It’s clear by now that the Eldrazi are not going away. The way I see it, you have two options: beat them, or join them. Playing a deck that gets smashed by Eldrazi is not an option for GP Detroit.
There aren’t many decks that crush Eldrazi, but there are a number that have a positive matchup. More importantly, as Eldrazi decks evolve to beat each other, they become more vulnerable to some other strategies.
Living End is one of those strategies.
Originally, Eldrazi decks ran up to 6 Relic of Progenitus effects or 4 Chalice of the Void, but now, the most popular versions of Eldrazi (UR and UW) don’t run either of those cards, which makes them particularly weak against Living End. At this point, I’m not sure what I’m playing in Detroit yet, but Living End is one of my three options.
For the unfamiliar, Living End is a very straightforward deck that uses cascade spells Violent Outburst and Demonic Dread to fire off an immediate Living End. To guarantee that you cascade into Living End every time, it runs no cards that cost 2 or less. To fill its graveyard without running cards that cost 2 or less, it runs a bunch of Shards of Alara Limited all-stars like Deadshot Minotaur and Monstrous Carabid. A typical Living End game will go turn-1 cycle, turn-2 cycle, cycle, turn-3 cascade spell into Living End, or turn-3 Fulminator Mage and turn-4 Living End. The end result is that you wrath the board and end up with 12+ power in play, sometimes destroying two of your opponent’s lands.
A Living End deck is generally composed of 8 cascade spells and around 16 cyclers, which makes it remarkably consistent at finding Living End at the cost of being basically a one-trick pony—if Living End is not enough to beat your opponent, there isn’t much else you can do. If Living End is enough to beat your opponent, however, then you’re in very good shape because you’ll almost always find one.
Most Living End lists will lock the following slots:
That’s 27 cards. Due to the number of cyclers in the deck, Living End builds are generally land-light, ranging from 19 to 21 depending on the number of Simian Spirit Guides you play.
I am a big fan of Simian Spirit Guide in this deck. This deck can afford a card that does nothing since it often ends up with extra cards in hand, and the ability to play a turn-2 Fulminator Mage is huge in a lot of matchups. You can also use it to cycle an extra card if you need to Living End early, and you can Living End on turn 2 if you’re under pressure—this is particularly useful against decks like Infect, Zoo, and Burn, where you don’t need a big board if you manage to wrath them. People rarely play more than 3 Spirit Guides, but in my PT testing, I found that the card was always great and I actually wanted 4. Assuming you play 19 lands, that leaves 10 slots in your deck.
In my opinion, you should play at least 4 more cyclers. Most people play Architects of Will, though there are some that prefer Jungle Weaver or even Pale Recluse. I like the speed you get with Architects, and they can be useful in stopping your opponent from killing you with their enters-the-battlefield ability, so I play 4 of those. I also like a Jungle Weaver because I think reach is quite good in this metagame due to Affinity and to a lesser extent Infect, and the 5/6 body is good at fighting Drowner of Hope.
The last 5 slots are interactive cards. I like to play at least 2 Beast Within as catchall answers (and also Demonic Dread enablers). The next three cards are usually a mix of Shriekmaw, Ingot Chewer, and Faerie Macabre, depending on the metagame you expect. For the PT, my choice was Faerie Macabre since I expected Affinity decks and some Melira decks. For an Eldrazi metagame, I think the better choice is Shriekmaw since it makes sure you don’t lose to Drowner or Eldrazi Displacer in the late game, and it also kills Reality Smasher and Thought-Knot Seer.
For a metagame that preys on Eldrazi, however, the best choice is then Ingot Chewer, since it is good against both Affinity and Ensnaring Bridge. Chewer is also good against Chalice and Relic if people play those. I would not maindeck Faerie Macabres right now, so the choice is between Shriekmaw and Chewer. If I were to play Living End, I’d play 2 Shriekmaws and 1 Chewer right now to hedge my bets—I think Shriekmaw is generally going to be better, but when Shriekmaw is bad it’s the worst card in your deck, and Chewer is then the best card.
For the mana base, you can also play more Copperline Gorges instead of Grove of the Burnwillows. Grove will give your opponent about 2 life per game, which is not insignificant, but I’ve found that I often want to hard cast my monsters in the late game, and drawing a land that enters the battlefield tapped in those spots is devastating.
The sideboard for Living End decks is limited since you can’t run cards that interfere with cascade. The common cards in a Living End sideboard are:
These are for graveyard strategies, but they’re also important against decks that have a way to sacrifice their creatures, such as Melira and Affinity, since you can’t wrath those decks properly if their sacrifice outlet is in play. Leyline is the more powerful card, but it’s also less consistent, especially in a deck that draws so many cards beyond its opening hand such as Living End. Drawing into multiple Leylines is bad, as they’re clunky even if you can cast them. I also like Faerie Macabre against Affinity a lot more, since a 2/2 flyer blocker has real value. If you expect a lot of mirrors or Storm decks, then you should play Leyline—otherwise, I like Faerie Macabre.
Jund Charm is slightly different as it has other applications besides removing the graveyard. I’m not in love with it but I think it’s decent against Affinity and Melira, so I play one.
This slot is strictly for Burn. I expect Burn to be very underrepresented at the GP, and wouldn’t worry about having sideboard slots against it, especially since Shriekmaw is already good and life gain is not reliable when they have Skullcrack and Atarka’s Command.
My PT deck had Crumble to Dust in the sideboard to beat Tron decks. I don’t think Tron is popular, so I don’t think you need this kind of effect. Blood Moon is randomly good against some people, especially if you can play it turn 2 through Simian Spirit Guide, but I don’t think it’s good enough now that Amulet is gone.
Right now, the cards I truly want from this list are 3 Faerie Macabre, 1 Jund Charm, 3 Ingot Chewer, and 2 Shriekmaw, which leaves me with plenty of slots. It’s important to have access to a third Beast Within since I only maindeck 2 to deal with random enchantments such as Rest in Peace or Worship. The five remaining slots can be anything you want. I’m partial to Kolaghan’s Command since it’s very good against Affinity (either destroys 2 artifacts or destroys 1 and brings back Ingot Chewer) while also having other random applications in grindy matchups (it’s also good against the Chalice version of Eldrazi since it can bring back Shriekmaw). Dismember is the final card I like since it kills any Eldrazi for only 1 mana. \
What to Bring In
- Faerie Macabre and Jund Charm come in against Affinity and graveyard decks.
- Ingot Chewer comes in against Affinity, Lantern, and decks with Relic/Chalice.
- Shriekmaw comes in against Infect, Burn, Zoo, Eldrazi, and creature decks in general.
- Kolaghan’s Command comes in against Affinity, Tron, and potentially grindy matchups.
- Slaughter Games comes in against combo decks that don’t function without one piece.
- Beast Within comes in when you need to deal with enchantments.
- Dismember comes in against Eldrazi and Infect.
What to Take Out
- Shriekmaw against decks without nonartifact creatures.
- Ingot Chewer against decks without artifacts.
- Beast Within against decks that have nothing you want to kill.
- Fulminator Mage against decks that don’t rely on their lands at all (e.g., Burn).
- Simian Spirit Guide in matchups where you don’t need speed (e.g., Junk).
- 1 Demonic Dread in matchups where you don’t need a fast Living End and they may have no creatures (control decks).
- Jungle Weaver in matchups where reach is irrelevant.
- A 1-mana cycler (usually Architects) when you have nothing else to side out.
Here are some tips to playing the deck:
- Street Wraith has swampwalk. This is especially relevant in an Urborg world. If they have Urborg, they can’t block your Street Wraiths.
- You win a decent number of games by hard-casting your monsters in the late game, so keep this in mind. It’s often better to cast a 4/4 than to cycle it hoping to draw something.
- If there are no creatures in play for you to Demonic Dread, Beast Within can provide one.
- Don’t forget that you can Beast Within one of your own lands to block or finish your opponent off.
- Be careful with removal spells, especially post-board. You often want to use Dismember post-Living End or their creature will come back.
- You can evoke Ingot Chewer just to get a 3/3.
- Deadshot Minotaur is a must so if you board in Faerie Macabre, there’s a chance you’ll have to kill it when you Living End.
- Your cascade spells have effects even if you don’t cascade, and they end up adding a lot of surprise damage that most people don’t see coming.
- When given the choice in the dark, BR and RG are usually the best lands to get since they cycle any 1-mana creature. If you get Stomping Grounds, you’ll be unable to cycle Architects.
- It’s OK to play an early Living End to wrath the board—you’ll have time to build a bigger one in the future. They’ll end up getting their 1-drops back, but that’s usually irrelevant because the second Living End usually brings you 20+ power.
- When playing against Relic of Progenitus, you have two choices: The first is to play a cascade spell and then a Violent Outburst when they respond to it. The second is to cycle a bunch of creatures after they use it. So, say they have Relic, you have 5 mana, and you cast Outburst. They sacrifice Relic, you let that resolve, and then you cycle two monsters, a Street Wraith, and get all of those in play.
- You can suspend Living End if it’s in your hand. This is useful against slower control decks.
- Be very liberal with your Shriekmaws—you often want to kill anything that moves. Turn-1 Spirit Guide into Shriekmaw is a common play against aggressive decks.
- If you’re going to cycle Street Wraith, it’s better to do it sooner rather than later so that you have more options and can be more informed on what to do (such as what land to play). The exception for this is when you already have the turn and following turns mapped out, in which case, sometimes it’s better to hold them for the Living End turn so that you catch your opponent off-guard with more creatures in the graveyard (but this is rare).
That’s what I got for today! I hope you enjoyed this article, and good luck in Detroit!