This is not a drill — Grixis is back in Modern!
Last week, I went over some of the various ways you could fight the Modern metagame. Many players started playing Murktide Regent decks because the current crop of Rakdos decks didn’t have enough ways to remove large dragons. When I started updating some of my decks to keep up with the current wave, I had another idea.
What’s the way to get a leg up in the Dragon’s Rage Channeler mirrors? For the most part, spot removal and card advantage isn’t beatable. What if I just added Snapcaster Mage to Izzet? Did I want counterspells? They’re awkward on your mana, especially if you want to play Lurrus of the Dream-Den as a companion. You also have to tap out in the early-game to answer threats, so it’s unlikely you get to hold open countermagic until later in the game. However, you still need some stack interaction for decks like Living End.
For the most part, I’d rather have discard spells than counterspells in this metagame, but I also wanted Snapcaster Mage. Then I started thinking about the good ole days with Kolaghan’s Command and Snapcaster Mage. These three cards are all I need to get excited about Grixis again.
When I was terrorizing Modern with Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, building the deck was difficult. You needed early interaction and answers to very specific problems without having a blanket answer to everything. That meant playing two Mana Leaks for combo, a Dreadbore for planeswalkers, and a Rise//Fall as a card that’s good against combo while still being solid against aggro.
Unholy Heat and Drown in the Loch solve nearly all your problems. They’re so versatile that you no longer have to stretch your answers and hope your draw lines up correctly. Smaller Grixis decks in Modern typically lost to bigger control decks, but that isn’t even a problem anymore!
Make no mistake, this is way more of a control deck than an aggro deck. If your opponents are trying to grind you out with Lightning Bolts, they’ll get buried by Kolaghan’s Command and Snapcaster Mage.
You can come out early with Dragon’s Rage Channeler or Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and close with Lightning Bolts. The real strength comes from the engine of Expressive Iteration, Snapcaster Mage, and Kolaghan’s Command. Each card is individually powerful but also combine to ensure you never run out of gas. Obviously having Lurrus as a companion also helps.
Ragavan, particularly on the play, has the capacity to run away with the game. However, the likelihood of Ragavan connecting drops dramatically as the game goes on. Once you clean up everything, Ragavan can finally start connecting again, but you could win the game with Snapcaster Mage at that point. Mostly, you’ll try to look for spots to trade Ragavan for any card of your opponent’s.
Dragon’s Rage Channeler is mostly the same. If trades for a card, you’re fairly happy because you’re usually getting a good deal. Maybe you got in some damage, did some surveilling, or traded up in mana. It can be a reasonable blocker on a key turn and the card selection is highly undervalued. Ragavan is one of the first cards to be cut in certain matchups but I rarely want to side out Channeler.
The deck has fourteen instants, nine sorceries, five artifacts, and eleven creatures. It’s a solid mix for delirium, although it could be more well-rounded. Another sorcery would be nice. I’ve considered running more early cantrips but there’s typically enough to spend your mana on in the first few turns.
Twenty lands was where I started and I eventually added another. Many of the Dragon’s Rage Channeler decks play eighteen land, but they’re not as mana hungry as a deck with Snapcaster Mage and Kolaghan’s Command.
After sideboarding, there’s even more diversity in card types, so getting delirium is rarely a problem. Sideboarding itself isn’t too difficult. There are certain matchups where cards like Unearth, Engineered Explosives, and even Ragavan don’t line up well.
The main issues are cascade, Primeval Titan, Murktide Regent, and Sanctifier en-Vec. Colossus Hammer decks can also be difficult to interact with at times, so having some extra interaction for that matchup would help. Some of the cards in my sideboard seem like odd choices. That said, I’ve used each card several times to good effect, they’ve all pulled their weight, and the sideboarding numbers have been smooth.
Seal of Removal, Pyrite Spellbomb, and Terminate are the cards that fill in the gaps. Two of them deal with Sanctifier en-Vec and two of them deal with Murktide Regent. Seal of Removal isn’t an ideal way to deal with either but there are other upsides, namely the interactions with Lurrus and delirium. It’s a cool way to protect your Lurrus from removal too.
Aether Gust is almost strictly for Amulet Titan, although it’s very good against Bring to Light and Elementals as well. Even though it’s a great card for those matchups, I’d prefer to have something more broadly applicable. Those matchups are difficult, so playing something widely specific is necessary.
The only way to fight Living End is graveyard hate, counterspells, or something permanent like Chalice of the Void. Counterspells can get tagged by Grief or Force of Negation and your permanent-based hate can be removed by Foundation Breaker or Brazen Borrower. It’s a tough matchup to navigate. Without Inquisition of Kozilek to help, I don’t think we’d have a shot.
Some cards like Threads of Disloyalty and Ashiok, Dream Render are tempting, except you can’t play them and still have your Lurrus companion. I could see a universe where you might need to sideboard a powerful three-drop in order to have a fighting chance and then also side in the Lurrus. At the moment, there’s nothing that warrants that plan.
The Food decks are wildly swingy. Sometimes they’re able to keep Asmor on the battlefield and kill all your creatures. Maybe multiple copies of Urza’s Saga grind you out. Or maybe they draw Thought Monitors and no artifacts and you win easily. Thankfully, Engineered Explosives for zero can catch you up if you’re super far behind.
VS Mono-White Hammer (Lurrus)
Colossus Hammer threatens a Turn 2 kill, so it’s always a terrifying deck to play against. That said, it’s reminiscent of playing against Infect with the older versions of Grixis. It’s scary but Grixis usually comes out on top. Kolaghan’s Command, Vandalblast, and Engineered Explosives do a ton of work in matchups like these.
VS Living End
As I noted above, Living End is one of the worst matchups. If some sideboard slots free up and Living End remains part of Modern, it’ll be one of the first matchups I try to address.
VS Amulet Titan
This is another scary matchup, even though it’s very winnable. Alpine Moon would help by keeping Urza’s Saga in check, meaning they’d have less access to Amulet of Vigor. Multiple Amulet of Vigors allow them to shrug off disruption by having access to so much mana. Stopping Primeval Titan with Unholy Heat doesn’t matter if they’re able to cast three Titans in the same turn. If they don’t have Amulet of Vigor, the games are much easier, which is one of the reasons I’m playing Vandalblast in the first place.
VS Rakdos Midrange (Lurrus)
The only thing that’s truly threatening here is Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger. Keep your life total high so you don’t risk getting burned out. Bringing in the second copy of Engineered Explosives was something I stopped doing despite that. They can usually escape it twice per game, so killing it directly isn’t the best option. A third copy of Nihil Spellbomb would be nice for this matchup.
VS Izzet Midrange
This is similar to the Rakdos Midrange matchup, except instead of burning you out with Kroxa, you could lose to an unanswered Murktide Regent. Overall, it’s a much less scary proposition. You can preemptively hit their graveyard or save a removal spell for it and you should be fine.
VS Temur Crashcade
This matchup is like Living End, except that instead of them winning the game outright, they make a couple 4/4s that are easily beatable. Watch out for Blood Moon and you should be fine.
Elementals is a surprisingly difficult matchup. In theory, you should be able to keep Risen Reef off the battlefield and kill whatever they try to Ephemerate but it’s harder than it looks. Between the removal from Solitude, lifegain from Omnath, Locus of Creation, and Endurance blocking Dragon’s Rage Channeler, being the aggro deck doesn’t work out. Playing carefully emphasizing card advantage is the best you can do.
As always, Grixis is primarily a metagame deck. Unholy Heat and Drown in the Loch solve many issues, but not all of them. Thankfully, Grixis is a color combination capable of adapting and it’s done that quite well with all the new tools.
If you want to play something fun and fair with some great matchups, Grixis is perfect.