Last week I took notice of a Modern U/B Eldrazi deck that someone played to multiple 5-0 finishes in Magic Online Leagues:
I had been interested in Eldrazi in Modern before, but I was not too excited by the various W/B, B/R, and mono-black decklists that were circulating online. The U/B version immediately caught my attention because it cut all of the discard and removal spells that littered these previous decklists. On Thursday I put the deck together, and I soon found myself 5-0 in my own Magic Online league. At this point I joined a Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier event, and I finished undefeated at 5-0 to qualify for the PTQ on Saturday.
Maindeck graveyard hate in Relic of Progenitus and Scrabbling Claws were great against many of my opponents, especially those with Snapcaster Mage. Wasteland Strangler allowed me, much to my surprise, to repeatedly topple Infect decks. Blight Herder made a joke of traditional removal spells like Path to Exile, and it made attacking through the ground impossible for aggressive decks. I was especially impressed with Drowner of Hope, which essentially spelled out "good game" against any opponent relying on creatures, and it even dealt with Wurmcoil Engine.
The mana accelerating power of Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple were made abundantly clear, but they wouldn't be worth anything if the new Eldrazi creatures were not as good as they are. Playing the U/B deck was my first time using them, so I was exploring the creatures just as much as I was exploring the deck.
As a two-power attacker, Eldrazi Mimic is a legitimate threat by itself, but when copying larger creatures it becomes overpowered and undercosted. When Eldrazi Mimic attacks on turn two as a 3/3 or 4/4, and then on turn three as a 4/4 or 5/5, it's much closer to Tarmogoyf than Grizzly Bears. The fact that multiples can be cast for free on turn one gives this deck draws that are nearly unstoppable.
Matter Reshaper is a piece of board presence that creates good old-fashioned card advantage, but the fact that it can put a creature or land into play means it can generate a tempo advantage too.
Thought-Knot Seer provides a form of discard reminiscent of Thoughtseize, and it's extremely valuable in the format because a little disruption can go a long way against opponents playing linear strategies. Thought-Knot Seer can be compared to Vendilion Clique, but they don't get to draw a card immediately. Often Thought-Knot Seer just doesn't die because it can remove their answer to it, so in practice it's a much more effective piece of disruption than Vendilion Clique.
Reality Smasher performed as well as expected, but it's important to reiterate just how powerful the trampling 5/5 threat is in a format where creatures tend to be small. The threat of this card is always something the opponent has to consider, so it demands respect and will sometimes force the opponent to leave attackers waiting behind in anticipation of blocking.
The U/B Eldrazi deck was great, and I planned to play the deck again in the PTQ, but I knew the Pro Tour in the interim would provide me with new technology.
The Colorless Eldrazi deck with Simian Spirit Guide and Chalice of the Void appeared on coverage immediately when Modern began at the Pro Tour, and it appeared to be a more developed and streamlined version of the deck I played the day before. My biggest issue with the U/B deck was its reliance on Relic of Progenitus and Scrabbling Claws to get the most out of Wasteland Strangler and Blight Herder, and removing all of these cards for a leaner gameplan was very appealing. Dismember provided removal more powerful and efficient than Wasteland Strangler, and the mediocre 3/2 creature was not missed. Chalice of the Void is the perfect fit for a deck without one-mana plays and was completely unexpected by the field. Simian of the Spirit Guide made perfect sense in a deck that was looking to curve out as fast as possible with cards so powerful that they made up for any card disadvantage.
Another exciting innovation was the universal adoption of Endless One. This card was the all-star of my U/R Devoid sealed deck at my Battle for Zendikar "prerelease," Grand Prix Madison, so I have always thought that if a constructed Eldrazi deck were to see competitive play that Endless One would be the best card in the deck. It can be played at any point in the curve, and it's a sink for extra mana on any given turn. It can be a 1/1 chump blocker or the biggest creature in play. Watching the Pro Tour, I was impressed how great the card was in the late-game when found with Eye of Ugin, which is something I overlooked.
There was soon discussion of a U/R Eldrazi deck that was more aggressive than the colorless version, and it was eventually shown on camera in the hands of Jiachen Chao, who went on to finish undefeated on the first day and ultimately win the Pro Tour. I was immediately interested in the U/R deck, especially when I saw that it included Drowner of Hope, which I loved in the U/B deck. The deck was inherently more consistent without Simian Spirit Guide or extra legendary lands in Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, but these changes also made it less explosive. I figured the deck could make up for this loss in speed with an increase in threat quality, particularly Vile Aggregate as a robust and powerful creature. Eldrazi Skyspawner is explosive in its own way; it's essentially cast for free with Eye of Ugin in play, and it enables turn-three Drowner of Hope. The U/R deck was denser in creatures than the colorless deck, so it was more likely to curve out and less likely to lose momentum by running out of threats.
As the first day of the Pro Tour wrapped up, I had to decide what I was going to play in the PTQ the next day, and the U/R Eldrazi deck was the obvious choice. Drowner of Hope would make it a clear favorite in the matchup against Colorless Eldrazi, which was stuck with dead Chalice of the Void. Eldrazi Obligator was also sure to have a big impact in the mirror match, and I liked how aggressive the card was in general in a format where many decks don't have blockers. Decklists were not publically available at this point, so I had to set about getting the correct build. I was able to piece together the Colorless Eldrazi decklist to what was within a few cards of what they actually played the at Pro Tour (I didn't see maindeck Ratchet Bomb), but the U/R deck was what I was after. A friend at the event came through with the decklist, and after a few matches before bed I was excited to play it the next day.
The PTQ went as planned, starting with squeaking out a win against Infect before beating multiple players using the Colorless Eldrazi deck, just as I drew it up. I stuttered, hower, in round six, when my opponent led with Grove of the Burnwillows and Ancient Stirrings, which found not an Urza's Tower, but an Eldrazi Temple. I muttered an "ooo" to my opponent, who in turn responded with "I broke it". Kozilek's Return turned my head, but when World Breaker cast it from the graveyard to sweep my Drowner of Hope and company before removing my land, I knew I had met my match. I aimed to be very aggressive in game two, and a strong draw evened the match at 1-1. In game three I couldn't quite finish off my opponent before Crumble to Dust set me behind, and World Breaker flashing back Kozilek's Return ended the game. I eventually fell in the semifinals to an Affinity deck, but my R/G Eldrazi opponent dispatched it in the finals to win the event and the Pro Tour invite.
Colorless Eldrazi shook the format to its core, and U/R Eldrazi has proven to be the deck to beat, but it's R/G Eldrazi that is the future. I will explain why the R/G Eldrazi deck is so well-positioned in the metagame, and why it's the deck I recommend to anyone looking to get one step ahead of the opposition.
As the story goes, Colorless Eldrazi beats the established Modern metagame. The Eldrazi change the rules of the game, and this Eldrazi deck comes out the fastest. It doesn't need any colored lands, so it plays nothing but powerful colorless value lands. Chalice of the Void is the perfect strategic fit to this deck and is oppressive against many other decks in the field. As a baseline, this deck changes the rules of the game, and in a vacuum it's the best Eldrazi deck and the best deck in Modern.
U/R Eldrazi, however, beats Colorless Eldrazi by going bigger with Drowner of Hope, and with Vile Aggregate as a flexible piece of board presence that is as good on defense as it is when attacking. Eldrazi Obligator ends the board stalemates that often occur in Eldrazi mirrors. The deck also piggybacks value from opposing Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth allowing its own Eye of Ugin to generate mana. Given the fact that U/R Eldrazi beats Colorless Eldrazi and has a strong enough game to beat the rest of the field, it's going to be the obvious go-to Eldrazi deck for many players and the current deck to beat.
R/G Eldrazi Beats them both! In the mirror match, Kozilek's Return flashed back from the graveyard destroys all of the creatures in the Eldrazi decks besides large Endless One, even Drowner of Hope and its tokens. Getting to seven mana to cast World Breaker or Endless One happens reliably, and it's extremely powerful. Kozilek's Return has to hit the graveyard, but the first cast is great for sweeping Eldrazi Mimic and Matter Reshaper, along with any Ruination Guide and Eldrazi Skyspawner against U/R. It can also be an effective trick in combat situations. World Breaker is a tremendous trump in the mirror match because of its ability to constrain their mana. It's also an excellent blocker, so it slows down the game and buys time for more World Breakers to show up to inevitably bury the opponent. It even has reach, and so far on Magic Online more opponents have mistakenly attacked their Eldrazi Skyspawner into it than not. Sideboarding Crumble to Dust is yet another way the deck finds an edge on the traditional build.
Ancient Stirrings makes the R/G version more reliable and consistent than other versions. Rather than passing on turn one, you can search for a two mana land. Ancient Stirrings often finds land, but it can also find any of the Eldrazi threats in the deck, and even devoid cards like Kozilek's Return and Crumble to Dust. Mind Stone speeds up the deck, which is especially useful for ramping into World Breaker. It even helps activate Eye of Ugin ahead of schedule. Mind Stone is going to be useful going forward in the face of increased hate against Eldrazi. Blood Moon is punishing, but Mind Stone generates colorless mana. Fulminator Mage and Crumble to Dust slow down mana production, but Mind Stone helps to speed things up.
R/G Eldrazi matches up very well against the non-Eldrazi decks in the field. Kozilek's Return is excellent against the format, particularly the Affinity, Infect and Chord of Calling decks that were popular at the Pro Tour. World Breaker stops utility lands like Inkmoth Nexus and Blinkmoth Nexus, and it's great at slowing down combo or Urzatron decks. It also stops hate cards people play to attack Eldrazi, like Ensnaring Bridge and Worship. I also really like the sideboard of the deck. It packs a ton of cards for the Affinity matchup, including Ancient Grudge and Nature's Claim. Lightning Bolt does excellent against work against creature decks like Abzan Company and Infect.
I have already used R/G Eldrazi to qualify for the MTGO PTQ this weekend, and it's the Modern deck I am playing going forward in anticipation of Grand Prix Detroit next month. It's the deck I recommend to anyone looking to fight fire with fire.