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Pro Tour OGW: Eldrazi, Winners, and Decks

Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch is officially in the books and it was perhaps the most exciting Modern Pro Tour of all time. It was dominated by new cards and new decks to an extent that we've never seen before in Modern, and while the tournament definitely leaves some long term question marks about the health and direction of the format, overall it was a great weekend of Magic. 

I'll be back tomorrow to break down the numbers, so today we are going to focus on three things. First, just how dominant were the Eldrazi decks? While they obviously put six players in the top eight at Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch, what happens when we look behind the curtain? Are they really that good, or did they just manage a lot of high-end finishes in the hands of the best players in the room? Second, we'll break down the most played cards in the event and discuss some of the non-Eldrazi winners. Then we'll wrap up by looking at the five most interesting decks from Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch. If you haven't checked out the 6+ Win Decklists yet, but sure to take a quick look. Anyway, let's start by discussing our new alien overlords!

Just How Good Were the Eldrazi?

First off, let's talk about Eldrazi — the results the archetype put up at Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch are historic. There have only been a couple times in the history of a game where one archetype has dominated a tournament to such an extent (Pro Tour Berlin in 2008 which had six Elves decks in the top eight and GP Columbus in 2004 which had seven Flash Hulk decks). In fact, the dominance of the deck was so complete that I'm nearly at a loss of words to describe it. This said, I'm going to give it a shot.

A total of 32 people showed up to Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch with an Eldrazi deck and six of these players (18.5 percent) made the top eight. When I wrote the By the Numbers for Pro Tour Fate Reforged, I came to the conclusion that Infect was the best deck, and it put a total of 25 percent of its players in top 64 and zero players in the top eight. Let that sink in. Eldrazi came close to putting just as many players in the top eight of Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch as the best deck put into the top 64 at the last Modern Pro Tour. 

But this doesn't even paint the entire picture. Two more Eldrazi players finished with nine wins in constructed (so 25 percent of the total number of players either made the top 8 or went 9-1 in constructed). Two more finished 8-2 (pushing the number to 31.25 percent) and another nine finished 7-3 or 6-4 in constructed, which means 60 percent of the players running Eldrazi finished with a record good enough to be published on the mothership. For the sake of comparison, let's look at how this matches up to the other major archetypes at the tournament. 

6-4 or Better Percentage
Deck Number of Day One Players Percentage of Day One Players Finishing 6-4 or Better
Eldrazi 32 59.84%
Abzan Company 12 58.33%
Suicide Zoo 14 42.85%
Affinity 51 33.33%
Infect 32 31.25%
Jund 18 22.22%
Burn 51 19.6%
Zoo 22 18.18%
Scapeshift 14 7.14%
Abzan 20 5%

As you can see, Eldrazi basically blew the entire field out of the water, with the only deck coming even close to its numbers being Abzan Company (played by about one-third of the number of players). Furthermore, Eldrazi essentially doubled up on the other more played decks, with Affinity and Infect putting about 30 percent of its pilots into a 6-4 or better record, and Burn only managing less than 20. These numbers are backed up by the pros themselves, with LSV claiming that their colorless build of Eldrazi is the second-best deck he's ever played at a Pro Tour (behind Caw Blade), while in the same breath admitting that — by the numbers — Eldrazi was even better, putting half of his 20 player team into the Top 32. 

In sports, they often talk about "once in a generation" type talent. Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch is a once in a generation type tournament and Eldrazi is a once in a generation type deck. So let's enjoy it and hope it never happens again. 

Most Played Cards

Most Played Non-Land Cards Overall
Card Number in 6-4+ Decks Number of Decks
Lightning Bolt 155 42
Path to Exile 119 36
Spellskite 114 55
Dismember 113 44
Thoughtseize 99 41
Noble Hierarch 82 24
Relic of Progenitus 81 28
Kitchen Finks 81 26
Chalice of the Void 80 26
Tarmogoyf 79 24
Stony Silence 77 33
Simian Spirit Guide 77 20
Eldrazi Mimic 76 19
Thought-Knot Seer 76 19
Reality Smasher 76 19
Wild Nacatl 75 19
Endless One 72 18
Goblin Guide 72 21
Ancient Grudge 71 33
Gitaxian Probe 70 18

Here again, the story is Eldrazi. The fact that three of the six most played creature are from an in-print Standard legal set is crazy. New cards just don't make this type of impact in a format like Modern, especially two weeks after the are released. This was also the first Modern Pro Tour Top 8 where Lightning Bolt or Tarmogoyf weren't present. We see almost exclusively aggro cards that fit in multiple decks like Goblin Guide in Burn and Zoo, or Noble Hierarch in Abzan Company and Infect. Speaking of Oath of the Gatewatch, here's the list of the most played cards from the set. 

Oath of the Gatewatch at PTOGW
Card Total Copies Number of Decks
Eldrazi Mimic 76 19
Reality Smasher 76 19
Thought-Knot Seer 76 19
Matter Reshaper 64 16
Wastes 30 15
Warping Wail 17 16
Reckless Bushwhacker 12 4
Eldrazi Obligator 11 3
Negate 5 4
Natural State 5 5
Spatial Contortion 4 1
Corrupted Crossroads 4 1
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet 3 2
Sea Gate Wreckage 3 3
Wandering Fumarole 3 2
Kozilek's Return 3 2
Flaying Tendrils 2 2
Eldrazi Displacer 1 1
Hissing Quagmire 1 1
World Breaker 1 1

Eldrazi are once again the winners, but there were a handful of non-alien creatures to show up at Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch as well. Reckless Bushwhacker may actually be good enough for Modern Zoo. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and Natural State seem like interesting sideboard options, and Sea Gate Wreckage showed up in the sideboard of some of the best performing Affinity lists. However, more than anything, this is a testament to the power level of Oath of the Gatewatch as a whole. As strange as it sounds, Oath of the Gatewatch, a small set, had a bigger impact on its Modern Pro Tour than Battle for Zendikar, a large set, had on its Standard Pro Tour — a shocking revelation.

Five Non-Eldrazi Winners

Death's Shadow

While it ended up being the Eldrazi decks that dominated the top eight, Suicide Zoo was the talk of the event on day one. One of the best ways to beat the Eldrazi deck seems to be to kill them fast and take advantage of their lack of interaction. Death's Shadow offers an extremely fast clock; according to some of the players on the deck, it's able to kill on turn three with some regularity thanks to the Temur Battle Rage and Become Immense combo. Death's Shadow has been floating just below the surface of Modern for a while now, and even without making the top 8, Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch may be its coming out party. 

Master of Etherium

While Master of Etherium showing up in Affinity isn't really a surprise, just how much the artifact lords shows up in the deck is a bit shocking. Recently, most Affinity decks have been playing Master of Etherium as a one-of, if it shows up at all. At Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch it was widely adopted as a three-of in many of the top performing Affinity lists, and it was a four-of in both of the Affinity decks that made it to the top 8. Moving forward we should expect to see a lot more of the Shards of Alara rare in Modern, not only because it appears to be good in the deck, but because Affinity may be one of the few decks that has a fighting chance against Eldrazi.

Simian Spirit Guide 

If there is one thing the Eldrazi deck shows, it is that fast mana is still broken. Simian Spirit Guide is just about the only way for most (non-Eldrazi) decks to cast a two-drop on turn one. While much will depend on how the Eldrazi wars shake out (the ChannelFireball colorless build played it as a four-of, while the other builds left it out of the 75 altogether), it's not like Eldrazi is the card's only home. It is an important part of Ad Nasaeum and Grishoalbrand / Through the Breach decks, which may be among the answers to Eldrazi moving forward. Its price is through the roof, so go dig through your bulk boxes and see if you have any copies laying around so you can cash them in while they're hot!

Blinkmoth Nexus

Blinkmoth Nexus showed up big time in the Top 8 with 24 total copies. It was a key piece of the all-colorless mana base of Colorless Eldrazi, and it's still a staple in Affinity. Maybe the most interesting part of the card is that it is one of the best ways to cast colorless cards in fair (i.e. not all-in-Eldrazi) decks. Having a 1/1 flier is super relevant in the format as it gives decks a way to answer things like Inkmoth Nexus from Infect or a Vault Skirge wearing a Cranial Plating from Affinity. It seems likely to be a huge part of the format moving forward, and if you plan on turning to the Eldrazi dark side, you probably should pick up your copies now. 

Gut Shot

Gut Shot was one of the key cards in the most exciting match of the Pro Tour where LSV sealed his trip to the top eight be peeling one just when it looked like Frank Lepore was about to claw his way back into the Eldrazi mirror match. While it looks underpowered (and in all honesty it is underpowered), it's also a burn spell that kills many of the most popular creaturelands in the format and half the cards from Affinity. Oh, and colorless decks can cast it. One of the interesting things that came out of the Pro Tour is that ChannelFireball tested pretty much every phyrexian mana card in the format (according to Jacob Wilson), so I'd keep an eye on not only Gut Shot, but any other impactful spell you can cast off a Mutavault or Eldrazi Temple

The Five Most Interesting Decks

While ChannelFireball's version of Eldrazi looked like a real deck, the UR Eldrazi build that took down the entire tournament looked more like a throw-away Oath of the Gatewatch draft. If you had told me before the event that Eldrazi Skyspawner would win the Pro Tour, I would have laughed you out of the room, but here we are. Basically, when it comes right down to it, the story of the tournament is that Channel Fireball built a deck that beat all the non-Eldrazi decks in the room, while Tao and Team East West Bowl built a deck that beat everyone else and ChannelFireball Eldrazi. I wouldn't be surprised if a ton of people pick up Colorless Eldrazi in the coming week, and if you want an established deck that gives you an edge in the matchup, I'd look towards the Drowner of Hope / Eldrazi Obligator UR build of Eldrazi.

While the talk of the tournament was Eldrazi, Matthew Rogers put up a 9-1 record in constructed by using a combo from the past. Back near the end of Birthing Pod's reign, it was Archangel of Thune and Spike Feeder that became the premier infinite combo in the deck. If you can get both creature on the battlefield together, you have infinite life as you can repeatedly remove and add counters to the Spike Feeder, plus your other creatures end up with infinite power and toughness, which usually makes it pretty easy to finish off the game. The combo is back with a vengeance. We no longer have Birthing Pod to hold it all together, so instead Rogers relies on Chord of Calling to find the pieces. While I have no idea if the combo is fast enough to consistently beat the Eldrazi menace, having infinite life makes things like Reality Smasher much less scary. 

While the Goryo's Vengence Reanimator strategy has been around for a while now, the Grixis build put forth by Kentaro Yamamoto might be even more important moving forward since it seems to have a decent matchup against Eldrazi. If there is one weakness in the Eldrazi deck, it doesn't have very much interaction aside from Chalice of the Void and Dismember. Using an Izzet Charm on turn two to discard a Griselbrand to reanimate with Goryo's Vengenace is something the deck isn't very well equipped to handle. If the Eldrazi deck is going to consistently kill people on turn three or four, you want to consistently kill people on turn two or three, and Grixis Goryo Breach may just be the most explosive deck in the format. 

As a lover of main deck Blood Moons, one of the biggest disappointments of Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch was Jason Chung and his Blue Moon deck missing the top eight on tie breakers. One of the only true control decks to perform well at the event, Blue Moon seems like it could have potential as an Eldrazi assassin thanks to not only four Blood Moons, but also Spreading Seas backed by counterspells and removal. Chung said after the event that he felt like Blue Moon could be a real player moving forward, especially with some more tuning towards the Eldrazi-filled meta. Blue Moon is on my short list of decks to sleeve up on Magic Online this week. 

Finally, we have Jesse Hill's Elves deck featuring 34 creatures, four Collected Company and four Chord of Calling. While Elves a known quantity, showing up every now and then on the SCG Tour, it really hasn't been a player at the Pro Tour level. Silver bullet one-ofs like Aven Mindcensor, Shaman of the Pack, Scavenging Ooze and Spellskite add a nice twist, so who knows, maybe the way to beat Eldrazi is by going wide, which this deck does better than anything in the format. Only time will tell. 


Anyway, that's all for today. What cards and decks stood out to you at the Pro Tour? Are Eldrazi beatable in Modern, or are we just waiting for another banning? As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive. 

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