Let’s be honest, Eldrazi Tron has not put up the numbers on the Grand Prix circuit. In the last two modern Grand Prix events (as of 10/2/17), 0 copies made the top 8. There was only one copy in top 16 between the two. So why are we having the conversation about it potentially being the best deck in Modern? Because, according to my experiences, it just IS.
Now before I go into why I think this is the best deck, I want to cover the deck’s list and general strategy.
4 Urza's Tower
4 Urza's Mine
4 Urza's Power Plant
4 Eldrazi Temple
3 Ghost Quarter
2 Cavern of Souls
1 Sea Gate Wreckage
4 Matter Reshaper
4 Thought-Knot Seer
4 Reality Smasher
4 Walking Ballista
1 Wurmcoil Engine
Other Spells (17)
4 Expedition Map
4 Chalice of the Void
3 Karn Liberated
2 Mind Stone
1 Basilisk Collar
1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
3 Warping Wail
2 Ratchet Bomb
2 Pithing Needle
2 Grafdigger's Cage
2 Relic of Progenitus
2 Hangarback Walker
1 All Is Dust
1 Basilisk Collar
We are playing a combo deck here, folks! Our most powerful draws are based around our four card combo: Urza’s Mine, Urza’s Tower, Urza’s Power Plant, and Karn Liberated. No, this doesn’t technically win the game, but most decks in modern simply can’t function against a turn 3 Karn, especially if they are on the draw. The games with turn 3 Karn are easy but, unfortunately, they are a minority of the deck’s draws. That’s where the rest of the list comes into play.
Chalice of the Void (x4)
This is for all the decks that are more efficient than ours. Chalice of the Void is the card I side out the most, but it hangs out in the main deck because when its good, its great. It is a single card that can make 10-20 cards in our opponent’s deck uncastable. Outside of mana production, this is where the deck gets to be “unfair”.
ELDRAZI!!!! These big beaters come out early thanks to Eldrazi Temple and provide some nice utility and card advantage along the way. Matter Reshaper can trade with most early threats in modern and replaces itself to boot. Thought-Knot Seer can take the card we fear most out of our opponent’s hand, and gives us interaction against even the most un-interactive decks in the format. Reality Smasher is bigger and badder than most things going on in modern. Oh, and it has haste and trample. Oh, and it is an automatic two-for-one against targeted removal. It kind of does it all. Endbringer is just what the name implies. If we get to untap with this creature in play, the world is our oyster. Due to its high mana cost, it will likely come down after both players have exhausted their resources, bettering our chances of unlocking its powerful abilities.
Karn Liberated (x3)
Karn does in this deck what he does in traditional Tron decks. He quickly grinds away our opponent’s resources and is nearly impossible to kill. Resolve this card against any midrange deck and then just try to lose… it’s pretty hard.
A lot of Eldrazi Tron decks will put All Is Dust in this slot. I prefer Ugin. Players will argue that Eldrazi Temple enables an earlier casting of All Is Dust, which is true, though I’ve rarely seen that come up. When I had All Is Dust in my main deck, I found it was sided out in most match-ups. It is bad against the following decks: Eldrazi Tron, Regular Tron, Affinity, Scapeshift, Ad Nauseum, Lantern Control, Ironworks Combo, Blue-based control decks, Storm, Living End, Dredge, and any other decks that are low on permanents or don’t care about sacrificing them. When All Is Dust is at its worst, it literally does nothing. When Ugin is at his worst, he can still just win the game with damage or card advantage through the ultimate (which happens rather quickly). Just like Karn, he is very difficult to kill. I don’t disapprove of All Is Dust, but I aim to make every card in my main deck viable in every match.
Walking Ballista (x4)
Honestly, without this card I don’t think Eldrazi Tron would be a very good deck. Walking Ballista fills all the gaps that are needed. It can be played on turn two if we need to curve out against an aggressive deck, or it can be a top-end finisher in the late game. It’s a blocker, it’s an attacker, it’s removal, it’s burn, and it’s a mana-sink. I can’t begin to count the number of games I have won or even stolen off the back of this incredible artifact creature.
Wurmcoil Engine (x1)
I used to run this card in the sideboard until I realized I was siding it in in every matchup. It isn’t that hard to cast even without Tron and it does a lot to help stabilize and close out a game. Gaining six life can sometimes just win us the game on its own, and the fact that it is 3 creatures in total makes it very hard for any midrange deck to beat. It is also one of the best things we can be doing in the big mana mirrors.
I don’t like having to run Dismember. It really hurts to cast and against go-wide aggressive decks or creatureless combo and/or control decks, it feels bad just looking at it. That said, it is necessary. Dealing with an opponent’s 5-toughness creature is something that we just have to do in modern. Tasigur, the Golden Fang, Gurmag Angler, opposing Eldrazi, and combo pieces are all threats that we are looking to get off the field. It is also one of my favorite turn-1 plays in the deck. I will pay 4 life to kill a Birds of Paradise any day of the week.
Basilisk Collar (x1)
It’s a weird card to put in a modern deck, but it’s secretly amazing. Putting it on any of our big beaters allows us to gain life in huge chunks that most decks will have trouble beating. Putting it on Walking Ballista or Endbringer means our opponent can’t have creatures anymore thanks to the death touch. I side it out sort of frequently, but it speaks to its power when I tell you that I run a second one in the sideboard.
Expedition Map helps us do the broken things our deck is capable of while adding a little late-game utility. Obviously this greatly increases our chances for turn-3 Tron, but it also enables us to get an Eldrazi Temple if that’s the kind of draw we have. I have, more than once, seen the need to tutor up a Ghost Quarter or Cavern of Souls. The late game go-to is Sea Gate Wreckage, though more and more I’m wondering if Sea Gate Wreckage should be in the deck at all. I have activated it maybe 6 times in my months of playing the deck. And something that really can’t be overstated, Expedition Map finds us Wastes. Yes, that crappy colorless basic land that we have to run in our deck for Ghost Quarter and Path to Exile. When there is a Blood Moon on the battlefield, there is no other tutor target that matters.
Mind Stone (x2)
A lot of players are moving away from this card and I don’t blame them. It is clunky and an unimpressive play on turn 2. I do side it out in matches where it isn’t relevant, but it makes for more consistent game 1 draws and gives us additional outs to Blood Moon. I also like it for enabling a turn 3 Chalice of the Void where X=2 (which is way more powerful than 1 against a lot of decks) or a turn-3 Thought-Knot Seer without our “unfair” lands.
And that’s the deck list! Looking at it on paper, it may seem like a pile of clunky cards without any obvious synergy, and that’s because it is. But those seemingly negative attributes actually add to why I think this is currently the best deck in Modern. There is no reliable way to attack this deck. I have beaten Blood Moon, Ceremonious Rejection, Spreading Seas, Stony Silence, Crucible/Ghost Quarter, and all the hate cards you can think of coming out of an opponent’s deck. We are just doing too many different things for sideboard cards to beat. The most reliable strategy our opponents can do is disrupt our mana. Ponza is a fringe, land destruction/ramp deck that regularly plays turn-2 Blood Moon. My record against it so far is 3-1.
Pre-Board – Mulligans
Haters of Eldrazi Tron will try and say there is no skill to playing this deck. Though it certainly has less decisions than a Serum Visions deck, there is still plenty to learn about it to make your decisions correctly. The order in which we should play our threats and the lands we get with Expedition Map will differ from match to match. That said, the most important decision to make comes at the very beginning of the game: mulligans.
Watching other players with this deck, I have noticed that they often do not mulligan aggressively enough. When looking at our opening 7 in game 1 against an unknown deck, the most important thing to ask ourselves is “Am I doing something unfair?” If not, then that hand is no good. A few different things can qualify as “unfair”, but all of them involve casting spells ahead of schedule:
- All 3 Tron lands and threat(s): I’ve kept my fair share of hands with Tron and no threats and I can tell you it is not a good idea. And when I say you need all 3, I mean ALL 3 (Expedition Map counts as 1). Do not keep a hand with 2 Tron lands and some big threats with the hope of drawing the third. We don’t run enough card selection to expect that to happen.
- Eldrazi Temple and Eldrazi along the curve: By “along the curve” I mean we need 2 or more Eldrazi to cheat out early with that Temple. 1 will suffice if you have other plays wrapped up for the early turns.
- Mind Stone and Thought-Knot Seer: Turn-3 Thought-Knot Seer is still a pretty unfair thing to do in modern.
- Mind Stone and Chalice of the Void: Chalice of The Void on 2 is really strong against the majority of decks in the format. Think about everything we stop: Tarmogoyf, Terminate, just about every card in Storm, 90% of ramp spells in Scapeshift, the more powerful spells in Burn, 90% of the payoffs in Affinity, Snapcaster Mage, etc etc (you get the idea). Getting it out turn-3 is almost certain to strand 2 or more cards in your opponent’s hand, and even more as the game goes on.
A 7 card hand without any of these things probably needs to go back. You can lower your standards a bit for 6 and 5 thanks to the scry rule. I would say I mulligan to five 1 out of 7 games and I win 4 out of 5 of those games. I know it hurts to mulligan, but just tell yourself “I’m not winning this game if I don’t” (because most likely, that’s true).
Pre-Board – Early Game
When it comes to playing the game, look out for untapped blue mana. Counterspells are by far the most efficient way to answer all of our threats. We need to choose which of our threats we want countered and when. Don’t be afraid to pass the turn without playing anything if that enables us to play two things on the following turn. And against a blue deck, it is sometimes correct to search for a Cavern of Souls with Expedition Map rather than another Tron piece depending on the nature of your hand.
When our opponent is not playing blue, just start firing on all cylinders. Our threats are almost all 2-for-1’s in some capacity and they provide a quick clock. Use your best judgement to determine at what point you will be casting Walking Ballista. If you are against an aggressive deck, probably just cast it at any point on the curve where you have nothing else to play. If you are against a midrange deck, hold it until you can cast it for at least 3. Your sequencing will be best when informed by a comprehensive understanding of the modern format.
The sideboards for Eldrazi Tron decks can cover a surprising number of matchups for a mono-colorless deck. My sideboard is currently:
- 3x Warping Wail – Great against Affinity, Scapeshift, Ponza, Counters Company.
- 2x Pithing Needle – Great card against any deck that plays cards with activated abilities (Planeswalkers, Man-Lands, Artifacts, etc.)
- 2x Hangarback Walker – Good when you need a lower curve or more blockers. Really shines against any attrition deck without Path to Exile, specifically Death’s Shadow. I kind of want to find space for one more in my board.
- 2x Relic of Progenitus – Comes in against Snapcaster Mage decks, Tarmogoyf decks, decks with delve threats, obviously Dredge and Living End, and any graveyard based combo deck. I want to find space for one more in the 75, probably in the main deck.
- 2x Grafdigger’s Cage – Only for Dredge and Collected Company decks. Maybe Storm. This is one you can cut depending on the meta, but when it’s good it’s great.
- 2x Ratchet Bomb – Pretty good against any aggressive deck with a bunch of 1 or 2 CMC permanents. Great against tokens. I’m always cautious bringing this in against a white deck because I don’t want to make their Stony Silence better than it already is, though against Hatebears it’s a little too good to pass up.
- 1x Basilisk Collar – Great in any creature or racing matchup.
- 1x All Is Dust – A very swingy card that often wins the game. Great in any matchup where you expect a board stall or troublesome non-creature permanents.
Some other cards I have seen in Eldrazi Tron sideboards are:
- Surgical Extraction – I don’t like this card in the sideboard. This isn’t the game EldraziTron is trying to play. We don’t kill creatures too often, we don’t make our opponent discard, and hitting a Valakut with Ghost Quarter AND having this in your hand is a pipe dream at best.
- Spatial Contortion – I like this card if you expect to see a lot of Burn, Counters Company, Affinity, or Elves. It is a little too narrow for me, but can be a solid meta call.
- Gut Shot – I don’t think this is very good for the deck. The only matchup I could see wanting it in is Affinity, but even that is a bit of a stretch.
- Batterskull – I have never tried this one, but it could shine in any racing matchup. With our lands online, it can be a pretty un-killable threat as well.
- Crucible of Worlds – I don’t like this for the deck. It doesn’t feel like something we are trying to do. In a perfect world we could find space for it, but I prefer to have higher impact cards in my sideboard. Also, post board, it is not unlikely that our opponent has brought in a some amount of artifact destruction.
- Witchbane Orb – Can be a good hoser to Burn, Valakut, discard, Lantern Control, etc. I’m not sold on it. Tapping 4 mana for something that doesn’t affect the board is not how I want to be playing this deck and, much like Crucible, I’m looking for something higher impact than this.
I won’t be going into detail on how I sideboard for every matchup, but I will tell you the cards I most commonly side out: Chalice of the Void, Mind Stone, Basilisk Collar, 1-3 Karn Liberated, Ugin the Spirit Dragon, Endbringer and Dismember. The rest of the cards stay in the deck for almost every matchup.
Post-Board – Mulligans
Unlike pre-board, we aren’t just looking for “unfair” draws when deciding to keep or mull. That’s not to say you wouldn’t like turn-3 Tron post-board, but there are a wider range of acceptable keeps. Against Affinity or a similar aggressive deck, a hand with 2-4 early interaction cards is easily keepable and usually preferable to “unfair” starts. If we survive to the late game, we’ve probably already won. Against a BGx deck, curving Relic of Progenitus – Hangarback Walker – Matter Reshaper is an ideal start. The point is, once we refine the deck for the matchup, almost all of our cards should be good at any point in the game. We still want to start strong, but we can redefine what a strong start is.
Post-Board – Early Game
Post-board games will often be much more interactive and decision heavy. Turn-1 can be spent playing a Relic of Progenitus or Grafdigger’s Cage instead of an Expedition Map. In these games, it often pays to favor interaction over unfairness. Our opponent will have better answers to our threats and less dead cards in their deck, so it should be our goal to just grind through the early game and get to where both players are playing off the top. Our cards are better than theirs and we will win that game 80% of the time.
BEST DECK IN MODERN
Well that was a quick rundown of the deck’s list and strategy. So is it the best deck in the modern format? I believe it is because we get to do unfair things on par with the most unfair decks, our individual cards are better than our opponent’s, we have better mana consistency than even a mono-colored deck, and there is no single answer to the variety of threats we produce.
Turn-3 Tron plus Karn Liberated. That’s our combo. It’s a tried and true strategy and when we follow that up with a Reality Smasher, our opponent has to find an answer to a 5/5 (and likely discard a card if they do) while Karn takes a card away from them every turn. No, it isn’t a turn 2 Griselbrand but it is still plenty broken and more than most decks can handle. Even if we don’t have Karn Liberated, having access to 7 mana on turn 3 puts us in a position to win almost any game. With disciplined mulligans, most game 1’s should be ours.
Even when we don’t get turn 3 Tron, if the game goes late we just have bigger and better cards in our deck than our opponents do. When you are top-decking better than Jund, you are in a pretty good spot.
We also don’t get tripped up by those pesky mana symbols in the cost. Not having any colors in your deck is a liberating feeling. Every single land drop will help you cast every single spell. I used to play Merfolk and even in that mono-colored deck I would sometimes lose from not having enough blue mana to cast my spells. Losing from color screw is a percentage of game losses we can eschew with Eldrazi Tron.
And what is our opponent to do? Bring in Stony Silence? Sure, but we have planeswalkers and big beaters. Bring in land destruction? Sure, but if they don’t include a quick clock we will eventually just cast our spells anyway. Discard spells? We have the better top decks. Blood Moon? We just cast our generic costed spells off mountains. Ensnaring Bridge? Karn, Walking Ballista, Ugin. Damnation? Supreme Verdict? Ceremonious Rejection? Path to Exile? Planeswalkers. 2-for-1 creatures. Cavern of Souls. Chalice of the Void.
Eldrazi Tron takes the best out of the mid-to-top-end from traditional Tron decks and combines it with a regular curve of aggressive, value creatures and disruption. If we don’t cast Karn on turn 3, our opponent will spend all their resources dealing with an initial onslaught only to be overwhelmed in the late game by our haymakers. The sideboard has some of the best bullets in modern outside of White. Meanwhile our clunky, un-synergistic deck dodges any one sideboard strategy and we get to run a host of utility lands without sacrificing mana consistency.
For the past 11 weeks, I have gone at least 3-0-1 at my local game store’s modern league. The meta has warped around me in an effort to beat my deck and I still come out on top week after week. From analyzing Eldrazi Tron’s matchups and play patterns and taking my personal experience into account, I can safely say that I believe it to be the best deck in modern.