The Eldest Reborn - GP Top 32
It was love at first sight. A natural 3-for-1 with the ability to steal your opponents' planeswalker is a dream come true. Of course, it is not the easiest to build around, but the payoff is amazing. Well, our own Toffel is up to the challenge of talking about The Eldest Reborn in standard!
Love at First Sight
I love cards that give you a heap of value, but also reward you even further for setting them up correctly. Playing The Eldest Reborn is nice on its own, but you can squeeze out even more when you time it correctly. Killing your opponents' small creatures is fairly bad, but creating a game state where you make them sacrifice their planeswalker is amazing. Not only do they lose it, you also gain a premium target for the third chapter later.
While this is a draft powerhouse, it hasn't really found its way into constructed... until now.
So, testing for the Pro Tour, I tried to make an Eldest Reborn deck work. At first, I started with a mono-black list. It was fairly obvious that the deck needed a lot of removal in order to deal with your opponents early plays before getting up to 5 mana.
The Eldest Reborn Version 1
|1Arch of Orazca||4Gifted Aetherborn||2Cast Down|
|1Cabal Stronghold||3Gonti, Lord of Luxury||4Fatal Push|
|3Field of Ruin||2Kitesail Freebooter||4Vraska's Contempt|
|2Ifnir Deadlands||3Walking Ballista||3Doomfall|
|4Memorial to Folly||3Duress|
|15Swamp||4The Eldest Reborn|
|2Liliana, Death's Majesty|
|2Arguel's Blood Fast / Temple of Aclazotz||1Cast Down||1Doomfall|
|1Duress||4Glint-Sleeve Siphoner||2Karn, Scion of Urza|
|2Kitesail Freebooter||2Ravenous Chupacabra|
The deck performed okay and I realized quickly that there are some problematic cards that counter our strategy fairly welll. Heart of Kiran hits... well... hard and it dodges The Eldest Reborn. Pia and Kiran Nalaar is also annoying, since it puts additional creatures on the battlefield and makes other cards, like Bomat Courier and Scrapheap Scrounger, much stronger. Speaking of Scrapheap Scrounger, it is also extremely well positioned against The Eldest Reborn since it kind of blanks the first chapter by coming back and it can prevent us from stealing our opponents' creatures later by exiling the targeted creature, or even itself. If that isn't already enough, there is also Rekindling Phoenix. As you can see, there are a lot of problematic cards. That are played in the same deck. Which is the best deck. Gulp.
Well, we do have some cards that work well against most of those cards. Vraska's Contempt puts in huge work removing things for good and Doomfall is a good catch all, and also not that bad against control. In the end, that still isn't enough. I couldn't really play creatures, since some of the advantage comes from not giving your opponent a chance to use their removal spells efficiently. That is why I didn't like Gifted Aetherborn or Kitesail Freebooter, since they just died too often.
As you probably realized, all the mentioned threats are difficult to beat with one card, let alone cheaply. While playing the deck, it was very much possible to win against those cards, when I drew a decent amount of lands, but reaching 4 or 5 mana consistently was a struggle since you don't have card draw. At first, I thought that 26 lands would be extremely problematic, especially your curve tops out at 5 mana (this question made up the majority of questions I got about this deck) and it is very easy to flood out with such a high land count, but this was never an issue. Your lands are amazing at generating value and between Memorial to Folly, Ifnir Deadlands, Walking Ballista, Arch of Orazca and Gonti, Lord of Luxury, you've got so many strong late game options that you never really have to worry about having too much mana.
The real issue was not drawing enough lands to get to The Eldest Reborn. That's why I added blue for Champion of Wits, but that didn't end up working out. I did feel like red was a strong addition, since it gives you a lot of removal spells that deal with the problematic creatures. Abrade and Magma Spray are great early and Sweltering Suns is very neat to deal with more than one cheap creature. Still, I was not able to get the consistency I wanted and finally discarded the deck for the Pro Tour.
I played the deck a few days after the Pro Tour for fun and I stumbled upon Cathartic Reunion, and that's when it hit me. It was perfect. It allows you to get to your lands much more reliably and also throws away useless removal spells against control decks. The only bad thing about it is top decking it. That's why Tormenting Voice ends up being a bit better, but I still like having options, so I went with a 2-1 split.
Crucial Changes and the Red Menace
The Eldest Reborn by Toffel - GP Copenhagen
|4Canyon Slough||2Gonti, Lord of Luxury||4The Eldest Reborn|
|1Cinder Barrens||2Noxious Gearhulk||3Abrade|
|4Dragonskull Summit||2Walking Ballista||3Fatal Push|
|1Evolving Wilds||2Magma Spray|
|2Field of Ruin||4Vraska's Contempt|
|3Memorial to Folly||1Cathartic Reunion|
|2Liliana, Death's Majesty|
|2Arguel's Blood Fast / Temple of Aclazotz||3Chandra's Defeat||1Doomfall|
|3Duress||4Glint-Sleeve Siphoner||1Gonti, Lord of Luxury|
This deck was built to beat up on red decks, and a few days before the GP, it did that just fine. Problem was we were playing against the pro tour lists and players added more Rekindling Phoenix and other annoying cards to beat the mirror. This makes the matchup much harder. It is quite difficult to sequence your removal spells correctly, since your spells are somewhat situational, you have to think ahead in order to figure out which one to use. It is almost always correct to avoid utilizing exiling removal spells, instead keeping them for the threats that need to be exiled, even if that means taking some damage. Going forward, I can see playing an Hour of Devastation, in exchange for one Sweltering Suns in the main deck, since it handles some board states that your single-target removal can't.
Sideboarding is interesting, since they usually take out most of their cheap creatures. Because we only board in the Chandra's Defeat, I took out single copies of cards like The Eldest Reborn or Sweltering Suns. On the play, I liked boarding out a Push and, on the draw, a Tormenting Voice.
The matchup against control appeared to be horrible, especially since you lose the first game a lot, but it is possible to win game one when you manage to resolve a Gonti or steal their planeswalker with The Eldest Reborn. After boarding, it becomes so much easier. Indeed, I have played control 5 times and I won 4 of them, mostly on the back of the strong sideboard. The games tend to go quite long against the control decks, so playing fast is mandatory. I did not draw in the tournament, but I also had quite skilled opponents that also played quickly.
Here, sideboarding is very easy. We just cut all the bad removal spells and play good cards instead. I liked keeping a few Abrades against Torrential Gearhulks or some Sweltering Suns against History of Benalia.
One final advice about playing against this deck involves Karn, Scion of Urza. Almost everybody I played against used it to "draw" cards. While it is even worse against this deck, considering The Eldest Reborn, I feel that people consistently fail to use Karn correctly. Specifically, not making a token against control decks. Karn is not premium at drawing cards and if your opponent has an answer to Karn it will get a land more often than not. This is not satisfying and lets the control player of the hook unnecessarily easily. We called him a junk dealer in testing for good reason.
This deck was a blast to play and I think it can compete in a metagame like this, even though the surprise factor gives it a nice percentage point boost. Thanks a lot for reading and please feel free to leave a question or comment in the section below.
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