I have a lot of love for Standard right now. Each week it seems like a new deck will pop up and surge in popularity. Both Jeskai Dragons and Hardened Scales were heavily played at Grand Prix Houston this past weekend. Yes, Four-Color Rally may still be the best deck in the format, but there is a wide array of other archetypes to choose from. For me, the focus has been on U/R Eldrazi. It won Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch in Modern, and many of those same cards are currently legal in Standard.
U/R Eldrazi is an archetype that my close friend Chris Fennell and I have put a lot of work into. I know that other players have tried out various aggressive U/R and Mono-Blue Eldrazi lists. While I don't have anything bad to say about other Eldrazi decks, I prefer the following version of Blue/Red Eldrazi because of how great its late game is, and how much play the deck has.
There are a bunch of colorless creatures to choose from right now, and this deck plays the best of the best. They can't be cast as quickly as in Modern, but they still get the job done. Since this deck doesn't have access to Eye of Ugin or Eldrazi Temple to cast the three-mana Eldrazi spells on turn two, you need some actual two-mana spells to play. The two-drop of choice is actually a mana accelerator, and the only one that makes sense in the Izzet color combination.
Hedron Crawler sees play in some versions of ramp, and in a way, U/R Eldrazi is a bit of a ramp deck. While Eldrazi Scions are often used as a form of ramp, Hedron Crawler is an accelerator that doesn't need to be sacrificed in order to produce mana, and the deck has so many mana sinks that having permanent mana sources is important. I expect to see a lot more of Hedron Crawler moving forward, especially as other accelerators like Rattleclaw Mystic and Whisperer of the Wilds rotate out. One of the main reasons that Hedron Crawler is so good here is that it allows you to play Thought-Knot Seer on turn three.
By this point it is common knowledge that Thought-Knot Seer is the best of the best of the Eldrazi. Playing this card on turn three is vastly more impactful than on turn four, and Hedron Crawler is the only card which can make Thought-Knot Seer a turn-three play in this deck. Many of the best threats in Standard are turn four plays, from Siege Rhino, to Collected Company, to Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. This deck doesn't play much disruption, but Thought-Knot Seer is one form of disruption that doubles as a creature.
Two Hangarback Walkers may seem like a weird number to be playing, and that is true. Hangarback Walker is just a role player here, and a way to fill the curve. There are some archetypes Hangarback Walker is good against, but there are many times that this card gets 'boarded out. Sometimes you really want to kill your own Hangarback Walker in order to get the Thopter Tokens; Pia and Kiran Nalaar is one of the primary reasons to play red here, and it is better than Whirler Rogue in this deck. There are more red sources than blue ones in order to be able to consistently cast the powerful four-drop.
The deck can be classified as U/R Eldrazi Tokens because it plays so many ways to make them. Both Eldrazi Scions and Thopters are in full supply here. Any blue Eldrazi deck these days has Eldrazi Skyspawner, and this one is no different. The deck will often win in the air while stalling on the ground. Usually I will play Eldrazi Skyspawner first and then play a Matter Reshaper or Vile Aggregate next.
Matter Reshaper is a card that you really want to die, so any opportunity to trade off Matter Reshaper is worth taking. Matter Reshaper is a card that shines against any deck attacking you on the ground, but isn't that great of an attacker itself. Versus a deck with lots of removal, casting Matter Reshaper, is a great start. A deck like Mardu Green will need to use a removal spell on Matter Reshpaer or take a ton of damage from it, which normally isn't a realistic option. Leading on Eldrazi Skyspawner is also a strong start as it is another creature that doesn't tradeoff for a single piece of removal from the opponent.
The last three-drop is Vile Aggregate, and it is one of the few creatures that trades one for one with opposing removal, but at the same time five toughness is a lot. When left unchecked, Vial Aggregate is perfectly capable of winning the game on its own, surviving Radiant Flames and Kozilek's Return. Three-drops get boarded out depending on which ones are suited best for a given matchup, as it is hard to say which of them is actually the best without knowing which matchup you are playing.
Reality Smasher was in the deck originally, but it eventually got cut altogether. Reality Smasher is undoubtedly one of the most powerful Eldrazi creatures, yet it just hasn't worked in this deck, especially since we aren't aggressive. While a hasty threat that can attack planeswalkers is cool, Reality Smasher trades with a lot of removal, including Crackling Doom, where the opponent doesn't even need to discard a card in order to kill it. There are also many decks that are attacking with Mantis Rider or Dragons and Reality Smasher can't interact with those flying creatures. This deck aims to control the board and take over the late game, not get into a damage race. This is why it is important for the expensive threats to be able to interact with the opponent's board.
The best expensive Eldrazi creature in this regard is undoubtedly Drowner of Hope. Not only does it produce Eldrazi Scions, but there are other cards in the deck that also produce Eldrazi Scions. There are decks that try to move all-in on one big threat, and tapping a creature really can help Turn the Tables. The Hardened Scales deck has fits against Drowner of Hope, for instance, as that deck has very few ways of interacting with Drowner of Hope. Eldrazi Scions help you flood the board with creatures and turn on the late-game power of the deck. With lots of colorless creatures in play, Tomb of the Spirit Dragon can take over the game, and dig you out of a big hole.
The true power of the deck comes from the manabase. There are so many different lands that have an additional effect beyond producing mana. The signature one is Tomb of the Spirit Dragon—it can gain you huge chunks of life and Nullify opposing attacks, putting you in a position to win the game by just flying over with some spare Thopters. One key interaction here is that you can block with an Eldrazi Scion and then sacrifice if for mana, in order to be able to have enough mana to get in an activation of Tomb of the Spirit Dragon. When this deck finishes casting its spells, there is still plenty left to do with spare mana.
While technically this is a two-color deck, since it needs colorless mana as well, in a way it is a three-color deck. Foundry of the Consuls makes Thopters and Spawning Bed makes Eldrazi Scions, but both also tap for colorless mana. This deck can go wide later in the game and just swarm the board, and even stand up against an otherwise devastating board sweper thanks to these lands. This deck doesn't mind being mana-flooded because of all the sweet nonbasics.
Four maindeck copies of Roast are extremely important. Roast kills a lot of the most annoying threats in the format, and is the best removal option Izzet has access to. Killing the first big threat your opponent plays often buys enough time to get to your big spells. There is also more spot removal in the sideboard specifically for decks that Roast isn't as well-positioned against. For instance, Rending Volley and Tears of Valakut are great versus Jeskai Dragons, while Roast is unspectacular. Roast is only okay against Atarka Red variants, but sweepers like Boiling Earth and Chandra's Ignition are game-winning.
The sideboard shores up some of the game-one deficiencies. Four-Color Rally represents a tough game one, which is part of the reason there is one copy of Ugin, the Spirit Dragon in the maindeck and another in the sideboard. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon is incredibly powerful and can be accelerated into with Eldrazi Scions, so it is the perfect big-mana game-winner. Counterspells are to be boarded in liberally as another form of disruption, and ways of stopping key spells from your opponent. Oftentimes the way this deck wins is by having just enough disruption in order to make tokens relevant and get to the late game.
U/R Eldrazi feels great moving forward, and I'm excited to continue working on it.
Thanks for reading,