WAR Standard Deck Tech: Grixis Control

Hello and welcome back to Strictly Standard.  As promised, the new reboot of the article series will bring with it new content platforms. One of which will be deck techs for the decks you can expect to face at your FNM tournaments.

Nicol Bolas has been a fan favorite bad-guy since 1994, when he was introduced in Legends.  This time around he is destroying the plane of Ravnica in his quest to become the most powerful Planeswalker in the multiverse, and he is consuming the Spark of other ‘Walkers to do so!  Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God is an extremely powerful card that will own games if not answered immediately.  With the Grixis archetype lacking closing power against the Esper Control and lacking speed against the aggro creature strategies, it makes sense that this would become an interesting starting point to brew by adding a multi-utility bomb.

For War of the Spark Standard, my week 1 deck will absolutely revolve around this new Planeswalker-God.  Adding in the versatile power of the Amass spells that came with War of the Spark can really propel this archetype into the folds of the Tier 1 meta.  My list looks a little like this:

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Creature (4)
Niv-Mizzet, Parun
Nicol Bolas, the Ravager

Instant (10)
Bedevil
Commence the Endgame
Expansion // Explosion
Spell Pierce
Vraska’s Contempt

Sorcery (12)
Angrath’s Rampage
Carnival // Carnage
Duress
Enter the God-Eternals
Ritual of Soot
Spark Harvest
Thought Erasure

Enchantment (2)
Dreadhorde Invasion
Search for Azcanta

Planeswalker (7)
Liliana, Dreadhorde General
Narset, Parter of Veils
Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God
Ral, Storm Conduit
Lands (25)
Blast Zone
Blood Crypt
Dragonskull Summit
Drowned Catacomb
Field of Ruin
Island
Mobilized District
Steam Vents
Sulfur Falls
Swamp
Watery Grave

Sideboard (15)
Angrath, the Flame-Chained
Banefire
Dire Fleet Daredevil
Lightning Mare
Moment of Craving
Negate
Nezahal, Primal Tide
Syncopate
The Elderspell
Thief of Sanity

You will notice that I am only running 2 copies of this “central” card.  The restrictive mana cost of 5 colored pips, including 3 black mana, on Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God makes it a little too difficult to cast reliably on turn 5, so keeping the number down means we have room for spells we can actually cast in the early game while we maneuver the board state to allow us to slam him or one of our other major win-con’s in Niv-Mizzet, Parun or Liliana, Dreadhorde General.

Grixis plays a very tap-out style of control, needing to leverage the game’s most powerful early sorcery spells and sorcery-speed finishers in Planeswalkers and creatures.  Building towards this end game, you will need to disrupt your opponent early and keep them reeling, unable to answer your onslaught of early resource advantage spells.  Discard in Duress and Thought Erasure along with turn 1 or 2 interaction in Spell Pierce and Carnival//Carnage make sure the opponent’s early game plan does not play out, and removal for the threats that do happen to land on the other side of the battlefield in Angrath’s Rampage, Bedevil, or Carnival//Carnage.

Furthering the gameplan, once you get to 4 or 5 mana, you will want to start dropping bombs that proactively manipulate the gamestate in your favor.  Nicol Bolas, the Ravager and Carnival//Carnage do a pretty nice job of running your opponent out of resources with their 2-for-1 capabilities.  Then all that’s left to do is clean up the mess.  The remaining cards give you plenty of options late game once it becomes a battle of attrition.  You can refill your hand with a nice Expansion//Explosion for X=3 or 4. If you think a Counterspell may be lurking in your opponent’s hand, use Commence the Endgame. If there are just too many sticky pests left on your opponent’s board, you can use a Vraska’s Contempt, Ritual of Soot, or Enter the God-Eternals to press your advantage.

Sideboarding is tricky, especially in the early developing stages of a format.  I expect plenty of Grixis and Esper Control mirror matches, which is why I loaded up on uncounterable options.  Banefire is the tried and true finisher against control. Nezahal, the Primal Tide give us the best sticky closer against any sort of removal, and Lightning Mare gives you a dual purpose card that is guaranteed to land (and probably eat a removal spell) against control while also providing an early chump blocker against the aggro decks.  Negate is a nice card to have for the matchups where you need a way to stop your opponent from resolving their removal or landing a difficult-to-deal-with non-creature permanent type.  There are a couple narrow options included, but I like things that can cleanly answer a major problem.  The Elderspell is good against Planeswalker-heavy control decks, Syncopate is solely there for the Nexus of Fate matchup, and Angrath, the Flame-Chained dominates small creature aggro decks.  Rounding out the sideboard, there are some general catch-all options in Dire Fleet Daredevil, Moment of Craving, and Thief of Sanity.  Each of these can be brought in against a wide variety of decks and provide you with the extra resources you will need to turn the game in your favor, whether that be access to more cards or more life points.

All said, this deck has been extremely fun to play in the early stages of this format and I hope you like the tech that I have chosen to include.  If you have any suggestions for inclusions to this archetype or questions about play patterns, please feel free to leave a comment!

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