Priemer’s Primers: Legacy, Eldrazi Style

Written by Tyler Priemer on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Legacy

Priemer’s Primers:  Legacy, Eldrazi Style

Tyler Priemer

Tyler has been playing TCGs for nearly 20 years. A long brewer with a knack for Legacy, there's nothing he loves more than making crazy decks a reality

The Eldrazi are all over Magic right now. It’s a fact of life. You walk into any Standard or Modern tournament and you can’t go two rounds without facing some kind of Eldrazi concoction. Since the Pro Tour, including my own article on the subject right here on LegitMtG, players have suspected that these eldritch abominations have the chops to make their way into Legacy as well. The sheer power level of having 16 Sol lands to consistently power out Thought-Knot Seers and Reality Smashers makes the Modern version look like a joke. On top of that, having a consistent turn 1 Chalice of the Void on turn 1 is far more devastating in Legacy than in Modern, as the format is so dependent on 1-drops, such as Deathrite Shaman, Brainstorm, and Swords to Plowshares.

Our suspicions have been confirmed thanks to four fantastic top 16 finishes at the StarCityGames Legacy Open in Philadelphia last weekend, including a 2nd place finish for Gerry Thompson. These decks combined the raw power of the new Eldrazi with some interesting support cards to tear a swath through a relatively unprepared field. Today we’re going to be breaking down the similarities and the subtle differences of this new entity in the metagame!

As you can see, the core of the decks are pretty much the same, with both decks looking to power out Eldrazi Mimics, Thought-Knot Seers, and Reality Smashers at a breakneck pace while disrupting the opponent with Chalice, Warping Wail, and Dismember. However, each deck has some unique deckbuilding decisions that I believe may have influenced their success. For example, Gerry opted to run the traditional Matter Reshaper as a means of gaining card advantage against decks like Shardless BUG and Grixis Delver, as not only does it trade with most of the threats in these decks, it also either cantrips or puts a permanent directly into play when it dies. This is especially necessary in the mirror, where you’re often just smashing large bodies against one another, and any means of card advantage is a necessity given the inability to use cards like Ponder or Brainstorm to control your draws. In these slots, Harlan Firer instead ran Phyrexian Revoker, an excellent card for handling decks like Death & Taxes, Miracles, and Sneak & Show by shutting off the activated abilities of their means of winning. By turning off Sensei’s Divining Top, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, or Sneak Attack as early as turn 1, Phyrexian Revoker gives the deck a way to both shut off these key cards while pressuring the opponent with 2 damage each turn.

Another key difference is the choice in prison cards. While both decks are running a full set of Chalice of the Void, Gerry elected to run Thorn of Amethyst while Harlan chose Trinisphere as their lock pieces. Thorn of Amethyst is superb at providing a way to delay the opponent from casting answers while also taxing their cantrips. Legacy is a very mana-light format, and making something like Ponder cost 2 mana or Jace costing 5 mana is very powerful since it makes it harder for the opponent to dig into answers for your creatures. However, there is one major gripe I have with Thorn in that it doesn’t help against opposing creature decks. Thorn of Amethyst doesn’t do a whole lot when the opponent’s first play is Delver of Secrets, which is why I prefer Harlan’s take on Trinisphere. Despite costing an additional mana, the effect Trinisphere has on a game is devastating against land-light decks. Trinisphere forces everything players to pay 3 mana for anything that would cost less than 3. That Stoneforge Mystic they drew? It costs 2W. The most important aspect of Trinisphere is that it keeps the opponent from using alternate casting costs that would otherwise be free. This is extremely powerful against Force of Will, since on top of pitching a card and paying 1 life, they also have to pay 3 mana, which most decks relying on Force of Will won’t have at the ready at all times, and even if they do it forces them to not commit anything to the board in order to keep Force of Will up, which is devastating when you’re constantly playing bodies.

Finally, the last thing to discuss about these decks is the placement of Endbringer and Umezawa’s Jitte. In Harlan’s build, we have a pair of Jittes main with Endbringer in the sideboard, whereas in Gerry’s deck, we see an Endbringer in the main with a pair of Jitte in the sideboard, whose slots have been taken over by maindeck Mox Diamonds. This brings up two very important points about the viability of the Eldrazi aggro deck in longer, drawn-out games. Endbringer is an absolute powerhouse in these types of matches because it allows you to dictate combat, pick off X/1s, and also draws you cards, which is a necessity to continue getting threats into play. Jitte, on the other hand, is best suited for getting rid of opposing bodies while also bolstering your life total should you end up taking too much damage from your own Ancient Tombs. Umezawa’s Jitte is certainly powerful, but I think the biggest issue in maining it over Endbringer is that Endbringer is far better against the decks that can race you or go over you, such as Sneak & Show and Reanimator, whereas Jitte is better against smaller decks like Delver and Shardless BUG. However, the core of the deck is already strong against these decks while not faltering against these larger creatures, so I think that Gerry had the right idea about keeping an Endbringer in the maindeck.

The Eldrazi have been running rampant in other areas of the Legacy metagame as well, far beyond the scope of the SCG Open. In my hometown of Toronto, Legacy Eldrazi has been consistently taking down some of the larger tournaments in the city. Between both yours truly and Face to Face Games’ Tony Cameron, Eldrazi has taken the top spots in the two largest and most recent Legacy events. What’s even more impressive is that both of our lists are very different, but equally powerful against what has traditionally been a meta dominated by Delver, Miracles, Storm, and Death & Taxes.

For my list, I opted to continue along the lines of the list I posted in my earlier article, only dropping the Oblivion Sowers and maindeck Warping Wails for copies of Simian Spirit Guide, Jitte, and an additional Endless One. The Simian Spirit Guides allowed me to consistently cast Trinisphere on turn 1, pay for Daze while tapped out, and otherwise help smooth out my curve when I had to play a non-Sol land in the early turns. For the maindeck, I carried over the majority of my original list with some tuning over the past few weeks, which ended up bringing about some of the points I made regarding Gerry and Harlan’s lists. Not only am I running maindeck Endbringers, I also have a pair of Jitte, giving the deck sort of a “best of both worlds” feel, and I must say that after playing the list for the past month, this is the correct number to run in this configuration. These are the effects that allow you to go over the top and through your opponent, so it makes sense to include both rather than choose one or the other. My sideboard is also a bit of a mishmash of cards that help tackle individual decks since the core of the main is so powerful that I don’t really need much to handle most decks. For example, as a backup to Endbringer in the long games like Miracles, I included Coercive Portal to help dig my way out of Jace, the Mind Sculptor lock, while Faerie Macabre offers an uncounterable means of interacting with Reanimator that I can also use while Trinisphere is in play. After my recent success with this version, I feel like it’s safe to say that the maindeck is an excellent example of how Eldrazi should look if you want an aggro deck with some midrange aspects for the longer game.

On the other end of the spectrum, my friend Tony crushed his tournament with his more all-in version of the deck. What’s notable about this build is the whopping 30 mana sources, as well as a set of Phyrexian Dreadnought. This allows his deck to set up what is essentially a combo kill by playing a free Eldrazi Mimic or two on the first turn, then follow it up with Dreadnought, turning the Mimic into a 12/12 that he can sacrifice to keep Dreadnought around, or with a pair of Mimics he can sacrifice the Dreadnought to itself to turn them both into 12/12s, thus attacking for 24 on turn 2. It’s an incredibly fast clock that also has the advantage of the core Eldrazi engine as a backup plan should they have a way to interact with the initial combo, such as a Lightning Bolt with the Mimic trigger on the stack. What’s also notable about the maindeck is that it has three copies of Oblivion Sower to steal lands from the top of the opponent’s deck, mess with their Brainstorms and Sensei’s Divining Tops, and provide a hefty 5/8 body that is fantastic in the mirror. As well, due to the abundance of free mana sources, Tony is able to power these creatures out as early as turn 2! But what I find most interesting is the sideboard he’s elected to run.

While most Eldrazi decks forego 1-drops due to Chalice, Tony has opted to run a set of Pithing Needle and three copies of Surgical Extraction, which makes a fair bit of sense considering in this deck Chalice of the Void feels like a Plan B rather than your go-to turn 1 play. Pithing Needle is far more resilient than Phyrexian Revoker since creature kill doesn’t affect it and since it can target lands, Needle also has the advantage of stopping things like Thespian’s Stage/Dark Depths combo which the more midrange builds struggle with. Also, while Faerie Macabre is fantastic against decks like Reanimator which you only need to target one card to blow them out, Surgical Extraction is far more devastating against decks like Dredge and even niche decks like 12Post should you get one of their Cloudposts in the graveyard. Any time you can strip away all the copies of a card that a deck needs for just 2 life, you’re going to come out on top, which Surgical Extraction is perfect for. Finally, the most interesting card I’ve seen so far is Blood Moon. Typically, decks board in Blood Moon to stop the Eldrazi deck since cards like Thought-Knot Seer require colorless mana to cast, which your Sol lands can’t do under Blood Moon. It’s why I ran a copy of Wastes in my deck, but for Tony, he can abuse Blood Moon far better since his combo kill doesn’t require diamond mana, whereas a Delver or Shardless opponent trying to play through a Blood Moon just can’t be done. Couple this with the ability to drop Blood Moon on turn 1, and you have a seriously backbreaking card against the more fair matchups.

The Eldrazi come in all shapes and sizes, be they the shape-shifting Mimic, Thoughtseize on a 4/4 stick, or Reality just plain punching you in the face, but they are a force to be reckoned with. As people cry out for a banhammer on these behemoths in Modern, it’s reassuring knowing that they have refuge in Legacy. For a format that has been dominated by a 3/2 bug and an emo kid in a blue cloak with four abilities, it’s due time that these ancient beings from beyond the cosmos have their fair shot at the competitive metagame. There’s a new kid on the block, and it’s time that the current metagame evolve, innovate, and admit that the big dogs have some new competition. I’m ecstatic to see just how much the deck has evolved since the Pro Tour, and I look forward to some great things from Eldrazi Aggro, so if you’re in the mood to make the leap from Modern to Legacy, you can’t go wrong porting over Eldrazi Aggro.

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