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 During this time the colorless version that was played at the Pro Tour by CFB was outdated.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.

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
3 Dismember
4 Path to Exile
4 Drowner of Hope
4 Eldrazi Displacer
4 Eldrazi Mimic
4 Eldrazi Skyspawner
4 Endless One
4 Reality Smasher
4 Thought-Knot Seer
2 Gut Shot
3 Stubborn Denial
2 Disenchant
3 Rest in Peace
3 Stony Silence
2 Worship

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.

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
3 Beast Within
4 Demonic Dread
3 Living End
4 Violent Outburst
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
2 Brindle Boar
4 Faerie Macabre
4 Ingot Chewer
2 Olivia Voldaren
1 Ricochet Trap
2 Shriekmaw

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.

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
3 Ancient Stirrings
3 Dismember
3 Kozilek’s Return
3 Lightning Bolt
1 Lightning Greaves
4 Talisman of Impulse
1 Endbringer
3 Endless One
2 Oblivion Sower
4 Reality Smasher
4 Thought-Knot Seer
1 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
4 World Breaker
3 Endbringer
2 Ensnaring Bridge
2 Blasphemous Act
3 Relic of Progenitus
2 Ancient Grudge
2 Chalice of the Void
1 Natural State

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.

-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.