Greasefang, Okiba Boss is one of the premier threats in MTG Arena’s new Explorer format. It allows you to attack with Parhelion II as early as turn three, and this combo has already made an impact on the Historic and Pioneer formats. But it’s particularly powerful in a new format with a smaller card pool like Explorer (basically, Pioneer lite on MTG Arena). In Martin Juza’s first Power Rankings for this format, he put Mardu Greasefang in the #1 spot.
- Lightning Axe requires you to discard a card, Fatal Push requires revolt, Wizard’s Lightning requires Wizards, Redcap Melee requires a land sacrifice, Frost Bite requires snow lands, Reckless Rage requires a creature and Voltage Surge requires an artifact sacrifice. Ray of Enfeeblement is perhaps the best option, but it’s a more narrow sideboard card. Moreover, to prevent them from returning Parhelion II, you have to kill Greasefang in their first main phase, which may give them the opportunity to return Greasefang immediately with Can’t Stay Away (if you kill Greasefang in response to its beginning-of-combat trigger and they have other pilots around, then that won’t work out well for you. That said, if Greasefang is the only creature on their side of the battlefield, then killing it in response to its beginning-of-combat trigger is typically best).
- March of Otherworldly Light may require you to exile white cards, but since it exiles, at least Can’t Stay Away can’t return Greasefang (Scorching Dragonfire is arguably the best two-mana answer for the same reason).
- Raze the Effigy buys you a turn, but you’ll still have to deal with Parhelion II on the next turn.
- Cling to Dust works well enough, but it leaves Greasefang on the battlefield.
Most importantly, with all of these instant-speed answers, you have to keep up mana all the time. This means that you effectively Stone Rain yourself. When the opponent plays something other than Greasefang (say, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker), then you can’t use your mana effectively and may fall behind. Experienced Greasefang players will take advantage of this. Especially for aggro decks that want to curve out, keeping mana untapped rather than adding a creature to the battlefield is a massive cost.
Given this, I believe that the answers to Greasefang are cheap permanents that you can plop down early on. Dennick, Pious Apprentice would be a good example, but it’s only for white-blue players and it dies too easily to their Lightning Axe or Fatal Push. Rest in Peace would also be a good example, but it’s only for non-graveyard reliant white players. So instead, in this article I will highlight the five best noncreature, colorless answers that every deck can add to their sideboard.
Tormod’s Crypt answers only the first Parhelion II, so you may still be in trouble on the next turn, but it comes with the benefit of costing zero mana. This makes Tormod’s Crypt perfect for aggro decks that want to spend their mana in the first two turns on creatures to maximize their pressure.
Greasefang has to target a Vehicle to return it to the battlefield, and Silent Gravestone is an excellent way to prevent that. Unlike Tormod’s Crypt, it will stop their combo throughout the game, even if they have a backup Parhelion II for the next turn. Silent Gravestone also prevents them from casting Can’t Stay Away, and it could exile Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger in the late game.
Crewing a Vehicle is an activated ability, so if you name Parhelion II with Pithing Needle, then they can’t crew it. This is an effective answer, and it’ll help even if they have a weird draw with Deadly Dispute and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker that ramps into a hard-cast turn-five Parhelion II.
A downside to Pithing Needle is that it won’t help if they drew their singleton Skysovereign, Consul Flagship. As a result, I think that Silent Gravestone is slightly better than Pithing Needle against Greasefang specifically, but it’s a metagame call – Pithing Needle is also potentially useful in other matchups, as it can answer Witch’s Oven, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, etcetera.
Unlicensed Hearse/Weathered Runestone
The final two sideboard answers both cost two mana, and they might look worse than Silent Gravestone as a result. However, they have handy applications in other matchups: Weathered Runestone can stop Transmogrify, and Unlicensed Hearse can exile Arclight Phoenix, which was the #2 deck in Martin Juza’s Power Rankings. Also, Unlicensed Hearse can act as a win condition in its own right.
Which colorless answer to Greasefang is best depends on your deck and the Explorer metagame. Right now, I’d say that Tormod’s Crypt is the best for hyper-aggro decks, Silent Gravestone is best for decks with relatively few one-drops and Unlicensed Hearse is best for decks with relatively few two-drops.
Finally, flipping the perspective, Mardu Greasefang players will need a plan against these hate cards after sideboard. Apart from a completely transformational plan, Kolaghan’s Command or Portable Hole would be handy catch-alls that cleanly deal with artifact hate cards. If Kolaghan’s Command or Portable Hole become popular, then you may want to resort to Leyline of the Void instead, even though it’s only effective in your opening hand. At that point, Mardu Greasefang players may switch to March of Otherworldly Light, after which you may want to cycle back to spot removal or even Karn, the Great Creator. In any case, the arms race is on!