I’ve been having a ton of fun playing Modern lately, and it’s with a deck I wasn’t expecting to enjoy: Eldrazi Tron. Given my Birthing Pod roots, I’ve always had an adversarial relationship with Tron decks, but I’ve really had a great time playing this deck lately (and winning a good amount as well!). Eldrazi Tron trades in some of the late-game inevitability of the traditional Tron deck by playing fewer cards that cost over 7 mana, and in exchange has way fewer draws to die before doing anything meaningful. Here’s the list I would have played at GP Vegas had I not been lucky enough to make Top 4 in the Limited portion.
When I first tried Eldrazi Tron, it was in the interest of completely exploring the format before Vegas. I figured it was unlikely that the deck would be good enough to consider playing more because on paper it makes no sense—Reality Smasher and Karn Liberated don’t really have any synergy together, and Chalice of the Void doesn’t really fit in with those two either. It turns out I was right—those cards don’t synergize at all, but it also doesn’t really matter very much because each of those things is individually powerful enough to win games by itself. This leads me to my number 1 rule with Eldrazi Tron: Keep hands that do something that feel inherently unfair, regardless of what that is. Consider the following hand:
With normal decks, this hand is pretty unappealing. You only have 1 Tron piece to go with your Map so you’re unlikely to assemble Tron quickly, your Ballista is probably not going be particularly big, and you’re ages from being able to cast Karn Liberated. But in spite of all that, I think this hand is an easy keep because it does an extremely unfair thing on turn 2. A good number of opponents are completely unable to beat Chalice on 1 when they’re on the draw. Of course, there is also a chance that Chalice on 1 doesn’t line up well against your opponent and you won't do anything and will die. That’s okay. Part of playing this deck is accepting that sometimes your unfair thing is not the right unfair thing.
My range of “unfairness” for game 1 is as follows:
- Any hand that makes turn-3 Tron, as long as you have basically any other spell in your hand.
- Any hand on the play that has turn-2 Chalice of the Void.
- Any hand that has 2 Eldrazi Temples and a Reality Smasher or Thought-Knot Seer.
- Any hand that can cast turn-2 Matter Reshaper and has either a Smasher or a Seer.
There are certainly other hands I would keep on 7, but hopefully that gives you a guideline for what kind of hand I like to keep.
The next learning experience for me with this deck was the land slots. Because you’re an Expedition Map deck, you have lots of moments where you have to choose which land you want and it’s definitely not as easy as I thought it would be.
- First off, you’re playing with multiple copies of Ghost Quarter, which means it’s pretty important to have a rough idea of what quantities and types of basic lands your opponent's deck contains (and don’t worry, in my sideboarding guide I’ll be sure to include rough basic land counts for each deck). Sometimes the unfair thing you do is Ghost Quarter someone with only 1 basic in their deck 3 times!
- Next you have Cavern of Souls, which doesn’t come up often in game 1 as a tutor, but can be important against people playing Cryptic Commands or post-board Ceremonious Rejections.
- Sea Gate Wreckage has consistently impressed me. Your deck contains roughly 30 mana sources so it’s not uncommon to run into situations where you have a ton of mana and nothing to do with it. Playing with the Wreckage can be tricky at times. You’ll want to do your best to not get stuck with 2 lands in hand when you get into topdeck wars. This means that sometimes you don’t want to crack your Expedition Maps when you have a ton of mana already. Another neat trick is if your opponent has an empty board and you have a ton of mana, you can activate Wreckage during your upkeep to play around drawing something like Dismember or All is Dust that you can’t cast for your draw step. Against opponents who are unlikely to remove your Chalices you’ll also want to make sure to just cast your dead spells into them to help keep your hand clear. Eldrazi Temple is probably the “default” choice for me with Expedition Map. Remember how unfair the old Eldrazi Winter decks felt when they drew multiple 2-mana lands? You want to try to replicate this feeling as often as possible
- Tron lands are the last category and it should usually be relatively obvious when you want to search for them. Assembling Tron in this deck is not quite the same game-winning experience it was in previous Tron decks, but it’s still incredibly powerful and can lead to some really explosive draws. Usually, if I can complete Tron on turn 3 I’ll do it even if I don’t have any of my big stuff to cast yet.
Eldrazi Tron changes a ton after sideboarding because it can cut the unfair plans that don’t line up well and try to operate entirely in ways that are very powerful against your specific opponent. That’s my overriding philosophy when it comes to sideboarding, so keep that in mind when reviewing this matchup guide.
Grixis Death’s Shadow
Optimal Chalice numbers: 1
Death’s Shadow is a pretty close matchup that often has games that don’t feel all that close. Turn-2 Chalice on the play is often game over against them, but some of their more explosive or disruptive draws can leave you feeling like you were unable to get anything going at all. I tend to be pretty liberal about cashing in my Relics here if I think it’ll keep them off Tasigur or Angler for an additional turn. They tend to go to a pretty low life total, so keep your eye out for opportunities to “steal” games with Reality Smasher or Walking Ballista. Be sure to play around Stubborn Denial even when they have no creatures in play if it’s convenient to do so (but always jam that Chalice when you can).
Post-board, things slow down a little bit as they bring in Ceremonious Rejection. This means that I’m more likely to search for Cavern against them when I’m going to have enough mana to operate comfortably.
Optimal Chalice numbers: 0 (on the play), 2
Typical basic lands: 1 Mountain or 1 Island, depending on their build.
Affinity is a pretty rough matchup and I’ve actually changed my list to be a bit stronger against it, with more Ratchet Bombs and Pithing Needles than stock lists. Game 1 you have a ton of cards that don’t line up well, but you can still sometimes steal it with a Walking Ballista picking off all their stuff. This is the matchup where I think Chalice changes in value the most depending on if you’re on the play or the draw. On the play, shutting down their 0s is incredible, but on the draw it’s just too slow to really matter. Post-board they don’t really change their deck very much, but you get a ton of help. Don’t forget that you’ll usually want to Map for Ghost Quarter when you have enough mana to help keep their Nexi under control.
On the Play
On the Draw
Leonin Arbiter Decks
Optimal Chalice numbers: 1, 2
Typical basic lands: Tons of Plains
This matchup has felt pretty good if you can get things going. Early game you have to be wary of the Arbiter/Ghost Quarter combo, which can often mean leaving mana up to pay if you can afford to. Their clock is not particularly fast though, so you typically have time to get your mana set up and then your more powerful creatures can take over. Walking Ballista is your best card here. Watch out for Stony Silence post-board!
Optimal Chalice numbers: 0, 4, 2
Typical basic lands: Tons of Mountains
You have a ton of dead cards in this matchup and don’t get a lot of help from your sideboard, but luckily your good cards are hard for them to interact with and kill quickly. Ideally you want quick Thought-Knot Seers and Reality Smashers. You leave in Relic because you have nothing else, but all it does is cycle for 2 mana total. With Pithing Needle you typically want to name Sakura-Tribe Elder on turn 1, fetchlands if you have specific knowledge of their hand, or Chandra, Torch of Defiance if that card would be good in the situation. This is a matchup where Surgical Extraction on Valakut can be quite valuable, but I think you’d rather have the extra Affinity hate so I go without Surgical.
Bring to Light Scapeshift
Optimal Chalice numbers: 4, 2
Typical basic lands: 1 Mountain, 1 Forest, 3ish Islands
This is a matchup I have found to be quite weird as I’ve decked my opponents multiple times. Ghost Quarter counts as legitimate disruption against them because they only have 1 basic Mountain so if you’re able to leave a few Ghost Quarters up you can make it really difficult for them to win. They also have a much more flexible game plan than G/R Titanshift, so they’re capable of removing your Eldrazi and winning with random creature beatdown. A lot of these decks also run a Madcap Experiment/Platinum Emperion package, but you can often put them into a position where it’s difficult for them to attack with it and eventually draw a Karn to get out of it. Expect to play some longer games against this deck, but despite that I think Tron is a favorite. Remember that Cage doesn’t actually stop Bring to Light, just Snapcaster and Madcap.
Optimal Chalice numbers: 1, 2
Typical basic lands: 1 of each color they’re running
This is a classic midrange battle and you’re well equipped to fight it. Tarmogoyf can sometimes be bigger than all your Eldrazi, but you can shrink it with Relic and go way over the top with Karn and All Is Dust. Liliana of the Veil is the most problematic card as the edict effect is really strong against your more expensive guys. Always consider what you can do to play around Liliana when they’re approaching 3 mana. Things don’t really change here post-board—they maybe get some Damnations for you to be aware of, but you’re still just 2 midrange decks battling it out.
You board out the 2 Walking Ballista if you haven't seen Dark Confidant yet.
Optimal Chalice numbers: 1, 2
Typical basic lands: 2 Mountains
Burn is a great matchup because they really struggle to beat Chalice and you don’t take any damage from your lands. While you sometimes race them with fast Eldrazi draws, more often you use your random guys to block and seal the game with a Chalice for either 1 or 2, each of which shuts off a huge portion of their deck. Post-board you probably want to save your Chalice until you can play it for 2 because they have access to Destructive Revelry.
U/R Gifts Storm
Optimal Chalice numbers: 2, 1
Typical basic lands: 1 Mountain, a few Islands
Storm is a stressful matchup because they can kill you out of nowhere. Luckily, almost all of your disruption is effective against them. Graveyard hate, hand disruption, and of course Chalice all put in good work . In game 1, keep in mind that they are one of the few decks in the current metagame that actually packs some countermagic in the form of Remand. Post-board you get to swap out your less effective disruption for even more effective hate and Ratchet Bomb to help combat Empty the Warrens.
Optimal Chalice numbers: 2, 1
Typical basic lands: 2 Mountains
Dredge is a tough matchup game 1, but you have a lot graveyard hate that you can bring to bear. One of the keys to this matchup when you can’t shut off their graveyard is to take them off Life from the Loam either with Chalice for 2 in the pre-board games, or by Ghost Quartering their only green sources before they get the engine online. This is a pretty grindy matchup, but I think you’re well positioned once you get all your great sideboard cards.
Optimal Chalice numbers: haha
Typical basic lands: 2 Wastes
The mirror match is kind of silly because there are so many dead cards in game 1. Chalice and All is Dust are almost entirely blank and Relic doesn’t do anything other than cycle. Explosive openings are really good and any kind of hand that can assemble Tron quickly is fantastic. Post-board you’re just cutting the dead cards for cards with actual game text. Typically I don’t charge my Bombs at all in this matchup and use them for Ballista or Hangarback Walker.
That’s all I’ve got. Hopefully you enjoy Eldrazi Tron as much as I do. Let me know in the comments if there are any other matchups you’re curious about!