When I covered my first Grand Prix Top 8, I did not get into much detail about the deck I played, but this is only the second time Red-Green Eldrazi made a GP Top 8 and Modern has changed a lot since the first time. Because of that, I’ll share my card choices and sideboarding strategies for those who like attacking for big chunks of life with hasty monsters. Here is the list I played:
I will not delve into a detailed report of the tournament, but for reference, these are the matchups I faced in the Swiss rounds (I had no byes):
- Mardu Pyromancer
- Jeskai Control
- Grixis Shadow
- B/W 8-Rack
- Tron x 6 (yes, I did play and beat Tron six times)
- R/G Ponza
Swiss record: 12-1-2 (double ID into Top 8)
I lost my Top 8 match to Sebastian Pozzo and his Krark-Clan Ironworks deck after winning game 1 and bringing him down to virtually 1 life in both games 2 and 3. It was close.
I played my fair share of Bant Eldrazi last year and really liked the idea behind the red-green build. I just thought it needed some more focus on speed to beat unfair decks. Modern is a ruthless format and for a fair deck like this to succeed, it is very important to get ahead on the board early.
With this in mind, I chose to run more ramp sources to consistently have fast hands and present powerful threats turn after turn, starting as early as turn 2. For this reason, I added more 1-mana ramp creatures in the form of Boreal Druids—a choice deeper explained in my previous article. Given the built-in value of the Eldrazi core of the deck, having some “air” in the seven mana dorks makes up for an interesting balance. Against non-interactive decks the mana acceleration is too important and much more reliable since mana dorks will probably live to do their job. Against interactive decks you have enough value to make up for that “air.” The number of 2-for-1 cards also means that this deck is capable of good mulligan hands.
Another feature is the reliable and not too painful mana base. For a 3-colored deck—make no mistake, this is a 3 colors deck—this is as good as it gets in Modern. What other deck in Modern can play 8 untapped tri-colored lands? What other decks in Modern can play a Sol land that even produces one of the required colors? (Answer: any Eldrazi deck can.)
The only mana base tweak I have seen around is the basic Mountain being replaced for a third basic Forest and I understand why, but still disagree. The lack of red sources can be a problem, in my experience. Otherwise, Lightning Bolt starts to get too hard and maybe too late to get online. I would not change anything in the mana base.
The ten non-creature slots are filled with great 1-mana spells that help to balance out this otherwise clunky big monsters deck. Ancient Stirrings is ban-discussion-worthy powerful and adds a lot of redundancy. Lightning Bolt is the best red interaction that gives the deck some nice reach. Dismember is the 1-mana removal that Gruul decks were not supposed to have access to. This is a very good assortment that I would also not touch right now.
All remaining 21 slots are dedicated to threats. The Eldrazi 3-4-5 curve of Matter Reshaper, Though-Knot Seer, and Reality Smasher is part of pretty much every Eldrazi deck in Modern and Legacy. They provide value, disruption, and aggression with well-sized bodies. Eldrazi Obligator sits at two important spots in the curve, has haste, and the Threaten effect wins games out of nowhere. It can be a great play on turn 2 and a great finisher later in the game. Some people cut one but I cannot see myself doing it.
The last five threat slots are the ones I’d consider changing based on metagaming or further testing. For GP São Paulo I favored the playset of Bloodbraid Elf and one Scavenging Ooze. With Mardu Pyromancer and Jeskai Control having important shares of the metagame and B/G/x decks being a tradition in Brazilian Modern tournaments, Bloodbraid Elf seemed like a good choice to fight through the amount of spot removal I expected. Even though the cascade hits from BBE are not at their best here, they are still good to help grind and pressure the opponent’s life total and they did serve me well. The one Scavenging Ooze might deserve a second copy in the main deck somewhere.
It is possible that the right move is to reduce the number of Bloodbraid Elf in this deck or even cut it entirely in favor of different threats based on the expected metagame. BBE does feel a bit out of place sometimes. Possible options I see are Hazoret the Fervent, Rhonas the Indomitable, Thragtusk, Batterskull, Endbringer, or even Eldrazi Mimic if you feel like lowering down the curve. Let me know in the comments section what options you would consider for these slots.
My sideboard plan with Red-Green Eldrazi favors cheap, flexible cards with the goal of being able to cast threats and interact in the same turn as early as possible. This deck needs to apply pressure at all times. The first step when sideboarding with this deck is to figure out if you need to race or to grind. Also pay attention if you need to deal with key cards such as Blood Moon or Ensnaring Bridge. Colorless hate cards gain a lot of percentage points because of Ancient Stirrings.
The usual reminder applies: these are general guidelines that may need to be adjusted if you are on the play or on the draw, if there are specific cards you expect to face, or if you come out with a better plan.
Humans: Slightly Unfavorable
It is hard to race when a single Reflector Mage can put you too far behind. The deck is also weak to flyers so you have to kill them. The plan here is to bring in removal to deal with their relevant threats, namely Mantis Rider, while developing your own board presence. There is no need to bolt their Noble Hierarch since they become irrelevant quite early. Control the size of their ground creatures and try to find windows to attack. Stalling the ground for a couple of turns opens up the chance for Engineered Explosives to take over the game.
B/R Hollow One: Slightly Unfavorable
They can be too fast for you to race, so use Flame Slash, Dismember, Abrade, and Lightning Bolt to remove the early threats and protect your life total, but value also developing the board and attacking since they can grind you with graveyard shenanigans. Eldrazi Obligator can swing the game to your favor on a key turn. Warping Wail can counter a discard effect, exile a Bloodghast, or create a surprise blocker.
Jeskai/Blue-White Control: Slightly Favorable
All the threats are good and Cavern of Souls is key. Pressure early and avoid playing into a sweeper. I like to keep Dismembers post-board for their Baneslayer Angel, Lyra Dawnbringer, or Celestial Colonnade. Natural State always hits Search for Azcanta, but also has targets in Detention Sphere and Runed Halo that can show up. Pithing Needle is useful against Celestial Colonnade, planeswalkers, or Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin. I would board out 2-3 Lightning Bolts, and bring in 1-2 Natural Slates.
Grixis Shadow: Favorable
Eldrazi Obligator, Dismember, and Grove of the Burnwillows all shine in this matchup. The way you lose is to one or two early gigantic Death’s Shadows, so give the opponent life with Grove of the Burnwillows to keep them from doing that. The primary plan is to set up the board to win in one or two attacks.
Burn: Slightly Favorable
This is a race and a turn-3 Thought-Knot Seer is good here as it removes a burn spell while presenting a hard-to-kill threat. Their best card against you is Searing Blaze. Mulligan aggressively for a fast hand and protect your life total. The game does not change much after sideboard, but watch out for Deflecting Palm.
Green Tron: Even
I felt very lucky to beat Tron six times at the GP since the matchup is really close. Oblivion Stone is lights-out so Pithing Needle usually names that. Eldrazi Obligator is a great finisher if you pressure them enough to have to play into it. Watch out for their midrange plan of bringing in Thragtusk and their own Thought-Knot Seer, so Dismember is fine post-board. Save your Damping Sphere to play the turn before they assemble Tron.
Mardu Pyromancer: Unfavorable
The game revolves a lot around whether or not they have Blood Moon (and sometimes Ensnaring Bridge), so Natural State is good, but you cannot board out Boreal Druids in this grindy matchup, which is bad. Bring in Abrade if you expect them to be on the Ensnaring Bridge plan. Engineered Explosives post-board means that going wide is not as safe for them. Reality Smasher is your best threat and hard for them to deal with.
KCI: Slightly Unfavorable
You need to be fast and they will not interact much to stop you, but you also do not interact well with their combo. Thought-Knot Seer is the best tool to disrupt them, and your sideboard can buy you a little time.
The addition of Alpine Moon in Core Set 2019 seems like a good option moving forward as another way to fight big mana decks and manlands. I have not tested it yet, but I believe that it will earn slots in the sideboard since it is an aggressively-costed hate card.
Red-Green Eldrazi is a good fair deck that can leverage bad matchups by simply being aggressive and fast. It does not have any awful matchups, but also no really easy one. It has weaknesses to Blood Moon, flyers in general, and go-wide strategies, and it cannot beat nut draws without having its own nut draw. On the other hand, it can punish any stumble and turn it into a win. I believe that this is a good place to be in this wide-open Modern format.
I hope you enjoyed the read. Until next time!