Oath of the Gatewatch is only a few weeks away from giving this stagnant Standard format a much needed facelift. It's difficult to believe just how little has changed in this format over the past couple months. The Atarka Red deck that Brian DeMars won #SCGINDY with is still the same list you think of when your opponent plays turn 1 Monastery Swiftspear. The same can be said about the Abzan Aggro deck that won #PTBFZ and the Rally the Ancestors deck Matt Nass played in that same event. Jeskai Black is pretty much the only thing that has moved around a ton to adapt to minor changes in the format, but even then the deck plays roughly the same cards with the same exact strategy. There have been many decks that have come and gone, but for the most part, the format has been the same since its infancy.
We needed change, and Wizards was ready. Oath of the Gatewatch isn't even fully spoiled yet, but I can safely say things are about to get shaken up. This is mostly thanks to what I'm considering the best card in the set.
That's right, the best card in the set in my opinion is a three-mana pyroclasm. Sure this card isn't as flashy as those in the past, like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar or Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, but it gets the job done. The job I have in mind? Being absolutely format-defining and turning a deck once considered a good metagame call into the best damn thing in the format. Eldrazi Ramp is going to be moving up a few pegs once Oath of the Gatewatch comes out, whether you like it or not.
So what makes this card so powerful? You just have to look at what the older versions of this deck had difficulties with to find the answer. Early pressure was always one of its weak points, which is why every version of the G/R Eldrazi deck would run four Jaddi Offshoot as well as an entire set of Hangarback Walker. Cards like Seismic Rupture, Winds of Qal Sisma, or Radiant Flames could be found in the sideboard to help out with any early onslaught to help get the deck to its bigger spells like Ugin, the Spirit Dragon or Dragonlord Atarka.
On the surface this is exactly why Kozilek's Return fits in this deck. The deck needs some level of interaction besides dorky little creatures to buy enough time to start taking over the game with the expensive finishers. What sets this card over the edge and why we all know why I am talking about the card is what happens once you've already cast it.
I've never played Esper Dragons in a serious event, but I would consider myself a fairly skilled player of the deck thanks to the extensive hours I've spent with it on Magic Online. Throughout my adventures with the deck, I've found the best strategy against G/R Eldrazi is to counter an initial ramp spell to buy me enough time to cast a Dragonlord Ojutai before anything threatening (like Ugin, the Spirit Dragon) can come down and take over the game. The other strategy revolves around sideboarded Monastery Mentors that come down early. These little guys backed up with Duress and counterspells dedicated solely for Ugin, the Spirit Dragon allows Esper Dragons to ignore the Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and win the game on the next turn with what's left of the Monk army.
Neither of these situations are safe from Kozilek's Return. In both situations, a timely Eldrazi spell can come down and deal with anything on the battlefield. This is specifically powerful thanks to the exiling of Kozilek's Return being uncounterable. Cards like Trickbind and Stifle might be able to deal with this powerful effect, but Standard is helpless when something gigantic enters the battlefield.
Seriously, I feel helpless thinking about it. Instead of sitting here and writing about how we can deal with this unbelievable mythic rare, I have chosen to simply join them. I intend on perfecting this strategy of casting big monsters, dealing five damage to everything prior to their entrance, and watching my opponents pick up their creatures as well as their hopes of winning the game.
So now as a dedicated fan of the Eldrazi, I must find the best companion for my Kozilek's Returns. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and Kozilek, the Great Distortion sound like they are perfect for triggering Kozilek's Return from the graveyard, but I know in my heart of hearts that there is something else out there more qualified for the job. Let's meet World Breaker.
Now this is the perfect card for G/R Eldrazi! It actually blew mind when I saw that this card was only $2.99 on StarCityGames. I instantly bought four of them alongside my four Kozilek's Returns before I even knew all of its abilities. For some reason I never noticed that the card had reach due to how much other text is on this card.
This is the future of the deck. It takes an Eldrazi creature spell that costs seven or more mana to trigger the graveyard ability on Kozilek's Return, and the competition for this slot is pretty sparse in this format. It's actually so embarrassing how much better World Breaker is compared to the other options that I won't even waste our time talking about it. Instead I'll focus on how busted this card actually is and why it deserves four slots in the deck.
On the surface, this card looks like it's just in the deck to trigger Kozilek's Return and Sanctum of Ugin, and for the most part, that is true. There are many cards that used to be able to trigger Sanctum of Ugin since any colorless spell was good enough, but Kozilek is much more picky when it comes to colorless spells. This means that we have to become more specific when it comes to cards that do this since we want the best chance to fulfill both Kozilek's Return and Sanctum of Ugin's requirements with the same cards.
Once we get past the fact that World Breaker is here to trigger requirements, we can start looking into what else the card brings to the table. The ability to exile a land, artifact, or enchantment will come in handy every once in a while, depending on matchups. Obviously the ability to deny an opponent a land will be the most used and will be extremely beneficial in the mirror matches. Creeping Mold has never looked better.
Further down on the card, we see reach. This can come in handy against one of the most problematic keywords in the game (flying, for those keeping track at home). Cards like Dragonlord Ojutai, Mantis Rider, and Wingmate Roc have all been used to great effect against G/R Eldrazi Ramp strategies in the past. Being able to potentially cut an opponent off a color as well as block the best way they have to winning the game can make difficult games look easy.
Lastly, we have a recursion ability. I've played Magic for over a decade and one of the hard and fast rules I've learned is recursive abilities on good cards make them busted. Most of the times the ability to recur creatures easily comes at the cost of not being able to block, or having something more difficult to do besides tapping three mana and sacrificing a land. Now this ability won't be used that often, but you'll be happy it exists when you're flooding out while your opponent is trying to rebuild from a disastrous Kozilek's Return.
So now that I've expressed my love for World Breaker and Kozilek's Return enough, we can start looking into what else goes into the deck. These two cards are going to play an important role in dealing with problematic creatures from overwhelming us, which takes a lot of pressure off Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. We'll now be able to play less copies, which will greatly reduce the pressure on ramping out perfectly every game. G/R Eldrazi is about to have a much more realistic curve.
Not only is this the first time that any color can have a discard effect like this, but it can be cast as early as turn 2 in Modern thanks to the new Eldrazi-based mana base of Eldrazi Temple and Eye of Ugin. The more reasonable placement for Thought-Knot Seer is right in the Eldrazi deck we are building right now!
A four-mana creature isn't exactly what a deck based around ramping usually wants, but like I just said, we aren't priced into just ramping with this deck anymore. Road blocks are often necessary when it comes to ramp strategies, and this card fits perfectly into our curve. This card can play so many roles for this deck. When under pressure, the card exiled from their hand will often be the one most likely to kill the reasonable 4/4 body. When dealing with combo or other ramp strategies, we will be able to pluck a key piece of their strategy, causing them to slow down in development. Whatever this card ends up exiling, it will probably be worth the investment of a 4/4 for four.
The last card from Oath of the Gatewatch that I'll be putting in my first run of G/R Eldrazi is Crumbling Vestige.
This land is perfect in a sorcery-speed ramp deck since the mana will almost always be used during a main phase. Once the colored mana is all used up, this land transitions into helping cast Thought-Knot Seer. Now there might be a few too many games where this land causes me to not have green mana, but my gut tells me the upside of having more colorless mana in my deck will have a much more significant effect.
I'm not sold yet that this card deserves any more than one slot in the deck. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is a much more powerful effect when behind, which is a board state I expect will come up much more often than being at parity and wanting to draw a fistful of cards. I can assure you that this card is amazing, and I have already drawn an entire grip and had my opponent dead thanks to the ability to counter anything.
So without further adieu, here is my first take at G/R Eldrazi post-Oath of the Gatewatch!
- 4 Hangarback Walker
- 4 Jaddi Offshoot
- 1 Oblivion Sower
- 2 Thought-Knot Seer
- 4 World Breaker
- 1 Kozilek, the Great Distortion
- 2 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
Take a moment to bask in all of its glory. Our Eldrazi overlords have come to our plane and we must greet them with open arms and minds. Now I know that this isn't going to end up being the best version of G/R Eldrazi. In fact, the reason I wrote this article was to simply get the ball rolling for ideas on the deck. I truly believe this will be one of, if not the best strategy moving forward, which made me want to talk about the deck. I've learned most recently that I'm not actually that great of a deck-builder, but I'm very qualified to suggest decks for tuning, and right now, this seems to be it. Only time will tell where this deck falls, but for now, this is what I've come up with.
Before I go, I do want to talk about the cards that didn't make the cut.
This was the closest to making its way into the deck. I find a 5/5 trample and haste creature to be very powerful given it can go into any strategy. The ability to force a discard is cute, but not something I would choose to put on a card I wanted to play. The only reason I thought this might be a decent card is to go more aggressive in matchups where getting to ten mana is very difficult. I could easily see this card as an anti-Rally the Ancestors card if we needed such a thing. It could also suck there, I don't really know. This is mostly why I decided to not try to put it into the first draft of the deck.
Plain and simply, this is an inferior version of Kozilek's Return. I don't see why we want a weaker "Doom Blade" when we can just Wrath every creature in play.
Many outspoken individuals have been claiming this to be a very powerful Magic card. Personally, I just don't see it. I'm curious to see what happens on the day I'm proven wrong, but I don't see that day coming anytime soon. Maybe in Modern?
We will just have to wait and see what the rest of the Oath of the Gatewatch spoiler has in store for us before we write anything down in ink. For now, I am content saying that both Kozilek's Return and World Breaker are much better than people are giving them credit for, but I will let you all be the judge of that as well. Let me know what you think of this list and what ways there are to improve it. The SCG Tour® is coming for #SCGATL in a few short weeks, and I will want to be as prepared as possible for that event. Any help from you all would be greatly appreciated!