The 2016 Eternal Weekend, which features both the Vintage and Legacy Championship for North America, begins this Friday. I haven't played in these events since Eternal Weekend was created, and I have never made any attempt to play Vintage in paper, but this year a confluence of circumstances means it's at the forefront of my mind this week. The event is coming to beautiful Columbus, Ohio, just a short trip down Highway 71 away from home in Cleveland, so it makes sense to take advantage of the opportunity and play some of the most enjoyable Magic to be had anywhere. What makes this year so exciting is that the Eldrazi and their boundless tentacles have reached even Vintage, seeping into the format through a variety of decks. Most exciting is that the Eldrazi have spawned an archetype that doesn't rely on any of the prohibitively expensive Power Nine cards, nor any of the other old and expensive staples of the format. Powerless Eldrazi has emerged as a competitive option that can be had at a fraction of the cost of any other deck in Vintage.

Central to the Powerless Eldrazi strategy is Null Rod, which hoses Black Lotus, Mox, Sol Ring, and the other artifact mana acceleration that defines nearly every other deck in Vintage. It's likely the best card in the deck and a big reason why this deck is competitive. It's also one of the most expensive cards in the deck and it doesn't have many applications in other formats, but that's a small investment when buying into a format with $20,000 decks. The Eldrazi turn a weakness into a strength by not relying on any artifact mana acceleration or other artifacts with activated abilities.

Null Rod allows Eldrazi to lock out the opponent and steal a game, but it goes further as part of a dedicated mana-denial plan in conjunction with Wasteland, Strip Mine and even Ghost Quarter. With eight lands that can be sacrificed to destroy a land, Crucible of Worlds becomes a natural and powerful inclusion that can win the game nearly by itself. It provides an alternate way to win the game that doesn't rely on creatures, and because this deck doesn't otherwise use the graveyard, it means opponents won't have graveyard hosers to Crucible of Worlds, and if they do it's likely a mistake because it's so poor against the deck in general. Cementing the denial plan is Chalice of the Void, which will have game-stealing potential in most games where it's drawn, especially on the play.

I really enjoyed playing the overpowered Eldrazi deck during its short tenure in Modern with Eye of Ugin, and this deck employs the same basic plan, using it and Eldrazi Temple as two-mana lands to explode into play with a flurry of Eldrazi Mimic and Endless One, followed by the disruptive Thought-Knot Seer, and finally by waves of Reality Smasher to quickly end the game. This two-mana land strategy is supercharged by using Ancient Tomb and City of Traitor to make the deck even more consistent.

Endbringer hasn't seen much play in Modern or even Standard, and Legacy Eldrazi usually just contain one in the sideboard to tutor for, so it's a bit startling that it's a three-of in Vintage Eldrazi maindecks. Endbringer is one of the most powerful individual Eldrazi, but it's rather susceptible to creature removal because it's so expensive and offers no protection or immediate value. In creature-based formats that means it's a liability, but it's relatively safe in Vintage where opponents will have far less creature removal, and that they do have will be taxed by cheaper Eldrazi. Endbringer is a constant source of value, and it will take over a game with its combination of card drawing and battlefield control abilities if given time.

Cavern of Souls is extremely useful in a format where Force of Will is ubiquitous, but it also allows the deck to support a small splash for World Breaker, a fine answer to the many must-kill permanents, including lands, throughout the format. It's the prime search selection of Eye of Ugin when the game goes long, and acquiring the seven mana to activate it is especially easy with so many two-mana lands.

The colorless Powerless Eldrazi deck does get access to a few powerful disruptive spells to support its mana denial and creatures. Most decks do contain at least a few creatures, and they are all very powerful and need to be dealt with, so Dismember is useful as an efficient removal spell that provides the deck something like Swords to Plowshares, but it's even better because this aggressive deck has no interest in giving its opponents life. Warping Wail is an MVP in Vintage, where creatures tend to be small and vulnerable to being destroyed, and decks without creatures, like Storm, contain powerful sorceries to counter.

It's common wisdom that mono-colored decks have the worst sideboards, so colorless decks would be in dire straits, but the massive cardpool of Vintage and the format's unique demands means that the deck has access to a very effective sideboard.

The first concern is the threat of Dredge, which consistently enacts a game plan that Eldrazi has nearly no chance to beat without sideboard cards. Playsets of both Leyline of the Void and Grafdigger's Cage give Eldrazi big edge after sideboarding and move the matchup into something I'd look forward to playing against. Grafdigger's Cage doubles up as a hoser against Oath of Druids, which is naturally strong against Eldrazi and presents a challenging matchup. Leyline of Sanctity is another way to turn off Oath of Druids, and it helps to contain Storm decks by disrupting their ability to win the game.

A pair of Pithing Needle is a versatile sideboard selection with potential against a wide variety of opponents. It's an ideal way to stop hard-to-deal-with permanents, like Jace, Mind's Sculptor, Arcbound Ravager, Griselbrand, or the Voltaic Key-Time Vault combo. The fourth Dismember is an easy addition to fight against the mirror match or other creature decks.

Vintage is a huge format with an endless amount of potential decks, and I expect that opponents will have tons of tweaks and twists to their own decks, but it's defined by a handful of predictable strategies that can be prepared for in advance. They have proven to be the strongest and most consistent decks in the format and what I expect will compose the majority of the field at any Vintage event. I've prepared sideboard plans for Powerless Eldrazi that address these top decks, so I've shared them along with a quick analysis of the matchups.

Shops

The format-defining card in Vintage and arguably the most powerful non-restricted card is Mishra's Workshop, and it combines with fast artifact mana to enable some of the most oppressive starts in the format. Eldrazi are in fine shape against Shops deck because it has a combination of Null Rod to turn off artifact mana and a ton of land destruction to contain Mishra's Workshop. Workshop decks come in a variety of forms, especially because the restriction of Lodestone Golem means the deck has lost some of its identity. A possible replacement is the aggressive Fleetwheel Cruiser from Kaladesh, which is already making its mark in the format by being included in these decks online.

The maindeck is well-suited to beat Shops decks, but Pithing Needle is an effective option from the sideboard for stopping threats like Arcbound Ravager, and Dismember is useful for containing their threats. Cut Warping Wail, which is of little use.

-3 Warping Wail

+2 Pithing Needle
+1 Dismember

Storm

Storm decks use artifact mana, so they are susceptible to Null Rod, and land destruction provides further mana denial. Thought-Knot Seer is at its best here as critical hand disruption, and Warping Wail is devastating as way to counter their sorcery-speed tutors. The main plan against Storm is to race them and hope they don't have a great hand. Things get better after sideboard, where Leyline of the Void can shut off their graveyard and access to their best cards, and Leyline of Sanctity turns off their win conditions and any discard. Cut Dismember, which doesn't have any targets and won't catch them sideboarding in any relevant creature, and both Endbringer and World Breaker, which are unnecessary and slow.

-3 Dismember
-3 Endbringer
-2 World Breaker

+4 Leyline of the Void
+4 Leyline of Sanctity

Jeskai Control

Vintage contains a variety of Jeskai Control decks based on cards like Monastery Mentor, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, Young Pyromancer, or Delver of Secrets, which make use of the best of the Power Nine and other staples to create a familiar blue deck that is super-charged for Vintage. Eldrazi decks typically fair very well against these fair-style blue decks in Modern and Legacy, especially with Cavern of Souls turning off their Force of Will and other counterspells, so I expect they will be similarly favored in Vintage, but these overpowered blue decks may prove to be more challenging, especially with their wide access to cards and ability to shift game plans. These decks are reliant on creatures, so Dismember is useful, and Pithing Needle hits the mark against their planeswalkers. They only play a small amount of artifact mana, so Null Rod can be safely cut.

-3 Null Rod

+2 Pithing Needle
+1 Dismember

Dredge

Dredge is going to be very difficult Game 1, but land destruction can steal the game against Bazaar of Baghdad so be sure to mulligan into it if you know your opponent is on Dredge. Remember that Endless One cast for 0 can remove Bridge from Below from their graveyard, and Warping Wail can counter Dread Return or Cabal Therapy. After sideboard things become simple, so bring in all eight graveyard hosers, and cut Dismember and the slowest cards in the deck. It's possible Warping Wail can be cut to leave in World Breaker, which does have value for removing Bazaar of Baghdad.

-3 Dismember
-3 Endbringer
-2 World Breaker

+4 Grafdigger's Cage
+4 Leyline of the Void

Oath

Oath of Druids beats the Eldrazi deck all by itself, so the first game is miserable. The best plan is probably to mana screw them with Null Rod and land destruction, and by drawing Chalice of the Void or Crucible of Worlds to lock them out lock long enough to win.

The sideboard offers many solutions to Oath of Druids, and otherwise Eldrazi is favored against them if they are forced to play a fair game. Pithing Needle is useful for turning off any alternate wins like Time Vault or Jace, the Mind Sculptor, or Griselbrand itself. Dismember isn't of any use because they only play massive creatures. Endbringer is slow when the plan is to just kill them, and Warping Wail doesn't kill anything nor counter enough cards to warrant playing.

-3 Dismember
-3 Endbringer
-3 Warping Wail
-1 Matter Reshaper

+4 Leyline of Sanctity
+4 Grafdigger's Cage
+2 Pithing Needle

Powerless Eldrazi looks to be well positioned in a mana-hungry Vintage format reliant on artifact mana. Null Rod combined with land destruction is a potent combination, and it's supported by some of the fastest and most efficient aggressive creatures ever printed. It's a resoundingly resilient deck, because it's reliant on no vulnerable artifact mana and it built on a sound and consistent foundation of redundant two-mana lands that make it more stable than other decks reliant on specific lands. Its disruptive spells prey on a format where creatures are commonplace, and its narrow sideboard is a powerful solution to its worst matchups. There seems to be no reason why it couldn't win a Vintage tournament with a lucky run, so I'm excited to try it, and I encourage you to do the same if you want to play Vintage for the price of a Modern deck.

-Adam

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