Standard is perhaps the best it has been since I started playing Magic back in fall of 2007. With a fresh format, a wide range of decks becomes possible until things settle down and the strongest have made their stand. Right before the end of Zendikar Standard, I went on a BG Birthing Pod kick (and with good results) in preparation for new Standard. I continued on with Pod through the rotation and into SCG Indy. It was there that I realized that Birthing Pod was not what I wanted to be doing in Standard right now. I bounced back and forth between RUG and BUG control (and eventually getting stomped at Kentucky States playing BUG) before I settled on Grixis (and not that Burning Vengeance crap). Although, Patrick Chapin piloted a Grixis Control list to a 5-1 record at Worlds 2011, I’d already been interested in the deck following a top 8 showing at Kentucky States by my good friend, Heath Perdue. His initial list:
Grixis Control v.1.0
5th-8th 2011 States – Kentucky
3 Liliana of the Veil
1 Black Sun’s Zenith
3 Desperate Ravings
1 Devil’s Play
1 Doom Blade
3 Forbidden Alchemy
1 Go for the Throat
4 Mana Leak
3 Think Twice
1 Tribute to Hunger
Despite making top 8 with this list, there are some things about it I did not like. Two things I was not a fan of were all the misers and the 3 Desperate Ravings. I would rather have more consistency. In terms of Ravings, I simply do not like having to discard a card at random. Geistflame was another card I was unsure of. The original decision was that it could take out a lot of important x/1 dorks such as Birds of Paradise, Stromkirk Noble, Snapcaster Mage, Inkmoth Nexus, etc. and then be flashbacked later in the game for more damage. However, I chose Galvanic Blast seeing as it dealt with not only the aforementioned cards, but also a creature that gives this deck a lot of trouble: Mirran Crusader. ”Devil’s Play” was there as an alternate win condition that could be used as removal if needed. However, if it didn’t have flashback, it wouldn’t even have been considered. (See: Fireball)
Over the past few weeks the deck has gone through some minor changes here and there, but basically kept the same core. I played this list Tuesday night in a 4-round tourney:
Grixis Control v.2.0
1 Karn Liberated
3 Liliana of the Veil
1 Jace, Memory Adept
2 ”Black Sun’s Zenith”
3 Doom Blade
3 Galvanic Blast
4 Mana Leak
4 Think Twice
2 ”Tezzeret’s Gambit”
The cards I cut from the original list were: -3 Desperate Ravings, -3 Forbidden Alchemy, -2 Geistflame, -1 Dismember, -1 Dissipate, -1 Phyrexian Metamorph, -1 Wurmcoil Engine, -1 ”Devil’s Play”, -1 Go for the Throat, -1 Slagstorm.
In place of those I chose to add: +3 Galvanic Blast, +2 Doom Blade, +2 Tezzeret’s Gambit, +2 Olivia Voldaren, +1 Negate, +1 Karn Liberated, +1 Jace, Memory Adept, +1 Think Twice, +1 ”Black Sun’s Zenith”, +1 Snapcaster Mage.
I finished 2-2 in that four-rounder. My two losses were to UW Aggro (game 1, I couldn’t draw an answer to his Mirran Crusader; game 2, he beat me with Inkmoth Nexus over 10 turns. I’ll let that sink in…) and the mirror against Heath (it went to three games but either way he wins since he gave me a ride to the store).
Desperate Ravings/Forbidden Alchemy/Think Twice/”Tezzeret’s Gambit”
Perhaps one of the biggest changes is cutting Desperate Ravings and Forbidden Alchemys for more Think Twices and ”Tezzeret’s Gambit”s. Simply put, the more I cast Alchemy in this deck, the less I seem to like it. Gambit provides pure card draw while Alchemy is selection. Granted, Forbidden is at instant speed but with a full set of Think Twice in the deck, I feel that is plenty of instant-speed card draw. The added synergy of Gambit with my Planeswalkers and ”Black Sun’s Zenith”s made the choice even easier. Desperate Ravings on the other hand, I cut because I don’t enjoy discarding cards at random. Yes, I have played with the card in Standard but no, I did not enjoy it.
After playing with the new list I realized the error of my ways. While Gambit was awesome, it was just too slow for what this list was aiming to do. And in terms of Ravings compared to Think Twice, I asked myself: would I rather pay 3UR to draw four cards and discard 2 at random or pay 3UU to draw two cards? When looking at it in that context, Ravings is miles better and I will likely move to playing four.
Dismember/Geistflame/Doom Blade and other removal
I already touched on Geistflame vs. Galvanic Blast but I can’t reiterate enough how important it is to be able to kill Mirran Crusader for one mana. Thus, Galvanic Blast gets the nod over Geistflame. Dismember was cut because the deck has access to Doom Blade which kills everything we would be Dismembering anyway. Choosing Doom Blade over Go for the Throat was to ensure that my removal was never dead against Wurmcoil Engine, Inkmoth Nexus or any random Tempered Steel decks I might encounter. A combination of Slagstorm and Black Sun’s Zenith really depends on the metagame you expect. If you think you will see more Thrun, the Last Troll then Zenith is the way to go. If you think you will see more tokens and aggro variants, then more Slagstorm would be better.
Another interesting card choice you might have noticed is Olivia Voldaren. First, I would like to admit that this was a last second experiment, but boy did it pay off. The deck lacked at the 4-slot. Chandra, the Firebrand and Solemn Simulacrum were both considered but never even made it into the deck. Olivia not only fills the four, but she is also a cheap threat with evasion against control decks and just so happens to be good against Wolf Ramp decks and aggressive decks. She just single handedly takes over the game. Most of the time, you will just kill their guys and start taking out their life total in huge chunks. After playing with her in the deck, I definitely would up her count to three.
The addition of Karn and Jace were added to give the deck more threats. However, I either will cut Jace entirely or at least move him to the sideboard. He’s weak against aggressive decks and doesn’t affect the board when he comes down, resulting in him getting sided out more often than not (apparently people in my area love aggro).
I did not list a sideboard because it is constantly changing. Mainly because the deck is constantly changing as the metagame does. I believe Chapin’s sideboard from Worlds 2011 is a good place to start and will be going with some combination of those cards for tonight’s FNM at my store.
I feel like this deck is a good choice for the current metagame and can easily adapt as the metagame shifts. I definitely suggest it if you’re looking for something new to play and welcome any comments or suggestions you, the reader, might have. Until next time, peace!
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