[Deck] Grixis Control

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Lixia
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Post by Lixia » 9 months ago

GRIXIS CONTROL
- MODERN -
"Image"

Table of Content

"Image"
Introduction
Strategy and Playstyle
Strengths and Weaknesses
Major Themes and Variants
Card Packages
Sample Decklists
The Game Plan
Sideboarding Guide
Sample Gameplay Videos
Acknowledgments
Changes and Version History

Introduction

Grixis is a hellscape of decay and madness, where necromancers command swarms of undead and demons walk the earth. Humanity is nearly extinct here; the survivors cower in hermitages, defending their life essence from rampaging horrors. Rampant death magic and demonic influence make Grixis an abominable destination best avoided by most.
Grisis Control is not a new deck by any stretch of the imagination. Despite the deck's long history, this primer will focus very little on past versions of the deck and how it performed in various periods. It will instead attempt to provide you the information you need to build yourself a competitive grixis control deck in the current environment (not specific meta).

Strategy and Playstyle

Grixis Control is an archetype that allows for lot of customization and has the tools available to adapt to changing metas and strategies; on top of being a lot of fun to play.
The strategy for control decks, [such as Grixis control], is to collect resources and defend themselves until they gain total control of the game. At this point they play a threat and continue to control the opponent until the threat kills them. The manner in which these control decks defend themselves is most often how they are defined.
One of the key aspect of Grixis Control vis-a-vis other kinds of control decks is that the archetype is all about utilizing all the different type of resources: life total, the graveyard, the stack, board interaction, and hand disruption. It is by optimizing the use of all these resources and disrupting the opponent's game plan that you are able to bring the game to turn 5+ while building incremental advantages leading you to a state of control, where you've "turned the corner" and are now able to focus on closing the game rather than playing defensively.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Grixis Control is:
  • Versatile
  • Can push damage through (burn mode enabled)
  • Very good against creature decks
  • Fragile against very fast decks that don't rely on few creatures or spells (i.e.: go-wide strategies)
  • Can draw the "bad half of the deck"
  • Is better suited as a toolbox, therefore harder to be consistent

Major Themes and Variants

There are no definitive way to segment the Grixis Control Archetype, but personally, I consider three main ways to build a Grixis Control deck based on the defensive-offensive-proactive-reactive scale:

Draw Go Value

This variant is built in a way that most spells are instants and most creatures have flash so that the game plan is focused on playing during the opponent's turn. This variant has a game plan that is almost exclusively reactive and is heavy on permission spells with the intent of disrupting the opponent and leaving room to play one's own game plan at the opponent's end step when mana is available.

Tapout Control

According to Brad Nelson:
Tapout control is a type of control deck that tends to be much more proactive than the more traditional variations of the archetype. Instead of trying to react to every play the opponent makes, tapout control decks often try to overpower opponents with tons of removal, planeswalkers, and creatures. Tapout control decks have the ability to attrition out aggressive decks but often are able to control the game just long enough to start slamming game-ending spells. For reference, these are the last two tapout control decks I built post-summer rotation.
Blue Jund

Blue Jund is the 100% proactive version of Grixis Control; to the point that it is pretty much a midrange deck focused on deploying threats, dealing damage and disrupting the opponents hand and foregoing most, if not all, permission spells.

Card Packages

Like I mentioned briefly in the introduction, I view Grixis Control primarely as a toolbox that you build around your preferred playstyle (amongst the three main variants), the current meta, and your preference between resilience/versatility and consistency. This section of the primer will showcase what I consider to the the primary cards available by function. Obviously it does not include all the possible inclusions, but should give you a good starting point to build you 60+15 list.

The Manabase

Any solid deck needs a solid manabase. As a control deck you want to have between 22 and 24 lands; the exact number will depend on the variant of the deck that you play, how many utility lands that you want to play, and your personal preference. I don't claim to be an expert on building manabases, but here are my personal guidelines for the deck:

8-9 Fetchlands



5-7 Basics, my personal rule of thumbs on the number and type of basic lands is that you should be able to cast all of your spells with only your basics. I.e.: if you play Cryptic Command, you need at least 3 basic island. There is no difference between regular and snow-covered lands unless you decide to run specific snow matter cards.



5-6 Shocklands



0-2 Creature lands



1-4 Utility Lands



1-2 Other lands such as check lands:




Spells

A Control deck is a spell heavy deck. Depending on the style you might want to focus on spells that play on your turn with cheap permission to protect them or play a more draw-go version that plays most of its spell during the opponent's turn.

Hand Disruption

One of the key tool at your disposal is the very strong hand disruption that black offers. Dimir (UB) and Rakdos (BR) also offers some strong hand disruption spells that can be utilize to slow down or dismantle your opponent's game plan. Key cards are:



Removal suite

Board control tools that Grixis has is very flexible and comprehensive. While it is not as sweeper centric as Azorius (UW) Control, it has access to great spot removal and direct damage spells. Main cards available to the deck are:



Sweepers

While sweepers is not the main tool in the Grixis toolbox, there are certainly great options. Default should be Damnation with others utilized for their special purpose (instant speed, exile clause, colourless damage)



Value Chains

One of the principal way that Grixis Control can get to the late game and be able to outpace the opponent is by generating incremental value every turn. Some of the following cards offer great sinergy with other cards in the deck or can be utilized in various situations to win the tempo game.



Card Selection/Card Draw

Any good control decks need a way to filter cards and ensure both to make land drops and to get to the relevant cards for the current matchup. The premier card selection spells available to Grixis Control are:



Counterspells

Control deck equals counterspell, there's no denying it. The Grixis portion of the colour wheel offers the best tools to that effect (with the exception of Dovin's Veto...):





Creatures

Yes a control deck can run creatures! The typical Grixis Control deck would usually run between 6 to 14 creatures. There are basically two types of creatures you will want to run: Value and utility creatures and accelerated threats (mainly utilizing the delve mechanic)





Finishers

Now that you stabilized and got to the point where you can cast big devastating spells against an opponent that is depleted of resources, what are your options? You can usually finish the game in three ways: Bolt-Snap-Bolt-KCommand-Snap-Bolt chains or Play these spells:

Cruel Ultimatum is the classic Grixis finisher. Personally a favourite spell of mine but has fallen out of favour due to the many options that are now available with Planeswalkers. There is no denying however that resolving this spell is a devastating blow; even more so when you are able to flash it back with a Snapcaster Mage two turns later.



Planeswalkers

There are now quite a few efficient and effective Planeswalkers to use in Grixis Control. Not all of them would be considered finishers as some would fit better in the mid game gaining incremental values, but for the ease of reading of this guide, here is the list of planeswalkers seeing play in Grixis Control



Specialized Finishers





Utility and Silver Bullets

These silver bullets or narrow utility cards are mostly for the sideboard, but may, meta depending, be put into the main deck. Creatures have been consolidated together but some of those listed above would fall within this category as well.

Graveyard hate



Burn Treatment Centre



No Spells Allowed



Artifact/Colourless Hate



Tron / Valakut Hate



I don't want to lose to Bogles

Sample Decklists

Now to put everything together, here is a few sample lists to provide you with inspiration. Keep in mind that there is no stock / tuned list of 75 or even 60 cards. You will have to come up with a list that feels right to you and adjust it as you get better playing the deck and to adapt to your local meta. Control decks are inherently hard to master as you need to gauge when to act, when to act big and when you can move from reactive to proactive / defensive to offensive.

Corey Burkhart - Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan (8-2)

Gods_Shadow - Modern League 2019-07-09, (5-0)

The Game Plan

Now with those decks has a starting point, let's look at how to play the deck at different stages of the game.

Early Game

At this point of the game, the most important is to keep a playable opening hand. Knowing what your opponent is playing will make a huge difference in influencing your decision to keep an opening hand that permits you to deploy your land drops and counter his or her early plays.

In the absence of knowledge of the opponent's deck, keeping an opening hand with a minimum of 2-3 lands, 1 card selection/draw spell and 3-4 interactive or proactive card should be your aim. The more generic/versatile the spell, the better (e.g.: lightning bolt vs fatal push). Obviously you also want to have lands that produce mana of the spells you have in hand.

For the first few turns, your aim should be about making your land drops and countering the meaningful early plays of your opponent. Anything from "bolting the bird" to countering/removing an important 2 drop spell/creature.

Mid Game

The mid game for Grixis Control really starts at 4 mana (or 3 mana if everything is lining up perfectly). This is where you are able to either cast cryptic command and start timewalking your opponent or making two-for-one plays (which usually include a Snapcaster mage). Here your goal is to continue making land drops, depleting your opponent resources (getting them hellbent for example) and countering their important plays. You want to transition to a point where the opponent will not be able to recover and deploy creatures and/or spells that you won't have an answer for.

Late Game

At this point you are in the end game. Here you should worry about maintaining that 'lock' on your opponent and finding the opportune time to deploy the threat(s) that will close the game. Either Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God to finish it in style, or just chaining a few Snapcaster Mages slinging lightning bolts at your opponent's face.

Post-Sideboard Game(s)

Sideboarding for a control deck can be tricky as you will not have all the specific answers to every archetype in your 15 card sideboard. What you want is to replace cards that are ineffective or where you have a generic answer that you can replace with a more specific and effective one. For example, you might want to sideboard out your fatal pushes against Tron and board in your fulminator mages and disdainful strokes.

Sideboarding Guide

To do.

Sample Gameplay Videos

Here is a few linked videos of example plays (either from paper tournaments or Magic online) to demonstrate how the deck is played with its different variation.

Gods_Shadow - Modern League


Corey Burkheart - Channel Fireball


Evar0s - Grixis Bolas Control, Magic Online


Acknowledgments

I would like to thank the following people and groups that have helped me improved as a Grixis Control player

Gods_Shadow
Corey Burkheart
Grixis Control Subreddit (/r/moderngrixis)
Grixis Control Discord (https://discord.gg/WPNeyME)

Changes and Version History

13 July 2019 - Version 1.0 of the guide
Last edited by Lixia 8 months ago, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by Lixia » 8 months ago

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Post by SanityLost » 8 months ago

Great primer and very nice and comprehensive accumulation of playable cards! Thank you very much!

Has anyone gathered some experience with playing a Planeswalker heavy list trying to abuse Bolas God?
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Lixia
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Post by Lixia » 8 months ago

Thank you for the nice comment. I'll get to update the primer soon with some insights on sideboarding and synergy/combo plays and other tweaks. I'm in the middle of a house move right now so free time is scarce.

Here's my current PW heavy list that I run at FNM / weekly modern night:

It's a greedy list but works for FNM and is a blast to play. I didn't put it in the primer as I didn't want to have my personal taste be taken as 'authoritative' or a sign of an optimized list. Mine is optimized for small local weekly tournaments and does good enough consistently. I tweak the list from time to time, mainly swinging between permission heavy or hand disruption heavy, and tweaking the number of 1ofs 'win conditions' (this one when the local meta devolves into multiple people playing the same deck/strategy).

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Post by Ym1r » 8 months ago

Thanks for the awesome primer!!! Hopefully there will be a way to make Grixis Control a viable shell again with this meta.
Regarding your PW heavy list, I think 1-2 Narsets are probably better that Search for Azcanta. Also, I usually go for the 2 Nicol Bolas instead of the LtLH.
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Post by Offhisgame » 7 months ago

Am I the only one who thinks Plague engineer just took Staticasters spot on the sideboard? Can't see playing it now that engineer is a thing.

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Post by Lixia » 7 months ago

In the current meta, plague engineer defimitely feels like a pure upgrade over staticaster. That could always change in the future.

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Post by LegionerofDoom » 5 months ago

Hi everyone,

I've been playing Magic for a couple years and I've bounced between Grixis Control and Grixis Shadow depending on the meta and my mood.

From what I gather, Grixis Control can be played a couple different ways. You've got Burkhart decks, sometimes Grixis gets more midrange-y, and you can play Grixis as Tap-Out control.


I'm really partial to Draw-Go and I've also looked through Patrick Chapin's books on Magic and on Deckbuilding and in even the most draw-go builds of Grixis Control, I don't see us playing a instant-speed finisher that allows us to win on the spot (Empty the Pits). While Grixis has impactful late-game spells, none of them generally win the game on the spot. Even when Jace got unbanned there was debate over not playing Jace if you were going to run Search for Azcanta. Even Grave Titan doesn't immediately win you the game, nor does Kalitas (he's OP in creature matchups and against graveyard decks), so I do wonder why we don't play Empty the Pits in pure draw-go fashion at opponent's end-step.

The reason I ask is because if we're able to stick Jace, Kalitas, Grave Titan, Gearhulk, or really any other kind of bomb then we are generally already winning and it just helps us close out the game faster than Creeping Tar Pit beats or Snapcaster beats (all the while this does give opponent time to top-deck removal that stops that gameplan).


TL;DR:
As I understand it, Empty the Pits is really the only kind of instant-speed finisher that will win the game on the spot. Does anybody know of any other similar spells for Grixis Control? Has anybody tried using Empty the Pits as the late-game bomb? If you did, how did you build the manabase because Empty the Pits does get a bit greedy?


P.S. Has anyone tried to make a hybrid Grixis Control/ Grixis Shadow deck that can transform between the two? Shadow gets played as a late game threat (you want to disrupt and discard and shock yourself before dropping Shadow), so why not run just two Shadows alongside two Tasigurs and make a core around Shadow, Tasigur, card-draw and cantrips, and upgrade the counter suite of Shadow? They're similar builds and depending how you've built your Shadow Deck or Control Deck, they gameplan is the same (there's the same core in terms of number of finisher creatures and card draw--mainly opt/visions/thought scour).


Thanks for reading and the discussion.

#LetsGetGrixyWithIt

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Post by Grimblee » 2 weeks ago

Hello,

I've recently dusted out my Grixis Cruel Draw-Go deck and did some matches on cockatrice, turn out the format is quite good now, won quite a few of them.

Here's my list: I've always liked going full Draw-Go aside Damnation and Cruel Ultimatum :)
The deck is still very weak to Blood Moon but it get better with FoN around.
Burn is also a hard matchup but if you can hit Kalitas then it's GG, keeping Spell Snare for Eidolon is also crucial.

The low number of 3CMC cards is simply because I always use turn 3 to play a creeping tar pit I got early or simply to play/fetch a shockland tapped and save some life. Than turn can also see Snapy flashing back a 1CMC card.

I'm going to bring it to my local shop when the FoN arrives, thinking of trying Fact or Fiction also, will probably get two copies to play with.
I think it would be good because it digs for 5 right when we need to search for Ultimatum, just not sure about what I should swap out for it... Probably an Anticipate and an Opt. Or maybe put the Damnation in the side, that way I'll get an even stronger digging power, but a weaker game 1 against creature decks.

Also the deck is a bit lacking in CA, I hope FoF will fix it a bit but if you have other suggestions for the dig/draw package, I'm all ears :p

Thank you for making this archetype's primer over here! ;)

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Post by motleyslayer » 2 weeks ago

fact or fiction seems pretty good. Seeing your list really makes me wanna sleeve up a Grixis control list again. Grixis Control has always been one of my favourite decks in modern and Corey Burkhart is one of my favourite players. There's a lot of burn in my area so I'd probably go heavy on Kalitas and spell snare as well. Let me know how your testing goes

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