Dungeons and Dragons Store Campaign: Arc 4 – Character Creation!

You have fought Vampires, Demons, Goblins, Trolls, Necromancers, and usurped the power of a land in peril. Now it is time to journey to your homeland. Join us for a character creation starting at 1pm today and going till 9pm. DM’s will be on hand to assist you in creating characters at level 10

Arc 4 will be 6 weeks in length – running from January 5th to February 9th

We offer professional quality DM’s, refreshments for all players for the night, an evening of fun and excitement not found anywhere else in the  city. Hairy T loves RPGs and WE REALLY LOVE D&D, come experience this unique multiplayer story.

Format: Drop In/Out
Entry: $5 per session
$25 for 6 weeks* Ask your DM for more details about Arc subscriptions
Player Capacity: 40

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Cruel Ultimatum: Grixis in Modern

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Out of every tri-colour tribe in Magic, I would argue that Grixis is one of the most confused currently in the Modern format. Almost every other one has a definitive archetype that dominates the shard or wedge. For example, Jund is a midrange shard in Modern. Although other archetypes can be constructed with the Jund colours, the most obviously powerful archetype and the singular identity of the shard in competitive play is midrange. Grixis does not have this same type of straightforward power in one archetype that Jund, or several of the other tribes, have. There is an identity crisis present within Grixis; elements of it are aggressive, midrange, control and even combo and each build of the deck holds sway in any given metagame. Over the course of the last few years, new cards entering the Modern card pool, as well as bans and unbans have caused this shard to go through many metamorphoses on the biggest stages in the world.

The development and refining of Grixis lists in recent history really come down to four Pro players: Corey Burkhart, Gerry Thompson, Kevin Jones, and Michael Majors. All four players wrote about the archetype, brewed lists, and put up results at Grand Prixes and Star City Opens. Innovation was almost entirely driven by the banning of Splinter Twin and new cards that entered the Modern card pool in recent history.

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After Splinter Twin was banned, Grixis was left in limbo. Much like Izzet, this was an archetype dominated by the presence of Splinter Twin and the power of the combo. Once the card was banned, Grixis had no real direction. There was a push-pull dynamic of whether you wanted a heavy counter magic deck or a deck based around heavy discard. Players basically took the most recent Twin decks and removed all Twin components as a starting point for a new age of Grixis decks. Looking at Theros block onward, Grixis got a bag of tricks that pale in comparison to those given to any other shard or wedge. The major additions to Grixis were:

  • Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
  • Tasigur, the Golden Fang
  • Bedlam Reveler
  • Anger of the Gods
  • Goblin Dark Dwellers
  • Kolaghan’s Command
  • Liliana, the Last Hope
  • Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
  • Pia and Kiran Nalaar
  • Collective Brutality
  • Painful Truths
  • Gurmag Angler
  • Murderous Cut
  • Keranos, God of Storms
  • Thing in the Ice
  • * Ancestral Vision (Although technically not a new addition, this card was a recent unbanning)

Recently, at GP Dallas, Corey Burkhart made it to the finals with his most current iteration of Grixis control. His list for the event was:

Grixis Control – Corey Burkhart (2nd Place GP Dallas)

4x Polluted Delta

4 x Scalding Tarn

3x Island

1x Swamp

1x Mountain

2x Creeping Tar Pit

1x Spirebluff Canal

1x Sulfur Falls

2x Watery Grave

2x Steam Vents

1x Blood Crypt

4x Snapcaster Mage

3x Tasigur, the Golden Fang

4x Ancestral Vision

4x Thought Scour

4x Serum Visions

4x Lightning Bolt

1x Engineered Explosives

2x Spell Snare

3x Terminate

2x Countersquall

3x Kolaghan’s Command

4x Cryptic Command

Sideboard

3x Fulminator Mage

3x Surgical Extraction

2x Sun Droplet

2x Anger of the Gods

2x Dispel

1x Damnation

1x Izzet Staticaster

1x Engineered Explosives

This form of Grixis does away with hand disruption and focuses on hard counters, kill spells / burn, and card draw. Much of the composition of the deck is due to the creatures that Burkhart selected for the deck: Snapcaster and Tasigur. Synergies with Snapcaster Mage are straight forward: play powerful instants and sorceries. Tasigur, however, is a harder commodity to design around.

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A deck designer needs to understand that when you are milling through Tasigur’s activated ability or through Thought Scour there are cards that you do not want to be in your graveyard. In particular, hand disruption spells and conditional counter magic like Mana Leak are very poor in a deck based around Tasigur as a finisher. With the exception of Spell Snare, Burkhart’s list would gladly take back any card milled into the graveyard in the late game. Spell Snare is a necessary evil in control decks in modern because of the tempo advantage it could provide in certain matchups. This builds stands as a more tradition control build of Grixis but, more radical builds have seen play.

Grixis Reveler – Gerry Thompson (MTGO Deck List)

1x Island

1x Mountain

1x Swamp

4x Blackcleave Cliffs

1x Blood Crypt

2x Bloodstained Mire

2x Creeping Tar Pit

1x Darkslick Shores

3x Polluted Delta

4x Scalding Tarn

2x Steam Vents

1x Watery Grave

3x Bedlam Reveler

1x Shriekmaw

4x Snapcaster Mage

2x Liliana, the Last Hope

3x Kolaghan’s Command

4x Lightning Bolt

3x Mana Leak

1x Slaughter Pact

2x Terminate

4x Thought Scour

1x Collective Brutality

4x Inquisition of Kozilek

4x Serum Visions

1x Thoughtseize

Sideboard

3x Engineered Explosives

2x Fulminator Mage

1x Izzet Staticaster

1x Vampiric Link

2x Countersquall

3x Surgical Extraction

2x Collective Brutality

1x Thoughtseize

This is a deck that wanted to explore the space of Grixis with several of the new tools that the shard got in recent sets. Unlike Burkhart’s control list, Thompson’s deck is a hand disruption deck with a light sprinkling of counter magic. I would also classify this deck as midrange while Burkhart’s deck is much more of a control deck.

Recursion is the overarching theme in this deck; recycling of both spells and creatures. Kolaghan’s Command and Liliana, the Last Hope both provide methods of rebuying creatures from the graveyard. Additionally, all creatures in this build of Grixis have powerful enter the battlefield (ETB) effects that provide additional value when they are cast. Similar to Burkhart’s list, Thompson’s variant of Grixis has a lot of grind value and has a powerful late game that it can play towards.

Along the lines of Burkhart’s build, Thompson’s creatures dictated the types of spells that he wanted in his deck. Bedlam Reveler and Snapcaster Mage both demand a high amount of sorceries and instants within a deck. The Reveler also wants card velocity, which is achieved through Thought Scour and Serum Visions. Reveler Grixis relies on recursion to win the long game in contrast to Burkhart’s list that has Cryptic Command and card draw.

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A third type of Grixis deck has also appeared at the top tiers of Modern events from time to time: Grixis Delver. Delver decks in Modern are a blend of tempo and aggro that aim at landing an early threat, Delver of Secrets, and using counters to protect that threat. The deck tries to be as efficient as possible; on average the spells in the deck all cost one or two mana. More than any other Pro player, Kevin Jones of the SCG circuit is a large proponent of the Grixis Delver strategy. He won the American World Magic Cup Qualifier with this list:

Grixis Delver – Kevin Jones, WMCQ 1st Place

4x Delver of Secrets

1x Gurmag Angler

4x Snapcaster Mage

3x Young Pyromancer

3x Tasigur, the Golden Fang

2x Island

1x Mountain

1x Swamp

1x Blood Crypt

1x Bloodstained Mire

1x Darkslick Shores

4x Polluted Delta

4x Scalding Tarn

2x Steam Vents

1x Sulfur Falls

1x Watery Grave

2x Electrolyze

1x Kolaghan’s Command

4x Lightning Bolt

2x Mana Leak

1x Murderous Cut

2x Spell Snare

2x Terminate

4x Thought Scour

1x Collective Brutality

3x Gitaxian Probe

4x Serum Visions

Sideboard

1x Engineered Explosives

1x Izzet Staticaster

1x Countersquall

2x Dispel

1x Kolaghan’s Command

2x Magma Spray

1x Spell Pierce

2x Surgical Extraction

2x Painful Truths

1x Vandalblast

1x Desolate Lighthouse

This type of strategy has the unique advantage of being able to go both wide or big in any given game. Young Pyromancer allows the deck to go wide simply through the casting of sorceries and instants. Pyromancer clogs up the ground while the Delver attacks in the air each turn slowly draining the opponent’s life total. The Delve creatures in the Delver deck permit it to go big and cast creatures that can go toe-to-toe with Tarmogoyfs. Jones’ deck has a strong Delve/graveyard subtheme and really showcases how the graveyard is a resource like everything else in Magic.

I find all of the above three lists highly divergent while still having a measure of overlap in the card pool. Even though the archetypes are different, certain subthemes begin to become clearer after examining current Grixis lists. Graveyard, efficiency, and grind all come to mind when looking at the lists explored above. While it may not have one true dominant style of deck but it does have a large breadth of viable options. I have also found that Grixis suffers from “flavor of the month syndrome”. A new card will come out, stir interest in the community and make a measure of inroads into the Modern format. Half a year later, no one is playing that card anymore. One of the most glaring examples would be Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Michael Majors was utilizing 3-4 copies of the card in his Grixis list after Jace’s release. Now, the card is rarely seen in Modern lists. Arguably the same trend was seen with Pia and Kiran Nalaar and Goblin Dark Dwellers. Every once in a while you see one of the aforementioned cards but it is infrequent. Grixis still feels like it’s trying to find its wings in modern.

Recently, the Aether Revolt spoilers released information on a powerful new toy for Grixis: Yahenni’s Expertise. I think this card really has a place to shine specifically in Grixis. No Shard grinds harder than Grixis and no Shard wants the type of two-for-one value that this type of card can provide more than Grixis. Players have been comparing this card’s effect to Bloodbraid Elf because it causes something similar to cascade: the only difference being that you have to have the other card in your hand. I believe some of the most powerful turns with this card will be casting it then “cascading” into an Ancestral Vision or Boom / Bust. These types of interactions have been seen better in Goblin Dark Dwellers, however Expertise only costs four mana. The one glaring sticking point is that the card is somewhat fighting over a spot the Anger of the Gods already occupies. It is my hope that both cards can find a place in Grixis. Perhaps one card is more a main deck card while the other is more of a sideboard card. Only time will tell if Expertise has any true modern relevance.

Until next time.

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