Green/Red Eldrazi is the New Green/Red Tron: How to Play Modern GR Eldrazi and Grand Prix Bologna Summary, by Fabrizio Anteri
I just arrived back home from yet another Grand Prix trip, this time in Bologna for the “Eldrazi era” Modern GP.
First off, I would like to mention that I do believe a banning will happen next month to fix the Eldrazi problem, so you may want to think twice about investing some money in this deck or any other Eldrazi variants. That said, we can’t be 100% sure if these bannings would take place or if they will happen right away. Worst case, you still get to enjoy the deck for few weeks.
After the Pro Tour in Atlanta I was feeling a bit demotivated to play Modern Eldrazi in Bologna, but I had everything booked and as a Pro Player, I am supposed to take any shot I can get at making Pro Points.
My deck choices are strongly influenced by the capacity of players to play at their best against you. Basically, the less known or less expected the deck is, the less likely are people to know how to play against that deck and the more likely I will pick up that deck.
So knowing I won’t be playing UW Eldrazi, but still needing to find a way to beat it. I started the testing, and the hunt.
The first tactic I tried was attempting to be faster than Eldrazi, while also avoiding any collateral damage from the hate towards them. That meant I couldn’t count on creatures in a metagame prepared to deal with them. That’s how I started working on variants of Emrakul – Griselbrand – Goryo’s Vengeance – Through the Breach combo.
The deck was, as expected, very fast and resilient to common removal (Griselbrand may not have protection from spells, but normally drawing some cards was good enough to win the games even when a Path to Exile dealt with it before combat).
The problem was the consistency of the deck. I found myself taking too many mulligans and it gets extremely hard to win when so many of your cards produce card disadvantage (Faithless Looting and Izzet Charm‘s draw and discard mode are card selection spells, but produce a loss of a card in the process). Knock knock (Thought-Knot Seer) was surely not a card I was happy to see either.
Next I tried to still be fast enough to race the Eldrazi, avoid the creature hate, but be more consistent. That’s how I found myself sleeving up RG Valakut (I didn’t really sleeve any card, since I test with Magic Online, but you know what I mean). I really enjoyed playing this deck. It has a plain but versatile plan to win: a bunch of acceleration and Valakut Triggers that you get from Scapeshift or Primeval Titan (and you can also get with Summoner’s Pact).
I even added some copies of Through the Breach and Emrakul as another way to put a fast clock. I stayed on the deck for a while, but ultimately dropped it because it wasn’t fast, or powerful, enough. It can consistently beat the average hands of most decks, but it’s just not good enough to beat the good hands of those decks.
Controlling the Eldrazi
At this point, the hate started.
If I couldn’t be proactive and better than the Eldrazi, I would try to be reactive and neutralise everything they try to do. I tried Mardu Midrange, Grixis Control, and Jund. It seemed easier to focus the hate when most strategies rely on creatures
In order to be able to actually stop their aggression you have to maximise removal and discard, and that barely leaves you space for threats or win conditions. Games would go long and eventually you would lose to Eye of Ugin activations, Eldrazi Displacer, or Drowner of Hope. Not to mention what happens when you get paired against other decks and your focus is on the Eldrazi matchup.
Many people were already mentioning how powerful Wrath effects were against the Eldrazi. Most of them were talking about four mana Wraths (Supreme Verdict, Damnation). But what about 3 mana Wrath? I’ve been a Living End fan for awhile and it’s normally one of the decks I would try in a given Modern metagame. Somehow it always ends up being my second option.
Beating Them at Their Own Game
I had barely tested Living End when my friend Humberto Patarca told me about his success with RG Eldrazi. On paper I didn’t like the idea of the deck. In order to use the consistency of Ancient Stirrings, the deck needed to be slower and use cards like Kozilek’s Return to slow down opponents. What’s the point of playing Eldrazi in the first place if you are not going to abuse the lands by “cheating” big creatures in play as quickly as possible?
Humberto was really insistent about the good results of the deck and he already had improved the list from the “stock” lists on internet, so I decided to give it a go.
Oh boy, this deck was good… I was wrong about the main approach of the deck. The idea is not to “slow them down” while you build up your aggression. The deck is capable of completely controlling your opponent before going for an overkill.
We’ve seen “Knock Knock” as an aggressive threat that takes away your opponent’s removal or interaction spell to speed up the kill. In RG Eldrazi, Knock Knock is a trap for your opponent. It takes away their best threat while also giving you an extra land from the Path to Exile they will most likely cast on him (her? it?).
Mulligan decisions with Eldrazi decks basically depend on whether you have one of the Ancient Tomb lands (Eye of Ugin or Eldrazi Temple). With RG Eldrazi you basically have 12 of those lands with Ancient Stirrings (you may not always hit one of the 8 lands, but it gives opening hands a lot more of consistency)
Few days before the Grand Prix, the hate (not only cards, but complete decks) was all over the internet: Spreading Seas, Ghostly Prison, Ensnaring Bridge, Worship, Detention Sphere, and so many others. Having access to 4x World Breaker main deck gives RG Eldrazi a significantly bigger edge against all this hate than its counterparts.
One of the (and probably most important) changes Humberto made to the list was to replace Mind Stone with Talisman of Impulse. With the Mirrodin artifact and a combination of Eye Ugin, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and Eldrazi Temple you can cast World Breaker on Turn 3.
“Turn 3: land, seven mana threat, exile your land.” Mmm this sounds familiar, I think I’ve done it before… oh right! Karn!
The more I played the deck, the happier I was with it. I put Living End on the side and just focused on learning about RG Eldrazi, its matches, and improving the list as much as possible. I wanted to play 100 matches with the deck, but after an insane 42-8 result I felt the practice was more than enough. I had some theory discussion with Humberto, Brad Nelson (who also liked the deck and was testing with it for Grand Prix Detroit), and Mads Utzon (a Danish player I met online during a mirror match and we agreed to share information about the deck afterwards).
Grand Prix Bologna Green/Red Eldrazi Decklist
3 Relic of Progenitus
3 Ancient Grudge
2 Natural State
2 All is Dust
1 Lightning Bolt
1 Oblivion Sower
1 Crumble to Dust
The Deck Breakdown
4 Eldrazi Temple
4 Eye of Ugin
These are the base of the deck and the reason to run Eldrazi. Eight is always the correct number, never less.
4 Karplusan Forest
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
Another reason why RG is so consistent is because it has these 8 “trial lands” instead of the normal 4 that the other Eldrazi decks have.
2 Tendo Ice Bridge
The deck doesn’t have many spells of color, so being able to use the counter only once and then using the land only as a source of colorless mana is more than good enough to run Tendo. A second copy was included once the third Dismember joined the 75, as an extra source of black and saving some pain from so much Phyrexian mana.
2 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
People have been arguing about running Urborg in a metagame full of Eldrazi. They could have Eye of Ugin when you don’t, so they would actually get the benefits from your land. But since RG is more consistent at finding Eye of Ugin than the other Eldrazi variants, two copies of Urborg actually makes perfect sense. RG is also more control-ish so the pain from Dismember is more significant.
1 Kessig Wolf Run
Most lists were running Ghost Quarter as utility/colorless lands. The problem I found with Ghost Quarter is that I never want to lose my lands, because I always want to reach Eye of Ugin‘s 7 mana activation. You know which land is really fun when you can produce lots of mana and really big Endless Ones? That’s right, Kessing Wolf Run was just amazing.
|Cavern of Souls (0)|
I am running zero Cavern of Souls. While it is another utility/colorless land, your biggest threats (World Breaker and Oblivion Sower) have a “when you cast” trigger, so getting those spells countered is not that bad, especially when you can return your World Breakers to your hand.
3 Matter Reshaper
Such a mix of feelings for this guy. Humberto first told me that he loves it and he would play 5 if possible. But I would normally rather play a Talisman on Turn 2 if the acceleration helps me to cast something big a turn earlier. Or maybe I would need to cast a removal spell on that early stage of the game, or cast a four mana Eldrazi. Later on in the curve, it just gets less and less impressive. Still, as Brad said, the deck needs some early defence against Public Enemy Number 1 (UW Eldrazi), so three ended up being the number.
4 Thought-Knot Seer
4 Reality Smasher
Knock Knock has to be the best Eldrazi, considering cost and efficiency. It’s not as powerful as World Breaker, but surely more impactful than Reshaper. Even though GR Eldrazi is not as aggressive as other versions, it still wants a fast clock to end the games before something crazy happens, so that’s where Reality Smasher comes in. It may not have lifelink or deathtouch, but this guy feels like the Wurmcoil of the deck. If they don’t do something quick about it, they will just lose to it.
2 Oblivion Sower
4 World Breaker
Oblivion Sower has a higher cost than most Eldrazi on the deck and the trigger may not achieve much in some matches. But it’s still a necessary additional big threat, and having enough toughness to survive Dismember is particularly important in this metagame. World Breaker is Karn. A 4-of. Best card. Main reason to be RG.
3 Endless One
This card is really flexible and gives a lot of consistency to the deck by filling the holes between turns and making sure the deck doesn’t lose before getting control of the board. It can also work as 5th to 7th activator for the Kozilek’s Return trigger. I was running 4 of these and 2 Reshapers two days before Grand Prix Bologna, but the fact that Eldrazi Displacer can just kill Endless One is a big downside, so I decided 3 and 3 would be more appropriate.
4 Talisman of Impulse
One of the reason to play this over Mind Stone is the same as why I don’t play Ghost Quarter: most of the time you would rather keep your mana sources to hit Eye of Ugin‘s activation rather than cycling the Stone. Another great reason is because Talisman taps for not only colorless, but also green and red. Colorless mana on Turns 1 and 2, into Talisman, into Ancient Stirrings or Lightning Bolt is a quite common play. Talisman is also fantastic against Blood Moon. You don’t only get the colorless mana source source to cast Knock Knock and Reality Smasher, but also Green to cast Stirrings and World Breaker.
4 Ancient Stirrings
4 Kozilek’s Return
Once again, this is the card that gives the deck such a high consistency. Opening hands with a green mana source plus Stirrings are rarely a mulligan. It doesn’t only find all the great lands and threats, but it can also find Kozilek’s Return. Tron uses Pyroclasm to interact with small creatures in the early game and Oblivion Stone to interact with bigger creatures in the mid-late game. Kozilek’s Return does both in a single card. The metagame is also great for this card right now. It’s a metagame based on creatures. Decks like Ad Nauseam or Lantern Control are a really small part of the field and some other decks, like Melira and Affinity, have a really hard time against a Turn 3 Kozilek’s Return.
2 Lightning Bolt
Most lists are playing the Lightning Bolts in their sideboard, but they are quite useful in so many matches that it’s totally worth it to have some copies in the main deck as well. Dismember is a really important card in the Eldrazi Era. It’s basically a must for any deck that can’t cast Path to Exile, and even those that can will still run some
3 Relic of Progenitus
There are enough decks using the graveyard in the metagame to justify a high number of Relics in your sideboard. Living End, Storm and Grishoalbrand are bad matches without some Relics. Relic is also decent against Melira Company and decks based on Snapcaster Mage, and it makes Oblivion Sower better.
3 Ancient Grudge
I’ve always respected Affinity, not only when its a known good deck in the metagame, but also when its not expected to be popular (then it’s actually more dangerous). Grudge is also great against Lantern Control, which is gaining popularity.
2 Natural State
Modern is a big enough format that I would always want some Disenchant effects in my sideboard. Even with 4x World Breaker in the main, Natural State is a good (and cheaper, and faster) answer to Pyromancer’s Ascension, Spreading Seas, Æther Vial, Blood Moon, Ghostly Prison, and Ensnaring Bridge. It also provides some extra help against Affinity.
2 All is Dust
All is Dust works as an extra sweeper against decks like Merfolk or Melira Company. It is also good against UW control, getting rid of any (and all) of the annoying enchantments, plus any wall, angel or planeswalker they have. I am using Vesuva in the same way UW Eldrazi decks are using it, so it gives the deck consistency in the mirror match. They are likely going to mulligan hands without Eldrazi Temple or Eye of Ugin, so even when you don’t have a Temple, you can always copy their Temples with Vesuva.
1 Lightning Bolt
When Lightning Bolt is good, it’s really good, so the extra copy comes in for the matches with small problematic creatures. Dismember is one of the few ways to improve the match against UW Eldrazi. It’s also okay against Affinity and Infect.
1 Oblivion Sower
1 Crumble to Dust
The third copy of Oblivion Sower is quite good for the mirror, blue based control decks, and in general it is a good threat to have against decks without a fast clock. It was hard to decide if the final sideboard slot should be Crumble to Dust for Tron, Valakut and the RG mirror, or Warping Wail for Living End and Scapeshift. Before Lightning Bolt and Dismember were in the sideboard, I was running Warping Wail as an extra, but bad, removal card, but once those two were in the sideboard the reasons for playing Wail were less appealing.
The best matchup for RG Eldrazi is Melira Company. They really suffer to Kozilek’s Return, and having access to spot removal makes it really hard for them to combo off.
World Breaker makes all those matches against slow hate decks really good as well. Eventually, you start activating Eye and generating a big advantage of cards until eventually they just run out of resources and lose.
Affinity and Infect are close matches. You can consistenly stop them by Turn 4, but many times they can win on Turn 3… The sideboard helps a lot, especially against Affinity.
UW Eldrazi is fast enough to beat you most of the time. Even when you manage to stabilize a bit the board, you are normally dead to a Drowner of Hope or Reality Smasher from the top. The problem with UW Eldrazi is the inconsistency. They have to take many mulligans and curve out to be 100% efficient in the match.
Living End is a complicated match. I think you could lose 60-70% of the time if you don’t know the match well, but once you learn a trick or two it could be much closer Game 1 and better than that post sideboard. It’s hard to know how much pressure to put on board, but normally two big threats are enough pressure so that they are forced to Living End.
Then you can put out one or two more threats (which are normally bigger than their creatures) so if they don’t have a removal for it, they can’t attack. Eventually you fill the board with enough creatures that they have to Living End again, so you still get your first threats back (unless one of them is Endless One).
Eventually they run out of Living Ends and start casting their 3/4s for 5 while you cast your 5/8s for 6. It’s important that you don’t attack after the first Living End if you don’t have something close to lethal at least, if you just attack to do some damage they are simple going to chump block and keep cycling creatures, and when they cast the second Living End they will get a way bigger board this time and it would be harder to hold. Fulminator Mage also adds some troubles to the formula.
Most of the other non-Eldrazi decks are not good enough to compete in the format. UW Eldrazi may be better in general against non-hate non-Eldrazi decks, but RG still uses most of the unfair tools to beat those decks.
Grand Prix Bologna
I was really happy with the deck before the GP and I thought about writing this article before the tournament. My results didn’t matter, as I was convinced the deck was good enough for sharing and writing about it. I ended up doing other things the last two days before traveling, so I didn’t write anything.
Luckily the Grand Prix went very well and I don’t even have to say something like, “I sucked at the GP, but really, the deck is good, I was just unlucky, you should still try it.”
I played against UW Eldrazi three times during the weekend and defeated all three of them. Some of the games were really close and others they had to mulligan or got mana screw/flood. I still think RG is the underdog in the match, but with the consistency of the deck and the inconsistency of the UW I wouldn’t be surprise to hear GR players getting similar results against UW as the ones I got during the GP.
Melira Company also came my way three times during the weekend. I found Kozilek’s Return consistently in the matches and got three victories out of them.
My only loss during the Swiss was against a GW Eldrazi deck. Just like GR, it uses Ancient Stirrings and World Breaker, but instead of Kozilek’s Return it has Path to Exile, so it’s a clear favorite in the match, even though most of the core cards are in both decks. I believe the guy had a shot at Top 8 but lost his win-and-in match, so his version of Eldrazi was also well positioned against the metagame.
I drew the last round and finished first in the standings after 15 long rounds of Swiss.
In the quarterfinals I lost to Affinity in three games. I had to mulligan Games 1 and 3 and couldn’t stop his speed. In Game 2 I misplayed my third land drop and almost lost because of it, but the deck was still kind enough to give me a World Breaker when I most needed it.
This was my 9th Grand Prix Top 8, 4th of the season, and I just virtually locked Platinum (I have 45 Pro Points and will get 6 more from Pro Tours before the season is over). I couldn’t be more happy about it and I also have a good shot at playing in the Worlds Championship. I almost quit Magic 7 months ago when I missed Gold by one point last season… Life can be very sweet sometimes.
I’ll be in Washington this weekend for the Team Limited Grand Prix and I will barely have time to catch up with Standard before Grand Prix Paris the week after. I’ll be happy to finally put Modern on the side for a while and focus in Standard once again. I hope to have learned enough of the format after the Grand Prix to share with you my thoughts about it.
Before I go I’d like to say a big special congratulations to fellow Manaleak mtgUK writer Kayure Patel for winning GP Bologna, João Choça for picking up his Pro Tour Madrid invite and Eduardo Sajgalik for making top 8 at GP Detroit! And of course all the other UK guys that did so well this weekend, well done everyone.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it. As always comments, recommendations and questions are always welcomed so please let me know below.
[schema type=”review” url=”http://www.manaleak.com/” name=”Green/Red Eldrazi is the New Green/Red Tron: How to Play Modern GR Eldrazi and Grand Prix Bologna Summary, by Fabrizio Anteri” description=”I just arrived back home from yet another Grand Prix trip, this time in Bologna for the “Eldrazi era” Modern GP.” ]