Just when I figure out an Oko shell I like, Wizards drops the hammer on the card I'd built around! Not that I think Oko was particularly balanced in Modern; I did endorse the walker as my candidate of choice as face of the 2020 metagame, after all. Fortunately for me, plenty more Modern game-changers have been released in recent months, and it didn't take long to occupy myself with a different idea: integrating Once Upon a Time into Colorless Eldrazi Stompy. Today, we'll see where that experiment has led the deck and weigh the benefits of different color splashes.
For starters, the deck:
Thanks to my experiments with Gx Eldrazi shells and continued testing of Once Upon a Time alongside Serum Powder since coming across Once a Powder Tron in a 5-0 dump, I've become a believer in what the controversial cantrip does for the cannoli carnivores.
Landing on Both Feet
A critical area of focus in redesigning the deck was the manabase. I considered Hashep Oasis as a green source that also produced colorless, but the upside of its activated ability seemed incredibly marginal; barring a lucky Gemstone Caverns or being Path to Exiled, I'd have to draw and play a whopping three copies before even thinking about paying four mana for a sorcery-speed Giant Growth. So I turned to the painlands, which at four copies grant us a second color splash more or less free of charge.
No Pain, No Gain
The go-to in that case was Karplusan Forest. There weren't really any colored cards besides Once I was interested in running main, but Karplusan nonetheless taps for Simian Spirit Guide, giving the creature a significant utility boost throughout the game. Red is also among the deck's most useful splashes, and I've lamented not having access to red sideboard cards in the past.
Naturally, running a full set of painlands hurts our action-packed manabase, which draws its strength from how much the lands themselves do for us when cards start to run dry. In theory, the early-game boost and actual card filtering from Once, increased relevance of mid-game Guides, and actual land filtering of Once itself should help on this front, covering for the card they directly replace: Zhalfirin Void. But I'd be hesitant to add too many color sources for fear of further watering down our land effects.
Less Is More
I also trimmed a Wastes for a Forest, which turns on cantrips stranded in hand if opponents Path or Quarter us, and trimmed the land count to just 20, as we function fine with just a couple in the opener and lack mana-sinks late-game. Specifically, the cuts were a Ghost Quarter (as we pressure big mana decks like Tron and Amulet more reliably) and Blast Zone (which we lack the mana to support at three copies).
The main reason for splashing at all is Once Upon a Time. Between this cantrip and Serum Powder, Eldrazi Stompy gains an unmatched capability to execute its Plan A, bringing the deck even closer to its Eye of Ugin-fueled prime.
While the potpourri of Once a Powder Tron eschewed Simian Spirit Guide in favor of Urza land enabler Expedition Map, an early play replacing the dreaded turn-one Chalice, I actually love the Ape alongside Once. Turn-one Chalice is all the more reliable when Once can grab our choice of an Eldrazi, a land, or a functional Lotus Petal out of our top five cards.
Ancient Stirrings and Noble Hierarch are absent from the deck despite making my core for Gx Eldrazi strategies. This is still Colorless Eldrazi Stompy at heart, meaning we don't want to spend precious early-game mana futzing around setting up our plays; at that stage of the game, we're already looking to establish a clock or lock opponents out of the game.
A notable omission in the sideboard is Collector Ouphe, which I'd previously praised in Once-powered Eldrazi decks. With the recent bans to Oko and Opal, though, I expect a significant lull in artifact-themed decks barring Whirza. The most threatening course of action Whirza has against us is to search up Ensnaring Bridge, which Ouphe does little to stop.
One card I considered for the side was Veil of Summer, a tool against the Bx and Ux decks looking to grind us out. It's no secret I'm partial to the stick-a-threat-and-counter-spells playstyle, Veil is simply too at-odds with our consistent Plan A to be of much use in this deck, and Relic already hassles interactive opponents enough in the one-mana slot besides having many other applications. Still, it's nice to know we have access to Veil should a counterspell-heavy deck that does pose issues for us arise down the road.
Just as green is reserved for the mainboard, red finds itself mostly in the side. An exception to this principle is Simian Spirit Guide, which is now easier to cast than ever and choosable off Once in a pinch.
As far as the sideboard goes, though, Abrade seems like a significant improvement to Spatial Contortion. Like Relic, it's extremely potent in its role compression, so I'm comfortable with a full set: against creature decks, we can never have enough Pyrophobia; against prison, we can never have enough Shatter. The latter has historically menaced Eldrazi Stompy to the point that Karn, the Great Creator fishing up Ratchet Bomb to tick into a Bridge-breaking activation, clunky as the plan reads on paper, was a godsend for the strategy.
There are also some notable colorless cards filling in for the usual suspects.
Good Cop, Bad Cop
Copter is all the better in this build, making excellent pilots of those newly-castable Simian Guides and spare Endless Ones. And with a full eight mulligan-helpers in the deck and the notable absence of the once-convenient Zhalfirin Void, Copter assuages the burden of drawing too many enablers or lands. When we mulligan especially low, or opponents throw a wrench into our plans with a fast Damping Sphere or Ghost Quarter, Copter can turn a clunky hand into an acceptable plan, so it acts as an insurance policy as well.
Something I don't like about Copter is that it can't be found by Once. I also tried Karn, the Great Creator in this slot, but never wanted them together for this reason. Karn's utility is still high, especially its ability to grab Relic of Progenitus against midrange and start recurring Scourge as of Game 1. But it strains the sideboard and is quite expensive at four mana given our Once-affected manabase. Abrade also covers for many of Karn's biggest draws in helping us defeat artifact-based prison.
It Don't Matter to Me
The final change in this version is my total forsaking of Matter Reshaper. I've elected to relegate the grinding plan to the sideboard for Game 2, where it takes the form of a set of Relics. I think those will prove enough, at least as the metagame settles; we now have more anti-aggro tools with Abrade, and I find shaken-up metagames often default to aggro in their early stages. Reshaper, too, was appealing for role-compression purposes, but we may have those bases covered with Abrade; besides, Reshaper was always garbage against linear combo and other fast archetypes.
Endless One remains, as the card is more potent alongside Once Upon a Time and a pair of Copters. I frequently cast the Eldrazi for 1 just to have a pilot, and late-game, it can be found with the cantrip to create a big attack with Eldrazi Mimics or just register a large body. Endless plays nice with our Plan A, benefits from an increased ability to find Temple, and is highly adaptable to different situations. Of course, it's never tremendously impactful for its price, especially compared with Seer and Smasher; I can see going back to Reshaper if Fatal Push or Wild Nacatl decks start giving us trouble, but I'm not holding my breath.
I was indeed excited to start tuning Six Shadow, a deck that's been killed along with many others by the recent bans. Still, Once Upon a Time has got me bursting with ideas too, and I can't wait to see if it fits into my pettest of decks. How goes everyone else's new-year brewing?