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Next Level Modern Bant Eldrazi

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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

Updating Modern Bant Eldrazi

Hey everyone!

GP Prague and GP Columbus are in the books and the Legacy hype wave is going to slowly die down before rising again in autumn. GP Prague was won by an Ad Nauseam Storm deck, complete with audio-visual effects as a storm broke out over Prague almost exactly when the finals of the GP were about to start. For me, the GP marked my first time participating in a GP but not playing the main event – in the end, I decided that my grasp of the format simply wasn't good enough to justify playing (I really don't like playing when I feel I'm not prepared) and I spent the weekend playing Eternal Masters Limited and doing coverage for the Czech Magic website. I had a blast doing both and think I found out just how much work doing coverage involves (hats off to the Wizards coverage team who do a great job working on GP and PT coverage). As for the Eternal Masters drafts, even though I usually prefer to assume the control role in Limited, on Sunday, I ended up drafting a R/G aggro deck with multiple Kird Apes, Mogg Fanatics, Flinthoof Boars, Keldon Marauders, and pump spells like Rancor or Sylvan Might. It's hard to make conclusions after only several drafts, but R/G aggro definitely felt like one of the strongest archetypes – two of the three Eternal Masters drafts I played were won by R/G. I'll try to squeeze in a few more drafts with this set before the paper supply runs out (and people run out of money to play in these monster drafts). In general, the Eternal Masters Limited format reminds me of Cube, and there seem to be three principles that can make your deck work: speed, card advantage and synergy. I know that these are also relevant in „regular“ limited, but in EMA, you can't really have a winning deck without one of these and almost everything should be adjusted to this – meaning you shouldn't get stuck half-way, but should try to push the theme as much as possible. In a normal draft format, you can often be punished for committing too much to a single theme if the reward is not there. In Eternal Masters, the reward is almost always there if the theme is open and „fair“ decks aren't very good. The closest that you can get to a fair deck, in my opinion, is drafting something like Grixis value (that's the „card advantage principle“). The key here is flashback spells like Firebolt and Desperate Ravings, and then creatures with enters-the-battlefield triggers like Gravedigger or Ghitu Slinger.

As the Legacy season is ebbing away, Modern is becoming the next widely relevant format because of the WMCQs. Last time, I wrote about Scapeshift and today, I'd like to focus on another archetype – Bant Eldrazi.

Diversifying Bant Eldrazi in Modern

Every new deck that is added to the Modern metagame and cements its position there, proving it's not just a fluke, takes some time to perfect. Recently, we've seen Bant Eldrazi assume the position of a new „established deck“ in Modern. Several weeks ago, after the Modern bans, we could see all kinds of Eldrazi decks, including pretty much all five colors (ranging from R/G to W/B to Bant). But as of late, Bant Eldrazi has been claiming by far the most victories, leading many to believe that this color combination and not any other is the best one for Modern. I quite agree with this – the Bant shell seems like it offers the best tools for the deck: Ancient Stirrings and Noble Hierarch in green, Eldrazi Displacer and Path to Exile in white, and Drowner of Hope (as well as natural fixing from the Hierarch) in blue. However, is this really the best version of the deck? Are Bant Eldrazi going to stay the way they are for the foreseeable future, or is there still some potential for evolution in the deck? Considering the relative youth of the deck in the format, I'd go with the second option, and I want to explore some more possibilities.

In my opinion, the card that is the sleeper of the Bant Eldrazi deck, in that there's a lot of unused potential in it, is Eldrazi Displacer. In Standard, the card is an absolute house with Reflector Mage, but Modern is a much bigger format, and Displacer has a lot more great targets there. I recently started thinking again about the possible uses when I saw this deck which finished in the top 8 of a SCG IQ:

Eerie Interlude might seem a bit wild, but it can generate a lot of value in this deck, with eighteen creatures that do something when they enter or leave the battlefield. It also goes very well with Eternal Witness, giving you an infinite blinking engine, which is going to be hard to overcome for any deck that kills in a „fair“ way (or that relies on sweepers). Stonehorn Dignitary even creates a lock that says that the opponent can never attack again, when you combine it with Eternal Witness and Eerie Interlude.

Although Ryan's deck does a lot of powerful things, the decklist does look a bit sketchy, like a first draft rather than a finished product. All the one-of creatures seem a little strange without any way how to fetch them, like Chord of Calling. Also, I'm not sure how good the deck would be against any unfair archetype. And when I look at all these creatures with enter-the-battlefield triggers, I can't help but feel that Eldrazi Displacer would be stellar here. Perhaps a crossover between this deck and the Bant Eldrazi list would be possible? I tried to make it work, moving cards around and trying to balance things out, giving Eldrazi Displacer as many good targets as possible, while not compromising the Eldrazi core of the deck too much. So far, this is what I came up with:

This deck works a lot like a traditional Bant Eldrazi build – all the key pieces are here, but some of the lower-impact creatures have been removed in order to make more space for cards that have synergy with Eldrazi Displacer. The stock Bant Eldrazi list can suffer from not having enough relevant cards in the late game – without Eye of Ugin, there's no natural mana sink (except for Displacer) and no card advantage. Against decks that are designed to fight the war of attrition, like Jund, Bant Eldrazi would sometimes run out of things to do in the lategame. That's where Mulldrifter really shines. If you have a Displacer out, you can cast the Drifter for its evoke cost and then blink it (ideally using Eldrazi Temple), which will lead to you having drawn four cards and leaving you with a card drawing combo in play. Against most decks that try to trade 1 for 1 or get some small card advantage with stuff like Kolaghan's Command, this will often be backbreaking.

This hybrid version of Bant Eldrazi does rely on Eldrazi Displacer a lot more than the previous version. It could feel wrong to rely on a 4-of in the deck so much, but the truth is that thanks to Ancient Stirrings and Mulldrifter, you will see many more Displacers during an average game than you normally would. It's true that the Displacer is fairly easy to kill with something like a Lightning Bolt, which is why one of the main goals of the Eternal Witnesses in the deck will be bringing back dead Displacers. And again, the Witness creates a really powerful combination with Eldrazi Displacer when left unchecked.

A common strike against decks like these is that they are too „durdly“– they try to do too cute things to be successful in a format with as high of a power level as Modern. To some extent, I think that this is a valid objection, and there have certainly been decks that I designed that suffered from this flaw. However, I don't think this deck would be too guilty in this regard. Apart from Mulldrifter, all the cards that we add to the deck are regular Modern staples. Casting a turn 2 Eldrazi Displacer with the help of Eldrazi Temple is not a bad deal, even without any other utility the card might have later on. Simply put, the deck doesn't fall apart if you break the synergy – it mostly consists of individually powerful cards that also happen to do something more when you combine them. Eldrazi Temple gives you draws comparable to the madness we've seen in Modern before Eye of Ugin was banned, and on top of that, we also get the Displacer synergy. When you get that going, you only need a few activations to completely turn the game around. Every single Displacer activation with a Thragtusk out gives you 5 life and a 3/3 beast token. How is any aggressive deck going to beat that? Even if the opponent manages to kill your first wave of creatures, you can just cast an Eternal Witness, bring back a Displacer and in a few turns, you'll have so much gas that competing with it in a fair way will be almost impossible.

So far, I like what this deck is doing, and I'm pretty sure I will continue working on it. I still don't know if adding Displacer targets is the best way where to take Bant Eldrazi, but I have a strong feeling that the deck could still be perfected and taken into some new directions. Putting this much emphasis on card advantage and value cards might weaken the Eldrazi shell in a combo-heavy metagame, but right now, I don't think that would be a big problem in Modern. As the Modern metagame evolves, the deck will most certainly evolve as well, and thanks to the core being relatively flexible (basically just Eldrazi Temple + Thought-Knot Seer + Reality Smasher), I think that Eldrazi have a bright future in Modern.

Well, that's all from me for today. Let me know if you've had a different experience with Modern Eldrazi, or if you perhaps have some sweet new tech! Thanks for reading and see you next time,

Adam

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