What You’re Doing Wrong in the Grixis Energy Mirror

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There’s a very good chance you don’t know who I am, but that’s great, since I’d rather not lose to you in a PPTQ after spilling the beans on how to crush the Grixis Energy mirror.  One quick fact about me is that I love looking at decklists, so much that I could happily do it for a full time job, just scrounging the internet for sweet decks. While sweet decks are well, sweet, my real focus is on good decks, and more importantly, especially with the recent bannings shaking up Standard, finding refined decklists to take down the other good decks. It’s at best a lukewarm take for me to claim Grixis Energy as the frontrunner for best deck in Standard right now, which is why I immediately honed in on trying to build the best Grixis Energy mirror slayer. Without further ado, here’s the list I settled on:

First things first I think the major difference between this list and many other Grixis Energy lists is how the mana is set up. With 18 black sources, 16 red sources, and 16 blue sources, you are able to cast all your spells on time with 90% probability, except Chandra, Torch of Defiance which you can reach that same level of certainty for by waiting till turn five. Additionally, I’ve included 6 basic lands and bumped up the total land count to 26. The extra basic lands are there to help ensure that your fourth land will entered untapped as often as possible, the alternative being a problem I was running into often with the stock mana bases that rely more on the buddy lands. The power level of all the cards in this deck is so high, with so many 2-for-1 effects that the main goal is often to escape the early game hitting all your land drops which is why I’m back up to 26. With 3 each of Canyon Slough and Fetid Pools it’s possible to fight back a reasonable amount against flood, and in testing I’ve very happily made my first 9 land drops without regret.

Now that we’re all caught up on how you’re going to be casting your spells, let’s get into more detail about what those actually are. The removal in here is fairly typical, just forgoing a third copy of Fatal Push in favour of a singleton Magma Spray to hedge against aggressive decks. Ravenous Chupacabra is, to many people’s surprise, taking a back seat in Standard right now, but here it’s a necessary evil to again strengthen the aggressive matchups. If a fortune cookie told me that I’d play against the mirror every round of a tournament these puppies would be out of here, but for now they’re the cost of doing business in a world where Mono-Red and Mardu Vehicles exist. The 3 copies of Glimmer of Genius are the real technology for the mirror. Now it’s certainly not uncommon for lists to be playing 2, it is the one card I want to see in all my opening hands in the mirror, and some people aren’t even playing any copies!  From there I’ve come packing a few extra counter spells in the form of Essence Scatter and Supreme Will, and a pair of Torrential Gearhulks, all of which work hand in hand with the game plan of holding up mana for Glimmer of Genius as often as possible.

I’ve done a lot of tooting of my own horn for an article that claimed to be telling you what you’ve been doing wrong, so let’s delve into what cards I’ve chosen not to include, AKA what you’re doing wrong.
  
Glorybringer – My best friend from 2 months ago quickly bit the dust in my deck. In a world where I’m not easily pressuring my opponent’s life total with early threats like Rogue Refiner or Longtusk Cub, tapping out on turn 5 to put my opponent down to 16 just wasn’t cutting it. However, if you do choose to be stubborn, I do look forward to creating token copies of these with The Scarab God.
  
Rekindling Phoenix – I don’t doubt this card is excellent in a lot of mirror matches where people are less set up to deal with it, but every time I play against it a mixture of counter spells and Vraska’s Contempts snuff out this bird. Again, tapping out for this is very scary, if it’s met with a counter, or exiled, you may quickly be staring down a hard to deal with Planeswalker, or even The Scarab God himself , a position that can often be very hard to come back from if you don’t also have your own Contempt immediately.
  
Hostage Taker – I believe this card is too often worse than Ravenous Chupacabra, a card I’m already not excited to be playing, to earn its spot here. In the mirror it is a juicy proposition to steal a high impact card and cast it in the same turn, it’s also a very dry proposition to play out your Hostage Taker early and cross your fingers that it will live at risk of donating your opponent another 3 energy off their Whirler Virtuoso.
  
Gonti, Lord of Luxury – Like a broken record I’m going back to my fear of tapping out as to why I’m dodging this card. It’s battling for the slots of Ravenous Chupacabra, but it’s just too much of a downgrade against the aggressive decks, so I’ll happily stick to sideboarding these in when I need them.
  
Liliana, Death’s Majesty – Liliana is another great Planeswalker threat, and could honestly replace Chandra if you’re scared by RR. It’s incredibly powerful to get to reanimate The Scarab God and have access to all your mana if you’re lucky enough to untap with Liliana, and churning out a 2/2 each turn isn’t a bad plan B at all. I haven’t tested Liliana at all, so I really do have nothing bad to say here, but I would again be worried about playing too many expensive sorcery speed cards.

When playing the mirror my gameplan was simple; cast Glimmer of Genius as much as possible and skillfully draw The Scarab God on turn 15 before my opponent does. There otherwise isn’t too much nuance to how the games play out, and I don’t want to stroke my galaxy sized-brain by writing 500 more words about how being mana efficient is how to get ahead of your opponent in a midrange mirror.

The easiest way to put yourself at a disadvantage in the mirror once you’re in a game is to poorly sequence your removal spells, so here are a few tips: Counter a creature/planeswalker with Supreme Will the first chance you get; it’s enticing to try to utilize its flexibility, but with how long the games tend to go you end up losing the flexibility as Mana Leak will stop cutting it later on.

This deck is rather poor at generating a lot of extra energy, so try to squeak out an extra counter or two with Harnessed Lightning whenever you can. That being said it’s important not to be too greedy in that regard and start throwing around Abrades without thinking, as Abrade always destroys a Torrential Gearhulk. Vraska’s Contempt is a very precious removal spell in the mirror, answering any threat your opponent can throw out, so it may be worth it to burn some mana if you’re stumbling and take a few extra hits from something like a Whirler Virtuoso if it means you get to draw a less versatile removal spell rather than blow a Contempt.

My board plan for the mirror was as follows:

-2 Whirler Virtuoso                                    
-2 Ravenous Chupacabra                          
-2 Fatal Push                                                
-1 Magma Spray                                          

+3 Negate/Duress (Usually 3 Negate or 2 Negate and 1 Duress)
+2 Gonti, Lord of Luxury
+1 Vraska’s Contempt
+1 Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh

Whirler Virtuoso is a card I’m not really interested in playing early, especially on the draw, but it’s quite good later in the game after you’ve stockpiled some energy via Glimmer, so I’d never cut them all. Chupacabra is an expensive, low impact sorcery in the mirror, while Push and Spray just don’t kill enough. Negate/Duress can be very high impact if you can snag a crucial piece of interaction, which is why I usually lean towards Negate since it allows you to be slightly more selective in exactly what you’re answering. Gonti is just a role filler for the 4 drop slot with Chupacabra hitting the bench; usually a clean 2-for-1 and can sometimes even generate more advantage than that if your opponent’s deck is kind to you.

As previously mentioned, Contempt is quite precious, so gaining access to a third gives nice flexibility. The big daddy himself rounds out the sideboard here, and if you ever stick a Nicol Bolas, please for your own health never +2 it. If you use his +1 only to lose him to a Contempt you’ve just traded 3-for-1, please don’t turn down this opportunity. The post sideboarded gameplan doesn’t change much, each player just has a bit more flexible interaction, so again try to settle into the control role if possible, but don’t be afraid to slip into the beatdown if the opportunity arises, since sweepers are quite rare post-board.

Hopefully with these tips you’ll find yourself winning more often in the mirror, since I believe Grixis Energy will prove to be one of the top dogs in Standard till Dominaria. Now that I’ve given away all my secrets I’ll get set working on a way to beat this plan, so if that is something that interests you please let me know and I’ll be back soon enough with some new technology.

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