Grixis Control in Scars of Mirrodin Block, by Grant Hislop

Grixis Control in Scars of Mirrodin Block, by Grant Hislop


I’d start with the usual ‘Sorry I haven’t written for ages’ nonsense, but we’d all know I was lying. I’m not sorry at all, and I doubt anyone actually noticed my absence. I’ve been busy, real life, children, illness, blah, blah, blah, who cares? Excuses, excuses…

It’s Nats qualifier season, which is Standard, so obviously I’ve been playing SoM block constructed and drafting. Winning.

I’ve played in a couple of Qualifiers now, but sadly due to illness I played like a fool for most of both of them. I DID manage to get 3-outered on the bubble in Glasgow, which sucked, but I didn’t really deserve to qualify for either anyway, flu or not. Should probably qualify on rating anyway, but I’ll probably be in Huddersfield next week to firm things up.

What would I play if I had bothered to go to Newcastle? Esper-blade, with Baneslayer Angel, to slay the all barns. That card gives you so many free wins, it’s stupid not to play it in tournaments like Nats Q’s, where the standard of players is (insert polite word for terrible). Go Britain…

Edinburgh sucks. There’s hardly anyone here that can actually play reasonably competent Magic. I’ve been increasingly finding myself on MODO to get my magical fix, and as this is, sadly, a new(ish) development, my online collection is sadly lacking. As I’d said last time I wrote, I intended to play SoM block constructed as a stepping stone into Std and Ext constructed. Sadly, I’ve not got the funds to be spending money on MODO Jaces to accompany my paper copies, so I’m just going to continue playing block for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, SoM block is awesome fun.

There’s plenty of viable decks, but the one I’ve been having the most success with has been a Grixis control deck.

Grixis Control

Creatures (12)

4 Neurok Commando
2 Phyrexian Rager
3 Skinrender
2 Consecrated Sphinx
1 Geth, Lord of the Vault

Spells (21)

2 Red Suns Zenith
3 Blue Suns Zenith
2 Black Suns Zenith
4 Stoic Rebuttal
3 Steel Sabotage
3 Go for the Throat
4 Grasp of Darkness

Lands (27)

4 Darkslick Shores
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
1 Mountain
11 Island
7 Swamp

Sideboard (15)

2 Halt Order
1 Steel Sabotage
2 Memoricide
3 Oxidda Scrapmelter
2 Wurmcoil Engine
2 Phyrexian Revoker
3 Grindclock

So, why is this deck good? I appreciate that probably not very many of you actually play block constructed, so I’ll try and break down the card choices.


Neurok Commando is one of the most innocuously powerful cards in the format. Obviously, he’s not the biggest body going, but this is one of the most powerful Ophidians in recent memory. This deck is where he’s at his best, with a large number of removal spells to clear the way for him. Connecting with a Commando is one of the most powerful things you can be doing in this format

Phyrexian Rager is here because we can’t run 6 Commandos. He’s a fine Grey Ogre, tho nothing spectacular. We’re missing really good library manipulation spells in block, and seeing as we don’t have preordain, we have to play value ogres to ensure we can draw our good cards.

Skinrender has lost some of its luster lately. In SoM only, it was one of the best cards. It seems like now, people are building decks with this in mind. Either the creatures aren’t worth 4 mana and a card to kill, or they’re bigger than he can take down alone. Sad face. I’ve been considering changing this card into Oxidda Scrapmelter, but I know the mana is pretty shaky as is, and I don’t know if it’s worth stretching it further for what is, for all intents and purposes, a relatively minor upgrade. Further testing is (always) required.

Geth, Lord of the Vault is insane. He’s a dragon, and has a VERY relevant ability in this deck. Removing opponents creatures in the early game, while hitting with commandos is great, but the real icing on the cake is dropping Geth in the late game, and stealing the guys that you’ve already killed so you can hit your opponent with them. You don’t necessarily want to drop Geth on Turn 6, generally I’d rather wait til I can A) protect him and/or B) Activate his ability at least once, hence why there’s only 1.

Consecrated Sphinx is a big guy. It doesn’t really die to very much that’s actually being played, save Go For The Throat, which due to the sets artifact theme, isn’t usually being played as a 4-of. It doesn’t die to Grasp of Darkness, Galvanic Blast etc, and you’re generally ok with it getting Tumble Magneted.


Red Suns Zenith – Another finisher and more, re-usable removal. Worth the strain on the manabase to accommodate.

Black Suns Zenith. Wrath’s are pretty good in control decks.

Blue Suns Zenith. So is drawing cards.

Removal Spells – 4 Grasp of Darkness, 3 Go For the Throat. Done this way because of the large number of artifact creatures running around. I wish it could be the other way round, but it’s a meta-call atm. I doubt it’s going to change anytime soon.

Counters – 4 Stoic Rebuttal, 3 Steel Sabotage. I’m not excited to be playing Cancel, but it’s the best counter we’ve got available. Steel Sabotage is a tricky one. A lot of the things that you want to counter aren’t artifacts, ie Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, Koth of the Hammer et al. It’s almost always got a use, and it’s important to remember that it’s not just an Annul, it’s also Unsummon. This deck is capable of very tempo based draws, so sometimes it’s correct to be using this as Unsummon to clear the way for Commando. I’ve toyed with going down to 2, and running a singleton Fuel for the Cause, but I don’t think it’s worth it.

The manabase should be pretty obvious. We’re trying to cast 6-drops, and we don’t have Ponder, Preordain etc, so we need to run 27 lands. We have 8 dual lands, and enough Islands to ensure we can cast Commando on turn 3, and Blue Sun’s Zenith at some point around turns 5-6. We’re really hurting for something to do with this mana, and I wish I could fit Inkmoth Nexus in, but it’s just too greedy, not to mention turning on removal spells that we’re generally pretty resilient to.

Sideboard wise, we’ve got access to more counters in Halt Order and the 4th Steel Sabotage, taking us up to potentially 10 counters post-board.

Memoricide is for the decks with few win conditions. Big Red is a lot less threatening when they’re Koth-less, Tezzeret is absolutely terrible without Tezzeret etc. It should be relatively intuitive where this is good.

As should Phyrexian Revoker. Play this sensibly, and don’t run it into Contagion Clasps. Popular targets include Planeswalkers, Tumble Magnet, Steel Hellkite, Proliferators etc.
Oxidda Scrapmelter is often just a straight swap for Skinrender, in matches where that might be good, tho sometimes it’s in addition to, for matches like Infect, and the Tempered Steel decks that pop up from time-to-time.

Wurmcoil Engine is another dragon, and those are sometimes good, I’ve heard.

Grindclock is for the control mirror. It’s important to have a threat that sneaks under Stoic Rebuttal, and is difficult to deal with. The card’s been performing admirably, and I wholly endorse running these.

What’s not in the deck?


I like blanking my opponents cards. People run cards like Oxidda Scrapmelter and Revoke Existence, and Shatter etc in their main decks. These cards have no use against me. This makes me very happy. There are no MAIN-DECK targets for these spells in our deck. This means that most opponents will side out these spells, at which point we are free to side in out Artifacts, and win as a result. Sure, some are creatures, which can die (especially Revoker), but how does your UB opponent beat a resolved Grindclock when they’ve sided out all their Steel Sabotages? I realise that I’m just describing Magic for beginners, but since I’ve no real clue what the audience reading this is, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Join me next week, where I’ll explain why the wheel is round, and I’ll run through a lengthy seminar on the days of the week, and what order they’re in, ala Rebecca Black.

I’m not really one for sideboarding guides, so I’m not going to bother. It’s not the hardest deck to sideboard, the cards should be relatively obviously good/bad, and the swaps pretty easy. There’s no point in me writing out lists with SB out your Go for the Throats vs the Tempered Steel and other Artifact decks for more Sabotages and Halt Orders etc. I find that it’s better to remain fairly fluid with SBing anyway, and find straight lists  rigid, and often unhelpful as to why you’re doing what an author’s told you to do.

I WILL however, give a quick rundown of some of the more frequent matchups, and try to explain what’s important.+6

UB Control.

This is the matchup I’ve played the most. It’s fairly intuitive, and not the most taxing of matchups. Relatively standard control mirror. Make lands for as long as possible, and cast your dragons when you can protect them. Generally, I like to EoT Blue Sun’s Zenith the turn before I’m going to cast a big dude to try to bait the counter (revolutionary, I know). Fortunately, most people are idiots, and snap-counter the Zenith for 3/4, leaving me free to cast a Consecrated Sphinx, and protect it, and draw cards anyway.

Skinrender comes out, as they’ve not got many targets for it. Grindclock is amazing here. I haven’t lost a single game where this has resolved. T2 Grindclock kills on T13 if you charge it 8 times before starting to Grind. With the amount of counters you’re running, it’s not difficult to just sit and Ride the Grind, which sounds like an excellent Heavy Metal album, probably by DragonForce, which can only be good.

Big Red.

They can T3 Koth. You don’t want this to happen. Try and kill the Myr of they’re on the play, and keep hands with Stoic Rebuttal. They won’t like Wurmcoil Engine post-board. Your artifact removal is pretty good, cos they’ll likely be running a plan B of Liquimetal Coating plus Kuldotha Phoenix. You’ll want to stop the Phoenix returning.


I don’t have much experience playing against this deck. Seems similar to Big Red in the early turns, ie stop the acceleration, counter the planeswalker etc. Kuldotha Forgemaster is really good against us if resolved, being a 5 toughness artifact, so keep him in mind when using counters/bounce.

Infect (B+G)

Two different decks, both relatively similar, both similarly good matchups. Tiny creatures and artifacts, which is pretty much what we’re built to deal with. Black Sun’s Zenith is an all-star here, as they’re pretty much the block version of a swarm aggro deck. Really easy matchup, you should only lose to mana-screw/flood.

That pretty much covers the major matchups that I’ve faced online. There’s obviously the random fringe decks, but it’s pretty easy to work out what you’re doing there. Practice VS UB a lot, it seems to be the most popular deck online atm. I assume this has something to do with the fact that it’s one of the cheaper ones to build, tho the intrinsic power of the deck has probably got something to do with it as well.

I should be in Huddersfield next weekend, if anyone would like to chat about anything I’ve written here. I’ll be the ruggedly handsome guy with all the tattoos.

(vaughnswift on modo, ruggedly handsome everywhere)

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