Greetings, Nexites. I'm deep in the middle of the late-February/early-March metagame update, which I will have for you by the end of the week. In the meantime, I'm highlighting an innovative take on the Eldrazi tribe that was taken to a 5-0 finish in an MTGO League.
We've seen a large number of decks sporting Eldrazi creatures over the last year or so since Oath of the Gatewatch was released, spanning the archetype wheel from stompy aggro, to disruptive aggro, to midrange, to ramp. Thanks to the "colorless mana" mechanic, the Eldrazi are among the best creatures ever printed at their respective mana costs—so it's no surprise to see them appearing in multiple deck types. They really do function like a sixth color of sorts, as a mere few Wastes, Eldrazi Temples, or Cavern of Souls here and there can facilitate the splash easy enough.
The trifecta of Bant Eldrazi, Eldrazi & Taxes, and Eldrazi Tron are well known. Today we look at a straight green-white version that incorporates a toolbox element.
Eldrazi Evolution's closest relative is clearly Bant Eldrazi, with which it shares a majority of cards. The main difference is in the late-game: Drowner of Hope, and in fact the entire blue splash, has been replaced with Eldritch Evolution. Strategically, this adds a toolbox element to the typical stompy and midrange plans of most Eldrazi decks. As we'll see, it also skews the deck more towards the aggressive side of the spectrum.
First off, it must be mentioned that this is a flavor win. So far, Eldritch Evolution has been much better acquainted with the likes of Kiki-Jiki and Anafenza than with its on-plane peers who presumably invented the spell in the first place. What better creature to emerge out of some sacrificial fodder than an Eldrazi Displacer or Thought-Knot Seer? Emrakul would be proud.
As a Modern card, Eldritch Evolution was initially slotted into decks with an infinite creature combo like Abzan Company and Kiki Chord. But in Abzan shells players have already been experimenting with a value-only package, where the combo is omitted and tutors are used for flexibility and utility. These decks use Eternal Witness and Renegade Rallier to keep the value engine going, intending to win with traditional beatdown and disruptive creatures. The eldrazified version takes a similar tack, replacing Rallier with Matter Reshaper for its on-board value. In addition to Reshaper, Kitchen Finks and Strangleroot Geist provide more sacrificial lambs, and both can be reset by Eldrazi Displacer to essentially undo Eldritch Evolution's downside.
Thinking on a more theoretical level, Eldritch Evolution is in a certain sense well suited to the Eldrazi game plan. The traditional core of Bant Eldrazi is built to maximize the number of opening hands that can accelerate out a ridiculous, undercosted threat. This is accomplished with Noble Hierarch as a replacement for the now-banned Eye of Ugin, but also with Ancient Stirrings, which digs five deep towards a Temple or doubles as a threat. Eldrazi pilots have sought additional ways to accelerate out their threats, including Urzatron lands and Simian Spirit Guide. Our own Jordan Boisvert has also used Serum Powder to this effect to increase the incidence of truly broken opening hands. In this same vein, Eldritch Evolution does a fine Tinker imitation, serving as both acceleration and threat. The restriction on what we fetch (its mana cost) precludes anything truly absurd, but is offset by the extra value we get out of the sacced card's death trigger.
This helps explain the relative lack of exciting one-of tutor targets. I imagine in most games a simple Reality Smasher or Thought-Knot Seer will be the go-to card to find off of Eldritch Evolution, to apply pressure or further disrupt our opponent. Of course, the tutor effect isn't to be underestimated. This deck has ready access to Thragtusk against Burn, Thrun, the Last Troll against removal-heavy decks, Acidic Slime to hamper ramp's mana, and Kataki or Eidolon of Rhetoric out of the board.
This version also seems to make better use of Eldrazi Displacer. The Drowner of Hope combo, of course, is a significant loss. But what we gain is a greater breadth of options, all of which can be tutored up with Evolution. Acidic Slime plus Displacer will prove devastating against any deck that cares about its lands, while Eternal Witness plus Displacer translates to a stream of unending threats or Path to Exiles. Honestly, my first inclination is just to squeeze one Drowner and a few blue sources into this deck so we can have it all!
That's all for me for today. Look for the metagame update later this week (realistically, probably on Friday), and if you haven't gotten a chance to check it out yet, take a look at Roland F. Rivera Santiago's exceptional Merfolk primer. The primers have been slower going that I would have hoped, but I'm working on the next one already. I'm also still looking for more contributors—drop me a line if that sounds like something you're interested in.
Until then, thanks for reading, and we'll see you on Friday.