Grixis as a color combination in Modern isn’t the most popular choice in the current metagame. A Grixis Midrange/Control deck doesn’t appear to have the strongest of tools for dealing with the other unfair decks that are available. Grixis Delver also appears less powerful when sized-up against other linear decks such as Infect, Affinity, Burn, Death Shadow, or Bushwhacker Zoo. So the question is: What’s the appeal of Grixis in modern?
There are three major factors that allow Grixis to hold it’s own in Modern:
- Its spells are very cheap, costing only 1 or 2 mana.
- It plays both Snapcaster Mage and Lightning Bolt, closing games becomes super easier.
- It abuses the Delve mechanic.
I have two decks I want to touch on that showcase these three points. The first is a Grixis Midrange build that focuses on gaining as much value as possible with each card:
This deck is full of value! Snapcasters and Jaces let you rebuy all of your cheap spells. Thought Scour almost feels like a draw 3 because our graveyard is often an extension of our hand. Liliana and Kolaghan’s Command rebuy our creatures that died to removal. There are so many ways for this deck to gain a +1 card advantage on all of it’s spells. Assuming we survive any early pressure, we can pull ahead of the game very quickly in the midgame.
There is a lot going on with this deck. The most unusual is the inclusion of Liliana, the Last Hope instead of the more commonly played Modern card Liliana of the Veil. The Liliana from Eldritch Moon is definitely the correct pick for this deck. The new Lily allows us to draw creature cards from our graveyard. It reminds me of Jace Beleren, except the card we draw is one of our choosing from our graveyard. Rebuying a Snapcaster is about as good as it gets and feels simply amazing! You almost never ultimate with this planeswalker, as the minus two ability provides much needed value even if it just self-mills you two cards. There’s also the chance of getting paired up against a deck that is soft to her +1 ability, giving us unparalleled control over small creature decks like Infect, Affinity, or the occasional token strategies. She’s so good that even pump spells from Infect decks can’t save their own creatures from her ability, as they’ll just die on the next upkeep of the following turn.
The other oddity about this deck is Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. While a Standard staple when fetchlands were legals, Jace Vryn has been hesitant to make an appearance in Modern. This deck is one of the best homes for him to fit in. The most obvious is being able to quickly turn into a planeswalker thanks to Thought Scour and fetchlands then he starts flashing back discard and removal spells. Jace is one of the reasons this deck doesn’t play counterspells and instead relies on cheap discard to hold off whatever the opponent is attempting to setup. Having access to turn 1 discard, followed by turn 2 Jace, into turn 3 flashback discard spell is one of the best starts you can ask for. This can also be accomplished with Snapcaster. Jace also pairs great with Liliana, both holding down aggressive creatures while ticking up on loyalty. While it’s easy to focus on the benefits of the back side of this double-faced card, it’s important to not forget how valuable a Merfolk Looter can be. Jace fixes our draws while filling our graveyard with fuel to be used later.
One of the coolest parts about playing this Grixis Midrange deck is being able to shift play-styles depending on your opponent’s deck. Against aggressive decks, we play as a Control deck. There is access to a lot of removal and reuse of the removal spells. The Young Pyromancers and Tasigur, the Golden Fangs offer a quick defense. When matched up against a Midrange or Control deck, we take the role of the aggressor. The discard spells let us pave the way for our creatures to get in, while snapcaster and liliana rebuy our spells for maximum value. It is very hard to overcome the value this Grixis deck can generate. Combo decks are probably the hardest of the archtypes to get in wins. The maindeck does not have counterspells, which is why there are a good bunch in the sideboard. Usually the discard and fast pressure allow Grixis to pull ahead before most combo decks can setup properly through our disruption.
The second Grixis list I want to look at is Grixis Delver, which recently won the WMCQ. Here is the list piloted by Kevin Jones to a 1st place finish.
There are a few crucial differences between Grixis Delver and Grixis Midrange, namely the inclusion of Delver of Secrets, countermagic, probe, and more creatures with Delve. This deck aims to get off the ground as fast as possible. It accomplishes this with either an early Delver or Tasigur/Angler. This deck is packed full of instants or sorceries to ensure the highest chance of a flipped Delver. Similarly, there are a ton of cheap spells and fetchlands to allow for a turn two 4/5 creature. Countermagic plays a similar role to discard from the Midrange deck, except we usually want to spend our first few turns putting a big threat on the table and then backing it up as opposed to trying to slow down the opponent to a grind with discard.
I really like the power that this deck has to offer. The consistency of getting a large threat or two down early is quite high. You have plenty of cheap removal spells to hold off any other creature based deck. Cards like bolt, electrolyze, brutality, and k command offer direct damage to close out games. Collective Brutality is surprisingly amazing and has overperformed. In a vacuum it seems underwhelming given that you have to discard cards for it. However, the fact it offers us so many options is what makes this card a strong player. Killing a Goblin Guide while also taking out a burn spell from our opponent’s hand is worth the cost; you trade 2 cards for 2. The same applies to Infect opponents as well. This card not only fuels our graveyard for early Delve creatures, but also offers end game reach thanks to Snapcaster Mage.
If you’re a fan of value decks like I am and want to pilot a deck that rewards correct decision making, then I recommend giving one or both of these decks a shot. It feels great playing a deck that offers to interact with the opponent while advancing its own gameplan. There are so many linear decks in the current Modern metagame that just ignore what the opponent is doing with hopes of ending the game in 3-4 turns. These Grixis decks, however, give you the feeling of actually playing games of Magic.
Hope you enjoyed this quick tour of a couple of the Grixis builds available in Modern. I’m going to continue playing decks very similar to these in the near future; they are a ton of fun. The more you play this type of deck, the more you learn of neat little tricks you didn’t know it could do before. There’s a lot here. Give one of them a shot and let me know how it goes!