Last week was a whirl, and while I wanted to take a much deserved week off from Magic, Magic doesn’t take breaks. I see Grixis Vampires is picking up in popularity, so I figured I may as well write about the deck and an updated list I’d try.
Let’s start with that. If I was going to play a casual event coming up, like an MTGO league, I’d try this next:
While I’m reluctant to change any mana base, there’s definitely some work you can do on it here. I’d strongly consider a third Hive of the Eye Tyrant over Takenuma, Abandoned Mire. I’ve noticed a lot of Standard games in this format are so close that they can simply come down to if you drew a creature land or not. Hive is the best of the bunch right now, so I’d try to find room for a third.
I added a fourth Stormcarved Coast for a basic mountain as I don’t see land destruction strategies often anymore. We are also just being extra cautious in case a team showed up with that strategy at the Set Championships.
Grixis Vampires is a classic midrange deck
If anything, it plays more controlling than aggressive and uses its synergies to keep cards flowing. It’s best at managing the battlefield one threat at a time. The games you lose with this deck are often because something early went unchecked. In fact, I was of the extreme viewpoint that I would mulligan any hand against Esper that didn’t contain a removal spell on the draw regardless of how good it seemed otherwise.
My teammates almost always disagreed with that approach when taken to the extreme. Hands like Bloodtithe Harvester, Fable, Corpse Appraiser, and three or four lands. Once the snowball starts rolling the wrong way, this deck isn’t the best at managing threats that get out of control. Esper can play Aspirant on two, Raffine on three, and if you can’t kill at least one of those immediately, it’s basically over.
Grixis deck, however, can take an aggressive roll when necessary. Don’t be afraid to play a turn two Bloodthirsty Adversary just to get something on the battlefield. The deck rarely if ever runs out of cards. It’s important to spend your mana to impact the battlefield.
Grixis deck: Impacting the battlefield is so important!
Which was also why the team played one or zero copies of Expressive Iteration. While the card is obviously incredibly good, it’s not a two-mana or even three-mana play in this deck. You want to be managing the early threats or playing your own threats. I included a single copy as I think it might be better than the third Kaito.
It makes Adversary a little better, and it’s much better on the draw, especially in post-board games where you’re focusing on what you’re playing against and finding the best and cheapest interaction you can against them. We tried three and four copies in testing and found it to be too clunky for the deck to have too many and also a bit too tough on the mana. The more Hive of the Eye Tyrants you play, the worse it will be as it makes land sequencing difficult.
Disdainful Stroke was…
Disdainful Stroke was a card some of the team didn’t play, but I played one. In today’s climate, I’d easily go to two copies, and I’d even consider a third. It’s one of the best counterspells against the Goldspan Dragon decks, Jeskai Hinata, and Jeskai Goldspan Combo. Negate is also solid but not in the same ballpark.
I wouldn’t hate a single Negate in the sideboard, but the space in this deck is tight.
I didn’t register Anje, Maid of Dishonor because we didn’t have enough reps with it. I heard good stories about the card after the event, and the Sorin I registered was mediocre. Anje gives you a way to end games fast and lines up well against Esika’s Chariot.
I’m not sold that this is the best use of the slot, but I’d definitely try it moving forward. I also added the third Eveleyn to the main deck as it mostly came in against everything anyways, and there are less Runes now than before.
Go Blank is a must right now
There are more Lier decks than leading into the event, and also, it’s strong in mirrors. I’d be curious to try Unlicensed Hearse as a one of in the 75 as well, likely competing with this space. It’s likely strong in mirrors and allows you to disrupt Lier decks while providing a fast clock when it sits in play.
Unlicensed Hearse is the sole reason left for the singleton Abrade. It can mess up your game plan when drawn early, so it’s nice to have an answer. Abrade is also a fine piece of removal against most of the Esika’s Chariot decks, which happen to be the decks most likely to play Unlicensed Hearse.
The last card and change I’ll discuss is cutting the third Meathook Massacre from the sideboard for a Burn Down the House. I think Burn Down the House is criminally underplayed. It’s the best sweeper against Esper because Esper attacks on multiple fronts with planeswalkers, Wedding Announcements, Lolths, and other planeswalkers. Burn Down the House can clean it all up. In the games you manage to slow down Esper and pull ahead, it’s a threat that’s not completely unreasonable.
We didn’t test our deck much against Ob Nixilis decks
We didn’t test our deck much against Ob Nixilis decks with four copies main, but between Grixis, Hinata, and Goldspan Combo, I’d think Ob Nixilis is fairly well-positioned. I could see playing two copies in the sideboard as alternate threats against these various Izzet-based control decks as they’re not good at getting on the battlefield early. They can answer your early creatures, which makes Ob much less powerful, so I’d need to test it before I pulled the trigger.
Now what you’re all here for—a sideboard guide. I’m reluctant to write this because this Standard format is incredibly contextual, and there are so many close calls that as long as you take your bad cards out, you can’t go too wrong. There are cards like Duress that I will never be able to tell you how many copies against other midrange decks is correct.
Sometimes it’s dead, sometimes it’s the best thing to draw. That’s just how this format is and drawing the right cards at the right times is extremely important, especially since play/draw discrepancy is so huge.
If you see Unlicensed Hearses, you should consider cutting some of your graveyard package (Trim Corpse Appraisers, Bloodthirsty Adversary, and potentially Tenacious Underdog) so you don’t draw too much of the package.
Grixis deck: Sideboarding guidelines
Below are what I’d call sideboarding guidelines.
If you have a Negate, I’d bring it in.
One Evenlyn can be fine. It’s not an important part of the match-up and don’t be afraid to aggressively pitch it to Fable if you need to find answers rather than pull ahead. Mind Flayer is almost a card we didn’t register, but I think it’s great in this match-up.
If I could add another card to my deck to help this match-up, it would be the second Soul Transfer as an exile effect for Kami of Transcendence. There’s tons of wiggle room here. There are reasonable reasons for leaving a Tenacious Underdog, Kaito, or Evelyn, so I won’t argue which is the best mediocre threat to leave in postboard. Kaito can be occasionally good against weaker Runes draws on the draw, and other times it’s close to a brick.
Naya is the deck I ultimately lost to in t4, but that was from poor time management. I think the match-up might be fairly good. Here’s how I’d sideboard.
This is one of those match-ups where Duress might be fine, but it’s not a strong top deck. A lot of the top end of this deck is creatures, so you really want to use Duress on early turns to take them off curve. In general, I like to try and steal mana, so I’m more likely to have Spell Pierce in my deck, but I’d try to have none of it in my deck. Kaito might be good enough on the play here still, and maybe Anje just isn’t good enough even against this Chariot deck.
Abrade is also only OK. If I saw even a single Hearse I’d want it, but with zero I could take or leave it for other removal. It conventialy can kill most of their creatures as well as a Chariot. I’d bring in Burn Down the House but haven’t played any games with it, so it could be pretty bad on boards with Rhinos. If Burn isn’t actively good here, I’d probably just end up registering the third The Meathook Massacre again.
Vs Jund Midrange
On the draw you can bring in another Duress, Burn Down the House, Annul, or even Disdainful Stroke.
This match-up is very contextual because there are so many Jund lists floating around that it’s difficult to give concrete guidelines.
I wouldn’t mind trying Burn Down the House here, but it would be a stretch. It’s a very expensive threat, but it can clean up when Jeskai has gotten going. I’d cut another Voltage Surge to try it.
It also might be worth trying both Go Blanks, especially on the draw. Mind Rot isn’t all that bad if you can flash it back with Adversaries. I’d try it on the draw over Kaito.
Vs Jeskai Control/Dragonstorm
This match-up is about getting some pressure down and profitable mana exchanges down the stretch, then closing the door with Evelyn. That said, if you have more cards then the third Evelyn might not be necessary because the early turns are what matter most here.
Grixis is the best three colors for interaction in the format. There are so many one- and two-mana options that I don’t think the deck can ever be bad, but it needs constant upkeep regarding its opponents so that the interaction lines up properly. Annul is one of the best and most underplayed sideboard cards in the format as there are tons of decks with eight or more key cards that cost three or more mana that can be countered with Annul.
This Grixis Vampires deck is also one of, if not the, best Fable of the Mirror Breaker decks in the format. It punishes opponents for not dealing with a Transformed Kiki because it’s got so many powerful creatures to copy. I still think Grixis is a contender in the format, and the more you want to beat something, you’ll be able to design your deck as such.
That’s it for now. I hope you enjoy this deck my team built and that I had the pleasure of working on.