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Top 5 Colorless Sideboard Cards to Beat Greasefang in Explorer

Greasefang, Okiba BossParhelion II

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.

 

 

Given this, a natural question is how to beat this deck. Killing Greasefang or exiling Parhelion II works, especially when you can do it for one mana, but all available options have their issues:

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

Tormod's Crypt

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.

Silent Gravestone

Silent Gravestone

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.

Pithing Needle

Pithing Needle

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

Unlicensed HearseWeathered 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.

Concluding Thoughts

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.

One noteworthy card that does not work is Grafdigger’s Cage because it only prevents creature cards from entering the battlefield, and Parhelion II is a Vehicle.

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!

 

1 thought on “Top 5 Colorless Sideboard Cards to Beat Greasefang in Explorer”

  1. I’ve been playing Monogreen Aggro in Explorer Bo1 and having a ton of success, but Greasefang is by far the hardest matchup. I’m 4-8 vs Greasefang variants, and 60-18 vs everything else in Bo1. I have 4 Scavenging Ooze, but it’s not enough. I think Silent Gravestone and Weathered Runestone aren’t good because of the non-synergy with Scavenging Ooze and Collected Company, respectively. I should still be able to beat Skysovereign, so Pithing Needle looks pretty attractive because of its utility in other matchups. Unlicensed Hearse being able to beat face also supports the gameplan, though. I’m worried about using Tormod’s Crypt because you can still lose to another vehicle on the next turn, and it doesn’t seem useful in other matchups.

    I think I’m going to lean towards trying out 2x Hearse and 2x Pithing Needle to start with when I try the deck out in Bo3.

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