Grixis Midrange in Explorer

This past weekend was the Arena Championship Qualifier. This event qualifies you for an exclusive 32-player tournament with a big prize pool. Arena Championships are better value than even the Pro Tour, so qualifying is as exciting an opportunity as we get these days.

While I have my eye on Worlds in a few months, which also features Explorer, I plan to dip my toes into Explorer for the next couple of months to familiarize myself with all the decks so I have a solid foundation when Dominaria United comes out.

 

While it was the last week of school, and all that comes with it, for my kids, I didn’t have a ton of time before the last couple of days to practice to find the best deck. I wanted to use the qualifier as an opportunity to prepare myself for the tournament I care the most about—Worlds.

I asked my good friend Martin Juza, who’s been playing a ton of Explorer, what I should play. He was playing Rakdos Midrange and was confident it was the best-positioned deck for the weekend. I think this rang true, as I saw a lot of people doing well with Rakdos, including a couple of teammates, such as Jim Davis.

 

 

I played a few ladder matches with Rakdos Midrange and wasn’t that impressed. For one, I didn’t like Kroxa in the deck. It was hard to turn on, and people were usually, for better or worse, bringing in graveyard hate despite me siding it out a lot of the time.

I felt the deck had a few problems as it lacked answers to certain types of cards, specifically Planeswalkers and large five-drop creatures. Also, like every classic midrange deck, the deck could also get punished by decks going over the top of it with ramp strategies. While it’s easy to adjust for some of this, I wanted to try my own twist and add blue.

 

Here’s the deck I registered this past weekend:

 

 

Grixis Midrange - Explorer

Export to:
Planeswalker (5)
3
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
2
Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God
Creature (14)
4
Bloodtithe Harvester
4
Bonecrusher Giant
2
Corpse Appraiser
2
Graveyard Trespasser
2
Nicol Bolas, the Ravager
Sorcery (4)
4
Thoughtseize
Instant (7)
1
Abrade
4
Fatal Push
2
Heartless Act
Enchantment (4)
4
Fable of the Mirror-Breaker
Land (26)
4
Blightstep Pathway/Searstep Pathway
4
Blood Crypt
3
Clearwater Pathway/Murkwater Pathway
1
Den of the Bugbear
2
Hive of the Eye Tyrant
1
Mountain
1
Shipwreck Marsh
4
Stormcarved Coast
1
Swamp
1
Watery Grave
4
Xander's Lounge
Cards 60
Sideboard (15)
1
Abrade
1
Disdainful Stroke
2
Duress
1
Heartless Act
2
Mystical Dispute
1
Negate
2
Ray of Enfeeblement
2
The Meathook Massacre
1
The Scarab God
2
Unlicensed Hearse

 

I ended up going 3-2 with the deck and losing to both Burn, a deck not on my radar, and Food, which I did expect some of, but I thought Control would be present enough to hold back Food. In these qualifiers I believe that you should pay attention to day one and adjust into day two. Tuning your deck for specific match-ups makes a lot of sense for day two because the cream will rise to the top. On day one it’s like playing on the ladder and the field is wide open, so it’s likely that your deck choice can and should change day-to-day.

 

Food seems like a bad match-up because there aren’t enough ways to shut down the deck’s engines. That said, I have a couple of ideas on how to help in that match-up.

Shahar Shenhar also registered this deck on day one and, to my knowledge, we were the only two pilots. He went undefeated 7-0 on day one.

 

 

Nicol Bolas, Dragon God is a bit strenuous on the mana, but it solved a couple of issues I had with the deck. It’s able to answer planeswalkers and large creatures and provide a value engine that quickly closes the game. The deck is good at denying the opponent resources, so the +1 can be devastating in a lot of match-ups.

 

                   

 

Nicol Bolas, the Ravager added more of a tool to interact on its backside but also a fast clock against decks like Food. Martin’s tech for this weekend in Rakdos was a ton of Glorybringers. I like the idea of a large flier that generates some value, but this fits a bit nicer on the curve. I also didn’t want to play Sorin the Mirthless like most Rakdos Midrange decks, as it never had a very high ceiling.

 

                                       

 

Corpse Appraiser, the card I’m the least sure about, was a way to keep the grindy game plan alive, but it also has more utility in Explorer where it can occasionally get some creatures in graveyards that matter. Having another strong creature to copy with Fable of the Mirror-Breaker was the idea, and while I started with three copies, I quickly went down to two and would consider just a single copy now. It’s not a card you want to draw multiples of, as playing to the board is important and playing a naked Corpse Appraiser for no additional value is too bad, but the first copy you draw is fairly solid in creature match-ups. One of its big problems is there’s a higher density of creatureless or nearly creatureless decks in Explorer, so you don’t want to draw multiples in those spots.

 

                   

 

As I watched Control pick up in popularity, I wanted my Rakdos Midrange deck to have more counterplay to Dream Trawler, a card people were leaning on against Rakdos. This was much less of an issue with two Mystical Disputes and a Disdainful Stroke in the sideboard. If you want an additional card for this issue, I’d consider a single copy of Liliana, Dreadhorde General in the sideboard to answer a resolved trawler. Liliana should also be solid against other midrange decks as well.

While I’m comfortable with the configuration as it is against Control, games can get sketchy since you don’t have a basic Island to get against the Field of Ruins they usually have.

 

                   

 

I think a mistake I made with this list is the Ray of Enfeeblements and The Meathook Massacre. I expected more Greasefang and White CoCo decks, which were certainly present. It left me with less flexible cheap removal against both Burn and Mono U Spirits with Ray of Enfeeblements. Noticeably I was weaker to Korvold than I should have been. I’d add a Chandra’s Defeat and a Noxious Grasp to replace them and cover a wider base of match-ups. Chandra’s Defeat seems great if people end up playing Chandra and Martin’s Glorybringer, and it can also answer both Mayhem Devil and, in most cases, a Korvold for one mana.

 

                   

 

Additionally, I’d try Hidetsugu Consumes All in the sideboard for the Food match-up. While it won’t be as lights out against non-Lurrus versions of Food, it will still solve some of the problems while a better suite of removal would solve for Korvold. I’d still expect the match-up to be bad, but I think you can get a few points here with some changes.

 

Here’s the next iteration of the deck I’d register:

 

 

Grixis Midrange 2.0 - Explorer

Export to:
Planeswalker (5)
3
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
2
Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God
Creature (14)
4
Bloodtithe Harvester
4
Bonecrusher Giant
1
Corpse Appraiser
3
Graveyard Trespasser
2
Nicol Bolas, the Ravager
Sorcery (4)
4
Thoughtseize
Instant (7)
1
Abrade
4
Fatal Push
1
Heartless Act
1
Infernal Grasp
Enchantment (4)
4
Fable of the Mirror-Breaker
Land (26)
4
Blightstep Pathway/Searstep Pathway
4
Blood Crypt
3
Clearwater Pathway/Murkwater Pathway
1
Den of the Bugbear
2
Hive of the Eye Tyrant
1
Mountain
1
Shipwreck Marsh
4
Stormcarved Coast
1
Swamp
1
Watery Grave
4
Xander's Lounge
Cards 60
Sideboard (15)
1
Chandra's Defeat
1
Disdainful Stroke
2
Duress
2
Hidetsugu Consumes All
2
Mystical Dispute
1
Negate
1
Noxious Grasp
2
The Meathook Massacre
1
The Scarab God
2
Unlicensed Hearse

 

Overall, I don’t think Grixis is great, but I think it has a lot of potential to be good. I’d be willing to guess that when Explorer settles, Rakdos Midrange won’t be a top deck like it appears to be now. Adding blue helps solve a few problems the deck has in a more wide-open field like we see now. I was able to easily beat the only ramp deck I played against and beat Mono Blue Spirits during both matches because I had access to the sideboard counterspells, specifically Mystical Dispute.

The mana base could use some attention, as I have a functional mana base, but it’s not ideal.

 

Explorer is possibly the most interesting Constructed format to me right now because it currently has the least attention. The format is far from solved, and it leaves a ton of room for innovation, so I decided to try and play some cards I’ve wanted to play with for a long time, both named Nicol Bolas

 

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