Head for the hills! The Eldrazi and Phyrexians are coming! Or something… A lot of people are calling for Eye of Ugin‘s head but I know for sure it won’t be banned immediately. With one one data point it’s really hard to suggest something so silly.
Let’s start with the Top 8 and analyze what really happened. There were 6 Eldrazi decks and 2 Affinity decks (if you break them down to their most basic theme). Looking further, there are really 3 different types of Eldrazi decks. Frank Lepore’s list looks like more traditional Eldrazi lists of the last month. It focuses on the processor interactions from Wasteland Strangler and Blight Herder with collateral damage exile cards in Relic of Progenitus and Scrabbling Claws. There is the strictly colorless build of the deck heralded by CFB members, Luis Scott-Vargas, Ivan Floch, and Shuhei Nakamura. This deck plays no real “colored” mana sources outside of Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and includes some devastating artifacts. Standout cards in this list are the “colorless” removal spells in Dismember and it’s main interactive spells being Chalice of the Void and Ratchet Bomb. The last Eldrazi deck was a Blue and Red brew featuring a lot of “draft trash” including “Pro Tour Champion” Eldrazi Skyspawner, Vile Aggregate, and Ruination Guide. While these decks also quickly latched onto the importance of Dismember, they had more interaction with Eldrazi Scions and Drowner of Hope, and Eldrazi Obligator. For the most part, the Affinity decks were the same as we have previously seen except they cut Etched Champions in favor of the more robust Master of Etherium. Etched Champion’s appeal quickly falls when you realize all of the top 8 decks have 20+ colorless creatures.
The Eldrazi Base
You may have noticed I haven’t talked mentioned the new additions from Oath of the Gatewatch to these decks. The reason is this is where all of the overlap occurs.
Kozilek burst from the earth and his brood immediately converged onto Modern. On paper, these guys are not terribly good rates. 5 mana 5/5 seems a little suspect when we have a $140 2 mana 4/5 (usually). Every Eldrazi deck at the Pro Tour that went 6-3 or better played 4 of each of these cards (except Frank Lepore who opted out of Endless One). These guys are so stinky in fact, that Tron doesn’t want anything to do with them despite it’s abundance of colorless mana.
The “Problem Children”
When you have 8 painless lands that do their best Ancient Tomb impression, you come out with a pretty good deck. All of the Eldrazi decks (presumably even the ones outside of 6-3 range) played 4 copies of each land. While cards that generally break how fast you can do things (like Chrome Mox, Cloudpost, Summer Bloom, Seething Song, etc) are banned in Modern, these used to have a pretty big restriction. The cheapest cards they could be used to cast were All is Dust, Skittering Invasion, and Not of This World before Battle for Zendikar. When Eye of Ugin is used to power out 4 Eldrazi Mimics on turn 1 you might have a problem.
The “B” Word
With all of this success it comes to everyone’s mind: “Does it get banned?” I don’t work for Wizards of the Coast, nor am I a pro player, or part of the inner circle that may be privy to the information that would influence this call. I don’t know if anything is likely to get banned. All I can do is share with you how something might get banned. Wizards has shown it’s need for data to fuel most bans. While the Pro Tour has shown the power of these cards, people have had no time to adapt. Let’s look at the schedule leading up to the Shadows over Innistrad ban and restricted announcement (there is an announcement for every set, even if no changes are made). Next weekend there are no Magic events. I guess Wizards and StarCity Games wants everyone to go to Deadpool with their significant other for Valentine’s Day instead. The following weekend (Feb 20-21) there is a Modern Open in Louisville. That is the last StarCity Modern event until the next set release. While there will be some additional data points with 2 more Modern Classics at the Opens, Players will likely not be focusing on the Modern format during that time period. Triple GP Weekend (Detroit, USA, Bologna, Italy, and Melbourne, Australia) during the weekend of March 4th-6th will likely be nail in the coffin if we are to see a banning coming in April.
Now the real question is what kind of success would the Eldrazi deck need to see to warrant a banning. If it wins 2 of the 3 Grands Prix, is that enough? If it’s 35% of the top 32 of each major Modern event, is that enough? If Modern attendance falls 30% is that enough? Who knows but I would be watching closely to mark it’s success. Summer Bloom got banned (even if it took a year) without a huge string of successes or a significantly dominant performance. The short version of this story is you’re safe until April.
What to do, what to do?
If you’re thinking about buying into the deck, don’t worry about it being banned in the next 3 months. This deck can probably survive a round of bans based on the power of the creatures involved. While you may lose some explosiveness if Eye of Ugin or Eldrazi Temple get banned, the core of the deck remains. Unless Modern makes a big shift toward being able to kill 4/4 and 5/5 creatures you don’t have much to lose. If you play a lot of Modern and want to win a lot, I’m advocating buying in for at least 3 months. My best suggestion would be buy the remaining pieces this week (Friday at the latest). Selling out before Shadows over Innistrad spoiler season might be your best bet to hedge against a ban.
Hasbro released earnings statements that included this: “Magic had a very good fourth quarter with the release of Battle for Zendikar, which had the strongest start to a set in the brand’s history.” While I don’t claim to understand the legal jargon, I believe this implies that the pre-order period for Battle for Zendikar was the best it has ever been presumably due to Expeditions. I’m not sure this is great for people like myself who hope they don’t continue this routine in future sets.
Some cards were leaked implying we will see the return of another Odyssey block mechanic, madness. Madness was very powerful in the highly synergistic U/G Madness deck the last time it was printed so as long as the power level remains you can count on some good commons and uncommons. I’m extremely skeptical that Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy won’t see another huge spike if we get very good flashback and madness spells. Discard outlets are extremely important for that style of deck and you can see why the original deck played some otherwise unimpressive creatures like Aquamoeba and Merfolk Looter.
The second set of Shadows over Innistrad block was announced yesterday here. Eldritch Moon‘s set symbol has intentionally not been spoiled so there are a lot of theories as to why.
This art for Liliana was also spoiled with the announcement of the set. The garb she is wearing in this picture seems to be a hybrid of the Liliana, Heretical Healer art and the Liliana of the Veil art. I don’t think this means we’re getting a Liliana of the Veil reprint but it surely can’t hurt, right?
- Shadows over Innistrad and Eldritch Moon are confirmed to not have a clash pack or event deck. It seems those methods of reprints are done.
- Windswept Heath and Collected Company continue their resurgence to pre-clash pack pricing. The clash pack may be a good buy soon.
- Thank god for Modern Masters 2015, right? The Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple reprints continue to show a great deal of fore thought. While most players may have complained it surely is the reason why they’re relatively affordable right now. While it sucks they missed Inquisition of Kozilek, it’s important to give credit where credit is due.
- I really like Dismember as a way to deal with the Eldrazi menace. This card was reprinted as an uncommon in Modern Masters 2015 and is currently only about $1. If you don’t own a few I can’t recommend buying this enough. It’s a very mana efficient way to kill Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher.