Why I Believe In The Grixis Conjecture Standard Deck

Sam Black has noticed that every time this Standard settles down, there’s a new way to attack it! He’s not waiting for someone else to do the work this time! See the most fun brew you’ve seen in months, and why Sam Black would totally sleeve it for SCG Baltimore’s Standard Classic!

Last weekend, I woke up a little before the monthly MOCS event with a new
idea for a deck. I’d already entered the event with Boros Control, tuned to
beat control decks with additional Azor’s Gateways and Banefires in the
sideboard, as well as an Ixalan’s Binding and a fourth Siege-Gang Commander
in the maindeck, replacing a Settle the Wreckage and The Immortal Sun. I
really like playing this deck and thought those would be good adjustments
to account for the deck’s weaknesses, but I was afraid of the Jeskai deck
Adrian Sullivan won GP Milwaukee with, full of Niv-Mizzet, Paruns.

In my experience, my Boros deck can have inevitability going long against
Jeskai thanks to Banefire, and it can win a short game if it happens to
draw a lot of Adanto Vanguards and History of Benalias. It struggles in the
middle, specifically with needing to line answers up with Jeskai’s threats,
which all have to be answered immediately or they take over the game. The
result is that the more threats the Jeskai deck has, the worse the matchup
feels for me, especially if those threats are Niv-Mizzet and Explosion. I
could add additional Ixalan’s Bindings, but that still loses to Dive Down.
I could play something like Cleansing Nova to beat Dive Down, but that
gives them a card, and in general, simply isn’t a winning proposition
against their deck.

I knew how to beat Adrian’s deck, or rather, I knew that the best cards
against it would be things like Plaguecrafter and The Eldest Reborn, but I
didn’t have a deck in mind that I liked that could use those.

I didn’t really expect Adrian’s deck to occupy a large portion of the
metagame – it seemed pretty clearly like a deck that was built to take
advantage of specific moment rather than a deck that was built to simply
use all the best cards available (though I do think all the cards are
strong and work well together), it just didn’t have that “this is the new
deck to beat” feel. It felt like more of a “gotcha” kind of deck, the kind
that got a ton of equity from opponent’s thinking their Jeskai opponent
wouldn’t really be clocking them before suddenly finding themselves on the
wrong end of a protected Niv-Mizzet. That said, I did generally expect
Jeskai decks to become more proactive (how else are you winning the
mirror?) and I thought Niv-Mizzet + Dive Down may show up more in decks in

Anyway, about this new deck idea I had – there were a lot of different
pieces I was putting together. I knew I liked the interaction between
Treasure Map and Pirate’s Pillage, and I knew I liked how either of those
cards allow you to cast Star of Extinction on turn five, which I believe to
be a fantastic strategy against Golgari. I also think those cards help a
lot with playing three colors, both because treasures can fix your mana in
a pinch and also because of scrying or discard and draw as ways to filter
cards you can’t cast and find mana to cast everything. I also knew I liked
Karn, Scion of Urza in this shell.

From completely unrelated testing, I independently knew that I like
Pirate’s Pillage with The Mirari Conjecture (and Thousand-Year Storm, which
I had one copy of in my initial deck sketch). Jack Kiefer had played around
with this some in our PT testing, and the fact that, when you’re copying
everything, Pirate’s Pillage lets you discard a card to draw four cards for
functionally no mana means that your Conjecture turns are just awesome.

You can naturally curve Pirate’s Pillage into The Mirari Conjecture to
return the Pirate’s Pillage, and now when the Conjecture goes off, you’ll
have a lot of mana on that turn because of the Treasures and you’ll get to
reload immediately because of the card draw from the Pirate’s Pillage. It
was clear that Treasure Map would also help here, letting you cast and copy
more and better spells on that turn – basically, one-shot mana is a lot
more valuable when it’s letting you cast more spells that you can copy than
you’d otherwise be able to.

The biggest problem with this shell is that Pirate’s Pillage is horrible
against counterspells, but if you play black, you can play discard spells
to increase the chance that you can resolve it. Also, black offers answers
to all the threats that Star of Extinction isn’t perfect against – The
Eldest Reborn for Jeskai’s threats and Moment of Craving and Fungal
Infection for Adanto Vanguard or Viashino Pyromancer.

At first, I imagined that I’d want Golden Demise or Ritual of Soot but then
I started trying to figure out which lands my deck would play. I could
barely support black spells and I certainly couldn’t sideboard in cards
that cost BB. Once I realized that constraint, I cut the BB spells from my
sideboard and just replaced them with basic Swamps since my sideboard was
almost entirely black cards, and I felt like that would let me rebuild
things as necessary.

Expansion, weirdly, was actually the last card I thought of for the deck.
In practice, I won almost all my games by burning people out with
Explosion, often powered by treasures and copied by The Mirari Conjecture,
but how I actually got there was that I wanted to play Negate to counter my
opponent’s counterspells to force through my own cards. My cards were
expensive enough that Spell Pierce wouldn’t cut it and Dispel isn’t in the
format, so Negate was the best I could do. Expansion does the same thing,
but Explosion is a much better alternate use than negating my opponent’s
planeswalkers or something. While I came to it late, it was absolutely
essential to what the deck is doing.

After I came up with the deck, I was still thinking of it as something I’d
like to try soon rather than something I should play in a tournament that
was starting in ten minutes, but the more I thought about it, the more I
felt like I liked what it was doing against everything. I wasn’t completely
sure it’d be functional, since decks usually get refined quite a bit after
my first couple games with them, but I decided I wanted to try it anyway.
Sure enough, after sideboarding with it a couple times, I realized things
I’d want to change, but the deck still impressed me.

My first realization when I played the deck happened when I was
sideboarding. I was thinking of the deck as an Izzet deck that was
splashing Moment of Craving and The Eldest Reborn, but then I could
sideboard into more black cards. When I went to do that, I wanted to add
Swamps, but I didn’t necessarily want more lands, so I cut some lands. I
realized that I could cut Islands, and now, because I was bringing in
Fungal Infection, I had more instants, so I didn’t need Opt, which was slow
against my aggressive opponent anyway. After cutting Opt, I became a Rakdos
deck splashing The Mirari Conjecture.

The Mirari Conjecture is a super easy splash, since it’s a five-mana spell
that I’m often looking to cast even later and I can play it off Treasure.
The key here is really Discovery’s hybrid nature – I could think of it as a
blue card or a black card, but really the way my mana works, it’s probably
best to just think of it as a colorless spell since any two lands other
than exactly two Mountains can cast it.

Once I realized that I was splashing for Opt, I realized that I should
probably think of the deck as Rakdos splashing blue and shift the mana
accordingly. The problem with doing this, of course, is that there’s no
Blood Crypt, so it’s actually a lot harder to be Rakdos splashing blue than
Izzet splashing black; I think the result is that there’s just no reason
not to have more blue sources than you need for The Mirari’s Conjecture,
but that’s good because I want to sideboard Thought Erasure anyway.

The final result is that the mana has to be a little awkward in terms of
the number of sources of each color you have, but ultimately, it doesn’t
matter that much because I’ve made sure to make all of my spells as easy to
cast as possible. Outside of Star of Extinction, I’ve avoided anything that
costs CC, and I have a lot of ways to fix my mana and my draws that don’t
require a specific color of mana.

But, as I said, it was thinking about each matchup that made me decide to
play this deck, so let’s go through them:


VS Izzet Drakes

I had a lot of cards in common here – both decks had 4 Shocks, 4 Lava
Coils, 4 Opts, and 4 Discovery, but my Shocks and Lava Coils are the exact
right answers for their threats while theirs don’t really do anything. They
have Tormenting Voice and I have Pirate’s Pillage, and after sideboarding,
they get Niv Mizzet, Parun and Ral, Izzet Viceroy, but I get Thought
Erasure and The Eldest Reborn. Arclight Phoenix is a powerful card and it
gives them some functional card advantage, but my removal lines up so well
against their threats in general. I can Shock a Phoenix if they’re low on
resources, and I don’t think they can return it quickly or I can exile it
with Lava Coil if I think otherwise. The best thing they have going for
them, really, is a few counterspells after sideboarding, but the fact that
they don’t have counterspells maindeck just lets me punish them by going a
little bigger and not using creatures. I believe this matchup must be
heavily in my favor.


Opt Opt Opt Opt Island Island Star of Extinction Star of Extinction Karn, Scion of Urza Karn, Scion of Urza


Duress Duress Duress Thought Erasure Thought Erasure Thought Erasure Thought Erasure The Eldest Reborn Swamp Swamp

I did actually lose to one Izzet Drakes deck in the MOCS, partially because
I clicked on my opponent’s Crackling Drake rather than their Ral, Izzet
Viceroy with two counters with my Shock and partially because they had an
unexpected and remarkable piece of tech against me in Raptor Hatchling. I
imagine this card was in their sideboard to block against Adanto Vanguard
and Viashino Pyromancer, functioning similarly to my Fungal Infections, but
they brought it in for the third game after seeing that I had several
copies of The Eldest Reborn; it meant that I would need to use to removal
spells to get it off the battlefield to kill something real with The Eldest
Reborn. I didn’t have access to anything, so I had to use The Eldest Reborn
to kill their Raptor Hatchling while I knew about a Ral and a Niv-Mizzet in
their hand.

VS Golgari Midrange

Star of Extinction is the name of the game here. Use removal to buy time
and card drawing and library manipulation to find it. After you cast Star
of Extinction, you can use The Mirari Conjecture to get it back and
Explosion to pull further ahead. Given that accelerating into Star of
Extinction has been such an effective plan for me, I was surprised to lose
to Golgari in the MOCS, but it makes some sense. I won game 1 pretty
easily, as everything went according to plan, but after sideboarding,
things get a lot harder. My opponent, Mogged, was playing a slightly
unusual take on Golgari Midrange:

Thorn Lieutenant offered a faster clock that was better against my early
removal spells than the two-mana explore creatures or Wildgrowth Walker,
which Mogged didn’t play. The big problem was the combination of four
Duress and four Midnight Reapers with two Thrashing Brontodons. This is
also basically what my Boros Control deck with a similar gameplan lost to
the week before at GP Milwaukee. Midnight Reaper is really good against
sweepers, but there’s currently no real agreement about how many to play –
among successful Golgari decks from the MOCS, some had four in their 75,
usually 2+2 or 3+1, but some had 1+1 and at least one had zero.

Duress is another big problem when you’re leaning on a single big spell to
do most of the work. I’m not sure what the best way to improve this matchup
would be if Star of Extinction isn’t enough. Maybe Search for Azcanta could
be the best way to beat Duress, letting you find another Star or just a
string of answers if they take the one you were counting on away. Overall,
I’d still guess that game one is good enough that the matchup can’t be very
bad for you even if they’re favored after they get Duress because you still
have a lot of scrying, Discovery, and Pirate’s Pillage to find another and
The Mirari Conjecture to get it back if they make you discard it.




Star of Extinction

I actually like Expansion against them, but I’m more worried about staying
alive to cast my big spells than having enough big spells.

VS Jeskai Control

One thing I noticed when I was playing against Jeskai in the MOCS was that
it seemed like I got a big advantage from the fact that my opponent didn’t
know my decklist and assumed I had counterspells, so they may not have been
as proactive as they should have been. Even if they were, though, they must
be careful about leaving mana up to counter my spells because they’re very
high impact and hard to answer after they resolve. My expectation would be
that game one might be a little hard but that cutting all the bad removal
for discard would leave me very well positioned. The match I played went
very much according to plan.


Shock Shock Shock Shock Lava Coil Lava Coil Lava Coil Lava Coil Moment of Craving Moment of Craving Star of Extinction


Duress Duress Duress Duress Thought Erasure Thought Erasure Thought Erasure Thought Erasure The Eldest Reborn Swamp Swamp

Cutting all the Lava Coils isn’t automatic. Depending on which and how many
threats you expect, you can cut the other Star of Extinction or trim Opts
or Pirate’s Pillage to make room to leave some in if you’re afraid of

VS Boros Aggro

Ten cheap spot removal spells is a great start against them, but honestly,
Star of Extinction has really impressed me in this matchup. It seems like
it should be the wrong kind of sweeper since it costs so much mana, but
with the ten cheap removal spells to slow them down and the fact that
you’re accelerating into it, it actually tends to come down at a pretty
great time. The fact that it answers Legion’s Landing means that you don’t
have to worry that much if they’re transforming it early by attacking with
Snubhorn Sentries and Hunted Witnesses that you don’t want to use removal
on. It also bypasses their efforts to make four toughness creatures with
Snubhorn Sentry and Venerated Loxodon to trump Deafening Clarion. Access to
X/-X based removal for Adanto Vanguard is extremely important, and while
you only have two Moment of Cravings, the Fungal Infections really shine

Also, I haven’t mentioned it in other places, but this deck frequently uses
Dispersal rather than Discovery, and having it as an answer to Experimental
Frenzy is great sometimes (though you can often just outpace Experimental
Frenzy with Expansion and The Mirari Conjecture).


Opt Opt Opt Opt

Island Island The Eldest Reborn The Eldest Reborn


Fungal Infection Fungal Infection Fungal Infection Star of Extinction

Swamp Swamp Thought Erasure Thought Erasure

Obviously, any additional removal would help is matchup, especially the
first two additional removal spells in the sideboard to bring in instead of
Thought Erasure.

VS Mono-Red Aggro

This deck may be losing popularity, but I played against it twice in the
MOCS. It’s scary but I was able to win both matches, regularly gaining well
over four life with my two Moment of Cravings thanks to The Mirari
Conjecture. One important note is that my opponents cast a lot of Risk
Factors and I almost never paid four life, I just let them draw cards and
tried to answer those, since I could keep up with the card advantage but
I’m relatively susceptible to getting burned out.

Moment of Craving was by far the best thing here and having two more of
them would make the matchup feel very comfortable.


Star of Extinction Star of Extinction The Eldest Reborn The Eldest Reborn Island


Fungal Infection Fungal Infection Fungal Infection Swamp Swamp

Moving forward with the deck, as I mentioned, I’m looking at cutting Opts.
I’m currently testing Powerstone Shard which has been interesting. Since I
see so many cards, I regularly get multiple onto the battlefield and that
makes my Conjecture turns and my Explosions much better. I currently think
that my deck has too many mana sources and not enough payoffs because I
added them without increasing the number of The Mirari Conjectures or
Expansions, and it also makes me want at least one Banefire. I’m not sure
that this is the right direction but it’s always interesting to watch a
card function as explosively as Powerstone Shard can and to think about the
implications for building around it, which I certainly haven’t finished

So, I literally just swapped Islands for Swamps and Opts for Powerstone
Shards in the maindeck, cut the Swamps from the sideboard, and added a
Moment of Craving and a Search for Azcanta.

Having played some with this build, I think if I’m going this way, I need
to cut The Eldest Reborn from the maindeck for a fourth The Mirari
Conjecture because I need to be better at spending mana proactively. I also
might want to trim something like one Shock and one Lava Coil for another
Star of Extinction and another Karn or something to get better at using
this extra colorless mana. Alternatively, I could drop Powerstone Shard and
add another land and maybe more of the middle of the curve cards like Karn
and The Mirari Conjecture, maybe even a Fight with Fire, although that’s a
lot better with Powerstone Shard.

What do you think of Powerstone Shard? Worth it or too cute here?