Welcome back! If you haven’t read the first part of my primer for Grixis Control, I suggest you read that first:

Grixis Control Deck Guide

Last time, I discussed Grixis Control’s place in the metagame, how and why the deck is configured the way it is, and my overarching thoughts on the Modern format. Today I’m going to focus on sideboarding, as well as a brief overview of your role as a Grixis Control player in a series of matchups.

Sideboarding

If you’re going to pick up Grixis, this list is tricky to sideboard with. Games tend to drag on, and over the course of the average game, you’ll see about half of your deck between scry, drawing cards, and self-mill. Therefore, having the wrong cards can drastically reduce your percentage in a matchup. Here, I’ll cover each of the decks I played against at the GP, as well as most of the popular decks. If I missed one that you’re interested in hearing about, please ask about it in the comments blow.

Burn

The focus here is to remove their repeated sources of damage, counter the key burn spells, and get a clock on them and hold on for dear life. In the sideboard games, the matchup doesn’t change much, but the burn player may sideboard differently based on the cards that they see you play. If you show the Burn pilot a Sun Droplet in game 2, it’s possible they’re bring in one or more copies of Destructive Revelry to fight it.

Out

In

Spell Snare and Lightning Bolt are your best cards here. A turn-2 Tasigur, the Golden Fang is truly fantastic as it can mitigate the Burn player’s repeated sources of damage (creatures), as well as put a fast clock on them. Constantly be looking around for spots to Bolt your opponent’s face and turn into a counter-burn deck. Burn frequently does 6+ damage to itself off its lands and Eidolon. Using their cards against them in this matchup can be exceptionally effective.

Dredge

This is another tough matchup, and one that is difficult to win in game 1. The focus here is to control their milling. Don’t Kolaghan’s Command them for a discard if you can help it. Your goal in the matchup is to get a clock into play, and use repeated Cryptic Commands to tap the hoard of undead creatures and attack with some Snapcaster Mage and Tasigur, the Golden Fang. Conflagrate is Dredge’s best card in the matchup, and part of the reason you need to leave in your Countersqualls in.

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In the sideboard games you have the tools to control the board. Surgical should focus on removing either their dredge pieces to slow them down, or their resurrection pieces (Bloodghast > Narcomoeba > Prized Amalgam). If the Dredge pilot has Bridge From Below, also bring in the Fulminator Mages in place of 2 Terminate and 1 Thought Scour. Note that Terminate is better than Bolt in this matchup to answer hardcast Golgari Grave-Trolls.

Affinity

The Robots are one of the best matchups for Grixis, and one that I hope gets another great piece in Aether Revolt. The more Affinity is in the format, the more I believe playing Grixis is a great choice. Focus on blowing up every one of their permanents. Fetch safely to protect your life total, as getting burned out by 2-3 Galvanic Blast is an awkward way to lose a game. Focus on trying to keep Cranial Plating and Arcbound Ravager off the table with Spell Snare and Kolaghan's Command.

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The sideboard doesn’t change the matchup too much. Most of the cards we bring in are to hedge against Etched Champion, as that’s the most likely way to lose the match besides a turn-2 Blood Moon.

Infect

Infect is another fantastic matchup for Grixis. Cheap instant-speed interaction, counterspells, and recursion make for a tough matchup for Infect. The most likely way you lose is to disrespecting their ability to combo. Don’t tap your mana main phase for the first 2-3 turns if you can avoid it except to control the board state. Casting Lightning Bolt, Terminate, or EE is fine, but don’t cast a random Serum Visions until the later portion of the game unless you’re at risk of missing a land drop. Leaving an opening for the Infect player to pray on weakness is asking for trouble.

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The matchup doesn’t change much post-board. Be careful ofWild Defiance interactions. The card can be tricky to play through. If your Infect opponent has Wild Defiance, you can bring in the second EE for the fourth Ancestral Vision.

Death's Shadow Aggro

Death's Shadow is very similar to Infect in terms of play style. You don’t want to tap your mana on your turn unless it’s to remove their threats from the table turns 1-3. EE completely wrecks Death's Shadow game 1, but I’ve seen some lists move to more Ranger of Eos and Tarmogoyf in the starting 60.

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Again, focus on control of the board. Not much changes in the sideboard games except that they’ll remove a fair amount of their combo for more Hooting-Mandrills-type cards. I personally think this is a poor way of sideboarding against Grixis, and would look to kill Grixis on turn 3 as often as possible. If your opponent is not cutting any of their combo, consider bringing in 1 Dispel in place of one of the slower cards in the deck, Ancestral Vision.

Jund

Jund is another solid matchup. I don’t think it’s as favorable as Affinity or Infect, but it’s a deck I’d choose to fight every round. The goal against Jund is to keep their threats off of the table. Dark Confidant and Raging Ravine are answered by Lightning Bolt. Tarmogoyf is a great place to aim a Terminate. Liliana, of the Veil demands a Snapcaster Mage + Lightning Bolt or a Countersquall.

Surviving to your much more powerful late game is the name of the game here. Once you find one grindy element, you can usually take over the game, as 1 Snapcaster Mage usually turns into many because of the Commands.

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As such, there’s not much to sideboard here. Damnation is a good add as it kills Thrun, the Last Troll and can clean up sticky boards of Grim Flayer and friends. Lightning Bolt gets shaved as it doesn’t kill many creatures anymore, as about half the Jund decks play Grim Flayer over Dark Confidant.

Abzan

This is the most popular of the fair decks from my experience, and I think Abzan is quite good. The matchup is similar to Jund, where you want to slow the game to a halt, control the board, and trust your Commands, Snapcasters and Ancestral Vision will take control. Lingering Souls is the card that can make this matchup tough, and is why you sideboard slightly differently here than against Jund.

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Focus again on board control. Don’t let Liliana of the Veil take over, and aggressively attack the enemy's hand when given the opportunity. You’re not at risk of getting burned out in this matchup anymore, and Siege Rhino has gone on a safari, so trading cards for life is perfectly fine here.

Lantern Control

This is a deck that’s been picking up steam both in live tournaments and on MTGO. Lantern Control will feel like it has total control the entire game, and then one draw can annihilate them. Your blue draws spells are the best cards in the matchup. Thought Scour is particularly important to allow you to use your opponent’s Lantern of Insight against them, preventing them from drawing Surgical Extraction or key lands in the midgame. Focus on controlling the development of their lock, and slowly grind them out.

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The sideboard games improve the matchup. Dispel is for their Surgical Extractions. Your Surgical Extractions are to exile your cards in response to a Surgical Extraction, as well as to shuffle your opponent’s deck. If they’re on Glint-Nest Crane, you can leave in 1 Lightning Bolt, but I don’t think you’re going to die to a single Crane, and you’re better off racing it.

Elves

Tribal decks have fallen slightly in terms of popularity, but that doesn’t mean you should go to a tournament unsure of how to fight them. Elves are going to play to the board non-stop then use Collected Company and Chord of Calling as payoff cards to close the door. Focus on denying their mana production. Elvish Archdruid is their best card as it’s both a lord effect and an excellent mana producer.

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The sideboard games are much the same. Eliminate all of their small creatures. Leave up mana to counter their big finish. Note: Dispel is great because the way you’re most likely to lose is to a pair of instant-speed Chord of Callings for Shaman of the Pack.

Merfolk

Another deck on the decline. This used to be the whole reason I had a Dismember in my main deck—to fight Master of Waves. This matchup can be tricky because of Aether Vial. Focus on using Kolaghan’s Command to smelt the Aether Vial and the game will become much simpler, as it’s difficult for the fish to keep up with your more potent spells. Kill the lords, and counter the Master of Waves when you can, but don’t be afraid to try and turn the race around with Cryptic Command tapping their team.

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The focus in the sideboard games is to cut the situational counterspells that can get stuck in your hand while your opponent has a Cavern of Souls or an Aether Vial. Keep their Lords off the table, and fetch for non-blue sources because of Spreading Seas. Engineered Explosives is almost always used on 2 for that reason.

Scapeshift (TitanShift)

The focus of this matchup is to keep Primeval Titan off the table and prevent Scapeshift from resolving. Game 1 is tricky because of all the spot removal you have, but not unwinnable. Focus on putting a clock on the opponent, and hold onto a Cryptic Command for dear life. Note that this is the most common matchup in which “Cryptic Counter your spell, bounce my Snapcaster” occurs. You always want to have a Cryptic Command available to you when you cannot kill them and grind them out.

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The sideboard games are much of the same focus. If you see some midrange threats from your opponent, consider boarding some copies of Terminate for Ancestral Vision on the draw, but don’t dilute your deck too much. Apply pressure and focus on countering their spells and discarding their cards during their draw step.

Ad Nauseam

This matchup is a tricky one. You need to apply pressure while holding counterspells up like a normal tempo deck. The spot where it gets tricky is that they can kill at instant speed. Focus on mana denial early into applying pressure during the midgame.

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In this matchup, especially in the post-sideboard games, don’t be afraid to Thought Scour the opponent. They have scry lands, as well as needing key cards to function. If you can Surgical Extraction their Ad Nauseam the game will end. If you can exile all their Pact of Negations, it’s exceptionally tough for them to win as well. Again, control their mana—especially their artifact mana—as best you can and don’t tap mana the turns they’re going into a combo turn (Usually turn 4 when Lotus Bloom is coming off suspend).

R/W Prison

“Sun and Moon” as they call it is becoming a more popular deck, and one that I find quite interesting to play against. It’s similar to Skred Red, except that’s it’s going to usually have more prison elements like Ghostly Prison or Ensnaring Bridge along with a suite of planeswalkers. Here, focus on fetching around Blood Moon. Keep the key threat off the table you cannot play around with Countersquall or Cryptic Command.

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If they have creatures, or are Skred Red:

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Bant Eldrazi

Bant Eldrazi is another close but tough matchup. Their lands are usually more troubling than their creatures, and that's why I’ll usually lump them into a “mana” deck like Tron or Scapeshift. Focus on controlling their creatures while you can. Eldrazi Displacer and the mana creatures need to get hit by Lightning Bolt. Terminate is for Thought-Knot Seer, Drowner of Hope, and Reality Smasher. Seldom can you answer all their threats in game 1, so you need to set up a counterattack. Use your Tasigur to push damage, and Snapcaster Mage + Cryptic Command to tap their team enough times to end the game through creature damage. Creeping Tar Pit frequently does the closing damage in this matchup.

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The sideboard games are much of the same. Try and answer their threats, then find a solid spot to counterattack. Use Fulminator Mage to strip them of colors if and only if you can end the game before they stabilize on colored mana. Focus on killing Eldrazi Temple and Cavern of Souls.

Bant Knightfall

Before playing Nathan Smith at the Grand Prix, I had only played this matchup once, so I didn’t know the contents of his deck. Knowing now that he has Spell Queller, Vendilion Clique, and more of a Bant tempo game, I’m a pretty big fan of this deck. Your focus should be on keeping the board clear, and play the matchup similarly to how you play against Jund or Abzan. Kill their creatures, and counter their big finish.

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In this matchup, I try to go bigger and better. It’s possible you want Izzet Staticaster as well but because the games go long enough, I assume they’ll board out their Birds of Paradise, giving you fewer targets. Keep Knight of the Reliquary off the table and counter a Collected Company if you can. Your best turn 1 is Ancestral Vision.

Tron

Last but not least, the worst matchup for Grixis, Tron. Tron goes over the top of fair decks, and is a real struggle to beat. I used to have Shadow of Doubt and 5 pieces of mana denial because I hate losing to Tron so much. In game 1, try and apply as much pressure as you can. Counter an Ugin, the Spirit Dragon or Karn Liberated if given the opportunity. Use Cryptic to protect your threats and close the curtain.

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The sideboard games allow for some sweet plays. If you can Thought Scour a Tron piece from your opponent and Surgical Extraction it, that will end a game on the spot (if they don’t already have that piece in play). Similarly, Fulminator Mage + Surgical Extraction can accomplish the same goal. If your area has a high density of Tron players, I’d advocate changing some of the flexible slots in the deck for a Shadow of Doubt and an additional Fulminator Mage or a Crumble to Dust.

I hope to see more people playing Grixis Control over the coming weeks. I call this deck my baby—it’s something I’ve put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into. I left it hanging for GP Indianapolis because I thought the deck was too poorly positioned for Modern. I couldn’t stand how I felt at the end of Grand Prix Indianapolis after playing Infect. Once you know a deck inside and out and you enjoy the games with, stick with it until the end. I’ll be doing that with Grixis. If you have any questions for me, please feel free to ask them in the comments below!