Thursday, September 17, 2015

Return of the Eldrazi

In the first Hellboy movie, Professor Broom says something to the effect of,” They’re back. In my lifetime they’re back,” when talking about the return of Rasputin and his evil followers. That sort of sums of my feelings about the Eldrazi in Battle for Zendikar. I am excited in a sort of horribly apprehensive way.
Confession time! I wasn’t playing Magic during Rise of the Eldrazi. I left sometime after Onslaught and I did not return until Gatecrash. Man, I missed a lot during that time. With Battle for Zendikar’s full preview hitting the website this Friday, I am putting a lot of thought into post-rotation Standard. Before I get into what I am thinking about the future I want to take a quick romp down memory lane.
Just because I didn’t play during the original Zendikar block doesn’t mean I didn’t get to feel the full might of the Eldrazi. As I was getting back into Magic I found friends at my job that were also big into the game. I sold my original collection and the cards I had were all Standard legal for that time. I built a strong Dimir mill deck and I was experimenting with Gruul aggro when I met these guys for the first time:
I think it was Ulamog’s Crusher that was truly my first Eldrazi experience. I remember seeing an 8/8 hit the field and thinking to myself that my deck wasn’t really strong enough to stand against it long in a beat stick style fight. The first time that Annihilator went off I damn near hit the floor. I cussed a lot. TS just sat with a big grin on his face and stayed on an almost relaxed offensive.
My now dearly departed friend knew I had not met the Eldrazi. He knew that there was almost nothing in my collection that could stand against them. I met most of the lesser Eldrazi before he started to slide in the Titans. Kozilek and Ulamog didn’t freak me out too much more than the lesser Eldrazi. I learned about exile type removal really, really quickly. Once my collection started to evolve to deal with them TS introduced me to new levels of pain in the form of:
I equate Emrakul, the Aeons Torn with rape. I cannot stop him from coming out with a counterspell the way I had handled the other titans or Eldrazi. My collection didn’t have any colorless spells (at that time) that could even target Emrakul. My way to deal with him was to build an Infinite Myr deck that could soak the Annihilator, target Emrakul with effects if necessary, and just out pace the nastiness coming into play. It worked about 50% of the time.
TS beating my head in with his Eldrazi also lead to an arms race which, admittedly, happens with Magic anyway. TS had a simple philosophy. He said that since the Eldrazi were colorless they could be worked into most any deck to great effect in much the same way that I have always been a fan of splashing in useful artifacts. I came to love the Orzhov guild and polished that deck until it shined. TS followed me into standard with the Theros block. I did my best to avoid dealing with Eldrazi and infect though they show up at the table from time to time. Slivers cycled in and cycled back out and I only made a few people hate them as much as I hate Eldrazi.
I learned to hate and fear Eldrazi in general and Emrakul specifically. I ran from casual and modern play and took refuge in Standard. Now new evil is about to invade my sacred lands. The Eldrazi of the original Zendikar block were also so expensive that I never saw myself building those decks. There were 9 total colorless Eldrazi. In the years of collecting modern and legacy cards since those casual days when I met the Eldrazi, I have only managed to get Kozilek in a pack of Modern Masters 2015. I have never run an Eldrazi in a deck. The question before me is simple, Will I run Eldrazi from the new set?
Lets take a look at what my options are and if I don’t want to run them how I will deal with them…
As I write this post there are 26 Eldrazi poised to release with Battle for Zendikar. That is almost 3 times as many as the Rise of the Eldrazi set. I cannot imagine a new Eldrazi release without a new Emrakul or Kozilek and they are not on the page yet. In sheer numbers I am terrified, but there is hope.
Annihilator is gone. Ulamog can exile 1/3 of my deck with a “worse than” Annihilator ability, but he can be countered. He can be exiled. He can be Pacified. Ingest works in a similar fashion to Annihilator but it exiles from your library rather than the field. That can be hurtful, but I believe it will be easier to work around. This may all change with the release of the full set preview on Friday.
From what I see now the most annoying Eldrazi (if you control Ulamog) will be Void Winnower. Luckily, most of the removal spells that come to mind to deal with him are odd numbered converted casting cost. Esper control and BUG control feel very strong to me. I am already built for BUG although I will probably be making some modifications with the new release.
WOTC fixed the colorless goes with anything problem by making some of the Eldrazi require colored mana in their casting cost.If I wanted to run EVERY Eldrazi listed here I would need to run every color except White. I don’t see a need for that. Running Grixis Eldrazi or Jund Eldrazi looks to be devastating. Jund of course has the most ridiculous options for mana. The mind boggles.

Even if Eldrazi is not my main Standard deck I think I am going to assemble one. The better I build it then better I can test against it. It will also be a tribute to a dead friend who loved to kick my ass with the Eldrazi. Enough writing. I am off to work on a decklist.

December 2nd Comic Books on a Budget