Going into Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch, Eldrazi decks of many different varieties were on my mind, as well as many of the other competitors at the Pro Tour. It seemed obvious that Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple are busted alongside the newest stream of Eldrazi creatures in Oath of the Gatewatch. It is easy to say "I told you so," but if it was that obvious, how come you didn't run Eldrazi at the Pro Tour? The answer is that the difficult part was coming up with the right configuration for the deck. Both the colorless version and the U/R Eldrazi deck completely dominated the Pro Tour unlike anything competitive magic has seen in years.
Was this something to be expected? I don't think people expected the Eldrazi decks to be that dominant. The deck completely outclassed everything else in the field by such a wide margin that it was silly. On a personal note, I am frustrated, like most players in the tournament who didn't register a deck with Thought-Knot Seer in it. I fell into the same trap that I believe many others did, and I am calling it the black trap. To me the most obvious color initially to pair the Eldrazi creatures with is black. After all the interaction with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and Eye of Ugin is super-powerful. In addition, black provides various forms of removal and discard. Lastly, the previous version of Eldrazi decks that had done well before the release of Oath of the Gatewatch all had black in them.
After having built a few different versions of black Eldrazi, whether it be Orzhov, Golgari, or mono-black, it was clear that what the deck can do is extraordinarily powerful. Playing undercosted Reality Smashers and Thought-Knot Seers can win the game on their own. However, the spells surrounding these decks weren't optimal, and in the end I went ahead and, in my mind, played it safe by not pulling the trigger on Eldrazi. It is not like I didn't have access to solid lists, as I was rooming with Frank Lepore, it just seemed like it could be a waste of time to go ahead and attempt to try to make a colorless version of the Eldrazi deck work. Of course this couldn't be further from the truth, and all that is left is regret.
The core of each version of Eldrazi is clear, though there are various options from there. First of all, it is definitely correct to have four of both Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple. Some early lists playess less than four copies of Eye of Ugin because it's legendary, which is wrong. Maximizing the amount of land that essentially produce two mana is extremely important. Whenever both of these lands are Drawn Together the hands are extremely explosive. The other lands in the deck vary, though you want to play a number of lands that produce a colorless and have some other additional effect. Then we have the creature base. The creatures that need to be in are Eldrazi Mimic, Thought-Knot Seer, and Reality Smasher. Beyond those, there are plenty more options to fill out the rest of the Eldrazi suite.
The format was in fact broken, as three different versions of the Eldrazi deck proved that they are too powerful for Modern in its current state. To start here is Frank Lepore's take on Processor Eldrazi:
This version is different from most of the other successful lists, as it is making use of Blight Herder and Wasteland Strangler, alongside maindeck Scrabbling Claws and Relic of Progenitus. This is what classifies his deck as "Processor Eldrazi" — of all the Eldrazi decks in the Top 8, his is the only version to make use of opponents' cards in exile. The versions with processors seemed to be worse than the others because of variance. Sometimes you don't draw a way to exile along with a processor. In many matchups, the deck wants to board out Scrabbling Claws, which means even less ways to exile cards.
The way Lepore found himself in the Top 8 is that his matchup is good in most Eldrazi mirrors. While it is true that he lost in the quarterfinals to another Eldrazi deck, Ivan Floch's draws were vastly superior to Lepore's. Lepore's deck has the potential to not only make Eldrazi Scions with Blight Herder, but also with Drowner of Hope. This six-drop can be a huge game changer, and was an Eldrazi that really broke out at this Pro Tour. Being able to tap down other Eldrazi by just sacrificing an Eldrazi Scion turned out to be a particularly important interaction. Lepore didn't have maindeck removal or interaction in terms of actual non-creature spells, beyond removing cards from the opponent's graveyard. What he can do, though, is leverage creatures like Wasteland Strangler and Drowner of Hope to help clear away opposing creatures, and allow his Eldrazi to profitably attack.
We see in both Lepore's version and the completely colorless version that Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is good without a big commitment to black. Lepore only has the four copies of Wasteland Strangler for black cards, and the colorless Eldrazi decks have no black cards whatsoever, yet there are three copies of Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth here. This is essentially a way of making Eye of Ugin even better; that interaction is that powerful. Out of the three different versions of Eldrazi that made Top 8, I would expect this to be the least popular moving forward. It isn't that this version was bad, but the other two versions seemed a bit more tuned.
This may not have been as successful percentage wise as U/R Eldrazi, but a staggering amount of players did well with Colorless Eldrazi. There are several impressive deviations this deck takes from other versions to really set itself apart. The Eldrazi creatures themselves aren't too unusual, as there are only twenty, topping out with Endless One. There are other reactive cards here though which help against many of the other fast decks of the format. There are a variety of archetypes which have a high density of one casting cost spells, but this is not one of them. In order to punish other archetypes this deck has four maindeck copies of Chalice of the Void.
Chalice of the Void seems like a reasonable sideboard card for a colorless deck, but upon further observation it is much more here. It actually makes a lot of sense to play it maindeck, thanks to Simian Spirit Guide. Not only does Simian Spirit Guide allow you to cast Eldrazi a turn earlier, but it also enables a turn-one Chalice of the Void, which can provide free wins.
Outside of Chalice of the Void, there are a variety of other forms of disruption, both maindeck and sideboard. This isn't just a deck full of huge threats, as there are Spellskites, Ratchet Bombs, and Dismembers in order to help handle an early assault. Against a deck like Infect, which is capable of putting together a faster clock than the Eldrazi deck, having multiple angles of disruption is key. Other aggressive decks capable of racing the Eldrazi deck are the only matchups that can be annoying. The worst matchup might be Affinity, but this version can fight that archetype very efficiently. There are even more answers in the board with cards like Gut Shot, which can be a huge blowout.
The Colorless Eldrazi deck may not have been the best deck of the Pro Tour. The best deck seems to have been U/R Eldrazi. Not only did this deck have the best results during the swiss portion of the tournament, it won the whole thing in the hands of Jiachen Tao. This may be the ultimate Eldrazi deck, as it plays more actual Eldrazi creatures than any of the other versions. The deck actually has enough blue and red sources as Shivan Reef and Cavern of Souls do a great job at producing either colorless or colored mana to cast any of the Eldrazi creatures. This is about as synergistic as the Eldrazi decks get, as the only actual removal are the three Dismembers, and a couple sideboard cards.
Just playing Eldrazi creatures and not caring too much about what your opponent is doing can work out very well. This deck plays a host of three mana Eldrazi creatures to help the deck fire on all cylinders, and provide a clear advantage in the mirror. First, we have Eldrazi Skyspawner, the top blue common from Battle for Zendikar that came from completely off the radar. Its accompanying Eldrazi Scion really does help transition well to the five and six mana Eldrazi creatures, in addition to helping beef up Vile Aggregate (!). Vile Aggregate looked awesome any time it was on-camera, and just seemed like a cheap Endless One with trample.
U/R Eldrazi deck really does utilize cards that have yet to even see play in Standard. The reason is of course that when they cost two mana, via Eye of Ugin or Eldrazi Temple, they are much better. Perhaps the biggest reason to play red is Eldrazi Obligator, which can steal opposing Reality Smashers, and can end the game extremely quickly. The blue/red version has the edge in any Eldrazi mirror match, but further results are needed to conclude which version is better against the entire field as the Modern metagame moves forward.
What is apparent is that the Eldrazi deck is good, perhaps too good. It has been said that Ancient Tomb is now legal in Modern, and in many ways that's true. Wizards wanted the Modern metagame to be shaken up, but I do believe it was unexpected just how great the Modern Eldrazi decks are. I don't expect Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple to last that long before being banned. These lands are absolutely broken, and it should be obvious by the way the deck needs to mulligan to find one of these lands that they are a bit too good when put in the right deck. The question now is: Is there a way for the metagame to adapt in order to combat this deck?
It is likely there is a way to build decks in order to have a reasonable matchup versus the Eldrazi decks, but it requires a big sacrifice. There has already been talk about hate cards like Painter's Servant to shut off Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple, or Ensnaring Bridge decks to stop the Eldrazi deck from attacking. Still, these are just individual cards that, while they may be good versus the Eldrazi deck, they won't be able to stop the deck on their own. Eldrazi put a full six copies into the Top 8 of the Pro Tour, while being less than 10 percent of the total field! It is likely just too strong of an archetype to stay in Modern for long.
Friends are already trying to sell off Modern collections because of how warped the metagame has suddenly become. There are certain decks and archetypes that are completely outclassed by the Eldrazi deck, and it also has the ability to adapt to the various hate cards in the format, or just play turn two Thought-Knot Seer to take out an opposing piece of hate. I expect Eldrazi decks to once again crush the next few Modern tournaments, even though it is the archetype that everyone should be gunning for.