Grand Prix Denver has come and gone. In it, I played Mono-Black Eldrazi, a deck I had been working on for about a month and felt confident in. Unfortunately, Magic is still Magic and this Standard environment, in particular, is extremely competitive. Even the best decks can lose to a good draw from a tier two deck as every deck is doing something that is strong or unfair.

This puts more pressure on those small moments each round. Did you win the die roll? No, well your 55/45 matchup just became 52/48. Did you mulligan? Looks like your advantage is gone and we are now at 50/50. Give up any more edges and you will be fighting from the back foot in a matchup that was supposed to be favorable. I was on the wrong end of a few too many of these moments, in addition to the natural mistakes I made myself. Combine all of this with a lack of byes and a 4-3 record was the end result.

I don't regret my deck choice, however. You see, as the only person, or one of a few, playing that list, it can look like the deck underperformed since it did so in my hands. But if you looked through the standings, I assure you that you could find a great player playing White-Blue Flash or Black-Green Delirium with an awful record. Clearly we know those decks aren't awful, and we can point to the many people who played those decks and did well as evidence. When there is only one data point to observe, it is difficult to draw any meaningful conclusions. Luckily, I was there firsthand for the matches and from that experience I took many lessons away.

The Aftermath

While a lot of things outside of my control worked against me in Denver, there were certainly some areas that I could have been better prepared. I could not avoid losing all seven of my rolls to be on the play, for example. But I could have strengthened my early turn plays to allow for better curving out. I couldn't have prevented five separate mulligans to five during those seven rounds, but I could have shipped back the risky hand that had me miss my third land drop in a crucial game three.

The format is extremely punishing to those who stumble and are forced to play from behind. While both of these strategies can work out, you would be wise to avoid being there in the first place. Mono-Black Eldrazi would almost always jump out to a lead while on the play as its curve of Transgress into Wasteland Strangler into Bearer of Silence is extremely punishing. On the draw, however, that curve gets disrupted far too easily to the point where you often need to make another play entirely or risk losing.

While Eldrazi can play from behind, it needs some specific cards or sequences to unfold before it can catch up. This was largely why I went with the fourth copy of Flaying Tendrils in the board. I knew that in most matchups, two or three copies would suffice, but if I ever found myself on the draw and thus the back foot, access to four copies could save me a game.

Ultimately, I think the deck can be tuned to withstand the early turn beatings that this format pulls out on you, but I did not tune it in such a way before Denver. So, now is a time to move forward. I will definitely continue tuning Mono-Black Eldrazi, but for the past month, I have pushed off all other brews in order to focus on Eldrazi. During that time, I have written down any ideas I had for further exploration later. Usually, these decks were related to Mono-Black Eldrazi as my card searches for that deck are what spawned other ideas.

Discarded Ideas

One of these ideas was another mono-black shell: Zombies. Specifically, I thought that the token-making aspect of zombies could work well with cards like Westvale Abbey, Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, and Voldaren Pariah. Among these token-making cards is a particular favorite of mine that has not really seen the levels of play I would have thought: From Under the Floorboards.

I just love the idea of getting a ton of value out of a card I am discarding and FUtF (that's pronounced Footfa, obviously) provides that while not being an embarrassing card at face value. Comparisons to Thragtusk are not that absurd, even if this does a worse job of immediately defending your life total. I wouldn't want to look at the card without some sweet discard outlets, but Standard has those in large supply. Smuggler's Copter and Key to the City are especially strong as colorless options even.

I wanted to see where the zombie theme could neatly run into a madness theme and what that might look like. Ultimately, I had far too many cards that had cool synergies so the process of trimming that down to have a solid starting point was crucial. While I hardly think the following list is ideal, it focuses on the aspects of the deck I wanted to explore quite well and also gets to test some cards I have questions about:

This list has the ability to win long games through attrition or an overwhelming board presence, but it does not sacrifice much in the way of an early game to do so. Cryptbreaker is one of the stronger one-drops in the format and we get to continue that pressure up through our two-drops and three-drops as well.

Many cards make sense in this list, as I noted before, but we simply could not try everything. Cards like Scrapheap Scrounger were cut because of some of the anti-synergies it brings, even if it does work well with our discard outlets. Similarly, Liliana is likely worth more slots in here, but as a known quantity, I felt more obligated to test less well-known cards over additional copies of the planeswalker.

I will be working on this deck throughout the week and should have an updated list next week along with another brew. Until next week, as always, thanks for reading!

--Conley Woods--