Rise of Eldrazi was one of the best limited formats of all time. There were so many archetypes and the packs were deep with so many playables, sometimes you’d crack a booster and see 13, 14, even 15 cards that could make a deck, which is unheard of. From the niche archetypes like Raid Bombardment and tribal walls, to RG big mana and UW levelers, there were a variety of play styles and decks you could make within one set. If you knew the format, you could make a different deck 8 drafts in a row; if you didn’t, there was a lot of room for creativity and ingenuity.
In addition, there were some pretty sweet cube cards that came out of this set. Consuming Vapors is an awesome edict that can either turn into a 2-for-1 with no effort or a Time Walk if your opponent doesn’t play a creature in fear of losing it. Coralhelm Commander is a good card if you support any blue tempo/aggressive builds, and Kargan Dragonlord is the red version of CC on steroids. Enclave Cryptologist is a cool looter, Evolving Wilds is a nice alternate Terramorphic Expanse, Fork Bolt can end up as a 2 for 1, Gideon Jura is a beast…and I could go on. The set is arguably one of the best for cube in terms of the sheer number of cards that made it into a lot of lists. (This guess could be wrong; going with a gut feeling upon browsing through the set for this article.)
The biggest enigma in the set in terms of Cube playability were the Eldrazi: Kozilek, Butcher of Truth; Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre, and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. These cards were undeniably powerful and, against most Cube boards, they can turn the tide back to victory by themselves. But how do you get cards that have CMC 10+ which aren’t artifacts into play early, or even at all? Is big ramp that reliable to drop these guys? Sometimes 8 drops are asking a lot in that strategy, so how much is a 10 drop asking? An 11 drop? A 15 drop?! Is it even a strategy worth pursuing?
If that strategy does appeal to you, I’d like to go through a deck I recently made to support this strategy, and talk about some other cards that are viable options as well. So, first, the deck list from the other night:
1x Grim Monolith
1x Lightning Greaves
1x Mana Cryptologist
1x Mana Vault
1x Mind Stone
1x Mox Diamond
1x Orzhov Signet
1x Worn Powerstone
1x Avenger of Zendikar
1x Blightsteel Colossus
1x Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
1x Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
1x Llanowar Elves
1x Noble Heirarch
1x Oracle of Mul Daya
1x Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
1x Awakening Zone
1x Control Magic
1x Heartbeat of Spring
1x Careful Consideration
1x Jace Beleren
1x Plow Under
1x Time Spiral
1x Tooth and Nail
x1 Misty Rainforest
1x Polluted Delta
1x Shelldock Isle
The deck was pretty sweet, and all the other decks I played were fairly slow as well, so my big drops would just about always outclass theirs. Grave Titan? Wurmcoil Engine? Myr Battlesphere? Good thing you made those 1/1s, because you’re going to need them to sacrifice to Emrakul! There were a lot of cool cards in the deck, and with all the artifact mana and Elves available at my disposal, reaching the critical mass to cast the fatties or get them into play with Tooth and Nail was rarely, if at all, an issue.
Tooth and Nail: This is the card I got early in the draft that made me want to play Eldrazi. For the longest time, with the cube I threw together to draft on Tappedout (for referencce: http://tappedout.net/mtg-cube-drafts/salmoillas-cube/ I haven’t used this cube in a while, never fully wrote it out, so it is definitely a work in progress; I pretty much copied meep’s 360 and added about a 100 cards that I liked) people always told me to add Tooth and Nail, and I didn’t really see the appeal of it. 9 mana? I’d rather just play Natural Order or try to hard cast them. But after seeing the card in action recently, especially with the gang of Eldrazi/Griselbrand/Blightsteel Collosus/etc. at my disposal—cards which I don’t see often in cubes I play—I decided to pick it up and give it a whirl.
In this style of deck, the card is awesome. Reaching 9 mana is not really an issue, and with 4 fatties (and an Inkwell Leviathan in the sideboard) it wasn’t out of the question to see two in your hand to only have to Tooth and Nail for 7. While you lose out on the casting benefits of the Eldrazi, getting them both into play is insane value. For 7-9 mana, I could cheat in 22-27 worth of converted mana cost, between the Eldrazi and the Collosus. While there are answers like O-Rings, Edicts, and Clones of all sorts, those cards pretty much had to be in my opponent’s hands or else it was game over. Putting that kind of pressure on your opponent is better than keeping it on yourself, as you put yourself in a position to allow your opponent to make the mistakes. In addition, Edrazi always shuffle their way back in if they died, and drawing one off the top or being able to Tooth it back into play off of a Time Spiral was really clutch. I’ve warmed up to Tooth and Nail considerably.
Oracle of Mul Daya: If you support big green ramp, this card is a house. Oracle is like a mini Future Sight, mixed with a constant explore, attached to a 2/2 body. Very nice! There were some cool interactions that she had with my deck as well. With Avenger of Zendikar, my plant tokens got even bigger as I was able to pull lands right off the top and from my hand to activate the landfall trigger, and in that same sense, Jace Beleren allowed me to find those lands to bring into play off the top of my deck. I could pull a card off if it wasn’t a land, or I could put that land into play from the top and then hope to be drawing an action spell. Getting as many lands as I could into play was important so I could cast or Tooth my big spells in, and Oracle was a great addition.
Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary: Where Oracle gives me more lands to work with, Rofellos gives me more work for my lands. By that I mean Rofellos can generate HUGE amounts of mana early on. With 3 forests in play, Rofellos gives you three green, casting your 6 drops. Other cards that have a similar effect: Sol Ring, Mana Vault, Moxen, Grim Monolith…see where I’m getting at here? In the right deck, Rofellos is cheating. He is flimsy, and GG and his ability means that there are some decks which can’t play him, but like with Oracle, Rofellos gets better the more players want to draft big green decks in your playgroup. As a guy who likes casting large things before they should be cast, especially in the color green, he is a personal favorite.
Mana Crypt: I get this card passed to me entirely too often, which is great, but I feel like people don’t know the power level of this card. I imagine a player who’s never seen it before must skip every other aspect of the card and look at how you have to flip a coin during your upkeep to see if you’re about to take 3 damage. 3 damage is a good amount, and losing 7 coin flips in a game most likely means that your own card killed you, which is a sucky feeling. And sometimes, Mana Crypt does kill you; in decks with no life game or ways to finish a game before you potentially lose 7 coin flips in a row, Mana Crypt might hurt.
But let’s ignore that for a second and look at the actual important part of Mana Crypt: CMC 0, taps for 2. That is NUTS. What’s better than Sol Ring? How about free Sol Ring? And in some games, this card will perform better than Sol Ring, allowing t1 Tinkers off of only land and the Crypt, or t1 3 or 4 drops with a little moxen help. When drafting I picked up this card 4th or 5th pick in pack 2, and while there could have been better cards in the pack, I highly doubt that the pack contained Sol Ring, Library, Black Lotus, and something like Jitte. (Especially since Jitte was sitting in my sideboard—first time that has ever happened.) Most of the time, the 3 life is largely irrelevant, and this card honestly needs it, or else it would be the best card in cube above everything, hands-down. Well, I guess it doesn’t NEED it if we’re talking about cube, but I can certainly see why they designed it as such. Stop passing Mana Crypt, for your own sake.
While the following cards weren’t all in my deck, I’d like to touch upon them to explore more Eldrazi-playing options.
Sneak Attack: Sky recently wrote an article about this card, which is definitely a nice read, and when you can put the Sneak Attack deck together it takes wins out of nowhere. Whereas the Tooth and Nail decks presents the monsters to your opponents to say “you have a turn”, Sneak Attacks tells them “you better have an instant.” What looks like a safe board can quickly turn into a loss, with giant fatties that swing for huge amounts to kill you quick.
With Eldrazi, Sneak Attack becomes that much more brutal. Yes, you don’t get the casting benefits, but your opponent has very few options in terms of dealing with the inevitable attacker that will make them sacrifice 4+ permanents, and while shuffling them back into your library isn’t ideal with graveyard shenanigans, cards Tutor and Survival of the Fittest allow you to keep on getting them back into your hand. They don’t leave too much of a board presence on your side, but they
allow you to devastate your opponent’s.
Show and Tell: Show and Tell was in the pack right before I grabbed Tooth and Nail and did not wheel; the card would have been perfect in the deck above. 3 mana to cheat one of the Eldrazi into play would have been so brutal, and most of the time with this and similar decks your creature is outclassing theirs. Sure, there are times where they Show and Tell in a clone of some sort and you look like a fool for getting 2-for-1d, but the risk is often worth the reward.
There are other cool applications you can get off of cheating in artifacts and enchantments as well. While most of the artifacts that you’d want to bring in are creatures, baiting your opponent to drop their win con while you bring in an Oblivion Stone or Nevinyrral’s disk is nice, as it makes your late game much easier to navigate. The same can be down with Oblivion Ring or Journey to Nowhere, though against some decks that’s a riskier endeavor. Bringing in a Sneak Attack or Dream Halls is an option here as well, as they allow you to start dropping multiple fatties in a turn for quick kills or give you a cheaper outlet to sneak in your combo piece to start going off with Dream Halls. Show and Tell is an expensive card because of all the eternal format ramifications (Showing in an Omniscience is often GG) but if you have one in your repertoire and like playing massive creatures and other large things, it’s worth giving a go.
Corpse Dance: I don’t normally play with this card—in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever main decked it, and if it did make my sideboard it was coincidentally. Not that it’s a bad card, but usually I’m asking myself “is this really going to win me the game? Is it that much better than this card that digs for my pieces?” I’ve seen it do a couple things, but overall I don’t have a lot of experience with this card.
The reason I’m writing about it is because it has some cool interactions with the Eldrazi. When you pitch an Eldrazi, the triggered ability of shuffling the Eldrazi back into your library goes on the stack. In response, you can Corpse Dance it back into play, and swing with your giant monster. Killing your opponent for four mana off a Survival or Fauna Shaman or getting a little more expensive with a Thirst for Knowledge or Frantic Search is a strong play, especially when they’re tapped out or you can just bash them with infect or annihilator. If your deck is full of these guys, you can cycle through them turn after turn, eventually getting the win with a glass cannon onslaught.
Eureka: Eureka is a tricky one. Putting permanents into play is kinda nuts as it opens up so many more options, but having the symmetrical effect can screw you. If your opponent has 7 cards and you have Eureka and an Eldrazi, there are a multitude of ways they could deal with your guy while they could improve their board position by 7 cards—that is awful! Instead of getting your sweet guy into play, you instead give your opponent 6 or 7 plays and you get none by the end of it, with all their potential permanents and the card they used to remove your guy and the casted Eureka. Eureka is a lot better against certain decks—aggressive decks, decks with high amounts of spells, combo decks—but its a card that can find its way into the sideboard in a lot of match ups.
Heartbeat of Spring: This guy, like Eureka, can be dangerous, but for worse reasons. If your opponent can abuse the mana before you and then remove it, you’ve essentially done nothing. In a game against Kirk during this draft—he was drafted as well and made a good UG deck that lived after going to 1 against a Rw deck with Vortex and Ajani and all sorts of goodies; it was a good game to watch—I played Heartbeat in a couple games, only to have him drop three cards into play with one of them being Acidic Slime. Instead of having a ton of mana, I allowed him to cast cards in his hand way head of the curve and leave my board in a fairly shambled shape.
But when Heartbeat excelled, it excelled by a mile. It’s one of the few ways in cube you can consistently expect to hard cast Eldrazi, and let me tell you there are few feelings sweeter than hardcasting an Emrakul, putting it on the stack, and have your opponent go “GG” because they just lost the match. It’s sweeter too when you’re facing an aggressive deck that has you down to ten or less with 5 or 6 permanents in play, and then Emrakul comes in for the pain train and ends the game on his own, clearing the board after he gives you another turn. I casted Kozilek, Avenger, and Blightsteel more consistently off of Heartbeat, which were all nice as well. Avenger is not as good when you cheat him in early, but it allowed my plants to have a more realistic chance of getting larger instead of exhausting all my Rampant Growths and lands in hand to get to the 7 mana needed to cast Avenger. Against certain decks, Heartbeat is awful and can flip you the bird, but it’s a nice option in this archetype to main deck.
While this is not a deck I actively pursue, that might be changing more now that I’ve gone through the rigors of getting the Eldrazi woken up from their monuments and stomping about in the planes of Zendikar and beyond. Enough flavor-nerding; thanks for reading!