With Throne of Eldraine released, it's only a matter of time until the set's real players make themselves known. But despite the lack of data we've got at this stage, certain candidates are already hogging the conversation. Perhaps the most polarizing card in the set is Once Upon a Time. The instant has all the makings of a Modern playable: it's fast; it's free; it's powerful. But since "Leyline of Given Spell" has never been Modern-legal before, Time's true potential, or lack thereof, remains up for debate.
For my part, I've been especially happy with Once Upon a Time in green Eldrazi shells. Black pushes the deck too far into midrange territory to occupy its own niche; here, it's overshadowed by Jund. And blue doesn't really offer much to the strategy. That leaves white and red, two splashes my testing has indicated are super legit.
The Gx Eldrazi Core
In "Weird Science: Dissecting Modern's Eldrazi Decks," I compared the draws to Colorless Eldrazi Stompy, Eldrazi Tron, and Bant Eldrazi, delving into how each deck sought to fill the fast-mana void left by Eye of Ugin's banning. Stompy ran Serum Powder to quickly locate Temple; Tron packed Urza lands as an additional mana engine that, while off-theme, was more explosive. And Bant ran Noble Hierarch, a card that buffed Eldrazi creatures via exalted, further improved Temple draws by leading to dreaded turn-two Thought-Knot Seers, and compensated for hands without Temple by nonetheless reaching one turn higher on the mana curve. While Hierarch cost players a mana and opened Eldrazi pilots up to disruption in the form of ubiquitous small-creature removal, it also let them run Ancient Stirrings, one of Modern's strongest enablers.
These decks all still exist in Modern, in one form or another. But it's the Gx builds of Eldrazi that improve directly from Throne of Eldraine, which grants them Once Upon a Time. Time is similar to Serum Powder in that it fixes opening hands, but dissimilar in that it makes for a pretty big topdeck in a deck that's already interested in making its land drops and sort of prone to flooding. In other words, Time is pretty much all upside.
Featured here are the best-of-breed Eldrazi creatures, Noble Hierarch, and a suite of eight heavy-duty green cantrips. Between Time and Stirrings, both of which find Temple and Thought-Knot, resolving the four-drop a couple turns early should be par for the course in most games.
Where the deck goes from here depends on whether white or red is splashed.
Some of white's perks include:
- An obvious additional Eldrazi creature in Eldrazi Displacer
- An alternate gameplan in Stoneforge Mystic
- Blue-chip removal in Path to Exile
- Powerful sideboard hosers, namely Rest in Peace
The above benefits are ranked from most important to least. While Rest is backbreaking for opponents in some metagames, it's by no means necessary. Similarly, there are other removal options available to this strategy, such as Dismember. But I think Stoneforge gives the deck a very potent angle of attack against other creature decks. Best of all is Displacer, which is a hoser in its own right against certain decks (Infect for instance) as well as a must-answer threat for attrition and aggro-control strategies alike.
This list is based on Ally Warfield's suggested build from last month. To make room for Once Upon a Time, I've cut a Karn and the Talismen. Once should help find Temple often enough that the additional ramp isn't so necessary; in the late game, it finds closers like Reality Smasher, making the need for Karn less pressing. I have left the number of lands intact, though, reasoning that the Karn package does benefit from pilots making their land drops.
I think red's allure is a little subtler than white's, but I'm overall more excited by this splash.
- A card advantage, utility engine, and curve-fixer in Wrenn and Six.
- An all-purpose removal spell in Lightning Bolt.
- A free-win dimension granted by Magus of the Moon.
- Some juicy role-players: a conditional tide-swinger in Eldrazi Obligator and a hoser for small aggro in Grim Lavamancer.
Something something Lightning Bolt good something. But Modern's best card isn't the best reason to go red. That honor goes to Wrenn and Six, the planeswalker that has revitalized Jund and even rendered wedges as suspect as Temur playable.
In this deck, Wrenn combines with fetchlands to ensure we hit our land drops, which has some serious implications for the deck's construction. For example, we can now top out the curve with World Breaker, giving us mainboard outs to Modern's available prison plans. Making land drops also helps pay for mid-game Times, which we can more easily chase with whichever fatty we rip off the top of our library.
Wrenn also gives us some utility dimensions. Dryad Arbor makes the cut as a fetchable, repeatable blocker, or even attacker in the right situation. And Tranquil Thicket turns Wrenn's plus into an actual plus. Finally, we can't really lose to land destruction anymore, eliminating a common pathway for opponents to deny us our gameplan.
Magus of the Moon is another exciting addition to the red build, and it comes with a couple Birds of Paradise. Time finds either creature, which lets us set up "Magus hands" with some ease, and lock opponents out of the game as early as turn two. Not everyone can answer a Magus; having access to that plan Game 1 without needing to commit to a bloated Blood Moon package is a huge boon.
One factor to address in GR is the absence of Eldrazi Displacer. We still need another Eldrazi to round out the curve and make Temple worthwhile. I'm currently on Matter Reshaper, with Obligator relegated to the sideboard. While the 3/1 haste has certainly put up numbers for the strategy in the past, I feel that with so much aggro and midrange in the format right now, Reshaper earns its slots. Obligator is high-impact, but also high-variance, only proving relevant in certain matchups. Additionally, it's more of a four-drop than a three-drop, and its ability requires a colorless source besides the first Eldrazi Temple. I didn't want to be locked into fetching Wastes every pre-board game.
Joining Obligator in the sideboard is Grim Lavamancer, which has proven a house against small creature decks. GR is fully capable of stuffing its graveyard, and with Time in the picture, we can open the little guy quite easily.
As far as the sideboard goes, Ancient Grudge is the only non-searchable card here. But I think it's too strong in this metagame not to include in a GR deck. The 3 Collector Ouphe may raise some flags, so let my mission statement be clear: I'm through losing to Whirza!
Christmas Come Early
Is GR the future of Eldrazi? Or will the just-released Stoneforge Mystic finish by proving its worth in this ultimate test? Let me know your thoughts in the comments. Until then, may you assemble the nut!