Last weekend in Indianapolis, I had the pleasure of running back the deck I piloted to a Top 8 finish in Los Angeles a few months ago. Except this time, it was not a secret anymore. I saw thousands of posts on social media about people looking for Noble Hierarch and Engineered Explosives, and just last weekend, big names such as Steve Rubin and Brian Braun-Duin ran the deck at the Invitational. I had to expect Bant Eldrazi to be one of the most played decks at the GP.
I got a Pro Point (10-5 record) out of my weekend—not exactly what I was hoping for—but that led me to the conclusion that Bant Eldrazi was the new Jund. By that I mean that it’s now the 51/49 deck of the format. You can lose any matchup, but you can also win any matchup, you feel favored because your deck makes powerful plays, there’s close to zero good hate, and you have answers for anything. Funny enough, the common “dedicated” hate for both Jund and Bant Eldrazi was Blood Moon, which doesn’t necessarily work like Leyline of the Void works against Dredge. The deck functions differently than Jund, but the versatility of the Eldrazi shares a similarity with the black/green style of play.
I drew this conclusion as a result of people repeatedly asking me: “what’s the matchup like against X?” My answer was usually: “It’s close, but feels slightly favored after sideboard.” Then at the GP I lost twice to Burn, which I had classified as a slightly favorable matchup beforehand. Slightly favorable is a combination of words to take lightly—a small mistake or a whiff of bad variance can turn the match around quickly.
Black/green strategies have a reputation for giving you a lot of options during deckbuilding, which gives them the possibility to adapt to any expected metagame. While Bant Eldrazi has fewer flexible slots—there are still about 10 main deck and 5 sideboard you can modify.
These cards are untouchable. You can’t go below these numbers unless you’re changing the colors of the deck. I personally don’t like going below 4 Drowners, but I could be convinced if I expected a small number of fair decks (mirror, Jeskai, Grixis, Jund, and Abzan).
The remaining 8 nonlands that you can choose from are the following;
Matter Reshaper and Eldrazi Skyspawner fight for the same slot as your second 3-drop. Which one you choose to play is based on knowing what they accomplish. Reshaper is excellent in matchups where you will trade, either in combat or against removal. It’s generally a better option if you expect more fair decks.
Eldrazi Skyspawner is particularly good against Infect and Affinity because it produces a flyer to block and acceleration to play Reality Smasher or Drowner of Hope more quickly. Against any other combo deck that won’t interact with your creatures, it’s also strictly better because you get the same rate as Reshaper (3 power for 3 mana) with the added option of an extra mana.
Skyspawner, however, is not as reliable to cast. Not counting the mana dorks, you have fewer blue sources than colorless. Consider a starting hand that has Eldrazi Temple, Windswept Heath, Eldrazi Skyspawner, Path to Exile, Noble Hierarch. You want to fetch Temple Garden because your hand has Path to Exile and you can then draw Eldrazi Displacer, but if you do so and your Noble Hierarch dies, you can’t cast Eldrazi Skyspawner. If you get Breeding Pool and you mana dork dies, you can’t cast Displacer or Path. It is minor and shouldn’t be reason to NOT play the blue card at all, but if you do so, add an additional colored source in place of Ghost Quarter.
Spellskite, Engineered Explosives, and Dismember are the remaining 3-4 slots depending on whether you want to run four or five additional 3-drops. I think playing impactful answers is too important to run the fifth 3-drop, but I’m not in the majority there.
Spellskite is great because it has a primary function, which is to single-handedly beat some strategies game 1, such as Infect, Bogles, and Death’s Shadow Zoo, while also not being awful since you can proactively play it as a shield to protect your other creatures on curve. It works nicely alongside Eldrazi Displacer too.
Engineered Explosives is decent—with the rise of Death’s Shadow it has become even better—but I don’t like that it is extremely reactive in a proactive deck. I suggest not playing more than 1—maybe 2 if you expect lots of Elves and Merfolk.
Dismember is a great Magic card. It’s efficient, and perfect for your proactive deck, but it gets awful in multiples, and since your deck does sometimes play a slower game, it’s not always amazing. I would never play more than 1 in the main.
That leaves you room for 3 additional lands. The second Forest is the most common, to make sure you’ve always get a target when you get Path to Exiled and Ghost Quartered. Between Eldrazi Displacer and Drowner of Hope, you often get good use out of extra lands. I like adding a fourth Yavimaya Coast or fourth Cavern of Souls over that Forest if you run Eldrazi Skyspawner.
Fourth Cavern of Souls. I had actually never cut any until the night before the GP Indy when I realized nobody was playing counterspells anymore. At that point, I didn’t have Hallowed Fountain in my list, which I was underwhelmed by, but if there are no counterspells around, the blue/white dual casts as many Eldrazi as Cavern does. Matter Reshaper is the only exception, but I didn’t mind because my list has Ghost Quarter as an additional colorless source.
Unless something drastically changes the metagame, you should start with these 11 cards:
The last 4 possibilities are almost endless, so keep your mind open to other options—I definitely haven’t thought of every single card, nor do I know what the future of Modern will be like, but to my knowledge, the options are the following:
The 2nd one in the sideboard is nice against Kiki Chord decks and the mirror.
I’m not totally sold on how good this is—I played it as a mirror trump, but it is awful when both players look at each other and do nothing. It forces a draw, which I dislike. Make sure you have ways to beat an horde of Scions if you play Worship. Worship does have other upsides than the mirror—having access to it against decks with little to no answers, such as Zoo and Bogles, is useful.
I played one as a way to have an engine once the board is clogged in the mirror—Witness + Eldrazi Displacer + Path to Exile is pretty nice. I would also board it in against every fair deck, in place of Spellskites.
I personally don’t like Blessed Alliance—it is very versatile because you can bring it in against Bogles, Infect, Death’s Shadow Zoo, and Burn, but it isn’t insane against any them, especially if they know about it.
Between Negate and the 4th Stubborn Denial, I like having a Negate. The difference isn’t huge but against decks like Jeskai or Grixis, you can’t depend on having ferocious active.
This was originally included because of how good it is against Grixis because they have no way to exile it. It’s decent against Lantern as well—you’ll eventually mill it and you can get them by surprise, destroying the Ensnaring Bridge on a crucial turn.
I have not played with or thought too much about Chalice. With no ways to cast it on turn 1 and with important 1-drops in my deck, Chalice sounds very mediocre.
Tragic Arrogance was suggested by Seth Manfield in the mirror and tribal decks (Merfolk, Elves). I ran one and drew it only once in the mirror and I died before I could cast it—obviously, all these mirror trump cards are annoying because you can’t play too many. More often than not, someone runs over the other and having cards like this in your hand directly correlates to not interacting early enough and dying. I’m still not convinced it’s any good, but I’d have to draw it when boards are clogged to see.
This is simply an option to play over a number of Grafdigger’s Cage if you expect Living End.