Field Notebook: Zendikar’s End

In the Battle for Zendikar, the Eldrazi have won.

Zendikar is in shambles. The future is bleak. In time, it’s possible the entire plane will cease to exist, merely a roadblock in the way of a Ceaseless Hunger. Will all knowledge of Zendikar disappear? Will anyone remember its existence or what vibrant, beautiful life once existed here before it was brutally and methodically snuffed out? What other worlds lie out there—peaceful, happy, without knowledge of the fate that eventually lies in wait for them? To my knowledge, I am the last Zendikar survivor, and I write this journal in desperation. I write in hopes that one day someone will read these words, that Zendikar will not be forgotten, and that the knowledge I am about to impart will one day bring about the end of the Eldrazi. I am not optimistic, but I am determined.

These are my expedition notes.

Colorless Eldrazi

LSV’s Pro Tour Top 8 list:

Field Note #34: It was previously believed that Eldrazi were all completely devoid of any emotional characteristics. Most creatures have a color identity—an identity that ties them to a specific breed of thinking, or lack thereof. New Eldrazi have surfaced that show our view of thinking to be flawed. It’s not that these Eldrazi lack emotional characteristics, but rather that their lack of a color identity is their emotional characteristic. They are not simply devoid of color, they thrive off the absence of color. These Eldrazi are evolved. These are the purest form of Eldrazi.

This version was great against the Pro Tour field but is the worst version of the deck against the new, Eldrazi-tinted, Modern metagame. Chalice of the Void is useless in the mirror match. Simian Spirit Guide can do some neat things in some games, but many games in the Eldrazi mirror devolve into a grind and having dead draws there is a huge drawback. Cards like Ratchet Bomb and Chalice of the Void are also getting worse against the field as a whole, as decks start to pack main-deck answers to these cards to avoid losing to them. Gone are the days where Chalice on 1 beat Infect. Here are the days where they play Viridian Corrupter and you get sad.

GR Eldrazi

Random Musing #185: We think of the Eldrazi as mindless machines of slaughter and destruction. This isn’t purely true. I’ve seen a surprising amount of restraint out of many of these fearsome creatures. They’ve laid traps, they’ve let some beings live to spread fear and panic to the rest of Zendikar. They are employing tactics. They are controlling us.

Here is my updated version of this deck. I’ve played a lot with this deck. I think it has some good things going for it but ultimately, I think we can do better. For one, Kozilek’s Return is very hit or miss. The fact that it costs 3 mana is huge. 3 mana may not seem like much when we’re playing things like World Breaker, but the difference is that sometimes we have to tap out to cast Kozilek’s Return with the exact same land base that could also cast World Breaker (Eye, Temple, Temple, Grove). Eye of Ugin doesn’t help cast Kozilek’s Return and there are a lot of matchups where both Kozilek’s Return and Dismember are bad, which means we’re going to have a lot of dead cards.

I think it’s extremely important to play Urborg and 25 land in this version of the deck. For one, the curve is a lot higher. Urborg is also essential to letting you cast World Breaker at a reasonable time with an Eye of Ugin. One of the big flaws of this deck is that World Breaker is often hard to cast (or nearly impossible to do), especially when people are attacking lands.

I also don’t think this is an Eldrazi Mimic deck. Mimic is great when you have a critical mass of creatures that can turn it into a 4/4 or larger. Mimic is also great when you’re trying to kill your opponent quickly. This version of the deck doesn’t have much to make Mimic big and it is more of a control deck. The goal with this deck isn’t to kill them super fast, it’s to play big threats that control the pace of the game. Mimic is at the mercy of your draws and isn’t a card that gives you any control over the game.

What I like about this deck is that it has a great sideboard. Red and green offer some of the best hate cards for the decks that prey on this deck the most: Affinity and Lantern Control. World Breaker in the main deck also provides a way to win game 1 when your opponent has some sort of “unbeatable” hate card, like Worship or Ensnaring Bridge. This deck is the best deck at fighting the hate, but it’s the least flexible version of the deck and pretty slow.

Scion Summoner in the sideboard is for matchups where Kozilek’s Return and Dismember are both bad.

UG Eldrazi

Field Note #88: Many Zendikarians think of the Scions as mere afterthoughts. To them, the big Eldrazi are the true threat. I believe this to be a flawed view. The Scions provide everything for the Eldrazi. They provide cover, distraction, and scouting. More than that, many Eldrazi seem to feed off of the Scions. Not literally, mind you, but they use the Scions to augment their own power. They use the Scions to become terrors of war.

This is a version of the deck that I spent a lot of time working on in various incarnations. I felt like the blue Eldrazi were the most powerful of any color, but I wanted access to World Breaker and green sideboard hate to help me not lose to random cards like Ensnaring Bridge or Worship. Eldrazi Skyspawner and Scion Summoner both generate Eldrazi Scions, which help you power out earlier Drowner of Hopes and World Breakers. This deck has a lot of synergy and explosiveness in ramping out big Eldrazi.

Drowner of Hope is simply the best threat in the mirror match. It plays defense extremely well, and it also threatens lethal at nearly every point in the game. If the opponent ever just leaves two creatures back to block, they are at risk of you sacrificing 2 Scions to tap those creatures down and swing for lethal. With big, beefy Eldrazi like Reality Smasher looming, it’s not inconceivable that the opponent is at 16 life with two blockers and the next turn they are dead.

Something about this deck just didn’t work out, however. Ancient Stirrings is a nice card, but it also has flaws. Sometimes you don’t want to waste a turn casting it. Sometimes trying to cast Stirrings on turn 1 throws off the curve. In GR Eldrazi it doesn’t matter too much, since the curve is much slower, but here it matters much more since you are trying to curve out a lot more.

This deck didn’t have the inevitability of GR Eldrazi and it didn’t have the punch of UR Eldrazi. It fell between the two, and therefore it is flawed.

UR Eldrazi

Field Note #133: We see Ulamog and the slow, constant, ceaseless carnage he brings. Ulamog is in no rush. His legacy is one of eventuality. No matter how long it takes, he will eventually wipe out this world, and he is in no hurry to do it. One can easily see that and forget that he is but one threat among many. Not all Eldrazi are as plodding in their destruction as Ulamog. Underestimating the speed of the Eldrazi is the fastest path to death in Zendikar.

Finally, we get to my updated version of the deck that Jiachen Tao and Andrew Brown made Top 8 of the Pro Tour with, where Jiachen eventually claimed victory—UR Eldrazi.

Having tested all the versions of the deck rather extensively, this is the strongest version.

It is the most aggressive build and has the best nut draw, which makes it the most likely version to beat random things by virtue of just overpowering them. For example, I have killed Ad Nauseam players multiple times on turn 3 with this deck, or at the very least forced them to blow their Angel’s Grace, preventing their ability to combo. In many of those situations, I probably would have lost if they had another turn.

This version takes advantage of Eye of Ugin the best. Since this version is so aggressive, casting Endless One as a 2/2 on turn 1 is something this deck wants to do most of the time, which is not something the other versions of the deck did as much. As a result, we have a lot of hands where Eye of Ugin generates 4 mana on turn 1 for an Eldrazi Mimic and an Endless One. Then it generates 2 more on turn 2 for one of our many 3-drops, and then an additional 4 mana on turn 3 to play two more 3-drops.

Vile Aggregate is one of the best creatures in the mirror match or against decks that try to gum up the board with big creatures. This creature is extremely impressive. It’s giant and has trample. It’s basically like a 3-mana Reality Smasher and the combination of these two cards, along with Drowner of Hope, means that this deck has game to swing through any kind of board, no matter how daunting it seems.

I went up to 4 copies of Ruination Guide. Many considered it to be the worst card in the Pro Tour list, myself initially included. I’ve changed my mind. Modern right now is all about killing your opponent fast with nut draws. Nearly all of my matches on Magic Online are against Infect, Affinity, Burn, or really fast combo decks like Storm or Ad Nauseam.

Final Entry: I’ve reached the last of my paper. I’m amazed I’ve made it this long. Studying the Eldrazi as thoroughly as I have has made me successful in avoiding my fate longer than others. But don’t be fooled. My fate is the same as theirs. In some ways, worse. I’ve had to watch everyone I know and care about be destroyed. I’ve had to watch the ruin of innocent life forms across the entirety of Zendikar. I know what it’s like to watch a world die. I may still be alive physically—though not for long—but I am truly dead inside.

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