After this weekend, the questions surrounding the viability of Eldrazi in Modern have been answered. The deck, or decks as there were three separate strains, dominated the top eight. Frank Lepore piloted Processor Eldrazi, Ivan Floch, Luis Scott-Vargas, and Shuhei Nakamura jammed Colorless Eldrazi, and Andrew Brown along with the PT Winner, Jiachen Tao, had the exact same Blue-Red Eldrazi List. The only non-Eldrazi decks in the top eight were two Affinity decks piloted by Patrick Dickmann and Pascal Maynard.

Simply recounting the prevalence of Eldrazi in the top eight doesn’t do justice to the dominance of the Eldrazi decks in the tournament as a whole. There were 32 players piloting some form of Eldrazi, 8% of the total Pro Tour metagame. Despite accounting for less than 10% of the field, 8 out of the top 20 decks were Eldrazi decks, 40%. Eldrazi also had the highest percentage of players going 6-4 or better in constructed. So yeah, the deck is the real deal, and Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch will forever be synonymous with our new Eldrazi overlords warping the format. Not since Pro Tour Paris, when CawBlade busted onto the scene, has a deck changed the landscape of a format so quickly and definitively.

The Good News

In his article on Monday, SaffronOlive called Pro Tour Atlanta “the most exciting Modern Pro Tour of all time.” If you’re looking at the top eight, there is a lot of evidence to support this claim. This is the first Modern Pro Tour without any copies of Lightning Bolt or Tarmogoyf in the top eight. Think about that. The cards that defined Modern as a format, with Lightning Bolt being the most played card, had no copies at all in the top eight.

Wastes were the second most common basic land to be played in the top eight, pretty good for having come into existence a few weeks ago. The sheer amount of colorless cards totally eclipsed colored spells in the top eight as well. In a format with shocks and fetches, arguably the best deck at the Pro Tour could operate with no colored mana at all. If you’re interested in shake-ups, this is one for the ages. Face to Face/Channel Fireball broke the format and in some ways that is good for viewership and good for selling packs of the latest set.

While I don’t have the numbers on viewership in front of me, I can say this is the first Pro Tour I’ve watched all the way through for a while. My buddy Max, who hasn’t watched a pro tour in the better part of a decade, tuned in to watch Eldrazi smash the reality of a stable Modern metagame. The piqued interest in the Pro Tour from a “I have to see this deck in action” angle shouldn’t be understated. It’s super exciting to see a new deck in action utterly dominate a format as it just doesn’t happen very often. I remember when Flash was power level errata-ed in Legacy and the deck dominated GP Columbus in 2007. In that case, Flash was only 3/8th’s of the top eight and received a ban a few short months later. It’s cool when new things happen and good for business when these shake-ups involve cards from new sets.

I’ve heard over and over that Modern doesn’t generate revenue for Wizards in the same way something like Standard does. In this case, PT Oath showcased a deck comprised almost entirely of cards from the last two sets. Eldrazi Mimic, Reality Smasher, Matter Reshaper, and Thought-Knot Seer are from Oath and all of these cards doubled over the weekend. While undoubtedly the secondary market was affected, the number of packs of Oath sold should also rise as retailers attempt to keep these cards in stock and casual players continue their pack cracking gamble.

The Bad News

I’ve really had to hold my tongue through the last section of the article as I was pretty unhappy with PT Oath as a whole. Yes, I enjoyed seeing a new deck at the top tables and watching Frank Lepore make his first Pro Tour top eight but I had a prevailing sense of “this sucks” throughout the weekend. My fundamental interest in Modern is that is supports a litany of decks. Yes, there is a rough tier hierarchy in place, but the beauty of Modern is that the tier two decks aren’t that much worse than the tier one decks. Furthermore, the best decks in the format, often linear aggressive strategies, have some glaring weaknesses that are exposed through sideboarding. I’m okay with Affinity having a good win percentage game one against the field because we have Stony Silence, Ancient Grudge, Shatterstorm, Fracturing Gust, and Pyroclasm to help shore up the match-up post board. Lastly, while we have time to adapt, adjust our decks accordingly to beat Eldrazi, the deck just does a lot of patently unfair things. The deck is essentially running eight Ancient Tombs (minus the life loss drawback) and has a fast clock and enough disruption in the form of Thought-Knot Seer, Chalice of the Void, and Dismember to juke aggro, combo, and control decks alike.

What I’m trying to get across is that Eldrazi, both UR and Colorless lists, warp the format. It doesn’t bother me that the deck is capable of a turn two win. This is pretty unlikely. What does bother me is its brutal efficiency and resilience to hate. Compare Eldrazi to a deck like Zoo, a reasonably straightforward beatdown deck. While it’s not particularly difficult to make Wild Nacatl a 3/3, you need to take damage in order to do so. Eldrazi can play a turn two 4/4 (immune to Lightning Bolt), not take any damage from their manabase, and then take a card from the opponents hand. The following turn you can follow it up with a hasty 5/5 trampler. Then even if the opponent has the spot removal, they also have to discard a card. This is not to mention that Eldrazi can shut down the most efficient removal spells by playing a Chalice of the Void on one, which of course does not effect the deck whatsoever.

Not only is Eldrazi more efficient than most decks in the format, thanks to Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple, but the deck is more difficult to interact with than something like Zoo as well. Land destruction is often too slow, countermagic can be avoided via multiple Cavern of Souls, and most of the commonly used removal spells are kind of awkward against creatures that replace themselves (Matter Reshaper), are too big to bolt, or have built in forms of protection. I have a hard time seeing why you would play any other beatdown deck when the various flavors of Eldrazi just do it better. This is bad for diversity. If the format has devolved into play Eldrazi, Affinity, or Infect then it’s not in a healthy place.

I don’t like having a sky is falling attitude towards Magic. I have a lot of faith that people will continue to innovate and find better solutions against the Eldrazi Deck. I’ve heard people suggest that maybe Living End would be a good place to be right now (despite Eldrazi decks having access to Chalice and Relic of Progenitus) or that Painter’s Servant could be a reasonable card to board in. I like the idea of a shake-up but I honestly can’t understand the rationale of a format where Eldrazi Temple and Eye of Ugin exist in the same deck but Cloudpost is banned. Seriously, try to think of a scenario where playing a Cloudpost, on turns one through four, could ever be better than Eye of Ugin into Eldrazi Temple. Even with access to 12 posts via Vesuva and Glimmerpost, I still think this deck would be much slower than Eldrazi and much more susceptible to hate through land destruction or disruption.

So yeah, my stance on the Pro Tour is that the two prevailing stories are that ChannelFireball/Face to Face broke the format and that Wizards of the Coast at best made a vast oversight when designing for Oath (or while designing Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple). I think all flavors of the Eldrazi deck do some really unfair things, aren’t good for tournament diversity, and will meet an eventual ban unless something insane happens in the top eight of the next few Modern GPs.

In terms of Magic, Shawn Massak is a Modern enthusiast, with a penchant for tier two decks, counterspells, and pre Eighth Edition frames. In terms of life, Shawn lives in Brighton, MA where he works as an employment coordinator for people with disabilities, plays guitar in an indie-pop band, and spends his free time reading comics, complaining about pro-wrestling, and wishing his apartment allowed dogs as pets.

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