Hi everybody! I'm Ben Weitz, and I've decided to give this writing thing a semi-regular try and see how I like it. If you know much about me and the decks I like, it will come as no surprise that I've chosen to write about R/G Eldrazi in the new Modern world. The deck proved itself viable by winning Grand Prix Lyon, and since I will be headed to GP Phoenix in this weekend, I've been working on incorporating the extremely powerful Bloodbraid Elf into the deck. I started out playing only three, but it did not take many games of casting the card to convince myself to move all the way up to four. This is my most recent version:
- 4 Bloodbraid Elf
- 4 Eldrazi Obligator
- 2 Endbringer
- 4 Matter Reshaper
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Reality Smasher
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
Most of the deck remains unchanged from Grzegorz Kowalski 's GP-winning decklist. The main difference is that I cut the weaker, non-synergistic main deck Scavenging Oozes and Forked Bolt for the powerful, non-synergistic Bloodbraid Elf. The sideboard is also different, but that's natural in an ever-changing format like Modern.
R/G Eldrazi is, at its core, an aggressive deck. This can be contrasted with previous iterations of (fair) Eldrazi decks, like Bant Eldrazi and Eldrazi Tron. Bant Eldrazi was more of a midrange deck that frequently played to control the battlefield with Eldrazi Displacer and Drowner of Hope. Eldrazi Tron is a big mana deck which leverages the Eldrazi cards as a midpoint between early and late game spells, and plans to invalidate the opponent's cards by playing large threats that require specialized answers. R/G Eldrazi, on the other hand, has a fundamentally aggressive game plan of dealing lots of damage to the opponent in the early game and finishing with Reality Smasher, Eldrazi Obligator, Lightning Bolt, or Kessig Wolf Run as ways to push through the final points of damage. That's quite a few cards that are capable of sneaking in a win, and this fact makes R/G Eldrazi quite consistent at executing its game plan. Eldrazi Obligator, in particular, is capable of dealing a huge amount of damage out of nowhere, and even opponents as high as twelve life have been known to fall to its fury. Even though Obligator can be at its best when ripped from the top of the deck, you should not be afraid to play it early and often. Attacking for four on turn 2 is exactly what an aggressive deck wants to do!
Luckily for us, the core stats of Bloodbraid Elf lend themselves to aggressive gameplay. Adding four copies of a 3/2 haste to a deck that already has eight haste creatures gives the deck even more potential to push in damage against cards that have typically been powerful against Eldrazi decks, such as Supreme Verdict, Damnation, Liliana of the Veil, or Nahiri, the Harbinger. With the addition of Bloodbraid Elf, I can confidently say that planeswalkers are simply embarrassing against R/G Eldrazi (yes, even Jace). Bloodbraid Elf isn't all upside, however. The Elf sadly is not an Eldrazi, which means the card costs a whole four actual mana, which is pretty expensive in Modern. Because R/G Eldrazi wants to play out aggressively, there's a fine line to walk between cheap threats and expensive, hard-to-interact-with threats. I'm not confident that this deck has the totally optimal composition of cheap and expensive cards, but I do believe that whatever that is, it has four Bloodbraid Elf.
Now that we understand the philosophy and strategy behind R/G Eldrazi, we can hop into specific matchups.
VS U/R Gifts Storm
The first game can be rough because we do not have that many cards that keep a Baral, Chief of Compliance or Goblin Electromancer off the battlefield. That said, if you do draw an interactive spell, my experience is that you are reasonably likely to win. We kill them very fast with all the haste creatures, so they don't have infinite time to set up. Thought-Knot Seer is also an all-star in this matchup; just take whatever they are most throttled on. A good heuristic is to take Gifts Ungiven -> Mana Creature -> Manamorphose -> either cantrip or Ritual.
The Ratchet Bomb is optional since it is only really good against Empty the Warrens, but every once in a while it kills Baral or an Electromancer. I like to take out some expensive, slow cards because it isn't a grindy matchup and you just want to win ASAP and disrupt them while you can. The graveyard hate cards make it hard for them to kill you quickly, but they will eventually overpower them so you really need to back them up with a clock. Warping Wail can exile Baral and counter Past in Flames (or Pieces of the Puzzle if they sideboarded into that), but don't hesitate to just make a Scion and turbo out a Thought-Knot Seet or Reality Smasher. I don't usually expect Storm to sideboard in Blood Moon, but if they do, keep the Talismans in instead of two Matter Reshapers.
Tron is a close matchup, with a lot of games simply coming down to how good their hand is. Oblivion Stone is their best card by far as Karn is susceptible to haste creatures if he wants to interact with the battlefield, and Wurmcoil Engine is vulnerable to being taken with Eldrazi Obligator. Obligator really shines in this matchup as a way to punish your opponent for drawing the wrong threat to go with their Tron pieces. The versions of Tron that splash black are generally harder than the moon-green ones, since Fatal Push is very good against Thought-Knot Seer, one of your more powerful cards.
Endbringer is too slow to have a meaningful impact on the game since fogging Wurmcoil Engine is not actually a good way to make progress in a game, so it gets sideboarded out. I bring in all the cards that positively interact with Oblivion Stone, but don't be afraid to fire them off on Chromatic Stars, Chromatic Spheres, and Expedition Maps, as Grzegorz won one of his Top 8 matches by color-screwing his Tron opponent! Even though Tron frequently plays Oblivion Stone with the mana to activate it, artifact removal is still good against the powerful artifact because we have so many haste creatures in our deck that force our opponent's hand.
VS B/R Hollow One
I usually like to try to race B/R Hollow One because otherwise you slowly die to their small, evasive, recurring creatures. I also like racing because Eldrazi Obligator and Reality Smasher are such effective tools at winning races. Since a bunch of creatures out of the Hollow One deck cannot even block, Obligator is particularly effective. It's very hard to win if they get a broken start with multiple early Hollow Ones because you have few effective ways of removing it other than blocking, but that's Modern for you. Because of this, I think the matchup is unfavorable.
Even though they have a bunch of graveyard cards, I don't really like sideboarding in Relic of Progenitus because I think it's just a bit slow and will often only remove a single threat. Grafdigger's Cage stops anything from coming back from the graveyard and only costs a single mana (be careful when resolving your Matter Reshaper triggers if you have a Grafdigger's Cage on the battlefield though). Kitchen Finks comes in as a great card when racing. It's a bit of a nonbo with Cage, but if you have Cage on the battlefield, you're probably in good shape anyway.
VS G/R Ponza
This matchup is the only reason I have Talisman of Impulse in my deck at all. It was super popular on Magic Online for a few weeks, and I wasn't happy constantly getting Blood Moon'd on turn 2. If you draw Talisman, they probably can't win unless they have a really good hand, and you should frequently take it off of Ancient Stirrings. This iteration of Eldrazi is also a lot less susceptible to Blood Moon than some previous colored Eldrazi decks, since it plays red cards, like Bloodbraid Elf and Eldrazi Obligator. You have a lot of acceleration to try and outpace their land destruction, and if you get two threats on the battlefield, you're in great shape to win. If they don't have Blood Moon, then Eldrazi Obligator can be totally insane. Remember not to accidentally expose your basic Forests to land destruction.
You don't need a density of threats in the deck because their deck is not good at removing your creatures. Matter Reshaper is the worst card that requires colorless mana after Endbringer, which is expensive and thus, not good against the deck with a million land destruction spells. Warping Wail can counter land destruction, kill Arbor Elf, or ramp out a creature. I originally only sideboarded them in on the play, but I think they're good enough on the draw as well. Don't forget you can Pithing Needle Arbor Elf because its ability is not actually a mana ability.
I've always believed Eldrazi decks to have favorable Jund matchups, and while the newest versions of both decks now get to play Bloodbraid Elf, I believe Bloodbraid Elf is better against Jund than in Jund. Make sure you kill Dark Confidant when you can, and do your best to play around Liliana of the Veil as she is always their best path to victory. This is one of the few matchups in which I don't mulligan aggressively for an Eldrazi Temple or a way to get mana fast. You don't have to be fast, and mulliganing against Thoughtseize is the worst. This is another matchup where Eldrazi Obligator can do tons of damage, as Jund doesn't have many creatures, but most of them are Tarmogoyfs.
We are mostly pre-sideboarded in this matchup. Because we don't have to be fast, we can take out the copies of Talisman of Impulse. Noble Hierarch gets to stay because it can swing for damage and protect Eldrazi from Liliana. Kitchen Finks has always been a strong grindy card against Jund, and Relic of Progenitus can be used to keep Tarmogoyfs from getting out of hand. If your opponent has Lingering Souls or Grim Flayer, you probably want the other Relic and you can cut an Obligator.
VS Mardu Pyromancer
This is another grindy control/midrange deck, and I believe that R/G Eldrazi has good matchups against grindy fair decks. My confidence against this deck is lower though, since I have not played a lot of matches against it. Lingering Souls and Young Pyromancer can both be problematic, and some Pyromancer decks play Blood Moon as well. R/G Eldrazi is less susceptible to Blood Moon than Bant Eldrazi since it actually plays red cards, and even less so now that Bloodbraid Elf is in the deck, but you can still easily lose games to it. On the flip side, they don't have Tarmogoyf so they are much softer to Reality Smasher (although more insulated against Obligator). On the whole, I think it's harder than Jund, but still good.
The swap of Tarmogoyf to Lingering Souls is enough to make me unexcited about Eldrazi Obligator in this matchup, and we want to sideboard in some interactive sweepers to take care of a Young Pyromancer or Souls that get out of hand. These cards also have the benefit of killing Blood Moon. Natural State is not worth sideboarding in because we aren't soft enough to Blood Moon to warrant playing a card that has no other targets.
VS G/W Hexproof
G/W Hexproof has never been a good matchup for colored Eldrazi decks. Any deck which obsoletes a 5/5 creature so quickly is not a good matchup for Eldrazi decks, which get their advantage from having the biggest creatures around. Your only hope of winning the first game is that they hit their fail rate or never draw Daybreak Coronet.
Endbringer is too slow, and Matter Reshaper doesn't really attack or block very well. Dismember is not very good against G/W Hexproof either, as it only kills Kor Spiritdancer. You do want some number of cards to interact with the Kor Wizard, but I think leaning on Lightning Bolt is enough. If they don't put a lifelink enchantment on Spiritdancer, you also have outs to Obligate it. Because our deck is built around pushing in damage, killing lifelink enchantments is our top priority. All is Dust can also give us an out if things really go awry.
Burn has always been a very close matchup. If you draw Thought-Knot Seer, you're a favorite to win. If they draw multiple Eidolon of the Great Revel, you're also a favorite to win. It can be very tricky to figure out when you should attack to prevent topdecked burn spells versus holding back to play around a haste creature or a Searing Blaze. It's so contextual that I think you just have to play a lot of matches to get the hang of it. I will say that I don't often play around Searing Blaze because they usually snap those off as soon as they can, so if you have a creature on the battlefield that can attack, it's safe to say that your next creature will be able to block.
Warping Wail is not great, but it can sometimes counter a lethal Lava Spike or Rift Bolt and can serve as a chump blocker in a pinch. Dismember is obviously bad against Burn and, once again, Endbringer is our slowest card so they both come out.
Affinity has existed since the dawn of Modern and will continue to exist until the death of Magic. This is one of the only matchups that makes me wish I was playing Bant Eldrazi instead of R/G Eldrazi. I loved playing Bant against Affinity. The games were really fun and interactive, and Eldrazi Displacer was such a great card in the matchup. As it is, you are not a favorite to win game 1 because the random small creatures can make it hard to push through damage with Eldrazi Obligator or Bloodbraid Elf, and you don't really have enough removal to actually kill all their threats. Remember you can use Eldrazi Obligator on Arcbound Ravager to force action from your opponent, but if they sacrifice the Ravager, then you can choose not to pay the kicker for Obligator. Once they let you decide whether or not to pay, they cannot respond. Luckily, after sideboarding we get to improve significantly.
I used to play four Ancient Grudge just because it's the best overall sideboard card in R/G colors by a wide margin, but the onset of G/W Hexproof and G/R Ponza has led me to play some copies of Natural State instead. The cards to bring in are pretty self-explanatory. I dislike Thought-Knot Seer against Affinity because they usually dump their hand so fast it isn't very effective. On top of that, they have Galvanic Blast which trades very cleanly and cheaply with it. Thought-Knot Seer can be good on the play, but I generally prefer to just keep it out of my deck and focus on taking a control role and killing all my opponent's relevant artifacts. Endbringer may be slow, but its abilities are so good in this matchup that I like to keep it in. Also your increased density of removal spells makes the game take longer, and landing an Endbringer is pretty close to game over.
VS UW / Jeskai Control
In the past I thought that Eldrazi was well-positioned against U/W or Jeskai Control decks simply because I did not think those decks were very good. Nowadays I think they've received enough tools to pose a real problem. Search for Azcanta provides a reliable end-game that isn't embarrassing in the early game, and Spreading Seas + Field of Ruin provide outs to Cavern of Souls or Kessig Wolf Run. Bloodbraid Elf is absurdly good against these kinds of decks though, and in this matchup you just jam threats and hope their answers don't line up (which happens pretty often). Cavern of Souls is good enough that you should take it over Eldrazi Temple off Ancient Stirrings in most instances. Remember to keep your powerful lands in hand until the turn you use them to play around Spreading Seas and Field of Ruin. Sometimes you want to play your haste creatures in your second main phase because of Cryptic Command.
Relic of Progenitus isn't fantastic, but it shuts down two of their very best cards: Snapcaster Mage and Search for Azcanta. If you see Detention Sphere, you should also bring in both copies of Natural State. Whether or not to sideboard out Dismembers depends on if you think your opponent will have Spell Queller against you after sideboard, but keeping one Dismember for Celestial Colonnade is also pretty reasonable.
Unfortunately, Modern is way too big to cover every single matchup, but I think these matchups comprise a significant chunk of the metagame. If you've been getting crushed by a particular matchup that I missed, feel free to ask me here or on Twitter about what sort of changes you could make.
I love talking about Magic, and I especially love talking about Eldrazi! Good luck!