Eldrazi Tron is the unholy spawn of Tron and Eldrazi strategies. It blends the strengths of the two decks together, with access to both free wins off Chalice of the Void and Turn 3 Karn (though recent lists have begun to cut the Karns), but also the ability to play longer, grindier games with Thought-Knot Seer and Endbringer .
The appeal of Eldrazi Tron over Tron or Colorless or RG Eldrazi is its ability to play long, grindy games well (Endbringer is a house), pull off free wins with Walking Ballista and Chalice, and not worry too much about land hate, as ETron’s threats are much lower-costed than Tron’s.
At its heart, ETron is an Eldrazi deck, which means the full playset of Matter Reshaper , Thought-Knot Seer, and Reality Smasher . The fact that these cards are strong is well-established; all frequently provide 2-for-1’s, are powerful when coming down a turn early, and pressure the opponent while also taxing their answers. Thought-Knot Seer brings essential disruption alongside the large body. Matter Reshaper provides a replacement card for when it dies and Reality Smasher is a giant beater with a protection clause.
The one thing the deck is really trying to do is play huge, powerful threats ahead of schedule by cheating with its lands. Because most of the deck’s threats are Eldrazi, they can be cast early off both Tron or Eldrazi Temple . The play pattern of the deck often involves identifying whether it is a “Tron” game or a “Temple” game based on which lands are in your opening hand and first draw step or two. Then, you can use Expedition Map to either get the third Tronland or to pick up a second Temple.
Endbringer is a nod toward ETron’s grindiness. Whereas RG Eldrazi, Colorless Eldrazi, and Tron want to end games relatively quickly, ETron can play longer because its topdecks are just so good. All of Endbringer’s modes are relevant as games go long: you can ping opponents out of the game, prevent flood by drawing cards, and sneak through damage by shutting off blockers. In addition, its secret fourth mode is that it’s a 5/5, which isn’t too shabby in Modern.
Walking Ballista will often serve as a Fireball off the top to kill opponents on the spot, and is further protection against fooding out. It’s also reasonable as a removal spell, which is a weakness of colorless decks across the board. It’s also the only card that really matters Game 1 (aside from Chalice) in providing a realistic shot at winning against bad matchups like Affinity.
Dismember and All is Dust are the removal spells of choice because, for a colorless deck, the choices are limited. Don’t get me wrong; All is Dust as a one-sided sweeper is incredible against a huge number of decks in the format, and is particularly good against many of ETron’s poorer matchups. However, it is occasionally too slow or irrelevant against decks with a large number of artifacts. Dismember is also fine, but you really feel those 4 points of damage against more aggressive decks if you’re unable to race them.
The deck does also get a couple of flex spots, which can be used to shore up some of its weaknesses. Mind Stone can provide an additional, nonland source of early ramp and cycle in the late game. Relic also cycles and is a decent hedge against graveyard strategies. Karn is for those Tron aficionados who just don’t feel right leaving home with a playset of Tron lands and no Karns. Once in a while, he’ll come down on Turn 3 and win you the game, but he tends to be a bit less impressive cast on Turn 7. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and Emrakul, the Promised End have also seen play as 1-of’s that are fetchable off Sanctum of Ugin and can end games on the spot.
Chalice of the Void will sometimes win you games for free, will sometimes do nothing more than act as an 8+-mana way to trigger Sanctum of Ugin, and will sometimes be complete garbage. Eldrazi Tron simply doesn’t have enough powerful Eldrazi to fill up all its slots, and since it’s doing a bunch of unfair things already, it might as well throw in Chalices. To be fair, Chalice helps ETron against some of its tougher matchups and ETron can use the card extremely effectively as a way to simply buy a couple turns because its clocks are so effective. Additionally, Eldrazi Tron originally began to rise in popularity when Grixis Death’s Shadow was dominant, and Chalice on 1 was a great way to slow down Shadow decks.
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and Emrakul, the Promised End have seen play as 1-of’s in the list from time to time. While more recently, pilots have preferred to commit fully to the midrange plan, cutting all copies of Karn and Eldrazi Titans, having access to an “I-win” button in the late game is relevant. It’s up to each player to weigh whether they think the benefits of a card like this outweigh the costs.
Four of each Urzaland and Four Temples are required. If you’re not doing that, play a different deck. As discussed previously, you want to provide yourself with the greatest possible chance of casting Eldrazi ahead of schedule, which means maximizing your cheaty-lands.
With sixteen slots gone, the remaining ~8 can fluctuate a little based on player preference or metagame. Because the deck has access to Expedition Map, you can get away with running only 1-2 of the desired utility lands. These are the typical go-to’s:
Wastes : Usually good to have two of these. Fetchable off Path and even more relevant with the rise of Field of Ruin. Finally, they can be fetched to ensure access to colorless mana when facing down a Blood Moon.
Cavern of Souls: Fantastic against counterspell decks. You will typically name Eldrazi, but naming Construct in the late game to deal the last couple points comes up a nontrivial amount of time.
Sea Gate Wreckage: An incredible card advantage engine. This is the automatic fetch when you top-deck a late-game Expedition Map. Running two is not unreasonable.
Sanctum of Ugin: Much more relevant for decks including Ulamog and Emrakul. Remember that any colorless spell with CMC >= 7 will trigger it, including All is Dust, Chalice for greater than 3, and Walking Ballista for greater than 3. Then, you can fetch any colorless creature, regardless of CMC, including Walking Ballista or a sideboard Hangarback Walker.
Ghost Quarter: Ghost Quarter’s been around for a long time, and it has its uses. The deck often runs 2-3 to kill creaturelands, utility lands, or to fetch up a Wastes in a time of need. More mana-efficient than Field of Ruin, though it does put you down a land. Also an easy way to get a land into your graveyard for Delirium if you’re casting Emrakul, the Promised End.
Eldrazi Tron occupies an unusual spot in that it tends to be favored against fair decks (due to its lands and threats), creature combo decks, and spell-based combo decks (due to 4x Chalice of the Void mainboard).
It is also probably the only variant of Eldrazi that stands any chance against Bogles, again thanks to maindeck Chalice.
Urza's Tower , Eldrazi Temple, Chalice of the Void, Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher are messed up Magic cards.
Eldrazi Tron has suffered as Grixis Death Shadow, a matchup that many felt was positive for the deck, has been on the decline.
Eldrazi Tron struggles against decks that are faster. Affinity is an abysmal matchup, and other creature-based, go-wide decks like Elves, Merfolk, and Humans are heavily All is Dust-dependent.
Noticing a pattern here? Eldrazi Tron’s positioning in the metagame correlates to how good Chalice of the Void is in the metagame. That’s because ETron leverages Chalice better than any other deck in Modern. It doesn’t really play threats that cost less than three mana, and its threats hit so hard that it doesn’t rely on Chalice to win the game (though it occasionally does), only to delay long enough to kill the opponent with Eldrazi.
The downside of playing a colorless deck is that you are heavily restricted on what you can play in your sideboard.
Hangarback Walker is a popular choice against decks that are trying to control you, or if you need fliers against Lingering Souls or Affinity.
Gut Shot is another option for removal if you’re anticipating a large number of X/1’s. Once again, good against Affinity, ETron’s worst matchup.
Grafdigger’s Cage and additional Relics of Progenitus are good hate if you’re playing a lot of graveyard or Chord/Company decks.
Warping Wail and Spatial Contortion are additional options for removal, and they each shine in certain situations. Whereas Spatial Contortion is typically the stronger removal spell, and can even serve as a Lightning Strike in the late Game, Warping Wail can counter sorceries ( Past in Flames ), serve as a one-shot ramp effect, and permanently exile annoying creatures like Bloodghast . Wail can also kill Affinity’s creatures without worrying about Welding Jar .
Basilisk Collar is one of the most powerful sideboard cards that ETron has access to, and I wouldn’t leave home without 1-2. In combination with Walking Ballista and Endbringer, Basilisk Collar is a repeatable way to mow down opposing creatures. It’s also great against Burn and low-to-the-ground aggro decks, as you have the ability to gain life in increments of five, making it very hard for them to race you. Also, don’t forget that a Collar on a Smasher provides the powerful mix of Deathtouch + Trample, which means you can assign only 1 damage to each blocker and Trample over for the rest.
In your opening hand, you’re looking for an Eldrazi Temple, a Chalice of the Void, or most of Tron, maybe with a Map. Your hands will sometimes look like complete nonsense; that’s okay! Mulligan them aggressively!
Remember that any colorless spell with CMC >= 7 will trigger Sanctum of Ugin, including All is Dust, Karn, Chalice for greater than 3, and Walking Ballista for greater than 3. Then, you can fetch any colorless creature, regardless of CMC, including Walking Ballista or a sideboard Hangarback Walker.
The Future of Eldrazi Tron
Eldrazi Tron is a powerful midrange deck that tries to maximize the opportunity to do unfair things. Chalice is one powerful axis of the deck, and the Eldrazi-ramp is another. When both are good in the metagame, ETron is fantastic; if one is bad, it becomes much less so. The Modern format has a propensity to meet those conditions, making Eldrazi Tron cycle to the top of the heap over time.
For future prints, the deck takes advantage of colorless cards, which can make getting new cards from Standard sets more diffiicult. Despite this, the deck has gotten an added options in Karn, Scion of Urza and Sorcerous Spyglass . Any pushed or hateful colorless cards could find a home for Eldrazi Tron down the road.
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