A Case Study on the Fall of Bant Eldrazi

Modern evolves as new cards enter the format, broken enablers are banned, and archetypes are discovered through off-the-wall experimentation. What used to be a tier-one archetype can in a few months be outclassed, outdated, and outmatched by the new hotness. Bant Eldrazi is one such archetype that now finds itself looking in from the outside of a format it once used to rule. How did this powerful deck manage to quickly fall from the top of the pile?

The Power of Bant Eldrazi

Drowner of Hope
Dr. Owner at the height of his practice.

Before discussing the fall of Bant Eldrazi, it’s necessary to explain the archetype and what made it such a popular deck. Here’s the list from Matthew Stoloff, who placed 13th at GP Brisbane back in February 2017.

Decklist: Bant Eldrazi by Matthew Stoloff

Bant Eldrazi is a midrange deck with a grindy, value-based game plan that is also equipped with the potential for an explosive start. The combination of mana dorks in Noble Hierarch and Birds of Paradise in tandem with the ramp provided by Eldrazi Temple means Bant Eldrazi has access to powerful 3- and 4-mana plays on turn two. Playing Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher ahead of the curve puts opponents under heavy pressure, and the duo of Eldrazi Displacer and Drowner of Hope closes out games by affecting the board state and combat. Playing white gives Bant Eldrazi access to some of the best sideboard cards in the format, such as Rest in Peace and Stony Silence. The blue shores up the problematic combo matches that a midrange deck like Bant Eldrazi tends to suffer against. To round it off, green allows the deck to play one of the best cantrips in the format, Ancient Stirrings, which provides unmatched consistency compared to other midrange strategies. Bant Eldrazi beats up on creature-based midrange decks and sports strong matchups against decks such as Eldrazi Tron and Infect. It has, however, a hard time fighting against control decks and particularly combo decks.

The Fall

Blood Moon Field of Ruin
The fun police.

To assess what lead to the demise of Bant Eldrazi, one needs to only look at the larger trends in the Modern metagame and the specific cards that are seeing heavy play. Not only have control and combo strategies become a larger part of the metagame, but the most-played cards of the format also line up very well against Bant Eldrazi’s cards.

The biggest metagame storyline of 2017 was without a doubt the rise of Death’s Shadow decks, but that by itself doesn’t provide a complete picture of the changes in the Modern landscape. The banning of Gitaxian Probe banished Infect to the Shadow Realm, Eldrazi Tron won over more and more players until it became the de facto Eldrazi deck, and big mana decks such as Scapeshift made noise in the summer as a reaction to the reign of Grixis Death’s Shadow and Eldrazi Tron. The year also saw the renewed emergence of Abzan Counters Company due to the printing of Vizier of Remedies as well as UR Storm and the newly printed Baral, Chief of Compliance. Ixalan brought with it the resurgence of UWx Control, which benefited from Field of Ruin and Search for Azcanta / Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin, and the creation of the Collected Company-less five-color Humans. Throughout it all, Bant Eldrazi saw less and less play at the top tables of large tournaments.

When we look at the macro-development of the metagame, we see that Bant Eldrazi has lost a large share of its prey and must contend in a field filled with unfavorable matchups. The midrange creature strategies that Bant Eldrazi feasted on are no longer tier one strategies and instead have been replaced by linear combo decks. Go-wide decks, which are also difficult matchups for Bant Eldrazi, found a new champion in the form of five-color Humans. Control strategies especially took off after Ixalan, and any deck packed to the brim with targeted and mass removal is a challenge for Bant Eldrazi. In short, this is not the best time to be playing creatures and turning them sideways unless you can be blisteringly fast.

A micro-analysis of the individual cards being played in Modern also point to the general level of hostility that Bant Eldrazi faces in the current metagame. Fatal Push and Lightning Bolt are everywhere and efficiently answer most of the deck’s creatures. New additions, such as Search for Azcanta, give control decks closing speed and the ability to find answers, while Field of Ruin attacks what is essentially Bant Eldrazi’s four-color mana base. There is also the overabundance of Blood Moon in mainboards and sideboards — No matter how greedy a deck’s mana base may be, if it is playing red, it’s likely playing a copy or four of the game-ending enchantment. These are not the kind of cards Bant Eldrazi players want to be facing when they sit down to play, thus explaining the disappearance of the archetype. 

Moving Forward

For the Bant Eldrazi fans out there that might be feeling down after reading this article, it’s not time to lose hope just yet. The deck could be viable with some adjustments, and after all, this is Modern that we’re talking about — It’s possible for any deck to rise from the ashes and spike an event given the right circumstances and proper preparation.

With the way the metagame has shaped up, Bant Eldrazi’s threats need to become more resilient against removal and need to pressure the opponent faster. This means that several cards in traditional Bant Eldrazi lists no longer cut the mustard, and the first to go is Eldrazi Skyspawner. Skyspawner lines up poorly against cards such as Electrolyze. The card isn’t good enough against any popular matchup other than Affinity for lists to be playing it as a four-of. In its stead, Matter Reshaper provides a removal-resilient threat that packs a bigger punch. Tireless Tracker also fits this bill, as it can sometimes run away with the game on its own and can be powered out on turn two with the help of a mana dork.

The deck could also do with one more basic than stock lists due to the prevalence of land destruction and decks working to mess with their opponents’ mana via Blood Moon or Spreading Seas. Dismember and Engineered Explosives should be accounted for depending on how likely you’re expecting a deck such as Humans (and in this current meta, the answer is: often).

Here’s the deck list I would play:

Decklist: Bant Eldrazi by Hans Davidson

There are considerations for playing the third Engineered Explosives in the main over the Dismember, as it would open up a slot in the sideboard for a planeswalker, such as Nissa, Steward of Elements or Gideon, Ally of Zendika, but this does make the deck much weaker to Meddling Mage. Because the list is playing two Tireless Trackers, an argument could also be made for taking out the Dismember in favor of a twenty-fourth land (namely Cavern of Souls). These decisions all depend on the metagame you’re expecting to face, so it’s important to constantly think about what the deck wants to be prepared to beat.

Wrapping Up

Do you think that Bant Eldrazi is primed for a comeback? Does the deck need a reprinting or a new card to pump life back into it? Is it an outdated archetype that has been left in the dust? Leave your thoughts and share your opinions in the comment section below, and I’ll see you next week when I cover how to choose the right Modern deck for you!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.

2 Comments

hdavidson21(2018-02-06 11:16)

Thanks, @Bajuwarenzorn! As someone who also plays the deck, it's strange that a deck that can play a Thoughtseizing 4/4 on turn two fairly consistently can somehow feel underpowered, but that's where Modern is right now. Which decks have you switched onto instead of Bant Eldrazi?

Cheers,
Hans

Bajuwarenzorn(2018-02-03 21:30)

Good read! I used to play this deck a lot but suddenly it didn’t felt as powerful anymore. You nailed the reasons for its demise.

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