Unpowered Vintage Eldrazi (aka JacoDrazi) – A Double Tournament Report
If you’re reading this, you’re probably aware that I recently piloted a fully unpowered Vintage Eldrazi deck to a near Top 8 at the famed NYSE IV tournament in early June. As in no Moxen, no Mishra’s Workshops, and not even a Mana Crypt or Sol Ring – all by choice.
Sitting at 6-1 after Round 7 of the NYSE IV, with 60+% tiebreakers, I quickly looked at the standings and saw myself in the Top 8 of standings, with higher tiebreakers than most of the people immediately below me, and decided to draw Round 8 with Brian Schlossberg, who was also 6-1 at the time (and also with 60+% tiebreakers), to put us both at 6-1-1. Things don’t always go according to plan though, and both of our tiebreakers somehow slipped a full percentage point, while simultaneously being jumped by not one, but two other players who won Round 8, and whose tiebreakers ended up jumping both of ours. So Brian landed in 9th Place, and I in 10th. Even with that being the case, had my tiebreakers simply stayed the same from Round 7, I would have narrowly landed in 8th place. Such is life, and the only way to prevent that in the future is to just play, and win, every single round.
While that was a disappointing conclusion to a tournament I thought I would be favored to win had I made the Top 8, it was a great day of playing Magic, and I met a lot of great people, while catching up with many old and familiar faces from across the country.
The past few months leading up to NYSE IV, I had been testing for Vintage a good deal, and in particular had been testing Eldrazi variants in Vintage since the Eldrazi menace had run amok and absolutely dominated Modern. I had come to a point in my testing where I felt that 4C Mentor and Unpowered Colorless Eldrazi were very well positioned for the NYSE tournament, and that I would be confident and happy playing either one, depending on how the tournament results online the few last weeks leading up to NYSE shook out. While Eldrazi had seen some minor online activity, no one was really playing consistent versions to any notable finishes. Unfortunately, Oscar Basart managed to win the May 2016 LCV tournament in Catalonia (Spain) with an early version of White Eldrazi. MTGO players (including Randy Buehler and others) quickly picked up on the White Eldrazi deck, and took it for a spin that week, where it did very well in a couple of Daily Events, before placing 4 players in the Top 8 (!) of the May MTGO Vintage Premier Event that ensuing weekend.
All bets on keeping Eldrazi under wraps before the big NYSE tournament seemed off. But this White Eldrazi was strategically different enough from my own version that there was still an element of surprise when it came to other people playing against a Null Rod-based version, rather than a Sphere-based version. Having 8 Wasteland effects to play against opposing Workshop and White Eldrazi decks would work well if people did adapt in the single week left leading up to NYSE, and the unpowered Eldrazi deck seemed like a better idea than Mentor if Eldrazi decks did see widespread adoption.
I had just recently moved to California on short notice, and already had travel plans with my good friend and playtesting partner Danny Friedman. So I flew back to Chicago that week, did some work, and got a bite to eat with Danny and his girlfriend one night at a famed sandwich spot in Chicago (Philly’s Best) to celebrate both of their pending birthday celebrations. What his girlfriend Elise neglected to remember was that a few months prior, she excitedly let slip that she was in the Sandwich Punch Club as Danny and I discussed decimated sandwiches of yesteryear. Unfortunately for Elise, I am a sandwich punch assassin, and after her second bite of a delicious Philly cheesesteak, she set it down for a sip of a refreshing beverage, at which time my fist of fury of promptly laid waste to the cheesy hero.
Fast forward to Friday night, and Danny and I were off on a late night flight to NYC’s LaGuardia, followed by an hour plus Uber ride to our hotel in the middle of Long Island, close to the tournament site the next day. Steve Menendian would soon join us, where would go on to discuss X-Files episodes and film noir lore until nearly 4am. Our teammate Twaun, who had planned on being on the super team for the NSYE team competition, had trouble with his flight, and unfortunately wouldn’t be able to make it. So Danny and I recruited Steve to form a new 3-man team, and the next morning we hit the famed NYSE tournament. I set up the NYSE IV Live Coverage on site at the Brothers Grim game store, and we were off to the races. Here’s the deck I played:
— Jaco (@JMJACO) June 5, 2016
This “Unpowered Colorless Eldrazi Tribal” deck I designed has been colloquially shortened by my teammates to “JacoDrazi,” so that’s what I’ll be calling it for brevity going forward.
NYSE IV, Tournament Recap
Round 1 vs. Mark Seccareccia (Gush Oath with Griselbrand & Tendrils)
Mark is a familiar and friendly face in the Vintage scene, and has traveled from Canada to battle in one of the best Vintage events of the year.
Game 1: Mark lands a mid-game Oath, and although he gets Griselbrand, after drawing 7 cards and paying 7 life, he’s forced to pass the turn. I attack with Eldrazi Mimic and a couple of Reality Smashers I think to edge him out.
Game 2: I think I lead with a Turn 0 Leyline of Sanctity, and he resolves an early Oath. He Engineered Explosives away a pair of Endless Ones, while I keep drawing Wastelands. He is eventually able to find Nature’s Claim or Chain of Vapor for my Leyline, and activates Oath, and then firmly controls this game and combos me out with Griselbrand drawing a bunch of cards into Tendrils of Agony.
Game 3: I mulligan into Turn 0 Leyline of Sanctity, and then I believe I land Grafdigger’s Cage and Null Rod. Things are looking up. I have a couple of small threats doing work on his life total, but he’s able to draw a lot of cards, and he resets the board with Toxic Deluge. We play draw go for a couple of turns, with me drawing lands, and eventually an Eldrazi Mimic. He draws and eventually finds a Dack Fayden or Jace, and uses it to draw cards. I am at the point where I eventually draw and am able to cast Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, which triggers to exile whatever he has managed to cast, and also trigger’s Eldrazi Mimic to provide a lethal swing as the clock is winding down. That was a close one.
Round 2 vs. Matthew Deering (Ravager Aggro Workshop)
Game 1: I mulligan to 5, and keep a very slow hand. We trade Wasteland effects, and I Dismember one of his threats. My Ancient Tomb damage is starting to pile up, as is his, coupled with his very early Mana Crypt. We get in to a position where we’re both super low on life from Tombs and creatures (and my own Dismember), and he’s got a 3/3 Hangarback Walker. I’m casting small threats just to block and act as Time Walks to hope his Mana Crypt does the last 6 points of damage to him, over about 5 turns. This included a surprise Warping Wail to make a 1/1 Eldrazi Scion token that he didn’t see coming. Unfortunately he’s able to win the last couple of key Mana Crypt flips, and Matthew wins this game at 1 life!
Game 2: I see an average hand with a piece of removal, a couple of threats, and lots of lands. I cast a first turn Mimic and pass. This is no match for his hand of Black Lotus into Crucible of Worlds into Strip Mine (or Wasteland). I am able to play out a few more small threats this game, but am never able to find an Ancient Tomb to cast my own Crucible, and he uses Crucible every turn and is able to eventually cast a couple of larger creatures to overtake me eventually. This is a perfect example of how you can and should tweak your deck for a given metagame. If you expect to face many opposing Crucibles, you should definitely include more of your own Crucibles and Metamorphs to counter this.
Round 3 vs. Jonathan Rozecki (UB DepthStill)
Game 1: Jonathan has an early Landstill and Forces a couple of my creatures, and we take early turns Wasting one another’ lands. I then see that he has Dark Depths, and realize I probably used a number of Wasteland effects way too early, as he has no reasonable path to victory if I just sit on a ton of Wastelands. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but he wins this game.
Game 2: I mull to 6 and lead off with Wastelands into playing very slowly through his Standstills, with Cavern into uncounterable Thought-Knot Seer + Reality Smasher, sitting on multiple Waste effects the whole game.
Game 3: I mulligan to 5, and Jonathan has a slow hand. He’s able to Force my first relevant threat, and then I resolve a Reality Smasher, and after that is dealt with, an Eldrazi Mimic, Null Rod, and Metamorph (copying his Crucible) are enough to win the decisive game.
Round 4 vs. Sean Came (Amalgam Dredge)
Sean is more excited than most people I know about both Vintage and Old School, and is lively and a pleasure to talk to and play against.
Game 1: He strips away my Warping Wail with Cabal Therapy, and is able to pretty easily win this one with a double Bazaar hand, even after I Wasteland or double Wasteland him.
Game 2: I mulligan to 6, and lead with 2 Leyline of the Voids on Turn 0, and then follow up with a Grafdigger’s Cage, and Wasteland a bunch of his lands, and slowly beat down with a small or medium size Endless One.
Game 3: We both keep 7 cards, and I start with a Turn 0 Leyline of the Void, followed by a Grafdigger’s Cage, followed by a Phyrexian Metamorph copying Grafdigger’s Cage. He’s able to deal with one or two of these, but the final one and a bunch of Wastelands shut him down, and a pair of Reality Smashers seal the deal.
Round 5 vs. Jonathan Leone (URW Bomberman)
Game 1: Jonathan mulls to 6 on the play, and Force of Wills my first turn Null Rod. He is able to deal with the first or second threat, and then a 4/4 Endless One and a Thought-Knot Seer take his life in chunks.
Game 2: We both keep 7, and Jonathan has plenty of removal for my very slow hand. I concede this game (for time purposes) with 25 life, one or two cards in hand, and him with a full grip of cards and both Dack Fayden and Jace, the Mind Sculptor ticking up.
Game 3: I mull to 6 on the play, and he’s able to Swords to Plowshare and Force of Will my first few threats. I resolve a Null Rod, and then land an uncounterable Reality Smasher, which goes the distance, ignoring everything else.
Round 6 vs. AJ Grasso (URW Mentor Bomberman)
Another familiar face in AJ, who is on a Bomberman and Mentor hybrid, with small packages of each, and lots of draw spells and Gush. I like his deck choice, because it can kill incrementally or quickly with Mentor, or just sidestep Mentor hate and go over the top with a Salvagers kill.
Game 1: I mulligan to 5 on the draw, and AJ leads off with tons of early mana and a couple of draw spells, but I blindside him by landing a Null Rod, and then eventually Wasteland him, and beat down with Mimic, Thought-Knot Seer, and Reality Smasher I think.
Game 2: I mull to 6, and AJ mulls to 5 on the play, and this one is never close. I keep him on 1-2 lands the whole game, he doesn’t draw what he needs, and I beat down with Endless One + Reality Smasher for the win.
Round 7 vs. Jimmy Hangley (Dark Petition Storm)
I don’t know what my opponent is on, but I figure the pressure is on in what might be a win and in round. I haven’t been this excited for an individual match in a long time.
Game 1: He leads off the game with a Demonic Tutor, and I’m immediately putting him on DPS. I have a Warping Wail in hand (which he sees with Probe), so I sit on that for the first turn or two, until I find a Null Rod. I am able to cast Null Rod and hold up Warping Wail on Turn 3 I believe, and this eventually puts me in a position where I’m able to eek this one out with creatures + Wasteland. Null Rod shutting off his Lotus, and Wastelands to keep him on two lands, while holding up Warping Wail, where enough to win this one.
Game 2: I mulligan to 6, and have Leyline of Sanctity to play on Turn 0. His Gitaxian Probe and Vampiric Tutor brings him to 16 life, and then Thought-Knot Seer arrives to strip away something key, and then is joined by another in kind to effectively end the game.
Round 8 vs. Brian Schlossberg (Ravager Aggro Workshop)
We are both in the Top 8 with 60+% tiebreakers after Round 7, so we decide to draw. This proved fatal, as mentioned in the opening above, and both of our opponent’s match win (OMW) percentage tie breakers dropped significantly, and 2 people managed to jump us, and I land in 10th in the final standings. We played this out for fun, and I beat Brian 2-0. He is interested and amused at my deck at the same time, and later after learning the contents thinks he’s about “an 80-20 underdog in this match.”
Drawing there wasn’t a mistake if you’re merely trying to reach the Top 8, and giving yourself a chance to win from there. But in retrospect I definitely should not have drawn, because my goal was not merely to make the Top 8, but to win the whole thing and claim that awesome trophy. The card prizes didn’t matter to me, so 2nd place is the same as 10th place is the same as 20th place in this tournament for me, and in retrospect playing out Round 8 was definitely what I should have done. If I win Round 8 I’d be sitting at 7-1, which would be 1st place after Swiss, and I’d be able to be on the play every match in the Top 8, which would go on a long way towards the real goal of actually winning the tournament. I have definitely learned from that, and if you play me in the future you can expect that I will not draw, and will be gunning for that number one spot!
After a long day of Magic, about 20 of us rolled out to get a meal together, including tournament organizer Nick Detwiler, as well as about half of the Top 16, including the men of the hour Andy Markiton (aka Montolio, who won), and Tom Metelsky (aka i_B_True, who got second). We had a fun meal at a local Greek diner, in which we were regaled by stories of Vintage past from Rich Shay and Nick, discussed the Eldrazi menace and its position in Vintage, and got to listen to opinions on the 2016 American Presidential election. It was awesome. After that a number of us headed back to our hotel, where we continued to party, and the Kris Van Der Ploeg-supplied Black Lotus Cuban cigars and moonshine provided some hilarious images with people you would not normally expect to smoke cigars. Props to Brian Schlossberg, Rich Shay, Andy Markiton, Kris, and Steve for a late night of entertainment. NYSE4 was definitely one of the most fun Magic weekends I’ve ever had, and I am looking forward to more in the future. Nick truly cares about Vintage and the players, and if you’ve never been to an NYSE event, I highly recommend going in the future. Do not take these for granted, because large scale community run events require large scale participation from the players, and that means if you’re on the borderline, make an effort to go, because it will be worth it!
Knight Ware LA Vintage June 2016, Tournament Recap
Having recently moved to Los Angeles, I was looking forward to joining the Knight Ware crew for some monthly Vintage. I expected to face off against some other Eldrazi decks, Storm, and wasn’t sure what else, so for this tournament I played a slightly different decklist than above; main deck -1 Matter Reshaper, +1 Crucible of Worlds, and sideboard -1 Grafdigger’s Cage, +1 Spatial Contortion. I expected less Dredge, and more creatures, so I wanted another piece of removal in the sideboard. The 4th Dismember is definitely an option, but when facing off against White Eldrazi or Workshop decks, Spatial Contortion can often prove to be nearly as effective without the loss of life, so that’s what I went with.
Round 1 vs. Tristan De Liege (5C Humans)
My friend Tristan is sporting 5C Humans, similar to the list that won the recent Bazaar of Moxen tournament, and also recently Top 8’d the EE4 tournament. Having lent him this nearly fully altered deck for the tournament, I know his list, and he knows my decklist, so there are no surprises for either of us here.
Game 1: I mulligan to 6, and Tristan leads on the play with Lotus and Moxen and land into a couple of creatures, and I fail to hit my third land drop until about the eighth or ninth turn of the game, and am too far behind this game. He easily takes it.
Game 2: He mulls to 6, and I start on the play with an Eldrazi Mimic, and he takes his turn and once again has some Moxen for acceleration to cast Thalia plus Noble Hierarch. I think I cast Warping Wail on his Thalia, and eventually we have a crowded battlefield, until Endbringer arrives. Within a couple of turns Tristan hasn’t found an answer and the game is basically over.
Game 3: We’re both on 7 cards, and he has 3 available mana on the first turn to cast a creature or two. I have a slow hand full of Wastelands and a little removal, and that buys me enough time to once again land Thought-Knot Seer, into an Endbringer a couple of turns later, and that’s game.
Round 2 vs. Kevin Long (Grixis Pyromancer)
Kevin is playing Grixis Pyromancer similar to Tom Meletsky’s list that got second place at NYSE 4. I think this is a pretty good match for me, because Grixis (as constructed the past few months) usually doesn’t have enough meaningful answers to large creatures.
Game 1: He’s on the play and does the usual casting of cantrips to find more mana. I slowly Wasteland his board away while casting unimpressive creatures that he kills. Warping Wail takes out one or two Pyromancers, and a 5/5 Endless One eventually pushes through enough damage to win over a few turns.
Game 2: Kevin’s on the play again, and it looks like an early Pyromancer plus a bunch of discard, coupled with my own repeated Ancient Tomb damage, did enough to win before I could muster anything.
Game 3: He mulligans to 6, and I lead off with a first turn Mimic into an uncounterable second turn Endless One for 3, into uncounterable Thought-Knot Seer. This one was pretty elementary.
Round 3 vs. James Baca (Dark Petition Storm, with 2 Burning Wish)
Game 1: James spends the first couple of turns developing his mana and cantripping. I beat him down while holding up Warping Wail, and Warping Wail counters a critical Yawgmoth’s Will, enabling me to win the next turn.
Game 2: James mulls to 5 on the play, and I start on Turn 0 with 2 Leyline of Sanctity and 1 Leyline of the Void. I have a slow hand and he is able to cast Dark Petition for Tinker into Blightsteel Colossus for the win. It was not until later that I would realize that he shouldn’t have been able to do this, because we both forgot at the time that he didn’t have spell mastery from Dark Petition, by way of having no graveyard from Leyline of the Void (and thus would not have generated BBB off of Dark Petition, which ended up mattering quite a bit).
Game 3: James mulls to 3, and I once again open with at least one of the Leylines on Turn 0, and follow it up with Null Rod on Turn 2, while Eldrazi Mimic does a lot of work this game.
It was unfortunate that James mulled to 3, so we play a few more test games, and I think I win all of them. The Leyline package does serious work as a speed bump in this match, and he is bewildered at how he keeps losing to an unpowered deck.
Round 4 vs. Allen Jue (White Eldrazi)
Game 1: He’s on the play, and leads with a Thorn. I start the Wasteland game, and after Dismembering his Thought-Knot Seer, I am able to slowly pull ahead. I win at 2 life, with my own Dismember and 2 Ancient Tombs having done all the damage to me.
Game 2: He’s on the play and leads with a first turn Ancient Tomb + Mana Crypt into Lodestone Golem. I do something unimpressive and he follows up on Turn 2 with Eldrazi Temple into Reality Smasher, and attacks for 10. I have a Metamorph in hand, but it’s not enough to stem the bleeding.
Game 3: I have a strange hand with a number of Wasteland effects, one or two pieces of removal, Phyrexian Metamorph, and a Reality Smasher. Allen has a slow hand on a mulligan to 6, and I would go on to totally misplay my hand this game, and ended up losing because of it. Had I simply Metamorphed his Sol Ring on my second turn I probably would have won this game by Turn 5, but instead I was waiting to Metamorph a Crucible just in case, and I ended up not seizing the tempo I needed to cast the running large threats I kept drawing. Unfortunate, but I congratulated Allen and told him I hoped to see him in the Top 4 to get my revenge.
Round 5 (Top 4 Semifinals) vs. James Baca (Dark Petition Storm, with 2 Burning Wish)
James gets a rematch here, lamenting the fact that I will not draw and prize split. As a member of Team No Split I apologize for this inconvenience in advance. I don’t play in tournaments to split – that is what casual bracket playtesting is for.
Game 1: I’m on the play, and have a slow hand, but it does contain Null Rod and Warping Wail, so I keep. James mulls to 6, and spends the early turns attempting to sculpt his hand, while I repeatedly Wasteland him and beat down with Eldrazi Mimic, holding up Warping Wail. I counter his Dark Petition or Tinker or something, and finish him off on about Turn 6 or 7.
Game 2: We both keep a hand of 7, and I lead off with Turn 0 Leyline of the Void and Leyline of Sanctity. He has a hand full of acceleration and Academy, and is able to Chain of Vapor my Leyline of Sanctity, and then Mind’s Desire for 10 into the kill. Nicely done.
Game 3: I’m on the play for this one, and keep mulliganing, and mulliganing, after seeing hands that were either all mana or no mana. I finally keep a 4 card hand of Leyline of the Void, Ancient Tomb, Wasteland, and something else. I lead with Turn 0 Leyline, and this shuts off his options for a quick win. I believe I go on to Wasteland some of his mana, and eventually a Warping Wail on one of his key cards is enough for me to kill him with a Reality Smasher or something. This was a close one, but the sideboard as constituted keeps proving its worth against DPS, Oath, and Dredge decks.
Round 6 (Top 2 Finals) vs. Allen Jue (White Eldrazi)
I get my rematch vs. Allen with his White Eldrazi, and am excited to have the opportunity to make up for my misplay earlier.
Game 1: We both keep 7 card hands, and I lead with a first turn Mimic. This would do 8 damage in the early turns while we both trade Wastelands on any high value land, and ignore each other’s single mana producing lands. He has some Moxen that I shut off with Null Rod, and eventually he succumbs to a Reality Smasher + Mimic trigger I think.
Game 2: He mulls to 6 on the play, and leads with a land he’s offering to trade for one of my Wastelands. I decline, and instead cast a Null Rod, and then follow up with Wastelands afterwards, kill his Eldrazi Displacer with a Spatial Contortion, and eventually beat down, aided by his Mana Crypt, and win the match.
Introducing the New Book – Eldrazi Meditations – Available Now
For my extended thoughts on building and playing Eldrazi in Vintage, I have taken a deep dive into a number of different builds in my full length 150+ page long form primer here. This discusses everything from the roots of Eldrazi decks, to the logic behind going Powerless in JacoDrazi (yes, even explaining why there’s no Black Lotus and Sol Ring and Mana Crypt), to building, playing, and sideboarding with that specific deck. I also analyze building and playing with other Eldrazi variants in Vintage, like White Eldrazi, Workshop Eldrazi, and even Unpowered White Eldrazi. It’s a ton of reading material, and should answer most questions about building and playing Eldrazi in Vintage, whether you’re a grizzled veteran, a returning player, or are completely new to the format and looking to join in the fun. Thanks for reading!