If you've been following my adventures in Standard since last fall you'll know that I've been messing around with what I'd call mid-range Eldrazi (in contrast to Ramp Eldrazi) based heavily around Herald of Kozilek. It was halfway decent when Battle for Zendikar released, and I tried both U/R and Grixis versions but neither had the oomph required to compete in a world awash with powerful gold cards from Khans of Tarkir block.
Oath of the Gatewatch changed the equation immensely, providing a host of new mid-range goodies to fill out the deck. I initially tried a few Grixis builds but eventually settled on Jeskai thanks to the awesome power of Eldrazi Displacer. The deck was an improvement and it could definitely smash some faces, but it lacked reach in a metagame that was really good at flooding the board with ground blockers and it proved to be just as vulnerable as everyone else was to a powerful flying offense. If only I could squeeze in some Dragons, I thought to myself jokingly... and then it hit me like a ton of bricks.
Before I got too excited, I pumped the brakes a bit. I mean, a mashup between Eldrazi and Dragons couldn't work... could it? I began sketching out some ideas and tried various two-color-plus-colorless combinations before I settled on U/W/Colorless Dragons.
Mainly because of the undeniable power of this creature.
Going base-U/W meant I could also use Silkwrap, one of the premium removal spells in a format where killing a creature is often a temporary fix at best.
Starting with U/W and including colorless meant I could also easily run Eldrazi Displacer, one of my favorite new cards from Oath of the Gatewatch. Having a Reflector Mage and Eldrazi Displacer on the board with enough mana to blink Reflector Mage once or twice is a crushing board control element.
Running both of those cards meant I'd pretty much filled up my quota of three-mana spells so I probably didn't want to run Matter Reshaper... it didn't exactly combo all that well with Eldrazi Displacer anyway. However I could – and most definitely should – run Thought-Knot Seer, which actually does combo nicely with Eldrazi Displacer if you've got the mana to blink it during your opponent's draw step.
Huh. I had a nice little deck going and I hadn't even gotten to the Dragons yet!
Going base U/W gives us two very good Dragons at five mana without even really needing our Dragon lands. Dragonlord Ojutai is quite a beating and is capable of closing out games fast. Icefall Regent can tap down threats you may not be interested in bouncing like Siege Rhino. Both Dragons also synergize well with Eldrazi Displacer. Dragonlord Ojutai is hard to kill when it's untapped but if you want to attack, those shields go down. If your opponent has instant-speed removal you can save Dragonlord Ojutai with a blink of Eldrazi Displacer, and Displacer can blink Icefall Regent if there's another bigger threat you want to tap down.
So what Dragons did I want at the top of my curve? Dragonlord Silumgar seemed like a slam-dunk with the ability to steal important things and then to steal again with a blink of an Eldrazi Displacer. Dragonlord Dromoka doesn't really combo with Eldrazi Displacer, but that's okay — it's a nice combo with Dragonlord Ojutai, letting you attack without worrying about a response from your opponent. It's also large, it flies, it can't be countered and gains you back life five points at a time.
With the base of the deck worked out, here's what I ended up playing at Friday Night Magic:
- 2 Hedron Crawler
- 4 Eldrazi Displacer
- 2 Icefall Regent
- 4 Reflector Mage
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
- 2 Whirler Rogue
- 2 Dragonlord Dromoka
- 3 Dragonlord Ojutai
- 2 Dragonlord Silumgar
Hallowed Moonlight was obvious hate against the Four-Color Rally and Collected Company decks. The additional counterspells and Dimensional Infiltrator were there if I needed to pivot into a more controlling deck — like countering the ramp spells out of the big Eldrazi decks. Crucible of the Spirit Dragon played nicely in this role since I could add counters to it early if I didn't need the mana to counterspell something and eventually I'd get to the point where the Crucible let me play a Dragon and still have mana up to protect it. Silumgar, the Drifting Death was there to replace Dragonlord Silumgar in case I was playing against someone with a lot of token creatures. The Planar Outburst was a reset button in case I needed one. Arashin Cleric does what it's always done, buying time against aggressive decks. I have a killer mid- and late-game so I've just got to actually live that long.
A friend was incredulous watching the deck in action. “Who'd have thought you could mash up Eldrazi and Dragons,” I said. He laughed. “You should call it Cloverfield.” So that's now the deck name.
I went 4-1 and was very pleased with its performance. I won 2-0 against a U/R Prowess deck that splashed black for Murderous Cut; 2-1 against G/R Eldrazi Ramp with World Breakers; 2-0 against a U/W midrange deck that leaned pretty heavily on Hangarback Walker and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar to win; and 2-0 against a G/R Goodstuff deck featuring Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh and Managorger Hydra.
The match I lost went to three games against a very aggressive Goblin-heavy burn deck, and in one of the two games I lost I was going to kill him the very next turn if he didn't draw the exact card he needed. The third game I had to mulligan and kept a hand that would have been fine if could have drawn into a third land at some point in the first three or four draw steps, which felt favorable since I'm running 26 lands, but even with the scry it just wasn't in the cards.
Even though I was happy with the deck, I could see some flaws. Whirler Rogue seemed like a no-brainer, but I was surprised at how few times I actually had the two blue mana required to cast a non-Dragon spell. The maindeck Negates were sometimes golden but sometimes just rotted in my hand, which was particularly aggravating when I had a Sea Gate Wreckage I could have otherwise activated. And Tomb of the Spirit Dragon was just a silly card given how infrequently I had more than one or two colorless creatures in play to make the activation worth it over using the mana to activate Eldrazi Displacer.
I've made some changes to the deck and here's what I'm going to playtest with over the weekend:
- 3 Hedron Crawler
- 4 Arashin Cleric
- 4 Eldrazi Displacer
- 1 Icefall Regent
- 4 Reflector Mage
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
- 3 Dragonlord Dromoka
- 4 Dragonlord Ojutai
- 1 Dragonlord Silumgar
I've moved the Negates to the sideboard in order to be a bit more proactive in Game Ones. I feel good about my chances against most any deck if I survive into the mid- or late-game, so I went ahead and moved four copies of Arashin Cleric to the maindeck to give me a stronger game against aggressive decks, and going long the lifegain from blinking the Cleric can even help keep me out of burn-out range against Rally. I cut the Whirler Rogues for Ojutai's Commands, which I'm not entirely happy with but it can play nice alongside Reflector Mage.
I never lost a game where I got to untap with a Dragonlord Ojutai in play, so I stopped being silly and added a fourth copy by shaving an Icefall Regent. Dragonlord Dromoka was a hero each time I played it while Dragonlord Silumgar was only hit-or-miss, so I changed the ratio on those as well at the top end.
An interesting thing a friend pointed out regarding Hallowed Moonlight: if I cast Hallowed Moonlight and I blink out a creature with Eldrazi Displacer, it won't come back from Exile. How awesome is that?
The maindeck is already geared pretty heavily against getting killed by fast damage, but I want to give Sunscorch Regent a try from the sideboard and it is an easy swap in for the remaining Icefall Regent.
So what do you think of the deck? When I ran the first version it felt powerful; I could grind out games or I could close them out fast with Dragons. I haven't yet had a chance to play it against Four-Color Rally, but my gut tells me I have a lot of weapons to combat the format's Enemy #1. I'm hoping to playtest the new version on Magic Online over the weekend. If you want to get in some games, hit me up on Twitter and let me know you're on.
A Quick Word On Modern
While I'm still very high on my crazy Necrotic Ooze deck for Modern, I've been pondering going back to Doran/Zur. My hunch when Oath of the Gatewatch previews came rolling in was that the deck would be nearly unplayable once everyone started playing Warping Wail, but that colorless instant hasn't really seen that much play from what I can see. Back when I was playing the deck, I had more than one person strongly suggest I run Ensnaring Bridge since pretty much every creature in the deck can attack and deal damage even under the Bridge. My deck runs Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch so it certainly has the capacity to play a turn-two Ensnaring Bridge, which should be pretty good against the Eldrazi menace. I even run a maindeck Blood Moon! I'm thinking something like this:
- 4 Spellskite
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 2 Qasali Pridemage
- 4 Nyx-Fleece Ram
- 4 Doran, the Siege Tower
- 4 Zur the Enchanter
It's currently 62 cards but I'm not yet sure where to trim it down. Any Modern fans out there have any thoughts on this out-of-the-box choice?
New to Commander?
If you're just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:
- Commander Primer Part 1 (Why play Commander? Rules Overview, Picking your Commander)
- Commander Primer Part 2 (Mana Requirements, Randomness, Card Advantage)
- Commander Primer Part 3 (Power vs. Synergy, Griefing, Staples, Building a Doran Deck)
- Commander Starter Kits 1 (kick start your allied two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 2 (kick start your enemy two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 3 (kick start your shard three-color decks for $25)
Commander write-ups I've done (and links to decklists):
- Trostani, Selesnya's Voice ( new player-friendly)
Uril, the Miststalker (my "more competitive" deck)