I’m back from a recent 2nd-place finish at SCG Open Charlotte with Grishoalbrand! You can find the original deck introduction here.

I have been testing the deck with a blue splash for a couple months on Magic Online and it has paid off tremendously. The original black/red version of the deck was solid, but ran into consistency issues. Blue offers Izzet Charm and more importantly, Serum Visions. In a deck where the cards either do nothing or win you the game on the spot, seeing three cards with 1 mana is very powerful. The deck is more consistent now, and I’m excited to see if any players pick it up for the upcoming Pro Tour.

The Pithing Needle Incident

Before I dive in, I’d like to clear something up relating to the Pithing Needle incident. Skip ahead if you are interested only in the sideboard guide.
I wrote a post similar to this passage on my Facebook page.

In my Top 4 match against Bradley Carpenter on Abzan Company, there was a controversial play in which he named the wrong Borborygmos. If I could, I would go back and not activate Borborygmos Enraged. Here is the situation as best as I can remember it.

He named Borborygmos, looked at me, and I said “okay.” His intent was 100% clear to both of us. But when he said it, the judges left to confer and then returned. That made me realize that he named the wrong card, as there is a Borborygmos from Guildpact that is different from my Borborygmos Enraged, which is from Gatecrash.

I asked the judges away from the table to verify that he had named the Guildpact version. They said he did, and I came back, unsure of what to do. Ultimately, I gave in to my desire to win. But in retrospect, I think that while winning is important to me, it was not worth doing it in a questionable way.

I was not cheating or breaking any rules. In my head, I was capitalizing on his "play mistake." In reality though, it was a stupid, unlucky communication error. I have since learned that the rules for naming a card allow a player plenty of leeway, so long as they are able to uniquely identify a card. The goal is for it to be as easy as possible for a player to name the card they have in their head. The spirit of the rules was definitely on Brad’s side, and it was very unlucky for him that he happened to name another card that exists.

Luckily, we split beforehand and Brad was very gracious about the entire situation. All in all, I would say that I have learned to be more careful with my decisions and that good sportsmanship is more important than simply winning.

Sideboard Guide

Here’s my latest list:

Grishoalbrand

Changes since SCG Charlotte:

Out

In

Twin is gone, so there is less need for the third Pact of Negation. I still like Rending Volley for killing Eidolon of Rhetoric and Merfolk lords.

A lot of people have asked me about Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. He is interesting in that you can Goryo’s Vengeance him, flip him, and then flashback Goryo’s Vengeance later. But I found that he gets hit by removal immediately, and I’d rather not turn on my opponent’s Lightning Bolts.

Another card I tested that I didn’t like was Taigam’s Scheming. Scheming either won you the game or did nothing, and it worked terribly with Worldspine Wurm as you were forced to leave the Wurm in the top 5 if you didn’t want to shuffle.

Finally, it also made you more vulnerable to graveyard hate.

Like all SB guides, don’t take this one as gospel. In particular, there are a few hate cards to be aware of: If you see Surgical Extraction, bring in Inquisition. If you see Pithing Needle or other hate permanents, bring in Echoing Truth.

Affinity – Even

Out

In

Pre-board, it’s mostly a race and you are generally faster. Post-board, they take out their slower clock pieces and bring in some disruption, which makes your life much more difficult. I haven’t found a successful strategy to beat Affinity post-board, as even Shatterstorm can be beaten via manlands. Let me know if you figure out a better strategy.

Jund – Favorable

Out

In

Worldspine Wurm usually wins as the only answer they might have is Maelstrom Pulse. If you see a lot of graveyard hate (i.e., Leyline of the Void), consider bringing in Echoing Truth or simply siding out some Goryo’s Vengeance for Sudden Shock (kills Bob, Fulminator, Ooze).

Burn – Favorable

Out

In

Worldspine Wurm usually wins as Burn tends to deal a lot of damage to itself. Sometimes, even one hit with Borborygmos Enraged is sufficient. Pre-board, the matchup is mostly a race. Post-board, they often bring in a variety of hate cards. Be wary of Skullcrack/Atarka’s Command/Path to Exile/Deflecting Palm. If you are able to get a Griselbrand into play, you can draw 7 to find a Pact and counter these.

GR Tron – Very Favorable

Out

In

This is your best matchup. Their clock is nonexistent, so any Griselbrand typically wins on the spot. Bring in the bounce spells for potential Pithing Needles. If you know they don’t have that, no sideboarding is necessary as you just want to increase your own consistency.

Merfolk – Unfavorable

Out

In

This matchup is very tough. They have a variety of bounce spells, counterspells, and a fast clock. Pre-board, they generally have a lot less countermagic and it is fine to go for it. Post-board, you’ll just have to buy time with removal spells and hope to draw enough that you can overwhelm them.

Infect – Very Unfavorable

Out

In

I have tried everything to try and win here. Pyroclasm gets countered by Mutagenic Growth and Blood Moon is easily played around with Nobles/Basics. Just be fast and you can randomly steal games. Post-board is even harder as they have graveyard hate and more cheap counterspells. Sudden Shock was the best I could come up with, and even then it’s usually not enough.

Abzan – Even

Out

In

Unfortunately, they have Path and creatures that don’t die to Izzet Charm so this is much harder than Jund. Otherwise, they generally have less graveyard hate so Goryo’s Vengeance is typically more likely than against Jund.

UG(RB) Scapeshift – Favorable

Out

In

Be wary of Slaughter Games. Otherwise, this matchup is fairly straightforward—they are slow, and you can usually overwhelm their countermagic before they can Scapeshift you.

Grixis Control – Even

Out

In

They have both discard and countermagic, but they also have a slower clock.

Living End – Favorable

Out

In

Be wary of Faerie Macabre and know that you can discard Griselbrand in response to Living End with Izzet Charm.

Naya Company – Even

Out

In

This matchup can be harder than you might expect. They have a fast clock, Path to Exile, and some hatebears you have to contend with. Thalia in particular is a pain, and that’s why I like Rending Volley.

Abzan Company – Slightly Favorable

Out

In

Pre-board, it’s a race that you typically win. Post-board, they have a variety of hatebears and/or discard. If they are on the discard/Eternal Witness plan, you will want all of your Night’s Whispers.

Ad Nauseam – Even

Out

In

Go off and put in Borborygmos Enraged during your end step. That way, if they Angel’s Grace, you can pass the turn and then throw another land at them during their upkeep so that they need two Angel’s Graces to survive. The Echoing Truth comes in because they typically have Leyline of Sanctity, which limits you to a combat step victory.

Bogles – Unfavorable

Out

In

This matchup is tough because they have a fast clock and hate permanents, along with Path to Exile. Often, Daybreak Coronet makes it so that they can even beat Worldspine Wurm straight-up. I haven’t tested the matchup with Echoing Truth, but it should be better as you can bounce their Suppression Fields or other Auras to buy you time.

Mono-Black and BW Eldrazi – Even to Slightly Favorable

Out

In

It will be interesting to see the new Eldrazi lists going forward. For now, if they are playing the mono-black version, I board out all of my Goryo’s Vengeances and bring in Painful Truths, Boseiju as a land, and some Inquisitions. The mono-black version is slow and has few answers for Through the Breach so we are favored there. If they have white, that means they have less graveyard hate but they also have Path to Exile. I would recommend leaving some Vengeances there and bringing in Inquisition of Kozilek and Painful Truths for some Izzet Charms/Faithless Looting.

It’s Modern, so I wasn’t able to cover everything, but what you see above should be able to be extrapolated to most other decks in the format.

General Tips

The typical order to sequence cantrips would be Manamorphose -> Night’s Whisper -> Serum Visions -> Faithless Looting -> Izzet Charm.
All of these change depending on the need. In general, you want to Faithless Looting last because that gives you a higher chance of pitching the right cards. But, if you need to be fast, sometimes you want to loot sooner. When you are playing against discard, saving Serum Visions for last can be strong as you can leave combo pieces on top. In one match, my opponent went turn-1 Inquisition Goryo’s Vengeance, turn-2 ‘Goyf, turn-3 double-Thoughtseize my two Through the Breaches and I won the next turn because he left my lone Faithless Looting and I was able to loot into the Griselbrand and Goryo’s Vengeance that I left on top.
Protect your life total! Make sure you are able to cast your spells on time, but any life you can save should be saved. It’s much easier to combo off with every additional draw 7 that you can afford.

Don’t be afraid to pass the turn. If I brick on hitting Nourishing Shoals/Worldspine Wurms, I try to figure out the worst thing that my opponent can do to me next turn. If I can beat that, then I am generally okay passing and combo’ing off the following turn. I see a lot of new players continually draw 7 and brick, and then they lose due to being at too low of a life total.

To beat counterspells, simply set up a scenario where you try to put a creature in during their end-step—they counter that, and you get to untap and play another combo piece. Counterspells in Modern aren’t free, and this is a very effective way of beating them. Be aware that you can splice both Goryo’s Vengeance and Through the Breach onto Nourishing Shoal and Desperate Ritual, thus making the Nourishing Shoal and Desperate Ritual must-counter combo pieces too.

Grishoalbrand Bucket List

Here’s a list of a few things I have accomplished:

• Hardcast Griselbrand
• Win with Pact trigger on the stack
• Win with 0 cards left in deck
• Pay for a Pact of Negation
• Win on turn 1
• Win with only Borborygmos Enraged
• Splice Through the Breach onto Goryo's Vengeance
• Attack with 30+ power
• Win in response to an infinite combo
• Beat an Iona on red by splicing Through the Breach onto Nourishing Shoal

Note that you can even win on turn 0: 2 Simian Spirit Guide, 1 Nourishing Shoal, 1 Worldspine Wurm, 1 Desperate Ritual, 1 Manamorphose, 1 Izzet Charm.
Splice the ritual on the Shoal and play it  4 red mana  Manamorphose UB, draw Goryo’s Vengeance  Use UR for Izzet Charm, draw and discard Griselbrand + the other card  Use RB for Vengeance.

You still have 2 SSG and 1 Desperate Ritual in the deck to splice on a Shoal to then splice or play Through the Breach. Thanks to Cédric Cudré-Mauroux for letting me know that one.