Four Ways to Play Grixis in Modern

In Modern, Grixis has seen a surge in popularity, and it makes sense considering what each color brings to the table. Tasigur wants cantrips to fuel delve, Snapcaster also wants cantrips, and Lightning Bolt is the most efficient card to Snapcast back. The color combination has proved potent—though not dominant—in aggro, control, and combo shells.

Grixis has its weaknesses. Unlike Lingering Souls decks, it has trouble against opposing Lilianas. Without access to white, it misses out on the best hosers for Burn, leaving Grixis players to pack jank like Dragon’s Claw or nothing at all.

This first list makes use of Gurmag Angler, an innocuous card that saw some play during Pro Tour Fate Reforged.

Grixis Delve, by oRS

The sooner a creature enters play, the sooner it can start attacking, and this deck spits out 4/5s and 5/5s as early as turn two. Since the delve creatures are already resistant to Abrupt Decay and Inquisition of Kozilek the ways to deal with them are limited, and delving naturally shrinks opposing Tarmogoyfs. On top of that, our own Inquisitions and Lilianas are good at clearing away the few cards that do matter.

Rest in Peace destroys this deck. Fortunately, graveyard hate in general is on a downturn after the Treasure Cruise/Dig Through Time bannings, and while Rest in Peace is still good it’s not as popular as it has been.

The main deck is weak to Lingering Souls, with only Electrolyze into Snapcaster Mage as a real answer, but Engineered Explosives and Izzet Staticasters solidify the answers post-board.

Jorubai Murk Lurker is a new one. It looks slow on paper, but walling off Goblin Guide while also producing repeated life gain has a lot of potential.

The rest of the sideboard looks great, though usually 4 Dispel is better off mixed with some number of Negates or Vendilion Cliques or what have you. In Grixis, Countersquall is an underplayed option, and the extra damage adds up in a deck full of Snapcasters and Lightning Bolts.

Grixis Twin, by Andrea Milillo

A few teams came up with Grixis Twin for the most recent PT. Black gave us a host of new tools including instant-speed spot removal, Tasigur to beat down and grind, and discard to clear the way for the combo. On paper, it seemed like Grixis would make TarmoTwin obsolete.

The truth isn’t quite that cut-and-dried, and both builds have their strengths. One strength of Tarmogoyf is that it comes in under a lot of disruption, and because it comes down so early it forces the opponent into some awkward situations like having to choose between answering the Tarmogoyf or holding up removal for the combo. If the ‘Goyf gets in too much damage, there’s a real threat of being burned out with Lightning Bolts and Snapcasters.

Unless you’re playing a pile of Thought Scours and Gitaxian Probes, Tasigur is a much slower card than Tarmogoyf. It’s still a great card, it still attacks from a different angle, and it still helps the deck grind, but it doesn’t make Grixis Twin strictly better than the other variants.

Grixis Delver, by Jake_CZE

In Legacy, black gives us discard to complement the countermagic against combo, but the mana in Modern is a lot more painful. Cutting discard means that we can keep black to a splash, and run fewer shocklands. That said, the addition of black in Modern is exciting beyond Tasigur in that it gives us a few great answers to Tarmogoyf in Terminate and Murderous Cut—cards that UR Delver simply doesn’t have access to.

Normally, it’d be strange to play less than the full number of Young Pyromancer, but there’s some overlap with early Tasigurs and a natural tension with all of the 2-mana counters.

Currently, Sulfur Elemental fills a hole in Delver sideboards as a value-tastic way of handling Lingering Souls. While a more controlling deck probably prefers Izzet Staticaster to block, eat mana dorks, and combine with burn spells, Delver wants to attack. Also, randomly shutting off Martyr Proc or Thalia decks is a big perk.

This last list is more of a brew than the others, and aside from a miser’s Murderous Cut it doesn’t care about delve.

4c Cruel, by RaptureReady

Cruel Ultimatum is an epic card, but it’s slow. Because it requires the caster to control the game until 7 mana, it has a tendency to be overkill—it wins games where a more efficient card would suffice. Usually, when I see Grixis Control win it’s despite Cruel Ultimatum, not because of it.

That said, the splash for Tarmogoyf gives the deck a new dynamic with a more proactive game plan. Now, we can open with discard into ‘Goyf, following it up with a curve of value spells that grind all the way up until the biggest trump of them all. Meanwhile, Lotus Cobra allows for some explosive starts. The presence of these high-impact, must-answer threats means that an opponent can’t just board out all removal, increasing the chance that both players trade off cards 1-for-1 until someone plays a game-ending trump.

Don’t underestimate proactivity. In Modern, most decks have some form of inevitability from burn to hard-cast Eldrazi or simply activating a Celestial Colonnade. This doesn’t mean that control isn’t viable, but it does mean that most builds want something like Tarmogoyf or Tasigur so they can actually win the game after picking the opponent apart with disruption.

Caleb Durward


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