Grixis is the most awesome deck in Standard! Clap your hands if you agree! (Did you clap?)
Great job! If you didn't clap, stop reading! Ok, maybe continue reading, because I'm going to do my best to show you why you should Seer things from my point of view.
This past weekend I headed to StarCityGames.com's WMCQ and PTQ in Washington, DC. I knew it would be a fun weekend full of Magic and excitement. Making the U.S. National Team is something I've dreamed about for many years.
I remember it like it was just the other day. The month was June, the year was 2001, and the weather sunny. The first time I went to Nationals, things were much different—it was held in Disney World, the prizes were awesome, and Jon Finkel was the best player in the game. Nowadays "Nationals" is split across the country into three smaller tournaments, the prizes are, well, let's just say "comparable to those on Magic Online," and Jon Finkel is the best player in the game. Regardless of all this, it's tough to keep someone who loves Magic away from any Magic tournament, especially one that allows you the chance to represent your country.
In the weeks leading up to the event, I got to play a bunch of Standard. Between testing on Magic Online, the SCG Open Series in Washington, DC, and a few PTQs, I was able to have a firm grasp on the format. I had most of my success with Esper Control and figured I would play it until the end of the season. However, week after week I noticed more and more holes in the deck. Players pretty much knew everything in your deck, they understood your game plan, and they knew how to attack your weaknesses.
I decided that I wanted to try something new. I liked having access to Evil Twin and Appetite for Brains to combat G/B/W Reanimator, and I also knew I wanted to go with a deck that had a lot of play to it. After thinking about the format and realizing how much I wanted to play with Duskmantle Seer, I decided Grixis was the deck to go with. The original list I put together on Magic Online was not that different from what I'm writing about today. Now, before I go any further, here is the deck I played last weekend.
As you can see, the deck doesn't have many four-ofs and is one or two of each card type of deck. This is my style of deck through and through. When I play, I want options, and I want lots of them. This deck has what I want; with the instant speed removal, counters, and card draw, you can play in a way that you control the pace of the game. Sometimes the game will go long and you will grind them out with card advantage cards such as Think Twice, Snapcaster Mage, and Rakdos's Return. Other games will be super tempo-based. You'll play out a few early creatures combined with a few removal or bounce spells, and then Duskmantle Seer will come down and close out the game in just a few turns.
Many of the decks in Standard have lots of expensive spells (and will have even more when Dragon's Maze comes out due to split cards), from Garruk, Primal Hunter all the way up to Blasphemous Act. However, if you take a look at Grixis' spells, it is the complete opposite. Sure, Rakdos's Return and Syncopate might seem like expensive spells, but their cost isn't. Most of your deck is one and two casting cost spells—because of this you will most likely take minimum damage from Duskmantle Seer.
Picture this: your opponent takes a two life hit from a shockland; you get in for one with an Augur then Duskmantle Seer hits. Your opponent then hits a medium to high casting cost spell—in combination with the damage from the flip and the four point hit from the Duskmantle Seer, your opponent is now in range of an end of turn Spearing Spear followed up by a Snapcaster to end the game.
This deck has some similarities to the other blue decks in the format because it allows you to react to your opponent. As we've seen for the past few months with U/W/R Flash, leaving mana open to threaten countermagic, removal, or card draw is a very powerful weapon to have at your disposal. And as I said earlier, I'm someone who likes to play with a lot of options.
When I was building this deck, I wanted to keep in mind the breakdown of counters, removal spells, card draw, and threats. Having too much of one and not enough of the others could lead to disaster. Further down in the article, you will see why I chose the cards I did for the deck.
Thought Scour, Think Twice, and Desperate Ravings all sort of do the same thing but are there for different reasons. Thought Scour allows you to see more cards out of your library, while Think Twice and Desperate Ravings provide card advantage.
With some opening hands, you may be lacking blue mana, but with a couple of other lands and Desperate Ravings, you are able to keep a hand you would have had to mulligan if you were just running three copies of Think Twice.
Another thing to remember is that Duskmantle Seer's trigger goes on the stack. This is important because you are able to have untapped mana to Searing Spear your opponent then Snapcaster it back. This can put your opponent to a lesser or equal life total on your upkeep, giving you a greater chance to have the Duskmantle Seer trigger end favorably for you. This actually came up twice over the weekend where I was at a low life total but was able to deal damage to my opponent before the trigger resolved and drew the game instead of losing it.
Now that I gave a brief overview of the deck, let's go over the list by talking about the creatures I selected followed by the spells, lands, and sideboard.
4 Duskmantle Seer - Let's get it over with and save the best for first. Duskmantle Seer is a big part of what makes this deck awesome. I am still surprised by how little play this guy sees. A four mana 4/4 flyer is already a solid creature, but when you add his ability and are able to build your deck so it's to your advantage, the card just becomes ridiculous.
My opponent drew an extra card and took damage? Great! Now discard your hand and take more damage from my Rakdos's Return. Restoration Angel and Aurelia? Sorry, but you ladies are just a bunch of 3/4s. Sure, something like Thundermaw Hellkite is bigger than him, but with all the removal, bounce, and counters, Thundermaw Hellkite is very seldom a problem for you.
Duskmantle Seer is your primary win condition. Sometimes I run him out on turn 4, whereas other times I wait until I am able to protect him with an Unsummon or a counterspell. It really depends on the matchup and the flow of the game. He is very rarely sided out, and if he is just one gets trimmed. The more you play with him, the more impressed you will be.
3 Augur of Bolas - See above. You also have a total of 24 instants and sorceries to hit, making him play a very important role in the deck.
1 Olivia Voldaren - She is the only non-Wizard in the deck; however, both she and Duskmantle Seer are Vampires, enabling Cavern of Souls. Olivia can really take over the game by herself and shines against most aggressive and midrange decks.
Overall, your creatures play an important role in the deck by gaining card advantage while putting pressure on your opponent.
2 Unsummon - Unsummon is super sweet because in a deck like this bouncing a creature is sometimes just as effective as destroying it. Also, since Snapcaster Mage and Augur of Bolas are come into play value creatures, it is nice to have the option to bounce them as well.
1 Cyclonic Rift – This is the third Unsummon with some ups and downs. The main reason for playing it is to hedge against problematic cards such as Assemble the Legion, Witchbane Orb, and Ground Seal. You can set up a turn where you are able to bounce one of these and then either have them discard it or counter it on the way back down.
2 Tribute to Hunger - Tribute is very important for numerous reasons. Mainly because the life gain is so important for the deck. It is also nice to have outs against some of the fringe decks such as Bant Hexproof. In combination with your other removal spells, you are often able to set up the board so that Tribute turns into spot removal that gains you life.
1 Mizzium Mortars - Another great removal spell that also acts as your only pure board sweeper. Mortars is nice, but you don't want to overload on it (no pun intended) in a deck like this. You would rather diversify your removal spells because you see so many cards throughout an average game.
3 Searing Spear - Spear plays many roles. It is both a removal spell and burn spell that will go to the face in many games. In combination with Rakdos's Return and Duskmantle Seer, your opponent's life total will often drop very low very quickly. Originally, I was running four copies of this, but there isn't much of a need to do that because of Snapcaster Mage.
2 Dreadbore - With decks like Jund, Turbo Fog, and Esper running around, having a way to easily remove a planeswalker is very important. Dreadbore also hits any creature and is cheap enough to Snapcaster back reasonably well. If your metagame is full of these decks, I can see having a third copy in the board over the one Ultimate Price that is mainly there to help combat against R/G.
1 Essence Scatter - Two mana counters are something of the past when it comes to Standard. We lost good ol' Mana Leak and have to settle for Essence Scatter for now. To be honest, it's not that bad. Although it can only hit creatures, the ability to stop a powerful threat for just two mana is worth a slot in the deck. There is also the chance that your opponent will misplay by trying to play around a second copy of Essence Scatter, which might gain you some value.
2 Syncopate / 2 Dissipate - These are very solid counters. Removing spells from the game is very relevant in the current Standard metagame. They help fight against Sphinx's Revelation, which is very important to stop unless your opponent is tapping out on their turn to play Sphinx's Revelation and you are ready with a Rakdos's Return.
1 Izzet Charm - A very diverse card that acts as a removal spell, counterspell, and card draw spell. I wouldn't play more than one copy, but I do really like how it plays in the deck. When a control opponents sees you with only two mana open and goes for a Sphinx's Revelation where X is X-1 to play around Syncopate, Izzet Charm will be there to save the day!
2 Think Twice, 1 Desperate Ravings, 2 Thought Scour - These are the cards that help make the deck run smoothly. Think Twice and Desperate Ravings give you some pure card advantage at a very cheap rate, while Thought Scour digs you deep into your deck to make Snapcaster Mage better.
2 Rakdos's Return - This one of your most powerful spells and fits very nicely in your deck. In many games, you can set it up by countering, bouncing, or removing everything your opponent is doing in the early game. Then by turn 5 of 6, you can destroy your opponent's hand and put them in topdeck mode.
DesolatedLighthouse is important since it is your most powerful card in control matchups. It allows you to dig through your deck and turn your somewhat useless creature removal spells into more important cards for the matchup.
Cavern of Souls is awesome here since every creature in your maindeck and sideboard besides for Olivia are Wizards. Being able to force through your threats will bring you a long way against U/W/R Flash, Bant, and Esper.
Now that you have the maindeck laid out for you, let's take a quick look at the sideboard.
1 Appetite for Brains - This is good against Jund, G/B/W Reanimator, and Turbo Fog. I've even brought it in against The Aristocrats to combat their sideboard plan of bigger threats.
2 Liliana of the Veil - This is for Jund, Hexproof, and control decks. Also, against certain R/G and Naya builds, you can bring her in. If you don't see Loxodon Smiter or Strangleroot Geist, she is fine to help combat against their creatures.
That's the deck in all its glory!
This is currently my deck of choice in Standard, and it will stay that way for now. When Dragon's Maze comes out, Standard will be shaken up a bit, but I'm sure Grixis will stay where it is on power level or get better. Some new cards that come to mind that could fit nicely in it are Ral Zarek, Master of Cruelties, and Melek, Izzet Paragon.
I really hope you enjoyed this article, and I strongly suggest you give this deck a try. Before Dragon's Maze becomes legal, there are a few more tournaments like Friday Night Magic and a Magic Online PTQ this Sunday. In both tournaments, I plan on running this list or something very close to it. If you end up playing this deck or if you have any questions, please comment below and I will do my best to respond. You can also follow me on Twitter @Gfabs5.
Before I go, I want to remind you guys that the weekend after the Prerelease I will be in Somerset, NJ doing coverage for SCGLive with none other than Cedric Philips! I am super pumped for the event and hope to see you guys there!
Thanks for reading!