The Dirty Work: Preparing for Post-Eldrazi Living

The numbers are in, and things couldn’t look worse. Prior to this weekend’s events, which will forever go down in history as “The Day Liberty Died,” there remained a small sliver of hope. Maybe the tools exist to beat Eldrazi (probably not). Maybe our future has yet to be set (seems pretty set). Maybe there’s hope for us all (hope appears drowned). Unfortunately, the trifecta known as Grand Prix Detroit/Melbourne/Bologna had other plans.

Eldrazi Leaving Banner

Today, we’ll analyze the weekend’s events, and find some diamonds in the rough to hold us over until April. Fear not, child. The Eldrazi might have enslaved us all, but we can still enjoy the shell of our lives while they are still ours to own.

The Numbers

Collectively, the Top 8s for the three Grand Prix saw an archetype breakdown as follows. Individual event discussion will come later, but as these three events happened simultaneously it’s interesting to note their combined statistics. While many of you are resigned to quit Magic until April, paying very close attention to information like this will help you get one step ahead should you find yourself in an event immediately after April’s banning. Imagine for a second the edge you’ll have verses players that took the month off to enjoy the sunshine, or spend time with their families, or work towards their future. The choice is clear, and victory will most assuredly be sweet.

Top 8 Archetype Breakdown – Combined

  • U/W Eldrazi 9**
  • R/G Eldrazi 5
  • Abzan Company 2*
  • Storm 1
  • Living End 4
  • Affinity 1
  • Bant Company 1
  • Dredge 1

*denotes 1st place finish

It’s impossible to argue with these numbers. Eldrazi as a macro-archetype saw a staggering 58.3% Top 8 conversion rate. It’s easy to overlook a statistic like that, after all, it’s “only” half, but when you start to realize that this means one Top 8 contained two Eldrazi decks, one had five, and one had a whopping SIX Eldrazi decks in the winner’s circle and the true picture starts to become clear. Eldrazi is busted, Eldrazi is overpowered, and the results speak for themselves. Whether the tools to beat Eldrazi exist or not are irrelevant, the results show one or more of three scenarios.

  1. Eldrazi is just far and away more powerful than everything else, and nothing can keep up. This is the most likely scenario, as fast mana is truly broken and gaining four or more mana out of a single Eye of Ugin in a turn is just disgusting and unfortunately common.
  2. DamnationThere is nothing in the format that can keep Eldrazi in check. This is certainly not entirely true, as methods to combat Eldrazi have been found, chief among them sweepers like Damnation and bullets like Ensnaring Bridge. Even so, Eldrazi can tpyically win through these cards through raw power or sideboard tweaks.
  3. The tools to beat Eldrazi exist, but employing them requires drastic changes that mutate an archetype into losing against other strategies in the format, and/or it’s still possible to lose “favored” matches due to the inherent power level of Eldrazi and “variance.” This is the most likely culprit and is probably equally to blame as #1, but is often overlooked. In the weeks since the Pro Tour, many players have demonstrated an ability to defeat Eldrazi with a particular strategy/archetype, but on a larger scale these outliers get weeded out by pure repetition. Even a deck that beats Eldrazi 6 out of 10 times has to play perfect AND do exceptionally well against the rest of the field to Top 8. Too many stars have to align for the underdog to defeat Eldrazi and the field to convert to Top 8, which (along with the fact that Eldrazi is certainly busted) explains why we see a Top 8 market share of almost 60%.

Grand Prix Detroit

Top 8 Breakdown

  • Finals: Abzan Company vs. U/W Eldrazi
  • Abzan Company 1*
  • U/W Eldrazi 4
  • R/G Eldrazi 2
  • Storm 1

*denotes champion

Top 32 Numbers

  • U/W Eldrazi 10
  • Abzan Company 6
  • R/G Eldrazi Aggro 4
  • R/G Eldrazi 3
  • Storm 2
  • Elves 2
  • Colorless Eldrazi 1
  • Bogles 1
  • Eldrazi Tron 1
  • Scapeshift 1
  • U/W Control 1

Wall of RootsGrand Prix Detroit saw a strong performance out of Abzan Company, the only strategy to put up a fight against the Eldrazi menace. While Abzan Company demonstrated it couldn’t keep up in a reactive metagame full of Splinter Twin/Grixis Control, it boast a strong matchup against Eldrazi, as the incidental lifegain from Kitchen Finks and solid blockers in the form of Wall of Roots and Voice of Resurgence gives the Eldrazi linear attack plan fits. This same strategy is solid against a field of Burn and Affinity as well, and access to the usual sideboard toolbox grants Abzan Company solid game against a field that has lined up to support it. It’s amazing seeing both the removal heavy archetypes (Twin/Grixis Control) and fast combo (Amulet Bloom/Tron) simultaneously disappear. This left Abzan Company to focus heavily on both solidifying already favorable matchups and concentrating on Eldrazi.

Abzan Company took home the Detroit trophy, but the deck still suffers from consistency issues, “losing to itself,” and all-around awkward draws, which might sound like three ways to say the same thing, but there are some differences.Viscera Seer My experience with Abzan Company has taught me the deck can beat itself in many excruciating ways. Draw too many Viscera Seers? Dead. No mana creatures and a Collected Company? Better hope your opponent has a slow draw. Need to kill something ever? Good luck! Even though Abzan Company is strong against Eldrazi by design it probably loses more matches than it “should” due both to stumbling and Eldrazi’s unfair consistency and velocity. If Eldrazi is still an archetype (albeit a more fair one) after the April bans, it’s possible Abzan Company could rise to Tier 1, or even “best deck status.” That’s a long call, and will probably only happen if we see Eldrazi nerfed and nothing else shift, but still worth discussion.

Another interesting story out of this event is the Sigrist/Hayne/Strasky/Saporito performance with R/G Aggro Eldrazi. While “normal” R/G Eldrazi goes large with Oblivion Sower, World Breaker and Kozilek’s Return, this streamlined list employs Lightning Bolt and Eldrazi Obligator in an attempt to push the unfair Ancient Tombs as far as they can go. Still, only one of these professional pilots was able to sneak into the Top 16, so it’s probably safe to say that the stock R/G Eldrazi is better heads up.

Day 1 Top 100 Information

Besides reminding us of the horrors of Eldrazi, the Day One info reinforces the Top 32 numbers, showing Abzan Company as the clear front-runner to Eldrazi. Interestingly, Infect was the best performing Day 1 deck to NOT Top 32, failing to place one of the five Top 100 Infect decks in the Top 32. We have to be careful not to put too much stock into Day 1 Top deck numbers (as Day Two Metagame Percentages they are not) but it’s still worth looking at. I wonder if Wizards chose to do the Day 1 Top 100 numbers instead in an effort to try to paint a better picture of the metagame. Didn’t work, but nice try.

Grand Prix Bologna

Top 8 Breakdown

  • Finals: U/W Eldrazi vs. U/W Eldrazi
  • U/W Eldrazi 3*
  • Living End 1
  • Affinty 1
  • R/G Eldrazi 2
  • Bant Company 1

*denotes champion

Top 32 Information

  • U/W Eldrazi 11
  • R/G Eldrazi 4
  • Living End 3
  • Abzan Company 2
  • Scapeshift 2
  • Affinity 2
  • G/w Eldrazi 1
  • G/w Tron 1
  • Ascendancy 1
  • Bant Company 1
  • Storm 1
  • U/R Eldrazi 1
  • U/W Control 1

Bologna saw a performance similar to Detroit, except for the lack of R/G Eldrazi Aggro and Abzan Company. Abzan Company still put two decks in the Top 32, but they limped in at 25th and 27th and had nowhere near the representation they did in Detroit. Instead, we observe a smattering of archetypes struggling to survive in an Eldrazi landscape, and there really isn’t much interesting to see here.

What is interesting, however, is what we do NOT see: no Burn, no Infect, no Jund! It’s possible World BreakerJund was on players’ minds after its previous win at Philadelphia, but I’m still surprised to not see it take at least one of the 64 slots we’ve looked at so far. R/G Eldrazi recurring World Breaker is definitely tough, but not enough to make that matchup “bad” any more than it already was in my mind. U/W Eldrazi is casting things like Eldrazi Displacer and Eldrazi Skyspawner which has to make our Lightning Bolt and Kolaghan’s Command better, but admittedly makes our Liliana of the Veil’s worse. It’s possible Thought-Knot Seer is stronger than I anticipated, as it comes down like a CMC 3 card but costs four and dodges Inquisition of Kozilek. This forces Jund to have Thoughtseize to answer it, if not Eldrazi can take a Terminate and leave us hoping to draw one to deal with the threat and get a card back.

Day 1 Top 100 Breakdown

While the Top 32 might have been a bit flat, The Breakdown for Bologna is somewhat more interesting. We are still seeing gigantic Eldrazi shares, along with similar Abzan Company numbers closer to Detroit. It’s possible Abzan Company ran into some hate in the later rounds to keep it out of Top 16, or variance caught up with the pilots. Despite Company’s poor showing in Bologna, I still believe Abzan Company is one of the best non-Eldrazi archetypes currently.

Once we dig a little deeper, we see U/W Control taking 9 slots, almost 10%! While only one was able to Top 32, that’s at least a little encouraging for any control diehards out there (read: me). Control definitely is fighting an uphill battle against Eldrazi on one hand and everything else on the other, but post-ban we might have something here. Besides some interesting Bring to Light Scapeshift numbers there’s nothing else to see here.

Grand Prix Melbourne

Top 8 Statistics

  • Finals: U/W Eldrazi vs. U/W Eldrazi
  • U/W Eldrazi 2*
  • Living End 3
  • R/G Eldrazi 1
  • Abzan Company 2
  • Dredge 1

*denotes champion

Top 32 Information

  • U/W Eldrazi 11
  • Abzan Company 4
  • Living End 4
  • R/G Eldrazi 4
  • Affinity 1
  • Bant Eldrazi 1
  • Dredge 1
  • Grishoalbrand 1
  • Jeskai 1
  • Lantern Control 1
  • R/G Tron 1
  • U/R Eldrazi 1
  • U/W Control

Living EndAnother Grand Prix, more Eldrazi. Abzan Company eanrs a solid runner-up showing, and we even have the obligatory single U/W Control list to complete the picture. It’s interesting to see Living End put up a strong performance in Melbourne but less so in other venues. One thing to keep in mind when looking at these numbers is the polarizing effect Eldrazi has on the metagame. If we’re seeing a deck perform in anything resembling a solid fashion, it’s because it can hang with Eldrazi without folding to the rest of the field. This means Abzan Company and Living End need to have close attention paid to them in the weeks to come. Should we continue to see numbers like this up until April’s bannings, we will have a new “Level 0” to focus on in the immediate aftermath.

Day 1 Top 100 Breakdown

The biggest takeaway here is Affinity’s solid numbers and abysmal Top 32 conversion. 11 lists in the Top 100, but only one slides in at 17th. Eldrazi definitely has Affinity’s number, with R/G Eldrazi employing Kozilek’s Return as early as turn two and U/W Eldrazi packing board flooding creatures galore. Scions don’t really block much, but can buy time with Drowner of Hope and ramp into Reality Smasher and the like.

Life After Eldrazi

Looking forward, the biggest questions in my mind are about:

  • Abzan Company and Living End
    Without Eldrazi (or with a weaker Eldrazi) will these decks stay in the running, or fall back to obscurity? Are we looking at the genesis of our future Tier 1?
  • Burn/Affinity/Infect
    The stalwarts of Modern have seemingly all but disappeared. With Eldrazi nerfed, will they return? Abzan Company probably doesn’t mind, but can Living End keep up?
  • Is there a new deck waiting in the wings for its chance to shine?

I’ll leave you with some goodies to take into your weekend. If you plan on skipping Magic until April, I wouldn’t blame you, but maybe take one of these lists for a spin to this weekend’s events. Remember, every lame deck format is a perfect excuse to play something you wouldn’t normally play otherwise! Be experimental!

*Don’t discount this list. Raymond Perez Jr. was the 2013-14 Rookie of the Year and an excellent player, and he was tiebreakers away from a Top 8 in Detroit. Don’t diss on Control!

Eldrazi might be destroying everything in sight, but we can still take some fresh decks for a spin and get acquainted with archetypes we might not be familiar with. Who knows? Maybe post-April Ban U/W Control becomes the best deck in the room?! (crosses fingers)

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next week!

Trevor Holmes
The_Architect on MTGO
Twitch.tv/Architect_Gaming
Twitter.com/7he4rchitect

Trevor started playing Magic in 2011. He plays primarily online and studies Architecture at UNCC. Recent paper Magic accomplishments include a 2015 Regional PTQ win qualifying for Pro Tour: Magic Origins and a Day Two performance at GP Charlotte. He also streams weekdays at twitch.tv/Architect_Gaming! Follow him at twitter.com/7he4rchitect and architectgaming.wordpress.com!

16 thoughts on “The Dirty Work: Preparing for Post-Eldrazi Living

  1. Hi Trevor, thanks for the article.

    As an abzan company player for the last 9 months, I think a lot of people who write articles are overestimating the variance/internal inconsistences of the deck. Can it have clunky draws? Definately. However this is a deck that rewards smart mulligans – mulling to 6 is really not much of a drawback, especially on the draw; an okay-to- good 6 can be miles better than a weak 7. Even a mull to 5 legitimately has game if it’s a good five.

    Can you wiff on a coco? Yup, though I’ve only had exactly 4 in well over a thousand games with the deck (though I lost all of those games). Virtual wiffs are more common (ie just a single dork) but still not common. Nut Cocos or near-nut cocos are also not common, but more common than either wiff. I find I usually I get 4-5 mana’s worth of creatures, and often get to choose two out of three creature-options.

    I really think one of the drawbacks/rewards to the deck is actually the high skill ceiling due to the many different lines and toolbox nature of the deck, which rewards not only tight play but smart meta-gaming in your build (even one sb slot can matter a lot).

    The deck has lots of good matchups and a few terrible matchups (which are virtually non-exiatant in this meta), making it a great meta call right now.

    Even so, I don’t know if post-Eldrazi-ban the deck can maintain tier 1 status – Tron is an absolute nightmare if it becomes a thing again – almost an auto-loss with normal deck configuration. The deck also can struggle with specifically-targeted hate like sb Grafdiggers cage, and to a lesser extent rest in peace and board wipes.

    I’m actually hoping it goes back to tier 2 because it’s incredibly powerful if your opponents aren’t gunning for you and aren’t on Tron. 🙂

    1. I agree with all of this! Is there any help that can be found for Tron, and for being less reliant on the graveyard to win games? Isn’t the backup plan just Kitchen Finks and Gavony Township, hoping some Birds of Paradise can eventually get the job done? Would be interested to see what kind of room for customization there is.

      Trevor

      1. Help for Tron? Well, you can turn your sb into a land destruction package (ie. 1 Fulminator main + splash red for sb 3 Crumble to Dust, 2 Fulminators) – I’ve tried it, and it works vs. Tron – your worst matchup becomes about 50/50… Trouble is that’s 5 dedicated slots for your worst match-up (with little-to-no overlap on other decks), and only gets it to a coin-toss. I stopped doing that because it hurt my other matchups too much. In my opinion it’s not worth it; if Tron is a major player in your meta you’re better off playing a different deck than trying to warp Abzan Coco into a deck that’s decent against Tron.

        And yes, the back-up plan is to just beat down – and the deck is pretty good at it. 🙂 The trouble with Cage and RIP is that they both take out a lot of value from the deck that it gets from the graveyard (ie. Finks, Redcap, E-Wit, Voice, Scooze) – even an opposing Scooze is awful to see. You can definitely still win with Cage, RIP or Scooze in play, but it’s much tougher and you pretty much need Gavony Township in play unless your opponent has nothing on the board (esp. vs. Cage, which also shuts down Company and Chord, the best cards in the deck). The current plan is to kill Cage, RIP or Scooze on sight, if at all possible – otherwise you have to carefully play around them and hope you draw the answer or have a Township. If dedicated graveyard hate becomes more common, moving to 4 Gavony Township (like Angel Chord runs) might be the way to go.

        Sweepers aren’t as bad (with the exception of Anger of the Gods, which is brutal), but can sometimes kneecap you if you hit one of your clunkier draws with no value creatures like Finks/Voice/E-Wit, or you’re stuck on a low-land count and needed the dorks for the mana.

        As for customization, there’s quite a lot – the deck has between 5-7 flex slots mainboard (more even if you’re really ambitious or want to go value-centric instead of combo-oriented) and between half-to-two-thirds of the board is up for discussion. As much as pro lists appear to be moving a bit more toward consensus, there’s still quite a lot of variation based on, I assume, personal preference and expected metagame.

    1. I’m not familiar enough with either archetype to have an answer for you, though I agree they are doing similar things. I would imagine Ascendancy is more susceptible to graveyard hate (Fatestitcher) but beyond that the two are relatively similar. Had I some experience with either deck I’m sure one mulligans better/has slightly more explosive draws/is more resilient to discard. Both of these decks are on my list to get acquainted with!

      Trevor

      1. One card that might be “missing” from this list is Magmatic Insight, probably not more then a few but they seem like reasonable means of discarding Fatestitcher if it ends up being stuck in your hand. Another card that might merit consideration is Wind Zendikon.

        Based on my experiences with Storm, this combo deck isn’t really set up to rush out a combo kill. The goal seems to be to play the control game through card selection and efficient removal, with a smidgen of counters here and there. Combo is something that happens one you blow the wind out of their sales. Heck, depending on how you want to go at it, you might even want to try and splash a Storm kill into deck by adding a Grapeshot and Past in Flames (one of each). The deck goes through cards pretty quickly so you have very good chances of running into both of those the turn you try to do your thing. The only problem here is how much are you actually watering down the main combo and what do you actually gain by doing so?

  2. I agree that the posibility of a UWx deck with new tech from Shadows over Inistrad is truly exciting (the new blue rare is awesom!). Count me on the hipe seeking for a new control brew.
    Besides the shape anew deck Sheridan has talked about looks great and is on those colors.

  3. I’ve actually been playing a modified Chapin Grixis Control list to great succcess in a post-eldrazi meta. Essentially I cut the Gurmag Anglers for two Kalitas and a Clique, and I cut the Thought Scours for Inquisitions.

    I found that the “traditional” build was far too reliant on the graveyard, and tapping out to play a wincon is very much fine right now, especially with Dispels and hand disruption. The deck no longer folds to a resolved Relic or Leyline, and I haven’t missed the Thought Scours yet. Each TS made opening hands awkward without a Delve creature to play, not to mention forcing you to use your Snaps and KCommands to bring back Scoured cards. Snaps and KCommands are at their strongest when they recur previously cast spells, not spells that you hit on a TS.

    Vryn Jace is also very common lately, which I feel is a mistake. Tapping two on turn two for a Jace is basically a death sentence, he dies super easy, he takes a full turn cycle to flip, and he has anti-synergy with counterspells. I do enjoy him in the more midranged build, but that’s about it.

    Kalitas has been an all star. Attaching a 2/2 to every piece of removal is fantastic, and the life gain really helps shore up the Burn matchup. I admit that Pia & Kiraan are stronger in affinity, but our huge amount of removal greatly helps that matchup regardless.

    Two last notes: I cut a Cryptic for a land, 4 was too greedy with 22 lands. I also have not tested the Tron matchup in depth, I’ll have to see how that one goes.

    1. I can understand all of those changes, and I don’t have a problem with any of them. Grixis Control is the type of deck that really rewards building to your own playstyle, so a case can be made for almost any configuration (except for Cruel Ultimatum!)

      I agree that Thought Scours in the opener can be awkward, as they are much worse than Serum Visions if you have no delve creature in hand, and you never know if that random draw is a spell or another land. 3 land hands with double Thought Scour can be excellent or downright terrifying.

      I disagree with your view on Thought Scour’s effect on Snapcaster Mage/Kolaghan’s Command. The ability to power up your graveyard for Snapcaster Targets, not to mention milling over a Tasigur/Snapcaster that you can recur with Kolaghan’s Command is excellent. I’m not talking about Turn 2 Tasigur nut draws, I’m talking about fair hands that have Serum Visions, land, Thought Scour, some removal, and a Kolaghan’s Command. Playing a Terminate and TS on Turn 3, to Kolaghan’s Command back a Tasigur and play it on Turn 4 is very strong!

      Good luck!
      Trevor

      1. Very fair point on thought scour. I’m honestly a recent modern player, having played only legacy/competitive edh for the past few years. Thought Scour just seems like a weak point of the deck to me, although you addressed one of my issues very well! I have mostly turned around on that point, thanks. It does, however, still open the deck to grave hate blowouts.

        Hmm. Here’s the question: is TS actually weak, or is hand disruption just so much stronger in the build right now? I replaced TS with Inquisitions to great success, but is that because of TS being weak or discard just being that strong?

    2. We’re you able to make it to any of the GPs?

      I came to the same conclusion with Jace, Tasigur, ect before a Starcity regional. And then later refined my list for the GP.

      I think for the most part Grixis will be very well positioned once the Eldrazi are toned down.

      A bit burned out on Modern due to the amount of testing we did prior to the GP.

      So going to sit back anyways and Draft while things settle down.

      1. Ha, unfortunately I was not. I just recently got into modern after years of legacy/competitive edh (my local metagame allows for some awesome games, to say the least). I’m testing a ton and making up for lost time, but I am waiting to attend events until after the Eldrazi are hurt.

        I agree that Grixis will be in a strong position post-bans. Especially with Kalitas.

  4. I thought that Eldrazi was beatable etc – certainly any reader of your previous articles would have come to this conclusion. I’m wondering if you have anything to say about your previous stances in regards to Eldrazi?

    1. I’ll let Trevor respond to this more directly, but I will say that we know they are individually beatable, just not at the metagame-wide level. For one, the metagame is “only” 35% Eldrazi. That means 65% of the metagame consists of non-Eldrazi decks that are beating Eldrazi decks to get there. We also know Abzan Company won GP Detroit, and that three Living End players made it to the Melbourne finals with plenty of Eldrazi along the way. We know the Jund player in the SCG Philly finals beat Eldrazi to get the gold. So are they “beatable” in some way? Yes. But it’s not consistent enough to stop their advance, and the gains you get from beating them are often not worth the losses you get from playing a non-Eldrazi deck.

    2. Luke,

      I second every point Sheridan made. Eldrazi IS beatable, we see evidence of this in every non-Eldrazi archetype that Top 8’s an event. One “benefit” of a metagame as warped as this one is that you can be sure if you’ve seen a deck rise to the top, it’s because it has a plan to handle Eldrazi. You can’t just “dodge” it on the way to the Top 8 if the deck is over 40% of the field.

      However, a few decks that boast a positive matchup against Eldrazi isn’t enough. Valakut pushed out of the field a lot of decks that had positive matchups against Caw Blade. In this case, Eldrazi is tag-teaming with the rest of the metagame to push out the decks that are good against it, partially because Eldrazi is just busted and partially because manipulations to sideboards to devote energy to beat Eldrazi is a death sentence in a field as wide open and powerful as Modern.

      Regarding my previous stances, I stand by them. That doesn’t mean I look at this GP weekend and scoff at the results. Because Eldrazi will be banned in April doesn’t make my stance “wrong”, my whole goal was to contribute to the discussion of working to beat Eldrazi. Hope this helps!

      Trevor

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