When it comes to deck building, I know I'm far from the best. I can't just look at a bunch of cards and see my way to a deck. I can find ideas and work to tweak them, and I can certainly get creative at times, but I know that when it comes to the best of the deckbuilders I'll have a hard time matching up.
But what I have done very well in my life is find the core of a good idea and tweak it. Some of my best decks have come about this way, decks I'd be happy to play at a competitive level. Whether it's my personal favorite – The Emrakul Deck – that I built based off an old Extended (double Standard) deck, or taking the concept of the Taking Turns deck and refining it into something that can find continued success, this is an area of my Magic skill I'm pretty proud of.
This week's deck is another example of that. Enter Mardu Eldrazi.
I first introduced this deck last year, and in the time since then I've continued to refine the deck. Given the current wide-open state of Modern and how many varied strategies can find success, I believe the time is right for yet another Eldrazi deck to make its presence known. And unlike the other Eldrazi flavors running around, I believe Mardu can offer the best of all worlds.
The Masters of Modern podcast recently had me on to talk about the deck after I posted several 5-0 performances in competitive Modern Leagues on Magic Online, and it's a great podcast worth a listen if you want more conversation about the deck.
The core is the same as the other Eldrazi decks – Eldrazi Displacer, Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher – but there are a few things that set this version apart, things that can only be found in this particular color combination.
Mardu Eldrazi blends the best parts of the Bant and white-black versions. Want Displacer-Thought-Knot shenanigans? We've got it. Want Wasteland Strangler to just crush aggro matchups? We've got it. Want to accelerate out Reality Smashers? We can do that too.
The real payoff comes in the spells. This is the only Eldrazi deck that gets to play both Lightning Bolt and Path to Exile and Inquisition of Kozilek, along with a helping of new all-star Fatal Push thrown in. I'm not sure what the correct numbers are between Push and Path so I've split them in this list, but these cards are all absolutely vital to success in Modern.
Think about the format right now – it's either fast aggro decks, grindy midrange decks or weird combo decks. Eldrazi Tron certainly has its good matchups and Walking Ballista does work against creatures, but the strategy is dead to just about any combo. Bant Eldrazi has countermagic to stop the combo decks, but has its own set of issues because of how straightforward the strategy can be. White-Black Eldrazi (Taxes or not) is great at beating down and keeping the opponent off-balance, but really has no late game.
I believe Mardu Eldrazi solves those issues, at the cost of a little power and consistency. The combination of cheap removal and Wasteland Strangler guarantees that creature matchups like Abzan Company or Affinity feel incredibly lopsided, but with discard and Relic of Progenitus in the main deck the combo matchups also feel winnable. And if decks like Death's Shadow want to grind it out, Hangarback Walker and Kolaghan's Command allow us to do that, though I do consider those to be the toughest matchups.
We also get the best combination of sideboard cards in Mardu colors. Being able to play all the best sideboard hits in the format – Anger of the Gods, Rest in Peace and Collective Brutality – really allow Mardu to compete against any deck in the format. One thing missing from my board here is Lingering Souls, which I believe is incorrect – it absolutely deserves a spot once I (or you building for your own meta) figure out where to cut.
The downside to Mardu Eldrazi is that you don't have as many lopsided matchups as the other builds, outside of crushing aggressive creature decks (which feels a lot like a bye). Mardu allows you to take your bad matchups and make them closer to 50-50, but it does so at the cost of pulling some of your other matchups down to 50-50. The other tradeoff is the mana base, which I've spent a lot of time on but I'm sure can still be further tweaked. The Talisman of Indulgence and Mind Stone (included for late-game cycling) go a long way toward alleviating these problems – while also being super key in the deck to produce more accelerated Thought-Knot Seers – but they do require you to devote a turn to ramping.
I would say this deck is close to where it should be, but as with anything I still consider it a work in progress, especially when it comes to the removal, mana base and sideboard. But it's a blast to play and unlike some of the other Eldrazi decks, you'll never sit down in a matchup and feel like you're dead as soon as you see your opponent's archetype. That's the power of Mardu Eldrazi, and I believe it deserves a place at the otherworldly table of tentacle monsters.
Thanks for reading,