Grand Prix Seattle is around the corner—the first major Standard event since GP Memphis. New decks have come and gone since then, but one deck remained at the top of the format: Grixis Energy.
I played Grixis Energy a lot in preparation for GP Madrid, and I didn’t love it. I started exploring something else.
Back then it was U/B Midrange, but I didn’t like how the deck performed versus creature decks. Then, I played Sultai Constrictor, which was great versus U/B shells but suffered against Whirler Virtuoso.
I wanted to find a middle ground, so I started brewing some Grixis lists, and what I saw in the Top 4 of SCG Cincinnati was close to what I was working toward. Today, I’ll share the list and sideboard I would play at GP Seattle.
Whirler Virtuoso, despite being a house in some matchups (Red and Sultai Constrictor) is quite bad everywhere else. It doesn’t impact the board, you don’t produce enough energy to make it reliable source of Thopters, and very often its body is irrelevant. I’m happy to trim some copies for some Champion of Wits, which are bad versus Red and Sultai Constrictor and great in all the other matchups—exactly the opposite of Whirler Virtuoso.
Main-deck Arguel’s Blood Fast pushes in the same direction. Aggro decks are on the decline, and against control or in the mirror, this enchantment is one of the best effects you can play. It’s way better than Search for Azcanta for two reasons: 1) You don’t have Glimmer of Genius and Disallow, and your spells are mainly removal spells game 1 so it won’t be that impactful in those matchups and 2) Field of Ruin is popular and makes Search for Azcanta way worse compared to Arguel’s Blood Fast.
Gonti, Lord of Luxury is a two-of that’s mandatory in any value deck like this. I would never cut it.
Chandra, Torch of Defiance was the other 4-drop I was playing, but I decided to cut her since the double red was too demanding.
The sideboard is similar to what I was playing in Madrid. I added only Fiery Cannonade since B/W Vampires and white-based token decks were rising in popularity and I wasn’t doing very well against them. It’s a pretty fringe sideboard card that can be boarded in against Red and B/W Tokens as well, and I’m happy with it over Golden Demise or River’s Rebuke.
While looking at my sideboard plan you’ll almost always see those cards coming in, and it isn’t a mistake in deck building. These midrange decks are built to fight a diverse metagame, so they will have some removal spells and some countermagic. It’s important to have versatile cards in the sideboard that will replace those cards in the right matchup.
Mono-Red isn’t a great matchup. I was playing three Confiscation Coup in the 75 for this matchup at GP Madrid. I also cut two Whirler Virtuoso, which makes it hard to fight a very aggressive start from the opponent. This is why I wouldn’t mind boarding in a second Fiery Cannonade on the draw over a Commit.
Three Essence Scatters help a lot post-sideboard because they will have plenty of expensive creatures that aren’t easy to deal with.
Mono-Red is less played these days though, so it’s fine to give up equity in this matchup gain it against more controlling decks.
U/B Midrange/Grixis Energy
Ah, The Scarab God mirror! I love to play Magic—and this is the best kind of Magic! Intricate lines, infinite decisions with Champion of Wits, how to scry, what to hold up, and what to represent—every choice matters!
I will group these two decks in the same category since now they are now only a few cards different.
I like to board out some of my red removal and respect Glint-Sleeve Siphoner less, since it’s the only cheap card that you want to have a one-for-one for.
This matchup is unfavorable game 1 but becomes positive post-sideboard. And now that I added Champion of Wits I can see trying to win some game 1s too. Watch out for Metallurgic Summonings and keep Essence Scatter up since you have fewer ways to deal with a Torrential Gearhulk or The Scarab God if those resolve.
You could use this sideboard plan for almost every aggressive deck with a bunch of tokens, and since a deck with four Servo Exhibitions just won the last Magic Online PTQ, don’t sleep on them.
If you play against the version of G/W Aggro with seven Vehicles, then you want all three Abrades, and if you play versus the R/W Deck that won the PTQ with four Hazoret the Fervent and four Adanto’s Vanguard, then you might want Essence Scatter and Vraska’s Contempt back in your deck!
These strategies are similar but have some key differences, so watch out and adapt your sideboarding.
I playtested versus Sultai Constrictor thoroughly and I know how important Whirler Virtuoso is, because sometimes you are in total control of the game, but if they have a Bristling Hydra and some energy you can just instantly die to Hadana’s Climb even at 20 life (with the help of a Hashep Oasis), whereas a Whirler Virtuoso in play and some energy in reserve can save your life.
You can make the argument to board out Glint-Sleeve Siphoner since it matches up so poorly against Walking Ballista, but I think that Siphoner is the best card in Standard and I would never take it out. If they one-for-one it on turn 2 it’s fine. If they play Ballista later in the game you can still Essence Scatter it and in the meanwhile Glint-Sleeve Siphoner will have gained card advantage.
If you’re playing at Grand Prix Seattle, good luck, and I hope this deck performs well for you.