During the first week of February, I’ll be in Bilbao with the rest of Team Coverage as we bring the live stream of Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan to the world. For those new to Modern, getting across the huge scope of viable decks is quite intimidating. To bring everyone up to speed for the Pro Tour, Level 1 Modern is a column that seeks to explain the game plan, strengths, and weaknesses of the format’s major archetypes. This week,I’m looking at Eldrazi Tron.
What Eldrazi Tron Does
Much like Traditional Tron, Eldrazi Tron has the same core thrust—get three Urza lands into play, and use the enormous amounts of mana to spew powerful, colorless permanents onto the battlefield. Instead of card like Karn Liberated, however, Eldrazi Tron opts for the obscenely powerful Oath-of-the-Gatewatch-era threats such as Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher. Even without Tron assembled, an early value game (Matter Reshaper, Mind Stone) can still transition smoothly into late-game haymakers (Endbringer, Walking Ballista).
Eldrazi Tron eschews colored spells altogether (Phyrexian mana notwithstanding), but is still able to play a somewhat interactive game of Magic while slamming huge monsters into play. It’s also difficult for Eldrazi Tron to ever really run out of action. Between Endbringer and Sea Gate Wreckage, it has multiple ways to grind out a longer game. Additionally, despite being unable to produce colored mana, Eldrazi Tron can still board in some very hateful cards. For example, Ratchet Bomb as a sweeper or Relic of Progenitus to hit the graveyards.
Sam Pardee, 8th place at GP Santa Clara 2018
As with Tron decks of all flavors, the key strength of Eldrazi Tron is its capacity to drop enormous game-ending threats far ahead of schedule. Given that the majority of these threats are Eldrazi, the deck benefits from a fourth Tron-esque land—Eldrazi Temple aids enormously in consistently getting the various spaghetti monsters into play nice and quickly. It doesn’t take too much action from Eldrazi Tron to win a game. Much like a single Karn from Traditional Tron, a turn-3 Reality Smasher is often enough.
Eldrazi Tron has some powerful disruption in the form of Dismember and All is Dust, not to mention the very flexible and surprisingly useful Warping Wail, which tussles with everything from Affinity to Scapeshift. Traditional Tron runs little-t0-no disruption at all—the way Eldrazi Tron is able to interact sets it apart significantly, as it prevents decks from simply “goldfishing” their turn-4 kill.
Perhaps the most important option it has is Chalice of the Void. A Chalice with 1 counter will leave some decks down for the count (most significantly, Grixis Death’s Shadow), and following that up with a Chalice for 2 can lock out a huge proportion of decks (Burn, Storm, etc.). With the exception of Expedition Map and Mind Stone, Chalice is never really going to impact Eldrazi Tron itself, breaking the symmetry of the Chalice’s effect. The importance of Chalice in some matchups can’t really be overstated—it’s one of those cards that certain decks will just have to scoop to.
Eldrazi Tron doesn’t assemble its three Urza lands as consistently as green-based Tron decks. Even with access to Eldrazi Temple, the average start for Eldrazi Tron will be much slower from a mana perspective. Of course, there’s always the risk of that perfect nut draw that can overrun the board with multiple huge threats by turn 3, but generally speaking you’ll have a little more setup time against Eldrazi Tron, meaning that any disruptive plans you have will be easier to execute.
All of the payoff cards in this list are creatures, and therefore subject to all the weaknesses that go along with playing a creature-based strategy. Instead of threats diversified across creatures, artifacts, and planeswalkers, Eldrazi Tron goes all-in on the creature plan and therefore eats it to cards like Supreme Verdict. Unconditional spot removal also shines in this matchup, as even the mightiest of Eldrazi top-end still dies to Terminate and Path to Exile.
In a somewhat related fashion, Eldrazi Tron’s late game doesn’t offer the same inevitability as other big mana decks. It can grind by drawing extra cards and controlling the board with Endbringer, but has a harder time going over the top when set against Traditional Tron, White-Blue Control, or Scapeshift. This weaker late game is in part a result of including interactive options, so it’s something of a fine balance, but the fact remains—Eldrazi Tron doesn’t automatically win the late game as other decks might.
How to Beat Eldrazi Tron
Given that Eldrazi Tron doesn’t always get off to the quickest start and also doesn’t always take over the late game, there are two very clear paths to victory: The first is to get under them, applying early pressure that can overcome them before they’ve had a chance to set up and start deploying payoff cards. In the absence of a Chalice of the Void, both decks such as Storm or Burn are well-positioned to snap off a quick win against Eldrazi Tron.
Conversely, it’s possible to go bigger than Eldrazi Tron, and while other Tron strategies are one option, the best way to do this is with White-Blue Control. The sheer number of unconditional removal spells in conjunction with hard sweepers mean that this creature-based strategy will have a huge uphill battle before ultimately dying on turn 20 to a Celestial Colonnade.
Finally, remember that it’s very easy to trade up on mana when deploying removal spells. As most of the threats in the deck cost 4 or more mana, cheap removal like Path to Exile will allow you to clear out a threat while still deploying more action. Fatal Push can still remove Thought-Knot Seer, but if you’re expecting Eldrazi Tron in large numbers, look to include some number of supplemental Terminates. Leverage this mana advantage by concurrently pressuring them, which will keep them off-balance while you head for the finish line.
Eldrazi Tron, as a more interactive version of the very powerful Tron strategy, will doubtless be the pick for many players at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan. Those wanting to play with Urza lands without sacrificing their disruptive capabilities will naturally lean toward playing this deck, so you can reasonably expect it to be in the hands of some of the best players in Bilbao!