If you've been following social media or reading any Magic articles lately, a few things would be abundantly clear to you:
1. Modern is the worst format ever and shouldn't be a Pro Tour format.
2. Wizards R&D has absolutely no idea how to do their jobs.
3. Emergency banning of at least Eye of Ugin is necessary.
4. The various forms of Eldrazi are completely unbeatable.
These sorts of reactions make a lot of sense; people simply love to get immediately outraged about things, and Wizards has set a precedence of “ban-culture” by being so liberal with their bannings in the Modern format. We also haven't seen this sort of dominance at a high-level event in quite some time. Still, I have something very important to say to everyone:
I know that the Eldrazi just crushed Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch and threaten to take over Modern forever, but let's stop listening to the knee-jerks and try to be rational. People, especially Magic players, love to complain, and when they see others complaining about the same thing, it makes them feel validated. A lot of things happened at the Pro Tour last weekend, and a lot of them really are awesome.
Someone Broke the Format and Won the Pro Tour
Isn't this the dream of every single Magic player to ever register a DCI card?
- 2 Spellskite
- 4 Eldrazi Mimic
- 4 Endless One
- 4 Matter Reshaper
- 4 Reality Smasher
- 4 Simian Spirit Guide
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
There were six Eldrazi decks in the Top 8 of Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch, and among them three different versions. Reading Mike Sigrist's Premium article from earlier in the week (welcome to SCG, fellow Tater Taut!) gave us a very good look at how the Colorless Eldrazi deck was put together, and I'm sure the U/R Eldrazi deck and Frank Lepore's Processor Eldrazi deck followed similar creative paths. These are decks we have never seen before and were not easy to find the correct builds of.
- 4 Blight Herder
- 4 Drowner of Hope
- 4 Eldrazi Mimic
- 4 Matter Reshaper
- 4 Reality Smasher
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
- 4 Wasteland Strangler
- 1 World Breaker
Eldrazi decks made up only 8.2% of the field but were 47.6% of the 8-2 or better decks. This means that some dedicated players were able to brew up a deck that was dismissed by 91.8% of the entire pro field and destroy the entire tournament with it. (Credit to Patrick Chapin for the statistics.)
Numbers like that are what dreams are made of.
This will be one of the most memorable Pro Tours of all time. Ten years from now we are going to talk about “Pro Tour Eldrazi” and how a small group of players were able to completely dominate it with a secret deck. When we talk about "breaking the format" for an upcoming event, we will undoubtedly reference this Pro Tour as exactly what our goal is. On the whole, that's great for Magic!
With the hive mind and quick dissemination of information, formats are getting “solved” more and more quickly. This makes high-level events all about tweaking decklists and figuring out what deck is a good metagame call for the week. After a while this can get old, and it's great to have a high level event go a different way once in a while. Not every Pro Tour should look like this, but it's very exciting to know that they occasionally still can.
Sacred Cows Have Been Slain Left and Right
What would you have said two weeks ago if I said the following things to you?
“There will be zero copies of Lightning Bolt in the Pro Tour Top 8.”
“There will be only eight total fetchlands in the entire Pro Tour Top 8, and they will only be fetching on-color lands.”
I can only imagine how quickly I would have been laughed off of StarCityGames.com®, never to be heard from again.
The Eldrazi deck is something new, and new things are scary. Modern has been in such a way for so long that we are used to it, regardless of if we were particularly fond of it or not. There are a bunch of Lightning Bolt + Snapcaster Mage decks. There are a bunch of linear decks that are difficult to interact with from week to week like G/W Hexproof or G/R Tron. There are a bunch of Thoughtseize + Tarmogoyf midrange decks that try to play fair Magic. The list goes on and on, and it hasn't changed much over the years.
Now that the Eldrazi deck is here, many of those pillars are being challenged.
Maybe Lightning Bolt isn't the best spell in the format anymore. It lines up very poorly against the threats in the Eldrazi deck, and trying to go to the dome with it won't race the Eldrazi deck either. Lightning Bolt being weakened also takes some of the wind out of Snapcaster Mage's sails, and that doesn't seem like a bad thing either.
Maybe we can build manabases that aren't completely based on fetchland + shockland combinations. With Eldrazi and Affinity being the best-performing decks at the Pro Tour, the advantages of other types of manabases were on full display. Hell, there were as many painlands in the Pro Tour Top 8 as fetchlands! Variety is good, and it's nice to see a reason to play something other than ten fetchlands in every deck.
We Now Have a New Challenge
While people often complain about it, players like having the challenge of taking down “the best deck” week in and week out. It creates a sort of us-versus-them narrative between players who choose to battle with the best deck week in and week out and those who try to fight the good fight to defeat the evil and unfair deck. They will of course whine and complain about it the whole way through, but complaining together about something mutually disliked also creates camaraderie among players.
And if they lose, they can just blame Wizards for being incompetent and printing dumb cards. It's a win-win!
Personally I can't wait to see what happens at #SCGLOU next weekend. The format has been completely turned upside down and nobody knows what is going to happen next. Are the Eldrazi actually unbeatable? Will a new deck show up that can deal with Eldrazi while also having game against the rest of the field? How are players going to adapt to the Eldrazi menace?
These questions seem much more exciting than the usual “what cute singleton sideboard card will end up in the Grixis Control sideboard this week?” or “will this be the week some random player makes Top 8 with Slivers?” questions we ask at typical Modern events. We're looking at must-see TV here.
People also forget about the last time this sort of Pro Tour domination happened.
Pro Tour Berlin in 2008 featured a very similar story to Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch. There was a broken linear deck, Elf Combo, that most of the room was completely unprepared for. As with Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch, there were a few different versions from various teams and it absolutely annihilated the tournament, taking six of the Top 8 slots and winning the trophy in the hands of Luis Scott-Vargas.
Yet after the Pro Tour players were quick to adapt, and the deck ended up being only a fringe player by the end of the format. We are still in "week zero" after the Pro Tour and have no idea how this thing is going to play out. Let's at least give the format time to react; there are hundreds of thousands of games of Modern to play online in the coming weeks, and many rounds of major events each weekend. The Eldrazi puzzle is not going to be solved two days after the Pro Tour!
Shut Up, Jim, You're Wrong! Ban It Now!
Of course, it is possible that Eldrazi is simply too powerful to be a fair deck in the Modern format and something needs to be banned. Maybe having lands that tap for two mana to cast powerful undercosted threats quickly is just too much of a strain and the format can't work itself out and self-correct.
And you know what? That's okay too. Pushing limits is what makes Magic exciting, and if you are going to toe the line, you are occasionally going to trip and fall on the wrong side of it.
It feels good to know that formats actually can be broken sometimes, which makes deckbuilding and preparing for new formats much more fun. If we knew for a fact the line would never be crossed, tournament Magic just wouldn't be nearly as exciting. But because tournaments like this happen sometimes where formats really are broken in half, we know that maybe, just maybe, we can find the next broken deck and win the Pro Tour too.
But for now, it's time to try and figure out how to beat this stupid deck…
Ugh, turn 2 again!?! Stupid Wizards of the Coast…