The Deck to Beat this Weekend: Modern Eldrazi

It’s the deck of the year. It might be the deck of the decade. It’s already established itself as the big story of Grand Prix Detroit, Bologna, and Melbourne. The deck to beat this weekend is Modern Eldrazi.

These Grand Prix are going to be unique and historic tournaments. Eldrazi dominated the Modern Pro Tour in Atlanta, boasting an outrageous win rate across multiple major teams, making up six of the top eight decks, and eventually taking the trophy in the hands of Jiachen Tao. Eldrazi hasn’t slowed down since, putting up great results across the SCG tournament series and wreaking havoc on Magic Online.

The situation stands as such: One or more of the key cards from the Eldrazi deck is likely to be banned at the next scheduled update. GP Detroit, GP Bologna, and GP Melbourne are the largest Modern events before this banned list update. Everyone knows that the Eldrazi deck is fantastic, and everyone knows that everyone knows it’s fantastic. Among serious players who have the resources to build the (rather expensive) Eldrazi deck, it’s going to be the default choice.

Eldrazi can be built in many, many different ways. But the constants that you can expect are Eldrazi Temple and Eye of Ugin to generate mana at an unfair rate, and Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher as deadly efficient threats.

Let’s go through a few of the more popular builds.

Colorless Eldrazi

Ivan Floch, 2nd place at Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch

Colorless Eldrazi is the most streamlined version. Forgoing colored spells entirely, it minimizes the chances of an awkward draw and frees itself up for a mana base made entirely of value lands. You could reasonably argue that Colorless Eldrazi is the best version against “the field.” Unfortunately, the power that the splash colors offer is sorely missed in the mirror match, and Colorless Eldrazi is a noticeable underdog in all of the pseudo-mirror matches. Because of this, it won’t be the most popular choice for GP Detroit, GP Bologna, and GP Melbourne.

Blue/Red Eldrazi

Jiachen Tao, 1st place at Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch

UR Eldrazi is the fastest and most explosive version. Jiachen Tao won two Eldrazi mirrors in the Top 8 on his way to the Pro Tour title.

UW Eldrazi

Andrew Tenjum, 7th place at a Modern Open

UW Eldrazi was born after the Pro Tour and is honed for winning Eldrazi mirrors. Path to Exile is naturally a stellar card in a field of enormous 4-, 5-, and 6-mana creatures. But another hallmark card of the UW Eldrazi deck is Eldrazi Displacer, which gives its owner a tremendous amount of control over the battlefield any time the game slows down and stalls out—as creature mirrors often do. Finally, Worship can be the ultimate haymaker card out of the sideboard with the potential to leave unprepared opponents dead in the water. UW Eldrazi will probably be the most popular choice at GP Detroit, and it should be the first deck that you test against if you’re playing Modern this weekend.

RG Eldrazi

Alex Zurawski, 4th place at a Modern Open

RG Eldrazi is the new kid on the block. While I have to admit that I don’t have the experience with the varying forms of Eldrazi necessary to declare a “best version,” I will say that this version appeals to me the most. It doesn’t have access to Drowner of Hope, which is one of the best cards when two Eldrazi decks face off. But it does go a little bit bigger than the other builds, which is traditionally a good strategy for getting a leg up in a pseudo mirror. Kozilek’s Return offers one more powerful weapon against the field at large, and is particularly good against the small handful of decks that actually do have a fighting chance against Eldrazi—Affinity, Infect, Melira Combo, and Elves to name a few. The effect of Ancient Stirrings in this deck is substantially better even than Ponder and Preordain, and gives RG Eldrazi a whole extra layer of consistency over its nongreen cousins.

Don’t be surprised to be paired against any of these builds, or even some spinoffs not featured here.

What to Do

  • Goldfish them. One way to think of Eldrazi is as a tribal deck. The Eldrazi tribe isn’t the same as Merfolk or Elves in the way that they flood the board and use Lords to make their small weenies into bigger threats. But it is similar in the way that the structure of the deck constrains its options and won’t allow it to play too many non-Eldrazi cards. The amount of disruption Eldrazi can play is limited, so a fast and reliable combo deck is a good way to attack it. Just make sure that you can beat Chalice of the Void, Thought-Knot Seer, and a small amount of removal.
  • Overpower them. The first thing I did when I booked my ticket to GP Detroit was to revisit every deck I’ve ever tried in Modern that excelled in creature mirrors. This includes decks like Big Zoo, Soul Sisters, Death Cloud, Bogles, Elves, and other creature combo decks like Melira Combo. Eldrazi are powerful and efficient, but there are lots of things you can do in Modern that are powerful and efficient. Without Splinter Twin and Summer Bloom to worry about, maybe you can set your sights on getting a Knight of the Reliquary or Baneslayer Angel to stick.

What Not to Do

  • Don’t try to fight fair. Another way to think of Eldrazi is as the best “fair deck” in Modern. It’s certainly not “fair” in the sense of being balanced and beatable. But its game plan is actually pretty mundane when you boil things down—play big creatures, mix in a small amount of removal and disruption, and attack. You won’t be able to do what the Eldrazi decks do better than the Eldrazi decks do it. You can cast a Thoughtseize and a Tarmogoyf for 2 cards and 3 mana, but the Eldrazi decks can cast a Thought-Knot Seer for 1 card and 2 mana! You can sit back on a Negate, but the Eldrazi deck can kill an opponent before they can even cast their best spells! If you show up with a deck like Jund, Abzan, Grixis, or Zoo, you might get a few games here and there, but you’re making things harder on yourself than they need to be.
  • Don’t be cold to Chalice of the Void or Worship. In addition to being the best deck in Modern, Eldrazi also has access to terrifying cards that can single-handedly steal games away from unprepared opponents. Don’t walk into their landmines! While Eldrazi is not an artifact or enchantment-based deck, I find it valuable to hedge my bets during sideboarding. Bring in some kind of versatile answer card, or at least have a plan for beating the more common sideboard cards that Eldrazi might use against you.

One way or another, the three GPs this weekend are great stories in the making. Will it be one of the most dominant performances in MTG’s history? Or will enough players find creature solutions and make it the upset of the century? You can beat ’em or you can join ’em, but do your best not to be a victim this weekend—don’t lose to Eldrazi!

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