Well, are they? I mean – not visually – that’s for sure. Fortunately, while “sex sells”, Wizards took the wise decision not to give the Eldrazi unnecessary breasticles or bulging budgie-smugglers, as has been the case for some other card arts.
What I really want to discuss is what is it that makes people want to play a deck. To those of you that follow professional magic and the Pro Tour you’ll have seen that the Modern format was shaken up by a massive influx of the new, stronger, Eldrazi deck made possible through new cards released in Oath of the Gatewatch. To those of you which didn’t see the matches but play Modern – you’re about to see the deck.
Aside from discussions as to what the power level of the deck is, and whether you should play it, is it something that you want to play? Is it sexy?
Before answering that let’s ask: what is it that puts a rocket in your pocket or makes you moister than an oyster?
LET’S GET IT ON
Breaking it down a bit – as with everything – what you’re attracted to in a deck is a matter of personal taste. I’ll talk about mine here, and I promise not to get a hedron (pun count: 1).
The first constructed deck that I played that felt really good to play was Delver a la Gerry Thompson, a particularly fine Standard deck, a 2012 vintage (example list is here for those interested).
Damn I loved this thing. I have fond memories of it as it allowed me to win my first ever Standard Tournament.
What made it feel good?
Clearly it was a competitive deck (even I could win a tournament with it) but I don’t think competitiveness alone is what makes it attractive. It’s that it has a reasonable chance of winning. Just to prove a point – I also love the Azorious Sun Titan list in Modern as well – which performs reasonably well but won’t be taking down any Top 8s soon. So having a chance is a good (if slightly obvious) criteria.
One of the things which made me love the Delver deck so much was the value you could generate with it consistently throughout the stages of the game. Turn 1 – Gitaxian Probe and Delver of Secrets – card draw and a potential 3/2 on turn 1. In Standard! Then Snapcaster is active from turn 2 onwards! Get to the 5th turn or so and you can flash in a Restoration Angel to block an attacker and blink Snapcaster Mage, getting another spell back and leaving a 3/4 flyer on the field for the swing back!
Dear Christ, Mohammed and Cthulu – the value you could generate!
If it got to the late game then you could play Runechanter’s Pike, meaning that all your spells allowed for big swings back and Moorland Haunt meant any soldiers who had died valiantly would be resurrected to swing the massive pike back at the opponent.
Right, so value, and generating it consistently throughout the game, is another great great thing.
IT’S NOT ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE PLAYING WITH, IT’S ABOUT HOW YOU PLAY IT
The manner in which you play the deck, or gain value, is important to me. Those little blocking and instant tricks gave you interesting interactions in the UW Delver deck. The deck was fun and interesting to play.
The little tricks allowed you to get back in the game (which against Prime Titan decks was pretty important at the time). It had a way to play the game to give the pilot a chance in almost any scenario. Oh, you played a massive Prime Titan? Wait until the combat step then then Vapor Snag that boy to give you a bit of time. Are you still lacking juice? Let Mr Snaperson flashback Snag or something else that’ll keep you alive a bit longer or draw cards.
The final criteria for me is resilience, with a sub-heading of consistency. Having a silky smooth mana base, or mana sources relative to what you need, is pretty nice. Looking at the Delver deck, the mana so sweet it might give you diabetes. Lots of single colour cost requirements and 8 double sources of mana which are almost always untapped when you need them. The mana base and draw spells gave you resilience against bad lands/cards in your starter.
That gives us :
- Having a Chance
- Interesting Interactions
- Resilience and Consistency
THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVOURITE THINGS
Just to briefly touch on some of my other favourite decks – two that I enjoy the company of (no – not Collected Company. Pun count back to zero).
Other Modern decks I loved were Jund in its heyday and Birthing Pod before it was banned.
Both had buckets of resilience (helloooo Deathrite Shaman).
Lot’s of fun interactions like all the Birthing Pod chains, Bob flips and Bloodbraid Elf into anything.
….and lot’s of value.
I really miss old Jund – if you’re in town, Bloodbraid call me. Please.
HOW DO I RATE THE ELDRAZI?
So, after my trip down memory lane on past relationships, let’s look at the criteria and how the Eldrazi measure up.
Criteria 1: Performance and does it have a chance? Dealing with the obvious question first – “hell yes” is the answer. The Pro Tour had 6 of these decks in the top 8, so I’d say so. Don’t think there’s much to add here.
Criteria 2: Does it have value? There’s definitely something to be said for being able to play 2 Eldrazi Mimics on turn 1 and a massive Reality Smasher on Turn 2 to swing in for 15 – but that’s a very explosive start which isn’t going to be consistent.
There’s some nice value around the Matter Reshaper and Thought-Knot Seer which make me go “maybe”. The lists with Mutavault have the extra value going on due to a manland’s versatility, and another big contributor to value comes from lists like Frank Lepore’s with Blight Herder and Drowner of Hope – which together upgrade it to an Obama-esque “Not Bad”.
Eye of Ugin is the thing which makes me think seriously about this deck for its value and consitency. Being able to find more threats and power them out is a great part of the Eldrazi deck.
TL:DR – it doesn’t feel amazing for value, but it feels good enough.
Criteria 3: Does it have interesting interactions? This is probably the big one for me. The Thought-Knot Seer interaction doesn’t seem massively interesting, so outside of the odd Blight Herder and Drowner of Hope plays the deck just seems to be: Play a dude. Swing. Play a dude. Swing. (Editor – Keys in a bowl at Steve’s house. Swing).
Criteria 4: Is there resilience and consistency? There’s little to no card draw or deck manipulation in the deck, reducing the consistency in early turns. While there are explosive starts, slow ones are also reasonably probable as I mentioned above. There’s bits of game dotted around the deck – a few cheap creatures, some man lands which can be activated cheaply. That being said, pro players normally favour reliability over the power level of the best possible draw of a deck – so there has to be something there – I guess I just don’t see it.
Did you play fewer, or smaller guys? Then you lose.
So – would I swipe left or right? Do I want to play Eldrazi? Is the Eldrazi deck sexy?
Summing up, Modern Eldrazi is clearly solid enough, but it’s not particularly attractive or particularly interesting. All in all, a bit like an accountant from Slough (unless being Sloughist is a thing now). I’d swipe right and give it a go, but I’d expect to be struggling for conversation or spark on the first date.
Unlike an accountant from Slough – I’d play Eldrazi if I could borrow it – but I wouldn’t trade away my other decks for it. Or buy the cards. #aprilbannings
Sorry Eldrazi, apparently I just don’t like big butts.
Bloodbraid Elf, call me if you’re in town.