The bad news: I didn't win the Regional Pro Tour Qualifier.
The good news: I was defeated quickly and had more than enough time to play in #SCGPHILLY.
My battling device:
One might wonder, with my history of doing well in Legacy with blue decks such as Shardless Sultai, what the hell was I doing playing some weirdo deck that had yet to be proven? The answer was two-fold. First of all, I've also played some decks in Legacy that some might describe as "stinkers." I would refer to them as "sweet brews."
Secondly, I thought the Eldrazi deck was likely very good.
The good news: I was correct.
The bad news: due to a complete lack of testing my deck was built terribly, which I realized around Round Five or so.
During the tournament, I went 14-4. Two of those rounds were byes and one was a concession, but the other were hard-fought wins. Had I known then what I know now, it would have been difficult for me to lose any matches.
So, what was wrong with my decklist?
There were two games where Mox Diamond outright won me the game. Sadly, I think either Simian Spirit Guide or Elvish Spirit Guide are better for what I want. The acceleration is nice in a couple situations, and the Spirit Guides do that job better.
When Mox Diamond was good, it was because it was able to blank their Dazes for most of the game. However, a Spirit Guide would accomplish the same goal without taking up two cards, plus it would actually force them to use the Daze without knowing that I'd be able to pay for it. Trading a Spirit Guide with a Daze might not seem like a big deal, but it means they might not have a blue card for Force of Will later, they have fewer resources to use with Brainstorm, and they have to pick up a land.
Any accelerator will increase the chances of being able to play a turn-one Chalice of the Void for one, so there are basically no strikes against Spirit Guides over Mox Diamonds. Against a Wasteland deck, Mox Diamond is sort of good because it's another mana source, but I'd often prefer to keep the land in my hand instead of having a Mox Diamond anyway. The Spirit Guides would allow still me to have that burst of mana when I needed it, plus it wouldn't cost me a land.
There are also situations where I'd have a land that makes two mana, a Cavern of Souls, and a Mox Diamond for my Thought-Knot Seer, but would lack the extra land to discard. Many situations involving City of Traitors and Reality Smasher would benefit from having a Spirit Guide instead of Mox Diamond instead.
It's not close. Unfortunately, it took me a tournament to figure that out.
In order for this type of beatdown deck to be successful, you need to have some amount of disruption. Chalice of the Void and Thought-Knot Seer are great, but I don't think it's enough. Some players trying the Eldrazi out this weekend went with things like Phyrexian Revoker and/or Trinisphere, but I don't think those are effective enough. Three mana is a little too expensive when you're trying to defeat a Storm deck. You might only have one turn.
If you're looking for something to specifically hammer spell-based combo decks, you could do worse than playing Thorn of Amethyst. My main issue with it is how mediocre it is in some matchups, namely Elves, Death and Taxes, Lands, and now the mirror match. Additionally, there are some matchups where I'm unsure of how useful it is.
I'm fine with some amount of Thorns, but four is likely too many.
The biggest mistake I made when building my deck was to not have a plan against Lands. I went 1-2 against it, but that could have easily been avoided with some actual preparation. Ironically enough, I died to my own token.
When it came down to it, some Wastelands and a Karakas weren't enough answers. Many other players used Phyrexian Metamorph, which buys you some time but doesn't necessarily solve the problem. There were a couple games where I could have preemptively played a Pithing Needle on Thespian's Stage, but that didn't seem correct given how weak my deck was to Maze of Ith.
Regardless, there was plenty I could have done better.
So, what did I do correctly?
I'm not sure why everyone played things like Phyrexian Revoker instead of Matter Reshaper. If you're going lower on lock pieces I could see the need for something against Lion's Eye Diamond, plus the Revoker has some utility against Sensei's Divining Top, but I don't see it sitting in play for very long against Miracles.
The disruption is nice against most decks, but Phyrexian Revoker often won't be attacking or blocking for fear of dying in combat. Even if it does get to attack, the clock is so anemic. Plus, it doesn't work with Eldrazi Temple or Eye of Ugin. That's not a dealbreaker, but each of those things combined to make Phyrexian Revoker look incredibly weak.
On the other hand, Matter Reshaper is a solid beater. It's not at its best against Miracles, where all of their removal negates the dies trigger, but it's a house against nearly every other deck in the format.
I played against zero Tarmogoyfs, but Dismember is definitely valuable there. The real draw is having a one-mana removal spell that kills nearly everything. Warping Wail is a fine card, but there are too many matchups where it's ineffectual or outright dead outside of making an Eldrazi Scion.
That's about how I rate Mishra's Factory in this deck. Sure, having a creature-land can be nice sometimes, but it doesn't solve any problems that I think need fixing. Things like Karakas and even Ghost Quarter might actually solve them. Not playing Mishra's Factory was hardly something I regret.
This is what I would play in the future:
- 1 Phyrexian Metamorph
- 4 Eldrazi Mimic
- 1 Elvish Spirit Guide
- 4 Endless One
- 4 Matter Reshaper
- 4 Reality Smasher
- 2 Simian Spirit Guide
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
During #SCGPHILLY, I was adamant that four City of Traitors was correct. With the addition of the Spirit Guides, I no longer feel as if that's necessarily true. City of Traitors certainly has a downside, but its upside generally outweighs that. Mox Diamond was often uncastable because I didn't have an excess land, which made the necessity for City of Traitors very high, even if it meant playing it on turn one. The Spirit Guides reduce the necessity for City of Traitors.
There is nothing sexy about Ratchet Bomb. It's kind of mopey, not exactly great at anything it does, but it does cover a lot of bases. Initially I wasn't excited at the prospect of playing Ratchet Bomb in my sideboard, which is why I opted for the more powerful All is Dust instead, but that was a mistake. While All is Dust is more of a hammer in matchups where you might need it, those matchups aren't popular. Ratchet Bomb doesn't do anything well, but it does a lot of stuff, and the sideboard of this deck needs that effect.
I'd be more than happy to run #SCGPHILLY back with this updated decklist.
The Secret To Winning With Eldrazi
The biggest piece of advice I can give if you're playing any sort of aggressive Eldrazi deck is this:
Your seventh card is a luxury. Even your sixth card is a luxury. You don't need many cards to win – you need specific cards to win, and you need to cast them quickly. If your hand plays fair, such as any hand without a land that produces two mana, your hand is likely worse than random hand that has one less card in it.
Do it often. Don't settle for mediocre hands; you will get mediocre results. I will happily go as low as four cards in search of a powerful hand. The fear of mulliganning to oblivion is a reasonable one but not a logical one. The odds of it happening, especially twice in a match, is incredibly low. If it only happens to you in one game, you're still probably the favorite to win the match.
Eldrazi is favored against Miracles, but you have to know what's important.
Since they are trying to grind you out and can't attack your manabase, it's fine to sideboard out a mana source against them. The extra land is mostly there to compensate for City of Traitors dying, to fuel Mox Diamond, and to fight off opposing Wastelands. Realistically, you wouldn't need 25 lands against an opponent that isn't trying to disrupt you. A big part of winning in Legacy is disrupting your opponent, and people's manabases are the easiest things to go after. Miracles is one of the few decks that plays fair in the format, so 24 land will often be fine against them.
You should expect Counterbalance to get benched here, but it's still important to prioritize Cavern of Souls. They have access to very few answers to a Cavern, so cutting off their counterspells is very powerful. Once you force them to Terminus, you can try to Warping Wail it or simply follow it up with an uncounterable Reality Smasher. If either of those works, you'll win.
You need to apply pressure, but be careful about walking any Eye of Ugin / Eldrazi Mimic draws into a Crop Rotation for The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale. Wasteland isn't something that should be fired off as a tempo play unless it's something that leads to a direct win. Cards like Maze of Ith, Dark Depths, and Glacial Chasm are far more worrisome.
If you're on the play, Chalice of the Void for one can be game ending. If they can't play Gamble or Crop Rotation, it's very difficult for them to find what they need. If they can't play Exploration they will be behind the entire game and won't be able to catch up. Mox Diamond helps them some, but it's often not enough.
Should you open on a medium hand without a turn-one Chalice of the Void, it might be worth it to send it back and look a better six, perhaps one with a Chalice.
The goal here, as is the case in most places, should be disruption plus clock. The emphasis here in these matchups is on disruption, as that will often buy you enough time to find a clock. If you assemble two or more lock pieces, it's almost the same as a victory.
In the absence of a lock piece, it's still possible to race them if their draw is on the slow side but it's not likely. If you mulligan appropriately these matchups are fine, but you do have to fade the possible turn-one kills.
I didn't get a chance to play against any Delver decks until the later rounds on the tournament, but I was 6-0 in games against it until the finals, including a match against Noah Walker himself. Despite those matches going well, I was still trying to figure things out. For example, how good is Thorn of Amethyst against Delver decks?
On the one hand, Sphere of Resistance effects are quite good against Delver decks and their plethora of cheap spells. On the other hand, several of their cheap spells are creatures, so how good is Thorn of Amethyst exactly? My worry was that I would spend a turn not developing my board, they would land something like a Young Pyromancer, and despite my Thorn of Amethyst hampering their ability to use Young Pyromancer to its full effectiveness I could still lose to it.
That made me think Sphere of Resistance might be good, at least on the play. Sadly, the effectiveness of their mana denial leads me to believe that Sphere of Resistance could potentially benefit them more than me. In the end, I kept the disruption to a minimum and focused on having things that affected the board or were Chalice of the Void.
Regrettably, I don't have the luxury of playing Legacy very often. At first I didn't mind because, much like Modern, I didn't have a deck I particularly liked in the format. Now all that has changed, and I'm not sure when the next time I'll get to play Legacy is.
Now, About That Standard Format...
As for Standard, I played in the Regional Pro Tour Qualifier on Magic Online. My weapon of choice, mostly for a lack of better options, was Jeskai Black. My thoughts on the deck are well-documented so I won't say much, but I thought people might be interested in my decklist despite my poor result.
Given what the Magic Online metagame is like, I really like this decklist. Hopefully it's still good by the time #SCGBALT rolls around.