With Grand Prix Oklahoma City, I’m on the search for the best Grixis deck for the weekend. As you might expect, that led me to Search for Azcanta. The card allows many blue control decks to function and exist in Standard, and it’s doing some serious work in Modern.
As in Standard, the ramp aspect of Search for Azcanta is incredibly important. These blue decks really need their mana advantage to power through the midgame. Because decks in Modern tend to play fewer lands than you might expect (especially when accounting for the thinning that fetchlands create), stifling your opponent’s ability to enable their strategy on the first few turns of the game can be potent, and the mana ability in Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin supports that perfectly.
Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin is also the exact option a control deck wants in the late game, giving you the ability to hold 4 mana up and mask what removal options you’re holding. Sometimes you’ll have Snapcaster Mage at the ready, and other times you’ll be hiding the fact that you have access to Cryptic Command. Cryptic Command plus Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin is the true bind for enemies. If they cast spells, they run the risk of getting Dismissed, and if they don’t cast spells they’re just letting you Impulse. This forces the enemy to almost always cast whatever spell they draw, and gives you the time to leverage your answers in the spots necessary. The activation cost on Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin is perfectly priced for Modern, and as a result, it’s something I think helps to level up these blue control decks to something we might see reemerge in the metagame beyond the counter burn strategy of Jeskai Control.
When you have Azcanta ,the Sunken Ruin, you can make some profound deck building choices. Starting off with the Search for Azcanta half of the card, you want fewer constraints on your graveyard. You want to be able to flip Azcanta on turn 4 every game. To enable this, I’m trying out a build that foregoes delve threats like Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Gurmag Angler. This allows you to keep more cards in your graveyard and to help fuel Logic Knots and Snapcaster Mages. Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin then allows you to play singleton copies of cards in your deck that you can reasonably expect to find over the course of a long game. Now, granted, if you’ve reached such a point, maybe you’ve already won. Still, I’m trying out some cards like Hero’s Downfall to help fight planeswalkers, a Tribute to Hunger to fight big creature strategies as well as gain life in a pinch. You can also try out cards like Cruel Ultimatum, Silumgar’s Command, or even an artifact like Engineered Explosives or Crucible of Worlds. I promise, we haven’t figured out what we can do with Search for Azcanta just yet, but the combos exist, the card is powerful, and I’m just starting to scratch the surface.
Getting into the deck I’m playing this week, let’s take a look at this list:
This version of Grixis has many more removal spells than previous versions of the deck. The reason for this is to ensure you can survive against the rise of creature-based strategies like Humans, Merfolk, and G/W Company to make it to the point that you can leverage Search for Azcanta. This can be a drawback when playing against combo decks and fast aggro decks—if you’re drawing too many removal spells, or the wrong removal spells rather than general answers or just a variety of threats, you can fall behind and get outclassed on the battlefield. Thus, the trade-off comes with a risk where you need your spells to line up more fluidly throughout the game.
0 Ancestral Visions
With Azcanta, I don’t think you need Ancestral as the way to take over the game anymore. This saddens me, but also makes the deck more consistent in the middle of the game where you’re drawing spells you can cast rather than cards that sit with time counters you’re praying come off before you die. I really wish Ancestral were good enough right now, but I don’t think you can take the time off beyond turns 1-2 to suspend it.
1 Liliana’s Defeat
I’m tired of having really scary games against Grixis Death’s Shadow. I think it’s the best deck in Modern right now, and if the Pro Tour were tomorrow I might make a hard metagame read and have 2 or even 3 Liliana’s Defeats in my sideboard for the matchup. The cards that really matter in that matchup are their black creatures when backed up by a Stubborn Denial, and Liliana, the Last Hope (yes, not Veil, despite what you have seen that card do to control and midrange decks). If I were to add additional copies to my deck, I’d cut the Brutality and Disdainful Stroke, but these cards certainly have their place in the deck.
This is a list of cards and ideas that I still want to look into between GP OKC this weekend and the Team Unified event in Santa Clara next month:
- Esper with Lingering Souls.
- Keranos or Pia and Kiran Nalaar as finishers.
- A white splash for Path and Secure the Wastes.
- Cruel Ultimatum, similar to what control master Guillame Wafo-Tapa 5-0’d with last week, seen here.
- Repeal as a catch-all card to bounce enchantments like Choke and Blood Moon.
- A main-deck Shadow of Doubt and/or Surgical Extraction to really catch people by surprise.
As I said, there’s tons of space to explore. The idea you’re going to see this week is not one I’ve tested out much yet. I’ll be testing out more ideas this week as well, and you’ll be able to catch the results of this one here later on this week! Please let me know in the comments what decks you’d like me to see me play the next few weeks, because I’d love to try some new ideas out.