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Eldrazi Processing in Pioneer


I don't care what anyone says, Pioneer is shaping up to be a great format - even if a lot of people are actually saying the same thing. It seems like the only people upset about the bans in the format are a) the people that ended up investing money into the cards that were banned, or b) the people that seem to be upset for the people who may have invested money into the cards that were banned. In my estimation, neither of these people have arguments or positions that criticize the format itself, which I think is quite telling.

If you recall a couple weeks back, I wrote an article about Irencrag Feat and a combo with the card including Boros Reckoner and Star of Extinction. The deck was super fun to play, but it wasn't the only deck Rob and I put together that day. "There was...another." (Yoda, 1980.)

Another card or mechanic that we both wanted to examine was the processor mechanic from the Battle for Zendikar block. If you were unaware, I have a special place in my heart for the Eldrazi from that block (from my Top 8 at Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch), and I love any opportunity to play them again in a competitive format.

The first card that came to mind in regard to this ability was Ulamog's Nullifier, and this was basically the card that propelled us to build the deck. It's basically Cryptic Command, if Cryptic Command took a little bit of setup and the second mode was always a 2/3 flier, which is a pretty decent second mode. Okay, so it isn't quite Cryptic Command, but it's always been a card I've had a soft spot for, so trying to see if this card was playable sounded like a fun endeavor. (And it was!)

The final deck list we arrived at was as follows.

Boy, this deck was something else. Just like the Irencrag Combo deck, we managed to go 3-0 with this list as well, and it was an utter shock, to be quite honest. We weren't expecting much - just some good times with obscure cards - but this deck...kind of impressed us both. (And everyone watching as well!) There were a ton of big, sweet plays, and the deck gave us a great excuse to play one of my all time favorite cards: Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver.

It was actually a tossup between which Ashiok we would utilize in the deck, since both of them exile cards from the opponent's deck extremely efficiently. Ultimately, the OG Ashiok won out, due to the ability to steal creatures as well, the high loyalty it can get up to, and the minimal number of search effects in the format to be affected by Ashiok, Dream Render. That being said, we did include Ashiok, Dream Render in the sideboard simply because the effect is very good and can shut down certain decks.

As for our processors, we have four of each of the following: Wasteland Strangler, Ulamog's Nullifier, and Blight Herder. The Blight Herder was the only one that had fewer than four copies during testing, but it always over performed. Adding three 1/1's to the board that also make mana is both a lot of bodies and a lot of value, all for five mana.

One card that we ended up cutting was Oblivion Sower. It's a great card that can net you some lands, but by the time you're dropping your 6-drops, you kind of want to have cards to process already. Besides, I think we both preferred Drowner of Hope over Oblivion Sower, which is why two of those bad boys remained in the deck.

Basically, there are nine 2-drops that help you exile cards to process on turn three. Fathom Feeder was actually way more impressive than either of us were expecting, and in the late game, it's a great card to gum up the ground, exile cards, and provide you some card advantage. We thought it would be clunky, but at the very least, it's often trading with something larger or netting you at least one card to process. The Brain Maggots and Kitesail Freebooters act as actual Thoughtseize and Duress if you're able to process the card they remove, which is a really strong play and one of the best you can make.

The deck has a lot of one-ofs, but they all served a purpose. Ob Nixilis Reignited was great at drawing us some cards or killing a creature (which is a totally redundant sentence, because that's exactly what the card does), while Ob Nixilis's Cruelty actually exiles the creature is kills, which you might not have known. This is a super relevant distinction, and helps the card fill in a Dismember-esque slot while also being on brand for the deck. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and Vraska's Contempt also exile and provide some additional heavy lifting at the four-mana slot.

Also at the four-mana slot, we have two copies of Hostage Taker. While you often want to cast the creature or artifact you steal with Hostage Taker, the fact that it provides another card to process if need be is great. That's a lot of versatility from one card, especially if you need that second card to cast your Blight Herder on five. Or just, you know, cast what you take. The choice is yours! Worth noting that all of our 4-drops either process cards or exile cards, which is important for the deck.

As for lands, we have your standard fixing, but we also have two copies of Scavenger Grounds, which were great, and one copy of Tomb of the Spirit Dragon. I definitely think we could replace the Tomb if need be. We never managed to activate it, but the colorless mana was prohibitive from time to time. I would probably just add another Island or a Choked Estuary if I had to.

The sideboard has eight more cards that exile things, along with some board wipes, and some matchup specific cards. We never really felt like we were lacking anything, especially post board, and the format feels pretty creature-dense right now, so making sure you have the right removal suite is relevant. The fact that the deck has seven main deck ways to disrupt their hand, along with a ton of main deck removal, works out pretty well for us, and these never felt like areas that were lacking.

I could also see making some room for copies of Unmoored Ego if that's a card that we feel like we need, and it would also give us multiple cards to process on turn four or five. Ideally we could hit all four copies of something, then cast an Ulamog's Nullifier on four, followed by a Blight Herder on five, all off of the same Ego. Ah, to dream...

For those who want to check out the deck in action, which was a real treat, be sure to check the following video!

As for me, that's all I have for this week! Heck, this year even! I hope you guys have a terrific holiday season, and I can't wait to see everyone in the new year. This concludes my first year with CoolStuffInc and I've loved every minute of it. Everyone has been extremely welcoming and supportive, and I hope you've enjoyed the ride as much as I have. Thank you guys for everything you've given me in 2019, and I hope 2020 is even better. Be sure to leave some thoughts in the comments, and use promo code FRANK5 to get 5% off. You guys are the best, and stay safe!

Frank Lepore

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