Storming Through the Rise of the Eldrazi

It didn't take long for Oath of the Gatewatch to begin defining the Modern format. It is apparent to anyone paying attention that the Eldrazi menace is a powerful one, taking advantage of the incredible efficiency provided by Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple. With 75% of the PT Oath of the Gatewatch Top 8 playing some variety of Reality Smasher, many are left wondering if we have a new "best deck" on our hands in Modern. Less clear though was how these obviously strong cards would begin making their way into legacy, if at all. The existing MUD decks provided a neat shell, but it was unclear whether or not Reality Smasher and Thought-Knot Seer are actually better than Metalworker and Kuldotha Forgemaster.

 

Reality Smasher
Thought-Knot Seer

 

MUD was already on the rise in the Legacy metagame over the past few months, putting up subtle numbers in a lot of smaller events across the country. For reference, here is a list piloted to a 2nd place finish at the SCG Classic in Atlanta at the end of January.

MUD

Eric Malmquist
SCG Classic Atlanta - 2nd Place

1 Bottled Cloister
4 Chalice of the Void
4 Grim Monolith
2 Lightning Greaves
1 Spine of Ish Sah
1 Staff Of Domination
4 Trinisphere
1 Blightsteel Colossus
4 Kuldotha Forgemaster
4 Lodestone Golem
4 Metalworker
1 Platinum Emperion
1 Sundering Titan
3 Wurmcoil Engine
2 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
4 Ancient Tomb
4 City of Traitors
4 Cloudpost
4 Glimmerpost
4 Vesuva
3 Wasteland

Sideboard :

1 Coercive Portal
2 Crucible Of Worlds
2 Ensnaring Bridge
1 Ratchet Bomb
1 Sphere of Resistance
2 Tormod's Crypt
1 Duplicant
2 Phyrexian Revoker
1 Platinum Angel
1 Steel Hellkite
1 Sundering Titan

Given a few weeks to attempt to cement itself, I would argue however that the Eldrazi list is going to quickly become the new norm. It started out as something a lot of people were trying, but after putting two players into the Top 8 of the SCG Open in Philadelphia this past weekend in the hands of Gerry Thompson and Harlan Firer, it would not be surprising to see not only the usual MUD players jump on board with the new list, but also a bunch of people make their first foray into Chalice of the Void. For reference, here is Gerry Thompson's list from the Open.

Colorless Eldrazi

Gerry Thompson
SCG Open Philadelphia - 2nd Place

4 Chalice of the Void
2 Mox Diamond
4 Thorn of Amethyst
4 Eldrazi Mimic
1 Endbringer
4 Endless One
4 Matter Reshaper
4 Reality Smasher
4 Thought-Knot Seer
3 Dismember
1 Warping Wail
4 Ancient Tomb
4 Cavern of Souls
4 City of Traitors
4 Eldrazi Temple
4 Wasteland
3 Eye of Ugin
1 Karakas
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

Sideboard :

2 Pithing Needle
2 Sphere of Resistance
3 Faerie Macabre
1 Dismember
3 Warping Wail
2 Umezawa's Jitte
2 All Is Dust

If we make a quick comparison of what problematic cards each deck plays, we can begin to paint a picture for what this potential shift in the metagame would mean for The Epic Storm. Eric's list of MUD plays 4 Chalice of the Void and 4 Trinisphere, and compounding that, he also plays 4 Grim Monolith which allow for a Turn 1 Trinisphere some amount of the time. The chance of an opening hand with a City of Traitors or Ancient Tomb, a Grim Monolith, and a Trinisphere is approximately 10%, so that is certainly not an insignificant point for the traditional MUD lists, given how backbreaking a Turn 1 Trinisphere can be. Out of the sideboard, Eric has a pair of Phyrexian Revokers, a Ratchet Bomb, and a Sphere of Resistance to apply some additional pressure. This also isn't counting the 4 Lodestone Golems which are definitely problematic, but a bit less the focus for this exact point.

Gerry's list of Colorless Eldrazi plays 4 Chalice of the Void, 4 Thorn of Amethyst, and a Warping Wail. He also plays 2 Mox Diamond to assist in rushing out the two-mana artifacts that we don't want to see. Out of the sideboard, Gerry has access to 2 Sphere of Resistance and an additional 3 Warping Wails. Some rough calculations show that, if we ignore Warping Wail as a hate piece for the moment, Eric appears to have a small, but noticeable increase in the likelihood of a turn one hate piece. Additionally, while Thorn of Amethyst is certainly problematic, especially when backed up by the clock of Reality Smasher, Trinisphere tends to be a lot more backbreaking both pre- and post-sideboard. For the same reasons that we ignored Lodestone Golem for the time being, we are also going to keep our focus away from Thought-Knot Seer at the moment.

The other really key difference in my eyes between MUD and Colorless Eldrazi for us is the ability to present a clock. MUD could present fairly quick kills, but we typically had a few turns to find and resolve an answer to hate piece or sculpt a better hand while MUD set up whatever else they were doing. Now, as Eldrazi Mimic and Reality Smasher become more of the norm, we will often have less time to sculpt and develop a game plan around the hate piece before our Ad Nauseams become fairly ineffective and we are on the verge of death. However, Empty the Warrens tends to remain a viable option for longer against the Eldrazi versions, as they don't have Blightsteel Colossus or Metalworker/Staff of Domination to easily go over the top of the Goblin tokens.

If we look at what our sideboard options are at the moment, we can narrow down the list to a few different reasonable choices.

Abrupt Decay
Chain Of Vapor
Echoing Truth

 

Let's start with Abrupt Decay. Frankly, this card isn't going anywhere. I think that now more than ever, we need to be bringing in four of this card. We don't have the time to sit around and wait to find one, and when it comes to Thought-Knot Seer pressuring out hand, often times one will not be enough to solve the problem. That being said also, now that Lodestone Golem is transforming into Thought-Knot Seer, we less often need our removal spell to be able to deal with the four-drop of the deck. Previously it was fairly miserable to look at the Abrupt Decay in your hand while taking five damage, but Thought-Knot Seer allows us to care a little bit less about that slot than we might otherwise have to. It also means that our removal spell for their other hate cards will not be taxed as heavily, meaning that a two-drop can often pull very similar weight to any one-drop removal spell.

Chain of Vapor's stock has gone up in my opinion. It is still our best option for dealing with Thorn of Amethyst effects, and is one of the most versatile cards in the sideboard, coming in for pretty much any match-up that has a piece of permanent-based hate. It is potentially true that, if you're area is ripe with the new Eldrazi menace, 2 Chain of Vapors may be correct. It is also still one of our best ways to generate extra storm in the games where Ad Nauseam and Empty the Warrens quickly become ineffective options, and we need a straight storm kill.

Echoing Truth likely continues to be a fairly ineffective answer to the problems we are having. While it is fairly diverse, it can't be found with Burning Wish and it tends to be inefficient for dealing with Trinisphere. It also can't answer a Chalice of the Void on two like Abrupt Decay can, though that isn't as frequently an issue.

 

Shattering Spree
Void Snare
Hurkyl's Recall

 

Shattering Spree finally has a chance to make a comeback! In games that go slightly longer, Shattering Spree is one of your best Burning Wish targets for dealing with multiple problems. In one quick motion, it can answer a Trinisphere and a Chalice of the Void on one. As the amount of problematic artifacts in the metagame continues to increase, I suspect that Shattering Spree may begin to push its way back into the sideboard. I don't plan to leave home without a copy for any legacy tournament in the near future. It also still efficiently deals with Lodestone Golem out of the original MUD decks that you may run into.

Void Snare is falling from grace for me a little bit. While Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is still a card people play, it's not as popular as it had been in previous metagames, and it simply does deal with multiple hate pieces in a very exciting way. It is possible that it still deserves the one sideboard slot for its high versatility, but if MUD/Eldrazi decks continue to grow in the metagame with Death and Taxes decks fall to the wayside, we may look to dropping Void Snare for additional help.

Lastly, we have Hurkyl’s Recall. I don't think we've reached that point in the metagame yet. Hurkyl’s Recall is great at what it does, and can deal with multiple problems even better than Shattering Spree can in a lot of cases. The issue is that it simply is not versatile in any sense of the word, and it can't be found with Burning Wish, meaning that we'd need to be boarding it in with the expectation of drawing it, pushing us towards wanting more than one copy, which is a lot for such a narrow card. I envision a future where Hurkyl’s Recall is the card to play, but I don't believe we are there just yet.

With that in mind, here is what my current list looks like, noting the changes in the sideboard that are a bit off from the beaten path.

The EPIC Storm

AJ Kerrigan

4 Burning Wish
4 Infernal Tutor
4 Brainstorm
4 Ponder
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Cabal Therapy
2 Duress
1 Empty the Warrens
1 Ad Nauseam
4 Rite of Flame
4 Dark Ritual
4 Lion's Eye Diamond
4 Lotus Petal
3 Chrome Mox
4 Polluted Delta
4 Bloodstained Mire
2 Underground Sea
1 Volcanic Island
1 Badlands
1 Swamp

Sideboard :

1 Bayou
4 Abrupt Decay
1 Telemin Performance
1 Shattering Spree
2 Chain of Vapor
1 Past in Flames
1 Tendrils of Agony
1 Empty the Warrens
1 Thoughtseize
1 Dark Petition
1 Massacre

Of course, your mileage may vary based on your expected metagame. This list if built with the expectation of a fairly high amount of Miracles and Colorless Eldrazi, reflecting the metagame I saw while observing the SCG Open in Philadelphia. I have some other interesting choices that could take up a whole other article (Telemin Performance), but the key focus here is on the Shattering Spree, the full playset of Abrupt Decays, and the second copy of Chain of Vapor. Shattering Spree is more for a very specific way in which the game would play out, but I envision this becoming more popular as the deck rises in popularity. You can't expect to learn on Shattering Spree to heavily, but given the decrease in the usefulness of Void Snare that I mentioned, I don't mind using the slot to have access to this effect for the time being. This should also give us the right mix of diversity while still giving us fairly pointed answers to the growing problem. I initially thought that these changes might be a bit of an overreaction, but after seeing just how popular the deck was in Philadelphia, and seeing the results it put up in the hands of popular players, I fully expect the deck to increase in popularity fairly quickly.

I'd love to hear what you guys are doing to combat the new Chalice of the Void decks. There is not yet a stock list, and there are definitely numerous different ways that one can approach the matchup, so it is always interesting to see what everyone else is thinking. Once I've had more opportunities to test the matchup in detail, I'll definitely follow up with the information that I have gathered.

Until next time though, happy storming!


AJ Kerrigan

I'm an Options Trader by day, and a long-time Epic Storm enthusiast by night. When I'm not busy, I'm either watching Twitch, jamming out to Taylor Swift, or beating StarCityGames grinders on camera with Empty the Warrens.