It all started with a ninth place decklist:
- 4 Eldrazi Mimic
- 4 Endless One
- 4 Oblivion Sower
- 4 Reality Smasher
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
- 1 Kozilek, the Great Distortion
- 2 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
How we view results as a community has always been rather interesting to me. The winning decklist of a tournament is generally the one that gets the most attention. After that, the other seven decks in the Top 8 are analyzed and then are either accepted as being real or dismissed entirely. Rarely, if ever, do people care about decks that make the Top 16 or Top 32 of a tournament. In general, I find this to be shortsighted. Magic is a game that has plenty of variance built into it, and sometimes some crazy stuff can happen to stop someone with a really unique deck from making the elimination rounds.
And at #SCGLOU, I thought that's what happened with Zach Voss' Eldrazi Tron deck.
Maybe it's because I'm so addicted to the Urzatron. Maybe it's because I was looking for the best Eldrazi deck for #GPDetroit. Or maybe it's because I like to do my own thing. But when I saw Zach's decklist, I immediately thought to myself "There's gotta be something here." Think about it. The Urzatron is busted. The Eldrazi are busted. Being able to activate Eye of Ugin in the Eldrazi mirror is busted. And, realistically, if I was going to do well at #GPDetroit, I wanted an edge in the Eldrazi mirror matches that I was inevitably going to run into.
Plus, this deck can get waaaaaaaaay luckier than any other deck in the format. Natural Tron? Busted Eldrazi Mimic draws? Hardcasting Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger on turn 5 with frightening consistency? Bring it on, lucksacks! I'm gonna try to be the luckiest one of them all!
- 4 Eldrazi Mimic
- 4 Endless One
- 4 Matter Reshaper
- 3 Oblivion Sower
- 4 Reality Smasher
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
- 1 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
As with any article that includes changes to a decklist, I'd like to start by talking about those changes and my thought process behind each one.
Under no circumstance is All of Dust playable right now. It's horrible in the mirror which is the biggest offense, but it's also terrible against Affinity, Burn, Living End, Storm, and I'm sure a bunch of other decks I'm not thinking of right now.
When I played U/W Eldrazi at #SCGLOU, I played four Path to Exile and three Dismember in my maindeck. I figured seven removal spells would give me a leg up in the mirror, but as it turned out, seven removal spells actually left me with too much removal and not enough action. Spatial Contortion is worse than both Path to Exile and Dismember, especially in the mirror, so this was another easy cut.
It's not that Kozilek is bad, as a card with those lines of text is clearly very powerful. The problem is that you don't always have Tron online, and when you do, chances are you'd rather have an Ulamog exiling some permanents than drawing a bunch of cards. There are spots where Kozliek can save you, and the ability to counter things probably comes up more than I think, but I had some other cards in mind for this spot.
As I was trying to figure out how people would go about beating the various takes on Eldrazi at #GPDetroit, I kept writing down powerful permanents that could cause the deck trouble. Naturally, with Thought-Knot Seer running rampant, people were wary of getting the job done with instants and sorceries and were more inclined to play powerful artifacts and enchantments.
Once you begin making a list of cards people could possibly go towards…
…Oblivion Stone started looking really attractive! And as you look at the decks in Modern that are popular - various takes on Eldrazi, Affinity, Lantern Control, Abzan Company, Merfolk, Elves - you'll notice that most of them fold to an Oblivion Stone activation!
And this, ladies and gentlemen, was how I knew I was on to something.
At #GPDetroit, Oblivion Stone was completely insane. I ran into numerous unique situations where I played an Oblivion Stone, my opponent didn't expect it at all, and they had to contort their play in a fashion that I got to take extreme advantage of. But really, what choice do they have?
If they stop playing stuff? Cool! I'll keep working my way towards Tron or cast a Reality Smasher, which will likely force you to cast some stuff…for me to blow up.
If they keep playing stuff? Cool! I have an Oblivion Stone on the battlefield to blow that stuff up.
Of all the things I think I got right leading into #GPDetroit, identifying that Oblivion Stone was incredibly well-positioned was the one that I was most proud of.
Nothing screams mediocrity more than a 3/2 for three mana, but Matter Reshaper did a nice job of just filling gaps and being a relevant blocker. I never got to live the dream of having a Matter Reshaper die and put an Oblivion Stone on the battlefield to get me out of a sticky situation, but I did have it die and put the missing Tron piece on the battlefield which let me go absolutely nuts the following turn.
Zach had Oblivion Sower in his decklist, but I cannot stress how good it was for me in the Eldrazi mirrors that I played at #GPDetroit. A 5/8 is comically large in the mirror, and the ability to nab an Eldrazi Temple or Eye of Ugin to keep things rolling is irreplaceable. I sideboarded in the fourth one quite a bit and was thrilled to have access to four in my 75 last weekend.
I'm only pointing this out because playing less than four is unacceptable. I'm going to give Zach the benefit of the doubt and say he played three because of card availability issues. If I could play seven, I would.
One of the things that drew me to this deck was the mana. By now, we already know how insane Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple are. They're likely to get banned so there's no point in harping on those two. But it's almost like people forgot that the Urzatron is a busted mana engine. Well I'm here to remind you that the Urzatron is a busted mana engine. It's completely absurd and the fact that the lands tap for colorless mana is not a drawback when you're playing Thought-Knot Seer, Reality Smasher, and Matter Reshaper is incredible.
Three copies of Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth may feel like a lot, but remember that before Oath of the Gatewatch arrived and everyone was trying to figure all this Eldrazi nonsense out, four Urborgs was the industry standard, with the hope of drawing one in combination with Eye of Ugin. More than anything, Urborg allowing me to cast pain-free Dismembers is what I'll remember them for during my rounds at #GPDetroit, but the draw of Eldrazi Temple -> Eye of Ugin -> Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth + Oblivion Sower is a very close second.
Lastly is the copy of Wastes. Playing one is close to a free roll, but the fact that you have something to search for from a Ghost Quarter/Path to Exile and you have a colorless land to find via Expedition Map to trump Blood Moon is a big deal. I considered playing a Gemstone Caverns or Mikokoro, Center of the Sea briefly, but I was very happy having one Wastes in my deck all weekend long.
So What Happened?
I said this one on CEDTalks this week, but it's worth repeating here - #GPDetroit was one of the most fun Magic tournaments I've ever played before. Having no byes and starting the tournament 9-1 certainly didn't hurt things, but I almost cancelled my trip to Detroit because I thought this Eldrazi-filled format was going to be horrible to play. In fact, if I hadn't bought tickets to #NXTCleveland weeks in advance, I probably would have just sat on my couch and watched Brooklyn Nine Nine all weekend.
Instead, my games were dynamic, my mulligan decisions were both difficult and rewarding, and I have many memorable moments that I will take with me for the rest of my life. Going 10-5 didn't have me leave the Motor City with any cash, but an extra Pro Point is nice, as are some of the stories I'm about to share.
Thanks for the Mana
In round 2, I played against a super cool kid named Mika who was playing Merfolk. Given my history playing G/R Tron, I knew that Oblivion Stone was the absolute nuts against Merfolk if I could play it fast enough. So in game 3, when my first three lands got hit with Spreading Seas/Sea's Claim, I didn't have too much to worry about. I simply cast an Oblivion Stone, built up a small defense, and refused to attack into his Harbinger of the Tides for numerous turns.
As I said earlier, Oblivion Stone puts people between a rock and a hard place. If your opponent stops playing stuff, you're gonna draw out of whatever situation you're in because your cards are so laughably powerful. And if they do play stuff, you get to kill all that stuff with the Oblivion Stone. During this game, Mika was clearly uncomfortable playing against an active Oblivion Stone, which was an added benefit of having it in my deck. I eventually built up Tron, blew the Oblivion Stone, and cast twenty mana's worth of spells the following turn.
But Wait! There's More!
I hope you're not tired of the Oblivion Stone stories yet. Because when I played against Samuel Burton during round 5, I had a real doozy. Here's the gamestate:
So I've mentioned a bit recently on various mediums that I'm really rusty at Magic right now. My results over on the SCG Tour® over the first two months of this year are a pretty strong indicator of that, as I haven't made day two of any Open and have been getting destroyed in all of the Classics on Sunday. One of my main frustrations was that I simply wasn't seeing how the turns would play out ahead of time, which is a skill the best players have mastered. But, for the first time all year, that all changed.
In this situation, playing Oblivion Stone forces my opponent into what is likely a game losing attack.
If you look at Burton's battlefield, he can attack me down to exactly one so long as he doesn't draw anything of relevance (Chord of Calling, Elvish Archdruid, Collected Company, Shaman of the Pack). For what it's worth, I'm dead to any of those cards, so I just have to play as though they don't exist. I realized my best chance to win was to play Oblivion Stone, hopefully have Burton realize that all of his creatures were going to die anyway, so an alpha strike to put me to one was his best course of action, and then cast a game winning Reality Smasher.
In game 2 of Round 10 against #GPDetroit runner up Evan Buchholz, I looked at my opening hand and couldn't keep it fast enough
Evan mulliganed to five, I played a turn 3 Oblivion Sower, received an Eye of Ugin and Plains, played a Thought-Knot Seer (mana floating from the Tron, ya know?), played the Eldrazi Mimic I drew for the turn, and passed the turn. We had some light-hearted conversation about the beating he just took as we shuffled up for game 3, but all I could think was…
"Wasted the nuts."
And in that moment, I thought to myself, "I wonder if other people think this when this happens." I've been playing competitive Magic for over a decade and a lot of things run through my mind when I play. But on numerous occasions, I have thought "My hand is the nuts! Please don't mulligan this game. Mulligan the next one. I don't want this to be wasted!"
So I went around asking people I respect who will remain nameless so they can save face and asked if they ever have the thought that I had during the game. Their answer?
"Yeah all the time. I rarely have the nuts."
"Anyone who doesn't is a liar!"
In that moment, it felt good to be back in the trenches with the people I love playing the game I love. I like to think I'm my own special level of crazy, but it's good to see that my peers are too!
Everything in life can be seen as a lesson and #GPDetroit had numerous ones for me. The rust is starting to come off of my game and that makes me really happy. Losing is obviously frustrating, but feeling like you have no idea what you're doing because you spent so much time with a headset on over the past three years is worse. It was nice to actually string some wins together and play some good games of Magic.
With any luck, I can do so again this weekend at #GPDC.