Matchup Analysis: Legacy Maverick vs Eldrazi Aggro
Hello and welcome to the first instalment of the GreenSunsZenith.com’s Maverick Matchup series! This series will be a breakdown of Legacy Maverick’s matchups and how you should approach each deck.
Let’s kick off the series with the Eldrazi Aggro matchup. A huge thank you to Connery Knox (Achillies27) for his help with some insights from the Eldrazi side of the table. And another huge thank you to my Patreon supporters for supporting this article. If you’d like to see more of these, I’d really appreciate your support!
Below are two 75s I’d consider stock decklists for both Eldrazi Aggro and Abzan Maverick. Although this article will focus on the Abzan build of Maverick, I will touch on the other builds where relevant.
2. Introduction into Eldrazi
i. What does Eldrazi aim to do?
Eldrazi is the epitome of big-creature aggro. It’s one of the format’s fastest fair decks thanks to access to sol lands. Ancient Tomb and Eldrazi Temple allow players to power-out multiple threats or disruption as early as turn 1.
The deck has a number of pieces of disruption mixed into its aggressive shell. Wasteland, Chalice of the Void and Thought-Knot Seer (TKS) trip up opponents and make sure they (Eldrazi) have some amount of interaction in any matchup they face. Eldrazi Aggro looks to win the early-to-mid game by applying fast pressure and landing disruptive permanents to close it out in the first 4-5 turns.
If I’m expecting a lot of RUG Delver, Snowko, Storm and Doomsday, I’m a lot happier registering Eldrazi than Maverick. If I’m expecting Depths, Mono-R Prison and other non-blue decks, I would register Maverick.
ii. Notable cards from Eldrazi
Although the following cards aren’t at their peak against a deck like Maverick, these are the 3 spells that I’ve had problems dealing with when facing Eldrazi.
i. Chalice of the Void
For the record, Chalice isn’t a great strategy against Maverick, and will be boarded out most of the time. However, it can disrupt Maverick’s ability to play its game plan and be the nuance Eldrazi needs to gain an early edge. Chalice of the Void does two key things against Maverick:
- It shuts off our main removal piece in Swords to Plowshares
- It slows down our mana acceleration. This is a matchup where I highly value the ability to accelerate access to mana fast. There aren’t many hands where you don’t have a T1 1CMC play, so facing a Chalice (especially on the draw) can cause some early headaches.
In a matchup where Knight of the Reliquary is a huge asset, mana-acceleration allows you to land a Knight before it can be snatched up by a Thought-Knot Seer (TKS). Even without something in hand to ramp into, accelerating your mana early means you can start aggressively using Wasteland while playing out creatures on curve.
Chalice on 1 is key for Eldrazi’s strategy to kill you before you find answers to their threats. Chalice is a little easier to deal with thanks to Abzan playing maindeck Abrupt Decay and Kaya, Orzhov Usurper, but the printing of Skyclave Apparition has given all Maverick archetypes even more maindeck answers to Eldrazi’s permanents. Skyclave Apparition is a very good card for the Eldrazi matchup as it answers both Chalice and their buffet of creatures (sadly, it doesn’t deal with Smasher).
With some Eldrazi builds recently picking up Once Upon a Time, they are more likely to have a sol land on T1 and with that, an opening Chalice for 1. One of the best ways for Eldrazi to beat Maverick is an early Chalice into unrelenting pressure. It can be hard for Maverick to find answers in time if your opponent has played a Chalice into a TKS and exiled your only answer to the Chalice.
ii. Thought-Knot Seer
Chalice paves the way for a Thought-Knot to hit the board and stick around. There’s no worse feeling than an Eldrazi opponent exiling your only answer to an on-board Chalice and leaving you with Swords to Plowshares. Thought-Knot is Eldrazi’s way to make sure your best spells aren’t hitting the stack, or to make sure the coast is clear for further pressure.
Outside of Knight of the Reliquary, a 4/4 TKS can be pretty tough to fend off – especially when you don’t have the resources for Scavenging Ooze to matter in the early game. You’re generally looking at a double block, which isn’t as bad as it sounds as you draw a card from TKS when it leaves the field.
iii. Reality Smasher
Although Maverick is known for large creatures, it can be tough to have a large enough Knight to block a TSK, let alone a raging Reality Smasher in the early turns of the game. Reality Smasher can cause some real issues when trying to assess how much pressure you can apply without losing on a swing-back. Maverick tends to stabilise against Eldrazi with only single digits of life left to play with. So a looming Reality Smasher off the top of your opponent’s decks can cause some tough decision making – especially when they already have some number of Eldrazi Mimic on the field.
Abzan has access to Plague Engineer – a creature with deathtouch – but otherwise, you’re looking at either Knight of the Reliquary or a late-game Scavenging Ooze to answer Smasher.
3. Matchup History
Although these 3 cards can cause issues for Maverick, the deck has a great matchup against Eldrazi archetypes. Knight of the Reliquary and Wasteland are two of your strongest cards, already a huge part of Maverick’s natural game plan.
Connery put it best when mentioning that Knight of the Reliquary does 3 great things. It stonewalls all of Eldrazi’s threats and attacks their manabase, all while fixing your own manabase. Although Chalice of the Void can be annoying (especially on the draw), Swords to Plowshares is still an amazing way to deal with all of Eldrazi’s threats.
Sideboard games can be very different, as Eldrazi has access to additional creature removal in Umezawa’s Jitte and Warping Wail / Spatial Contortion. Thankfully, they’ve moved away from cards like Tormod’s Crypt or Sorcerous Spyglass, which can have an impact on your Knight / Wasteland plan.
In my experience, Eldrazi has strong matchups against blue-based decks, both combo and fair, and it generally struggles with non-blue decks, or just decks that don’t care about the disruption that Eldrazi brings, like Chalice and Thought-Knot Seer. Decks like Maverick that are able to pressure Eldrazi’s mana effectively have success by targeting the sol lands that Eldrazi uses to restrict their ability to play under-costed threats ahead of the curve.
Due to the access of additional mana, I would say Abzan would have the best matchup of any Maverick archetype against Eldrazi. GW Maverick has additional Skyclave Apparitions compared to other builds, and BANT has access to Oko and Uro to really grind the game out. Punishing Maverick’s red splash doesn’t give the deck that much of an advantage (if any) compared to GW’s matchup. Lighting Bolt can be a fine piece of removal for some of Eldrazi’s smaller creatures but is another spell hit by Chalice. Kloyths is fine at making sure you have some control over your life total and mana, but is a little slow for this matchup.
i. Who’s the beatdown?
Eldrazi generally plays the role of the beatdown player in this matchup, while the Maverick pilot tries to control the amount of damage you take in the early game. In the mid-to-late game, Maverick just has the better strategy and resources in Knight of the Reliquary and Green Sun’s Zenith. We’re also able to use the graveyard as a resource thanks to Scavenging Ooze and Ramunap Excavator and have multiple ways to clog up the board, stopping Eldrazi in their tracks. But you can’t be too reliant on stalling, as some builds play bombs such as All is Dust or Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger in their maindeck, which can cause huge blowouts.
4. Eldrazi’s Game Plan
Disrupt & beat down. This is a pretty simple way to put it but honestly, Eldrazi is there to deal as much damage as possible before your opponent can stabilise or put their own plan / combo together.
The game plan of Eldrazi Aggro in most matchups is: Play a T1 Chalice of the Void or Eldrazi Mimic(s) then follow it up with a T2 Thought-Knot Seer or Reality Smasher. Continue to cast under-costed, evasive creatures and hit your opponent until they die.
i. How to best attack Eldrazi’s strategy
Patience is a huge advantage when playing against Eldrazi. Just because your opener has a Wasteland or Swords to Plowshares doesn’t mean you should fire them off on the first target you see. Going after their sol lands with Wasteland and more impactful threats like Thought-Knot and Smasher is pretty key. You want to make sure your removal really disrupts their ability to either build out their board or disrupt your plan. As Connery has said above, landing a Knight of the Reliquary is huge and should be your main priority.
From there, you’ll have to consider how you want to use Knight. Can you afford holding Knight up as a blocker and disruption during their turn, or do you need to take your opponent off a land right now and take the hit that’s coming? The best way to find the answer for this is to practise, practise and practise. Get a feel of how most games play out and when you find you’re more likely to aggressively go after mana or hold back and protect your life total.
ii. Be mindful of other builds
Karn the Great Creator is a great reason for some Eldrazi Aggro lists to pivot and run the powerful planeswalker with a sideboard suite of artifact-based hate. A build like this is very similar to mainstream Eldrazi Aggro lists but isn’t running cards like Once Upon a Time.
There are other builds to know about like White Eldrazi that play threats like Eldrazi Displacer, Thalia, Heretic Cathar, Palace Jailer and Swords to Plowshares.
The mana for this deck is very weak and can be a huge issue for the deck if you attack it correctly. Mox Diamond is usually played in this build and can be an early sign that they’re splashing white. Containment Priest is another card to expect from this deck and can not only be problematic for Green Sun’s Zenith, but also for any on-board creature when paired with Eldrazi Displacer.
Eldrazi Post is another build where the main giveaway is the manabase containing Cloudpost, but I’ll be sure to cover this in a different matchup series.
5. Sideboarding Strategy
Thankfully, Maverick doesn’t have to sideboard too aggressively for Eldrazi as this is quite a solid matchup. It’s mostly a case of some sideboard cards just being more relevant than maindeck cards.
i. What does Maverick tend to side out against Eldrazi?
Thalia doesn’t have a great role in the matchup and for the most part, taxes you more than your Eldrazi opponent. I’m looking to increase the amount of removal I have access to in the early game, so I usually consider removal and planeswalkers from the board. Kaya has some play against Eldrazi (-1 ability hits Chalice and Endless One) but I’d tend to side 1 out, especially on the draw if you have a better card in the board.
Side out: 4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Side In: 2 Path to Exile | 1 Plague Engineer | 1 Vraska, Golgari Queen
If you’re playing a Mother of Runes build, I tend to side those out if you have better cards in the board. Mother has some play against Dismember and keeping a lone Eldrazi Mimic from attacking, but I wouldn’t consider her to be a vital part of our gameplan against Eldrazi.
ii. Should you keep Gaddock Teeg in?
All is Dust and perhaps a 4CMC Karn planeswalker are the only cards that comes to mind when considering the role of Gaddock Teeg. Chalice of the Void tends to come down before Teeg is on the field (if your opponent has kept them in), so I wouldn’t consider him to be an ‘answer’ to Chalice. I believe Teeg stopping your own Green Sun’s Zenith and your own 4-CMC walkers out of the board means he most likely does more harm than good in this matchup.
ii. Should you keep Collector Ouphe in?
Cards to consider here are Walking Ballista, Umezawa’s Jitte and Rachet Bomb. If you believe any of these cards are going to be an issue, it’s worth considering keeping Ouphe in the maindeck as a GSZ target. If you’re playing a list with your own equipment, it’s worth evaluating the pros and cons of turning off your own equipment and how much of an impact you expect them to have in the matchup. I would 100% keep Ouphe in against some of the bigger Eldrazi variants such as Cloudpost builds. But I’d consider dropping it for more removal against the more aggro builds if you have it.
iv. What should I be expecting from Eldrazi?
I find Eldrazi bring in more answers for your creatures and side out some of their early smaller threats.
Against Maverick, Eldrazi brings in removal like Warping Wail, Umezawa’s Jitte, and some players would bring in Ratchet Bomb as well if they want answers to a large KOTR. Chalice is a very interesting card when considering boarding. I personally side out some number of Chalice on the draw, depending on how I’m feeling at the time. On the play I board out some of the less impactful Eldrazi, like Eldrazi Mimic, Endless One and Matter Reshaper. There are no matchups where I would ever board out a Reality Smasher or a Thought-Knot Seer, as those cards are easily the most powerful and the reason to play the deck. They are also always good.
Connery would take out on the play: 2 Matter Reshaper | 1 Endless One
Connery would take out on the draw: 3 Chalice of the Void
Connery would bring in: In: Umezawa’s Jitte | 2 Warping Wail
If you’re a fan of Chalice on the draw, I’d just board the same as on the play. Most Maverick lists don’t have too much to bring in against Eldrazi, as the matchup is already favoured for them. They only really bring in extra removal in the form of Path to Exile or Plague Engineer. They board out some Thalia, and any irrelevant Green Sun’s Zenith targets.
6. Tips & Tricks
Knight of the Reliquary
Knight of the Reliquary is key to winning against Eldrazi. Although Wasteland is another way to stall their ability to win the early game, sometimes targeting your own land can swing a turn in your favour.
- Sacrifice a land
- Get a Wasteland
- Wasteland another non-basic you control
Knowing that a 2/2 Knight can become a 5/5 or that a 3/3 Knight can become a 6/6 is vital when your opponent is attacking with a Thought-Knot Seer or Reality Smasher.
I’ve seen a fair amount of Eldrazi move toward Spatial Contortion in the sideboard lately, so look out for that if you’re thinking of casting your Knight early. Although this is a matchup where every life point matters, I would aggressively fetch in the early turns to play your Knight as at least a 4/4 creature. This doesn’t play around Dismember, another card that sees play out of Eldrazi, but you often need to get a Knight on the field instead of waiting for the chance to make it a 6/6.
If your opponent is on the play and leads with Eye of Ugin or another sol land and passes turn, you can be sure you’re most likely facing a T2 Thought-Knot. If I have the choice of playing a T1 mana dork or holding up my only current answer to a Thought-Knot, I’m going to hold up that Swords to Plowshares the majority of the time. It may seem counterproductive, but if you let a Thought-Knot Seer take over the game, it can be very hard to get back into a leading position.
If you’re planning to Wasteland your opponent twice with the same copy thanks to Ramunap Excavator, make sure you sequence the play correctly. You want to avoid playing Ramunap before you fire off the Wasteland for the first time, as your opponent could respond with removal like Dismember with Wasteland’s ability still on the stack. Instead, you should Wasteland your opponent, cast Ramunap or Green Sun’s Zenith for (x=3) and then get back the Wasteland as your opponent doesn’t gain priority.
This is the same if you’re wanting to find Wasteland off a Knight of the Reliquary and use Ramunap in a similar fashion. Use Knight first to find the Wasteland, use Wasteland and then put Ramunap into play.
Thanks to Ramunap, Dryad Arbor is a blocker you can now return to the field every turn.
Try and keep hands with turn 2 KOTR, and be mindful of Chalice. Multiple Swords to Plowshares can also be devastating for the Eldrazi player. In general, just make sure you hit your land drops and don’t get run over – the deck will do the rest.
Reality Smasher makes you discard when targeting it with a spell like Swords to Plowshares. There have been a few times when I’ve been able to use this ability to my advantage. Discarding a land or a creature can have a huge impact on an opponent’s attack if you have a Scavenging Ooze or Knight of the Reliquary in play. An example is my opponent attacking with a TKS and Smasher into my 4/4 Ooze because I didn’t have any creatures to eat. I ended up castings Swords on the Smasher discarding a Thalia, then blocking the 4/4 TKS with my 5/5 Ooze. The Ooze took over the game the following turn as a 6/6.
Tips for Eldrazi Players
Don’t keep slow hands. This matchup is actually winnable, especially with the build I’ve suggested (although it’s a little out of date). The key to winning for the Eldrazi player is having a fast curve out, like T1 Mimic, T2 TKS, T3 Smasher, or T1 Chalice of the Void followed by any beater. The plan is to have the Maverick player dead on board by T4 most of the time, as we generally lose if they untap with Knight of the Reliquary. Maverick tends to top deck better than us, as they essentially have 8 copies of KOTR.
7. Conclusions & Resources
The fast starts from Eldrazi are brutal, and even the slower starts with a T1 Chalice can be really hard on your game plan. Be patient and make sure your removal hits hard. Mana acceleration and landing a Knight as soon as possible is key to making sure Eldrazi doesn’t run you over in the early-mid game. Maverick might have a solid matchup against Eldrazi but that doesn’t mean you can coast your way to victory.
This matchup is closer than people think, but still heavily favoured for Maverick. Card for card, Maverick trades positively against Eldrazi, and Maverick has lots of answers for Chalice, as well as many hands that simply don’t care about chalice on 1 past T1. It’s not a free win by any means, as Eldrazi can always play multiple Mimics on T1, followed by a Thought-Knot or Reality Smasher. So don’t get too cocky when you see T1 Eye of Ugin on the other side of the board.
A huge thank you to Connery for coming back on the GreenSunsZenith.com and giving his insights into the matchup. If you want to see more of his content, you can find him on Twitter, Twitch and as Achillies27 on the Maverick discord.
Want to see more of these types of articles? Let me know in the comments below what matchup you’d like to see.
i. Legacy Eldrazi Deck Guide – Rich Cali, Channel Fireball
ii. Eldrazi Aggro decklists – MTGGoldfish
iii. Legacy Eldrazi Discussion Group – Facebook
iv. Legacy Eldrazi Discord Server
v. Flow_true’s Twitch – Eldrazi Streamer
vi. Achillies27’s Twitch – Streams Eldrazi on occasion