“You got chocolate on my peanut butter!”
“You got peanut butter on my chocolate!”
And that is the tale of how Eldrazi Tron came to be…
I’ve been pretty meh about Modern for the past couple of months. The last Modern event I actively prepared for was Grand Prix Vegas, where I didn’t even get to play the format because I was drafting Amonkhet in the Limited event.
I credit 3 factors for my Modern malaise:
- There simply hasn’t been an event to get fired up about in a while.
- I haven’t found the Death’s Shadow metagame to be particularly interesting or exciting compared to other Modern metagames I’ve enjoyed.
- I’ve been watching The Sopranos for the first time and it’s great.
To quickly work through these reasons: I suspect that I’m on the verge of getting fired up about Modern again. I finally found a deck that I really enjoy playing (Eldrazi Tron), and I’m halfway through season 6 of The Sopranos.
Modern is kind of the touchstone format in Magic right now and has consistently grown in popularity and playability year after year. New cards make an impact and things get banned, but the format is always on the uptick.
The Death’s Shadow metagame reminds me a lot of the Splinter Twin metagame. There is a known “best deck” and that information is really important when it comes to deck selection and deck construction. Shadow is so good and so powerful that you can’t gloss over that matchup and hope to dodge it—you have to have a plan.
My plan is to play a deck that is inherently good against Grixis Shadow.
I got excited about the deck when Dan Musser took down a Modern Open with the deck a while back. Dan always plays Eldrazi and he knows what he’s doing, so I felt that his list would be a fantastic starting point.
For starters, the biggest selling point for why the deck is great is the mana. The deck has a ton of ways to ramp built right into the mana base. When the deck is working, it can simply overpower most strategies with powerful threats.
The deck also has some really nice defensive/disruptive elements naturally and organically built into the deck:
“The best solutions to the worst matchups.”
Even though Eldrazi Tron has some issues with interacting against combo decks, the deck has powerful cards for hitting those axes. Chalice can single-handedly beat lots of hands by nullifying 3 or 4 draws.
I talked to Dan about the list and we discussed a few small changes. He made a point that struck a chord with me: Eldrazi Tron is the best game 1 deck in Modern, but the sideboard is bad.
All things considered, if you go up and down the list of possible matchups, Eldrazi Tron is pretty good across the board in most game-1 scenarios, with Affinity and Scapeshift being the big exceptions. Every deck has good and bad matchups, but as it stands, Eldrazi Tron is a solid choice.
The sideboard is another issue. The problem is that when you limit yourself to only colorless spells, there are problems that can be tough to solve. In a lot of cases, the types of cards that I’d like to have access to simply do not exist yet.
I like all of the cards that are currently in my sideboard.
The Chamber of Not a Secret Anymore.
Basilisk Collar is one of the better sideboard options for this deck. It is probably good enough for the main deck.
The ability to suit up Endbringer or Walking Ballista and turn them into machine-gun-style removal via deathtouch is awesome. The life gain is also quite nice against decks that try to pressure Eldrazi’s life total.
I want this card for Affinity, Burn, and mirror matches.
One thing to think about with Basilisk Collar is that it does cost 1 mana, which means that in matchups where you want to land Chalice for 1, it may not be a great fit. That exact, poor interaction is why I opted for it in the board and not in the main deck. For instance, against Burn I want to Chalice x=2, which makes Collar a great board card.
Warping Wail is one of the few cards the deck can sideboard in to stop powerful sorcery spells. Keep in mind that people also like to bring in Crumble to Dust and Sowing Salt against you. Based on how bad the Scapeshift matchup is and how high impact this card is, I’ve gone up on these since I started playing the deck.
Aside from mowing creatures down with Basilisk Collar, I wanted more ways to interact with fast draws from creature decks. I have a couple of Dismembers in the main, but there is a point where I feel that too many “pay 4 life” spells provide diminishing returns against aggressive decks.
These are both cards that pull their weight against Affinity and other swarmy token decks.
One of the few things the colorless spells are good at addressing is opposing graveyard-based strategies. Most Eldrazi Tron decks feel like they have too much graveyard hate. I don’t think Dredge is a particularly bad matchup for this deck, but I will admit that graveyard hate does help out against Storm and other combos.
I suspect the reason a lot of lists go over the top with graveyard hate is that these are the obvious "good cards." For instance, which is a better Modern card: Spatial Contortion or Relic of Progenitus? Well, common knowledge tells us that Relic is a card that gets played all the time and Contortion almost never gets played, and so I see why people would err on the side of "better cards."
While some of the cards may seem a little loose, they address glaring holes in the deck's defenses. Not being able to interact with opposing creatures early with a clunky mana draw is one way to lose a lot of games.
Having more ways to stem the bleeding and preserve life allows Eldrazi Tron to continue hitting its land drops so it can take over with its massive late-game threats.
HBW is one of my favorite Magic cards of all time. It's flexible. The value is real. I like it in the sideboard as another way to interact early against decks that rush me. Even if it just blocks twice that is often what the doctor ordered.
It’s also very, very good against Death’s Shadow decks, since it can hold off Shadow for a long time and turn the corner to start racing.
One of the metrics I use to determine the quality of a deck is simply how much I win with it. Since I’ve started playing Eldrazi Tron, my win percentage with the deck is considerably higher. That's pretty telling of how powerful and well positioned the deck actually is.
I totally agree that E.T. is probably the best game 1 deck in the format but has one of the weaker sideboards in the format. The upside is that because the main deck is so over-the-top good, the shortcomings of the sideboard matter less. Sometimes you don’t sideboard very much! If you draw the good lands, it often doesn’t even matter if you drew sideboard cards or not.