Hogaak has been nerfed by a Bridge from Below ban, but the deck is still out in force. While its apparent volatility may contribute to a plummeting of metagame shares in the near future, I personally know many players who continue to swear by the strategy. And Dredge is also on the upswing, profiting from players' haughty trimming of graveyard hate. These metagame developments have led me to refine my sideboard plans for beating Hogaak and Dredge with Colorless Eldrazi Stompy, my competitive deck of choice.
Of special note this article, I still favor Relic of Progenitus as my grave hate of choice. Leyline of the Void can also work, although it has less synergy with Karn, the Great Creator; either way, one should be employed. Relic happens to be far stronger against Jund, which is shaping up to prove a real force with Wrenn and Six in the format.
In my estimation, our Hogaak and Dredge matchups were decent-to-good even before the Bridge ban, so I'd say dipping into something like Ravenous Trap on top of Relic or Leyline is overkill.
Hogaak is back, and with a variety of builds to its name.
Hogaak is still explosive and resilient, if a little less than before. But it's lost major points in consistency. That's where our fast starts and disruption shine.
Game 1 sees us lean more heavily on fast starts, as much of our disruption is in the sideboard. Still, we have some to work with; Chalice of the Void on 1 is a major headache for Hogaak, which is full of one-drop enablers, and Dismember can remove a crucial Zombie or blocker. Best of all is Thought-Knot Seer, which foils enemy plans if deployed early enough and also turns sideways.
Eldrazi Mimic is at its best here, outputting massive pressure and making enemy removal unwieldy—Lightning Axe and Assassin's Trophy might be great at removing Thought-Knot seer, but sometimes Mimic is the real threat, and neither spell lines up great against the 2/1. Darkblast is less common, but indeed devastating versus the two-drop.
This game is fast enough that Karn doesn't offer much utility. He only really resolves in games with Chalice. Hogaak's primary threat is the 8/8, which is a pain for us to remove. Dismember and a 3-power creature will do it, though.
Just as we tend to remove Eldrazi Mimic against decks with Lightning Bolt or Liliana, the Last Hope, the creature comes out here because of Plague Engineer. I don't think Engineer is especially good against us, but most Hogaak players I've faced have brought in their 1-2 copies to shorten our clock and make trading more manageable. If they see Mimic in Game 1, the odds of encountering Engineer become very high.
Karn is an easy cut; at four mana, it essentially costs the same as Smasher, but we're not looking to loop Relics against Hogaak. We just want to gently disrupt our opponent and then finish them before they can piece their gameplan back together.
Relic and Surgical are obvious bring-ins, with the latter ideally hitting Vengevine or just Hogaak itself. Gut Shot is more subtle, but the card is fantastic in this matchup, hitting just about any blocker opponents produce and sniping early Carrion Feeders, Crypt Breakers, and Lotleth Trolls, build depending. While Stitcher's Supplier dying is generally a plus for opponents, keeping their board clear of Zombies can blank their Gravecrawlers and complicate ever casting Hogaak. Spatial Contortion can also come in alongside Shot, maybe over a couple Smashers; the colorless spell has the benefit of picking off Vengevine, too.
After sideboarding, we become more of a prison deck, as against Storm—between Relic and Chalice, we've got lots of ways to interfere with Hogaak's engines. Without Mimic, though, we're much slower, spending the early turns deploying lock pieces and picking off creatures. Disenchant effects from the other side are clunky against Relic and slow Hogaak down as well, making this game an easier battle than the first.
Our position shifts significantly between games, with a controlling role eventually taking precedence over an aggressive one. Either way, we apply pressure to Hogaak while disrupting them, an ideal gameplan against combo-oriented decks. We're still dead to the most explosive starts the deck has to offer, but so is everyone else; overall, this matchup feels favorable.
Big Brother Dredge is still kicking around, too, but fighting this deck is quite different than defeating Hogaak.
The consensus seems to be that Hogaak is better, chiefly due to its resilience in the face of hate cards, but Dredge continues to put up results. Thanks to its faster win rate via Creeping Chill and the utility/value engine of Life from the Loam, Dredge seems to have enough unique aspects to stay afloat despite many players switching to Hogaak. I imagine there's some amount of pet-deck nepotism at play, as when players clung to Jund during Siege Rhino's reign. As the Modern pendulum is always swinging, though, those players can't be so wrong.
Colorless Eldrazi Stompy likes to mulligan into turn-one Chalice, a solid plan against most of the format and incidentally against Hogaak. Unfortunately, that plan doesn't do much against Dredge. Many of my losses to this deck have been on the back of a powered-out Chalice that failed to accomplish anything. Stinkweed Imp is another hurdle Dredge throws at us; without removal for the flier, it's free to block and trade with any of our larger beaters. The recurring Prized Amalgam matches our smaller attackers, although it does help that it enters tapped.
These factors combine to make Dredge pretty difficult to beat Game 1. While Karn supposedly offers insurance against recurring blockers by fishing out Relic, it's too slow to be meaningful, and we've already expended enough resources trading by that point that we're just setting ourselves up for failure. Eldrazi's best bet is to open a creature-packed Temple hand and race the opponent, finishing them off with Reality Smasher.
Relic and Surgical of course return, but Gut Shot only hits Narcomoeba out of Dredge. Spatial Contortion gets the nod instead. Its applications range from taking out chump-blockers to executing Stinkweed Imp, Public Enemy #1 against us. Dismember does the same thing in theory, but is more of a liability because of Creeping Chill and Conflagrate.
Our misfortune takes a turn post-board, as grave-based disruption hurts Dredge a lot more than it hurts Hogaak; the new deck routinely delves out its graveyard to pay for the 8/8, whereas Dredge needs the cards there to snowball over the course of a game. Mostly, though, our hands are much better with Chalice out of the equation, and we have more ways to deal with the problems Dredge generates for us.
Dredge is a more polarized matchup than Hogaak, as less of our mainboard is viable; our Game 1 odds are worse, while our Game 2 odds are better. In this way, Dredge-Hogaak mirrors Humans-Affinity, with the former matchup remaining relatively unaffected after siding while the latter changes drastically. All things considered, though, I'd rather run into Dredge at a tournament than Hogaak, simply because an 8/8 is so difficult for Eldrazi to deal with. Hogaak is also the better deck by most accounts, and has more hands that we can never beat; Dredge lets us put up a fight. I prefer to equalize my matchups as much as possible, so the swingier nature of Hogaak lends itself to games I enjoy less.
Kolorless Eldrazi: Hollywood
After enjoying a brief stint as the format's go-to spaghetti deck, Colorless Eldrazi Stompy is something of an underdog in Modern right now. Eldrazi Tron indeed appears stronger, wielding Karn, the Great Creator to far greater effect and boasting more tools to combat Modern's anti-fair strategies. Time will tell if Colorless can claw back into the format's upper echelon, but refining sideboard plans against the top decks is as good a place to start as any. To the Scourge-slingers out there, what are your impressions of the graveyard matchups?