One of the more common questions I’ve been asked lately is “should I play Grixis Twin or straight UR?” I’ve fallen firmly into the camp of UR Twin and I think most results have borne this out. The reason I prefer a solid 2-color deck is simply that there are so many good cards that I actively want to play within UR that there’s no need for a third color.

For reference, here’s the highest finishing Grixis Twin list I could find from GP Charlotte:

Grixis Twin

And here’s the list I used to finish in the Top 8 of the event:

UR Twin

The Differences

First, the Grixis list only plays 3 Twins, meaning that it’s more likely going to need to win games in a “fair” way with Tasigur or combo piece beatdowns. While this is a pretty normal game plan for post-board games with Twin, being able to just kill your opponent on turn 4 is a huge upside against a lot of the harder to interact with decks such as Storm, Infect, Boggles, Tron, and Amulet. The Grixis list also has to make room for these maindeck black cards somewhere and that means they usually get to play fewer interactive counterspells. The above list only has room for 2 Spell Snare outside of the usual 4 Remand, 2 Cryptic, while my list has 2 Dispel, 1 Spell Pierce and 1 Spell Snare, meaning that the UR version is more often going to be able to protect its combo from a Path to Exile, Terminate, or Dismember.

Secondly, Grixis gets to play fewer utility lands because it needs to support a 3-color mana base. Both Desolate Lighthouse and Cavern of Souls are huge players in any kind of control mirror and UR gets to play way more of them. This is balanced somewhat by Grixis getting to play a very powerful 1-mana threat for these mirrors in the form of Tasigur, but his weakness to Remand makes me prefer the bonus utility lands.

Finally, Grixis decks are just generally going to take slightly more damage from their lands and be slightly worse at implementing a Blood Moon strategy than a straight UR deck. These kinds of advantages can be difficult to notice in individual playtest games, but over the course of a long event, they do add up and can make the difference between beating Burn at 2 life or dying exactly.

Of course, there are also some circumstances in which Grixis Twin is going to be a better choice than straight UR. Most of these advantages come against decks that lean heavily on Abrupt Decay such as Jund and Junk. Tasigur and Kolaghan’s Command both shine in these matchups as they give you a much better fair game 1 where you don’t have to lean as heavily on the combo. The problem with this is that if Junk and Jund are decks I expect to face often I would probably prefer to play something other than Twin to begin with, so I don’t love hedging against these matchups by playing a third color. The hand disruption angle can also be very useful against combo opponents who are resilient to counterspells such as Ad Nauseum and Scapeshift, but I think that is less important than playing with Tasigur.

I was pretty pleased with my list from Charlotte, and that’s what I would recommend going forward, but I also don’t think you go too far wrong if you decide to play Grixis instead. Despite my preference for straight UR, the two decks are similar enough and close enough in power level that if one is going to be a good choice, the other probably is going to be as well. It’s also hard for me to imagine any Twin deck being a bad choice any time soon because of how good it is at punishing random decks and how open the Modern format tends to be.

My Twin Sideboarding Philosophy

I know people love sideboard guides, but they really do not work with a deck as fluid as Twin. I typically change my plans based on opponent and based on how much interaction I think they’re going to have for my combo. Some opponents will play around Blood Moon as much as possible, while others will ignore it entirely. I’ll try to give my thoughts on each matchup and what my basic plan is, but you really need to consider what will give you the best chance to interact with your opponent. Finally, you have some cards that are dramatically stronger on the play in Remand and Blood Moon and it’s important to keep that in mind when making your sideboarding decisions.

Twin Mirror

In game 1, I recommend being as aggressive as possible in trying to combo off. There’s not typically a lot of opposing interaction that can punish you aside from your opponent playing a tapper of their own in response (to tap your Exarch) and then going off on their turn, so as long as you stay aware of that, you should be in OK shape. Post-board, it becomes a bit harder to go off and winning with damage becomes the focus. Remember that the Jace +1 can stop you from getting combo’d by a Deceiver Exarch!

Typical sideboard plan:

Out

In

Jund/Junk

This matchup is pretty rough, but there are some tricks to it. Against Jund keep in mind that they actually don’t have very many Abrupt Decays because of how popular Tasigur is, meaning that going for a Twin with Dispel backup will often be good enough. Against Junk they have a lot more Decays, so I would probably try and just jam the combo as soon as possible so they don’t have a lot of time to set up. Post-board, I like removing almost all of my combo pieces and trying to win with Blood Moon and Keranos.

Typical sideboard plan:

Out

In

Affinity

This matchup is pretty good as they typically just have to try and race your combo in game 1 and you get to bring in a lot of controlling haymakers game 2. It’s also somewhat unusual in that you still can win post-board with the combo, but also win with damage a good amount of the time because of how good your control game plan is.

Typical sideboard plan:

Out

In

Burn

This is another matchup I like. Similarly to Affinity, you often win post-board games with damage, but have other cards that are not good in your main deck so most of the combo pieces stay in anyway. Be aware that they often board in Destructive Revelry so you’ll want to tap down their green sources before trying to go off.

Typical sideboard plan:

Out

In

Abzan Collected Company

I don’t have as much experience with this matchup as I would like to be able to give definitive notes, but so far it’s felt pretty good to me. Game 1 you have lots of tools to stop them from combo’ing off and post-board you get some great interaction in Anger of the Gods to help win fair games. It helps also that Dispel is great against their best spells in Chord of Calling and Collected Company.

Typical sideboard plan:

Out

In

A Final Note on My Top 8 Match

In the Top 8 of Grand Prix Charlotte, I lost game 2 to a Cavern of Souls on Wizard being used to cast an uncounterable Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir. However, my opponent had inadvertently registered a Tectonic Edge on his deck list instead of the Cavern. I had been given his deck list before the match started, as is customary in the Top 8 of Constructed Grand Prix events, and I had noted to myself that he wasn’t playing Cavern. When he played it I assumed I must’ve somehow missed it on his list, what with it being a fairly innocuous land that you can’t really do much to play around anyway. I’ve since heard a lot of grumblings that I was “robbed” and “deserved” to win the match but I strongly feel this is not the case.

First off, my opponent had been playing Cavern all weekend and had (probably) played it against other opponents before me so it’s not really fair to say that my match is the only one where it mattered. Secondly, he had intended to play Cavern, and it was only a clerical error on his part that lead to the problem in the first place. He hadn’t gained an in-game advantage over anyone because of this error and the match would’ve played out exactly the same way had he just written “Cavern of Souls” instead of “Tectonic Edge.” Even if the mistake had been caught, the correct fix in that situation is to amend the deck list to match the deck he intended to play—so he would still have been allowed to play Cavern against me.

I do hope that this incident encourages judges to reconsider their decision not to do a Top 8 deck check. In this case, the incident was obvious, easily caught, and was made in a way that didn’t really change in-game decision making at all. However, it’s easy for me to envision a scenario where a competitor accidentally registers something like 2 Spell Pierce and 1 Dispel but then decides at the last minute to play 2 Dispel 1 Spell Pierce without remembering to change their list. For the Swiss rounds of the tournament, this would still not really give them any advantage, but once you get into the Top 8 and lists are shared I could easily see someone making a percentage-based decision to play around Pierce but not Dispel because they thought they had perfect information about the opponent’s deck list. Additionally, this kind of mistake could be much harder to catch if the player who makes it only plays one copy of the 2-of during each individual game (but draws it more often than they were “supposed” to).

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any other questions about Twin in the comments!