Tag Archives: Tribal Zoo

Hype, and testing Grixis in Standard

When it comes to Magic: The Gathering, hype is a strange beast. With the universal language of the internet greasing the wheels, a magic meta can spin out of control in a mere 24 hours. I fell into this trap last night playing in the latest online ptq. Today I’m going to take a look at what transpired over the 24 hours leading up to the PTQ and how I bought into the hype and got burned, and then address some of the same issues I’m dealing with in preparing my friend on the Pro Tour for PT San Diego.

Two weeks ago when I top 8′d my first PTQ, the meta was pretty much one deck: Dark Depths / Thopter (DDT). In the two weeks leading up to that tournament, DDT was absolutely dominant and top 8′s were littered with the list all over MTGO. I was more than happy to sleeve up a very fast zoo deck to beat them to the punch; it was such a good meta-call that I could play sloppy whilst drunk and on no sleep and still go 7-1 losing only to running turn 1 blood moons- but I digress.

The last two weeks have seen the online, Extended meta get mixed up a little bit more. There was a bit more dredge, some faeries, and a little zoo but most of the good players online were still playing DDT. I had tested some different zoo builds in that time and mainly not done great, but I finally settled on one with maindeck meddling mages with damping matrix in the sideboard and 3-1′d a daily event the night before the ptq.

When I looked at the decklists from the event the next day, there were a LOT of zoo decks that 3-1′d or better. And then I caught the lists fromt he Premiere event that started at midnight on Thursday morning and six of the top eight decks were zoo with Knight of the Reliquary, most with maindeck Jitte and one with main deck Blood Moon!

Well my friends and I went into crisis mode: we needed Deathmark in the sideboard; I needed Jittes, probably in the maindeck; my Goblin Guide had to be Knight now that it was going to be outclassed. My Gmail inbox was overloaded during my Thursday workday and the two hours after work leading up to the PTQ was crafting the perfect deck to beat Zoo and probably still be good against DDT.

Guess how many Zoo decks I faced: ZERO.
I even dropped a match to DDT, something I’d only done once and mainly do to mulligans.

Would three maindeck Meddling Mage gotten me past my gauntlet last night? Perhaps, I did face Hive Mind, Pox Rock and Thopter Foundry three times. Did Jitte win me any games? Nope. Did I attack once with Knight of the Reliquary last night? Septuple Nope.

I bought into the hype, and I got burned.

A card that has received a ton of Standard buzz lately is Jace, The Mind Sculptor. I’m expecting to have to face this guy tonight at Friday Night Magic as I battle for 90 in store credit so that I can buy my own 1.5 Jaces.

I have had the opportunity to play with and against the Mind Sculptor on Magic Workstation and so far I’m not buying into the hype.

My friend Jason Ford is Qualified for San Diego after his top 50 finish in Austin and we’ve been testing the balls off of Grixis and the new blue cards in Worldwake and here is some of the things we’ve found.

Treasure Hunt is doing just what you want it to. It’s smoothing out your draws and getting you a spell. Sometimes it flips another treasure hunt and it’s kind of lame and sometimes it gets you through three land and hits Earthquake after your opponent cast Martial Coup and has you dead on board.

Calcite Snapper is better than advertised. I’ve been loving this card. It locks down a board that can’t swarm, and when you’re packing 4 Lightning Bolt and 4 Terminate you can probably keep the swarm down. Then, when your opponent over-extends to push through, you can earthquake his team or drop a land and beat in for four.

Then there’s the aforementioned Jace. We’ve played a bunch of games with Jace and I think a blue deck won when he hit the table once, maybe twice. He’s not easy to protect as a Jund player can simply hold his Blightning or Maelstrom Pulse for when a Planeswalker hits the table. And unless you’re scrying for one right when he hits the table (which isn’t very gamebreaking) and Lightning Bolt will do.

Grixis, mainly, has not been cutting it. The deck is no Jund. It can do some fun stuff and has some strong cards but it has struggled to get the win. After some games there are always times where an Earthquake here would’ve won it, or if this Cruel ultimatum was a Sphinx of Jwar Isle the Blue deck likely would’ve won, but Jund doesn’t normally have those games where it couldn’t draw enough to win. What Jund does is unfair, what Grixis does isn’t.

One thing We’ve taken to doing with some of our standard builds is make a list with a bunch of singletons in it, so that we’re constantly hitting different “game plans” and generally get a taste for things that are working and arent. I would say that counters are not working right now, and spot removal is. I think if you’re playing blue and red, then you should pack Double Negative in your 75 because it’s at worst a cancel.

A couple more things about Grixis: you can leave Mysteries of the deep on the bench, you’ve only got 4 fetches in the deck and while instant speed is good, you’re better off just playing divination if you want to draw two cards.

Cruel Ultimatum isn’t that good. When your only 7 creatures have shroud, there’s a damn good chance you’re not getting a guy back from your graveyard. And playing things like Architects of Will is not even remotely the same as packing Mulldrifter like in the days of yore. A number of times the Grixis player has cast Cruel Ultimatum and still lost because it’s not that hard to play around discarding three cards, and in Jund when almost every creature you play is actaully two creatures, sacrificing one doesnt matter.

The thing that is ending games for Grixis is Sphinx of Jwar Isle. No he does not beat Baneslayer Angel but you have answers for that guy in Terminate and Jace. The only thing Jund has for this guy is double blocking with Broodmate Dragon (unless you’re dead on board already), which is pretty darn narrow.

There is some Buzz about using Everflowing Chalice to get you to Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker but that just further turns on your opponent’s maelstrom pulses. I know I’m focusing a lot on Jund right now, but if you’re not beating Vampires with this deck you need to see if you can beat Jund and UWR and we started with Jund. Grixis couldn’t beat it so we mostly moved on.

This is the list I would run if I was going to sleeve up Grixis, using Cruel Ultimatum Only in the Board. This might get you through Jund, but vamps and other control decks are still a major issue.

My opinion is that the blue decks are going to have trouble finishing games no matter what. Sphinx of Jwar Isle is clearly the answer in my eyes, it’s just a matter of getting to him.

For the record, I would just play Jund. Jund may have some issues with Ajani Vengeant and UWR (though I did get a 9/9 Raging Ravine to take out some Wall of Denials), but for the most part Jund isn’t losing much. I’ve been using Jund and beating the control decks at a steady clip, doing it without Great Sable Stag to boot. A lot of your removal is dead against these control decks obviously, but savvy Jund players are terminating their Sprouting Thrinax with Oren Rief out to make a little army in their opponent’s end step to push through damage and kill planeswalkers.

Thanks for reading,

Mike Gemme
Bobbysapphire on MTGO
mike@power9pro.com