Grixis Grabs, Streets of New Capenna
So… About that shard set. When I initially heard that we would be getting a set featuring the shards, I thought that this edition of Grixis Grabs would be enormous. However, WotC decided that it should have a theme of sacrifice and vampires… and then be disappointing at both. With that being said, this set does actually feature two extremely impactful cards (+1 honorable mention) for the archetype and draws my eyes to some other cards that previously did not really fit in. Overall, I am not disappointed.
At the moment, the deck is much more in flux than it was with the previous installment where I felt like I had a solid 75 (until they banned Lurrus of the Dream-Den). Real highlight cards that I expect to stick around will get the full treatment like all the cards I’ve covered previously. The last part of the article will feature a quickfire round where I will briefly touch on all the cards that are flying in and out of the list on a daily basis and why that is.
Let’s dive in!
Finishing the Triome cycle was probably the most impactful thing that this set could have brought to the table, and it did. Before the release of this set, the mana in the deck was very wonky. It ran a combination of pathways, slowlands, shocklands and some utility lands; which was functional, but left much to be desired. Now your pathways and slowlands will be replaced with triomes and checklands. This means your deck runs way more lands that tap for more than one colour at the time, so you can now afford to run some cards that you were not able to run before. You are also less likely to mulligan hands based on not having the right colours, which is a huge win. The one downside here is that running a lot of pathways means you used to have more black mana available on turn 1 than you do now, but I think it’s worth the trade-off. An alternative is to run eight shocks, but that’s not what I would advise.
Oh my is this card a beauty. The first mode sets up Dig Through Time beautifully and can also get you some more value out of your Cling to Dust. The third mode is not quite Hero’s Downfall but kills about 99% of the creatures in this format anyway, so it’s not that big of a deal. I would consider Soul Shatter an overall much more powerful card, but that is only if you would look at the 3rd mode exclusively. The second mode is definitely the least powerful mode, but so far in play testing I actually used this mode about 5% of the time (guesstimating here) so it’s not as niche as I initially thought!
The main strength of this card is that you can hardly ever flood on it. Sure, three-mana removal is not the best thing ever, but in match-ups where you want removal you would much rather have this than nothing! If you have a turn of respite, you can just cash this in for a card and will be very likely to hit a card like Dig Through Time or that sweeper you want to save for later. This flexibility means an opening hand with two or three copies of this card will often work out well regardless of matchup. Has your opponent drawn three Winota, Joiner of Forces in the top 10? Cool, you got the removal! They didn’t? Cool then I’ll just set up a Dig Through Time and start turning this game around.
When Saffron Olive joined me and Brad on the Pioneer Perspective, he mentioned that when you look at a charm, you should probably want at least one mode that is actually worth the mana for it to be good and I would agree with that statement. I think the first and the third mode are probably worth about 2.5 mana each, but the fact that you get two 2.5 mana modes on your card on top of a two mana mode means the card is decently powerful in a LOT of situations.
Another great thing about this card is that it in combination with Dig Through Time is very good at finding key cards for match-ups. These two cards combined means the chance that you’ll have your hands on a Thought Distortion on turn six is actually very high!
Consulting The Binder
Counterflux is a very interesting take on the classic ‘cancel with upside.’ With the popularity of UW control (aka Dovin’s Veto) and the large amounts of main deck Spell Pierce and sideboarded Mystical Dispute the uncounterable clause is actually pretty relevant. It can make sure that key pieces like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Narset, Parter of Veils, Jeskai Ascendancy and others are going to be much harder to force through. It’s kind of a ‘fight fire with fire’ approach when your opponent is casting a bunch of cards that are not allowed to resolve under any circumstance and backing them up with Dovin’s Veto. Another upside is that an uncounterable spell like this can make it hard for your opponent to pick a fight on your end-step that will force you to tap low since you just stop anything for three mana. You can also pick the fight with your other counter magic like Spell Pierce, tapping down to just three mana. This might give your opponent the confidence to tap low for their Teferi, only to get it uncounterably countered out of a non-white deck and giving you the opportunity to resolve a threat yourself.
The real kicker is in the Overload though. Ever since Phoenix has picked up the Temporal Trespass package, they kinda have an auto-win versus control in their deck: Galvanic Iteration, flash back Galvanic Iteration, Temporal Trespass. No matter at what point you throw a counterspell at this, they’ll be taking up to three turns. You can reduce the number of turns by having more counters, but these are finite and contested by your opponent. For only one extra mana, this card solves that entire problem. All three turn spells go on the stack, your opponent gives you the shit eating grin that every EDH player has when they put an Expropriate on the stack and then… you crush their dreams for four mana and one card. This also works against the new Ob Nixilis, the Adversary with his casualty ability, so Streets of New Capenna gave me another reason to give this a shot!
The mana did not support this spell to be reliably cast on turn three. Now with only two mono black sources in the deck (Takenuma and one swamp), you can cast it pretty reliably. This does not mean it is an easy swap to make for Sinister Sabotage since surveil one is very potent and the mana cost on this card can still become restrictive on turn three or on later turns when you are looking to multi-spell. There are also lots of match-ups where none of this card’s upsides come up and you are playing a cancel with downsides instead.
Picking a board wipe when you are not playing Azorius is one of the toughest things in deck building in my opinion. Board wipes can completely flip games on their head if you have the right one or can be utterly useless if you don’t. Being in the Rakdos colours gives you access to a ton of board wipes in the 3-5 mana range with a wide range of upsides and downsides. There will basically never be a perfect one, so we just have to try and get as close as we can.
Given the speed of some of the aggro decks, but the relative size of creatures like Old Growth Troll and Thing in the Ice I feel like 4 mana is where you want to be. The wipes are strong enough to kill most things as opposed to the 3 mana sweepers but come down early enough to still have an impact. This leaves you with 3 reasonable options: Languish, Extinction Event and Storm’s Wrath.
Extinction Event has felt very clunky recently. Decks tend to be fairly diverse across mana values so it can take a lot of setup with your other removal spells to truly wipe a board. This initially made me want to try Languish instead since it kills most creatures in the format anyway while not requiring that much setup: just kill every card with more than four toughness on end-step, then wipe the rest. It also never kills your Torrential Gearhulk as opposed to an Extinction Event on “even” which is a nice plus. Storm’s Wrath had been in the back of my mind for a while, but was simply never workable with the deck’s mana until the release of this set.
There are currently quite a few annoying planeswalkers around that you want to kill/lower the loyalty of: Narset, Parter of Veils, Chandra, Dressed to Kill, Ob Nixilis, the Adversary, Karn, the Great Creator, denting Nissa, Who Shakes the World while killing the animated forest etc. This far outweighs working around indestructibility like Languish does. For this reason, Storm’s Wrath is my current wrath of choice. Not exiling is annoying, but it’s not like exiling three Arclight Phoenixes after taking nine was the kind of game you were poised to win anyway. There will always be a case to make for any of the other board wipes, I just think Storm’s Wrath has the strongest case and given that the mana finally supports it, deserves a spot on the list.
The Quickfire Round
These are all the cards that are currently in flux, sorted by mana value. If cards are grouped, it’s based on the lowest.
This is a matter of needing speed vs needing higher card quality overall. I have been trimming Mystical Dispute in favour of Spell Pierce and decided that I wanted to move some copies of non-creature counterspells to my main deck to deal with things like Fable of the Mirror Breaker and Esika’s Chariot. I have been happy with main deck Spell Pierce, though the obvious downside has also come up a few times.
Narset’s Reversal/Summary Dismissal/Thought Distortion:
This boils down to: am I going to be Thought Distortioning people or “am I going to stop my opponent’s from doing it to me?” I choose to be the… distorter? Summary Dismissal and Narset’s Reversal show up in some UW lists in very low numbers to protect yourself from Thought Distortion because you basically lose the moment it resolves and your Dovin’s Veto doesn’t stop it. I personally HATE building my deck like this. You put 1-2 cards in your Yorion Deck’s sideboard to hopefully draw it on time while interacting with everything else they are doing? Sounds like a typical UW player’s strategy. Being in black gives us Thoughtseize which means we can actually scout if they have a Narset’s Reversal or Summary Dismissal in hand. Once the coast is clear (or we just slam it since hardly any card stops this), we cast our own Thought Distortion and blow out any control/lotus/phoenix player that is on the receiving end of this horribly designed card. If your opponent has Summary Dismissal we trade a 6 mana card for a 4 mana card, no big deal. They Narset’s Reversal it? Whatever, can’t win them all.
Redcap Melee/Chandra’s Defeat/Ray of Enfeeblement/Noxious Grasp/Cinderclasm/Aether Gust:
This seems like a lot of cards to group together, but some of you may have already noticed that all of these cards are good against Winota, Joiner of Forces. This group basically boils down to: ‘What Winota hate-card has the most use outside of that match-up alone?’ This answer differs every single week and is hard to pin down. Given that I already pack a lot of cheap spot removal I lean towards Aether Gust and Cinderclasm because they do something other than just being more spot removal. The one I am lowest on is probably Redcap Melee since Chandra’s Defeat is just better most of the time. Defeat is good if your meta has more red aggro, ray is better if there is a lot of white aggro (or killing dorks is important). Grasp can be a good card if there is a lot of Mono Green Devotion around.
I heavily underrated this card at first, but after playing with it a bit the card is actually pretty good. The looting hardly matters in a deck with a high land count/lots of spot removal since you just throw away what is not relevant for the current match-up. Maestros Charm can also make it pretty easy to actually get the Divination, which is a cool interaction between the new toys. The main reason I am not sure about this card yet is because I am not entirely sure about my current list. Is this card actually good or is it good at compensating for an incorrectly built deck which will become less relevant as the list improves?
Narset, Parter of Veils:
As strong as this card is, I just found it really clunky in the context of this deck. Between counter magic, removal and especially with how good Maestros Charm is at setting up your future plays I just never wanted to tap out/low early for this card in the early parts of the game. Even against the Lotus Field match-up where the card really performs, I just couldn’t risk them going for a Granted to grab their Thought Distortion for the next turn. It can be very strong against Phoenix, but even then, they can just hard cast one and kill her so it’s not THAT backbreaking. I don’t abuse it like UR control does which makes Narset less of a win-condition and more of a generically good card and this deck has, in my opinion, better cards to play in that slot.
Gonti, Lord of Luxury/Kotose, the Silent Spider/Ashiok, Nightmare Muse:
These are grouped for the same reason Redcap Melee etc. are grouped, except instead of Winota it’s Rakdos Midrange, a REALLY bad match-up for the deck. They are basically just solid 2 for 1 cards that you bring in to up the overall card quality of your deck, which is what you want to be doing in a match-up like this. Frankly, none of these cards instantly swing the match-up or anything, so it might be worth it to just cut your losses and know you have to get lucky to win. A quick rundown of why you would consider one of these:
Gonti, Lord of Luxury: Arguably the best one at contesting the board defensively. Also the cheapest and fairly reliably gets you a good card from the opponent.
Kotose, the Silent Spider: Highest direct upside since most of her value is an ETB while providing a solid body. Grabbing their Chandra and having 2-4 copies of it to cast means you just bury your opponent. Her main downside is that she relies on your opponent’s graveyard containing good cards while their Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hungers and Graveyard Trespassers are eating away at it for value. This makes her unreliable.
Ashiok, Nightmare Muse: Highest potential upside by virtue of being a Planeswalker with a game-winning ultimate. Also the one that probably has the most value in other match-ups. Her main downside is that the -3 is unreliable interaction if your opponent is not hellbent and a 2/3 without Deathtouch is just not very strong if they kill Ashiok straight after. This means Ashiok has the potential to be kinda like a 1.5 for 1 because the creature doesn’t matter that much. The main value not being based on an ETB can be painful in removal heavy match-ups.
So after all is said and done, this is my current build of the deck.
The Wrap Up
Overall Streets of New Capenna has been a great set for the archetype, though it has to be said that 95% of that is the deck being opened up more with the improved mana. Maestros Charm is a great new addition and Tainted Indulgence might prove itself to be a mainstay as well. The main challenge for the deck is finding its spot in a metagame where there are a lot of must answer threats around that span a wide range of card types. I have really enjoyed playing with all the new cards so far, which is the most important thing at the end of the day.
Please let me know what you thought of the quickfire round! Did you like the fact that it allowed the article to cover more cards or would you rather only hear about the cards I am most confident in? I hope you enjoyed this installment of Grixis Grabs and I hope you will return for Dominaria United!