I try to have a level-headed approach to Magic. When people start calling for the ban-hammer, I aim to look for other solutions, as I know that WotC doesn't make banning decisions lightly.
In fact, when Treasure Cruise was warping Modern I was one to point out there were serviceable ways to beat up on the Treasure Cruise decks. Stock Birthing Pod was totally playable in this era, along with Affinity, while Tron and Merfolk decks packing Relic of Progenitus were able stop the delve decks from building up graveyards.
Chalice of the Void was also a card that could significantly hinder the Cruise decks, and there was the option to just splash Cruise in basically any deck, with the most notable adapter of Treasure Cruise in a normally non-blue deck being Burn.
This was me defending a Modern that had been warped to the high-velocity format with good draw spells that embodied the type of Magic that I want to play. I will stress that it's too early to call at this point, but there is a lot to be said about the notion that the new Eldrazi decks warp Modern in similar ways. The statistics from the Pro Tour itself are pretty overwhelming, though as many point out, what really matters is where we go from there.
If you pore over the most recent Modern results on Magic Online, you'll see a lot of Eldrazi decks posting perfect records. Other decks are of course seeing success, but Eldrazi is disproportionately represented in these events.
Yes, you can play Living End. You can play Affinity. Merfolk has even had some strong showings in the new Eldrazi meta, but again, much like Treasure Cruise Modern, you just see more results coming from the Eye of Ugin decks. Further, the first reason you'll see many players cite for why they chose to play decks other than Eldrazi is a perceived positive Eldrazi matchup.
The problem with seeing Eldrazi merely as the "deck to beat" is that it ignores the fundamentals of the situation---that the Eldrazi decks have access to mechanics that are actually degenerate.
I saw a Twitter poll recently asking whether lands that tap for two mana were more or less oppressive than land destruction. I don't believe this was intentional by the person who posted the poll, but this question made it abundantly clear to me that the Eldrazi decks are a real problem. Land destruction punishes stumbles and players hate it. Lands that tap for more than one mana punish playing lands that only tap for one mana.
At a glance, you could make the point that Eldrazi decks are severely limited in the types of spells they can play. This would be true, if not for a series of other pushed mechanics. Starting with Mirrodin we saw colorless spells taking more and more abilities that generally would only be found in colored decks. Chalice of the Void, for example, was recently restricted in Vintage. It's a small investment for a game-breaking ability that can just go into any deck capable of generating mana.
Dismember, Gut Shot and Ratchet Bomb all also provide interaction that makes it so the Eldrazi deck doesn't have to merely line up well strategically with other decks. If your solution to Eldrazi's ability to generate fast mana is to generate your own with Birds of Paradise, they can kill the Birds pretty easily.
Meanwhile, the best draws from Eldrazi enable them to take advantage of their fast mana before you ever get a chance to shut their engine down. If interacting with lands is something that you're even capable of doing. Not to mention that they killed your Bird without tapping any mana with Gut Shot, while your interaction with their lands will cost at least two in the form of Spreading Seas or Boom // Bust.
Don't even get me started on how degenerate casting Thought-Knot Seer on turn two is.
On the Topic of Unbannings
I agree that certain cards being banned when Eldrazi decks get to run people over with fast mana appears silly. What kind of lunatic would be casting Jace, the Mind Sculptor right now? That said, WotC has made it clear that they are more pro-ban than pro-un-ban in Modern. They realize that the format will break sometimes, but they'd rather that be due to printing new hotness than subjecting us to something that historical evidence suggested was degenerate.
Make no mistake, this Pro Tour was a huge success for the brand---at least in the short term. I do think that the Eldrazi deck is busted, but it showcased new cards and put great players in the Top 8. It rewarded innovation, and viewership for the event was great. That said, this would not be the case if PT OGW was PT Stoneforge Mystic.
I also want to address the point that banning Splinter Twin had anything to do with Eldrazi's success. I think it is, at best, silly to contend that a deck that is happy to play Spellskite, Dismember and Cavern of Souls would have a negative Splinter Twin matchup.
Minimally, the theory behind the matchup being good for Twin is off, so it would take some significant data to suggest otherwise. It's possible that newer versions pack less punch against Twin, but the pre-Oath processor versions mauled Twin decks in my experience. I don't think Thought-Knot Seer makes the matchup better for Twin.
Talk of emergency bans is clearly outrageous. There's no emergency---the PT already happened. Now we'll all get the chance to smash with Eldrazi in a few GP's and Opens, and then in all likelihood something(s) will be banned from the Eldrazi deck.
I wouldn't rush to sell off the Eldrazi deck, but I would place some urgency on it. Eye of Ugin, Simian Spirit Guide and Chalice of the Void have gained significantly from the deck, and I like moving off of these positions.
The real trick is going to be pinpointing exactly how the bans go down. Will it be Eldrazi Temple? Eye? Heck, even Simian Spirit Guide is a card that nobody will ever use to play fair in Modern. The next announcement could involve huge shakeups. What I like is investing in decks that are performing well now and are likely to still be good after what I believe to be inevitable bans.
Burn is a deck that realistically can't be banned out of Modern or made bad in the format without a fundamental change to the turn four philosophy; Merfolk is a deck that always seems to find a way to be relevant without looking very good; and Living End is among the biggest talking points in the current Eldrazi metagame while also having chops historically.
In the short term, I think it's clear that Eldrazi is the deck to play, and also that it is not the deck to own. If the Open in Louisville and the coming GP's provide evidence that Eldrazi doesn't actually have long-term warping effects on the metagame then this is a position to reevaluate. That said, I think it's clear that until we see evidence to the contrary, we have a busted deck and we're asking what, not if, with regard to bans.
Thanks for reading.
- Ryan Overturf