(Modern) Eldrazi Tron Primer [CherryxMan]

Hi, my name is Kiran Dhokia, though I am probably better known as Cherryxman on MTGO. I first started playing Magic when a friend introduced to the Modern format three years ago. My deck of choice for a majority of that time has been Eldrazi Tron and I’ve written quite a bit of content for the deck including primers and sideboarding guides on the Modern Magic sub on Reddit.  Card Knock Life approached me about publishing this content given a serious lack of up-to-date information on the topic and a renewed interest in the deck due to the Hogaak-inspired meta.  Here is said content alongside my most recent list.


Cherryxman’s Eldrazi Tron [8/2019]

Planeswalker (4)
Karn, the Great Creator

Creatures (17)
Walking Ballista
Thought-Knot Seer
Reality Smasher
Matter Reshaper
Endbringer

Spells (4)
All Is Dust
Dismember

Artifacts (11)
Mind Stone
Chalice of the Void
Expedition Map
Mystic Forge
Lands (24)
Wastes
Cavern of Souls
Ghost Quarter
Blast Zone
Urza’s Power Plant
Urza’s Tower
Urza’s Mine
Eldrazi Temple

Sideboard (15)
Mystic Forge
Walking Ballista
Spatial Contortion
Spellskite
Sorcerous Spyglass
Liquimetal Coating
Leyline of the Void
Ensnaring Bridge
Mycosynth Lattice
Grafdigger’s Cage


My Background With The Deck

This section is not super relevant to the operation of deck, but might be interesting to know, especially if you aren’t familiar with my successes with E Tron. I first decided I wanted to buy a competitive Modern deck two and a half years ago, and after accumulating the cards for a a little over half a year, I had a pretty complete build. My first and only GP main event was in my first year with the deck, and started 4-2, before finishing 4-5. Earlier this year I decided that I wasn’t able to play enough Modern in paper and decided to try playing online. I utilized Mantraders.com, which has a great subscription rental service that has allowed me to try out huge amounts of decks. After Karn, the Great Creator released, some 5-0 lists popped up so I revisited the deck, and was really impressed. I still play a lot of other decks and formats, but for the weekend tournaments right now, I think E Tron is pretty well positioned. 

I have played in several challenges with the deck and my best finishes were 3/4th and 10th place . I also played a couple of MCQs, placing 33rd in the first (losing to G Tron twice and U Tron once).  In the next MCQ I played in, I started out 7-0, but proceeded to lose both of my win-and-ins, to The Rock and Hogaak (before the Bridge from Below ban), which are typically decent match-ups.  This was especially frustrating because I beat Hogaak in game one, and failed to find any hate after boarding. I finished 12th here out of a field of 358 players.

Casting Chalice of the Void is my favourite thing to be doing in Magic, and because of this enjoy Eldrazi Tron more than most other Modern decks.  As Modern gets more linear and more one busted one drops get printed, Chalice only gets stronger.


Why Eldrazi Tron?

A common name for Eldrazi Tron is “Bad Tron”. Obviously I disagree with this, and here’s why:

I learned how to play Green Tron from watching Jim Davis’ stream, and whilst I only watched a couple of leagues or so, I learned two important things. You need to go for turn 3 Tron and Thragtusk is…good. A lot of Tron players on Magic online right love their turn one Forests, but without Crop Rotation in the format, this is really bad. Modern is brutal right now, and if you stumble, you die. Because of this, you have to mulligan more aggressively with G tron.

This is not the case in Eldrazi Tron.  The decks are completely different, in fact, and what Eldrazi Tron lacks in instant game winning spells, it makes up for in early disruption. Not to mention, Eldrazi Tron can hit pretty hard too.

Another thing that is great about Eldrazi Tron is that many players’ prior experience with big mana Tron variants often causes them to overvalue the importance of assembling the deck’s namesake; three Tron lands.  One example of this is the way that people often side in Damping Sphere against us. I think the only deck I like Damping Sphere out of vs Eldrazi Tron is Humans, because they can take advantage of setting us back by a mana or two, with their quick clock.  In one instance, I have had a Jund player unable to use the free Bloodbraid Elf spell because their own Sphere. You are not looking to mulligan anywhere near as aggressively with the deck as G Tron, because having the seven mana is a nice boost, rather than an essential.

I think that for some time the “Bad Tron” name may have been merited, as the deck saw very little improvement since Walking Ballista while the rest of the format evolved. In the next section, I’ll make my case why the deck is actually a strong contender at this point.


Karn, the Great Creator

Karn is phenomenal for this deck for a variety of reasons. At this point, I can think of just one match-up in which I would cut Karn (Infect).  Not only does Karn improve some already good match-ups, it also has a huge impact on some of the worst match-ups. The biggest gains are against Affinity (which I would consistently lose to, despite having 10 sideboard cards for the match-up) and G Tron (which is still bad, but is far more winnable). Another area of big gain is against combo decks like Ad Nauseam and Titanshift, which have historically been challenging for us. The cost to running Karn is also not as large as it is in G Tron or Amulet Titan in terms of sideboard space requirements because the sideboard was already relatively weak given that we are “mono brown”.  In fact, many of the cards we previously included in the board are also a part of our Karn wishboard.

Karn has added a whole new set of decision trees to this deck.  This is not a bad thing as it makes for more interesting games but it is certainly worth understanding how the sideboard and Karn need to be used in order to achieve the best results.  I will try and shed some light on this later…


The Main Deck

I am very confident in my choices in this area and will try and justify myself here. A couple of slots are up for grabs, namely the utility land slot, and some list may opt for Ugin, the Ineffable or Ulamog, The Ceaseless Hunger in place of Endbringer or main deck Mystic Forge.

In my experience, running Ulamog is a huge mistake. The Eldrazi Tron deck looks to curve out meaningful spells, and having a 10-drop in hand with a few Wastes or or utility lands in play is not ideal. Ulamog is excellent when it is cast, but getting there can be challenging at times.

I have tried Ugin, the Ineffable and was not impressed enough to run it over Enbringer or Mind Stone, but I may be wrong here. They fill similar roles – for a large amount of mana, you get a permanent that can generate a large amount of card advantage if it sticks around.

Another card I have experimented with recently is Warping Wail over Mind Stone. The best mode is exiling a creature, and is very potent against mana dorks on the play, but being modal means it basically is always useful in some way. In the current Modern format, taking a turn off to play a Mind Stone can be quite punishing and can lead to falling too far behind on board.

The Creatures

4 Matter Reshaper, 4 Thought-Knot Seer, 4 Reality Smasher, 4 Walking Ballista (1 in board for Karn) are a must

Matter Reshaper: This card is excellent in any midrange match-up, coming down as early as turn two off of Eldrazi Temple plus any other land. Upon death, the little guy either draws a card, or puts a cheap permanent into play, including lands.

Thought-Knot Seer: One of the best cards in the deck.  TKS is a big body that comes with a valuable Thoughtseize effect. Though it allows an opponent to draw after it is removed, the card it takes will often be better than the average draw. Taking removal is high priority to stop your opponent from drawing a card and killing the creature, but taking a combo piece or a crucial threat can be huge game. Turn 2 Thought-Knot Seer off double Eldrazi Temple is just so powerful that it can lead to play patterns of going for this over Tron.

Reality Smasher: A big body with trample and haste that is also hard to remove for a lot of decks that don’t have access to white (namely, Path to Exile).  When an opponent casts two Lightning Bolts to kill it and has to discard twice so the spells aren’t countered, the game is pretty much over. While the four-for-one is not super common, you should expect many two-for-ones from Smasher.

Endbringer is also very powerful, but, unlike TKS and Smasher, it generates no immediate value. It is must kill, however and, because of that it, is worthwhile as an inclusion in the creature section of the deck.  As an added benefit, it can be cast using Temple mana, which is a big gain over Ugin.

Ballista is one of the big Tron payoffs, that scales really nicely. On the play, killing a Noble Hierarch or Champion of the Parish can provide the setback needed to reach the lategame and you shouldn’t be afraid to throw away Ballistas one-for-one early. The late game is where things get silly, a huge threat that kills things and can grow in subsequent turns is super scary for any opponent.

Non-Creature Spells

I will cover Karn in the sideboard section in detail

Dismember: It should be pretty obvious why this piece of removal is important to a deck that lacks access to colored alternatives like Path or Push.  It kills most creatures in Modern or can shrink larger threats in combat to make Smasher lethal.  Since the spell is bad in doubles, most decks include just two copies.

All is Dust: This one is a bit hit or miss, but when it hits, it’s normally game ending. Its super against most midrange or aggro decks, and even UW Control on some boards. Its really bad vs Affinity and Tron, however. Very worth noting that Eldrazi Temple can produce two mana to cast All is Dust, as it is a Tribal Sorcery, however, a slight downside is that it provides opposing Tarmogoyfs with one additional point of power/toughness.

Chalice of the Void: Chalice provides a really powerful effect in many match-ups, shutting off significant portions of entire strategies single-handedly.  Don’t be afraid to sideboard them out, however. I think that against Jund or Humans, for example, I will take them all out if I have enough relevant cards to bring in. I also dislike it vs Affinity in lists where I had a lot of tools to bring in but now I leave them in to play on 0 or 2.  Familiarize yourself with the most common converted mana costs for opposing Modern strategies for best results.

Expedition Map: This land tutor effect probides the glue for the manabase.  It can find Tron pieces but also will frequently be used to grab an Eldrazi Temple or utility land. Against a Blood Moon deck, fetching a Wastes is also very reasonable.  Keep in mind that you don’t need to crack it aggressively (as you often do in Mono G Tron).  You can wait till you hit the second Tron piece if you have other uses for your mana in early turns. Be wary that playing Chalice on 1 (by far the most common number) will counter Maps that you attempt to cast.

Mind Stone: This is a card that got better with new Karn, as it allows us to maximize casting the Great Creator on turn three. Stone provides early game ramp and late game redraw.  I think three is a very reasonable amount, though some people run fewer.

Mystic Forge: I run 1 main because its effect is always powerful and it is incredible against midrange and control decks. This card can also provide an edge in the mirror match which is quite useful.

Lands

The best draw involve assembling Tron, casting early Eldrazi via Eldrazi Temple(s), or having very meaningful early disruption, like Chalice.

Ghost Quarter: This is necessary to deal with creature lands, opposing Tron lands, and can target your own lands in response to a Blood Moon to find a Wastes. With the resurgence of Tron, especially on MTGO, there are plenty of good targets for Ghost Quarter these days. 

Blast Zone: This land is really powerful, especially with large amounts of mana but can be extremely effective in destroying an army of one-drops off the bat.

Cavern of Souls: Cavern is quite good vs counter magic for obvious reasons.  Its also worth noting that, while unlikely, it can also stop Chalice trigger effects on your own creatures.

Wastes: A number of Wastes is needed to account to recoup some value when Path to Exile, Assassin’s Trophy, Ghost Quarter, and Field of Ruin are used against you.  Also, this will be very important in casting Eldrazi spells through Blood Moon due to the colorless mana requirement.

Utility Lands: Sea Gate Wreckage, Cryptic Caves, and Haunted Fengraf are all playable for similar reasons. One that some players like, but I am not a fan of, is Scavenger Grounds.  I find that it is often too slow and the mana setback is often not worthwhile.


The Sideboard

Sometimes it is right to bring pieces of the Karn wishboard into the maindeck when you need to replace dead cards in the match-up during games two and three but there are a few cards I would recommend keeping in the board in most circumstances. These are Ensnaring Bridge, Liquimetal Coating, and Mycosyth Lattice. These three either function solely in combination with Karn or are situational but important pieces to the strategy that is best left to be accessed via Karn’s “-2” ability.

Tormod’s Crypt is another piece of the package that I would prefer to keep in the sideboard (especially when it is just a one-of), but I am not sure if it is worth a slot, as I rarely found myself searching for it with Karn.

The cards that Karn can’t get can obviously be brought in at will.  These are Leyline of the Void and Spatial Contortion. In the current format, 4 x Leyline of the Void is fairly necessary.

I am a big fan of Spatial Contortion.  With a decent amount of meta decks using creatures this is good against and a lot of fringe strategies being creature-based, Contortion does a lot of work out of the board. This can also be okay vs combo as a pump spell for TKS and Smasher (if you have dead cards that need a replacement in sideboarded games). The rest of the artifacts can be brought in depending on whether or not you have enough good Karn wish targets left behind and enough “bad” cards in the main.

Overall, Karn is an incredible tool if you leverage it correctly.  I know I still haven’t perfected the art of using Karn. Fetching Liquimetal Coating to start killing lands on the next turn is pretty common. Upticking on nothing can be good vs decks that are capable of pressuring your Planeswalker such as Affinity or Burn.

Obviously, the Lattice lock can be game-ending, but knowing how and when to use this is very important. I have seen a Tron opponent Lattice lock themselves against me by casting lattice while we both had Karn on board.  Unfortunately for him, I had an Enbringer. From there, I killed their Karn which meant that I was the only player capable of casting spells and I eventually won.

Remember that creatures can still attack Karn.  Do not play Lattice onto a board in which you do not have creature advantage. Also remember that the lock needs Karn in play, so grabbing Bridge is very good for this reason.

Another trick to using Karn, is that when you are ahead, you don’t need to always grab the lock immediately. Against UW Control for example, a really nice way to leverage Karn is to go get Coating, or another utility spell that might draw out a counter and leave Lattice in the board to prevent your opponent from being able to tap out (because if they do, they will lose to the lock so long as they do not have Force of Negation). This strategy is very effective when backed up by Chalice on one, and a big beater like Smasher. Once you grab Lattice and UW counters it, they can play a lot more freely.

Karn also shuts off Hogaak decks well because it can fetch Ensnaring Bridge, and they must kill that to win provided you have no cards in hand. This is one of the few ways, along with Chalice on one, that we can beat the deck game one though, with the newer builds that include cards like Satyr Wayfinder, Chalice on one is less back breaking.

Other Sideboard Considerations

A noteworthy point is that Sorcerous Spyglass could be replaced by Pithing Needle as I have found costing less to be useful but given that Chalice of the Void is set to one fairly often, Needle gets a lot worse. Spellskite is a card that I like bringing in a lot, and it has really impressed me as an actual sideboard card more than just a wish target for karn. 


Sideboard Guide

This is, by no means, definitive as your opponent’s 75 is likely to vary from “stock” lists.  Also, the sideboard can change regularly, depending on the expected field. That said, the “board out” section is fairly consistent as the maindeck is a bit more stable.

Deck Out In Comments
Humans 4 Chalice of the Void 1 Spellskite, 3 Spatial Contortion, Chalice is poor in the match-up as it only stops Vial or creatures only when they don’t have a Cavern. Their best cards are Reflector Mage and Mantis Rider. Contortion is very good vs Mantis Rider but be careful if they have Vial on two up as Lieutenant can pump Rider to prevent it from dying in this case.
Hogaak 2 All is dust, 2 Dismember,
2 Endbringer
4 Leyline of the Void, 1 Grafdiggers Cage,
1 Spellskite
Be very willing to mulligan aggressively. Chalice is much worse on the draw than the play. Karn, the Great Creator can shut off combat through Ensnaring Bridge so hands that can easily empty and play Karn/Bridge quickly are also good. Leyline is obviously great.
Infect 4 Karn, the Great Creator,
1 Smasher, 1 Forge
3 Spatial contortion, 1 Spellskite,
1 Spyglass, 1 Walky B
I think this is a very strong match-up. Chalice, Ballista, Dismember, and Contortion are all great.  All is Dust works well so long as you have Tron.  Blast Zone is just incredibly game ending and, with Giver of Runes in some versions, they run even more one drops to blow up. Giver is a problem in combat.  Do not forget that it can provide protection from colorless.  Never let down your guard here, as Infect can kill out of nowhere.
Uw Control No changes No Changes Karn is a very useful tool in this match-up.  The creatures are also hugely important to pressure them.
Burn 2 Dismember, 2 All is Dust 3 Spatial Contortion, 1 Spellskite, Overall, I think this is a pretty good match-up. Winning game one is really important here, as being on the draw post board puts you at a huge disadvantage.  If you manage to win game one, you can afford to lose on the draw, and then win game three back on the play. Spatial Contortion is really good here to remove aggressive creatures.  Also, Reshaper and Though-Knot Seer will help quite a bit as blockers.  Their best draw involve early creatures so anything that can slow them down or get in the way is good here. Spellskite, in particular, is useful as a Wall of Omens-type blocker. Don’t be afraid to Dismember a creature in game one, especially if you can’t block.
Mardu
Pyromancer
2 Chalice of the Void 2 Spatial Contortion This is a very good match-up.  One of their main ways to win is catching you without a Wastes or Mind Stone to provide a colorless mana when a Blood Moon resolves.  I recently won a game on a mull to 5 through blank Inquisiton and double Thoughtseize because my opponent couldn’t kill Enbringer.
Engineer
Thopter
Sword
4 Chalice of the Void, 2 Reshaper
1 Walky B
2 Spatial Contortion, 1 Mystic Forge,
4 Leyline
Karn is big game here. Mystic Forge will help to dig for Karn though, its worth noting it interacts poorly with Grafdiggers Cage, which the opponent’s deck runs. They are likely to board it out but, perhaps after seeing Forge in game one, they may not.
Tron 2 All is Dust, 2 Dismember 2 Spatial Contortion, 1 Mystic Forge,
1 Walky B
This is pretty much the worst match-up. TKS, Chalice of the Void, and Karn are all great here but Tron can go way over the top of Eldrazi Tron so it often doesn’t matter what you are doing. Chalice on one and Ghost Quarter is a good amount of disruption but this needs to be backed up by pressure too.
GBx 4 Chalice of the Void 2 Spatial Contortion, 1 Spellskite, 1Relic This is a really strong match-up due to higher power level of the deck.  It’s one matchup where TKS can actually be the weakest of the eldrazi. Hands with plenty of mana are ideal. Collector Ouphe is a new card to be aware of from the opponent.
Storm 1 Walky B, 4 Reshaper,
2 Endbringer
3 Spatial Contortion, 4 Leyline of the
Void
Leyline is not very good vs. them post board, but it it’s worth bringing them in for game two anyways because  there are plenty of worse cards to bring out.
Grixis
Shadow
3 Walky B 3 Leyline of the Void This is another really great match-up.  Chalice is very strong. Don’t feel a need to attack too aggressively.
E Tron 2 All is Dust, 4 Chalice of the Void 1 Mystic Forge, 1 Spellskite, 3 Spatial
Contortion, 1 Walky B
I dislike the mirror a lot, from a fun and skill perspective.
Mono Red
Phoenix
2 Dismember, 3 Walky B,
1 Smasher, 2 Endbringer
4 Leyline, 3 Contortion, 1 Skite We have access to a lot of really strong tools to fight this deck. I think Leyline is a strong way to combat Phoenix, but also Finale.  Walking Ballista is quite poor early on, which is where we want to be fighting before landing a Karn to finish things up. I have considered keeping Dismember in, but I think that between Blast Zone, Contortion, and Reshaper, we have enough early ways to stop the prowess creatures.
Izzet
Phoenix
1 Endbringer, 3 Walky B 4 Leyline Phoenix is a difficult threat for Eldrazi Tron to deal with outside of Leyline so Walking Ballista falls short of the permanent hate in favor of Leyline.
Druid Combo 4 Chalice of the Void 3 Contortion, 1 Mystic Forge Kill the Druid at all costs and set Spyglass on Devoted Druid. This is the basic gameplan. The value plan is generally an easy way to go over the top of them so don’t be too concerned with that.
Hardened
Scales
4 Chalice, 2 All is dust, 3 Reality
Smasher
4 Leyline, 3 contortion, 1 Walky B
1 Spellskite
Karn is really great here. Leyline is very useful at stopping Hangarback and modular.
Titanshift 2 dismember 2 contortion Chalice is better or worse depending on how many Bolts/ Relics/Summoners pacts they run.
Bant Spirits See comments See comments Very similar to humans sideboard plan, though Chalice gets better depending on play/vs draw and whether or not they run Path to Exile.

Cherryxman’s Sideboarding Guide


Tips and Tricks

Here I just want to talk about some neat interactions, and small edges you can use to improve.

  • Remember to untap Enbringer in your opponents turn too.  
  • If you don’t think your opponent is going to kill your Chalice and Ensnaring Bridge is effective against them, play into Chalice whenever possible in order to reduce your hand size prior to casting Bridge.
  • Remember your Chalice triggers!
  • Unsettled Mariner allows you to pay one mana to target an opponent with Thought-Knot (not ideal), but when it leaves play and you target the opponent again, you can choose to not pay the one mana, and the draw trigger will be countered.
  • Karn can get real cute with things like Damping Sphere, as you can turn it into a 2/2, then kill it with Dismember or Ballista.
  • With Lattice out, All is Dust does nothing to the board, because everything is colorless.
  • “Karnstructs” (created by Urza, Lord High Artificer) with power and toughness equal to the number of artifacts in play get boosted by Lattice. I have seen two matches come down to someone playing Karn, the Great Creator and finding Lattice without realising that the opponents 1/1 becomes a 10/10.

TLDR E Tron is great with new Karn and a fantastic choice in the current meta.

I am happy to do my best to answer any questions, you can reach out to me on Reddit (Cherryxman), Twitter (@Cherryxman), or MTGO (Cherryxman).

Thanks for reading!

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