it early and destroy a Talisman or [card]Mind Stone[/card]. This is done so they don’t ramp too quickly into their Oblivion Sower(s) or World Breaker(s).

We didn’t really get a game 2. My opponent mulliganed to 3 and didn’t hit a 2nd land. I understand the need to mulligan really hard on this deck, but I feel like I can never go lower than 4. My opponent felt the same, but told me he won a game in Day 1 on a mull to 3, so I guess he wanted to retry his luck.

Round 12: vs. U/W Control (2-0)

I wasn’t expecting this at all. I knew of a U/W Control list with [card]Sun Titan[/card], but didn’t think I would see one at this GP during Day 2. Eldrazi is favored in this matchup; so you start to wonder how my opponent got this far. Game 1 went well for me as I had a hand with a one of [card]Cavern of Souls[/card]. He couldn’t really do anything in the first game as his hand was loaded with dead counterspells courtesy of Cavern. Game 2 ended up being just like Game 1, except I got my [card]Cavern of Souls[/card] off of a Turn 1 [card]Ancient Stirrings[/card]. From there I started ripping his hand apart with Thought-Knots. Uncounterable Eldrazi’s are just incredibly hard for Control to deal with.

Round 13: vs. U/W Eldrazi (vs. Gerry Thompson) (1-2)

Game 1 Gerry mulled to six and flooded out.

Game 2 I sided in my usual [card]Blasphemous Act[/card]s and kept a terrible hand because it contained one of them, which for some reason I saw as a snap keep. He Thought-Knoted me and saw a hand that only contained an Oblivion Sower and [card]Blasphemous Act[/card]. He took the Sower and proceeded to crush me before [card]Blasphemous Act[/card] could go online.

Game 3 came with a hard decision when sideboarding… Gerry had sat beside me previously in Round 11 and 12, and I also believe he watched me in Round 9 when crowds started to gather for that epic [card]Living End[/card] match I talked about in part 1. He was well aware of my sideboard, at least from my perspective, so I was debating whether or not the Bridge/Endbringer plan would work on him. I know it’s probably something I need more experience with, but I opted out of the plan and decided to just stick with the [card]Blasphemous Act[/card]s. I was hoping to draw into a good start.

I had a good hand, but I made a huge mistake in this match. There was a decision where I had a choice between casting Thought-Knot Seer and Endbringer or choosing just to cast World Breaker to take away his [card]Eldrazi Temple[/card].

As the video shows, if I had chosen to get his [card]Eldrazi Temple[/card] he wouldn’t have been able to cast his Drowner of Hope and I think I would have been in a better position. If I had led with the World Breaker he would have had to attack into it in order to turn on the dismember and get it off the table. I would have been totally okay with this since I had 2 Talismans and enough lands to sacrifice in order to play the Breaker again.

Instead, I ended up playing what I thought would be more efficient; Thought-Knot into Endbringer. Turns out he kills my Thought-Knot with [card]Dismember[/card], hits a lucky Drowner of Hope with the draw trigger, and draws another Drowner of Hope right off the top. After seeing his hand before the sequence of draws, I honestly thought I had this game wrapped up via World Breaker. He hit me for 8 on his turn and on my turn I had no way to remove his Drowner. I made a misplay here of not using my Endbringer to kill off a Scion Token so that he couldn’t tap my World Breaker when I played it, but I knew he had a [card]Mutagenic Growth[/card] from my earlier Thought-Knots so it wouldn’t have mattered. Had I gone with the World Breaker plan first, I think I would have had it.

Round 14: vs. U/W Eldrazi (2-0)

Dissatisfied by my earlier game against U/W Eldrazi I focused on playing better and crushed my opponent with nut draws in both games.

Final Round: vs. U/W Eldrazi (Huang Hao-Shan 0-2)

My last opponent in the Grand Prix was Hao. I knew my opponent was a National Champ from Taiwan and a regular in the Grand Prix circuit down in Asia. We were called to the feature match area as a backup and I talked about how my earlier match up at the feature table wasn’t a favorable one.

I lost the die roll, but kept a pretty favorable hand if he didn’t hit a Turn 2 Thought-Knot. As it turns out he did have it, and like I mentioned earlier in the article; in the Eldrazi Mirror you are more favored if you are on the play and can hit a Turn 2 Thought-Knot. He rolled me so we moved to Game 2 quick.

I asked him during sideboarding why he was here in Detroit and not at Melborne where the rest of his friends were. Hao was short of a couple of Pro Points to lock Gold this season and he said he wanted to come to Detroit in order to get used to the time zone for the Grand Prix at DC a week later. It made sense from a professional players perspective.

I can’t even read my notes, but I ended up stabilizing the board in game 2 up until the last few turns where I was down to 1 with Hao still at 15. However, I had 9 mana in play with a [card]Lightning Greaves[/card], World Breaker and Endbringer. When he put me to 1. He had a Drowner of Hope and a Scion Token untapped afterwards. He didn’t have enough mana to use Eldrazi Displacer’s ability and he had no cards left in hand. I had to hit a land off the top, [card]Lightning Greaves[/card] my World Breaker, ping his Scion Token, then cast Ulamog to exile his Drowner of Hope, and equip my Greaves to Ulamog to hit him for 15 exactly.

So here came my draw to keep me alive for this tournament…
I drew a land! I was excited only until I realized it was an [card]Eye of Ugin[/card], which I already had in play. I quickly scoured the board to see if there was Urborg I could use to cast the Ulamog, but sadly that wasn’t the case. I literally looked for a minute to see if it was possible to cast Ulamog ,but couldn’t see any lines, showed him my Ulamog and Eye, gave him my blessings for the Top 8, and conceded the game.

Overall Thoughts

My Grand Prix ended at 12-3 for 18th place. While I feel like the ending could have been better, I’ve learned a lot from this Grand Prix. I was asked, after the results, whether or not I felt upset about missing a Pro Tour invite, but the answer is “no”. Having gone through multiple PTQ’s in the past and losing 2 in the finals, one to Jamie Arch and another to Reid Duke online, I am well aware of how heartbreaking it is to get so close to winning but not achieving it. This is an experience many players have gone through and will continue to go through. I try to stay positive and think of ways to improve myself, rather than lingering on a bad experience. Psychologically I believe if you can learn and improve yourself from such bad experiences you will naturally get better as a player. I could have ranted all night and showed my temper to relieve some of my stress, but that doesn’t really accomplish anything, does it? Overall I still ended up doing well in the tournament. I gained more than the majority of the attendees. I have no right to complain.

Huang ended up writing an article on his team’s website a few days after the Grand Prix which quotes the following:

Meanwhile, I also felt very sorry for my opponent because I know how heartbreaking it is to lose a win-and-in after running so deep. I’ve always been blessed to play against nice guys rather than those who lack sportsmanship, because I’d be more comfortable regardless of whether I won or lost. Shogo wished me “good luck in the Top 8”, and I appreciated his kind words wholeheartedly. After all, Magic is a social game between people, and even though the prizes are big, we should not forget that nobody can win all the time but it is more important to be a good person.”

You can’t win it all folks. I’d rather be a player that can be respected than a person who dwells on his loss and refuses to let it go.

So that was my Grand Prix! It was the best finish but I hope I can continue playing like I did in the future. It’s funny how just a year ago I was complaining that I’ve never even made Day 2 of a Grand Prix, let alone make a Pro Tour Day 2.

What you should play before the April Ban/Restricted Update

Now that Modern Grand Prix’s are in the books and an imminent Eldrazi Ban is coming in April, it’s time to put Eldrazi to rest… at least after the Face to Face Open series this weekend.

Eldrazi should be the deck you take with you this weekend, if you are not playing Eldrazi, you should definitely be playing [card]Living End[/card], or something that goldfishes well like Elves. Given how U/W Eldrazi dominated the 3 Grand Prix’s that occurred during the GP weekend I would play one of those two if I wasn’t on the Eldrazi menace itself. Another deck that I feel is positioned well is the G/R Eldrazi Aggro version that was played by several of the Face to Face team members. It seems well positioned in a format where you have big creatures on your opponents board and can steal games by using Eldrazi Obligator’s threaten ability. They all ended up doing well with it, so it’s something to look at.

Of course you can take an unorthodox approach and play with what I have been spamming on Facebook: Possibility Storm.

You’re going to need a lot of practice and guts to play this deck if you want to do well. When I play tested with the deck online I did well enough to consider it for Detroit, but [card]Living End[/card] seemed better.

You have to test the deck out if you want to play something that isn’t Eldrazi. There are some cards that can work better than the list, like ritual cards, or even playing UR Storm and siding into a [card]Possibility Storm[/card] plan. That’s just something you as a player have to think about though.

Remember this; you will have more sideboarded games than pre-sideboarded games in Magic. If you want to have a chance at winning your matches you should play more sideboarded games than Game 1 and get used to it.

Making an unusual sideboard can help. In my Eldrazi deck I had 2 [card]Ensnaring Bridge[/card]s and 3 Endbringers. In a lot of the U/W matchups my opponent was locked out of the game because they had no way to interact with the Bridges as they didn’t see them coming. Sometimes you just have to think outside the box and think of a new game plan in your sideboard matches. That’s what I did to steal some of the games in Detroit.

I’m planning to sleeve up [card]Possibility Storm[/card] for this weekend but who knows? Maybe I’ll say goodbye to my Eldrazi deck one last time before the imminent purge.

Cheers!
-Sho

Grand Prix Detroit: Eldrazi Winter

Before I get into the tournament report for Grand Prix Detroit, I want to express my opinion on the Eldrazi decks. The deck is due to downgrade from its Tier 0 status in the upcoming April B&R update. In his interview at GP Detroit, Aaron Forsythe spoke about the need to make changes to the deck.

Modern has always been a fun format to play in. Within the last couple of years the growth in MTG, specifically the Modern format, has been considered a tremendous success by WOTC. However, in the last 3 months the growth has stagnated a bit. The invasion of the Eldrazi has not helped this. What started off as a lowly tribe of aliens, barely managing to impact Modern, quickly became a full scale invasion. It started in the end of November with the first Eldrazi deck popping up on the Magic Online League (5-0) decklist. Ironically I had already begun testing the possibility of being able to play with the new cards from Battle for Zendikar utilizing the old and forgotten cards; [card]Eldrazi Temple[/card] and [card]Eye of Ugin[/card]. You can see the list and also read up on the process of how that deck evolved here.

At the time of my original article Modern was a format filled with graveyard interactions. Players were recasting spells with [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card], growing [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]s, and/or utilizing the Delve mechanic to great effect. Things started to change when the B&R list got updated for the upcoming Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch. Certain cards, [card]Splinter Twin[/card] and [card]Summer Bloom[/card] were banned, resulting in a big change for the Modern format. This change took the Pro Tour by storm and warped Modern.

2 Weeks before Eldrazi Winter: Detroit

Looking through results from around the world, whether they were a local FNM, a local tournament, or SCG Opens, you can quickly conclude that Eldrazi was all over the radar. With the Pro Tour being dominated by Eldrazi and then on the same weekend a different version of the Eldrazi deck winning a Magic Online PTQ, you had to wonder if there was really anything left to now stop these decks from winning everything. During this time the colorless version that was played at the Pro Tour by CFB was outdated. It was considered the worst Eldrazi deck out of the entire field because the tech was out of the bag. Maindecking [card]Chalice of the Void[/card] in a field full of Eldrazi was no longer viable. In its place the U/W version of Eldrazi was the deck to beat. Until the archetype gets banned in April, with the likely loss of [card]Eye of Ugin[/card], [card]Eldrazi Temple[/card], or both, I will consider it the best version of the Eldrazi decks.

I first looked at the list below.

[deck]
[Lands]
4 Adarkar Wastes
2 Cavern of Souls
2 Caves of Koilos
4 Eldrazi Temple
4 Eye of Ugin
4 Flooded Strand
2 Hallowed Fountain
1 Island
1 Plains
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
[/Lands]
[Spells]
3 Dismember
4 Path to Exile
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
4 Drowner of Hope
4 Eldrazi Displacer
4 Eldrazi Mimic
4 Eldrazi Skyspawner
4 Endless One
4 Reality Smasher
4 Thought-Knot Seer
[/Creatures]
[Sideboard]
2 Gut Shot
3 Stubborn Denial
2 Disenchant
3 Rest in Peace
3 Stony Silence
2 Worship
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

I played this list to a pretty high success rate on Magic Online. I went 5-0 every 2-3 leagues with the list. There was no denying that the deck was spectacular. The problem for me was since the deck stood out so much, I was bound to be facing many opponents using close to the same 75 at the Grand Prix. Magic Online leagues are great for practicing for an upcoming tournament, however the problem I have found with them are the skill level of your opponent differ greatly from match to match. It’s been known for a while, but apparently Magic Online leagues do not match you with players queued in the same bracket, instead they pair you with anyone that is online at that time. This means that if you are 4-0 going into your final league match, you can actually still be paired with someone that is 0-4, so in that regards you may not be playing against an opponent of similar skill. At a Grand Prix this wouldn’t happen as you will always be paired with someone who has the same points as you, +/- 1-3 points depending on if you got paired up/down. Knowing this, I thought to myself that going 5-0 every two to three leagues was good, but I wanted to find something else that could either match that record or better. Thus I began to play around with various other decks.

Then I found a gem, well rather two gems.

Diamonds in the Rough

[card]Living End[/card] and [card]Possibility Storm[/card] were being talked about in Japan. There was no actual decklist or data, but there was a great deal of hype around the cards after Yuuki Ichikawa and Kentaro Yamamoto discussed them on Twitter. I got to know them a bit more when I went overseas to Grand Prix Nagoya earlier this year and was able to ask them what they would play at Melbourne if they decided to go.

The first deck Kentaro talked about was a [card]Living End[/card] deck that utilized [card]Olivia Voldaren[/card]. I really never knew how that would work out, but in hindsight [card]Living End[/card] makes quite a lot of sense in this format. Graveyard interaction has dwindled and blue decks are at an all-time low. So I gave the deck a shot, it really is just a copy of the list both Kentaro and Yuuki played at Melbourne this weekend.

[deck]
[Lands]
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
1 Blood Crypt
4 Copperline Gorge
1 Forest
1 Kessig Wolf Run
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Stomping Ground
2 Swamp
4 Verdant Catacombs
[/Lands]
[Spells]
3 Beast Within
4 Demonic Dread
3 Living End
4 Violent Outburst
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
4 Architects of Will
4 Deadshot Minotaur
1 Dryad Arbor
4 Fulminator Mage
2 Jungle Weaver
4 Monstrous Carabid
2 Shriekmaw
2 Simian Spirit Guide
4 Street Wraith
[/Creatures]
[Sideboard]
2 Brindle Boar
4 Faerie Macabre
4 Ingot Chewer
2 Olivia Voldaren
1 Ricochet Trap
2 Shriekmaw
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

The second deck that was discussed played a control game using [card]Possibility Storm[/card] to get Emrakul. This deck has existed before, but it’s been somewhat forgotten. After realizing at the Pro Tour that Griselshoal was bad in an Eldrazi field, they wondered if it was possible to play a control game. They figured if more players start to opt out of using [card]Cavern of Souls[/card] then such a strategy may become viable.

I tried both decks, the [card]Living End[/card] deck was incredible, my match win % was quite high. I was even thinking of playing it at the Grand Prix, however by this time I spent so much time practicing between both decks that I had to come to a decision on what to play. I only had 6 days left until the Grand Prix. I decided on [card]Living End[/card], asked for Kentaro’s list which he promptly handed me, and started to acquire the cards in paper.

Of Course You Saw on Camera I Wasn’t Playing [Card]Living End[/Card], so What Happened Here?

Clearly if you want to make a Modern deck folks, 6 days is definitely not enough. Unlike the way you can acquire cards on Magic Online, physical copies of Modern staples are quite hard to find, even if they are common. By the 3rd day of looking for them I had about 70% of the deck complete. I was getting scared that I wouldn’t be able to finish it in time. This was not the week for me to physically look around Toronto as I had a busy week at work. By Tuesday night I made the decision, on stream, that I could not do this and decided to abandon the [card]Living End[/card] plan, substituting it with the 2nd most comfortable deck I was playing at the time: G/R Eldrazi.

[deck]
[Lands]
1 Cavern of Souls
4 Eldrazi Temple
4 Eye of Ugin
2 Forest
1 Ghost Quarter
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
4 Karplusan Forest
1 Mountain
1 Tendo Ice Bridge
2 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
[/Lands]
[Spells]
3 Ancient Stirrings
3 Dismember
3 Kozilek’s Return
3 Lightning Bolt
1 Lightning Greaves
4 Talisman of Impulse
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
1 Endbringer
3 Endless One
2 Oblivion Sower
4 Reality Smasher
4 Thought-Knot Seer
1 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
4 World Breaker
[/Creatures]
[Sideboard]
3 Endbringer
2 Ensnaring Bridge
2 Blasphemous Act
3 Relic of Progenitus
2 Ancient Grudge
2 Chalice of the Void
1 Natural State
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

Grand Prix Detroit Report

Round 1: Bye

Round 2: Bye

Round 3: vs. U/W Eldrazi (2-0)
Just a stock list of U/W Eldrazi. I played it myself a hundred times and it is the boogeyman of the format, so I know how it plays out. After winning the first game by playing [card]Thought-Knot Seer[/card] (taking his Seer), and letting him play his multiple [card]Eldrazi Skyspawner[/card]s into Kozilek’s Return, I overran him with the Seer and [card]Reality Smasher[/card] and moved quickly to Game 2.

Sideboarding
-3 Endless One
-4 Reality Smashers
-1 Thought-Knot Seer

+2 Blasphemous Acts
+3 Ensnaring Bridge
+3 Endbringer

Some might be wondering what the heck I am doing by removing the core of the Eldrazi deck by taking out [card]Reality Smasher[/card] and Thought Knot-Seer. This is how I approached the Eldrazi matches going into Detroit

  1. The surprise factor.
  2. If the game manages to go to Game 3, opponent is confused on how to sideboard based on the changes above.

Of course, when I am on the play post board I just sideboard in the 2 [card]Blasphemous Act[/card]s against U/W and try to win the game through acceleration or the Turn 2 Thought-Knot into Turn 3 [card]Reality Smasher[/card].

For this specific game, my opponent played a turn 2 Thought-Knot and was immediately confused by the multiple [card]Endbringer[/card]s I had in my hand. My hand was, with an [card]Eldrazi Temple[/card] in play, [card]Eldrazi Temple[/card], [card]Endbringer[/card], [card]Endbringer[/card], Karpulsan [card]Forest[/card], [card]Lightning Greaves[/card], and [card]Ancient Stirrings[/card].

Since he was confused, he took the [card]Endbringer[/card] and passed. I drew a Thought-Knot for the turn and ended up taking his [card]Reality Smasher[/card] he had ready for next turn. On the following turn I used [card]Ancient Stirrings[/card] to find an [card]Ensnaring Bridge[/card] and that’s when he became completely perplexed. A few turns later, after not being able to draw into a Path of Exile, he finds out he’s essentially locked out of the game. What’s worse is that I also have my [card]Lightning Greaves[/card] equipped to [card]Endbringer[/card], so he has no way to even interact with it. After getting him to 2 life, he conceded showing me a hand stocked with [card]Drowner of Hope[/card].

Round 4: vs. Elves (Reid Duke) (2-1)

I wasn’t expecting to face someone such as Reid in the 4th round, but that’s what can happen when your opponent has 3 byes coming in and you’re 3-0. Game 1 wasn’t impressive. I didn’t show him my colored source until Turn 3. I played Temple, [card]Cavern of Souls[/card], and he literally dumped his entire hand onto the field with Elves and an Archdruid. I cast a [card]Kozilek’s Return[/card] on Turn 3 to wipe the board and the game was over a few turns later.

In game 2, he caught me by surprise by showing me that he is on G/W Elves. I had previously put him on a Mono Green list. He started to Path my threats and used a [card]Collected Company[/card] to hit a unique card I was not aware of.

Dauntless Escort

This card foiled my plan to [card]Kozilek’s Return[/card] (or use the [card]Blasphemous Act[/card] I sided in) so I had no way to wipe his board. I died rather quickly.

In Game 3 it got to the point where he had a massive amount of Elves out including an Archdruid and an Escort. I had a [card]Kozilek’s Return[/card] in hand as well as a [card]Blasphemous Act[/card], but he had 2 cards in hand when he had enough mana to play anything. [card]Heritage Druid[/card] and Nykthos were both in play. I thought to myself it has to be either a dud, or he has [card]Collected Company[/card], or some sort of preventive method. My draw for the turn gets me a Thought-Knot. I have enough Mana sources to cast all of Thought-Knot, Return, and Act so I decided to look at his hand first. His reveal?

[card]Pay No Heed[/card] and a [card]Forest[/card]. I take the [card]Pay No Heed[/card].

Now knowing that his hand was just a land, I decided to [card]Blasphemous Act[/card], forcing him to sacrifice his Escort and in response to it, [card]Kozilek’s Return[/card] wiping his entire field. A few turns later, I end up with a bigger threat than he can deal with and win the game.

Round 5: vs. Merfolk (2-0)
Merfolk isn’t really a match against [card]Kozilek’s Return[/card] and [card]Blasphemous Act[/card].

Round 6: vs. U/W Eldrazi (2-1)
Same sideboard plans as Round 4, except I ended up boarding out the Bridge/Endbringer since I was on the play. My opponent revealed 2 [card]Disenchant[/card]s when I used Thought-Knot on Turn 3. Good thing I left the Bridge out.

Round 7: vs. U/W Eldrazi (2-1)

Round 8: vs. R/G Aggro Eldrazi (Mike Sigrist, 2-1)
This was quite a unique take on R/G Eldrazi. I was rather surprised to see it. I saw the same plays as any other R/G Eldrazi players with Temple, into Temple/Eye for Thought-Knot, but I did not see [card]Eldrazi Obligator[/card] coming at all. I lost the first game because of this and decided to play safe the next 2 games. I even played an Endless for 2 instead of holding it, in fear that he will smack me back with my own Thought-Knot, Sower, etc. [card]Lightning Bolt[/card] was amazing in this match.

Round 9: vs. [card]Living End[/card] (2-1)
This marks the final match of the day and I quickly lost Game 1. In game 2, I won on the coattails of [card]Relic of Progenitus[/card]. Game 3 went as well as I could have hoped. I saw my opponent snap keep his opening 7. This is an indication to me that he has everything he wants and doesn’t care about a Turn 2 Thought-Knot, which I did use to snag a copy of [card]Demonic Dread[/card]. His start went…

Turn 1: Land, [card]Ingot Chewer[/card] (Evoke)
Turn 2: Land, [card]Ingot Chewer[/card] (Evoke), [card]Ingot Chewer[/card] (Evoke)
Turn 3: Wraith Cycle, Wraith Cycle, [card]Beast Within[/card] my [card]Eye of Ugin[/card] at end of my T3
Turn 4: [card]Violent Outburst[/card] (Cascade to [card]Living End[/card]) to revive, [card]Ingot Chewer[/card] x 3, Wraith Cycle x 2, and kill my [card]Thought-Knot Seer[/card].

After he passed the turn, I quickly played my land, a [card]Talisman of Impulse[/card], and then [card]Ensnaring Bridge[/card]. The moment I saw him Evoke his first 3 [card]Ingot Chewer[/card]s I knew he had almost nothing left to destroy this Bridge in his deck other than [card]Beast Within[/card], which he already used one copy of. The next few turns just saw him drawing cards while I dumped my cards in order to stay hellbent. The game went for about 20 minutes until I eventually got to the point of casting 4 [card]World Breaker[/card]s in order to destroy his lands. In addition to the [card]World Breaker[/card]s I found a Relic to exile his graveyard, and put a Chalice on 0 and one on 3. A [card]Blasphemous Act[/card] cleaned up the board. After the sweeper I used the 2nd clause of [card]World Breaker[/card] to get back my entire playset of [card]World Breaker[/card]s back in order to break my own Bridge and attack him for lethal.

So there we have it folks. I ended 9-0 on Day 1 of a Grand Prix with over 2500 Players, which marks another first time record for me.

I will update with the Day 2 Report soon and what I would play in the next few weeks until the B&R update in April. I will also tell you what I think will be a good deck after the Eldrazi Winter settles. You can catch me on stream in the evenings here this week playing another series of decks for the upcoming Face to Face Open in 2 weeks. I wish I could give some input on Standard, however I am bit out of that format at the moment and I can’t practice for Grand Prix Toronto until Shadows of Innistrad becomes available.

Cheers!

Sho

Return of the Eldrazi: a New Era for Modern

Editor’s Note: This article was submitted prior to the bannings of Splinter Twin and Summer Bloom.

Magic is an intriguing game. The continuous flow of new cards can cause a format to warp dramatically when something particularly powerful is printed. Modern is a format in which a freshly printed powerful card can shake up the entire metagame or give birth to a new deck causing a ripple effect. Today I would like to discuss the ripple that the Eldrazi decks have caused in Modern.

Eldrazi cards have existed since Rise of the Eldrazi (RoE). Emrakul, Ulamog, and Kozilek were once staple cards used in the Modern Tron decks. The strong ramp ability, and having [card]Eye of Ugin[/card] gave Tron the ability to search for these powerful titans and cast them quickly.However, their prohibitive mana cost of at least 10 kept them locked away in ramp style decks. As a result they were in large part disregarded by non-tron players.

With the introduction of Battle for Zendikar (BFZ) the hype for what happened on Zendikar reignited many of us. We were reintroduced to the Eldrazi. When we were last on Zendikar Extended still existed and Modern was a work in progress. A lot of time had passed, could the Eldrazi carve out a new home in Modern? In the next two sections I will present a history of the deck. This can be skipped if you are interested in seeing the lists and which version I feel is best.

Moving towards a New Era:

Never having played Magic in a competitive level until Dragon’s Maze, I only knew of the titan’s existence due to their high end mana cost and witnessing Emrakul being played in Tron. Like many of you, who first read the BFZ spoilers, I researched into which cards were potentially playable. This was mostly done for the Standard format, but I also looked to see if any Eldrazi might make their way into Modern. Perhaps the Tron deck would receive a few upgrades. Sadly, while playable based on how the card looked, the only immediate stand out was Ulamog. His counterparts Emrakul and Kozilek were missing in action.

For quite a while, the thought process for me was, “I guess Tron is going to replace Emrakul now with this new Ulamog which does something when it is cast regardless if it resolves”. I decided that no other Eldrazi would make it into Modern. When Battle for Zendikar became legal this appeared true. The RG Tron decks started playing their new titan. Not minding the new critter whatsoever I stuck with good old [card]Scapeshift[/card]. It has won me tons of events, including a PTQ. I kept on engaging with RG Tron on MODO 8 mans and Modern Daily Events (DE). The raw power of Ulamog pushed me towards a different big mana strategy. I moved away from [card]Scapeshift[/card] and began experimenting with Tron. This was short lived though, for Michael Majors at SCG posted a wacky brew which can be seen here. It consisted of not only the new Ulamog but also a swarm of processing Eldrazi from BFZ.

The Eldrazi Have Risen

The ability to process cards, which lets you return cards from exile to your oponent’s graveyard, were amusing to see in BFZ Limited but hardly ever possible without getting multiple Ingest triggers. However, the abilities listed for when the process occurred looked quite strong. Majors reinforced this point. I decided to give the brew a shot in a couple of DE’s and 8 mans on MODO to see what it had to offer. After around 20 matches and 2 DE’s I found myself with over 120 tickets. Despite losing many matches I was able to take the risk of trying out a new deck. Experimenting with a new deck, even if you may lose a few matches, is important as it allows for a greater understanding of what the deck is trying to do and whether or not it has potential. Below I will break down what I learned about Modern Eldrazi.

The [card]Relic of Progenitus[/card] and [card]Nihil Spellbomb[/card]s made most of the graveyard interactive decks fun to play against. Never had I considered that maindecking these are a total pain in the neck for a lot of the decks, beyond the graveyard based ones, currently in modern. BGx – Junk, Jund, any decks with [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card]s, Dredge, [card]Living End[/card], and Storm all struggle without ready access to a well stocked yard. The processing abilities of the new Eldrazi cards were, quite frankly, exceptional. Blight Herder is the prime standout of the bunch as it is a sizable threat that enables us to cast Ulamog. The ability to process and exile cards from the graveyard granted continuous control of my opponent’s graveyard. You rarely get to see such processing abilities occur in Standard because there are hardly any tools to help with this clause. The lack of ability to facilitate processing in standard may have led to the initial underestimations of the processors. On a side note, suspend can become a drawback for our opponnents. I would of never have thought Processing an opponent’s [card]Rift Bolt[/card] and killing a [card]Goblin Guide[/card] or [card]Monastery Swiftspear[/card] at the same time was possible! [card]Wasteland[/card] Strangler is an ace.

The first build of the deck played [card]Faithless Looting[/card]. Having understood what core of this deck was trying to do I decided to cut them as they did not fit the main plan. I began to tinker with other cards in the premiere list, looking for tools that would improve problem matchups. It took around an additional 10 days of testing, but as the days passed my results improved. I started to understand the deck more and soon after, this was the result of what became the Eldrazi Hype.

At this point when the deck list was published it had a win rate of over 74%. The deck won several leagues prior to the posted date but with how WotC publishes deck lists randomly out of all the winners, it gave me a slight edge on as not many players yet understood what the deck was about.

Once the deck list became public knowledge many players began exploring and testing with it. Video Deck Techs became available, articles and forum threads started spawning and soon enough, people were playing the deck out on MODO and on paper and seeing if any other color options were available other than red. Prices for certain staples in this new archetype including [card]Eye of Ugin[/card], [card]Eldrazi Temple[/card], and [card]Relic of Progenitus[/card] shot through the roof. At this point I was looking into a strategy that would have an edge in the mirror. That list is today’s BW Eldrazi list.

When I began playing the BW version it contained synergistic cards such as [card]Path to Exile[/card], [card]Journey to Nowhere[/card], [card]Oblivion Ring[/card], and [card]Rest in Peace[/card] for the processing abilities but had a harder time against decks that went wide such as Affinity and Zoo. These decks were already troublesome for the BR version. In order to combat these decks we turned to [card]Lingering Souls[/card]. Once I added [card]Lingering Souls[/card] my win percentage went from an initial rate of 34% shot up to something like 70%. From there I took it another step and played 250 games each with the BW deck and the RB deck in order to determine which variant was better. You can see the results here from my old tweet from the end of December.

What Version Should I Play?

If you’re just picking up the deck the white version is better. Once you start running games and gain experience with it I feel that the red rewards greater experience more than the white does. The current BW seems like it has stagnated. It has yet to evolve in. The BR Version on the other hand continues to see updates. If you feel that the meta is heavy Eldrazi play the white version over the red. Otherwise, practice and work towards piloting the BR version.

My current BR Eldrazi List:

[deck]
[Lands]
2 Blood Crypt
4 Bloodstained Mire
1 Bojuka Bog
4 Eldrazi Temple
3 Eye of Ugin
4 Ghost Quarter
2 Mountain
2 Swamp
1 Tendo Ice Bridge
2 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
[/Lands]
[Spells]
2 Expedition Map
2 Go for the Throat
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
2 Languish
1 Nihil Spellbomb
4 Relic of Progenitus
2 Scrabbling Claws
2 Thoughtseize
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
4 Blight Herder
4 Oblivion Sower
2 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
2 Vile Aggregate
4 Wasteland Strangler
[/Creatures]
[Sideboard]
2 Duress
2 Crumble to Dust
2 Night of Souls’ Betrayal
2 Pithing Needle
2 Ratchet Bomb
1 Spellskite
2 Sun Droplet
1 Vampiric Link
1 Vandalblast
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

Don’t get me wrong, the white version of the deck is great. [card]Lingering Souls[/card] and the sideboard cards do make the harder matchups for Eldrazi, burn, better. However, to me it just feels like playing cards such as [card]Lingering Souls[/card] and [card]Stony Silence[/card] moves away from what we are trying to do, cast massive monsters. I have often witnessed players, in the mirror, boarding in [card]Stony Silence[/card], [card]Disenchant[/card]s, and boarding out [card]Lingering Souls[/card], which is totally wrong. Doing this comes at the cost of them not being able to play their own Relic or Claws. Being able to cantrip in the mirror is important as it allows you to dig for answers.

The Evolution of BR

The current BR Eldrazi list I am running has made multiple changes since the Eldrazi debut. First off, [card]Lightning Bolt[/card] has been cut. the manabase in our deck was still in a work in progress when it was first introduced. If you have playtested with the first version of the deck that was posted you may have noticed that in some of the midrange matches drawing a Blackcleave Cliff after you’ve already played 3 lands slows your board development. We want to be able to cast our big guys on curve and [card]Blackcleave Cliffs[/card] was more of a hinderance to us than it should have been. If our end game consists of cards like Oblivion Sower and Ulamog it had to go. The removal of cliffs keeps us off turn 1 or 2 bolt thereby devaluing the card’s value to us. The sideboard double red cards such as [card]Anger of the Gods[/card] and [card]Shatterstorm[/card] were also cut due to the drop in red mana. If we wanted to keep the cards above, we would have to skew our mana base to compensate for more [card]Blood Crypt[/card]s, and more basic Mountains. I feel doing that would make our deck slower and more vulnerable. We now have red for primarly sideboard reasons rather than mainboard ones.

To compensate for the loss of [card]Anger of the Gods[/card], which is an all-star against the aggressive decks that go wide and [card]Shatterstorm[/card], which hoses the Affinity, the deck now incorporates [card]Languish[/card]. Previous versions played [card]Damnation[/card]. I felt like there must be a better card out there and began playing [card]Languish[/card]. As a sweeper it will often wipe our opponenet’s board while keeping our guys alive. -4/-4 is often enough to kill anything in Modern anyways.

Manlands, which [card]Lightning Bolt[/card] used to kill, now become problematic. In order to combat them I have introduced a playset of [card]Ghost Quarter[/card]s to my list. Doing this also increases our win rate against Tron, a deck that is likely a strong contender given the recent bannings.

With the loss of [card]Shatterstorm[/card] we now playing [card]Vandalblast[/card] [card]Ratchet Bomb[/card]s and [card]Pithing Needle[/card]s to slow them down.

We’ve cut our [card]Pyroclasm[/card] and have compensated with additional methods to secure [card]Wasteland[/card] Strangler’s processing ability via [card]Scrabbling Claws[/card]. We are doing this because Strangler, when able to process, can give Aggro matches a tough time.

[card]Sun Droplet[/card] has been added to assist with the burn match.

With the changes above we now have a chance to play turn 1 Relic/Claws into turn 2 removal ([card]Go for the Throat[/card], [card]Wasteland[/card] with [card]Eldrazi Temple[/card] or [card]Eye of Ugin[/card]) with potential setup for a Turn 3 Blight Herder or [card]Languish[/card]. This line of play will often seal the game in our favor against the current aggressive decks.

Our Win Rates:

For simplicity sake, we will only name the 12 most popular Modern Decks currently on MODO. Unfortunately, these numbers come pre-twin banning.

The Good Matchups (60-75%+ Win Rate)

• Grixis Variants (Twin, Control, Midrange)
• Jeskai Variants (Twin, Control, UR Twin included)
• BGx (Jund, Junk/Abzan)
• RUG [card]Scapeshift[/card]

The Average Matchups (46% – 59%)

• Infect (close to a good matchup)
• Eldrazi (BW: close to a good matchup, Heartless: close to a bad matchup, Mono B: Average)
• Merfolk (close to a bad matchup, % is higher due to [card]Languish[/card])
• Naya Company (includes for Big Zoo and Kiki Chord)

The Bad Matchups (30-45% Win Rate)

• Affinity
• Burn
• Zoo (the small version, with the 16+ one drops and nothing over 3CMC)
• RG Tron (even with the 4 [card]Ghost Quarter[/card]s this matchup is close to 45%)

I would like those who play BR Eldrazi (or Eldrazi in general, BW/UB/B/Heartless) let me know how they feel their matchups are. This might lead to some consensus on what can be done to make certain matchups better for the various Eldrazi decks.

Oath of the Gatewatch is coming out in just under a week. Next time I would like to talk about the cards from Oath coming out that might make or have made an impact on the Eldrazi Archetype and where this archetype sits as Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch looms. We will see if any other variants of Eldrazi are viable as well.

If you’re planning to want to take a spin with this deck when Oath hits you should already be buying a playset of these.

Thought-Knot Seer, Reality Smasher

Although Oath of the Gatewatch is not coming out on MODO until the 29th. I will still be testing Eldrazi on a daily basis and not just limiting myself to the current colors of BR, BW, Mono B, or Heartless. Just yesterday I streamed a League with UB Eldrazi that almost went 4-1.

I am usually testing or playing Modern, so if you’re the type that likes to watch Modern then join my viewers.

Twitch.tv/itsshotyme

If you have questions you can follow me at @ItIsShoTime on Twitter.
Thank you all for reading! I will hopefully have an updated version for you in a week or two. Hail our Eldrazi overlords!

– Sho