IQing with Eldrazi

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I have a long standing history of playing Delver of Secrets in Modern even when it's bad. Tempo decks are just my style, what can I say? I like blue cards and I like Lightning Bolt. That said, the release of Battle for Zendikar generated an Eldrazi deck that was a horrendous matchup for Delver decks. Then Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch happened, and it looked like the odds of playing against similar strategies would be significantly higher going forward.

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I had a free Saturday this past weekend, which I was intending on wasting entirely. This plan was foiled by Mike Hawthorne, who intermittently gets a strong itch to play competitive Magic followed by many months of not wanting to touch the game. The fire is currently burning bright in Mike, and I told him that I'd go to the IQ with him. Rather than try to get clever, I decided to take advantage of the card availability afforded by being part owner of a Magic vending business and to just build an Eldrazi deck. There have been a bunch of lists with varying color combinations since the Pro Tour, and I really had no way of determining which of them were actually good. As such, I decided not to get clever and to play something very close to the PT winning deck. After all, Jiachen Tao didn't lose a match of Modern on his way to becoming a PT champion. There's no way his deck could be bad. Save for the exception of two questionable Ruination Guide.

Listen, I'm not afraid to sleeve up draft fodder, but Ruination Guide is a turd. This isn't a deck that's trying to swarm the board with dorks, this is a meaty, efficient, beat-down machine. Vile Aggregate might not look great either, but I know what an asterisk means. That dude is a Tarmogoyf that never dies to Lightning Bolt. The fourth Eldrazi Obligator was a no-brainer for me, and a miser's Gut Shot to combat fast aggro decks like Affinity and Infect sounded solid. We didn't have a Gemstone Caverns, so I just played the fourth Cavern of Souls over it. They're both colorless sources that can generate colored mana and have Cavern in their name. The differences are negligible, really.

Lastly, I was a bit skeptical of the sideboard Chalice of the Voids. This is a four or zero card in my mind. It either KOs your opponent or you shouldn't bother with it- especially in a deck without fast mana for the Chalice itself. We only had three copies, so that made my choice easy.

I didn't play with the numbers too much, but I knew for sure I wanted more Ratchet Bombs. It kills every problem card that people are suggesting to beat Eldrazi, such as Worship and Ensnaring Bridge, so again that change seemed rather obvious to me. This is what I registered:


Round 1 Vs. Gruul Eldrazi

My opponent was on a more experimental build of the deck with Kozilek's Return and World Breakers. The sweepers help you beat up on the decks that are faster than you while World Breaker lets you rebuy Return and also blow up things like Ensnaring Bridge.

I won the die roll and mulligained to five while my opponent kept six, and my turn two Thought-Knot Seer exposed the fact that my opponent's hand hinged heavily on a Mind Stone. Naturally, I took it away from him and killed him before he could recover. Game two mostly came down to the fact that Eldrazi Obligator makes combat math stupid, and I was able to deal 15 damage in one turn from a losing position.


Round 2 Vs. Jund

I won the die roll again, and opened up on this hand:

I did something very stupid, and thought about keeping this hand. In doing so, I convinced myself to actually keep it. I mean, it had a 2-4 curve and everything! That's not what this deck does, and I got super punished.

Game two I mulliganed to five and won very easily.

In game three I am positive that I made some tactical errors in trying to combat a Scavenging Ooze when I knew my opponent had a Lightning Bolt in hand. My memory of the game isn't very good, but I know I messed up at least once. For me, this match more than anything boils down to keeping that garbage hand in game one. From there I committed to being smarter about my keeps, convinced that this tournament was easily winnable.


Round 3 Vs. Zoo

My opponent was playing a "Big Zoo" variant with Knight of the Reliquary, Loxodon Smiter, Wilt-Leaf Liege and Qasali Pridemage. He had that cute technology of playing a Path to Exile on a Reality Smasher and discarding creatures into play.

Game one I mulliganed to five and won very easily.

In game two my opponent played a bunch of Magus of the Moons, but they don't really do much. I already had creatures in play and I drew an Island for my Drowner of Hope. You can't just Blood Moon Eldrazi. You have to kill them, or they'll draw out of it, and when they do they hit hard and fast.


Round 4 Vs. UW Control

My opponent was on Spreading Seas, Supreme Verdicts, counterspells, and planeswalkers. I was on a fated four Cavern of Souls deck with busted mana and huge creatures. I won this match 2-0 and was never very concerned about it.

During this match I was seated next to my Zoo opponent, who was discussing his tournament with his opponent. He said that his only losses were to nut draws from Eldrazi. I told him, "This deck only has two kinds of hands. Nut draws, and mulligans."


Round 5

Standings put me in third place going into the final round, with all the nine pointers needing to play. As luck would have it, the one seed had already played the two seed, so I was paired against the last undefeated player in the tournament. A draw would lock him as the one seed and lock me for Top 8, but I really wanted a high seed. I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do when I made my way to the table, and the conversation started along the lines of both of us being able to safely ID. I then said how I was weighing playing for position, and remarked, half-jokingly, that he'd make my life easier if he just conceded. To my surprise, his response was, "Yeah, sure. I'll concede."

I had never been more convinced of my Force-sensitivity in my life. Naturally, when the Top 8 announcement rolled around I was the one seed and my round five opponent was the two.

Quarterfinals Vs. Colorless Eldrazi

Game one wasn't very interesting. I think it's established that Izzet is favored here, especially on the play, and that's the way things played out. A really strange thing happened in game two though.

I knew my opponents hand, and knew that he had to top deck me to kill me with his board of Eldrazi Mimic and Matter Reshaper from my life total of eight. My life total had become eight when I cast a Dismember as I said the words "I'll go to eight," on the previous turn. While I was completely tapped out, my opponent drew a Reality Smasher, played it, triggered his Mimic... and then went into tank. Somehow, he came out of the tank with an attack for five, and then attempted to confirm that my life total was now seven. I told him that it was three, and proceeded to win the game. Comically, his alpha strike was lethal even from the 12 life that he thought I was at, so I really have no idea what happened there. Other than the undeniable fact that I am a Jedi.

Semifinals Vs. Gruul Edlrazi

This match was against the same opponent that I dispatched in round one.

I kept a five land hand with Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple in game one and drew a few more lands and lost. I know how to mulligan into Ancient Tomb, but my skill at mulling hands that already have it could probably use some tuning. I think the keep was probably fine but things just broke the wrong way.

There was some tension playing against a known Kozilek's Return in the sideboarded games, and it can lead to the Gruul deck just completely going over the top of other builds. That said, I think that the strategy is just to force them to have it because you're not winning by holding back. You can also potentially just Obligator and win anyway. Either way, I was able to fade some draws and win the match.

Finals Vs. Jeskai Eldrazi

If memory serves, my opponents deck was basically the Izzet build with some Eldrazi Displacers. Displacer is a freaking combo with Drowner of Hope, and I lost game two to this combination. That said, I don't think that anything can really compare to Eldrazi Obligator, and the deciding game ended with me killing him from 17 by attacking for 21.


This tournament doesn't really say a ton about Eldrazi against non-Eldrazi decks, but the fact that I played "mirrors" all through the Top 8 evidences the fact that the non-Eldrazi decks were doing plenty of losing to Eldrazi. I've been playing the same list on Magic Online since the event, and it continues to feel completely degenerate.

I don't advise trying to beat the Eldrazi deck. The power level is actually an absurdity, and in going too far out of your way to try to beat them you end up with cards that leave you weak to the other people not playing Eldrazi. Meanwhile, at least in my experience, you'll lose matches to Eldrazi on top of that. I'll be in the booth for the Louisville Open this weekend, but if I were playing I'd definitely just be playing Eldrazi Obligators and Drowner of Hopes, as I feel the Izzet build is best positioned in the mirror.

I've seen remarks that people claiming that Eldrazi needs a ban are just lazy and unimaginative. I believe that the people making these remarks are being unrealistic, though I agree that the deck doesn't need to just be banned tomorrow. It's super fun to play a degenerate deck for a while (RIP Treasure Cruise), though I'm confident that it won't be available in the format forever.

I, for one, welcome our new Eldrazi overlords.

-Ryan Overturf
@RyanOverdrive on Twitter

9 thoughts on “IQing with Eldrazi

  1. Great post.

    Would you make any changes to the list moving forward (especially relative to the cards you changed from Tao’s list)?

    What are your thoughts on Magus of the Tabernacle? I was excited about it until I remembered Dismember.

    1. Magus does have six toughness, though costing four is a real problem. I’m really not concerned about anything other than degenerate combo decks playing Eldrazi.

      I’ve been playing the same 60 card for card, but messing around with the sideboard. I’ve upped the Relics to four as well as Stubborn Denial to combat things like Living End and Goryo’s Vengeance. I cut the Hurkyl’s Recalls because I’m not convinced that Affinity can’t just be beat with Dismember, Gut Shots and a clock.

  2. I’ve developed a similar sentiment playing Eldrazi since the PT (I’m on colorless).

    People who are trying to beat Eldrazi lose hard to the non-Eldrazi decks… and also lose hard to the actual Eldrazi decks.

    Whatever your flavor of Eldrazi you pick, the deck is insanely powerful. I tend to be on the side of “give it time, we’ll find an answer, or the meta will adjust to put enough hate on the deck to push it out.” Well, that hasn’t happened yet. It’s still less than 2 weeks out from the PT, but I have yet to see anything to put the brakes on the deck.

    Blood Moon in the main? Pff, ok, I’ll just have to win with this 4/4 and this 5/5 I already have while you skipped your 3rd turn.

    Painter? You realize I’m playing 4 Dismember and some Ratchet Bombs maindeck right?

    We’ll see how it pans out, but right now I just think it’s our duty to keep playing busted Eldrazi decks so we can get a card banned, and get the whole thing over with.

    1. I mean, Thoughtseize isn’t *bad* against the deck, but it’s not backbreaking. Most other decks in Modern have hate cards that are just really tough to beat, and Thoughtseize just isn’t that kind of card. The Eldrazi deck still gets a draw step, and it can cast all the spells in the deck very quickly.

  3. I’m playing the colorless version myself. I started off on izzet but I have only seen 2 other eldrazi decks in OKC and neither was Izzet so I went to colorelss. Almost free wins vs burn, infect and affinity. Due the the meta here I’m pulling out oblivion sower from the board and inputting 3 all is dust as prison has been my toughest matchup. Also swapping out 1 mutavault and one blinkmoth to add in 3 cavern of souls and play 61 cards.

  4. Star Wars jokes and an informative, well written tournament report. This is everything I’m looking for in an article. Nice job. I’m looking forward to SCG commentary this weekend too. You guys did a good job last time. Keep up the good work Ryan.

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