Last week, I wrote about Grixis Energy, and the level of support and positivity from the community has been amazing. Mere hours after my article went live, I was playing in a competitive Magic Online league against the exact list from my article! It seems I have more influence over the Standard metagame than I previously believed.
Note to self: Use powers for good, not evil.
I can't remember the last time I was this motivated to play Magic, and even after I submitted my article last week, I was still playing games and tuning my deck for the Magic Online Championship Series Monthly. With pajamas in tow, here's what I played over the weekend:
The first change I made was moving from two copies of Magma Spray and one copy of Abrade main deck and one copy of Magma Spray and one copy of Abrade in the sideboard to three copies of Magma Spray main deck and two copies of Abrade sideboard. The reason I made this change was due to the total lack of Mardu Vehicles in the Magic Online metagame. In my past 50 (!) matches, I may have played against Mardu Vehicles once. Additionally, it's rather unclear to me which card is actually better against aggressive white decks in Standard right now.
Heart of Kirin is a huge problem card and I've tried to address that in older lists by including Fatal Push and Release the Gremlins, but many of my opponents on Magic Online don't even play Heart of Kiran in their aggressive white decks anymore. All they care about is Legion's Landing or Toolcraft Exemplar into Servo Exhibition. Given the trend of me seeing Toolcraft Exemplar in non-vehicle decks and Scrapheap Scrounger generally just being everywhere, I wanted the extra Magma Spray in my maindeck. Sometimes I even play matchups where, game one, my opponent has Resilient Khenra and Earthshaker Khenra; two cards where I want as many Magma Sprays as I can get my hands on.
The logic used here is the same logic I used to include Dual Shot in my sideboard - a spicy little piece of tech I found in Matt Severa's decklist from a recent Grand Prix. Almost everyone I play who has Toolcraft Exemplar in their deck also has Bomat Courier in their deck, and they're playing a very dangerous game in the early turns when I have access to Dual Shot. With my entire deck being one-for-one removal, it's an understatement to say I was afraid of token strategies going in. So much so, in fact, that I actually played a league with Shake the Foundations…
I had myself convinced that in the mirror that if I had Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, my opponent would either kill it immediately or lose. On the flip side, if they had Glint-Sleeve Siphoner and I didn't, I could use Shake the Foundations to simulate the effect of an Electrolyze while also getting sick value against any of the token decks out there. Not only did Shake the Foundations fail to impress as a card at face value for Constructed, but it also doesn't even work against Legion's Landing if you're on the draw since Servo Exhibition can still transform it before you can cast Shake. I also had big dreams of passing on turn 3 with all my mana available, my poor sap of an opponent taps three mana to cast Jadelight Ranger, and with the explore triggers on the stack, I kill it and draw a card with Shake the Foundations.
That's as amazing as I think it is, right?!
Last week, I advocated for Essence Scatter, Supreme Will, and Revolutionary Rebuff in Grixis Energy, but for the MOCS, I decided to go with four copies of Censor instead. I've been getting teased a fair bit for not being able to know how to read by including Revolutionary Rebuff in my maindeck, but I'll explain. First off, I'd just like to say I've played all of these cards at professional level play. I played Essence Scatter in my main deck at the World Championship, I played Supreme Will in my sideboard at Pro Tour Ixalan, and I played Revolutionary Rebuff in my main deck at Grand Prix Santa Clara, so I'm not just homebrewing random decks to meet deadlines for writing. I'm out there putting up my own hard earned dollars to prove this is the mix of cards I think will give me the best chance to win.
Essence Scatter is the most powerful of the bunch and that's because it can "kill" stuff like Jadelight Ranger and Rekindling Phoenix without the opponent producing any value like they normally would when you kill those creatures. Essence Scatter is massive against anyone with Torrential Gearhulk. You might remember William Jensen solving Standard by using Essence Scatter to counter Rogue Refiner in Temur Energy mirrors, and it turns out that if a card is so good you have to ban it, then it's probably smart to play four yourself and come prepared for others who play it. Can you imagine an entire tournament where your Rogue Refiners always resolve in the Temur Energy mirror and their Rogue Refiners only sometimes resolve? Countering Rogue Refiner was extra devastating when they needed that energy to fuel Aether Hub or they wanted the cantrip to find a land. Just yesterday, I used an Essence Scatter on Merfolk Branchwalker, my opponent missed their land drop, and I had to go take a shower because I felt pretty filthy.
I've always been fond of Supreme Will because it doesn't discriminate between creature/non-creature and it's already fairly relaxed on my mana. I like the idea of playing Disallow, but if you can't cast it and your opponent resolves a Hazoret the Fervent or The Scarab God, you're going to want to throw up. Since Supreme Will is easier to cast, it's also conditional, but with multiple modes the conditional downside is greatly mitigated. One thing that's happened to me a lot in the past year is I play against a control deck, load up on Negates, and my opponent just taps out for The Scarab God on turn 5. It's very hard for me to know which decks will have The Scarab God, let alone how many they could be playing, so I couldn't reasonably leave in Confiscation Coup against what would normally be a creature-light strategy. Cards like Supreme Will are a reasonable compromise since it can still counter problematic non-creature cards like Fumigate, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, and Hour of Promise while also giving you some insurance against Torrential Gearhulk and The Scarab God.
Revolutionary Rebuff has just been too disappointing for me that I don't think I'll include it in my main deck anymore. It disguises itself as Mana Leak to me, and I felt I needed ways to handle decks without creatures because there are huge portions of the format dedicated to completely creatureless decks, so I can't always just play Essence Scatter. As an example, I play against U/W Approach and various decks based around Hour of Promise all the time and they have literally zero creatures. When I play 2 Essence Scatter, 0 Rebuff, 4 Harnessed Lightning, 3 Magma Spray, and 4 Vraska's Contempt, that's thirteen cards I need to remove from my main deck if I play against a player who uses a strategy that doesn't involve creatures! It's obvious that too high of a percentage of my deck is dedicated to anti-creature cards for the current metagame.
My solution was to cut my counterspells and almost at random cut a fourth card to make room for four copies of Censor. I've been having issues with colored mana and just consistency issues with total number of lands so I felt like the cycling would help me quite a bit there. I've also run into this issue where I want cards in my deck that either cost one or two mana and answer Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, but I don't want to have too many anti-creature cards and be ill-equipped for the late game when the only things that matter are card advantage and haymakers. I'm opposed to solutions to Glint-Sleeve Siphoner that cost three mana because I can't cast it on the draw before my opponent is able to draw an extra card. I'm fully aware I can't Censor a Siphoner when I'm on the draw, but I can cycle it to find removal, and I can get really schwifty in sideboarding when I'm on the play by trimming a ton of my anti-creature cards and leaving myself with just four Censor and four Harnessed Lightning. This way, I should never have Magma Spray as a dead card and still have adequate answers to Glint-Sleeve Siphoner.
During my preparation for the MOCS, I decided it was time for no more half measures and I sleeved up Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh. And guess what. It was amazing! I'm shocked nobody had it at Grand Prix Memphis since it feels almost gift wrapped for Grixis Energy. Grixis Energy is a deck with a high land count, wants a trump card for the mirror, and deals incidental damage with cheap menace creatures alongside Glorybringer and Chandra. Against something like Abzan Tokens, for example, it's not that hard to get them to seven life and just sit around doing nothing all day waiting to draw Nicol Bolas which you know won't be countered and will likely be game-ending. A deck like Abzan Tokens has such a slow clock that I've found this to be a rather effective strategy.
I've also found that matchups with Profane Procession and Ixalan's Binding start as unfavorable, but the scales tip quickly with the more sauce that I add to my deck. Each time I add an additional copy of Commit, Field of Ruin, Nicol Bolas, or Gonti, Lord of Luxury to my deck, my chances of winning keep going up. When they Profane Procession all my creatures and it transforms into Tomb of the Dusk Rose, I can just kill the land and accept that my opponent killed three of my creatures with one card, which is ultimately not that different than if they cast a sweeper like Fumigate. Players rely heavily on enchantments because they're aware of the fact that Grixis colors are notoriously weak against them, but between Gonti and Nicol Bolas, I have the ability to cast Ixalan's Binding and Cast Out from their deck and get additional answers. I've never activated Profane Procession off Aether Hub, but I hope to one day.
Search for Azcanta has been a huge problem card for me in my testing. I had one Field of Ruin and a sideboard Blood Sun to try to deal with it, but it's still an issue. I wouldn't mind the idea of playing with it myself, but the matchup where you would want it the most, U/B Control, has four Field of Ruin main deck; it's not even that impressive of an option. I've also found it to be dreadfully slow against any aggressive deck or the mirror. I don't think it's a particularly attractive option, but it happens to be well-positioned against Grixis Energy so it's something you should keep an eye out for. I recommend trying to clean up the manabase and getting lucky with Spell Pierce or Duress.
Sweltering Suns was added to help improve my matchup against tokens decks. I looked at options like Shake the Foundations, Fiery Cannonade, Yaheeni's Expertise, and Golden Demise, but I told myself from the start that I was going to push the limits of science as to what manabases can do in Standard and always go with the highest upside option. Also, I expected more people to be playing with Winding Constrictor, and Sweltering Suns is the best of the sweepers against that particular card.
Vizier of Many Faces was my last addition to the sideboard. I wasn't really playing this for any specific deck or archetype, but more as a high power reactive card to Carnage Tyrant which seemed to be getting more popular. You also get max value against Jadelight Ranger if you can copy that and trade, getting to explore twice and end up with an embalm clone in your graveyard.
My record in the MOCS was 2-3 drop, but I played some amazing games and the level of competition was super high. All five of my opponents were energy decks with Aether Hub and Harnessed Lightning, so Energy Winter continues. I just got out-midranged in most of my games, which is surprising since I went with three copies of Whirler Virtuoso and cut a lot of my anti-creature cards for more haymakers. Apparently I didn't go far enough.
It feels good to see so many people happy with the deck and to see that my changes were positive for the metagame. For now, I'm putting Standard on the back burner and turning my attention to Modern. I've already played almost a hundred matches and the only question left for me is if I should play with Bloodbraid Elf or Jace, the Mind Sculptor. People keep telling me Bloodbraid Elf is better, but I feel like Jace has been on the right side of history.
I don't see very many copies of Bloodbraid Elf in Legacy… #TeamJace