Happy Holidays! While I hope that everyone gets to take a few well-earned days off this time of year, it’s still good to keep current on the important trends in the MTG world. Among the biggest recent news is Jim Davis’s victory in the Players’ Championship. In a split-format tournament, he rocketed to victory on the back of his Standard deck choice: Eldrazi Green.
With many of the players choosing midrange decks and skimping on hate for ramp strategies, Davis took the field by storm. Eldrazi Green is a killer of midrange and control decks, as its inexorable late game will simply bury everything else players are trying to do in Standard. Take the SCG Players’ Championship as a lesson, and don’t be caught unprepared for ramp strategies like this in your upcoming Standard events.
By Jim Davis, 1st Place at the Players’ Championship
I prefer the title “Eldrazi Green” to describe these ramp decks, because I feel that it’s the best way to describe the deck’s core strategy. Yes, Mr. Davis had access to red mana in order to diversify his win conditions and allow some specific sideboard cards. Other players might choose blue or white as secondary colors. Whatever the specifics of the deck list might be, the plan remains the same. All Eldrazi Green decks will spend the first 4 or 5 turns of the game relentlessly ramping their mana. Then, they will spend the rest of the game deploying powerful threats—some with uncounterable effects (like Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger), and some that can be recurred from the graveyard (like Ugin, the Spirit Dragon with Haven of the Spirit Dragon)—until the opponent can no longer resist.
What to Do
- Clock them. There’s one thing that Eldrazi Green isn’t great at, and that’s defending itself. If you try to beat them in a fair fight, you’re going to have an extremely hard time. If you’re fast and go underneath, you’ll have more success.
- Mulligan aggressively. Along those lines, look for opening hands that can make powerful plays in the early turns of the game. If you’re playing a slow deck, then maybe the best you can do is look for a turn-2 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. At least it’s better than nothing!
- Slow them down. Permission, discard spells, and Infinite Obliteration are excellent against Eldrazi Green and you can slow their progress down a lot. However, you’ll never be able to shut them down completely, so the only way you’ll be successful is by combining this with the advice above.
- Good deck choices: Atarka Red, GR Landfall, Rally the Ancestors.
What Not to Do
- Don’t try to fight through their threats. Eldrazi Green features a tremendous concentration of threats, each one capable of winning a game all on its own. Moreover, it has extra threat density built into its mana base with Sanctum of Ugin and Haven of the Spirit Dragon. You might cast Transgress the Mind and leave them with 1 or 0 business cards, but if you allow the game to continue, they can play incredibly well off the top of their library, and might be able to set in motion a chain of threats that will simply bury you.
- Don’t expect your game 1 strategy to work after sideboarding. Eldrazi Green is an extremely focused deck in game 1—and rightly so, since its game 1 plan trumps such a large portion of the Standard field. However, remember that they get to sideboard just like you do, can diversify their threats, and pack cards like Rending Volley and Radiant Flames in order to defend themselves. Incorporating Duress and Transgress the Mind into your game plan will help you be prepared for whatever countermeasures your Eldrazi Green opponent is taking against you.
- Don’t be careless with which cards you delve away. Oblivion Sower isn’t a ubiquitous choice for Eldrazi Green players, but that’s no excuse to be caught off-guard by it. Because of cards like Jace, Telepath Unbound and Den Protector, we’re used to absent-mindedly delving away our lands before anything else. Against Eldrazi Green, this will sometimes mean playing right into their hands.
Eldrazi Green is what we call a “glass cannon” deck. It does one thing, and does it very well. However, if you can position yourself a bit differently, and not be directly in its blast radius, then it will have trouble adapting. You can do this by choosing a fast deck which doesn’t worry about the late game. You can do it by crafting an effective anti-ramp sideboard plan. To some extent, you can also do it by adjusting your mulligan decisions and gameplay to reduce your vulnerability. Whichever way you choose, make sure that you don’t go into your next Standard tournament helpless against Eldrazi Green.