For our recent set review here at TCGplayer.com, one of the deck lists I provided was a mono-black eldrazi list that was very much an evolution of past lists I have worked on. Today, I wanted to not only flesh out the discussion and breakdown of that list, but also throw a few other Eldrazi shells into the mix as well.
Also, for those interested in my Hall of Fame vote and thoughts, check that out at the end.
Lastly, for those that read last week's article, I have a short reply to some of the comments from it found at the bottom of this article!
But for now, back to our colorless alien friends. The Eldrazi got some very specific weapons in this Eldritch Moon that can be kind of hard to wield properly. Arguably the two best eldrazi in the set each cost eight mana, which is hardly an aggressive casting cost. In the past, I have explored eldrazi ramp, but when it comes to mono black eldrazi, or Dimirdrazi, both lists tend to be more aggressive and tempo-oriented with lower curves, less lands, and a specific attraction to Reality Smasher, a card most ramp decks couldn't care less about. Luckily, emerge does let us get around those expensive costs though, so it is worth revisiting these archetypes once again.
First, let me just begin with the list and thoughts I shared during our set review:
The disruption-heavy, card advantage machine that is Mono-Black Eldrazi has been one of my favorite decks in Standard since Thought-Knot Seer saw print. The two-for-one nature of so many of your cards backed by the power of Ruins of Oran Rief make for a monster of a midrange deck that can take you out early or win a long game just as easily. Eldritch Moon adds some real spice to the deck, particularly in Distended Mindbender.
You no longer hinge on Thought-Knot Seer to do the heavy lifting as Mindbender can do it just as easily, if not better. When backed by six to ten other pieces of hand disruption, you can strip an opponent of everything important while beating down with your colorless Workhorses. Matter Reshaper and Sanctum of Ugin are both in here specifically to synergize with the Mindbender and they lead to some explosive turns.
It is true that Distended Mindbender is incredible, especially in a deck that supports it well. We actually have so much hand disruption that drawing a fourth or fifth in a game will often come with no targets to snag, but I would much rather be in that position that staring down a full grip every turn.
Our deck already looked to go bigger than other aggro decks while still fighting strong against control thanks to our disruption and strong individual threats. Distended Mindbender plays into that role, as a 5/5 is bigger than most of what aggro can throw at you (while you discard their removal spell at that) and control is going to get two-for-oned by this all the time and still needing to deal with the threat afterward.
While I focused on Distended Mindbender in my summary, Liliana, the Last Hope is just as amazing a pickup for this deck. Liliana, the Last Hope is a tricky 'Walker to make work in that you need to be playing a lot of creatures to fully utilize her kit while still caring about incremental advantage over time. Our deck does exactly this by playing a lot of utility creatures and things that trade off early, building toward some explosive turns with Reality Smasher later on. Liliana, the Last Hope lets us Recycle those triggers and rebuy that utility while threatening an ultimate herself.
Collective Brutality is also an amazing removal spell for these aggro decks. The ability to turn extra lands in your hand into hand disruption against control or a Drain Life to give you reach is absolutely amazing. This is a card that basically has no match ups where it is completely dead and all of its modes offer us something we want. This was the same appeal that got us using Warping Wail before, which I still find appealing, but the modes on Collective Brutality are generally more exciting for us and its ability to do multiple things is pure upside.
In fact, the versatility of these two removal spells that can also combat control and be offensive got me excited enough to explore an aggro deck using a ton of them. Red/black Bldrazi has been teased for a year as we have seen cards like Flayer Drone and Dust Stalker promise us this deck that has never really been good enough. Beyond Collective Brutality, there is a new pair of cards in Eldritch Moon that I feel have to be tried somewhere and this seems like the best shell for such shenanigans:
You can quickly get a sense that this deck is looking to beat down and burn you out much more than the previous mono-black list. We are an aggro deck with tools to win a long game, but ideally we are ending things the turn we can cast Reality Smasher. Most of our cards help us to get to that game state.
We not only have a 2/1 for one mana, but we continue a good curve with a 3/2 for two and a 2/1 flier for two mana, both with big upsides. Our only non-Eldrazi is Hanweir Garrison which can become an Eldrazi, but is also just a strong aggressive creature. While it isn't exactly Hero of Bladehold, it can still take over a game like one when left unchecked. It lets you go wide against a single blocker or turns into an army in a can against a deck that can't block it. We also play three copies of Hanweir Battlements, which does let us turn this combo into the game-winning Hanweir, the Writhing Township, if we do get to a late-game scenario.
Even without Hanweir Garrison by its side, Hanweir Battlements provides colorless mana and a nice haste ability which translates into damage that often feels like burn in the late game. Flayer Drone and all of this haste granting actually does turn into a lot of damage out of nowhere, so you can't feel too good passing the Turn Against this list.
I have had people ask me about updates to Dimirdrazi. Currently, I have been struggling with reasons to add blue to the deck. Elder-Deep Fiend is really cool, but I am not sure it is better than Distended Mindbender and I struggle to find room for both of them. Beyond that, blue only really gave us Dimensional Infiltrator and sideboard cards. I am not sure sacrificing the comfort of our mana base is worth it for just those minor rewards, but I will continue to test this before dismissing it altogether.
The Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame is something that every professional player hopes to one day end up in. This year marks the first year that I am technically eligible to be elected. I would like to say up front that while I do appreciate all of the support, I do not in any way expect to be elected nor do I think I deserve it. As it is the Pro Tour Hall of Fame and not the Magic Hall of Fame, numbers reign supreme and mine simply are not there. Maybe one day I will stack up enough trophies and plaques, but that day is not today.
This does transition into an area I have struggled with over the past few years of voting. Previously, there was a hard line at something like 3 Pro Tour top 8's to even be considered (some had the line at 4!). I have held to this formula for awhile as it felt like an easy line to draw, but as the times change and newer classes of pros become eligible, it is becoming harder and harder to spot the line.
Times change and the rules and structure of the Pro Tour have certainly changed with them. Everything from Pro Point payouts to the number of tournaments happening each year to the number of people playing in those tournaments have fundamentally changed the landscape for professional Magic players. In my evaluation of the field this year, I realized I needed to update my criteria with the times and remove the rigid walls that may have been there before. I also realize that these walls prevented me for voting for some individuals that I otherwise might have in the past.
This year, I landed on four individuals to vote for for the Hall of Fame
Probably the most voted-for individual this year and for good reason. Three Pro Tour Top 8s might have kept Owen off of my ballot in years past which is a big reason why I felt I needed to criticize myself and make some changes. While Owen may not have a million top 8's in the same way that Jon or Kai do, his career is still very much ongoing and I would not be surprised to see him walk away with another handful before all is said and done.
Owen has dominated Grand Prix like few others ever have, with 21 Top 8s, including four wins. Beyond that though, Owen has put in the time and dedication to the game to be the best and it has paid off. This is an individual who was playing Magic for most of his life and to not much success, but he continued to learn and grow and eventually stood above us all. His game has always spoke for itself and I hope our peers agree.
Yuuya's stats are perhaps even more deceptive than Owen's as he lacks the Top 16 success at Pro Tours, but once again, we reach his Grand Prix success and things make a little more sense. Aside from Yuuya traveling the world and absolutely destroying the Grand Prix circuit, he was also one of the most feared opponents one could face in any given tournament in any given format.
I know I personally viewed Yuuya as the best player in the world at many points in his career and that has picked up a lot of weight this voting season, rightfully so.
Mark is someone I left off of my ballot in the past, but after reconsidering my criteria and reexamining Mark's accomplishments, it seemed like a good time to rectify those mistakes. Mark was one of the few American names I knew of when I first got into competitive Magic. His victory in Hawaii was the first ever tournament I watched all the way through and fell in love with deck building. Seeing such a diverse tournament with an awesome rock/paper/scissors metagame really sparked an interest in me of solving this puzzle.
Mark's stats have always been just close to good enough, or good enough, depending on who you are, so realistically, I am just moving my line a bit to hopefully get someone I feel is deserving of the hall in.
Marijn is the second individual who I have declined to vote for in the past, but believe I was wrong in doing so. While Marijn's time in the spotlight was relatively short, he put up some remarkable highlights in that time. His numbers are actually very close to that of Mark Herberholz in nearly every area and I feel I have underweighed Marijn's contributions to the game, which have been extensive, especially in Europe.
Someone who has played clean and had remarkable success while being an ambassador for the game is someone I would like representing me in the Hall.
I am declining to vote for a fifth individual this year as I really can't justify it, but I intend to take this new approach with me going forward into future votes as well. As a reminder, I refuse to vote for anyone who has cheated (to my knowledge).
A few people had some questions about one of the lists I posted last week, so I wanted to clarify here. Some were concerned that while Molten Vortex gets lands into the yard, it doesn't do anything once you cast the Splendid Reclamation, so how are we getting enough damage? What's the point of having lands in play?
Molten Vortex is not intended to be the sole win condition in this deck. The deck is not a pure combo deck in that it is not trying to win from just casting a single spell. Instead, that spell is supposed to give us a huge advantage that turns into a win. In this case, not only should you get a bunch of lands back into play like Evolving Wilds that sacrifice and can get you more insects, but you also get a bunch of spell lands.
Obviously Blighted Gorge goes to the face directly, but the token producing lands also provide damage or else turn into fodder for your Westvale Abbey which is more damage. You are not trying to one-shot anyone so much as you are trying to nickel and dime them out.