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RPTQ Top 8 Report and Eldrazi in Standard

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Adam Koska
Adam Koska

About Adam Koska

Adam is an experienced player from the Czech Republic who has a number of high-profile finishes under his belt:

  • 14th at Pro Tour Portland 2014
  • 9th at Worlds 2009
  • 9th at Pro Tour Kyoto 2009
  • 64 Lifetime Pro Points
  • Three times Czech Nationals Top 8

RPTQ Top 8 Report and Eldrazi in Standard

Hey everyone!

There are two topics I’m going to talk about today – first, I’d like to spare a few words about the RPTQ I played last weekend, my deck choice, and the whole experience. And then, I’m going to take a look at the potential of Eldrazi decks in Standard – and I don’t mean of the ramp kind, but rather the more midrange builds.

RPTQ Warsaw

I played W/B midrange at the Sunday RPTQ last weekend, basically the version from this article, with the changes being +2 Wingmate Roc, +1 Hallowed Moonlight, -2 Linvala, the Preserver, -1 Ob Nixilis in the maindeck and +1 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, +1 Archangel of Tithes, -1 Duress, -1 Flaying Tendrils in the sideboard. The most important reason why I chose this deck is that Wingmate Roc is great in the current metagame and at the same time it’s possibly the most underplayed card of the format. I knew I wanted to have a playset of Wingmate Rocs – control decks are very rare now, with Esper Dragons being almost non-existent, so you don’t have to worry about tapping five mana and achieving nothing. Against many midrange decks, Wingmate Roc is going to be an easy 2 for 1, because sweepers are also very rarely played now. And against Rally, flying is crucial, as is the fact that the Roc can give you extra life – Rally doesn’t deal infinite damage when it goes off, and gaining extra life will often mean that they have to put more pieces of the puzzle together and it takes them longer to win.

So I knew I wanted a playset of Rocs, but then what? Some creatures that can attack. Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim and Hangarback Walker are both great at attacking into any defense, since they never „chump-attack“ (and the two cards even work very well together). Gideon is great at attacking and again, he does some nice tricks with Hangarback Walker. Also, Gideon is one of the ways how to beat Eldrazi Ramp, since he gives you by far the fastest clock you can deploy.

The creature suite is rounded out by removal spells that exile – Silkwrap, Stasis Snare and Quarantine Field. Again, this is a nod to the current state of the metagame, as exiling stuff rather than killing it is essential against Rally and also decks that play Kolaghan's or Ojutai's Command. Dromoka's Command is a nuisance, as it can often 2 for 1 you, but again – decks with Dromoka's Command are not as popular as they used to be, because many Abzan decks became more controlling and added a fourth color, with Dromoka's Command often being the card they cut. If Bant Company decks with a playset of G/W Commands become more popular, it might be time to rethink the removal suite, but I like it as it is now. Also, Dromoka's Command can be hindered by Hallowed Moonlight, if you cast it in response, the creature under your enchantment is exiled instead of going back to play. Mostly, the fact that I played one Moonlight maindeck was due to the high popularity of Rally and Bant CoCo, but the fact that it can help against Dromoka's Command is also pretty big.

Anyway, so this is the deck I played in Warsaw. My Swiss rounds went very well, as I beat two Rally decks, a Jeskai control deck and mono-green Eldrazi Ramp, before IDing twice. In the top 8 – the crucial round of the tournament, as there were only four PT invites –, I found myself playing against a Mardu opponent and was soon in a 1-0 lead, after he didn’t play his fifth land for a couple of crucial turns. Unfortunately, two „non-games“ followed, when I drew nothing but lands in the second game and then had no turn two land after mulliganing to five in the decider. Well, that’s part of Magic too, and I’ve certainly been on the other side before, so I can’t complain. At least the top 8 also means that I’m qualified for the next RPTQ in May.

Would I make any changes to the deck? Well, I was happy with the list I played, but I do think that there are some other ways you can take it and some of them might be worth trying. With this whole token subtheme and flying being so important right now, it might be a good idea to add red for Pia and Kiran Nalaar or Dragonlord Kolaghan and perhaps a different set of removal to play around Dromoka's Command. Or – and that’s what I’m experimenting with right now – we can add blue. Not only does this actually improve our mana, because both Polluted Delta and Flooded Strand can find black (Sunken Hollow) and white (Prairie Stream), not to mention Knight of the White Orchid being able to fetch a Prairie Stream, but it also means that we have more ways how to deploy a turn 4 Wingmate Roc – thanks to Eldrazi Skyspawner. Here’s my current list:

Standard BWu midrange

Is it worth expanding the blue splash to accommodate other cards like Reflector Mage? That’s what I’d like to figure out next, but right now, this particular list seems pretty promising.

Eldrazi in Standard

We’ve seen the full potential of the Eldrazi in Modern, but somehow, even though they play a certain role in Standard, I have the feeling that the full range of their capabilities hasn’t materialized just yet in this format. And I do believe that there’s a lot to explore with the Eldrazi – the fact that they’re colorless means that the number of shells they can fit in is almost endless, which in turn makes it a lot more difficult to find the best ones. In Modern, the two key cards are probably Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher. In Standard, I see the two cards with the highest potential in Thought-Knot Seer and Eldrazi Displacer. There have been several successful lists with Eldrazi Displacer in Standard recently, including Clayton McKinsey’s build from the SCG Invi on 13th February, which gave me probably the most inspiration, and after tinkering a bit with the shell, this is the list I came up with:

Standard UW Eldrazi

I think that if there’s a deck where Eldrazi Displacer is really broken, it might be this one. It synergizes with almost everything in the deck – every single other creature has an enters-the-battlefield ability, which the Displacer can re-trigger. Some of them, like Skyspawner or Icefall Regent, have decent synergy, and creating a 1/1 token or tapping down a creature for three mana certainly isn’t bad. But the trio of Harbinger of the Tides, Reflector Mage and Wingmate Roc can turn the situation on the board on its ear, bouncing the opponent’s creatures and creating 3/4 birds for a price that’s way lower than it should be.

There are so many great colorless lands in Standard right now that it’s hard not to be greedy with them and also to choose the right ones. This deck plays quite a few cards that cost double-blue (Harbinger of the Tides, Icefall Regent, Void Shatter) and double-white (Wingmate Roc, Stasis Snare, Quarantine Field, Planar Outburst), which can be an issue. That’s why it needs lands that can produce both colored mana and colorless – Crumbling Vestige and Evolving Wilds (fetching Wastes) are perfect for that. However, it narrows down the number of „colorless only“ lands that we can play. Haven of the Spirit Dragon is a cool one-of, as it can help pay double-blue for Icefall Regent, as well as tapping for colorless. I’m not a big fan of Sea Gate Wreckage in a deck with counterspells and spells that are mana-sinks (Eldrazi Displacer). For this particular reason, Mage-Ring Network can be great here – piling up counters when you don’t have anything to do and then either unleashing a huge Quarantine Field for their entire board, or making sure that once you draw the Displacer, you can dump all that stored mana into the ability several times.

Eldrazi Displacer is an intriguing card – the number of tricks it can do is countless, but if you bend the whole deck around it, you might overshoot it, because the deck needs to work well even if you don’t draw the Displacer or it gets killed. I think that in this regard, the U/W shell is doing ok, because without the Displacer, it’s still a reasonable U/W tempo deck that plays some of the best cards in the current format – Reflector Mage, Thought-Knot Seer or Wingmate Roc. Also, I really like Negate now because of how many decks rely on key cards like Collected Company or Rally the Ancestors. Maindeck Negates (or even Dispels) can also serve as a natural protection against Dromoka's Commands. This particular build is a bit low on two-drops, which could be an issue if aggressive decks like Atarka Red become popular again. In that case, I can see running some White Orchids or Hangarback Walkers again. The reason why they’re not in the current build is that it’s complicated to play two-drops that cost WW and UU in a single deck, and also that the list plays zero sacrifice outlets to eat a Hangarback Walker (which doesn’t have the best synergy with Eldrazi Displacer anyway).

As the spoiler season of Shadows over Innistrad is getting closer, it’s time to ask what the rotation is going to do to the current Standard format and perhaps if it’s going to be kind to the Eldrazi. So far, we don’t have all that much information yet, but we do know some things – the graveyard is going to be important and madness as a keyword is coming back. I’m sure that Jace, Vryn's Prodigy is happy about both of these things. Who knows if it can be even better in Standard than it is right now, but I’m pretty sure he’s not getting any worse. He even seems to be working well with the keyword „Delirium“, which checks whether you have four or more types of cards in your graveyard. Discarding whatever you want can certainly help in this regard.

As for the Eldrazi in the post-Innistrad world, this is a rather difficult question. There’s not much among the cards that have been spoiled so far that would work with the Eldrazi (in terms of providing colorless mana or otherwise supporting them). Eerie Interlude could be considered a „mass Displacer effect“, as it blinks all your creatures and then returns them to play at the end of the turn, so if your deck is full of dudes with comes-into-play effects, this could be potentially useful. However, I don’t think that this effect is playable at three mana, which is what it costs.

Instead of guessing from the spoiled cards, it might be a better idea to look at what rotates out instead. Mostly, we lose fetch-lands and the three-colored Khans cards like Siege Rhino and Mantis Rider. This could be good for the Eldrazi, as fitting into multicolored decks has never been their strength. If most decks go back to two colors, it will likely mean that they will have more space for colorless lands, which in turn means that it will be easier to accommodate cards like Thought-Knot Seer or Matter Reshaper – especially if the shells will use enemy colors and thus will have access to painlands.

These are just some of the first predictions based on the information that we have (which is rather scarce). I’m sure that I’ll get back to this topic in some of the next few articles, though.

Thanks for reading and see you next time!

Adam

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