Storytime is over and I’m jumping right to the meat of this article and moving on from introducing myself to introducing one of my all time favorite Magic decks. The Bob Huang innovated deck known as Grishoalbrand caught my eye near the beginning of my adventures with Nightmare Jund (read about it here) and I moved in on it shortly after scrubbing out of an RPTQ with regular Jund. From there its unfathomable the amount of cards I’ve drawn in the last few years. My first event with the deck was playing the old stock Black/Red list in a SCG Premier IQ at an Open in Philadelphia. I started off strong with a good old 0-2 before rallying for a 7-2 record and a top 32 min-cash, my bread and butter finish in life and with the deck.
As time passed my love for the deck grew and I started to experiment with adding Blue cards likeSerum Visions to help dig for combo pieces andJace, Vryn’s Prodigy because when it comes to value exiling a green card from hand to castNourishing Shoal from your graveyard is hella cute. It also added a discard outlet and a strong utility I could bring back withGoryo’s Vengeance and have stick around if it flips. Cards likeWorship andLeyline of Sanctity were picking up steam in Modern alongside blue permission spells and as they did I wanted to find a win condition that I could bring in to get around those cards rather than rely on bouncing them. This development led to fully cementing myself in a Grixis shell maintaining my 3-4Pact of Negations in the sideboard and adding a copy ofLaboratory Maniac. While I lost in the top 8 of every PPTQ I played with the deck I felt I was doing the most powerful thing in Magic. Although I’ve taken some time away from the deck to castWild Nacatls <3 andTribal Flames, I’m back with a Goryo’s Vengeance.
When it comes to crafting a decklist I like to identify my target or in Modern’s case my most expected matchups. I want to make a deck choice that is strong against those decks and to play cards that help leverage my positioning in game. Looking at the modern metagame right now we have some big targets that we need to be able to beat.
#1 Grixis Death’s Shadow: doesn’t look like a great matchup when you need to fight all of their hand disruption. The good news is any resolved threat should be able to finish them off. If Opt starts to see a lot of play we can capitalize on them playing in our end step and tapping out there.
#2 Eldrazi Tron (and other flavors): Chalice of the Void on 2 seems nearly unstoppable but otherwise when set on one it just shuts down your cantrips. While not ideal you can still combo off rather easily. Relic of Progenitus and Pithing Needle can be difficult to fight with just a graveyard centric approach but the floodgates open up with Through the Breach.
#3 Affinity always exists. Go under them or go right through them its almost always a race and your sideboard cards are mostly looking at slowing them down. To quote everyone’s favorite blue hedgehog “Gotta go fast!”
#4 Always always always be prepared for Burn or you’re going to lose to it in round 1. Good news! You have a way to gain 11 life at instant speed! Cutting the cards that lose you life like Nights Whisper and Painful Truth and replacing them with better cards helps the matchup and your deck improve. There is no real plan here other than just kill them and be mindful of their resources. Know their deck inside out, know what cards can blank them, and always know what you’re dead to. Duress and Collective Brutality are a must to deal with Skullcrack effects.
#5 TitanShift: They should just roll over. They don’t interact and you’re faster. Relic is an issue but your plan post board against almost everyone is to Breach them.
#6 Storm: I’m the most concerned about this matchup. Pact of Negation, Duress, and Brutality are the keys to the matchup. Shoring this up and getting a half turn faster are the real keys to if Grishoalbrand is going to be good again or not.
#7 Humans: This deck has been showing up and winning big recently and frankly its scary. The games should be decided by turn 4 either way and their hatebears play a big game. Possibly our Pyroclasms need to be a little bit bigger and turn into Anger of the Gods.
#8 Jeskai: The Daddy (Kevin Jones) has some fans that have been doing well it seems. The turn they play Geist of Saint Traft is usually our biggest window. This game is a back and forth requiring loads of permission on both sides to get through a win.
My current explorations with Ixalan move to capitalize on the recent printings of Chart a Course andOpt into the format to increase the amount of card selection within the deck. Normally these decks play some number ofTormenting Voice orCathartic Reunion mixed withNights Whisper and to a lesser extentPainful Truths. Chart a Course does everything they do aside from the raw card advantage of Painful Truths while still preserving your life total. I see it as a huge boon for the deck alongside an addition cantrip to help with setup and continuing to advance your position with end step play when your bluffs keep your opponents from tapping out.
Right now this is the 75 I would sleeve up.
Creatures – 14
Spells – 28
Lands – 18
Sideboard – 15
Our game 1 floor for free wins is already higher than average thanks to the aggressive combo nature of the deck but capitalizing on the matchups we expect is where we are going to win our matches.
The sideboard is where I really want to capitalize on matchups and shore up less favorable ones.
Blood Moon does what it does. Its pretty self explanatory. It buys you tons and tons of time against greedy decks and can singlehandedly defeat Grixis Death’s Shadow or Humans.
Pact of Negation is another very self explanatory card. It protects your combo against permission. Remember you can combo off in response to the trigger especially if you don’t have the mana on your combo turn to finish and need the untap step for that last Goryo’s or Breach.
Duress does more of the same. The sideboard is mostly about protection and duress is cheap and clean with no loss of life when our life total matters so much.
Collective Brutality is our third copy of Duress with added ability in killing Thalia, Meddling Mage, or just being really effective vs burn.
By Force I don’t like losing to Affinity. It’s also cheaper than Shatterstorm when you need to pick off pesky Pithing Needles or Relics. Easier to cast on a combo turn too.
Pyroclasm This card is the one I’m most unsure about. I want a sweeper in the deck but it just might not scale large enough. In consideration are Damnation and Anger of the Gods.
Laboratory Maniac I mentioned it above and its mostly to be our extra kill condition when we need to beat Leyline of Sanctity.
Through the Breach I’m carrying the 4th Breach in the sideboard for basically every matchup. It feels too clunky game one when our game plan is more geared for Reanimator. I tend to shift gears shaving 1-3 Goryo’s post board a lot and that is when Breach and chucking giant wurms at faces really shines.
Honorable mentions go to Quicksilver Amulet, Early Frost, and Horobi’s Whisper. These cards all play different roles in the sideboard for expected metagames. The one I see most likely coming back before I play SCG Regionals is the Horobi’s Whisper to help combat Humans.
Overall I’m pretty pleased with the card selection additions to the deck from my testing online. I have a couple 4-1’s and 3-2’s in my last week of testing and the deck feels really great going into the two 5ks I’m playing this month at SCG Regionals and the TJs Titanium Plus event. I’m going to leave you with a fun keep or mulligan and what’s the play all in one from this past weekend. You’re on the play in game 1 on the blind and you see this hand.
I’ll see you all next week with updates, sideboarding info, and a tournament report.