The Eldrazi Invade Standard

Feature Article from Seth Manfield
Seth Manfield
8/11/2017 11:01:00 AM
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There are many new cards from Hour of Devastation that have had an impact on Standard, but none more so than the Deserts. Eldrazi have not seen as much Standard play as they have in Modern over the past 18 months, despite being incredibly powerful.

Why not? Well, in Modern, you can play Eldrazi Temple – the best possible land for Eldrazi – but beyond that there isn't really a great reason beyond mana requirements. Now that the Deserts have been printed, there are more ways to create both colorless mana and a colored mana from one land.

This has really opened the door for Eldrazi decks of all different varieties to enter back into the format. These decks can be mono-colored but don't have to be since the mana is now good enough to support two-color Eldrazi decks, like this blue-red list that hit the scene soon after Hour of Devastation.

I tested this deck for Pro Tour Hour of Devastation, but ultimately it was a little too clunky for my liking. The early creatures like Matter Reshaper and Eldrazi Skyspawner were very impressive, but there was too much top-end. Eldrazi creatures are certainly powerful, but it's important to have enough cheap cards too. Adding Elder-Deep Fiend to the mix of big creatures ended up being too slow against a deck like Ramunap Red.

I tested another Eldrazi deck for the Pro Tour, one of my own creation. Team Genesis loves their black-green decks, and I wanted to see if I could make one that was Eldrazi-based. Though all the Deserts are strong, I do believe that Ifnir Deadlands and Ramunap Ruins are the highest-impact ones. In an Eldrazi deck, arguably the land you want the most is Ifnir Deadlands since you aren't dealing incremental points of damage, and having a land that can outright kill an opposing creature is huge.

Here's the list I built.

This deck has a lot of high-quality creatures in it, and can start casting the Eldrazi creatures a turn earlier thanks to Servant of the Conduit and Channeler Initiate. This is actually a really big deal, as a Thought-Knot Seer on turn three can usually take the opponent's best spell, but on turn four sometimes it is too late. Catacomb Sifter was very impressive in testing, and it is perfect in this sort of deck. The Eldrazi Scion can be used for colorless mana if necessary, and Catacomb Sifter is a good creature to emerge a Distended Mindbender off.

This deck is playing a ton of cards that have been proven to be very powerful right now, as black has emerged as one of the best colors in Standard. Liliana, the Last Hope being able to gobble up one-toughness creatures or return a high-impact creature to your hand is what makes her so good in the metagame, and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is another creature that can simply take over the game. This deck actually performed well for me in testing, I just didn't feel comfortable enough to play it at the Pro Tour, since I put more time into Ramunap Red.

But I'm now revisiting the deck. There are more combo decks popping up in Standard, and that makes discard effects like Thought-Knot Seer and Distended Mindbender better. There are even two Dreamstealer to really pick apart the opponent's hand! This deck plays Eldrazi creatures because the mana base allows it to, but that doesn't mean you need more than Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher.

At first, I turned most of my attention to-two color Eldrazi decks as the mana can support them. However, as it turns out we are living in a format where there are plenty of good cards to fill out a single-color deck. Of course, Deserts have found homes in all single-color decks, but they are still especially useful to help cast Eldrazi creatures. We are all familiar with Mono-Black Zombies, but that's the not the only tribe you can build a black deck around.

This deck takes advantage of some of the Vampire creatures that often get overlooked. Each individual creature is quite strong on its own. We have seen Gifted Aetherborn in black-green decks before, but they make even more sense in a deck with 21 sources of black! Glint-Sleeve Siphoner is another two-drop that has been seeing more play outside of the typical Black-Green Energy deck. This deck does play Aether Hub, and having access to card draw is really nice.

There are both the expected creatures in a deck focused around Eldrazi, but also Drana, Liberator of Malakir. The combination of Matter Reshaper, Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher have been proven to be successful, and adding some spice beyond that really pushes this over the top. Beyond the creature base, black has the best removal spells right now – Fatal Push and Grasp of Darkness are both great. There are tons of cheap creatures that Fatal Push deals with, and Grasp of Darkness is the best answer to Hazoret the Fervent in the format.

The other removal spell Botelho included is one we don't see that much in Standard: Collective Brutality. This card is quite good against Ramunap Red, although I'm not sure it's better than something like Never // Return. There are also some Liliana, the Last Hope in here that play well alongside spot removal, and the early removal makes it more likely you get the planeswalker down in a spot the opponent can't immediately kill it.

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Black also has a variety of strong sideboard options. Yahenni's Expertise kills some of your own creatures in this deck, but it will do more damage to the opponent when needed. Bontu' s Last Reckining is better against the bigger creature decks like Black-Green Constrictor, so I like having a variety of sweepers. Then there are various forms of hand disruption. I would like to see all four Thought-Knot Seers in the main deck, but at least the fourth is in the board. Gonti, Lord of Luxury and Ob-Nixilis Reignited provide ways to grind out longer games.

There are a variety of mono-colored Eldrazi shells. We think of Ramunap Red as the only red deck in Standard, but there is a way to build a mono-red deck that goes bigger by playing Eldrazi.

Warping Wail is actually quite good right now, as all three modes can be effective. There are many small creatures it can deal with, but it also can help accelerate towards a big play on turn three like Chandra, Torch of Defiance. Countering a sorcery spell can also be quite nice, especially when playing against a deck like Green-Red Ramp. This deck isn't able to take advantage of Hazoret the Fervent, because it isn't easy to dump out your hand, but Reality Smasher has a very similar effect and in many ways is more difficult to answer.

There is a touch of black here, and that is to allow you to bring back Scrapheap Scrounger. Playing Aether Hub doesn't hurt you that much, as many of the spells are colorless anyway. Eldrazi Obligator is another powerful Eldrazi you can play after sideboard, that is strong against big creature decks. Being able to take something like a Verdurous Gearhulk can steal a game. The Sweltering Suns are also really strong in this sideboard as a way to catch the opponent off guard. Since there are so many big creatures you won't be killing your own guys with it very often.

The last Eldrazi deck I want to talk about is mono-white!

This deck actually put up good results at Pro Tour Hour of Devastation and has continued to do well since. There are not any Reality Smashers here, though instead we have Archangel Avacyn. Archangel Avacyn plus Selfless Spirit gives this deck an easy way to beat decks without lots of instant-speed removal. There are also a couple of Walking Ballista as another way to flip Archangel Avacyn when it is most convenient.

One of the biggest incentives to be white is gaining access to Eldrazi Displacer. Using Eldrazi Displacer to flicker Archangel Avacyn and make the team indestructible again is pretty cool. Also, you can make it really tough for the opponent to draw anything good, when using Eldrazi Displacer to blink Thought-Knot Seer in the opponent's draw step. There are a bunch of uses for Eldrazi Displacer here, and even getting an additional clue from Thraben Inspector entering play again is pure value.

I like that this deck has access to some life gain, and you could play more if necessary. Glory-Bound Initiate is a creature that has been growing in popularity as a card Ramunap Red is forced to immediately answer. I wonder if there should be additional copies of Authority of the Consuls in the board as a way to make life even more difficult for red players. I do like the three copies of Solemnity to make it almost impossible for Black-Green Constrictor decks to win. In those matchups, the opponent has no enchantment removal most of the time, and Solemnity stops all the counter synergies that make the Black-Green Constrictor deck so strong.

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The mana is very solid, as any mono-colored deck should be. However, there might be a way to make the mana base even better. Shefet Dunes works well alongside Spawning Bed to potentially Overrun the opponent, and I like having some Scavenger Grounds, though four copies seem a little excessive to me. With only 12 Plains there will be times when you don't have a basic, and activations of Shefet Dunes to make white mana can add up.

There are ways to improve this deck, but there are many card choices I am a fan of as well. For instance, I love having a copy of Skysovereign, Consul Flagship main deck. This is probably the scariest card for Mono-Black Zombies, and that may be the most popular deck right now.

Thanks for reading,

Seth Manfield




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