By the time I discovered my rekindled interest in Standard, it was too late to arrange travel for this past Saturday’s PTQ in Jersey. So, I got some much needed sleep after a long night of Super Turbo and beers in Sunset Park, and woke up around 11:00 am to go play in Game Day at the store. I played the same 75 cards I briefly previewed in last week’s article, and was excited to see how it’d perform in a slightly larger event.

Grixis Seer

Creatures (13)
Augur of Bolas
Snapcaster Mage
Duskmantle Seer
Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch
Olivia Voldaren

Spells (22)
Pillar of Flame
Desperate Ravings
Tragic Slip
Dimir Charm
Essence Scatter
Izzet Charm
Mizzium Mortars
Rakdos’s Return
Searing Spear
Think Twice
Turn // Burn
Forbidden Alchemy
Tribute to Hunger
Sever the Bloodline
Lands (25)
Blood Crypt
Cavern of Souls
Desolate Lighthouse
Dragonskull Summit
Drowned Catacomb
Steam Vents
Sulfur Falls
Watery Grave

Sideboard (15)
Appetite for Brains
Pillar of Flame
Rakdos Charm
Turn // Burn
Izzet Staticaster
Evil Twin
Slaughter Games
Psychic Spiral

The short answer, as you can tell from the title of this post, is that it performed admirably.

With the aid of a bye in the first round, I went 4-1 in the Swiss portion to comfortably make Top 8. I defeated Bant Hexproof (making my overall record against these decks 4-0 in sanctioned matches, and further reinforcing my conjecture that the matchup is heavily favored for Grixis), a UR brew, and RG Aggro. My loss in the Swiss rounds came at the hands of THE Kadar Brock, piloting Don King (Domri) Naya. I think the matchup is 50/50 and largely dependent on how much removal I draw versus his large animals. It just so happened that, in game three, Kadar mulled to five and kept Thalia and four taplands, then proceeded to draw and curve out perfectly with Smiter and Restoration Angel, while I stared at a hand with Olivia and slow removal that became even more awkward with the Thalia tax.

And therein lies what I believe to be the deck’s weakest point: its removal, while numerous, is sometimes just too slow. Pillar of Flame, Dreadbore, Mizzium Mortars, and Sever the Bloodline all have to be played on your own turn, whereas the instant speed removal either doesn’t always hit what you want (Tribute to Hunger, Dimir Charm), or just straight doesn’t kill the things you want to kill (Izzet Charm, Searing Spear, Tragic Slip). It kind of feels like the four-color Gifts Control decks in Modern: sometimes, you’re just a turn too slow. One-for-one removal becomes really bad when you need to spend whole turns casting them, and it gets even worse if your opponent can resolve multiple creatures per turn.

That same weakness would come back to bite me when, after beating the same RG Aggro deck I beat in the Swiss in the Top 8, I had to face this brew that eventually won the entire tournament. The Golgari deck played cheap threats that threatened to grow really big, really fast, and my removal just couldn’t keep pace. In game two, I was able to tempo my opponent out with a Duskmantle Seer, an Exava, and a whole ton of removal, but was overwhelmed once more in game three by a perfect 1-2-3-4 curve-out. Without Wrath effects and “oops I win” cards like Unburial Rites/Angel of Serenity combo, my run in the tournament ended.

Overall, I was very pleased with how the deck performed, and even more pleased that I was able to discern a way to improve the list. Desperate Ravings was awful for me all day. In theory, it’s better than Think Twice since I can get back whatever I pitch to it via Snapcaster Mage, but I just happened to bin a Snappy and a Seer in the same game. Fringe case, perhaps, but I think the card should just be the fourth Think Twice, or more countermagic/removal. A singleton Syncopate in that slot wouldn’t be bad. The random games here and there where I get to Syncopate a Farseek would be beyond savage.

Fellow store regular Mike Simpson was able to take a similar list to the Top 8 of a GPT recently as well. He made a few changes and fit in Talrand, Sky Summoner, which seems like a sweet inclusion if your opponent can’t immediately remove him (much like all of your four-drops). This, along with Evil Tim’s more controlling build from last week, has me convinced that Grixis is quietly the best-kept secret in Standard. If you’re a Standard enthusiast, I highly recommend you try out one of these builds. I have a feeling it’s the way of the future.

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