It’s a creature based highly interactive format out there, kids. Rest assured we are a long way off from solving it. The trends in decks seems to be pointing toward control strategies that abuse Thragtusk and Miracles, on the fringe we have Zombies, RDWs, Azorious Aggro and Jund (in no particular order). Following the formula for a format where if all things are equal (and we know they are not) Aggro beats Control beats Midrange beats Aggro, there are a lot of deck building options out there.

I broke down the viable color combos and the only colors that get the shaft right now are WBR (Oros) and WBU (Esper). These combos have no mana fixing (the kind green offers) and only one shockland each (Blood Crypt and Hallowed Fountain, respectively). For now, I’ll stay away from those choices.

I believe that surprise is the biggest ally you have during these early rotation tourneys. Some folks still don’t know what each deck does and and plenty of others are waiting to counterspell cards you aren’t even playing. If you play a rogue deck you can often get by on skill and surprise if you can pilot your deck well.

I looked around for a color wheel that was underplayed in the last month. After looking at the top 8’s from states and a few TCG Player/SCG events. Grixis Control is the underdog by a wide margin. I’m sure there are plenty of reasons for this but really tell you why a deck isn’t performing is about the last thing I want to do. But hold on a sec, Grixis (BRU) has really powerful cards, some of the best removal in the format, and it’s got blue mana! Blue mana means blue cards, and we all know that blue cards means… countermagic. I don’t have to tell you that the single most powerful thing you can do in this game is tell your opponent, “NO!” It’s pretty much the greatest interaction any deck can achieve.

With that in mind I started working on a midrange deck that can beat control. After a night of tinkering I have this:


75 cards, 15 sideboard

1 Stensia Bloodhall
1 Swamp
2 Desolate Lighthouse
4 Dragonskull Summit
4 Blood Crypt
4 Drowned Catacomb
1 Mountain
2 Sulfur Falls
4 Steam Vents
1 Island

24 lands

2 Desecration Demon
3 Falkenrath Aristocrat
2 Thundermaw Hellkite
1 Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius
3 Snapcaster Mage

11 creatures

2 Essence Scatter
3 Rakdos Keyrune
1 Mizzium Mortars
2 Sever the Bloodline
2 Dreadbore
1 Murder
1 Rakdos’s Return
4 Pillar of Flame
3 Syncopate
1 Cyclonic Rift
2 Dissipate
3 Jace, Architect of Thought

25 other spells

1 Bonfire of the Damned
2 Tormod’s Crypt
3 Slaughter Games
2 Clone
2 Ultimate Price
1 Liliana of the Veil
1 Witchbane Orb
2 Jace, Memory Adept
1 Negate

15 sideboard cards

Lands being a pretty boring mix of tap lands and shocks with a pair of Desolate Lighthouses and a Stensia Bloodhall to get in that extra damage/ draw you into more threats and answers there’s really nothing special going on here.


Creatures on the other hand are all pretty interesting. Let’s start with:

Snapcaster Mage

This dude hates zombies, he makes all our removal spells come back one more time, and he can Overload our already cast Mizzium Mortars and Cyclonic Rifts and he’s a snap blocker in a pinch. He is full on utility, and he’s working overtime in this deck. Someone get him a tool belt already.

Falkenrath Aristocrat

Did I mention that Snapcaster Mage is a Human? There’s really not much in this format that can disrupt a Flying 4/1 haster with the ability to become indestructible. What’s your Thragtusk have to say about and blood thirsty princess Leia coming at Jace’s neck after you left him wide open like that? Thragtusk doesn’t say much, he’s pretty shy, and from what I hear he can’t look up more that 15 degrees. I’m guessing he never even noticed.

Desecration Demon

Totally underrated for his drawback. This is actually the reason I like this card in this deck. He’s early beats if you’re playing against control, unanswered he can win you the game in a couple of turns (3×6=18 plus 2 from a Pillar of Flames) your opponent can make him useless as a blocker by sacking on his/her turn (watch out for Gravecrawler/Lingering Souls interactions) but for the most part he’ll be making your opponent waste resources (and likely more than one) to stop taking damage from this demon.

Thundermaw Hellkite

Nothing says lovin’ like following up a four drop haste flyer with a five drop haste flyer, that removes all blockers. Thundermaw is the real deal. 5/5 to the dome or your opponent’s planeswalker friends. He’s a no brainer in this format and he’s not gonna be taking a break anytime soon. He’s undercosted, over abilitied and ready to melt faces.

Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius

One of this bomb is a wonderful way to finish the game. You’ve read this everywhere – untapping with this card … blah blah blah … win the game. It’s true in most decks and even truer here. Use that mana to hit your opponent, draw answers to his/her threats, kill his/her threats, smash him/her for five and then draw another card. THAT, MY FRIENDS, IS WHAT THIS GAME IS ALL ABOUT!


There’s so much to talk about here. What to include, how many, what doesn’t work that well, what is awesome, and which spells to only one of. If I were a weaker man, I’d have this deck at over 100 cards. There are sooooooo many great spells in this format and this part of the deck is easily convertible to your local meta but this is what I think will work the best this Tuesday at my LGS.

Meet the Singletons

Rakdos’s Return

Cyclonic Rift

Mizzium Mortats


Why just one of these incredibly powerful spells?

First off Rakdos’s Return is borderline situational, while it will always do damage it won’t always clear out your opponent’s hand. We never want to start a draw with one of these and definitely not two of them. If we want to do it twice in a game (seems good) we have our friend the Snapcaster Mage to help us out. X=3 is a pretty sweet number to hit early we can even do that on turn four with help from keyrunes.

Mortars is underwhelming as well but in the right instance it can save lives. Swarms, Angels, you name it five is the magical toughness to have in this format and Mortars punishes players for thinking otherwise.

Cyclonic Rift was the hardest to cut to one. EOT Rift into Main phase Rakdos’s Return sounds liks the best thing since single serving cheese in neat little cellophane wrapping. In the end though I decided that more countermagic over board control would be the way to go, I could be totally wrong though.

Murder is great as a one of because it just does what it does … straight-up-no-joke kills a creature at instant speed. Sometimes you need a surprise creature kill card, murder does the trick without any awkward restrictions. If a creature needs to die now you have Murder for it, there are plenty of other options for creatures that can afford to be on the table until your next main phase.

What the Deuce?

My two-ofs are a little more useful against all the strategies out there.


Sever the Bloodline

Essence Scatter


Dissipate is the same solid counterspell it was before, but now with the graveyard being a new place to retrieve threats it’s extra relevant. Countering Unbrial Rites, Angel of Serentity, Geralf’s Messenger, even Gravelcrawler means that they will not be coming back to ruin the card economy you’ve worked so hard to develop. Countering Thragtusk makes him little more than a wasted five mana (knowing that your opponent can’t Rites him back to stay in the game is pretty sweet).

Sever the Bloodline is wonderful for the same reasons that Mortars is great, plus it exiles the problem and it has flashback. Effectively countering a late game Rites and making sure your opponent can’t use those creatures with Deathrite Shaman. Sever kills the Angels we were worried about as well effectively nulling American if it doesn’t play other threats (if it does our board has answers).

Essence Scatter is really well positioned as only tribal decks (zombies and humans) are using Caverns to effect, and it’s a massive boost in tempo if played at the right time. It kills Geist of Saint Traft before he becomes a problem, other targets include but are not limited to, Ash Zealot, Silverblade Paladin, Thragtusk, you know creatures that meaningfully F%^& up your plan.

Dreadbore similarly has such a great role in this deck. Planeswalkers are hard to deal with. Having a way to interact directly with Jace/Tamiyo/Liliana/Vraska is totally clutch. And tempo-wise two mana is pretty cheap for something they spent three to five on. Planeswalkers can ruin your day, best be safe, if your opponent doesn’t rock them, s/he’s prolly got creatures. If you think s/he doesn’t and does and you wasted your Dreadbore on a creature, DON’T PANIC!!! Snapcaster Mage is an all-star.

Third Card’s the Charm

Rakdos Keyrune


Jace, Architect of Thought

Rakdos Keyrune, while certainly the best of the cycle has a few great reasons to be played heavily. The first is that Terminus, Mutilate, Supreme Verdict, Mizzium Mortars and I don’t know other sorcery speed mass removal spells are really being played (mutiliate is a stretch) right now, are all cards. Rakdos Keyrune laughs at these spells. You know what else it laughs at? Thragtusk. And his little Beast tokens. Having RK on the board renders a lot of creatures worthless to attack into you. Which is just dandy since your opponent now has to cast spells pre attack to get you to tap out to counter his spells and then attack. It’s not gonna win you every game, but by God, it’ll stall out the fast decks and give the control decks nightmares.

Syncopate everything I said about dissipate but it can happen on turn two, this card punishes your opponent for trying to bait your counter magic with cheaper spells. Anytime your opponent has to wonder how to play against your countermagic and guesses wrong a merfolk summons a drake from the aether.

Jace, Architect of Thought is simply card advantage against control decks, not to mention a Dreadbore can now be used on a creature once you kill his Jace with yours. Jace slows down aggro decks so you can crush them with your flying hoard of awesome. And if you get to ultimate him, a free Dracogenius plus whatever else your opponent has stashed away is super sick.


I had to get an election joke in there somewhere. Only one card makes it to the four slot. A card that smashes zombies, mana dorks, hits opponents from time to time … again, super relevant because of its attention to the graveyard. Having this plus a Snapcaster in your opener should help you against most aggro decks, it’s easily sided out during control match ups, and surprisingly useful vs midrange decks.

The Sideboard

A mix of combo hate (Slaughter Games, Witchbane Orb, Negate) control hate (Jace, Memory Adept, Negate) Geist of Saint Traft hate (Clone, Liliana of the Veil), graveyard hate (Tormod’s Crypt, Slaughter Games) and something to kill more creature based mono decks (Ultimate Price, Bonfire of the Damned). Like I said before the meta is pretty healthy, and no one deck is ruining the scene. I believe your sideboard should be the most important part of your deck and highly versatile. I’ll be playing this tonight, I’ll let you know how it goes tomorrow.

Hopefully the next time we talk I’ll be X-0. I’ll be live tweeting this event, follow me on the tweets (@rockertycoon), or just look at the top right of the home page every few minutes. Stay safe out there and don’t tap for green.

Zac Clark, Durdle Magus

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