Aether Revolt is on the horizon, and we’re days away from the release of the set. We just had a set of bannings and now, more than ever, I think Grixis Control is in a position to make a claim to one of the top spots in the Modern metagame.
We’ll start with the talk of the town, Fatal Push. Fatal Push is a card that black was really looking for. To play a control deck in Modern, you were almost forced to play either white or red for cheap forms of interaction. White offers an unconditional piece of removal in Path to Exile, but the cost of giving your opponent an extra land is pricey if you’re looking to take the game 10-12 turns deep without the clock of something like a Tarmogoyf. Red offers Lightning Bolt and with it the ability to kill smaller creatures with ease, fight troubling planeswalkers, and when it’s time to end the game, aim them right at your opponent’s dome. Green, black, and blue, however, didn’t have access to these powerful effects—at least, not at this level.
Black, the color know for killing creatures, finally gets to join this company thanks to Aether Revolt. Disfigure was too narrow, Murderous Cut too much setup when some of the delve creatures were the best threats in the format, and Dismember was always terrifying, as 2 or 4 life could be the difference in a game of Magic.
Enter Fatal Push, and it addresses each problem the previous removal spells left on the table. It kills a wider array of creatures than Disfigure, has a more manageable set-up cost than Murderous Cut, and doesn’t cost life like Dismember does. This card is the real deal, and will allow black-based control decks to not rely on white or red for their cheap interaction. When it comes to Grixis Control, it allows the deck to become even more low to the ground, more mana efficient, and that much more of a threat to the Modern metagame.
In addition to the new toys in Aether Revolt, the DCI decided to take action against 2 cards in Modern: Gitaxian Probe and Golgari Grave-Troll. While this doesn’t affect Grixis Control directly, this is an archetype that is completely reacting to the threats your opponents deploy. Therefore, as other players change their decks and adapt to a changing environment, you will need to as well. Not only will you see a decline in Death’s Shadow Aggro and Kiln Fiend Prowess, you’ll see a more resilient and slower form of Dredge sprout up and Infect become more explosive but also more fragile. With this information, you also need to look at decks you should expect to see more or less of with the change in the metagame. This initial look will be short-term, as this will be the knee-jerk reactions by the community. Given a few major tournaments and maybe a PPTQ season or two, we’ll see the metagame settle eventually.
Big Mana Decks: Titanshift/Eldrazi/Tron
I expect each of these decks to get slightly more popular, but to reach about the same win rate they have now. These decks are built to fight the 3-color midrange decks and can really struggle with fast combo as they give up the first few turns of the game to set up their over-the-top game plan. I expect these decks to get bigger as they had weak matchups against Gitaxian Probe decks and had reasonable-to-good matchups against Dredge. They’ll also do well against the decks awaiting Fatal Push, and you’ll need to keep this in mind when constructing your 75 to make sure you have tools for these decks in Grixis Control.
With the loss of other aggro decks and Infect becoming more of a glass cannon, I expect Burn to be a popular choice for those who are used to playing these creature combo strategies. While these were a good matchup for Burn, if Titanshift and Tron do grow in popularity, Burn is solid against these decks. In addition, seeing Dredge slow down will give Burn a much better chance to have the staying power it once had. I don’t expect Burn to be the best deck in the format, but I expect it to become a big player once again.
Affinity was in a rough place over the last 4 months. Dredge was a tough matchup, and the Gitaxian Probe decks were also fairly effective against Affinity. I expect Affinity to become more popular and it will likely have a good shot in the next few tournaments until people adjust their sideboards from graveyard hate cards and Sudden Shocks into cards like Ancient Grudge and Creeping Corrosion.
So where does this leave Grixis Control? Based on the Cryptic Command version of the deck, this is what I would play if Grand Prix Vancouver were this weekend:
If you’ve followed my previous versions of Grixis Control, you’ll see more fetchlands here to help support the revolt ability of Fatal Push. While the 2-cmc mode is the more useful one for Modern play, you’ll still want to be able to kill creatures like Thought-Knot Seer, Master of Waves, and Huntmaster of the Fells. I tried out the Bloodstained Mires and found them really ineffective in this version of the deck because you wanted to fetch basic Island, and often had to shock yourself in the early game for Watery Grave or Steam Vents.
The sideboard has also changed as a result of the bannings and expected metagame shift. There are now 2 copies of Negate to help fight TitanShift and Tron strategies. Collective Brutality and Negate take the place of the Sun Droplets, and are also useful in fighting the Burn decks and adaptations to the Infect strategies should they move back to playing something like Wild Defiance. The Jace, Architect of Thought is a reaction to the amount of Lingering Souls I expect to crop up from Abzan, and potentially Faeries or White-Black Tokens, as both make good use of Fatal Push and have token creatures, which the Aether Revolt instant will struggle against.
The other version of Grixis Control that might crop up more if we see decks like Infect become more glass-cannon-esque, is a tap-out, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy build with Fatal Push and Yahenni’s Expertise. This list is rougher, but I can see it becoming successful in the future with some work, and a metagame that shifts away from big mana decks and spell-based combo decks:
Grixis Tap-Out Control
Again, this list will need a lot more testing, as it’s not a shell I’ve played with enough, and we’ll really need to see what the cycle of Expertise cards brings to the table. It’s possible to put cards into your deck that you cannot cast with the lands, and only expect to cast off of cards like Yahenni’s Expertise. While I expect that to be an exception and not the rule, it’s a possibility deck builders will look for. Jace combos with Fatal Push by exiling itself and then re-entering the battlefield transformed.
I’m looking forward to Fatal Push more than any Magic card printed in the last few years. This card screams powerful—Mike Sigrist said the card is better than Path to Exile, and I agree. This is the new bar to pass to become one of the best creature removal spells in Magic’s history. Lightning Bolt and Path to Exile will still be very popular, but Fatal Push is going to join the duo of headliners in Eternal formats for many years to come. Now instead of looking for creatures with 4 toughness to get around Lightning Bolt, we’ll need to look to creatures in the 3- and 5-converted-mana-cost category to see if we can find a hidden gem to get around Fatal Push’s efficiency, like Goblin Dark-Dwellers and Keranos, God of Storms, or see if planeswalkers will begin to pick up in popularity in Modern as a result of the Fatal Push.