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By: olaw, Oliver Law
Feb 25 2016 1:00pm
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Welcome to another Modern Musings!   I found myself tuning into the SCG Open in Louisville this weekend to see how the Modern format shaped up post-Pro Tour.  Obviously Eldrazi was the deck to beat coming into the tournament but could the metagame adapt now Eldrazi had a target firmly on its back.

The Top 8 of the SCG Louisville Open looked as follows:

  1. Austin Holcomb
  2. Ken Ketter
    UW Eldrazi
  3. Jacob Dyer
    UR Eldrazi
  4. Alex Zurawski
    RG Eldrazi
  5. Jeff Hoogland
  6. Eric Flickinger
  7. Andrew Tenjum
    UW Eldrazi
  8. Aaron Reed

Despite being the deck to beat, Eldrazi still dominated proceedings in Louisville.  65 players made it into Day 2 of the tournament and 31 of those players were playing some form of Eldrazi deck (roughly 48% of the Day 2 field).  Four Eldrazi players made the Top 8 of the tournament and plenty more were waiting in the wings with eleven Eldrazi players in the Top 16 (positions 9th-15th were all Eldrazi decks).

Eldrazi in a Variety of Different Flavours
UW Eldrazi was the most successful deck of the tournament putting two players into the Top 8 and a further four players into the Top 16.  UW Eldrazi is a deck that has seen innovation made by Andrew Tenjum, who made Top 8, and is an evolution of the deck designed to help deal with the mirror.  The main additions the deck gains from White are Path to Exile and Eldrazi Displacer.  Path is a powerful and cheap removal spell against opposing Eldrazi and the Displacer can blink Drowner of Hope and Eldrazi Skyspawner for value, protect your guys from removal, as well as tap down blockers to force through attacks.

White also opens up some interesting sideboard options.  The deck has access to Stony Silence against Affinity, Worship is another mirror breaker and Disenchant which answers opposing sideboard cards like Ensnaring Bridge and Painter's Servant. Another nice piece of sideboard tech is Vesuva which comes in for the mirror allowing you to copy an Eye of Ugin or Eldrazi Temple on the other side to keep pace or can copy your own Temple to further accelerate you.

As previously mentioned there were also various other flavours of Eldrazi at the Open. UR Eldrazi was run to 3rd Place by Jacob Dyer with a very similar list to Jiachen Tao's Pro Tour winning decklist. Vile Aggregate and Eldrazi Obligator being the driving forces towards red and help out in the mirror.

More interesting was Alex Zurawski's RG Eldrazi deck which capitalises on the power of World Breaker in the current metagame and adds a big sweeper in the form of Kozilek's ReturnWorld Breaker is a main deck card capable of destroying lands, blowing up Affinity's artifacts and has game against hate cards, such as Painter's Servant, Ensnaring Bridge and even Blood Moon.  There was also a Bant version of Eldrazi which is basically the UW Eldrazi deck splashing green for access to World Breaker.

Kozilek's Return is great at sweeping away the creatures from aggro decks or otherwise creature heavy decks.  It also played a big part in allowing Alex to beat Jeff Hoogland's Kiki-Chord in the quarterfinals.  Double Kozilek's Return allowed Alex to sweep Jeff's board while keeping his Oblivion Sower on board and following it up with attack.  Oblivion Sower is another good card in the mirror as you can get Eldrazi lands off the top to make even bigger plays.

Outside the Top 8
Zach Voss brought a very different version of Eldrazi to the Open.  The deck is a hybrid between Eldrazi and Tron using the Tron lands to further ramp mana in the deck.

This deck is quite unusual and seemingly quite greedy in trying go even bigger than Eldrazi.  It was the most successful Colourless Eldrazi decks, which seems to have generally fallen out of favour.  Colourless Eldrazi, as played out in Top 8 of the Pro Tour, seems to be weaker in the mirror than the coloured Eldrazi decks.  Casting an Ulamog or Kozilek certainly seems like it should wrap up the game fairly swiftly.  Going even bigger might be a real answer to Eldrazi.

Fighting the Good Fight
The story of the Open was certainly Eldrazi dominance but let's take a look at the decks that fought the good fight against the Eldrazi.

The winner of the tournament was Austin Holcomb with Affinity. Affinity was the most successful non-Eldrazi deck and is still proving up to bringing the fight to Eldrazi.  Here's Austin's decklist:

One of the tastiest bits of tech in Austin's deck is the combination of Ensnaring Bridge and Ghirapur AEther GridEnsnaring Bridge is one of the best sideboard options available against Eldrazi as their huge creatures really struggle to attack through it.  Affinity can still poke through attacks with its 1 power flyers and can pull other shenanigans like attaching Cranial Plating at instant speed.  If the board ends up stalled with Bridge in play then the AEther Grid can be used to ping the way to victory.

Jeff Hoogland is the SCG Tour Leader and managed to play Kiki-Chord into the Top 8. Jeff finished top of the standings and put up very impressive results in an Eldrazi heavy field.  Let's take a look at the list (and yes he did play 62 cards and no I can't really understand why):

The deck's creatures aren't an immediate match for the Eldrazi but the deck is very good at filling up its side of the battlefield. This is often enough to see out the early game and from there the deck can use Restoration Angel, Chord of Calling and other cards to build a game winning advantage or find the Angel/Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker combo for the win. There is a lot of great tech in this deck including the toolbox one-ofs. Big Game Hunter is a nice cheap answer to a big Eldrazi and kills Reality Smasher without causing you to discard a card. Shriekmaw from the sideboard also has similar applications.

Another deck that put in a decent showing was Merfolk, which was run by Aaron Reed into the Top 8 and put 4 copies into Day 2.  U/W Merfolk seemed to be the more popular choice, for access to Path to Exile, but Aaron's Mono-Blue version had the most success.

Merfolk has access to Spreading Seas, and some versions use Sea's Claim too, to slow the Eldrazi decks and then uses the synergy of its creatures to beat through.

Outside the Top 8
There were some cool decks in the Top 32.  My personal favourite is Gabriel Hatcher's Skred Red deck which he played to 27th Place:

The deck seems like a bit of a mish-mash of ideas but a strong Blood Moon deck seems like it could be good and Skred seems a strong removal spell for dealing with big Eldrazi.

Eldrazi is absolutely here to say and its dominance certainly hasn't been challenged so far.  Next weekend there are three Modern Grand Prix events taking place in Detroit, Bologna and Melbourne which will be a further test of the format.  It will be interesting to see if there are any further evolutions to the format coming out of that.  Long-term I see Eldrazi being bad for the format and a ban being very much warranted but for now the evolution of the format is pretty interesting.  Eldrazi is dominating but at least there is some variety amongst those decks rather than just one best deck.

There are a number of problems with trying to get a handle on the Eldrazi.  The general power level of Eldrazi is huge but its weaknesses are few and far between.  Strong sideboard (or main deck if necessary) cards are hard to come by even in a card pool as large as Modern.  Further, as we've seen, Eldrazi is very capable of adapting to the hate.  Eldrazi is not only strong but versatile and more than capable of adapting to respond to any answers that the format may find.

Thanks for reading,

Oliver Law (olaw on MTGO)
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