Eternal Warrior #56: Surfing with the Aliens

It’s rare that more than a few cards from a newly released set break into the Modern format. In fact, that’s one of primary arguments some have made for why Modern perhaps shouldn’t even be a Pro Tour format – Wizards of the Coast justifies the expense of a Pro Tour in large part because it helps to drive sales.

So when I decided to do my next set of videos with the Pro Tour winning Modern deck, imagine my surprise at having to buy a dozen newly-released cards from Oath of the Gatewatch to build it! In a rather surprising development, the equivalent of a Battle for Zendikar Block deck – with some key mana improvements – utterly and completely conquered the format this weekend.

There are two varieties of the Eldrazi aggro deck: one purely colorless, and one U/R variant which won the event. Both are based around the fast mana provided by Eldrazi Temple and Eye of Ugin. Eye of Ugin was designed and printed in original Zendikar Block, for an environment where it would be shaving two mana off your 10-drop in a dedicated ramp deck, and was certainly not tested in an environment where you were using it to cast multiple cheap Eldrazi in a single turn. Thanks to the devoid mechanic those cheap quasi-colorless Eldrazi that found their way into your draft decks are now sitting atop the Modern format.

With a host of quality low-drops that scale in effectiveness during the late game, backed up by amazingly efficient creatures like Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher at the top of your curve, this is an aggro deck that hits hard and fast but doesn’t fold to a cheap sweeper. The size of bodies you can put on the battlefield as early as the second turn dwarf anything the Zoo or Burn decks can muster short of a Tarmogoyf.

To put this skittering invasion in perspective, here’s your undefeated finishers in the Modern Daily that occurred on Thursday, prior to the Pro Tour: Burn, Affinity, Blue Moon, Chord of Calling combo, Abzan midrange, U/G Infect, Jund, Team Italia (Mardu midrange), and G/W Eldrazi ramp. That’s three varieties of rock deck, fast combo, midrange combo, ramp, sorta-kinda control, and two varieties of aggro.

Fast forward three days and take a look at the decks finishing with 25 points or better in the Modern constructed portion at the Pro Tour: about 80% Eldrazi aggro, a few Affinity decks, and one solitary guy on Chord combo. The Top 8 was even more remarkable, with 6 of the 8 on one of the two Eldrazi aggro variants, and the other two slots taken by Affinity specialists.

This isn’t completely unprecedented at Pro Tours. After all, teams of pros tend to settle on certain decks, and this results in much less diversity among the top players. Tempered Steel aggro in Scars of Mirrodin Block constructed comes to mind, as Team Channel Fireball steamrolled the competition resulting in a Top 8 of two-dozen Memnites. So is this Eldrazi aggro deck the new king of the format, or a heavily meta-gamed deck whose impact will be limited to this one high profile event?

The instant reaction on Magic Online has been a mad rush to the new deck. The Sunday daily was filled with Eldrazi aggro. But that alone tells us little, as it could be the allure of the new and exciting deck. Popularity can place a deck in the top of the standings even with an average win percentage. Additionally, nobody seems to have made any adjustments to account for the deck’s presence just yet. From my review of the Sunday decklists on Magic Online, no particularly notable changes had been made as of yet, with most people playing the same 75 as one of the top finishers from the weekend. As the week moves on, there will be many, many mirror matches played out, and we could see some evolution in the deck.

Other decks will experiment with hate cards – I’ve already seen some talk about Painter’s Servant as a clever answer. They’ve been spiking in price, presumably bought out by media mogul Ted Turner, excited to have something else to ruin by colorizing it. I think that answer’s a bit too cute, as it doesn’t shut off enough of the deck, attacking only the mana acceleration and the Ruination Guides in the U/R variant. If there were a Painter combo in Modern, the incidental hate would improve that deck’s position, but no such deck exists at present. Blood Moon and Ghost Quarter seem to remain the best way to attack the lands, as Eldrazi has no direct answer to those, whereas Painter can be answered in the form of the 3 maindeck Dismembers.

So, let’s get to the action! First, here is the decklist I’ll be piloting today:

A brief note on the decklist:

I say in the videos that I copied Tao’s exact 75. By a slight mixup, I ended up with Tao’s maindeck and fellow Top 8 pilot Andrew Brown’s sideboard. They are nearly identical, but Tao had a singleton Tomb of the Spirit Dragon that Brown did not, whereas Brown had a second Gemstone Caverns. Tomb would not have been a factor in my gameplay, but you do see me wrestling multiple times with the decision on whether to board in and out the additional copy of Caverns, so I feel this slight mix-up probably enhanced the content rather than detracted from it, but I wanted to note the error nonetheless.

Before heading to the matchplay, here’s my video introduction where I talk about the deck, its synergies and strategy:

And we have four matches for you today! The gameplay includes two mirror matches, to give you a pretty idea what this deck is capable of, as well as a couple of less-common strategies including Infect and mono-blue Delver.

Thanks for joining me this week! If you liked the videos, or you want to talk about the deck, drop me a line in the comments section.

I’ve been working on an update to my Vintage Painter deck, and I’ll be back in a couple weeks to talk about that and hopefully share some new video with you. See you next time!

 

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