Blue, Black and Red All Over
If you know me even a little bit, you’ll know about my love for Grixis Control, especially the more draw-go versions of the deck. With Neon Dynasty being out now for a few weeks and the banning of Lurrus, I thought it would be fun to share what new and old cards have caught my attention since the set’s release. Even if Grixis might not be your style, as long as your deck contains any of the colours within the Shard you can hopefully draw some inspiration from this article!
Otawara, Soaring City
Otawara serves an important role in the deck as a catch-all answer for lots of problematic permanents, namely enchantments that you historically struggled to deal with. This combined with Commit // Memory or Brazen Borrower (depending on your list) means you actually have a reasonable number of outs to basically anything your opponent can throw at you. This is important for control decks as games tend to go on for longer giving your opponent more time to draw their bullets.
On top of this major upside, it is also a good reason to up your land count while not leaving you as vulnerable to flooding. The deck is very good at spending its mana every turn, which means I want to make as many landdrops at possible. If the meta would be all control and slow midrange-ish decks I would probably run 30 lands. Luckily the meta isn’t like that, but that does mean you get caught between wanting to run 30 lands and wanting to not die to aggro. Otawara helps you finding that balance.
So why not run more than one copy? The truth is that for all the upsides the card has, a four-mana Boomerang isn’t actually a good spell. Once you run more than one copy you’ll have to use it as a spell more often than you would like while I treat Otawara as a land first, a spell second.
Takenuma, Abandoned Mire
Takenuma is another great channel land and makes the cut for the same ‘I would like 30 lands’ reason described above. The difference between Otawara and Takenuma is that I tend to value Takenuma more as a spell than Otawara – though it is still a land first and foremost. I find myself actively holding Takenuma in my hand as long as possible while (depending on the matchup) I might play Otawara earlier so I can decide later what side to play a pathway on (I can’t wait for New Capenna Triomes).
Takenuma stays in my hand as long as possible because rebuying winconditions while also fueling Dig Through Time, Cling to Dust and Torrential Gearhulk is a very powerful effect, even when you pay a little too much for it. If you have plenty of lands to play and nothing to do with your mana, just channel this card, even if your graveyard is empty. If you hit a creature or walker in the top three, good job! If you didn’t, you set up some plays for the future.
March of Wretched Sorrow
We all know how good March of Otherworldly Light is, but do not count out its sad-looking sibling. March of Wretched Sorrow (which I will now start calling March) can be a really great tempo swing and the fact that you also gain life off it means that you can purposely overpay by pitching dead cards just to pad your life total. Your life total is a resource, so turning dead cards into more of that resource can be very good. This comes up most in game one of a match where you will find yourself holding onto dead cards far more often.
The upside of March compared to a card like Erebos’s Intervention is that it can actually be used effectively early by pitching a card to it, while being just as amazing of a topdeck later on. Losing an extra card early isn’t a good thing, but it’s always good to have some flexibility. I would rather be down a card than not killing a mana dork on turn one and staring down two copies of Burning Tree Emissary and a Nissa, Who Shakes the World on the next turn. Censor looks very silly at that point. Aggro can get a real chokehold on the lategame when you are on a couple of lifepoints, especially red decks with access to burn spells. This means that turning a game around can be very hard because you constantly want to hold mana open for countermagic. Finding a time to cast this for X equaling four or five can allow you to finally get a threat down to start closing out the game. I have already cast this card on my own creature a few times just to pad my life total while avoiding being blown out by a card like Deadly Dispute.
Consulting the Binder
The release of a new set can also breathe life into some old cards. I have a Maybeboard with about 50+ different cards, so new sets are always a good time to have another look at this pile on the side of my desk.
Dealing three damage to a creature for two mana is actually a pretty decent deal, but compared to other removal spells (especially with access to black spells) it doesn’t really hold up. The upside of hitting artifacts has not always been as relevant but Neon Dynasty and the following metashift have definitely changed that. Oni-Cult Anvil, Greasefang, Okiba Boss Michiko’s Reign of Truth and the resurgence of Karn, the Great Creator have made artifacts a much more important part of Pioneer, which red control decks stand to benefit from tremendously. The banning of Lurrus has caused a bit of a decline in the artifact and Ensoul decks, but those decks are not dead by any stretch of the imagination. Once these decks adapt over the course of a few weeks I expect them to be back to some extent.
There is also a decent amount of aggro running around and these decks often demand a lot of removal. A suboptimal removal spell still trumps no removal spell. Even when you are in black, it can be very helpful to have a removal spell in a different colour to deal with Apostle of Purifying Light. No number of Moment of Craving will save you from a creature you simply cannot target.
For similar reasons to Abrade, I think Prismari Command is a better option than ever before now that the Shatter mode has been “unlocked.” Kholagan’s Command has improved for the same reason, but I find the treasure and card selection/upkeep Mind Rot with Narset, Parter of Veils out more valuable than the Raise Dead or discard effect in the context of my list. If I were running a higher density/diversity of creatures, I would probably run K-Command over this card.
A colourless land? In my three-colour deck?!
To address that elephant in the room, Blast Zone is very much the 27th land in the deck. It’s basically a channel land except you can play it early without losing the value later. A two-lander with a Blast Zone is a pretty easy mulligan in most situations, but it can be very clutch to make your 4th-5th land drop so you have the mana to start turning a game around.
Blast Zone can also get you out of nasty situations that you might find yourself in like staring down a set of Oni-cult Anvil or an auras deck with creature protection on board where getting rid of just the auras can buy you a lot of time.
Far // Away
I’ll start this by admitting it is a little janky, but I have actually liked playing with this card quite a bit! Edict effects are pretty strong, though it can be a little hard to make them work. In Grixis, this will be a problem a little less often since you pack so much other removal. The Far side of the card can also be used to save one of your creatures for some value. I basically break the card down into the following three modes:
- Far: Oh crap, I desperately need tempo or to protect my creature
- Away: Decent removal, plays around most forms of protection
- Far+Away: Great value/topdeck. You’re probably happy when you cast this card fused.
I feel like there are currently quite some matchups where I can make use of all these modes, which makes me board it in quite often. It doesn’t shine in a ton of matchups, but it’s often decent. This will often replace some dead card post-board. Jury’s still out on how good it is, but it has caught my eye and therefore it makes it into the article!
Of course, I couldn’t leave you all without sharing my current configuration. Like all decks (especially control decks), this list is always in flux. I have not played many games after the ban of Lurrus and I am sure the shift in the metagame that follows will change which of these cards do and do not make the cut now and might even add more cards to this list. I am undecided on how to format that yet so if you have any suggestions, please make sure to leave that in the comments.
Would a more quick-fire addition to this article at the bottom do, or would you enjoy another full article before the Streets of New Capenna edition of Grixis Grabs?
Thank you all very much for reading, I hope this article has been useful/entertaining or both!