Weird Science: Dissecting Modern’s Eldrazi Decks

After finishing 4th in an SCG Regionals tournament with Eldrazi Stompy, I’ve been excited to take the deck to more competitive events. I had that opportunity last weekend, and cracked Top 8 at a monthly TJ Collectibles Modern tournament. My only loss of the day was to the dreaded Bant Spirits, which landed turn-three Geist of Saint Traft into turn-four Steel of the Godhead both games.

But I’m not complaining—hey, that’s Modern! Rather, I’m thrilled that Eldrazi Stompy can replicate its FNM success on a larger scale.

Bant Eldrazi’s been a known quantity in Modern for awhile now, and Eldrazi Tron has picked up a ton of steam over the last month. I’ve done lots of thinking since the TJ tournament about Eldrazi Stompy’s strengths and weaknesses compared with these established Eldrazi decks, and am here to report my conclusions.

Three Amigos

While Eldrazi Tron, Bant Eldrazi, and Eldrazi Stompy share the cards Eldrazi Temple, Thought-Knot Seer, and Reality Smasher, each has unique goals and handles differently. The reason for this is the fast-mana void that Eye of Ugin‘s banning left Eldrazi with; each current version of Eldrazi fills that void in a particular way that dictates how the rest of the deck is built. This article analyzes each version, offering a sample list, some information about the deck, its key cards, its pros and cons, and a brief summary of its good and bad matchups.

A note on matchups: Eldrazi decks of any flavor are favored against BGx midrange, Ux control, and other spell-based fair strategies. Beyond that, the decks vary in what they beat or lose to depending on the build. But you won’t find the unanimously easy-to-beat Jund or Jeskai listed as favorable matchups below; the matchups section of each deck profile instead focuses on matchups that gain or lose a significant number of points relative to the other Eldrazi decks.

Eldrazi Tron

Eldrazi Tron, by Todd Stevens (4th, SCG Classic Baltimore, 2/19/17)

Creatures (19)
Walking Ballista
Matter Reshaper
Thought-Knot Seer
Reality Smasher
Endbringer

Planeswalkers (2)
Karn Liberated

Artifacts (10)
Expedition Map
Mind Stone
Basilisk Collar
Batterskull

Instants (3)
Dismember

Sorceries (2)
All Is Dust

Lands (24)
Urza’s Mine
Urza’s Power Plant
Urza’s Tower
Eldrazi Temple
Ghost Quarter
Cavern of Souls
Sea Gate Wreckage
Wastes
Sideboard (15)
Chalice of the Void
Crucible Of Worlds
Pithing Needle
Ratchet Bomb
Spellskite
Spatial Contortion
Surgical Extraction
All Is Dust
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Overview

What it is: A Tron deck with an Eldrazi midrange plan in case opponents interact with its lands.

How it plays: Spend the early turns setting up a mana advantage, then dominate opponents with impactful bombs.

Replaces Eye with: Tron lands, Expedition Map (high curve).

Key cards: All is Dust majorly buffs Eldrazi Tron when it comes to tribal creature matchups. Merfolk and Spirits can pose problems for Eldrazi decks relying on one-shot removal spells, but All is Dust wins these matchups single-handedly. Chalice of the Void also gives Eldrazi Tron game against decks that would normally brutalize a deck so slow, such as Burn.

Strengths

Inevitability. Urza’s lands give this deck a better late-game than pretty much anybody, forcing other decks into overdrive to assemble a winning game state before Tron hits its mana.

Resilience. Between Tron lands, Eldrazi lands, Cavern of Souls, searchable colorless basics, midrange-costed creatures, and big-mana planeswalkers, Eldrazi Tron is remarkably difficult to “hate out.” Like many Eldrazi strategies, it’s also naturally immune to commonly run hosers that impact graveyards (Relic of Progenitus) or one-drops (Chalice of the Void), and can in some cases run these cards itself.

Weaknesses

Colorless blind spots. Not running any colors comes with its own weaknesses, namely a softness to big creatures and spell-based combos. Anything out of Dismember/Endbringer range can hassle Eldrazi Tron, including Death’s ShadowTarmogoyf, and Primeval Titan (but especially the latter). Colorless also lacks answers for Through the Breach or Ad Nauseam.

Sluggishness. Eldrazi Tron struggles against linear aggro strategies, relying on Chalice of the Void to solve these matchups. But it can’t always open a Chalice, and even when it does, the artifact can prove too slow against certain draws or just eat an artifact removal spell on sight.

Matchups

Favorable: Burn (Chalice of the Void, Matter Reshaper), Bant Eldrazi (Endbringer, Ghost Quarter), Company (All is Dust, Walking Ballista)

Unfavorable: Affinity (speed and wideness), Valakut (Primeval Titan, Through the Breach), Death’s Shadow Jund (speed and disruption), Gx Tron (more inevitability, Wurmcoil Engine)

Bant Eldrazi

Bant Eldrazi, by Michael Innace (2nd, SCG Classic Baltimore, 2/19/17)

Creatures (25)
Noble Hierarch
Birds of Paradise
Eldrazi Displacer
Eldrazi Skyspawner
Reality Smasher
Thought-Knot Seer
Drowner of Hope

Artifacts (3)
Engineered Explosives

Instants (5)
Path to Exile
Dismember

Sorceries (4)
Ancient Stirrings

Lands (23)
Eldrazi Temple
Cavern of Souls
Sea Gate Wreckage
Windswept Heath
Brushland
Yavimaya Coast
Temple Garden
Breeding Pool
Forest
Plains
Sideboard (15)
Grafdigger’s Cage
Rest in Peace
Stony Silence
Blessed Alliance
Disdainful Stroke
Natural State
Stubborn Denial
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
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Overview

What it is: The aggressive UW Eldrazi deck from Eldrazi Winter, but splashing green for mana reasons.

How it plays: Play a well-rounded fair game complete with utility creatures, value engines, and card selection.

Replaces Eye with: Noble Hierarch, Ancient Stirrings (medium curve).

Key Cards: Engineered Explosives is the deck’s most flexible card, addressing a ton of problematic permanents and menacing fields and findable by Ancient Stirrings to boot. Drowner of Hope is the ultimate fair-deck killer and also messes with unfair attacking decks like Death’s Shadow Jund. Eldrazi Displacer repeatedly disrupts creature combos and combat, and becomes a value engine with Drowner, Skyspawner, or Seer.

Strengths

Adaptability. Bant colors give this deck powerful hate cards. Rest in Peace, Chalice of the Void, and Stony Silence can be run as hosers; Blessed Alliance, Path to Exile, and Stubborn Denial can be run as one-shot disruption; Worship and Elspeth, Sun’s Champion can be run as haymakers. Bant Eldrazi can be configured to crush any deck especially focused on one in-game aspect, such as graveyards, and has the best all-around game for a diverse field.

Mana utility. Ancient Stirrings and Noble Hierarch speed the deck up (the former by finding Eldrazi Temples early), but they also offer utility later in the game. The former finds threats or disruption, including Engineered Explosives, and the latter breaks ground stalls or turns Eldrazi Skyspawner into a serious aerial clock. To be fair, Tron’s Expedition Maps also offer utility, but Impulse-plus-one sure beats tutoring up Sanctum of Ugin.

Weaknesses

Softness to disruption. Thanks to its reliance on dorks, spells as ubiquitous as Fatal Push and Lightning Bolt can be used to attack Bant Eldrazi’s mana. Blood Moon also does a number on Bant’s mana base, while Chalice of the Void can cripple its consistency and removal suites, and Torpor Orb makes its creatures into (literal) big, fat jokes.

Sluggishness. Bant Eldrazi might get in the game faster than Eldrazi Tron, but it still struggles to keep up with faster aggro strategies the likes of Burn, Infect, and Death’s Shadow Jund. Stony Silence helps against Affinity, but reliable hosers for Modern’s other linear aggro decks are in short supply, explaining why some Bant lists have turned to Chalice of the Void despite the card performing inelegantly in the deck’s core.

Matchups

Favorable: Death’s Shadow Jund (Path to Exile, Rest in Peace), Valakut (Disdainful Stroke, Stubborn Denial, Path to Exile)

Unfavorable: Burn (fast, disruptive, doesn’t care about Engineered Explosives or Path to Exile), Affinity (fast, resilient, too many evasive threats to remove), Infect (fast, resilient, efficient), Gx Tron (Oblivion Stone, more inevitability), Merfolk (Dismember, Spreading Seas, too many evasive threats to remove), RW Prison (removal, planeswalkers, Blood Moon), Company (too many high-synergy threats to remove, few ways to stop combos)*

*Despite this long list of “bad” matchups, Bant’s strength lies in its ability to function as a jack of all trades, posting close-to-neutral matchups against the field. As a result, it gives up some percentage points against Burn, Infect, and other decks relative to Eldrazi Tron and Eldrazi Stompy.

Eldrazi Stompy

Colorless Eldrazi Stompy, by Jordan Boisvert (4th, SCG Regionals Acton, 2/4/17)

Creatures (23)
Simian Spirit Guide
Eldrazi Mimic
Eternal Scourge
Thought-Knot Seer
Reality Smasher
Endless One
Matter Reshaper

Artifacts (10)
Chalice of the Void
Serum Powder
Smuggler’s Copter

Instants (4)
Dismember

Lands (23)
Eldrazi Temple
Gemstone Caverns
Ghost Quarter
Blinkmoth Nexus
Mutavault
Sea Gate Wreckage
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Wastes
Sideboard (15)
Relic of Progenitus
Spatial Contortion
Ratchet Bomb
Pithing Needle
Gut Shot
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Overview

What it is: A highly proactive stompy deck focused on maximizing its busted draws.

How it plays: Slam a lock piece or a series of aggressive threats and quickly take opponents to zero.

Replaces Eye with: Serum Powder, Gemstone Caverns, Simian Spirit Guide (low curve).

Key cards: Eternal Scourge is Eldrazi Stompy’s most important card, enabling Powder and Caverns and therefore the entire deck. It also doubles as an unkillable Wild Nacatl in attrition matchups. Chalice of the Void, too, represents the strategy admirably, since the deck frequently has one in play by turn two.

Strengths

Speed. Eldrazi Stompy doesn’t waste any time casting spells like Noble Hierarch or Expedition Map to get its mana online—it mulligans to Eldrazi Temple with Serum Powder, effectively starting the game a turn ahead. Simian Spirit Guide and Gemstone Caverns add to the deck’s speed as well, and also at no mana cost. Subsequently, Eldrazi Stompy comes out blazing, putting pressure on opponents as of turn one with Chalice of the Void and Eldrazi Mimic. Its added speed helps the deck get under big-mana strategies and fast linear decks alike.

Free wins. The fabled double-Temple draws of Eldrazi Winter are alive and well in Eldrazi Stompy, and turn-two Thought-Knot Seers are par for the course in a deck with Gemstone Caverns. Turn-one Chalice of the Void on one also wins plenty of games on its own, and is frighteningly consistent in this deck.

Weaknesses

Colorless blind spots. Like Eldrazi Tron, Eldrazi Stompy is annoyed by big creatures and big instants. Thanks to Relic of Progenitus and Ratchet Bomb from the sideboard, this deck has a better time against Tarmogoyf and Death’s Shadow. But Stompy’s inability to splurge on All is Dust softens it to go-wide aggro like Spirits.

Trouble against land destruction. While type-changing land hate like Blood Moon, Spreading Seas, and Ghost Quarter don’t stomp this deck, hard destroy effects can devastate its mana. Eldrazi Stompy plays a miserly 23 lands and aggressively mulligans into Eldrazi Temple, meaning it frequently keeps hands with just two or three lands. Luckily, land destruction isn’t usually good enough in Modern for this weakness to manifest itself often. Fulminator Mage is easily the best land destruction spell against this deck; Stone Rain & co. inhabit decks too incompetent to give Eldrazi Stompy trouble.

Matchups

Favorable: Burn (Chalice of the Void, Thought-Knot Seer), Eternal Scourge), Bant Eldrazi (Spatial Contortion, Ghost Quarter), Company (plenty of removal, Relic of Progenitus), Ad Nauseam (Chalice of the Void, Thought-Knot Seer), Affinity (plenty of removal, Ratchet Bomb), Eldrazi/Gx Tron (Ghost Quarter, Eldrazi Mimic)

Unfavorable: Valakut (Primeval Titan, Through the Breach), Bant Spirits (too many evasive threats to remove, at too large a casting cost variety for Ratchet Bomb), Blue Tron (Chalice immunity, CondescendWurmcoil Engine)

If You Can’t Get an Eye, Make One!

Despite the eventual splintering of UW Eldrazi into three distinct decks, the Eldrazi superarchetype is doing quite well in Modern. All I can say is I’m happy to be aboard—it’s a great time to be a spaghetti lover (and a pretty miserable time to be casting Serum Visions). Which Eldrazi deck beats your metagame?

Jordan is the copy and content editor at Modern Nexus. He has played Magic since 2003, and Modern since its inception. Jordan favors card efficiency over raw power and specializes in disruptive aggro strategies. He always bringing tuned brews to events.

6 thoughts on “Weird Science: Dissecting Modern’s Eldrazi Decks

  1. I enjoyed reading this article, and I agree with many of the points detailed in it. I’d like to see this writeup expanded to include Eldrazi & Taxes. While it’s not really “an Eldrazi deck” in that it doesn’t typically reach for Reality Smasher anymore, it’s definitely repping the creature types and is pretty reasonably successful.

    1. E&T may play some Eldrazi, but like you said, it’s not an Eldrazi deck. It’s a Hatebears deck. These decks have fundamentally different gameplans so I don’t feel comfortable including E&T in this hyper-focused piece on the pros and cons of each Modern Eldrazi deck in relation to one another.

      But honestly I don’t think the deck is viable anymore. Modern has evolved past it. If you want to play Thought-Knot Seer in a well-rounded, fair deck, just play Bant Eldrazi. Stirrings lets that deck disrupt more reliably with Explosives, hit its curve and power cards more often, and find bullets after siding. E&T is often at the mercy of its topdecks and is much easier to disrupt significantly (Moon also hoses this deck and a removal spell on Vial frequently puts games away; besides, Bolt/Push/Path are awesome against E&T and significantly weaker vs Bant).

      What results are you referring to when you say the deck is reasonably successful?

  2. I’m glad you’ve chosen to cover each of these decks in the context of the format. One thing that I would argue is that affinity isn’t necessarily “unfavorable” for eldrazi tron, due to the inclusion of walking ballista. In my experience with the matchup, it is generally easy for tron to take a heavy control route especially games 2 and 3, while a single ballista draw in the mid or late game can be just as good as a vandalblast play (it really does slaughter anything except manlands, and even those are threatened). I think that it is an undependable measure of overall matchup assessment, but it seems to be the same situation as something like stony silence in a maindeck: completely busted clean in half when it resolves, and just business as usual if the tron player doesn’t find it. This is small beans, but it is fresh in my mind and worth considering in the matchup assessment.

    I’ve been trying out this eldrazi stompy deck online and I have to say it’s worked a lot better as a “meta deck” than I would have expected. Its interaction with online nightmares such as deaths shadow, cheerios, and burn turn those matchups into cakewalks and feel massively rewarding. I am very seriously considering taking this list to the upcoming titanium series in worcester, and would like to know if there are any changes you would make to the deck going forward. The options I was most looking to was a move of 1 to 2 relics from the sb into the main to address deaths shadow, dredge (with the outlook that it will have an uptick) and the control matchups.
    Unlike your experience, I have had more trouble with esper and UW control, in which the main issue has been utilizing eternal scourge. I have been bringing in relics for these reasons, but they have largely been underwhelming inclusions. There was a comment posted on another article that suggested the inclusion of cavern of souls over another utility land, but I wasn’t completely sold on it, given that each control deck (except grixis) tends to disrupt lands anyway.
    This essentially leads me to believe I am just playing the matchup wrong, but I’m curious to know if there are any decisions you’ve felt were important to that matchup.
    Thanks!

    1. Hey Odin, was good to meet you in Worcester and talk Colorless. Missed this post but wanted to address something you said publicly: I agree that Ballista makes things way better for ET than they used to be, but hold that the deck has a shaky Affinity matchup relative to the other two Eldrazi decks covered here. In hindsight, I wish I had made the “relative to the other decks” bit more clear, as this article has generated quite a bit of backlash in the Eldrazi communities I follow for some of the matchup assessments!

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