Spread the Sickness – Grixis Control by Grant Hislop

UB Mystical Teachings – A Pauper Video Article by Grant Hislop


Hello again.

Following the World Championships, we’ve managed to get a slightly more defined metagame for the Standard environment. Defined environments are far easier to build for than unknown ones, as you know what you’ve got to beat, and what you’re soft to.

The deck I’m going to talk about today was based largely off of Patrick Chapin’s Worlds deck, but taken in a slightly different direction. Essentially, as Mr Chapin stated, his deck wasn’t a Grixis deck, per se, it was a Red/Black deck that splashed Blue for 3 [Card]Mana Leak[/Card], [Card]Forbidden Alchemy[/Card] and the Flashback on [Card]Desperate Ravings[/Card]. I found this deck to be solid, but not really doing what I wanted it to do. It was excellent vs all the aggro decks that were running around, but was somewhat lacking when it came to the control matchups. As he said, he ‘built the deck for this tournament‘, and in the vein of the old 5-colour-control decks from a couple of seasons ago, you have to stay with, if not ahead of the curve in order to win.

As a disclaimer, I’ve only been playing this deck for a couple of days, but I think it’s strong enough that it’s worth sharing, and getting some discussion going. I know some of the other mtgUK guys have been developing a similar deck, but they’re different enough that I’m confident I’m not stepping on anyones toes here. Plus, I’m recording videos for this inbetween writing this, so this should end up as a 2-parter with a few videos at some point next week.

Without further ado, here’s the decklist:-

2 Girls, 1 Cup.dec

3 [Card]Olivia Voldaren[/Card]
4 [Card]Snapcaster Mage[/Card]
4 [Card]Desperate Ravings[/Card]
1 [Card]Devil’s Play[/Card]
4 [Card]Dissipate[/Card]
2 [Card]Doom Blade[/Card]
4 [Card]Forbidden Alchemy[/Card]
2 [Card]Galvanic Blast[/Card]
3 [Card]Liliana of the Veil[/Card]
4 [Card]Mana Leak[/Card]
3 [Card]Slagstorm[/Card]

4 [Card]Blackcleave Cliffs[/Card]
4 [Card]DarkslickShores[/Card]
1 [Card]DragonskullSummit[/Card]
2 [Card]Drowned Catacomb[/Card]
1 [Card]Hinterland Harbor[/Card]
4 [Card]Island[/Card]
3 [Card]Mountain[/Card]
1 [Card]Shimmering Grotto[/Card]
4 [Card]SulfurFalls[/Card]
2 [Card]Swamp[/Card]


2 [Card]Ancient Grudge[/Card]
1 [Card]Consecrated Sphinx[/Card]
2 [Card]Flashfreeze[/Card]
2 [Card]Galvanic Blast[/Card]
1 [Card]Inferno Titan[/Card]
1 [Card]Negate[/Card]
2 [Card]Precursor Golem[/Card]
1 [Card]Slagstorm[/Card]
2 [Card]Surgical Extraction[/Card]

Get it? Olivia and Liliana are girls, and the Devil on [Card]Devil’s Play[/Card] has a big cup.

The biggest problem that a deck like this has is with the mana. I actually really like this manabase, it works really well, but I lose more games to awkward mana than anything else, which really sucks.

The problem is, at this point, the deck is a UR deck, and is splashing black. All these cards are excellent, and worth splashing for, so that’s not the issue. [Card]Doom Blade[/Card] isn’t a turn 2 card (usually), and [Card]Forbidden Alchemy[/Card] doesn’t require you to have Black mana until around turn 7-8ish, so again, not a problem. Liliana is great on Turn 3, but we don’t need her immediately. [Card]Slagstorm[/Card] is excellent at clearing the ground as is, and Liliana can mop up the survivors on later turns.

The problem is that the deck is now base UR, and we only have 1 dual land to work with. Because the main colours are ‘enemy’, we don’t have a scars block land to work with, so we’re stuck with just [Card]Sulfur Falls[/Card] and the [Card]Shimmering Grotto[/Card] to fix our  core mana, which is not ideal. Because of the mana of the Standard format, our splash ends up being almost effortless. We can easily get our black mana, but we can sometimes struggle to get the UUU that we need in the late game, for [Card]Snapcaster Mage[/Card] + [Card]Dissipate[/Card]. It doesn’t come up too often, and as I said, I really like the manabase that this deck has, but be aware of what lands you’re using.

As an aside, I’ve noticed that one of the biggest skill testers in Standard is the correct use of [Card]Forbidden Alchemy[/Card], vis a vis when to dump all the spicy spells, and grab the land. Essentially, Standard is now quite a quick format, and you really need to hit your land drops on turns 1-5, at the very least. As always, the fastest way to get behind in a control mirror is to lose mana advantage, and it’s very important to keep with the pace. Also, I very rarely see anyone attempt to disrupt an Alchemy or a Ravings etc, and this is usually right to do so. However, if I’ve got a couple of counters, and a [Card]Snapcaster Mage[/Card], I have no issues [Card]Mana Leak[/Card]ing a [Card]Forbidden Alchemy[/Card], hoping to disrupt my opponents mana development. Something worth thinking about…

Card Choices.

Win Conditions.

3 [Card]Olivia Voldaren[/Card]
1 [Card]Devil’s Play[/Card]

[Card]Olivia Voldaren[/Card] is an absolute house. The format is rife with one-toughness creatures, and this eats them all, while growing. [Card]Doom Blade[/Card] seems to be the removal spell of choice at the moment, and conveniently, Olivia can’t be [Card]Doom Blade[/Card]d.

Olivia’s position is a reflection of the formats removal shift. [Card]Dismember[/Card] is the ‘best’ removal spell at present, so people are forced to play creatures that pass the [Card]Dismember[/Card] test. IE that they survive through it, or do something that means even if they die, you’ve still gained some value. This shifts people to react by playing the next best spell, [Card]Doom Blade[/Card] or [Card]Go for the Throat[/Card]. [Card]Tempered Steel[/Card] is a deck again, thanks to [Card]Channelfireball[/Card], and Ben Heath is delighted, ergo [Card]Doom Blade[/Card] becomes the ‘best’ removal spell for decks to run. Being that I’m clever, I’ll react to this by playing a finisher that can’t be [Card]Doom Blade[/Card]d, and quickly grows too large for a single [Card]Dismember[/Card].

[Card]Devil’s Play[/Card] is just here because it has a cup on it, and I wanted to call the deck 2 Girls, 1 Cup.

Not really. It’s actually really good as a finisher, and early game removal. I often use it t2 to kill a [Card]Birds of Paradise[/Card] or [Card]Avacyn’s Pilgrim[/Card], and then flash it back on t4 to do the same again. I’d rather wait til the late game, and 10 my opponent twice. It’s possible to substitute [Card]Sorin’s Vengeance[/Card] in this slot, but I think the triple black COULD be a little ambitious… Your mileage may vary.

I don’t really think I need any more finishers in the maindeck, though it’s possible I could do with another Olivia. I’ve found that the throughput in this deck is sufficient that I don’t often find myself wanting for a way to win the game, and there’s not anything I’d want MD, other than possibly a [Card]Grave Titan[/Card] or [Card]Wurmcoil Engine[/Card]. We’ll see, as time progresses, but for now, I’m happy with 3 Oliva, and one [Card]Fireball[/Card] as my kill-cards.

Card Selection.

4 [Card]Desperate Ravings[/Card]
4 [Card]Forbidden Alchemy[/Card]
4 [Card]Snapcaster Mage[/Card]

Pretty standard. [Card]Desperate Ravings[/Card] is the real deal, and I have no problem with my draw spells being skill intensive. You don’t have to work particularly hard to make [Card]Desperate Ravings[/Card] work, and the fact that it’s a better lategame draw than most of it’s contemporaries is very appealing. It’s important to keep this in mind in the late game, and keep a land or two back as potential discards.

[Card]Snapcaster Mage[/Card] makes your Desperate Ravings so much better it’s unreal. If you have a good spell, and a Snapcaster, your Ravings are harmless to you. You can just Snapcast the spell, if you actually have to discard it. I know this is probably obvious to most, but it’s still worth pointing out to the less experienced players.

I touched on [Card]Forbidden Alchemy[/Card] earlier, so I won’t repeat myself here.


4 [Card]Dissipate[/Card]
2 [Card]Doom Blade[/Card]
2 [Card]Galvanic Blast[/Card]
3 [Card]Liliana of the Veil[/Card]
4 [Card]Mana Leak[/Card]
3 [Card]Slagstorm[/Card]

Counter suite is pretty standard.

Again, something that’s important for newer players is to understand what answer is best to use on an opponent. A general rule of thumb may be ‘Use the narrowest answer to a problem‘, meaning if you have a [Card]Doom Blade[/Card] and a [Card]Mana Leak[/Card], and your opponent casts a creature, [Card]Doom Blade[/Card] it, and save the [Card]Mana Leak[/Card] in case he casts something you can’t [Card]Doom Blade[/Card].

[Card]Snapcaster Mage[/Card] expounds on these issues by making you think about how you’re going to use your mana more efficiently. Consider:-

T2 [Card]Doom Blade[/Card] your guy

T3 [Card]Mana Leak[/Card] your Spell

T4 [Card]Snapcaster Mage[/Card], then [Card]Mana Leak[/Card]// [Card]Doom Blade[/Card] again as well as giving you a 2/1 body to block with or attack.

If you were trying to get the most out of your mana, perhaps you would have [Card]Dissipate[/Card]d on T3 instead, allowing for a cheaper counter for later, to protect an Olivia or a Liliana from an [Card]Oblivion Ring[/Card], for example. Although keep in mind that you wont be able to use Snapcaster Magic with Dissipate until you have at least UUU2 in play.

In a deck like this, with so few actual win conditions, it’s important to make the most out of each and every card, and it’s not particularly forgiving to pilot errors.

Again, I’d assume that this is something that more experienced players are familiar with by now, but the correct use of mana, and ordering of spells, especially reactive ones is definitely something that I see a lot of people could do with working on. [Card]Snapcaster Mage[/Card] makes things a lot more difficult for people trying to do this, but it’s reasonably simple to pick up once you start thinking about it a bit more (or at all).

Basically, with this deck, I wanted to be able to interact with an opponent who made T1 [Card]Birds ofParadise[/Card], and one who resolved a [Card]Hero of Bladehold[/Card] or a [Card]Mirran Crusader[/Card]. [Card]Galvanic Blast[/Card] hits the Crusader and the Birds, and [Card]Doom Blade[/Card] can deal with the [Card]Hero of Bladehold[/Card] and the Birds. [Card]Snapcaster Mage[/Card] lets me deal with both a Hero or a Crusader and a Budgie with the same [Card]Doom Blade[/Card] or [Card]Galvanic Blast[/Card]. On curve. How fair.

[Card]Slagstorm[/Card] is our [Card]Wrath of God[/Card]. It kills almost all Non-Titan creatures that people are playing. I think of [Card]Hero of Bladehold[/Card] as a Titan, just minus the ETB trigger. We can kill almost all of GW tokens, and [Card]Tempered Steel[/Card], and UW Humans etc with [Card]Slagstorm[/Card], and it only costs 3. It’s not an ideal win condition, but you CAN feasibly burn your opponent out with it, again though, usually in combination with [Card]Snapcaster Mage[/Card]. That card is everywhere in this deck….

The sideboard is sculpted from the porcelain of the toilet seat. I hate that I have to play [Card]Surgical Extraction[/Card]. That card is toilety crap, but it’s sadly necessary. I hate having it in my deck, I hate when it takes up a slot post board, and I hate Snapcastering it back to remove the rest of something that I’ve already dealt with one of that the might not have in hand, or necessarily draw for the rest of the game, but I do like winning. [Card]Surgical Extraction[/Card] sometimes lets you do that. You can counter a [Card]Primeval Titan[/Card], and extract the rest, or rip all your opponents permission away, as well as letting you look at how they’ve sideboarded. This card is probably one of the better cards against control at present, and it’s hard to argue with perfect information, but I just hate this card. I hate [Card]Surgical Extraction[/Card] more than I hate Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and the Twilight Saga combined.

Well, maybe not that much, but you get the point.

I’ve got a bunch of fatties, because I don’t know which ones are best at the moment, so I’m trying out a mix. Right now, you need at least 1 Wurmcoil so RDW can’t burn you out, and either a Grave Titan or an Inferno Titan. Currently the Inferno Titan is the better pick due to the amount of weenies out there that you want to straight-up kill. Having 1-ofs in the deck like this is perfect as there are so many card-draw cards in the deck. It gets even better as you can normally take the Land/Creature from the Forbidden Alchemies and Snapcaster back the spells you’d put in the graveyard.

This unveils one of the decks greatest strengths; the interaction between Snapcaster and Forbidden Alchemy or simply, Snapcaster and time. Snapcaster affectively adds your graveyard to your hand providing you 1. have the mana and 2. have the cards to flashback. Add this to your strategy, its very powerful.

[Card]Ancient Grudge[/Card] is really powerful. [Card]Tempered Steel[/Card] is everywhere online, and this is obviously great there. Randomly killing a [Card]Ratchet Bomb[/Card], or a Sword is also relevant, and I’m confident that the manabase can support the Green mana required for the flashback. Can I make ‘Splash-back‘ known in Magic terminology? ‘Splash-back mana, as initially identified in 2-Girls, 1 Cup.dec‘. I hope so…

The fourth [Card]Slagstorm[/Card] and some more random Countermagic also reside in the Sideboard, along with the rest of the [Card]Galvanic Blast[/Card]s. It might be useful, and I want the additional removal to hit [Card]Mirran Crusader[/Card]s. I might split these into 1 [Card]Doom Blade[/Card] and 1 [Card]Galvanic Blast[/Card], but I like having the burn at the moment.

As you’ve probably picked up on, this deck is in its genesis. Nothing’s locked in, and I’m more than happy to discuss any changes, or suggestions etc in the forums, or on Facebook etc. Especially re: the Sideboard. It’s serviceable, but could obv use improvement.

Stay Classy mtgUK




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