It’s clear that Eldrazi are the hot creature type these days as we just experienced a Pro Tour smashed by them. For Limited, they’re a little harder to dissect and serve a variety of roles across many different decks and deck archetypes. In my review of the color pairs, I briefly was able to touch upon what the various devoid color pairings were up to, but after playing with the individual Eldrazi in Oath of the Gatewatch much more, I now want to talk about the roles they fill and their importance to each deck. The cool thing is that they range from extremely aggressive to extremely controlling, so just picking devoid creatures and throwing them all into a deck can end up being a big mistake. I’m going to rank each card on an aggression level from 1 to 10. Up first, aggro:
You can’t be more aggressive than this in Limited. Curving out with Reaver Drone can end games very quickly, and it fits best in a lean RB shell. But UB can be similarly aggressive if you prioritize low drops, and Reaver Drone can play a reasonable role in either. The problem lies in the fact that the Drone ends up getting blocked quickly, and will often only deal 2-4 damage before it sits on the battlefield being a useless body.
Its effectiveness mirrors that of Expedition Envoy from triple-Battle for Zendikar who was never able to attack, and wasn’t worth playing even though it triggered rally. Interestingly, while Reaver Drone is usually not worth playing, the Envoy is much better now thanks to cohort, and the fact that white has more access to support to help the Envoy trade up with 2/3s. If you happen to be all in, I can see Reaver Drone making the cut, but it looks much better than it plays.
This creature is all about attacking like the Drone but can continue attacking much longer. It requires a heavy commitment to devoid similar to that of Molten Nursery, but if you’re able to amass 3 Sky Scourers and continually curve into devoid spells, you’re going to be quite happy. Netcaster Spider and Makindi Aeronaut are the main enemies of the Scourer, but you can sometimes set up a turn where you can double trigger the Scourer, especially with Unnatural Endurance in combat. That way, you can trade up with your Scourer while taking out a large creature on your other blocked creature, which always ends in a huge tempo swing.
I was mentioned UB as a possible aggressive deck, and Scourer can find a home there, though RB is much more common. In the case of the blue pairing, you’re likely to lean mostly black and get payoffs in pack 3 from Battle for Zendikar where there are good blue aggressive cards like Eldrazi Skyspawner, Cloud Manta, Rush of Ice, or Clutch of Currents.
Flayer Drone looks like it’s all about attacking because of its life loss clause, but Eldrazi can be deceiving. While you’ll be encouraged to build towards an aggressive shell, a 3/1 first strike is a very good blocker as well as attacker. The life loss is a nice bonus at any point in the game as most of your Limited decks will lean midrange.
That said, the Drone is clearly best in an aggressive deck, which RB pushes toward. Following with this after a Sky Scourer is an easy way to get ahead in a game and this is a gold card worth picking relatively early since it has such a high impact on the game. Unnatural Endurance once again plays nicely with this Drone, and more often than not, your opponent will have to let the Flayer Drone through rather than risk getting 2-for-1’d on a risky double-block.
While I’m on the topic of pump spells, I’ll point out that RB decks usually aren’t interested in Brute Strength, but if you have a pair of Flayer Drones and a couple Sky Scourers, that card can close games. It also works nicely with Slaughter Drone for extra trample damage if you can give it deathtouch.
Don’t let the activation text box fool you—Mindmelter wants to rumble. Most colorless activation cards like Blinding Drone want many sources so you can use them turn after turn, but Mindmelter is perfectly serviceable in a UB deck that wants to attack even without access to a lot of colorless mana. The activated ability will still be relevant at times, but it’s also a bit of a trap since you want to develop your board most of the time rather than use the ability in the early stages of the game. In a slower deck, the ability becomes much better since you can peck away for damage while trying to control the pace of the game such that you have time to utilize the ability. All of this adds up to a gold card I’m not clamoring to pick early, unlike Flayer Drone.
Is this higher on the aggression list than you expected? A 3/5 attacks through a lot of things! Clearly, a 5 ranking means it’s more midrange than anything else, but I’ve always been pleasantly surprised after casting the Translator. It has some nice sequencing potential with Slaughter Drone, Blinding Drone, and Kozilek’s Shrieker since you can activate colorless on turn 5 immediately after casting the Translator. This isn’t quite casting two spells in a turn, but it can sometimes feel like it because of the tempo boost you get.
I think the prospects of using it on your turn for mana and on the opponent’s turn come up less often than you’d think, but any time it does it’s incredibly powerful. One of the most common interactions where this happens is with Essence Depleter, but any mana sink will suffice. I almost always want 1 Translator in my black decks, and don’t mind 2 in my slower versions that can use its mana production when the game goes long.
Maw of Kozilek
This card looked more aggressive to me than it has played out since I wanted it for its 5 toughness and a pump bonus more than pure beatdowns. I figured I’d be rumbling in for 6, but that doesn’t tend to happen until a game goes very long, at which point a board stall doesn’t encourage the option of a 6/1 (though you’ll still often trade 2-for-1 with 2 bad creatures).
A single 3/3 is the right size while blocking the Maw since it either bounces or trades, but the Maw’s controller at least has a choice in these instances. I’ve also found it a bit harder to have extra colorless mana lying around early unless you pair with blue. When that does happen though, your deck tends to lean to a slower build focused on maximizing colorless mana, which leads to the Maw being a slower threat.
In RB I’d usually rather have the Translator because your deck will frequently care more about devoid than colorless mana, though the combination of turn-4 Maw into turn-5 Translator is quite powerful, and the first Maw is a good addition to any non-white red deck.
The best blue common is here! I like picking up Blinding Drone early and drafting my colorless mana later. There’s been an abundance of mana in packs and at worst you’ll end up having to play a couple Wastes. That’s not horrible since decks with multiple Blinding Drones end up leaning toward the mono-blue-with-a-splash side, so your mana base will end up looking like 8-9 blue sources, 5-7 of your splash, and 5-7 colorless sources (including those from mana creatures).
Once Blinding Drone is online it will help extend the game, which is why I typically value it higher in a more powerful controlling deck. It can help you beat down of course, but that plan could still fail, whereas getting to 7 mana to drop a Sphinx of the Final Word and just win works much better as an overall plan (and is way sweeter). I’d play almost any number of Blinding Drones I’m lucky enough to draft, though you have to be careful to pick up enough colorless sources to support drawing multiples.
One final interaction I’ve found incredible is pairing Blinding Drone with Seer’s Lantern. This lets you activate the Drone right away on turn 3, and once the ramp isn’t valuable, lets you fix your draws later in the game to find your great win condition you drafted your deck around.
Cultivator Drone/Hedron Crawler
These are useful support pieces for blue devoid decks, and can be some of the best cards in your deck, or borderline picks if you don’t draft a cohesive plan with them in mind. The Crawler lets you cheat a bit on colorless sources from your lands, but also provides meaningful ramp. If I have 2 Crawlers, I’ll be much more interested in having a deck with more 4- and 5-drop creatures. But the Crawler’s body is so insignificant that you need to be sure you can get a card’s worth of value out of it. Simply putting it into a normal deck as a 2-drop will help you accelerate some, but if your opponent manages to keep up at all, then you’ve effectively mulliganed.
Cultivator Drone doesn’t have quite the same lack of body, but it also costs more so it is clunkier. 5-drop Eldrazi are much better with Cultivator Drone since you can naturally curve them, and it can set up some filthy draws with a fast Kozilek’s Channeler. My favorite part of the Cultiavtor Drone is that it creates a nice road block that is usually expendable. If my GW opponent attacks with their 2/2 creature, I’m happy to trade my Drone for a trick and follow up with another copy. They play defense well and set up powerful plays which I’m all for.
I hope you can start to see where these Eldrazi fit in and evaluate them under the context of their archetype homes. This prevents you from trying to draft UR Eldrazi Aggro or BR Eldrazi Control. Certainly these decks can exist under niche cirumstances, but they’re the exceptions to the rule, and knowing all the rules first is of utmost importance before you play. Now go defeat all those Allies with your Eldrazi!