For today’s article we are pleased to welcome James Hunt to the Crew. Read on for the first part of his in-depth analysis of the Modern Eldrazi Tron deck and if you like what he has to say, please let us know and maybe he will have a regular segment.
Eldrazi Tron occupies a strange place in the modern metagame as the superior version of the age-old combo deck Tron, as well as being the most consistently powerful midrange deck in the format akin to Jund. In this article I’m going to take a look at the maindeck cards and examine their place in the deck as well as the impact they have in a Death’s Shadow dominated metagame, which also has a lot of viability and variance in decks.
The powerful thing about Eldrazi is that it is a proactive deck. Eldrazi Temple and Urza lands allow you to put pressure on your opponent early in the game, maintaining control and tempo while also fielding mana sinks which go too big for the majority of Modern. Your mulligan decisions aren’t plagued with “What ifs” concerning your opponents’ decks, as you know the cards that you are looking for are effective against 90% of the field.
The reason that Eldrazi is far more effective than traditional Tron is that Tron is a combo deck which can be heavily impacted by opponent’s interaction. It is reliant on a certain number of combo pieces, which discard, land destruction, and hate cards interrupt significantly. Eldrazi Tron continues on through interaction, Ghost Quarter still leaves you ahead on tempo with ways to utilise the four mana, land destruction is putting you a turn back, not making you wait four more to find another piece. Blood Moon just takes you off casting Thought-Knots and Reality Smashers until you find a Waste, and Path to Exile pushes you further up the food chain of efficient creatures.
4 Urza's Tower
4 Urza's Power Plant
4 Urza's Mine
4 Eldrazi Temple
3 Ghost Quarter
2 Cavern of Souls
1 Sea Gate Wreckage
4 Matter Reshaper
4 Thought-Knot Seer
4 Reality Smasher
3 Walking Ballista
1 Ulamog, The Ceaseless Hunger
4 Expedition Map
4 Chalice of the Void
2 Mind Stone
2 Relic of Progenitus
Other Spells (6)
2 Karn Liberated
2 All is Dust
A playset of each Urza’s land is required, you’re playing Karn Liberated and you have a lot to do with 7 mana. There are few things which in tournament play lead to an audible groan as “Urza’s land, expedition map, go”. This deck functions without Tron, don’t mulligan for it.
Sea Gate Wreckage wins games, we don’t field very much removal and almost always have the mana to dump our hand. It’s important to remember you can activate this card in your upkeep before you draw.
Eldrazi Temple consistently allows us to play our threats a turn earlier. Matter Reshaper on 2, Thought-Knot on 3 is extremely powerful against most decks in the format. It’s worth remembering that you can use Eldrazi Temple mana for All is Dust.
Ghost Quarter is an important card in Modern, while it’s primary use is shutting down opposite man lands and Tron, format knowledge can turn it into a strip mine. 3 colour decks are often running between 1-3 basics. Grixis Death Shadow plays 1 Island 1 Swamp, cutting them off of red is just a Ghost Quarter away. Putting Tron a few turns behind is necessary, and I believe running Ghost Quarter is still a good reason to play Surgical Extraction in the sideboard.
2 Wastes for me is a minimum, this gives us Blood Moon protection, makes our opponents Path to Exile worse and makes Ghost Quarter hurt less.
The last 2 slots are down to interpretation. They are torn between Wastes #3, Cavern of Souls or a random utility land. I like 2 Cavern of Souls, the success of the deck has resulted in Ceremonious Rejection becoming a solid sideboard card.
Matter Reshaper, in a deck this powerful it’s easy to view Reshaper as underwhelming. This certainly can be the case but I also find it a necessity. This gives us a turn 2 play with Eldrazi Temple, smooths out bad draws and quite often ramps us toward our more potent threats. Also an early drop is important versus more aggressive decks especially since they’re hesitant to kill it.
Thought-Knot Seer really doesn’t need an explanation. It takes their best card and matches up well with the creatures in the format. He gives us game against combo and certain matchup can’t be won without it.
Reality Smasher wins games out of nowhere, almost always a 2 for 1 after hitting them for 5.
Walking Ballista is a big mana pay off. I am less keen on this card than most Eldrazi Tron players, although it is very powerful when cast for 6/8, it is the weakest of all the Tron payoff cards. While yes, you can cast it for 2 that costs 4 mana. That isn’t great. I like having the ability to kill Bobs/Birds when I know I won’t be hitting Tron. One of the things I like about the deck is that it doesn’t have a reliance on getting Tron, this is one of the cards that really is ineffectual without it. Even with Tron, it’s the weakest payoff.
Endbringer… brings the end… if he ever untaps. The thing about Endbringer is that it’s one of those cards that whenever it’s good, it is so good. When it’s bad, you shrug and wish it was Walking Ballista. Drawing cards is huge in a deck when your draws are worth twice as much as your opponent’s in terms of strength, mana and value.
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. I’d say most people have moved off this card, and I’m very tempted to. I like playing this card as it gives you an out to infinite life and problem permanents. He can get stuck in your hand, obviously. But he is the definition of a Tron payoff. Its cast trigger fixes board states. An argument can be made that playing Walking Ballista 4 can stop you getting into those board states, but I think the trade-off of 1 less Ballista for 1 game ending creature is worth it.
Karn Liberated is in the deck because we can cast him on turn 3. Having access to this draw not only intimidates and pressures the opponent but also means we win 10-15% of our games on turn 3.
Chalice of the Void. I’m listing Chalice as a threat because an unanswered Chalice will progressively win the game. It varies in power vs decks drastically, but a resolved Chalice against Burn, Death’s Shadow or Control will get you there.
Rounding it Out
Expedition Map, card doesn’t need much explanation. It allows for your most powerful draws, finds your utility lands when you need them. Gets you a Cavern vs Control, gets you a Ghost Quarter vs Tron.
Dismember seems, to me, to be the best removal spell in the format as things stand. It has some pretty obvious and hefty downsides, but removing Death’s Shadows and Tasigurs seems like it should be priority 1 when it comes to your removal. I’m currently on 2 but I’d like to move it up to 3.
Mind Stone smooths out draws, gives Blood Moon protection and at worst is an expensive redraw. Most likely the worst card in the deck but I don’t want to give up the protection and fluidity it offers to the deck.
“All is Dust or All is Bust” is a sentence I hear myself say more than I really should. This is the definition of a pay-off, a one sided wrath that punishes your opponent for committing to the board when the deck itself forces the opponent to commit to answer your threats. Eldrazi can sometimes struggle to bust through wide-board states and this card allows you to do it. CoCo is surprisingly powerful against your midrange draws. I think 2 might be excessive but I’m going to keep running it until I get punished by Affinity.
Finally 2 Relic of Progenitus provides game vs about 40% of the meta and cycles vs the rest. The graveyard is very important in modern, It shuts down Goyfs, Snapcasters, Dredge, Finks, Eternal Witness. It prevents Thought Scour “Dark Ritualling” you out vs Death’s Shadow.
If you wanted to make changes to the deck, the first place would be the Relics/Ulamog and Mind Stone. I think the first card I’d be looking to add would be an additional Dismember, and I believe everyone when they talk about how good Ballista has been for them, I’ve just yet to find it.
Adding a colour might seem to have some benefits, but in the majority of cases I believe that the only lands you could replace with colourless ones would ruin the consistency of the deck, you’d be cutting Wastes or Caverns and only have a very few sources.
And that’s all for now, I’ll look at talking about the Eldrazi Tron sideboard but that article will have to be a lot more in-depth than this one, I can also talk about some PPTQ results with the deck as well as looking at the different matchups. Thanks for your time and I hope I’ve shed some light on the Eldrazi Menace.