The winter weather blew my team and I in the direction of Detroit this past weekend. Would these players be the heroes of the Gatewatch and try to stop the Eldrazi horde or would they join the army and fight for the dark side? As fate would have it, this team was divided. Two tried to join the heroes of legend while one slipped away in the night to fight with the enemy.
You may be thinking, what crazy concoction did Mike bring to battle this time? You might think, he is known for decks like Kiki Chord with Siege Rhinos and Temur Company, but no matter what deck he is on, it’s always interesting and against the grain. This time is a little different. For once, I actually love the best deck!
Eldrazi is a blast to play, but never fear, I wouldn’t just play a stock list. Even when I’m playing the best deck, I still brew within those confines. My friends were sporting Affinity and Ad Nauseam, but I when the Eldrazi whispered in my ear, I threw my lot in with them.
After playing with and against Eldrazi variations, I knew I didn’t like the colored ones. I felt their mana was inconsistent and I didn’t like the way they interacted with Affinity as well as other archetypes. For some reason, most likely Chalice of the Void, I was drawn to Colorless Eldrazi. Being underpowered in the mirror was a stance I was willing to take to be better against other decks in the field.
Most of the deck is similar to other versions but I have sweet cards like Damping Matrix to shut down Affinity as well as other problem cards like Eldrazi Displacer, Viscera Seer, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, Scavenging Ooze, Tasigur, the Golden Fang and many others. With how well it was testing, I felt it was worth the risk to play alongside Ratchet Bomb and Endbringer, who was an all-star every time I cast him.
There are some other sweet cards in the deck like the one-of Gitaxian Probe to help shave on lands and tell me what to set the Chalice on. I loved the main deck Gut Shots and as expected they were a blowout in many situations all weekend.
The sideboard was nearly perfect as well. Most of the sideboard are cards you might expect, but they fulfilled their roles quite well. Then there are cards like Batterskull, which aren’t typical Eldrazi cards, but it was great in the mirror and against controlling decks. All Is Dust is such an unfair card in this deck and I wrecked many decks with it. Overall the sideboard was exactly what I needed to battle against any deck.
Without delving into each card in the deck, let’s get started and see what the weather was like in Modern for Eldrazi Winter at GP Detroit.
Round 1 - Bushwhacker Zoo
Round 1 started off as quite the blood boiler. Not only did I sit down across from an explosive deck but I made a play mistake that cost me game one. This wasn't a great way to start the day, especially running with no byes.
My opponent’s deck was an interesting mix of creatures and burn spells as well as Vexing Devil. The most powerful interaction he had going was Burning-Tree Emissary into Reckless Bushwhacker. We all dreamed of this possibility with Goblin Bushwhacker but the double red made it hard to work with. This is a potent combination though and one brewed to be blisteringly fast.
Fortunately I was ready with my main deck Gut Shot. Unfortunately though, I mistakenly thought the new Bushwhacker had two toughness and lost game one due to this misplay.
Game two and three went more my way though. In the second game my opponent helped me out by bolting himself with his lands but my creatures were storming across the battlefield even quicker than he did to me in the first game. The third game was a close one too but I was able to fade a burn spell and attack for my first victory of the weekend.
Round 2 - Affinity
After testing the matchup so much, I felt confident, but sometimes they kill you turn three with infect damage while they’re on the play and you had no removal. Game two showcased how impressive Chalice on zero is against them when you’re on the play.
The third game started off great for me. I had an aggressive start and my opponent had a slow one. I even got to rip a card from his hand on turn two with Thought-Knot. My choices were Arcbound Ravager and Master of Etherium. I took Master and attacked for a bunch. My opponent’s next draws were Inkmoth Nexus, Steel Overseer, and a second Ravager. With no removal, my attack was shut down abruptly.
Then after a great match, I decided to give my opponent the win a turn early by attacking with the Blinkmoth Nexus. When you are playing against Affinity, forgetting about their Inkmoth can spell your doom and it did for me. I’m still kicking myself for that attack. There is no certainty I would have won the match because my opponent’s board was quite impressive, but he was at four life and I definitely could have lived a turn longer.
Round 3 - Merfolk
Typically Merfolk can be a bad matchup for the Sol lands of Eldrazi, but your opponent still has to draw well. They also have to draw a bunch of creatures so they have a fish army big enough to kill you.
In game one, I was faster than my opponent and he had to start blocking. That’s one facet about Modern right now; if you have to block, you might be dead. As long as you are on the offensive, you are good, but once you need to start playing defense, it’s hard to turn the tide back in your favor.
The second game we both flooded the board with mana and creatures. In this case Eldrazi is favored because the creatures are bigger. Merfolk needs their creatures to work together, while Eldrazi can attack with one big dude and it’s fine.
Round 4 - G/B Loam
If you are rooting against Eldrazi, then my round 4 opponent deserves a medal. This match my mulligans definitely killed me. Although I kept a decent five card hand in game one, my opponent’s incremental card advantage overwhelmed me. All I needed was one more land and I would have been able to get things in gear, but that never happened.
Game two was just about the best-case scenario for my opponent. I mulled to four and then on his turn two, he destroyed my Eldrazi Temple, Eldrazi Mimic, and made me discard a creature all with Smallpox. What a beating! I couldn’t even be upset and I wished my opponent good luck against the rest of the Eldrazi army.
Round 5 - Bogles
Promptly after I got the biggest beating of my life, I turned around and did the same thing to the nice guy sitting across from me in round 5.
When you are playing Chalice of the Void, your options are mulligan because you think it’s a dead card in the mirror, play it on zero if you think they’re battling with Affinity, or cast it for one on turn one if you think they’re playing basically anything else. Most of the time, you have to place your bet and hope it pays off.
This story doesn’t end well for my opponent because I chose Chalice for one and my opponent didn’t need to play any part of the game to know he couldn’t win so rather than give away his deck choice, he scooped.
Game two didn’t go much differently. We both mulliganed but he went to four and I stayed on six. Then Chalice for one sealed his fate yet again. Despite my route to victory, we had a nice chat after the match and wished each other well. Chalice of the Void is a beating and sometimes that’s all you need to defeat your opponent.
Round 6 - UWR Control
As I was playing through Day 1, I noted many copies of UWR Control decks floating around. When my opponent started his slew of removal spells like Lightning Helix and Path to Exile, I knew this is what he was playing.
From playing this match, what I found was that this type of deck only has so many cards that kill giant Eldrazi. So, if you are getting Endless One for at least four, they don’t have many targets for their Lightning Bolt type cards. They will take some damage from their lands, you have haste creatures, and eventually their removal will dry up.
Even when they can kill my guys like with Matter Reshaper, it still gives me some card advantage. One of the times he killed it, I even got to replace it with another Matter Reshaper. This is how it played out in both games.
Round 7 - U/W Eldrazi
In my first match against another Eldrazi sympathizer we both had incredible draws game one. Unfortunately my opponent was on the play so instead of me killing him on turn three, I had to block and then it was all downhill from there. I didn’t get to be on the play very much during this event and in games like this, it was a huge detriment.
Game two, he got a Worship online a turn before I could Thought-Knot it from his hand and I couldn’t draw a removal spell for his creature so that the Worship would deactivate and I could beat him. This was an intense match but one I fell short of winning.
Round 8 - Lantern
At this point, both of my friends and I became the 4-3 car, which is quite a disappointment, and then to top it off I had to play my worst matchup!
Sometimes though your worst matchup isn’t that bad. In game one, my opponent had a pretty good lock with a milling artifact and an Ensnaring Bridge. Fortunately for me, I was able to keep attacking under the Bridge with my creature lands. Then when I got Endbringer online, I was able to significantly shorten the clock.
Game two is another circumstance that shows why this colorless version is great against the rest of the field. Turn one I was able to get a Chalice for one down and stop him from deploying the lock pieces in his hand. He never recovered and a couple turns later, he was overwhelmed with Eldrazi.
Round 9 - Zoo Aggro
With Wizards changing the day two qualification to 6-3, I still had a shot to make it back for some more Eldrazi Winter action. I was able to end the day just as it began, against Zoo. This time around, my opponent had a more tradition Zoo list without the aggressive Bushwhacker blitz. Game one, I never got my footing and my opponent burned me out after his attack on turn four. Dismember doesn’t help much if you are at a low life total and that was certainly the case in this first game.
The second game went much better for me. I was still on the back foot and defending myself by blocking with Eldrazi Mimic, but this time, I had All Is Dust to destroy his Tarmogoyf, Goblin Guide and Kird Ape.
The third game was another blood boiler. I mulled to six, while my opponent had to go to five. Luckily for him though, he was able to draw possibly the sickest five of all time. I made sure to take clear notes of this game so I could share it with everyone. I’m still ecstatic I was able to win this game.
Here was his sequence:
His hand was Boros Charm and all he needed was a fetch to find the right color of mana to finish me off from two life. Luckily I was able to smash his reality and end the game before he could find the mana to land the killing blow.
Day 1 Wrap-Up
So, after a long day of twenty plus minutes between rounds, I made my way to get some much needed food. There was a lot of Eldrazi on Day 1, but it wasn’t so overwhelming that everyone played against it all day. I spoke with opponents for whom I was their only opponent playing a version of the deck. Sure there were some players who battled against it in half of their matches, but it wasn’t as bad as what we all thought possible.
I’m not sure I agree with the decision to break at 6-3. With approximately 2500 players on Day 1, we were left with an enormous 700 players qualified for Day 2. I don’t feel like this is necessary and I kind of wish they would remove this false hope.
Basically, with that type of record, your only option is to win out on Day 2. Sure we got to keep playing, but I feel the original cut makes it better for everyone. I’d be interested to hear some feedback from everyone in the comments on the 6-3 vs. 7-2 debate as well.
Round 10 - BUG Infect
The start of Day 2 began with both of us knowing the contents of each other’s hand. We both cast Gitaxian Probe and got to see how Eldrazi vs. Infect was going to shape up for game one. Despite perfect information, my opponent still played his Glistener Elf into my Dismember. If he would have saved it, I think he might have been able to maneuver the game into his favor, but he never drew another creature and I killed him quickly.
Game two was a quick defeat for my opponent. It was a lopsided game but this time not in my favor. He had an excellent draw, as did I, but he was on the play and I didn’t draw a removal spell.
The third game was definitely an interesting showcase of what can happen when both players are low on resources. We both completed our double mulligan and then began the game trying strange lines of play to win the match. My opponent lost his only infect creature to my Dismember and was left drawing Noble Hierarchs. He had three Hierarchs in total and that allowed him to start attacking and halted my meager offense.
I knew he had a Become Immense from a midgame Gitaxian Probe, so I played around it for as long as I could. Eventually we got to a board state where he had drawn a second pump spell so he could attack me with multiple Hierarchs and I wouldn’t have enough blockers to prevent both pump spells from killing me.
This was a very winnable match, but sometimes you don’t draw many relevant cards and your opponent beats you.
Round 11 - U/W Eldrazi
I mentioned earlier how good conceding before giving your opponent any information can be and that’s what ended up happening for game one of this match as well. When Eldrazi has an extremely fast start, you can tell whether you have a chance for victory or not based on the contents of your hand. With another mull to five, I knew my opponent had the win. He knew I played a Mutavault but that plus Gitaxian Probe were the only cards he saw.
Game two after you scoop and don’t let them know what your playing can be highly in your favor. Deciding how to sideboard with little to no information is extremely difficult and usually leads to free wins. That’s exactly what happened in this game.
I’ve used this technique a handful of times now in competitive events to a 100% win percentage in the following game. Then for game three, you can play an even match where both players know what each other is playing.
The third game I didn’t have much of a chance as I yet again mulliganed to five cards. We all know these Eldrazi decks mulligan frequently but my rate of going down on cards was high even for this deck. My opponent kept seven cards all three games and I was on 5, 6, and 5. That certainly makes it hard to win.
Round 12 - G/b Elves
Elves was a great deck choice for this weekend and it could be a great choice moving forward as well. There are a variety of versions. My opponent this round was playing the black version with Shaman of the Pack.
For game one, my sweet Gitaxian Probe showed its power again and let me know that my opponent had a decent hand while I was down to five reasonable cards. I was able to Dismember his first mana elf though to slow him down considerably.
I was in a good position to win this first game but that was mainly due to my opponent’s poor hits from Collected Company. Even so, he was able to draw Elvish Archdruid with six elves in play to kill me from twelve life. He did have some live draws to get him out of that situation but they all involve getting that lord into play so he wouldn’t lose his last two life.
Game two I was able to drastically slow him down with Chalice on one. Elves doesn’t concede to that play, but it does give you a couple turns to get your army going. He did have a Collected Company but it was too slow to get him back into the game.
The third game I had Gut Shot for his first mana guy and Dismember for the second and that opened a window for me to deploy my large threats. I believe Reality Smasher and his twin finished this game off for me.
Round 13 - G/w Elves
This match ended up playing out similar to the last one. Unfortunately for my opponent Chalice of the Void is a messed up Magic card and he was on the wrong side of that coin. He did find an answer to it in game one with Chord of Calling for Reclamation Sage, but by then it was too late for him to cast all the cards locked up in his hand.
Game two was a strange one. These decks typically have resilient mana bases because they get to play many basic lands. My opponent only had two Horizon Canopys with which to operate. He had a pretty good hand but when you are forced to take damage to cast every spell against an aggressive deck, it becomes difficult to win.
All of the elf decks are great against Eldrazi because for the most part they keep to themselves and just try to execute their game plan as well as possible. Moving forward I think Elves could be a good choice, but it will need tuning in the metagame post-banning.
Round 14 - Jund
In game one, my opponent made this play twice while removing every other threat I played. I was able to slow him down with Damping Matrix to shut off his double Scavenging Ooze but I drew lots of lands and my opponent drew lots of removal spells.
In game two, we both flooded out but in that case I had Eye of Ugin to start getting threats every turn and eventually my opponent succumbed to my colorless onslaught. He was able to valiantly stand his ground with the help of Courser of Kruphix gaining him a bunch of life.
Game three was one of the most epic I’ve played in a long time. The other games were taking a bit longer than normal but we still had a decent amount of time left in the round. For this game, I kept a very controlling hand with double Dismember and double All Is Dust. These spells let me get to the late game and draw my impactful cards like Batterskull and big Eldrazi.
Before we got to the late game though, I was able to ping my opponent down a bit with Mutavault and Blinkmoth Nexus. The Batterskull was able to muck up the ground once I was able to get my opponent to use his Kolaghan's Command that he reveled with a Courser of Kruphix in play.
Then they called turns and I thought we might end in a draw. He had double Tarmogoyf and the Courser to hold the ground and it was looking like I wasn’t going to have enough time to beat him.
I draw on turn four of turns and it’s Simian Spirit Guide. Initially I thought that was a terrible draw but after thinking for a moment, I saw the line. Get a mana with Guide and activate Blinkmoth Nexus then use the remaining five lands to equip the Batterskull to the creature land and swing for exactly five damage in the air. What an epic win!
Round 15 - Chord Combo
The last round of the day and it’s against another deck I haven’t played against yet. My opponent was a player willing to take risks and that made the match so interesting. Everything was going well for me and I had a decent setup of dudes attacking. Having drawn a combo piece naturally let him Chord for the other one though and with no removal, I was staring down infinite creatures and infinite life.
Game two, my opponent got to feel the wrath of All Is Dust two turns in a row. I thought he might stabilize when he cast the second Archangel of Thune and another guy, but some endlessly large Endless Ones made him block for survival.
Game three my opponent tried to assemble the combo on turn five but luckily I had an answer. He puts the Archangel into play alongside his Spike Feeder. I say okay to let him proceed. He removes a counter from the Feeder and with the angel trigger on the stack, I Gut Shot his dude.
From there it wasn’t too difficult to attack for the win. A hasty Smasher forced him to block to survive and then the following turn I took down the win.
GP Detroit Wrap-Up
This GP was a ton of fun. I played against many tough opponents and there were many epic matches. It does seem clear from the results of all the Modern events that a banning is inevitable though. I really enjoyed playing this deck, but it is definitely too powerful with what else is going on in the metagame.
At this point, I’m interested to see exactly what gets banned and if Eldrazi can survive or not. If they ban both lands, I think the deck is dead, but if they only ban one, I think the deck will still be pretty good. I was able to 10-5 this GP with my version of the deck as well as take down an SCG IQ last weekend too.
As you can see, there are still many viable decks in Modern and they should all be options after we see what happens in April. I played against Elves, Jund, Loam, Chord Combo, Bogles, Infect, Zoo, Lantern, UWR Control, Merfolk and Affinity. All of these decks aren’t going anywhere once the format stabilizes.
Of the fifteen rounds I played against three of the same deck twice, but that leaves twelve different archetypes that I faced during this event. If you factor in the IQ, that would add another four separate archetypes to the group as well. Eldrazi is winning more than is healthy, but once it gets neutered the format should drift back into balance.
Wizards was doing some great public relations with their Church of Avacyn built in the GP hall and revealing new cards at various times throughout the event. I thought this was a great move on their part and I hope they continue it in the future.
That’s all for me today. What was your Eldrazi Winter experience like? Did you join up or were you building to beat the horde? Let me know in the comments. This format is one we’ll be talking about for a while. It definitely was an exciting time.
Until next time,
Unleash the Force!
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