Modern Metagame and Eldrazi Checkup

Magic feels like it’s under attack. Reddit has gone ballistic with the so-called #vendorleak scandal, incensed by stunning (or not so stunning…) allegations of merchant misconduct from an anonymous tipster. Wizards announced Eternal Masters to the joy of many and dismay of many more, reigniting debate about the Reserved List, Legacy, Modern, and future Constructed formats. Blake Rasmussen and Aaron Forsythe tried to quash some of the most conspiratorial rumors, at least for now. Meanwhile, Eternal Masters led to rocketing Reserved List prices, paralleling Modern’s trend of spikes for niche playables that haven’t seen tournament play in years. On their own, these events would have me feeling a little apocalyptic, but none of them incite doomsayers more than Modern’s Eldrazi takeover. We’ll explore this metagame Twilight Zone today.

Endless One art

We’ve investigated the Eldrazi rampage before, both in a Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch debrief and in an explicit discussion of its ban potential. It’s been about a week-and-a-half since Eldrazi Day 0 (February 5, a date which will live in Modern infamy), and we finally have enough metagame data to discuss the broader field in the Pro Tour’s wake. 20 MTGO events, 34 paper, and roughly 500 decklists later, we’re ready to analyze the Eldrazified Modern world. Today, we’ll identify frontrunning Tier 1 and Tier 2 strategies, compare MTGO and paper scenes, and assess the Eldrazi’s impact on Modern. There is still potential for internal regulation, but it fades daily with each new turn one Eldrazi Temple. Be forewarned: as befits our eldritch invaders, this is a disturbing metagame picture.

Collecting Datapoints

In the spirit of my “Metagame Snapshot” and pre-Pro Tour “Metagame Report” articles, we don’t have enough data to conduct a full metagame breakdown like we did in early January. Stay tuned for the March’s Grand Prix aftermath for that more comprehensive metagame portrait! Thankfully, we have more than enough data to describe the format’s evolution over the past eleven days. With a pair of well-attended Pro Tour Qualifiers Endless oneand a paired Daily and League each day (minus a few missed Dailies), MTGO brings 20 events and just over 210 decks to the analysis. Looking to paper, we see 34 tournaments spanning every continent and hemisphere and contributing about 270 lists. This is on top of Pro Tour Oath’s Day 2 field and dozens of high-performing Pro Tour decklists.

By tabulating these datapoints and calculating a weighted average of the three groupings (based on the values of N relative to metagame periods with more data), we can make a conservative estimate for different deck shares in your average Modern event. We’ll draw on those numbers today in diagnosing metagame diversity and testing if it really is Endless Ones all the way down.

Post-Pro Tour Metagame Summary

If you thought the Pro Tour Oath field was a mess, the current one is going to give you an Eldrazi-sized heart attack. Not Eldrazi Scion-sized either. We’re talking an X=10 Endless One. Analyzing the period from February 5 through February 16, we see a Modern under siege. We’ll make a stop in each of Modern’s different competitive tiers, touching on core format themes along the way.

Our tour through the wreckage begins in Tier 1, which we define as the most-played strategies in Modern. You are likely to encounter these decks in tournaments and need to prepare for them in your testing and sideboarding. For more on our Tier 1 definitions, and those of other metagame classifications, check out our Top Decks page. With that in mind, here’s Tier 1 in all its tentacled glory:

Tier 1: 2/5/16 - 2/16/16

DeckOverall
Metagame %
MTGO %Paper %Day 2%
Eldrazi25%41.5%22.3%10.7%
Affinity11.3%11.8%10.4%13.6%
Burn6.3%2.8%5.9%12.3%
Infect4.5%4.2%3%10.3%
Jund4.1%3.3%4.1%5.3%
Abzan Company3.7%2.8%4.1%3.7%

These numbers are about as bad in context as they look in a vacuum. Maybe worse! Eldrazi’s share is more than double that of the next highest deck (Affinity), which itself is about double the next highest after that (Burn). We’ve also never observed such pronounced gaps between different Tier 1 decks, which provides statistical backing to the format polarization we’ve all suspected. Thinking about Eldrazi specifically, the deck has paper shares comparable to the format’s most stifling archetypes in the Bloodbraid Elf, Deathrite Shaman, Treasure Cruise, and Birthing Pod eras. Its MTGO prevalence is, quite literally, the highest I’ve Eye of Uginever seen for any deck: only URx Delver came close in October 2014 at 25%. We’ll talk more about distinct Eldrazi flavors later, but with a core overlap of over 20 cards (central to which are Eldrazi Temple and Eye of Ugin), it’s as fair to group the Eldrazi dominators as it was to lump together Twin, URx Delver, and others.

The rest of Tier 1 isn’t much better, with three linear decks edging the two midrange holdouts to the bottom. At least Jund is hanging on for dear life: I shudder to think of a metagame period where zero BGx representatives claim a piece of Tier 1 territory. Even if we grouped all the non-Affinity strategies together, they still wouldn’t surpass Eldrazi’s 25% throne. This pattern of Eldrazi doubling Affinity, and in turn exceeding everything else combined, is echoed in both MTGO and paper. Of course, MTGO is the real disaster here, where every single Tier 1 deck combined is barely over half of Eldrazi’s online share. We could make some misleading spins on the data (Abzan Company is finally Tier 1 up from Tier 2! Paper is overall better than MTGO!), but these just obfuscate the real narrative of Tier 1: Eldrazi have truly taken over.

None of this precludes the possibility of a metagame reversal in March. Strategies such as Merfolk, Abzan Company, and even Jund are adapting to fight back. It does, however, make the turnaround much less likely. When decks consume such a commanding share, there’s only so much they can realistically decline. Eldrazi at 20% of MTGO, an unlikely 50% drop, would still be a problem.

If you’re still breathing after surveying the Tier 1 devastation, we’ll look now to Tier 2. These Tier 2 strategies represent tournament viable decks, ones you can bring to your average event and have a realistic shot at the Top 8. From a gauntlet perspective, these are also the decks you’ll need to understand how to beat, even if you don’t sideboard specific cards to target them. As with Tier 1, Tier 2 has been dramatically altered by the colorless invasion.

Tier 2: 2/5/16 - 2/16/16

DeckOverall
Metagame %
MTGO %Paper %Day 2%
Merfolk3.3%2.4%4.1%2.1%
RG Tron2.7%1.9%3%2.9%
Griselbrand2.3%0.5%2.6%3.7%
Abzan1.8%1.4%1.5%3.7%
Naya Company1.7%1.9%1.9%0.8%
Gruul Zoo1.6%0.5%1.9%2.5%

With a mere six decks, Tier 2 houses the fewest viable strategies we’ve ever seen in a Nexus metagame update. Our previous 10 breakdowns showcased Tier 2s averaging 13 decks each, ranging from 11 (the lowest in July 2015) up to 15 (in August and November). Today’s six is less than half that average. Even comparing datasets of a similar size, our pre-Pro Tour Oath analysis found 13 legitimate Tier 2 contenders, despite covering the same date range and roughly the same sample size. Taken on top of the Tier 1 situation, Wild NacatlTier 2 illustrates an unprecedented narrowing of the competitive field down to just a few decks. The remainder has been shipped to Tier 3, where one-time Modern regulars such as Bogles, Living End, and Scapeshift now wallow with sub-.5% shares on either MTGO or paper. Tier 2 also repeats Tier 1’s linearity, with only Abzan deviating from this model (even if Merfolk and Naya Company at least pack a degree of interaction).

On the topic of linear strategies, I’m reminded of a fascinating r/spikes post on proverbial “canaries in the coal mine” in Modern. In essence, Reddit user Selkie_Love asks us to consider what cards, strategies, or shifts indicate metagame-wide danger. Tier 2 offers us an alarming example of this principle in action: Gruul Zoo. Not necessarily Gruul Zoo alone, which is just a function of Modern rewarding early, proactive strategies (which itself might be another broader symptom to discuss another time). Rather a) that in a metagame with just six Tier 2 decks, Gruul Zoo happens to be one of them, and b) that Gruul Zoo somehow makes the six-deck list when zero blue-based control lists can cut it. This simultaneously points to Eldrazi’s ability to edge out fairer strategies and also warp the metagame towards more linear ones.

So where have all of Modern’s blue decks and Tier 2 regulars gone? At the end of our Modern safari, I welcome you to the desperate Tier 3 hopefuls, all of which are frantically trying to carve out a niche in this Eldrazified climate. Tier 3 is our newest Top Decks category for 2016, including metagame-specific decks which might be strong choices depending on matchups you encounter. We’ve refined our Tier 3 math since last time, although the format has been thrown into such disarray that it’s hard to tell by looking at the table below.

Tier 3: 2/5/2016 - 2/16/2016

DeckOverall
Metagame %
MTGO %Paper %Day 2%
Ad Nauseam1.4%0.5%1.9%0.8%
UW Control1.3%1.9%1.5%0%
Scapeshift1.3%0.5%1.5%1.6%
Living End1.2%2.8%0.4%1.6%
Bogles1.2%0.9%1.5%0.4%
Abzan Liege1.1%0.5%1.5%0.4%
Suicide Zoo1%0%0.4%4.5%
Jeskai Control1%0.9%0.7%2.1%
Blue Moon1%0.5%1.1%1.2%
Elves1%0%1.5%0.4%
Kiki Chord1%0%1.5%0.8%
Titan Shift0.9%0%1.1%1.6%
Esper Midrange0.9%0%1.5%0%
Lantern Control0.8%0.5%1.1%0.4%
Jeskai Kiki Control0.8%1.4%0.7%0%
Abzan Chord0.7%0.5%0.4%2.1%
UR Delver0.7%0%1.1%0%
Jeskai Delver0.7%0%1.1%0%
Temur Delver0.7%0%1.1%0%
Allies0.6%1.4%0.4%0%
Mono U Tron0.3%1.4%0%0%

None of our 2015 metagame breakdowns tracked Tier 3, but even without those points of comparison we still notice worrisome patterns. For one, a bunch of decks Scapeshiftwhich should probably be in Tier 2 have fallen below the prevalence cutoff, dipping into Tier 3 instead. These include Scapeshift, Bogles, Grixis Control/Midrange (which don’t even make Tier 3!), Elves, UW Control, Ad Nauseam, URx Delver, and others. Do all of these decks need to be Tier 2 at any given time? Certainly not, and we’d be hard-pressed to observe a metagame period in 2015 where this was the case. But should at least some of them meet the criteria? Definitely: 2015 saw zero metagame periods where at least 3-4 of those decks weren’t Tier 2 instead of Tier 3. As we saw in the Tier 2 section, this points to an overall narrowing of competitively-viable Modern decks. Yes, it’s a small window of data, but we did not see this same narrowing (and certainly not to the same extent) during the weeks between the Splinter Twin ban-effect date and the last day before Pro Tour Oath. This suggests it was Eldrazi, not Twin, which narrowed the field.

When considering Tier 3 decks, you’ll want to focus less on their overall metagame share and more on prevalence in each column. This shows where a deck is most competitive and where it makes few (if any) showings. For instance, Living End is on a solid MTGO run at 2.8%. In paper, however, it’s more “Dead End” at a paltry .4%. Elves and Kiki Chord see similar patterns, with the 0% shifted to the MTGO side and paper logging a respectable 1.5%. Read this way, the table gives a sense of which decks excel in totally Eldrazi-warped fields (i.e. MTGO) versus a more balanced but still Eldrazi-heavy metagame (i.e. paper).

Many Moderners won’t be particularly shocked by these numbers. Shaheen Soorani certainly isn’t, even if the end result still wouldn’t have justified the preemptive banning some authors and players clamored for. Others, particularly those who still doubt the scale of the Eldrazi occupation, will be more aghast. Maybe you saw the Eldrazi coming. Maybe you didn’t, tried to get Grixis to work, and then sold off what’s left of your foiled Twin deck in an indignant fury. Wherever you fall on the Modern spectrum it’s still important to understand these statistics, their relationship to one another, and their historical context. In the short-term, it helps you make informed metagame decisions, whether deciding to bring UW Control or Gruul Zoo to an event, or choosing linear decks to sideboard against. In the mid-term, it allows us to voice informed opinions about the Eldrazi and the field before, during, and after Grand Prix weekend. Most importantly, in the long-term, it reminds us to be critical consumers of metagame data, building a Magic culture that’s more Neil deGrasse Tyson and less B.o.B flat-earther.

Eldrazi Field Notes

Before we close for today, we’re going to make a brief stopover at the vast Eldrazi preserve to see what kinds of Eldrazi decks are seeing play. To be clear, the distinct variants of Eldrazi only matter so much from a metagaming and metagame health perspective. If you’re trying to attack the field, you are up against Eldrazi Temple and Eye of Ugin decks with playsets of Thought-Knot Seer, Eldrazi Mimic, Endless One, and Reality Smasher. That Reality Smasheramounts to a 20-24 card-core which we need to target in our metagaming calls. If you, like Patrick Chapin, have given up on beating the Eldrazi and are just trying to assess format health, you’ll take the Eldrazi collectively just as you did the same for URx Twin, URx Cruise Delver, BGx Pod, and BGx Deathrite Midrange. The banlist announcements in each of those eras explicitly group strategies together, and Eldrazi’s core lends itself to similar classification as much as (and maybe more than) those earlier decks.

Despite those disclaimers, we’ll still want to see which specific Eldrazi species are running riot. Metagamers need this information to know if they are facing spot removal and sweepers (RG Eldrazi), a midrange grindfest (UR Eldrazi), or a three-turn clock (Colorless Eldrazi). Metagame analysts need it to see how Eldrazi is itself evolving from its UR and Colorless Pro Tour roots to meet its opposition. The table below breaks down different color pairings in the Eldrazi supertype, splitting them between their MTGO and paper counts. First, let’s look at the top 88% of Eldrazi decks, all of those making up 2%+ of the average Eldrazi pool.

Eldrazi Color Pairings (The Top 88%)

Eldrazi ColorMTGO %Paper %Average %
Colorless30.3%50%40.2%
UR23.6%23.3%23.5%
RG22.5%1.7%12.1%
Mono Black1.1%8.3%4.7%
UG3.4%3.3%3.4%
UB0%5%2.5%
Jund2.2%1.7%2%

The remaining 12%, consisting of a whopping 11 pairings, can be found in the spoiler box below. To me, those Eldrazi builds packing Urza’s Tower and company are the funniest of the lot. The new ramp deck on the block couldn’t just take Tron’s metagame share: it had to steal their land too!

Even MOAR Eldrazi!

That’s a lot of Eldrazi, which might come as a surprise or a snore depending on how you felt about Eldrazi after the Pro Tour. If you believed Colorless and UR flavors represented the strategy’s zenith, you’ll be taken aback to see RG variants (those with Kozilek’s Return, Lightning Bolt, Ancient Stirrings, and others) almost tied with the Pro Tour winning combination. If you believed the Pro Tour was just the beginning, you’ll see nothing unusual about the 18 different Eldrazi offerings, but Kozilek's Returnmight be more startled by Colorless and UR Eldrazi’s staying power at the top. In both those cases, Eldrazi have both lived up to expectations and challenged them, showing the archetype still has room to grow but also making a strong case for the Pro Tour lists’ power.

If you’re venturing forth into this hostile environment, you’ll need to expect two different kinds of Eldrazi lists. Colorless Eldrazi represent the linear, face-CRUNCHing Stompy decks which try to win fast and hit hard. These decks pack the Chalice of the Void/Simian Spirit Guide package along with minimal removal and maximum beatdown. Basically every other Eldrazi list, although largely focused on UR and RG, play a more interactive game. UR’s Drowner of Hope seeks to win the midrange grind against decks trying to block favorably. RG’s Lightning Bolts combine a bit of extra reach with some early-game disruption against decks like Affinity seeking to go under the 5/5 trampling mobs. Other Eldrazi decks will fit in either the more linear or more midrange categories, and then again within either the grindier camp of UR or the damage and removal-heavy RG party.

As a whole, these numbers point both to the raw power of known Eldrazi lists, but also to the adaptability of the core Eldrazi engine (depend on Ensnaring Bridge and Worship at your own peril!). This deck is evolving both to beat the hate and overcome the mirror. We’ll need to keep both in mind as we move closer towards the Grand Prix weekend.

Fighting Back?

As a deck, Eldrazi is beatable. You can do it with mainstream Abzan Company, offbeat Knightfall brews, throwback enchantment prison decks, or with all those Magus of the Tabernacles you maniac speculators bought out without a single tournament performance to back your investment. As a metagame force, however, Eldrazi is looking very problematic. True, we’re only ten days into the Eldrazi period, but these signs are significantly worse than even the most warped week-and-a-half I’ve seen since starting to track metagame numbers a few years back. It’s going to take some serious firepower for Grand Prix journeymen to innovate their way out of this mess, and even then, the broader issues across Tier 1 and Tier 2 might not be resolved: narrowed deck options, the absence of blue, a linear majority, etc. I’ll keep Tweeting regular metagame updates as we draw closer to the March tournaments, but don’t expect to see an Eldrazi retreat any time soon. After all, Emrakul is coming…

That’s all for today’s metagame update and our analysis of the current Eldrazi situation. And remember, as I talked about last week, even this current picture would’t justify an immediate banning: we really do need to wait until April’s scheduled update. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about the numbers or their meaning, deck or card choices, Modern as a whole, or how the heck you are going to survive the Eldrazi hegemony (your pick of Affinity, drink, or angry Tweets/Reddit comments). See you all soon!

 

Sheridan is the former Editor in Chief of Modern Nexus and a current Staff Author. He comes from a background in social science data analysis, database administration, and academia. He has been playing Magic since 1998 and Modern since 2011.

63 thoughts on “Modern Metagame and Eldrazi Checkup

  1. Woof.

    Let’s hope this is fully rectified in the next B/R update. This might be so bad though that I think Wizards needs to have something akin to a Fireside chat with the community regarding the direction of modern. If almost every new set swings the modern meta this hard, then something is wrong and the format is largely unsustainable and in need of some core revisions (cards can enter the modern cardpool from non-standard sets, etc).

      1. Yeah, I think the community could use a recalibration of expectations for the format. Are we supposed to be able to expect all our cards to retain value, or only to expect that we won’t have huge swaths of them suddenly become worthless like in Standard? Are we supposed to be able to expect that once we build a deck we can play it forever? For ten years? Five years? Two years? Are we supposed to expect a dynamic enough metagame that there’s room for real brewing (but investment will be less reliable), or a static enough metagame that we can invest and then “settle in” for the long haul (but can’t expect to bring something new to the table and still compete)?

        Sometimes just getting on the same wavelength for expectations can make all the difference.

      2. Great idea! I’d love to see them do this, especially in light of the Twin ban, the Eldrazi uptick, the relationship between Pro Tours and bans, prices, etc. It would be a great way to get players on the same page about all these issues, dispel rumors, and bolster confidence.

    1. I don’t even know if something is actually wrong with the format, but the vast majority of players I’ve spoken with seem to think so, which suggests some kind of problem Wizards should address. If nothing else, the swingy bans policies and the “how do we get powerful new cards” issue is one that Wizards should address. Hopefully we see this in the near future!

  2. Maybe I’m just a noob (and there’s no shortage of comment-posters who’d be willing to confirm), but I keep thinking that the playerbase is getting distracted by certain red herrings and old habits, that result in the situation looking worse than it is.

    For example, used to be the main “big mana” deck in town was Tron. Since Tron spends its early turns ramping (by searching for the pieces), one way to beat it is to use a faster linear strategy; basically, you ignore them and race. Since Tron’s schedule requires having copies of three specific cards on the table at the same time, another way to fight them is to target those lands and keep them off their extra mana.

    I can’t help noticing that these are the same strategies I keep seeing people reach for in response to this new Eldrazi archetype. People are (correctly) identifying the “sol lands” as enabling the deck, so they’re reaching for the same solutions that they used against the more familiar Tron lands: I see articles suggesting a linear race using combos like Living End, and I see chatter about packing your deck full of Spreading Seas and Ghost Quarter to attack their lands. Then I see people notice that these strategies aren’t working, and conclude “We’re doomed!”

    But why are we trying to fight an aggro deck as though it were a ramp deck? I think the lands that enable the deck are a red herring, distracting people by getting them to reflexively reach for the wrong set of answers, which then leads to panic when that wrong set of answers doesn’t work.

    Here’s a thought experiment: What if instead of having creatures that cost 3-5 mana and are played using sol lands, the deck was composed of the same creatures but costing 1-3 mana and could only be cast using Wastes? What if the math was the same (i.e., TKS is being cast on turn 2), but it’s because of the creatures being undercosted instead of the lands producing too much mana? If that were the case, would we still be reacting to the deck the way people have been? Would it make sense to attack their lands or try to goldfish a combo?

    I submit that this is the situation we’re in, with people trying to fight a deck packed with (essentially) a bunch of undercosted creatures by trying to target their lands or goldfish a combo. Then we’re boggling at the discovery that it doesn’t work.

    Am I the only one seeing an issue here?

    When I look at the Eldrazi deck, I see a fast aggro deck with too-cheap creatures, getting cast one at a time and trying to just attack for damage. Why would I respond to that with land destruction or just trying to be faster?

    Again, maybe I’m just a noob, but at a local event recently I 2-0’d colorless Eldrazi (without the assistance of mana screw/flood) with a Naya-colored deck full of value creatures, interaction, and flexible synergies. (I then went on to beat Jund a couple rounds later, too, so it wasn’t “an anti-Eldrazi deck that folds to the rest of the field”.)

    Is Eldrazi overpowered? Likely. Does it need a nerf-ban? Maybe. But I think most of the fear comes from having gotten used to being able to compete by either out-goldfishing your opponent or blowing up an enabler and having forgotten how the rest of Magic works.

    1. Eldrazi is fighting on a different axis than something like zoo – in reality it’s closer to merfolk in that it’s cheating mana costs backed up with disruption. If you drop two Eldrazi mimics on turn 1 and then a Thought Knot Seer, take the opponents best card and then swing for 8, there isn’t much that ANY deck in modern can currently do about that. As long as those sol lands exist they’re getting midrange creatures (that are VERY pushed) at aggro rates and just steamrolling opponents. Because all of their creatures are midrange threats, that means they ALSO dominate the mid game in a way that other creatures can’t do.

      Imagine you had a deck that could cast multiple goyfs on turn 1 followed up by a siege rhino on turn 2 and then threats equivalent to or greater than siege rhino every subsequent turn. That deck would win everything! That deck, is what we’re currently looking at with Eldrazi. So, no, fighting them like an aggro deck won’t work. Fighting them like a big mana won’t work. The only *real* ways to fight the deck are if you’re on an equally unfair axis through cards like Ensnaring Bridge or the infinite Melira combo AND praying they don’t though-knot your essential pieces.

      1. Now, see, that’s exactly what I’m talking about: you’ve gotten sooooo used to playing non-interactive Magic that your worst-case-scenario requires an assumption that you can’t do anything to keep that nut-draw from happening. If you were on the play, why didn’t you Mana Leak the TKS so he just has a pair of 2/1s? (He needed 5 cards for your scenario, and you couldn’t manage even one reasonable answer?) Or if you were on the draw, why didn’t you Thoughtseize the TKS out of his hand?

        Heck, I wasn’t playing either of those cards (or even that type of deck), and I *still* beat Mimic-into-Seer.

        1. “What if the math was the same (i.e., TKS is being cast on turn 2), but it’s because of the creatures being undercosted instead of the lands producing too much mana?”

          Than It would be just obviously overpowered and flat-out broken, and no one would even think about trying to say it is not and justify it.

          You are right, the lands are red-herrings, but not in the way you think. They are distracting some people from seeing how completely broken these cards are, you falling under that category.

          1. I seem to recall having already acknowledged the brokenness, but maybe it was too far into my post for your attention to still be at full strength by the time you got there.

        2. I play a number of different decks that use both Thoughtseize and Mana Leak, so, no, I didn’t forget how to play interactive Magic. You’re describing a situation where an answer does exist, but you need it to exist every time or literally lose. That sort of situation is so much more powerful than what modern is currently capable of handling – even in legacy where force is able to police the Turn 2 combos, those combos are still unspeakably broken, WOTC just doesn’t care as much about the format – so simply having AN answer is not any sort of valid justification for brokenness. These decks are playing midrange cards on turn 2, and then sideboard into inevitability with Ulamog and co, that sort of setup is DEFINITELY busted, and the lands have A LOT to do with it.

          So, yes, Mana leak can stop an extra four damage from the T2 TKS.. but then what are you doing? If your deck HAS to run 4 Supreme Verdicts to even have a chance at succeeding in modern, is that a good thing?

        3. This is probably your most foolish comment, particularly “why didn’t you mana leak their TKS”

          Many lols were had

          Answer: “cause you can’t mull to a leak and still have a hope of winning”

    2. I disagree but I think your comment is well-reasoned.

      The persistent obstacles I know I keep encountering when trying to combat the Eldrazi deck are 1) finding cards/decks that are effective against Eldrazi that aren’t just crushed by the interaction they already play, and 2) finding cards/decks that are effective against Eldrazi that have even a plausible shot against Burn, Infect, and Affinity.

      I keep dreaming about the next B&R update saying Eldrazi Temple is banned, Eye of Ugin is banned, and Splinter Twin is unbanned. Otherwise I think we’re headed for Cranial Plating is banned, Glistener Elf is banned, Goblin Guide is banned, Collected Company is banned…

      Any Rush fans out there? “Now there’s no more oak oppression, for they passed a noble law/And the trees are all kept equal/By hatchet, axe, and saw”…?

      1. I wouldn’t mind an Eldrazi ban, but if I had to pick between Eldrazi or Twin, I’d prefer to leave Eldrazi and keep Twin banned. I guess I’ve just never been scared of decks that rely on tapping out to swing pieces of meat at me. /shrug

        1. I played Modern all of last year and had, I believe, one loss (and one draw) against Twin in 2015. So I’d be pretty happy to see it back in the metagame.

          (I played the decks I wanted to play, it’s not like I was running some psycho anti-Twin deck all year.)

        2. I played Grixis Twin, and during that time, I’d say most matches were roughly 50/50, I never thought my deck was over powered against any other deck out there, if the combo happened, it happened. If it’s not Twin, there are other combos out there that could “go off”, esp. without any interaction to interfere. You know that Thoughtsieze? It can shut down a Twin deck MUCH easier than an Eldrazi deck!

          1. It doesn’t “shut down” a Twin deck, it just removes the “Oops I win” from an otherwise pretty normal control deck. I don’t mind playing against URx control. I don’t mind playing against a deck that puts together an infinite combo to kill me. What I dislike is when I’m playing against an otherwise normal deck but if I *ever* tap out or show that I don’t have an instant-speed answer in my hand, I can just suddenly lose out of nowhere, regardless of the current game state, and without having to do any “assembly” like an actual combo deck would.

            When every deck has to be built to be able to keep functioning while keeping a “loaded gun” at the ready from turn 3 onward, well, I’m very capable of doing that (I like me some instant-speed removal more than most), but I dislike having it required of me.

            Having to deal with fat getting flung at my face too fast is a problem, but constrains my deckbuilding less than the need to always have a certain type of card on standby to prevent a no-warning combo-kill.

    3. This is an interesting and, I believe, productive approach to certain Eldrazi decks, and maybe to the Eldrazi supertype as a whole. Unfortunately, it still seems very unlikely that the entire Modern community has just fundamentally missed how to beat the deck and is too ignorant to recalibrate their approach. These are really terrible metagame numbers, and I struggle to explain them in any other context than “Eldrazi is broken.” We’ll keep checking in to see how this develops over the next few weeks, but I suspect it’s going to get only slightly better while still remaining bad. From a metagaming perspective, however, I believe individual players would enjoy considerable success by approaching the deck as an aggro opponent, not a ramp one. This wouldn’t make the deck less broken, but it would make your tournaments more successful.

      1. Trevor has all the answers – he reckons sol-lands are fine and you just need a damnantion or two and stop whinging!? How’s that going Trevor – got any videos up of you stomping eldrazi with your damnations yet?

  3. The Modern scene at my favorite LGS isn’t that big, but there was at least 16 or so that would show for FNMs, esp. pre-ban. This last Friday, I was stoked to try out my tweaked deck to deal with any Eldrazi upstarts, but there just wasn’t enough people there that wanted to play Modern that night (which resulted in drafting instead ;( ).

    Asking around, many of the Moderners were either waiting for the meta to change, didn’t feel they had a good deck to play now, or they were simply fed up. Many didn’t feel the desire to completely change their decks around to accommodate the obviously warped meta, only to have it change again when another potential banning is on the way.

    It’s an unsettling time for Modern, yet I still find it all interesting. I don’t think it’s the end of the world, just a dark chapter unfolding, which happens to many great stories! I’m looking forward to learning all I can from all this, and looking forward to a year or so from now where we can look back on “those crazy Eldrazi days”.

    Thank you for sharing your information, and keeping us informed with these great articles!

    1. I should say, that a drop in Modern attendance in just my LGS does not reflect a belief that Modern attendance is dropping overall. I guess the point was just observation, but an observation that appeared to have been effected by the current meta. Whether this is just something that happened locally, or game wide, I don’t know, perhaps others could chime in on this. I’m just a little sad that Modern at FNM maybe affected for me because of the current meta.

    2. Even though it’s just one event, I’ve heard many of these stories around the Modern community. I’m sure response bias is strong here (vibrant Modern communities are less likely to report on their successes than ailing ones will on failures), but the fact that so many are speaking out is itself perhaps indicative of a bigger problem. I am as unsettled as you are and hope the metagame either rights itself soon (less likely) or a ban comes through and fixes things (more likely). We’ll know for sure after the March GP weekend!

      1. I’ll help with the response bias: My local Modern scene is just as vibrant now if now moreso than pre-PTOGW thanks to Standard refugees playing Eldrazi, which hasn’t been a problem since our meta was heavy Affinity, Merfolk, Company and Burn anyway. This is not and should not be taken as a defense of Eldrazi, but it may be instructive if attendance numbers stay the same or go up.

    1. Not yet, no. If anything, I’d say tournament attendance looks about the same. The GP weekend will be the real measure, along with SCG Louisville this weekend.

  4. I like it a lot that Sheridan’s articles stress critical inquiry, rather than uncritical acceptance of information from an authoritative source(e.g: professional players).
    In my opinion, it encourages a habit of mind that is generally desirable regardless of whether it’s mtg that is being thought about or more serious things.

    Very good.

    1. Glad you like the approach! I’m definitely hoping to increase the Modern community’s understanding of these issues and approach issues with a more critical mind. It’s easy to just bandwagon onto pro opinions and flashy arguments without thinking about hard evidence, and I hope these articles keep fighting that good fight!

  5. It looks like your chances of making it to day two are much much higher if you play something like burn or infect. For an overpowered deck I would expect an extremely high day one and day two representation which we are not seeing for eldrazi. Am I reading your numbers correctly?

    1. Remember that Day 2 numbers only come from the Pro Tour. As such, they have a relatively small weight in the weighted metagame average share: only about a .2 weight. MTGO and paper make up the brunt of the numbers.

      Thinking just about the Pro Tour, numerous articles have pointed to a huge conversion between Day 1, Day 2, and top-deck brackets for Eldrazi. The deck was about 8% of Day 1, 10% of Day 2, 15%-20% of the 8-2 decks, and then a whopping 75% of the Top 8. Its conversion was unreal.

  6. “…the broader issues across Tier 1 and Tier 2 might not be resolved: narrowed deck options, the absence of blue, a linear majority, etc. …”

    Pretty much what I’ve always disliked about modern got even worse.
    Really felt the format was going in the right direction.. then Twin’s ban came.
    I was very pessimistic when the banning came and, somehow, things are even worse than what I’ve expected. My decision to shelf my modern deck seemed like the correct choice.
    Sincerely, I can’t think of much else to do besides NOT attending to tournaments until fall or so and figure it out what to do with my staples after that.
    Guess I’ll play more commander than ever. 🙂

    1. Many players have experienced similar frustrations, and I’m hoping Wizards takes initiative on fixing this with all the outcry. I actually support the effect of the Twin ban, even if I am very unhappy with Wizards’ methods in getting there; it frees up space for new blue decks and is probably healthy in the long run. The Eldrazi situation is much worse, and stacking that on top of the Twin situation and the Pro Tour/ban connection buzz makes Wizards look really bad overall. I hope this gets fixed soon, or even just addressed transparently by their staff!

  7. Well, it seems we’re at a do-or-die moment in the Modern metagame; the rest of the decks out there are going to have to beat Eldrazi often enough to drive down the metagame share and restore order, or they’re going to have to ban something. Seriously, 40% of MTGO is ludicrous.

    That said, there is some hope in the decks you mentioned. I would recommend Merfolk players to pack at least 2 Sea’s Claim in addition to the 4 Spreading Seas somewhere in their 75 – you need the combination of disruption and aggro enabling they provide in order to surge ahead (the matchup is a bit too close to 50-50 for my liking with only 4 Seas). Harbinger of the Tides has also performed phenomenally for me, as combined with a Lord or two it can really start your counteroffensive. I’ve unfortunately had to trim Master of Waves, as getting 2 of those stuck in your hand is death, and a well-timed Dismember takes him out to devastating effect. He’s still in the deck because he’s quite potent, but I don’t think I’ll be running more than 2 for a while.

    I’m also surprised Death & Taxes isn’t being seriously considered by the metagame, given that it is probably the king of land hate in Modern, and has enough first-striking blockers to stonewall Eldrazi as it finishes the game off in the air. Is it just not good enough against non-Eldrazi decks to hang? I also find that doubtful – it seems well-positioned against Affinity (Stony Silence and Kataki) and Burn (Arbiter as fetch hate and Thalia to kill their efficiency). Maybe that will change, but it jumped out at me, given that I saw one of those decks take Eldrazi apart with Ghost Quarter, Aven Mindcensor, and Crucible of Worlds while Thalia and Blade Splicer made sure the Eldrazi couldn’t attack profitably.

    I admittedly am not super knowledgeable about Abzan Company, but from what I can tell it’s pretty good at gumming up the ground and setting the stage for their combo. I feel that these are the 3 decks that can take on the field while still presenting Eldrazi with the most problems.

    1. Thalia isn’t very good except for blocking X/2’s against Eldrazi and Arbiter only impacts them when you’re Ghost Quartering or Pathing them and by then the damage is usually done. It’s disruption is about a turn too slow for DnT to really be effective, which is a shame because I like the deck. It can definitely get there against Colorless but UR and the other colored decks can either avoid or power through DnT far more easily than DnT can lock them out. DnT is very good against degenerate decks that like to run mana tight and play lots of spells in one turn (UR Delver/Storm) but less good against overpowered creatures being accelerated out. Merfolk is better since its disruption is on curve and is decent on its own.

    2. Merfolk, D&T, and Abzan Company all have very strong positioning right now, and I expect many players to move towards these decks at the GPs. I actually do believe Modern has the tools to regulate Eldrazi and at least drive it towards more reasonable metagame share. Unfortunately, I also believe those shifts are less metagame adaption (like running some Stony Silences in your board to stop Affinity), and more fundamental format warpage. Kind of like what happened in the TC and Pod era of late 2014 and early 2015. Decks might emerge to beat these decks, but they will still not occupy enough of the metagame and the targeted deck, Eldrazi, will still be a big player. That’s the exact kind of situation which probably leads to a ban.

      1. I think the potential of Merfolk and hatebears to beat Eldrazi is overstated – while they are ok against Eldrazi they are not favoured and are at the very best 50/50 – depending on the build of eldrazi. Abzan company – however – with worship and Archangel/Spike feeder combo is heavily favoured.

        1. My results with Merfolk were only a tad better than 50/50 with only 4 Seas effects and 2 Ghost Quarter, so I tend to agree with you. That said, I don’t think that would be the optimal list to bring in an Eldrazi-infested meta (I’m leaning toward 8 Seas effects at the moment), and I think the results with more adaptations included are still in the process of being gathered. For example, Dane Brooks took down an SCG Regional with a 6-Seas Merfolk list (link here: http://www.starcitygames.com/article/32413_Daily-Digest-.html ), and had to beat Eldrazi in the process. I’m not ready to call this fight just yet.

          1. 8-Seas does require trimming a bit of threat density, but it’s usually done at the very top of the curve (mostly Master of Waves in this meta, given that protection from red just isn’t going as far as it once did), and that still leaves you with 26-28 threats to close a game out (depending on how much non-creature interaction you left in), which isn’t terrible. And while the answers aren’t plentiful in the main, there’s still a bit of room for them in the side. I definitely see your points (which is why I waffle between 6 and 8 Seas on a nearly-daily basis), but some testing should elucidate which variant is best positioned. I think that for testing purposes, I’d rather go whole hog and scale back as necessary than building my way up to 8.

          2. To all who are thinking about the 6/8 seas effects: I have never played merfolk myself, but I will say that playing against it, the easiest games have been the ones where my opp just draws a bunch of seas effects and don’t pressure my life total. I can usually remove/deal with the threats if they are just coming one at a time.

            FWIW

          3. Seas-flood is definitely a thing against certain decks. But you’re usually siding some or all of them out against those decks. The crux of the matter is that when I look at the Tier 1/2 listings, I see plenty of decks that would be none too pleased if I disrupted their manabase (or their manlands), and other decks where I need to be drawing mass evasion if I’m going to reliably beat them. More Seas effects accomplishes both these goals.

  8. Ricardo, I’m with you. Before the splinter twin ban you could look at meta game shares and feel confidant in picking many different archetypes and having success. Now eldrazi have broken the rules and are teaching everyone just how strong fast mana is.

    I don’t really understand the argument of why don’t you always have thoughtseize on the draw and mana leak on the play. Also mana leak that TKS and you are still getting your ass beat for 4 so good luck after that. Point is that even those cards are not enough. Eldrazi is the biggest midrange deck out there and it can play as fast as affinity. Also the eldrazi deck is built to murder sweepers. Unless you have a greedy opponent or they are new, the eldrazi deck doesn’t need to run into your sweepers. They can easily beat you for 4-6 a turn and still hold those reality smashers for later. Not that hard to figure out.

    Modern is lost atm. I have lost confidence in the format. I was looking towards legacy until they announced eternal masters. Now look at the price spikes that have been created, whether that holds true or not hard to say but the fact is these limited supply run sets are essentially a death sentence financially to anyone not already invested heavily in the format or it just so happens that the cards you need are the few that actually drop in price.
    Wanna goldfish competitively and for the cost of only 1k per deck? then modern is your choice

    1. “I don’t really understand the argument of why don’t you always have thoughtseize on the draw and mana leak on the play.”
      Well, I don’t really understand the argument of my opponent always having Eye, Temple, two Mimics and a Seer in every opening hand, so I guess we’re even.

      1. It’s actually quite simple. The eldrazi deck can mulligan to gas. Reactionary decks can’t realistically mull to an answer. It’s a death sentence.

        You seem to think that if you just answer their first few threats you are in the clear. I seriously question how much you have been playing against the deck.

        I don’t mean to be insulting, but anyone who knows about magic is reading your comments and laughing at them.

    2. Modern confidence does feel very low, even if the vocal detractors aren’t necessarily a majority. I still feel their frustrations and believe Wizards will need to act to address these issues, so don’t lose faith yet! We should see some corrections to this situation by April, whether through major metagame regulation or through a flat ban. Maybe we’ll even get an unban as an “apology” from a sheepish Wizards!

  9. well if you read my comments you would see im not arguing against you, I think eldrazi is a problem but their lies a bigger problem in my eyes. Modern has become a goldfish format. I’m sure after eldrazi gets banned then jund will come back in numbers but they have completely neutered blue in modern. And the only card making blue top tier was red so there is that. I am probably a little biased since I like control decks but the answers to a normal modern metagame are so narrow that you have to skew your deck to run non-interactive hate cards main deck (ensnaring bridge, worship, blood moon) to even have a chance. I mean that just shows you right there how terrible your options are. Also having essentially 1 cantrip that is lame and no good way to dig for answers or finishers is just bogus. That is why you see a non-interactive format for tier 1-2 essentially. Linear decks are too streamlined and the answers for them are too narrow to hold them at bay plus you have no good way to find them if you don’t draw it in your starting 7. You can brew with stuff like enduring ideal all you want but how is that even a viable deck? Looks fun, absolutely playable at fnm or just as a pet deck but I don’t see how we are telling people to actively look at that as an answer. Just proves how format warping eldrazi is in only its first couple weeks. I know you guys need to keep people’s spirits up since you rely on modern to write for but man this is looking lame for modern.
    WHERE ARE ALL THOSE naysayers saying twin’s banning was a good thing now? You don’t have to bitch about getting killed by turn 4 twin cuz now you are just getting turn 4’d by eldrazi or more affinity, infect or burn.

    1. The Twin ban was great! … if and only if it led to more blue cards in the format and more blue diversity. Unfortunately, it has not had that effect, on top of it being communicated poorly and misleadingly (Wizards’ obscuring of the Pro Tour “Shakeup” connection). Add in the Eldrazi and we have a really volatile format with a lot of metagame and community issues. I do believe Wizards will be forced to address this in the near future, and hope we see some changes soon. Maybe blue mages get that AV they’ve been waiting for for so long!

      1. Sadly its going to take a lot more than AV for U to be good in modern – anyway everyone should stop there whining – U is good in Modern! There are U cards in UR Eldrazi right?!

        1. Yeah, the Blue Eldrazi. That doesn’t make Blue as a color good. It just makes Eldrazi require a tiny bit of blue mana to play some of the cards that are only going to be played within their archetype.

  10. Do you have match up data? As in, can you tell if certain decks are generally performing better or worse against other decks? I’m curious if the eldrazi deck really is that dominant over every other deck in the field. The eldrazi decks are generally much cheaper than other modern decks and that alone could explain its explosion on MTGO, and once a deck hits 40% you expect to see it ranked highly more often just by random chance as much as anything else.

    I pulled together all of the match up data from PT Atlanta that had published decklists for both seats (resulting in 92 total pairings available for analysis). I compiled that data into net scores for each deck matchup — i.e. Naya Burn beat Affinity once and lost to Affinity two other times so its overall score against affinity is -1. The colorless eldrazi deck (a la team CFB) had net matchup scores of -3 verse affinity, -1 verse ad nauseum, elves, UR eldrazi, kiki chord, and scapeshift, and 0 verse infect (going 2 and 2 over the 4 matches in the data set). The only deck it really dominated was Naya Burn (+5 overall). The eldrazi may have warped the format for the time being, but it’s hard to say that it’s because the deck is unbeatable (at least given the limited data I have).

    1. Sadly, we do not have that data. I will say that there is very little chance the deck is totally unbeatable. Affinity, Abzan Company, and Merfolk should be unfavorable (or even very unfavorable) matchups for the Eldrazi. Even so, the deck is still pushing out serious numbers, which suggests it’s less vulnerable than we thought, its strengths are compensating for its weaknesses, the metagame hasn’t fully adapted yet, or a number of other factors. I honestly am not sure which is at play, but I do know these numbers are disturbing both in context and in a vacuum. We’ll see if more data can sort this picture out, but my suspicion is that Eldrazi stay problematic through April.

  11. Well AV might make UW control a little better but then the eldrazi decks just start packing processors or stranglers and then your AV becomes a joke. Also AV is a great source of cards but it is so slow and not that great beyond turn 1 so you are still really stressing your paths and whatever half-assed counter modern lets us play with. Basically I think it will take more than AV to make blue a legitimate top tier contender again but if they do release AV into the wild then UW control or UWR maybe.
    Not sure if that was a troll comment about UR eldrazi being blue.

    I actually think it is hilarious that wizards interest for competitive diversity has led to this. Everyone should personally write them a letter with those quotes then attach a sheet of the new meta game numbers in like a month or so.

    I am ok with the twin ban now, but at the same time look how long it will take to actually get good blue cards released into modern again if ever. AV is probably a year away and by that time we will need standard to bring us something. But I look at AV as having either too great an impact or having about as much as Day’s undoing.

  12. Nice article. I can see how people would complain about Eldrazi taking up too much of the metagame, but I don’t see what’s wrong with an abundance of linear decks in Tier 1. Also, what did you mean when you mentioned the thing about Gruul Zoo being Tier 2? I don’t see the significance of it.

  13. Modern and Legacy are too expensive and not fun.

    Solution:
    WOTC should reprint everything I want that I don’t already own, but not the stuff I own.
    Also ban stuff.
    But not my deck. In fact, unban my deck.

    And better foil process on cards that because of the supposed limited availability, are not a fun bonus, but rather a sign of failure to meet my demands.

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