After Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch many players, including myself, called for bans in Modern. To be fair, the Pro Tour was only one event, and the format hadn't yet had time to react to the rising prominence of Eldrazi decks. There were relatively few players who got a chance to play with the new Modern Eldrazi decks until after the Pro Tour.

Generally when one archetype starts to dominate a format, there is a reaction capable of balancing the scale. For instance if Affinity becomes popular it is natural for other decks to play more artifact destruction in response to this surge in popularity.

The problem here is that there is not an easy way to attack the Eldrazi deck. The creatures come down so quickly and are so good on their own, and there is no form of synergy, outside of the lands, that make the creatures easier to cast. Initially it seemed like there were archetypes capable of fighting the popular Blue-Red and Colorless Eldrazi decks, but the Eldrazi decks were not done evolving. W/U Eldrazi has good matchups across the board. While there are a few archetypes still that are capable of competing with Eldrazi, many more have become completely unplayable, since they cannot combat the new Modern menace.

This past weekend marked the first set of Modern Grand Prix since the printing of Thought-Knot Seer and I believe they were the last Modern Grand Prix where the Eldrazi decks will exist in their current form. The bullseye on Eldrazi was HUGE going into this weekend, but look at the results: W/U Eldrazi occupied five out of six possible spots in the finals of the three different Grand Prix and claimed two Grand Prix titles. This means that despite all the hate the best deck is still Eldrazi-based, which doesn't make for a healthy format. There needs to be a banning at the first possible opportunity.

I have heard players say that they actually like the current Modern format, though those players tend to play Eldrazi. Personally, I didn't want to play Eldrazi this past weekend. Many of my opponents at Grand Prix Detroit told me how they have already invested and gotten used to a specific archetype, and while admittedly Eldrazi is the most powerful archetype, it simply wasn't worth the time and energy that would need to be used in order to play Eldrazi. This is a sentiment which I can echo and can recommend a couple decks for players looking to play Modern in the next few weeks, before the next banning announcement.

The deck I chose to play at Grand Prix Detroit is Lantern Control. This is the deck which I had the best results against Eldrazi with, though it does have its flaws. Still, if you want to play a deck with a great game one matchup, and reasonable matchup after boarding versus Eldrazi, this is a list I do recommend:

DECKID=1261701

Ensnaring Bridge is one of the best hate cards against Eldrazi decks, and this deck has it maindeck, before the Eldrazi deck boards in a bunch of ways to deal with it. After an Ensnaring Bridge is in play the Eldrazi deck is forced to potentially try decking its opponent with Oblivion Sower. However decking Lantern Control isn't at all realistic, as this deck is built to be able to mill its opponent out. I played a ton of games against Eldrazi and can safely say that game one against W/U Eldrazi is very favorable, as all you need is one Ensnaring Bridge in play. After sideboarding though you oftentimes will need a turn one discard spell in order to stop their hate card from coming down.

R/G Eldrazi is a little bit more annoying since they play maindeck World Breaker, though it is normally possible to get around having one artifact removed from play. It is after board that Ancient Grudge can be a big issue, though I would still say that Lantern Control is favored against R/G Eldrazi. This version plays two copies of Pyxis of Pandemonium to exile cards like Ancient Grudge and World Breaker, and this way you don't have to worry about putting those cards in your opponent's graveyard, where they are a real problem. While Lantern Control is favored against Eldrazi, there will still be aggressive draws with an early Thought-Knot Seer that are tough to beat.

I wanted to beat Eldrazi at Grand Prix Detroit and I accomplished that. However, I took losses to Jund, Abzan, and Tron, all of which are bad matchups. Just because Eldrazi is the best deck doesn't mean players won't still play decks that aren't that good in the current metagame. This is why playing the best deck is usually the best way to go in a big field. Lantern Control is not easy to play, and it is pretty easy to pick up draws with.

What Makes Eldrazi Decks So Good?

It has been proven that Eldrazi are extremely powerful, from Legacy, to Modern, to Standard. Wizards definitely accomplished their goal of introducing new cards into these formats, but it seems like the Modern Eldrazi decks are too overpowered relative to what everything else in the format is doing. When comparing Modern Eldrazi variants to potential Standard versions of the same archetype there aren't actually that different cards. Most of the Eldrazi in these decks are from Oath of the Gatewatch, and the creature-base makes up a large portion of the deck. The big difference between is that the Modern versions of Eldrazi are faster. Playing one of these Eldrazi creatures one turn earlier makes a huge difference.

I expect that the bannings will attack the manabase of the Eldrazi decks. For those familiar with mulliganing with Modern Eldrazi, if your opening hand doesn't have either an Eye of Ugin or Eldrazi Temple it is almost always correct to mulligan. These lands make the deck incredibly explosive, and you really don't need that many cards in order to win; one or two big Eldrazi can be enough to get the job done. Initially I believed that it was necessary to ban both Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple in order to completely stop the Modern Eldrazi decks from being good. However, at this point it doesn't seem necessary to ban Eye of Ugin.

Eye of Ugin is legendary, which means that drawing multiples is a disadvantage. While there may still be players who attempt to build Eldrazi variants, they will be far less consistent and successful than the current iteration. There will be players who may move towards, say, Eldrazi Tron, which could end up still being very good, but at least the Eldrazi decks would be back on the same playing field with other Modern decks. If Eye of Ugin was banned, that would be a huge blow to Tron. Since Tron is a deck that many players have invested a lot into playing with, I don't believe Wizards wants to hurt it if it is avoidable.

Wizards needs to ban something. I already wrote an article a few weeks ago on this topic, but the situation has changed. A banning is inevitable, rather than a possibility. It will happen — there is no other choice to be made at this point. Wizards could try and unban cards to compete with Eldrazi but that seems unlikely, and it is hard to see what would be unbanned that would make a significant enough impact. The fact is that players have given up on Modern as it currently exists, and some don't seem to be interested in playing Eldrazi, or Modern, at all.

I love to play aggressive red decks like Zoo and Burn, and while there are ways to make these decks playable right now, there are concessions which need to be made in order to make the Eldrazi matchup close. There are still more decks that just fold to Eldrazi completely, and players want to play decks that can compete against the best deck, or else going through the motions of playing the games just feels silly. There is also the discussion of Modern card prices to take into consideration. Players have already invested into a diverse metagame filled with a variety of different decks, each with a similar power level. If Eldrazi doesn't get banned there will be a massive sell-off of Modern cards, but I expect bans in order to avoid this from happening.

Don't get rid of Goblin Guide, Liliana of the Veil, or Karn Liberated just yet! While paper card pricing doesn't change quite as fast, just looking at Magic Online and the direction the cards are going in, you would think that the cards would be increasing in value, yet just the opposite is happening. Most players seem to be now picking up the cards for the Eldrazi decks for just a tournament or two, knowing that bans are likely.

Once the banning does happen I expect Red Aggro, Tron, and Golgari midrange archetypes to return to the top of the pack. In addition, more obscure archetypes will be much more viable. Slower combo decks for example have really struggled because Eldrazi has both disruption and is faster than most combo decks in the format. A format like Modern should have more viable archetypes than Standard, not less. Perhaps the one positive takeaway from the past weekend is that Dredge had made a resurgence. It is a bit surprising to me but it seems like the deck does have some game against Eldrazi. Here is Jason Chung's list:

DECKID=1261678

This deck seems like a blast to play with, as there is very little graveyard hate at the moment. Living End, Melira Company, and Dredge doing well at the GPs prove that using the graveyard is not to be underestimated. I think that is it possible to make a metagame call from week to week; clearly graveyard-based decks were well-positioned last weekend, yet I don't think these archetypes will continue to have good Eldrazi matchups. In the end, I am more sure than ever that a ban is coming. It is not for lack of trying to compete with these decks, it is that the sheer power of the Eldrazi deck is too high.

Thanks for reading,

Seth Manfield