What a week of Magic! The World Championships were a blast to watch. I was really happy to see that Huey took it down. Many people may not realize this, but Huey is one of the nicest and kindest players in the game (not to mention one of the greatest!).
He’s humble. He loves and respects the game. He makes time to talk to random players and answer questions. He’s everything you’d hope the World Champion would be. Well deserved. Well earned. Congratulations.
With that being said, I’d like to transition away from the World Championships for the rest of the article. I don’t have anything particularly insightful to add to the dialogue about Ramunap, Energy, and U/B Control that likely won’t already be written about this week.
On the other hand, I’ve spent a lot of time working on my Modern Eldrazi Tron list and I think I’ve tuned it up really well. I’d like to discuss some of the specifics of my list and why I’ll be playing it in a few upcoming events.
Let’s just start with the list:
At first glance, the deck looks fairly similar to what you would expect. I’m not reinventing the wheel here—I’m simply trying to make the best possible wheel I can.
I basically started at the beginning a few months ago. Vizier completely changed not only how Collected Company decks worked but how opposing decks prepared to attack them. It created a dynamic where the kind of CoCo decks I preferred were a huge underdog against the mirror match, and Death’s Shadow decks had better options overall for defeating Company.
I had to find a new deck. Eldrazi Tron fit the bill. The deck is inherently powerful and has solid matchups against the winner’s metagame with a few notable exceptions.
I like that Tron is great against the consistent fair decks: Death’s Shadow, Control, Company, Burn, etc.
A big reason for this is because Eldrazi Tron makes impeccable use of Chalice of the Void as a way to attack the best decks in the format. Most decks do not fare well when you take away their ability to use 1- and 2-mana spells. The Eldrazi come over the top to pressure decks while Chalice of the Void inhibits their ability to interact with my threats.
The bad matchups needed to be addressed, so that was where I focused my attention.
Tuning Against Bad Matchups
Matchups are important in Modern. Perhaps more so than in any other format. There are so many different and powerful decks in Modern that it is virtually impossible to pick a deck to play that doesn’t have a few long-shot matchups across the board.
Eldrazi Tron is vulnerable in the early turns of the game because it needs copious amounts of mana to really get its game plan rolling. There are lots of decks that can execute their game with only 2 or 3 mana in play. Tron is not one of those decks!
So much mana.
Luckily, Tron has a lot of redundancy when it comes to making the mana it needs to sink the opponent’s battleship in the form of lands that produce multiple mana and tutors to find them.
The problem is that in most games, the Tron player needs to invest a turn or two into using Expedition Map to set up the land base for the rest of the game. These turns are where things can get dicey.
Decks with a very fast and swarming clock such as Affinity are great at getting underneath your defenses and forcing Tron to fight a difficult uphill battle:
Some nice “getting a head” gear.
Decks with Blood Moon can cripple your mana base:
Eldrazi also has a hard time interacting with fast combo decks that go over the top and don’t care about your spells:
These are the kinds of strategies that tend to have the most success against Eldrazi.
Blood Moon Insurance
One of the biggest things I noticed early was how terrifying Blood Moon could be for the more stock Eldrazi Tron lists. The list I started with had only 2 Wastes and no colorless mana rocks.
Not only does Blood Moon break up Tron and stop Eldrazi Temple from adding 2 mana for Eldrazi spells, but it also makes your lands unable to tap for colorless mana to cast your Eldrazi.
I added more Wastes and decided to play more mana rocks to compensate.
One of the appeals of the Eldrazi Tron deck is that it has access to sweet utility lands and Expedition Map to search them up. As nice as that is, I prefer my deck to be consistent and resilient.
It seems weird to have access to these great lands and not use them, but that is exactly what I opted to do.
For starters, when I had these lands, I was barely able to use them to much advantage in most scenarios. Yes, every now and then they had a big impact, but I felt the overall upside of having 4 Wastes was greater in the long run.
These marginal toolbox cards that I’m giving up don’t diminish how good Expedition Map is. Urza’s Tower is always great. If Urza’s Tower isn’t grand, then Sanctum should get the job done. I don’t want to play too many cards for corner-case scenarios. I want my mana to work!
I also added the other Chalice to help make my mana function as fluidly as possible. At first, I thought the multi-kicker would allow Chalice to trigger Sanctum of Ugin. Unfortunately, this trick doesn’t actually work since the kicker doesn’t affect the CMC.
I’ve been happy with Chalice over Mind Stone. I’ll admit that it is close, though. I rarely turn my Mind Stone into a card. The mana is so important. But it does come up. On the other hand, I often set my Chalice for 2 or 3 or more.
So there are upsides and downsides. But being so obsessed with mana in a deck that is all about mana has caused me to favor the Chalice over the Mind Stone.
Against Swarmy Decks
In particular, Affinity.
My strategy here is to embrace my role as the control deck, because Eldrazi is a huge underdog in a race. Even your fastest hands on the play will have trouble racing a medium Affinity hand.
I also like to become the control deck against the various flavors of Collected Company.
The idea here is that I can board out Reality Smashers and Chalice of the Void in favor of cheaper and more efficient removal. As long as I don’t lose the game before it gets started, there are plenty of ways for Eldrazi Tron to control the game.
Another problem with Affinity is that Eldrazi simply doesn’t have access to the types of spells that punish Affinity.
Wake me up when they print a colorless Ancient Grudge please. Seriously, what wouldn’t I give for Nevinyrral’s Disk?
Eldrazi Tron has to fight these decks through fairly unconventional means, without artifact hate.
One card that has impressed me enough to put it into the main deck is Skysovereign, Consul Flagship:
The ability to produce recursive removal and a giant flying body is invaluable against Affinity. It is easily one of the best cards I’ve tried out against the battlebots. Skyboat backed up with cheap removal is an actual way to defeat Affinity that works.
I also don’t hesitate to bring in the second Skyboat against decks like Company (especially versions that play Spell Queller).
I have the full suite of Warping Wails:
The card is important against Scapeshift and Living End, which are both difficult matchups that improve dramatically when you draw multiple copies of Wail. Wail also counters Past in Flames, which is pretty clutch. I don’t mind bringing it in against difficult combo matchups even to snipe a Serum Visions.
It cost me a lot of space in my sideboard but I decided to roll with 3 Thorn of Amethyst. The card is a pretty big game and can wreak havoc on a spell-based deck’s curve. Especially when you are able to get multiple copies in play at the same time.
One of the most satisfying aspects of Modern is learning how to improve your bad matchups. Everybody has bad matchups and a big part of playing the format is learning how to improve your percentages against them. It takes hard work and a little creativity, but the ability to grind through a hard matchup late in a tournament is so valuable. Even when you are confined to just colorless spells, options exist—you just have to look for them!