Is Grixis Control Weak/Bad in Modern?

Modern forum

Posted on Feb. 21, 2021, 5:35 p.m. by Icbrgr

For where we are now in 2021 Is Grixis Control Weak/Bad in Modern?

I have been brewing and tinkering with Grixis control and have noticed that many of my primers/online sources seem to be pretty dated...MTG Top8 seems to indicate that the deck hasn't topped any events since 2018?

If this is true; what is keeping Grixis Control down/what does the deck need?

Grubbernaut says... #2


Bant and sultai just have generally better cards, overall, as much as I adore grixis. Rise//Fall is one of my all-time faves.

In playing a lot of UBR, I would say that it is a very painful deck to play; lots of BB cards, but your mana base needs to be U-heavy. It also relies more heavily on the GY than most control builds typically do.

It's not unplayable, but unless something changes pretty drastically, it'll always be a notch down. Bant gets stoneblade package, growth spiral, etc. Sultai gets Decay and Trophy.

February 21, 2021 8:10 p.m.

Icbrgr says... #3

I think I'm on board/agree with everything you said Grubbernaut... the painful mana base with fetches and shocks and obligatory Thoughtseize really make the deck gravitate towards just playing another Death's Shadow deck rather than an actual control build.

We got Kess, Dissident Mage but maybe if we got another version of that card that enabled to cast spells at instant speed or maybe some kinda protection to go with Snapcaster Mage / Torrential Gearhulk Grixis would be in a better spot? Or does grixis need more of a spell based buff?

February 21, 2021 8:31 p.m.

Icbrgr says... #4

Like a "Grixis Command" as a powerful control spell to not need to run Cryptic Command ?

February 21, 2021 8:37 p.m.

Grubbernaut says... #5

Kess just isn't modern playable, IMO. Nine times out of ten, she dies as soon as she comes down for no value - or, more rarely, functions as a more expensive and worse Snap.

Gearhulk is okay, but not great. Six mana is a lot, even for value.

I like K-Command and Obstructionist as a package, but 3 mana stifle is just so far behind the curve with Growth Spiral running around.

I think it needs a better, cheaper, more flexible wincon. Maybe there's a way to weave Shark Typhoon in, but I'm really not sure what direction to go.

February 21, 2021 8:43 p.m.

I haven't played a game of modern since pre-covid. I will probably be jamming grixis something once I'm back.

A lot of the top decks in modern right now (looking at mtggoldfish) are soft to lightning bolt and fatal push. The biggest issue I see is that a lot of those decks can shrug off the first 2 or so removal spells and still get there. Unless you have something to 2-for-1 or generate a lot of value, you'll just peter out. Spirits, in particular, is very hard to beat with just removal spells. Something more is needed.

It looks like graveyard decks are at an all-time low, which means graveyard hate is down as well. Maybe Thought Scour + Tasigur is good still? Maybe that plays well with Kroxa too?

Snapcaster Mage + Kolaghan's Command will always be really good for generating card advantage. I just don't know if grixis can get its engine going quickly enough.

IMO the biggest problem I have had playing grixis over the years is deciding if I want to play on my turn or their turn. Modern counterspells have been disappointing forever. UW shells can work with the available counterspells so much better than Grixis. Without counterspells in grixis you're so vulnerable to the opponent's topdeck.

What about this:

February 22, 2021 1:10 a.m.

LeaPlath says... #7

UW are the premier control colours as they get access to a variety of styles of board wipe (Supreme Verdict. Terminus. Wrath of God. Doomskar potentially), powerful removal from Path, a man land that attacks or blocks as a 4/4 with evasion and doesn't tap on attack and access to a better array of creatures that have flash or potent abilities. They also have better gy hate options out the side and more lock pieces and a bevy of walkers that help their game plan (T3feri. Tef5ri. Etc)

Grixis is lacking board wipes with Damnation and one of the 3 damage anger of the gods generally being their best option. Their removal is that bit more expensive (2 mana for unconditional removal, compared to UWs 1) and puts it into the gy where it can fuel spells or be returned. There are no B or R Walkers that provide CA like UW does meaning for walkers its just JtMS.

Grixis is really starting on the back foot to be honest. UW can also splash into Jeskai or Bant and get a lot of powerful cards on top of their own powerful ones.

If you want to build a grixis control deck more power to you. Its an iconic archetype and it does have some powerful stuff. Grixis Dreadhorde Arcarnist is pretty fun to play but is more tempo or if you wanna go full classic back in 2019 a local win a box was won by grixis cruel ultimatium that uses coalition relic to help fuel its cruel ultimatiums.

February 22, 2021 2:11 a.m.

TriusMalarky says... #8

I typically classify control into a few different sub-categories.

  • Tempo, or midrange/aggro/control, where the goal is to stick a 1-2 mana high power threat and slap away while making sure the opponent can't do anything(shadow, some delver lists)

  • Wrath-Walk, or Traditional, where your gameplan heavily relies on slamming either a Wrath or a value walker on turn 4, set up with cantrips and protected with removal

  • 'Bad' Control, where you use cantrips and removal to stick around for just long enough to resolve whatever big, cool thing you decided to use as a win condition.

Grixis doesn't fit into Traditional very well as it's almost always better to have Path in Traditional, because you don't really care about giving your opponent more lands, cos you're just gonna blow everything up anyways.

That means you have Shadow or a Bad control list, and unfortunately I don't know of any big splashy spells that can win the game that are fast enough for Modern. Unless maybe you try out the Strixhaven Red-Blue command, which gives you a treasure, which should help you hit your 6-mana big stuff on turn 5 which isn't too janky.

Just my thoughts tho.

February 22, 2021 10:13 a.m.

Grubbernaut says... #9

That's not a bad idea to try, at least. It's such a shame that gearhulk/into the story aren't more reasonable for modern... And there's not a big pull to grixis, in Pioneer.

If y'all want to seriously work on finding some ubr lists, though, I'm super down to live that struggle again. I just want to play Rise / Fall :P

February 22, 2021 10:45 a.m.

Icbrgr says... #10

I also would love a collaborative effort to brew an up-to-date Grixis control list; although i dont know how to create a deck page that allows multiple people to make edits to.

Certainly an uphill battle with everything that has been discussed but with the new tech like Bonecrusher Giant / Behold the Multiverse /Strixhaven Red-Blue command and the recent bannings maybe there is hope to come up with something?

February 22, 2021 12:54 p.m.

xtechnetia says... #11

The new Prismari command is not going to change Modern Grixis lists imo. KComm is superior almost every single time, as it represents a guaranteed 2-for-1, whereas Prismari only 2-for-1s with the Shock + Smelt choices (KComm also has these), the latter choice not relevant in most matchups.

I've tried Grixis control in Modern. It's not stone cold unplayable (hard to be when it's essentially UBRgoodstuff.dec), it's just a collection of small issues that add up to a subpar deck overall, most of which have already been covered by others.

February 22, 2021 1:32 p.m.

Icbrgr says... #12

I honestly dont know for certain about prismari command... at a glance Faithless Looting + Coalition Relic + Shock + Smelt seems enticing for drawing and fueling delve and the treasure token may find a good use for something... but i dont know for sure..

It seems good enough to explore in grixis maybe alongside/split with Kolaghan's Command .... I dont know how prevalent "Hammer time" Colossus Hammer decks are exactly but I keep hearing they are gaining popularity....

or maybe prismari command is more suited for a Storm type build over control?

February 22, 2021 2:41 p.m.

Grubbernaut says... #13

Prismari Command seems just okay, in a deck that's already "just okay" overall. In a deck with Snap, JVP, Bonecrusher, and sometimes Obstructionist, the exhume mode on K-Command is almost always a twofer.

February 22, 2021 2:51 p.m.

Grubbernaut says... #14

Here's a quick-and-dirty update to my old grixis list - not even playtested, but a point of reference, nonetheless.

It sounds like we all have slightly different directions we might like to take - Gearhulk, the new Command, maybe a more tempo build, etc. If y'all have other ones, I encourage you to whip them up, and we can all reference off of one another.

One piece I know that's kinda missing is a solid option against Burn. Kalitas is great, but how much sideboard space can we really devote? Collective Brutality is handy, but not sure it's worth maindeck - and while a kinda-sorta two for one against burn is nice, it still seems "just okay." We really want something like Weather the Storm , sadly. Maybe Dragon's Claw is worth it?

February 22, 2021 3:27 p.m.

TriusMalarky says... #15

Why is Brutality 'just okay' against Burn? It literally spends your second turn discarding three cards to take two cards out of the Burn player's hand and also kills a creature. At that point, the burn player's already at 3-4 cards anyways. Boom, now they're in topdeck mode and you're still at a reasonable life total.

It sort of just swings the game heavily in your favor, especially if you can follow it up with a good creature, like Snap-Bolt or Siege Rhino.

February 22, 2021 4:13 p.m.

Grubbernaut says... #16

I guess I've been spoiled with Weather the Storm often being a four-for-one, whereas Brutality is more of a 3-for-3. I get what you're saying, though.

February 22, 2021 5:06 p.m.

TriusMalarky says... #17

Weather the Storm is amazing v Burn, but they both literally read "target burn player cries big alligator tears"

IMO in a GB deck I start with Brutality and add more Weathers depending on how likely I am to see Burn in particular(out of other aggro lists) or storm.

February 22, 2021 5:17 p.m.

Collective brutality is amazing vs burn. It does a lot on turn 2 in a game where turns matter. It also lets you turn extra lands and cards that aren't very good vs burn into very relevant effects.

Countersquall and Spell Snare and other cheap counterspells are also amazing.

Inquisition of Kozilek is also excellent.

You might not expect it, but one of the best cards in grixis vs burn is Tasigur, the Golden Fang . Getting the game to a place where the burn player is topdecking isn't too hard. Sealing the deal once you're there is essential, and that's where Tasigur shines.

February 22, 2021 6:13 p.m. Edited.

Icbrgr says... #19

wow i honestly never knew Collective Brutality was that good... Ive seen it in so many sideboards/primers but until this discussion never really thought about it.... I just used Sun Droplet in combination with hand disruption and countermagic but maybe i should give this a try.

February 22, 2021 10:13 p.m.

The biggest upside of collective brutality in my opinion is that it's relevant against decks that aren't burn. 'Target burn player loses' is a crappy use of precious sideboard spots. Any time you want more removal it can be brought in. It's not premium removal by any means but it does the job. I'd definitely bring it in vs mill, for example (apparently mill is now a competitive deck in modern?? What??)

February 23, 2021 3:44 a.m.

Icbrgr says... #21

Mill has certainly been getting tons of support over the last few years.. to the point where they actually just say "mill " in card textboxes over "target player put the top cards into his or her library.... so that idea actually doesn't surprise me... same with life gain decks in my opinion.

February 23, 2021 7:36 a.m.

Grubbernaut says... #22

What do my fellow UBR mages think - Bonecrusher Giant , yes or no? I like being able to get one back with K-Command, but not being able to Snap it kind of balances that out. However, I think even just 1 giant as a backup beater suits my build, more; I'm generally relying on Tar Pit/snap beats to win, lol.

February 23, 2021 9:23 a.m.

Icbrgr says... #23

I think it depends on your build like TriusMalarky said before.

  • aggro/midrange
  • wrath-walk/traditional
  • bad control

I personally fall into the bad control category with running Cruel Ultimatum and Grave Titan as my wincon.... because I'm spamming sweepers to stay alive I dont really bother with putting bodies on the field that won't survive Consume the Meek and Anger of the Gods .

However I do think Bonecrusher Giant has a place in other UBR control builds to pair with Delver of Secrets  Flip or similar.

February 23, 2021 10:07 a.m.

Grubbernaut says... #24

That makes sense. I'm going to see how running a singleton feels in my more kinda-tempo sort of list. Best way I can describe it is "two for one control." Getting it back with K-Command or bouncing it with Rise seems dece.

February 23, 2021 10:24 a.m.

TriusMalarky says... #25

If you're running Grixis Bad Control, you should definitely wait until Strixhaven its and run 3-4 copies of Prismari command. The plan is to cast it on your opponent's end step turn 3, and either kill a creature/artifact if they have it, or double loot to make sure you have the right cards. Then you get the treasure, and you can drop your big boi a turn earlier.

Otherwise, if you're going Bad, you need to make sure you have the right interaction. Thoughtseize, Inquisition of Kozilek, Fatal Push and Lightning Bolt are key. Also, I really recommend some form of 2-mana counterspell, largely Condescend . Remand is okay but it really depends on the quality of your top end. You should also run some suite of 1-mana countermagic, largely Spell Snare , but that depends on what you end up seeing. You definitely have enough between Snare, Spell Pierce , Miscast , Dispel , and Mystical Dispute that you can run several in the SB and also be able to switch your whole SB around depending on your meta.

Terminate is fine, too.

On wraths, Anger is great. But if you want anything bigger, Languish or Ritual of Soot are what you should run.

On wincons, I feel Ultimatum is too slow for Modern. You want 6-drops at most, like Dragonlord Silumgar or Inferno/Grave Titan. Additionally, cards like Niv-Mizzet, Parun , The Scarab God , Keranos, God of Storms , Enter the God-Eternals , Ashiok, Nightmare Muse , etc. are great, as you can go Prismari into t4 Keranos.

I'd recommend a couple Keranos and a couple Silumgar, actually.

February 23, 2021 4:36 p.m.

Icbrgr says... #26

I for one have my hopes for prismari command and would love to see grixis do good things with it (what you said sounds pretty good to me)....the only other countermagic i highly recommend to people that you didnt mention is good ol' Mana Leak ... much like Condescend its super generic/mana base friendly and is an allstar early-mid game.... a newer sweeper that I came across while playing MTGA is Storm's Wrath ... the fact that it catches walkers too seems like it could be pretty good?... never thought of silumgar as an option but honestly that seems pretty legit!

Cruel Ultimatum is definitely too slow for Modern in any competitive environment.... Unless the meta became Naya Zoo for some reason and Grixis control could just do whatever it wanted... I just Run Ultimatum because its Cruel Edict + Three Tragedies + Lava Axe + Raise Dead + Concentrate + Soothing Balm + Exile opponents soul.... It's my favorite card and got the playmat to match ;)

I was just wondering why when I looked into what SERIOUS Grixis control looks like nowadays it hasn't topped any events in so many years... That kinda bugs/concerns me way more that Ultimatum being obsoleted.... unfortunatly it just sounds like + splash whatever other color is just a case of "anything grixis can do I can do better" from the sounds of this thread.... oh well maybe someday Grixis Control will get what it needs to be a presence in the competitive landscape.

February 23, 2021 7:40 p.m.

TriusMalarky says... #27

I think with Prismari offering instant speed ramp, it could be a lot better. Dropping a Keranos on turn four into a non-lethal board basically means you've won the game.

Granted, it really is a bomb-based control list. It's not going to win without jamming big bois, so it really needs that Prismari to make it viable.

February 24, 2021 4:07 p.m.

Icbrgr It is not true that 'anything grixis can do UWx can to better'. Grixis has access to much faster win conditions than UWx. Bolts + Snapcaster Mage is a decent way to close the game. Tasigur is great for closing games. The other 'good' wincons for grixis close the game much more quickly than UWx. Kolghan's Command is also one heck of a card, and Snapcaster Mage + K-Command is one of the most synergistic combos in magic. Grixis can also play a much more proactive game than UWx; hand disruption helps with this.

That said, closing games quickly is not a very valuable thing in modern, unfortunately. UWx plays the long game better than grixis hands-down, which lines up better against the modern meta of the last few years.

February 25, 2021 12:11 a.m.

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