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Nicol Bolas and You


Last Standard format, I felt I found a deck week one that was destined for greatness. While I was fortunate enough to win the first Open with uw control in Dominaria, I didn’t have the same success this time around and I think this is going to hold true for a while. For quite some time, Grixis Energy was the scourge of Standard. It was far and away the best deck and made fantastic use of The Scarab God while being able to protect itself by having the best removal in the format. Additionally, Arguel's Blood Fast was the best draw spell in the format and Grixis getting to make full use of it led to some strong turns. The deck this time around doesn’t look that different, but has added a powerful new tool in Nicol Bolas, the Ravager. While the base of the deck was easy to make, there’s a couple of things to consider. I modeled my original list off of Andrea Mengucci’s article and went to testing from there. While I loved played Zombies, and think the deck will be a contender, it’s hard to sway me from a three color midrange deck with a ton of value.

Here’s what I played for the event:

Supreme Will
Before the event, I was running at almost an 80% win rate on MTGO. Besides boasting a stellar win rate, I also was quite happy with my sideboard and all my plans. While there were small changes from League to League, the core of the deck remained the same. Nicol Bolas just crushes any opponent who has fallen behind and the large body is fantastic at pulling you back from behind.

This does cause some changes to the deck and how it needs to be built. While a card like Supreme Will might have been a casual one of in some variants, it’s now an important tool. Because the deck has moved to a lot of 4-drops it’s hard to jam Glimmer of Genius into the deck as a way to bridge the gap. So, Supreme Will steps up as a flex card that can help us move safely into turn four or five while protecting us from such scary cards as Vine Mare. I’ve often thought cards like Doomfall were a bit more proactive, but most decks are great at playing around Doomfall and also built in such a way that ripping a card out of their hand doesn’t accomplish much. Perhaps, when the format settles down, the card might be better but I haven’t been impressed.

When looking at the removal, there is a huge difference from where the deck used to be. Harnessed Lightning has dropped from its all star status as a four of and mosied on down to only two copies. Part of the reason is Energy isn’t the big focus it used to be. You really only need extra energy for Whirler Virtuoso against the Red decks or for Glint-Sleeve Siphoner draws. A lot of creatures you want to kill are dealt with by Abrade or Magma Spray. If they aren’t, you have Vraska's Contempt. However, this led to a ton of situations where lands came into play tapped or I was a little far behind on being able to cast double spell. This led me to Murder as a cheaper but quite efficient kill spell. Vraska's Contempt is premium and you’ll want to save it for important targets. Murder is a nice in between that lets you make use of your mana while having a solid answer to cards like Nicol Bolas, Heart of Kiran, or even Ghalta, Primal Hunger. While streaming the deck, someone recommend Unlicensed Disintegration and it clicked how great it would be. It’s easy on the mana and the upside of dealing your opponent three is no joke. While dealing them damage doesn’t come up often, it is a small benefit to playing with the card. Trying to keep all premium removal on four for premium targets comes with its price, and that price is one I’m happy to pay.

Out of the sideboard, I’ve got two different wraths as I’d like the opportunity to play something more flexible or cheaper. What’s nice about Yahenni's Expertise is that it plays well with your Scarab Gods while Hour of Devastation crushes Zombies and pairs well against Red decks. Both have their uses against Green since they both kill Vine Mare. Against most decks, the general plan is to become a control deck post board, cutting out your smaller creatures to have more game with removal and to try and dodge all cheap removal from the opponent. Most decks’ sideboard plans play out well for your Negates and Duresses.

Moving forward, things should change a bit to adapt. Wraths line up decently well against the Mono-Green deck that is getting popular. The next step I want to try is playing Ben Ragan’s version from the Classic. His mana base seems more likely to come into play untapped and he eschewed Whirler and Harnessed Lightning completely from his list. Instead, his deck looks closer to the ub midrange lists splashing for a few Red cards.

While I like the idea of playing mostly ub, I feel like Fatal Push is only okay. A card like Magma Spray has a lot of utility against many of the creatures present today. The cards Grixis is losing to are Scrapheap Scrounger and Earthshaker Khenra. Cards with massive value and repeatable value play well not only against The Scarab God but also against the removal in the deck. I’m interested in exploring some of the space without Harnessed Lightning like Ben did, but I like that card against the Green decks and I love spray. Before I make too many assumptions about how the deck plays out, I’m going to run it in a League. I’ll try and see if I can get that out for next week on Ben’s variant so I can give some more in depth thoughts on the differences and where I want to end up afterward.

The great thing about Grixis is, while the base is the same across all decks, there’s room for a lot of customization and that’s exactly what you need for an ever changing Standard environment. Grixis has some of the best removal, draw spells, and win conditions and is primed to take over as one of the best decks in the format for weeks to come. There’s only so many ways to build br and Green variants that I wouldn’t be surprised to see various flavors of Grixis pop up as the most dominant. The worst matchup is Mono-Blue Reservoir. So as long as that deck continues to fly under the radar and have a bad br matchup, I feel safe for the moment.

I am now looking forward to getting smashed by this deck in every League.

Magic Core Set 2019 is Now Available!