Eldrazi Tron. A deck that for some reason has never gotten the respect it deserves, something that has been common of various Tron decks in Modern's past. I've heard plenty of well-respected players have opinions on Eldrazi Tron that vary from the deck being "bad" to "unplayable," but these players misunderstand the role Eldrazi Tron plays in Modern's current metagame. The deck looks straightforward enough, so what's with the misconceptions?
The three Urza's Tron lands are easily the most powerful part of the deck and always have been. When they're online they lead to incredible draws that are difficult for any deck to keep up with, but frankly, most games you won't have the luxury of gaining obscene amounts of mana from the deck's namesake lands. Many people are afraid of these games and think the deck has "clunky" draws when Tron isn't online. In reality these are the majority of games. You need to embrace them. You shouldn't be throwing hands out aggressively to try to get Tron online because Eldrazi Tron can function perfectly well without it. The fact is most real games of Magic you play are ugly with both decks not having their best opening hands or draws, and Eldrazi Tron can win a majority of its games without the Tron lands active, and you shouldn't be scared of not having all three of them.
Bad news: I don't believe these cards are playable in the archetype. Sure they feel amazing to cast and lead to fun stories to tell your friends when these bombs completely change the outlook of a game, but the cost of having these cards stuck in your hand in the early game is simply too high.
With Eldrazi Tron you need to be able to stay alive during the first five turns and then go over the top of your opponent, and these cards not only don't help you survive in the early game, but also aren't necessary to win the late game. I don't want to rely on having Tron active to cast my spells since it's somewhat rare, and especially not when the most popular deck in the metagame has access to a one-mana unconditional counterspell in their sideboard.
Karn Liberated is currently the most expensive card in my Eldrazi Tron list, and I've probably cast it using seven lands as many times as using three. Going more expensive than that just isn't reliable or necessary.
Why is Eldrazi Tron the Best Deck in Modern?
I guess I've made that claim now, so why do I honestly think that Eldrazi Tron is the best choice moving into #gpvegas this weekend?
First off, every game you get to do something. Sure that thing isn't always spectacular--maybe your first play is turn 3 Matter Reshaper--but the amount of games you automatically lose to your manabase is extremely small. You never have problems with having the right color of mana and all of your lands come in untapped. Compare this to Grixis Death's Shadow where I won three games at #scgchar simply from my opponent not having the correct color of mana available to cast spells. This may seem like a small thing, but having a chance in every single game over fifteen rounds is a big deal.
Some percentage of games you have turn 3 Tron and a nearly unbeatable draw. It's not common, but combine this with other decks losing a percentage of games to their manabase and you start each tournament off with a much higher than normal win percentage due to variance compared to other decks.
You have a favorable Death's Shadow matchup. This is a statement I haven't said about any deck before, but I honestly think my current iteration of Eldrazi Tron does. I'll get more into this matchup during the sideboard guide later, but I fully expect Grixis Death's Shadow players to tune their lists for #gpvegas to be more prepared for the matchup. I expect three Ceremonious Rejection to be the norm instead of only two, which most players I played this past weekend had.
You have a favorable matchup against the other top decks of the format, such as Dredge, Abzan, and Jund. These three decks are three of my favorite decks to play against, as Eldrazi Tron matches up perfectly against the three-color midrange decks and has an abundance of hate cards against the format's most popular graveyard strategy.
Counters Company is the other popular top tier strategy. Although the games against them are usually completely lopsided one way or the other, it's a pretty close matchup.
Your worst matchups are being pushed out of the metagame by Grixis Death's Shadow. Thankfully, the combination of Thoughtseize, Stubborn Denial, and a fast clock is the perfect way to fight Ad Nauseam, Scapeshift, and green Tron decks, which are probably Eldrazi Tron's three worst matchups. Those three decks were already seeing a decline when Jund Death's Shadow started to dominate the metagame, but that decline has only increased since Stubborn Denial and Snapcaster Mage took the reigns of Death's Shadow strategies, which is exactly what Eldrazi Tron wanted.
So in summation, Eldrazi Tron very rarely loses to itself while sometimes having extremely good draws, and the metagame is in a place where the better decks of the format are your good matchups and your bad matchups are in a big decline. Put it all together, and you have the best deck in the format for #gpvegas this weekend.
General Tips and Tricks
I know there's a lot of people who will be picking up this deck without a lot of time to practice before #gpvegas, so here's some general play pattern tips to be familiar with.
What you have in your opening hand determines how to sequence your lands. If you have two Tron lands and an Eldrazi Temple, for example, usually lead on the Temple if you have a potential turn two Thought-Knot Seer if you topdeck another Eldrazi Temple unless you also have a large payoff card such as Karn Liberated if you hit your third Tron piece.
You should mostly grab missing Tron pieces with Expedition Map. You want as much mana as possible when casting Walking Ballista. Exceptions include if you have no cards in hand or tons of mana and Sea Gate Wreckage is the card to grab, or if you wouldn't have a play the next turn and need to grab an Eldrazi Temple to cast a creature.
It's also often correct to grab Cavern of Souls against counter-heavy decks even if you won't have enough mana to cast a creature the next turn.
I name "Construct" with Cavern of Souls approximately a fourth of the time to be able to have Walking Ballista resolve in the late game, or Hangarback Walker from the sideboard. If you draw both Caverns, make sure to name "Construct" with one of them.
Since EldrazI Temple reads "...or activate abilities of colorless Eldrazi" you can tap it for two mana to activate Endbringer to draw a card. Similarly Eldrazi Temple taps for two mana when casting All is Dust.
There will be plenty of times early in a game, such as turn 3 and having Tron active, where you could cast Thought-Knot Seer or Reality Smasher. You should almost always cast Thought-Knot Seer, even into an opponent's removal spell. The ability to Thoughtseize your opponent is better the early in the game, and playing Reality Smasher later can still present a quick clock that is hopefully clear from the Thought-Knot Seer.
Try to save Walking Ballista for the late game instead of playing it on turn 2 unless you need to kill a creature or if playing against a deck where you need the fastest possible clock, like Scapeshift.
Try to empty your hand if possible because of Sea Gate Wreckage. Which means don't keep excess lands in your hand to bluff a card to the opponent, because if you topdeck Sea Gate Wreckage, you'll want to be able to activate it. Similarly, feel free to cast your own spells into your Chalice of the Void to get them out of your hand if you're confident your opponent won't destroy your Chalice of the Void with something like a Kolaghan's Command.
Always try to set Chalice of the Void on two against Burn, not on one (unless you have a second Chalice in hand). Their most devastating spells, especially after the first two turns, will cost two mana. This is even more vital post-sideboard when they have Destructive Revelry. Against Scapeshift put Chalice of the Void on zero to counter Summoner's Pact.
Probably obvious here, but equipping a Basilisk Collar to a Walking Ballista or Endbringer gives the creature deathtouch, which allows them to easily destroy all but the most indestructible of creatures. When Reality Smasher is equipped with the Collar you only need to assign one damage to each blocking creature and the rest of the damage can trample over at the opponent.
Cards I name the most with Pithing Needle:
Eldrazi Tron's biggest weakness is the lack of available sideboard options due to being a strictly colorless deck. This means that in a lot of matchups you will have maybe two or four cards that will be in your deck post-sideboard that you don't really want to be there, but perfect options aren't available in the 75. I frequently change what those last cards are when shuffling up to present, depending on specific cards I see from my opponent or how they play the matchup. Anyway here's my plan for a few of the most popular decks you'll face at #gpvegas.
Vs. Grixis Death's Shadow
Michael Majors helped me come to the conclusion to sideboard like this on stream the day before #scgchar, and since I have I'm 14-1 in games against Grixis Death's Shadow, with the only loss coming game 1 of the semifinals against Andrew Jessup when he had two Death's Shadows on turn 2. Now this matchup is much closer than that and most games were very close and I was fortunate in many spots, but I obviously do believe the matchup is great.
When playing this matchup before at #scgbalt I believed that Karn Liberated and Walking Ballista were key pieces to the matchup, as one was unbeatable if it resolved and the other could finish off an opponent at a low life total.
Yeah I was completely wrong.
I was suffering from the same thinking that I wrote about earlier when talking about other expensive cards. Sure, Karn Liberated and Walking Ballista are home run cards when they resolve, but Grixis Death's Shadow is not a deck that you should be swinging for the fences against. Karn can easily be Stubborn Denialed or Ceremoniously Rejected even if I'm lucky enough to have the mana to cast it, and Walking Ballista would frequently chump block and then go to the graveyard with me not wanting to deal one point of damage to my opponent. Like I said earlier, you need to be able to survive the first five turns and stay with your opponent, and these two cards weren't cutting it.
I already had Wurmcoil Engine before, but the addition of Hangarback Walker gave me more creatures that were must-counter threats from the opponent, and I actively wanted to use Cavern of Souls to protect my two sideboard bullets. It's not big mana savings over the previous cards, but playing Hangarback Walker early and adding a counter to it each turn isn't unrealistic. Add these to having access to a full set of Relic of Progenitus and suddenly I was able to cast basically every spell within the first five turns, even without Tron available, while having more disruption for the opponent. The Relics don't effectively keep Grixis Death's Shadow from casting their delve threats, but it can stop Snapcaster Mage from flashing back a key spell, which is vital.
Each one of my Grixis Death's Shadow opponents at #scgchar had basically the same decklist and plan for the matchup, and they were easy to play against since they were confident behind their Ceremonious Rejections and weren't prepared. I'm not expecting that for #gpvegas, and it will be interesting to see how the Grixis Death's Shadow players adapt this weekend.
Vs Eldrazi Tron
Honestly, my version of Eldrazi Tron is not built to beat the mirror. This sideboard plan is what I used this past weekend, and it still included me keeping in two Relic of Progenitus. Chalice of the Void and All is Dust have to come out in the matchup, and I don't have enough to really bring in. One option is to bring in the two Surgical Extractions, but I honestly think it's very hard to make them actually worth an entire card in the matchup. I know Cedric Phillips said on coverage that I liked to bring them in to stop Tron, but that's against green Tron decks and not the mirror. Overall, Surgical Extraction is the card that many players sideboard in for too many matchups. With Ratchet Bomb you mostly want to destroy an opposing Basilisk Collar if you don't control one, but it can also clean up Walking Ballista or Hangarback Walker just fine.
Dredge is the matchup I sideboard the most for, and with the abundance of graveyard hate cards, you are a very heavy favorite post-sideboard. The rest of the sideboard cards coming in are cards that help roadblock your opponent and can keep you alive. Warping Wail is secretly an all-star in the matchup and can counter Life from the Loam, Faithless Looting, Cathartic Reunion, and Conflagrate, listed in order of importance with the burn spell the most problematic depending on the game state. That's not all though, exiling an attacking Bloodghast or a Stinkweed Imp on defense can give you a needed combat reprieve.
Vs Counters Company
Like I mentioned before, this matchup is quite close, but the individual games are usually blowouts. You can easily die on turn 3 if you can't deal with a Devoted Druid, or if you have Tron into Walking Ballista the game is probably over the other way. We have a lot to bring in for this matchup as well. Pithing Needle should most likely name Devoted Druid, but Duskwatch Recruiter is fine to name as well. With Surgical Extraction you really want to get one of the two combo pieces to keep them from ever gaining infinite mana, but sometimes you need to take Kitchen Finks to protect yourself from infinite life (which you can beat but it takes a long time) or grab a Collected Company an Eternal Witness is returning. Warping Wail is more interaction for Devoted Druid, and make sure to use it while Druid is summoning sick or at least before Vizier of Remedies enters the battlefield.
Affinity is not a match I love to face, and I'm really relying on Walking Ballista. Killing Steel Overseer on turn 2 is an absolute must, and Pithing Needle usually names Cranial Plating. The Blinkmoth lands can be problematic, and I often times fetch Ghost Quarter with Expedition Map. Hangarback Walker isn't amazing, but it can block Arcbound Ravager or Master of Etherium to make flying blockers. Sometimes you have to use your Ratchet Bomb or Dismember to kill your own Hangarback to make some defensive Thopters. Also, it may sound strange, but I've had success keeping in All is Dust before against Affinity to take out Master of Etherium, Vault Skirge, and if you're lucky, Ghirapur Aether Grid, even though that card probably doesn't come in for the matchup. Master of Etherium is a very serious threat though, and playing an All is Dust for it can save you when no other card can.
I didn't have the time or space to write about every matchup in Modern, but hopefully this was a useful guide for all the newer Eldrazi Tron players that are interested in picking the deck up for #gpvegas this weekend. I'm sure there will be plenty of Grixis Death's Shadow there, and they definitely have the ability to adapt. Be ready for a tough fight and a lot of close games, but in the end Eldrazi Tron has all the tools to be the best deck and the one to play this weekend.