The Hour of Devastation is upon us and the format we can expect it to have the largest impact on is Standard. While Standard was in a bad spot for a long time, I found the end of last season without Aetherworks Marvel truly enjoyable. There was a diverse range of strategies and most of them were largely interactive.
While Hour of Devastation has a number of notable cards in it, many of them seem like they will serve as upgrades to existing archetypes rather than creating entirely new archetypes on their own. Most notably I think one of the most important things we are getting for our new Standard format are actually lands. Specifically this cycle of deserts:
While the effect each of these cards offers on its own is not exceptionally powerful, the fact that each of these is essentially an untapped dual lands for a color + colorless mana means that our Eldrazi friends that have been difficult to cast since pain lands rotated out are back on the menu:
All of these creatures have good stats for their mana cost and powerful effects to go alongside them. Today I would like to take a look at a couple of possible shells that we can fit these threats into now that we have lands that allow us to cast them consistently.
The first draft of an Eldrazi Shell is an updated variation of one I have played in a few different iterations over the last year:
The core of this deck leans on three powerful cards to close games out:
Gideon needs no introduction. Hands down the best planeswalker in Standard since he was printed, he goes wide and pressures the opponent’s life total quickly by attacking.
As someone who is a sucker for a good flash creature, Archangel Avacyn has been one of my favorite cards in Standard for awhile. Not only does she protect our board the turn she comes into play, but since she has vigilance she can play offense and defense at the same time once she lands. Thanks to cards like Walking Ballista and Selfless Spirit we can have good control over when our Avacyn flips over to maximize the damage she does to the opponent’s board while minimizing the damage she does to our own.
Thought-Knot Seer is a fantastic threat in Standard just like in Modern. Not only is it a sizable body that demands an answer, it also disrupts our opponent by taking the best card out of their hand. Even if they have an answer like Harness Lightning right away, there is a good chance a random card is much worse than the best card currently in their hand.
In addition to Thought-Knot Seer we also get to play another powerful Eldrazi when we are in white:
Displacer is a powerful card all on its own. For three mana it can stop a creature from attacking / blocking for a turn cycle or simply kill a token or Walking Ballista. Displacer is also powerful in conjunction with our cards that have enter the battlefield effects like Avacyn and Thought-Knot Seer. A fun trick is to let your Avacyn flip and then in response to her damage trigger, blink her with Displacer to make our board indestructible. We can also make Gideon a creature, attack, and then blink him post combat to make a 2/2 creature with him for the turn.
We supplement our powerful threats with a variety of disruption to help keep us alive in the early game:
Spatial Contortion is the closest thing we have had to a Lightning Strike in Standard in a long time. It can kill creatures that have three toughness or less and when paired with one of our four toughness attackers we can use it to push through additional points of damage. Warping Wail can exile troublesome zombies, occasionally create a blocker / accelerant, and most importantly counter sweeper effects such as Hour of Devastation. Stasis Snare is just our most efficient answer to cards like Glorybringer that are large enough to dodge our Contortions.
My favorite part of playing Eldrazi decks in Standard is the things we get to do with the mana base. In general, lands that have activated abilities make colorless mana as a “drawback.” When colorless mana is useful for casting our spells though, we end up with a mana base that simply has a lot of utility. In addition to Shefet Dunes we have four copies of Desert of the True. Deserts we play in the early game can be sacrificed to Dunes to pump our team and Deserts we draw late can simply be cycled to draw a new card.
The other two colorless lands we are playing are capable of actually killing our opponent’s outright:
Hostile Desert is an insanely efficient rate in terms of mana in to damage out for a creature land. In addition to having deserts to cycle and sacrifice to enable the Hostile Desert, we also have four copies of Evolving Wilds that will end up in our discard pile.
While we do not have a ton of token creatures, Westvale Abbey is self-enabling and against controlling decks simply putting a couple of 1/1s in play that they have to deal with can often be relevant pressure. Occasionally Gideon will make enough tokens to flip the Abbey against a deck like Green-Black that lacks answers to an indestructible threat.
The sideboard features cards for fixing a variety of problems. We start with things like Fragmentize and Forsake the Worldly to give ourselves some answers to Heart of Kiran and the enchantments out of the tokens deck. Then we have some Fumigates for cleaning up against the midrange creature decks in the format such as Black-Green and Temur Energy. Next we have a playset of Reality Smashers which are ready to live up to their name against anyone playing a control deck. Finally we have three copies of a powerful new hate card from Hour of Devestation:
This card not only turns off cards like Winding Constrictor, but it turns off all the energy abilities of cards in Temur and Green-Black unless they have a ton of power stored up.
The second Eldrazi list I have been working on is a three “color” list that tops out at Elder Deep-Fiend:
This was a deck that I worked on a good deal for the Invitational in the previous Standard format. Back then, the mana was never good enough due to the lack of colorless sources in the mana base. Now, thanks to the deserts we can play a number of Blue, Green, and colorless mana sources to cast all of the spells we are interested in consistently.
At the core we are playing an Elder Deep-Fiend deck. This powerful creature allows us to essentially Time Walk our opponent by tapping down their lands in the early game, or put them off an entire combat step by tapping down their team in the mid-late game. We enable our powerful Eldrazi by playing a variety of powerful three drops to emerge off of:
Assuming we get at least one clue out of our Tireless Tracker all three of these creature replace themselves with another card making them the ideal creature to emerge off of. When we do not have our Elder Deep-Fiend each of these creatures provides a reasonable body on its own.
In addition to our fantastic three drops, this deck also gets to play two of the best two-drops in Standard:
Longtusk Cub is a card that has impressed me since I started testing for the Invitational last season. When paired with cards like Attune with the Aether or Rogue Refiner that happen to generate excess energy, Longtusk Cub is a card that quickly grows to be the largest creature on any given board. Because Cub generates energy when it connects, it is also self-enabling.
The only thing better than a turn four Thought-Knot Seer is a turn three Thought-Knot Seer and Servant of the Conduit lets us play exactly this. Servant also lets us play a Tireless Tracker on turn three before we play our land for the turn letting us generate additional card advantage.
Past our two-drop creatures, colorless also gives us access to Spatial Contortion yet again as cheap removal that can double as reach with our four-toughness creatures.
Finally we have an interaction that is the biggest draw to splashing colorless creatures into our Blue-Green Shell:
Baral’s Expertise is a card that is powerful all on its own. Many of the decks in this Standard format have cards like Tireless Tracker or Glint-Sleeve Siphoner to keep a steady flow of cards coming. This means their largest bottleneck tends to be mana. Baral’s Expertise allows us to set our opponents back in terms of mana they have spent in a big way. When paired with a Thought-Knot Seer we can also exile the best card we are returning to our opponent’s hand, answering it for good.
Our sideboard has a few sets of tools for specific matchups. We have copies of Negate and Warping Wail to interact with sweepers like Hour of Devastation. We have a variety of cards to kill artifacts that are all marginally better or worse depending on the given situation. We have a pair of Plummets to deal with troublesome fliers like Glorybringer and finally we have a World Breaker to search up on occasion with our copies of Sanctum of Ugin.
While these decklists are almost certainly a bit rough around the edges, I would be surprised if there is not something to them. They both are playing collections of powerful cards that can be interactive and proactive. Past these two lists presented here today I would not be surprised if there are several other Eldrazi shells worth exploring – such as Red-Colorless or perhaps Red-Black-Colorless like Todd Stevens had explored last season.
Have a question about or a suggestion for one of the lists I presented here today? Let me know in a comment below.
* One SCG Invitational Top 8
* Two SCG Invitational Top 16
* 14 SCG Open series Top 8s
* One GP top 16