Greasefang Combo in Pioneer/Explorer – MTG Deep Dive

Greasefang Combo is one of the most exciting decks in both Pioneer and Explorer. If you’ve played a lot of either format, you probably understand the basics of “discard Parhelion and play Greasefang on turn three.” Today, I’ll go a bit deeper. I’ll explain what makes this deck so effective, how it differs between the two formats and what you should choose as your third color. 

You don’t simply have to take my word for it. I’ve also adapted and updated some suggestions from Martin Juza’s and Evart Moughon’s previous writings on the strategy. 

This is an archetype with lots of flexibility so savvy deck builders may be able to innovate on it or find some good technology for a certain metagame. I’ll also include plenty of suggestions for customizing the deck list and sideboard, plus an in-depth sideboard guide. 

(Note: The sideboard guide will focus on Explorer, but should be helpful to players of both formats).



Header - The Game Plan

The basic strategy is to put a copy of Parhelion II into the graveyard, either via self-mill or discarding it from your hand, and find the right spot to return and crew it with Greasefang, Okiba Boss, dealing massive amounts of damage out of nowhere. 

Greasefang is a combo deck, and combo decks are difficult to play proficiently and almost impossible to play perfectly. Your games with this archetype will revolve around finding the best spot to go for your combo. 

In the hands of experienced players, Greasefang’s powerful combo and its premium interaction make it very difficult to play against, as predicting their moves can be quite difficult. Learning how to pilot these strategies comes from playing and learning from hundreds of matches, but to help you get started on your way to mastery let’s discuss the three main game plans you’ll want to deploy across various matchups with these kinds of decks.

Comboing as Soon as Possible

In matchups where your opponents are light on interaction, you’ll want to focus on assembling Greasefang and Parhelion as quickly as possible. Mono-Green is a good example. In these types of games, you’ll want to seriously consider mulliganing to a hand with a Greasefang and card selection spells, although hands with your own interaction are usually keepable as well. 

Finding a Safe Spot to Combo

In more interactive matchups like Azorius Control or Rakdos Midrange, you’ll want to carefully cultivate a board where it’s safe to tap out for Greasefang. You’ll be able to do this most often when your opponent taps out themselves, but can also try to clear the way of interaction with your discard spells. In these types of games, you’ll want to try to force your opponents to tap out by pressuring their life total with your creatures and their resources with Liliana of the Veil. This will make it difficult for them to sit back and craft their defenses. 

Disregarding Your Combo

While it might seem unintuitive, there are some matchups where you need to pivot to becoming more of a control deck that simply uses your combo to win in the late game after the board has been controlled, or as a desperate play after you’ve fallen too far behind. An example would be against Mono-Red Aggro. 


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4 thoughts on “Greasefang Combo in Pioneer/Explorer – MTG Deep Dive”

  1. Great article! Have you tried Assassin’s Trophy? Kills Hearse, RiP and Leyline and Runestone. I’d think you could often set it up so you do at end of their turn then untap and combo so the land wouldn’t matter

  2. Alexander M Wilson

    I’ve enjoyed Tear asunder as a versatile SB answer. It doesn’t ramp your opponent, and the exile clause is very relevant against opposing Parhelions, Old-growth Troll, Cavalier, etc. My problem with the Fatal Push + Abrupt decay SB plan, is there is no answer to a resolved Karn, which shuts down your whole deck.

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