Matchup Mulligan: Grixis Control

Death’s Shadow Hand Answer

Hand 10: (on the play)

Rite Of Flame Rite Of Flame Ponder Brainstorm Lotus Petal Chrome Mox BurningWish


I would hope most people would keep this, but recently I’ve found less experienced players addressing their concerns about keeping “no-land hands” against blue decks. I think this comes from the Ad Nauseam Tendrils (ANT) mindset. Something I believe is often forgotten is that these decks, while very similar, are actually pretty different at times. The game plan isn’t to always play a slow-game against these decks, Death’s Shadow has so much fast interaction between Thoughtseize, Hymn to Tourach, Daze, Stubborn Denial, Flusterstorm, and Force of Will that sometimes it’s best to “go-off” before they’ve had an opportunity to get their spells online.

How this relates to the hand above is that you have an opportunity to combo on the first turn of the game and avoid the cards that were previously mentioned. I would start off with Chrome Mox (Imprinting: Brainstorm) and cast Ponder. From here you can find up to three copies of Empty the Warrens, four Lion’s Eye Diamond, and two Rite of Flame that will allow a first turn combo. That’s 9/53 with up to four looks at these cards. While the odds aren’t incredibly high, you have a 53% chance to find what you’re looking for, you also don’t need to win on turn one if you miss, an Empty the Warrens drawn at any point of this game will likely win. Empty the Warrens is so effective against the Death’s Shadow deck because of all of the self-inflicted damage that you don’t need to find it right away.

If the opponent does disrupt you with a card such as Thoughtseize, that’s fine as Burning Wish would also be stopped by Force of Will. All you’re really looking to do is dig for Empty the Warrens, which is something this hand does.

There’s only upside with this hand in my eyes.

Grixis Control


Hand 1: (on the play)

Ponder BurningWish Rite Of Flame Duress Badlands Island Bloodstained Mire


This is pretty much an ideal hand that isn’t a fast combo with protection. You have Burning Wish for Past in Flames, which is your easiest way to beat discard and countermagic (this is how they try to beat you). After that you have disruption in Duress, consistency with Ponder, as well as plenty of land drops for the long-game. Having access to all of these things will put you in a position in which you are favored. From here you want to look for more “ritual effects” and Infernal Tutor with your Ponder. In general, I’m a big fan of these types of hands in this match-up.


Hand 2: (on the draw)

Chrome Mox Lions Eye Diamond Chrome Mox BurningWish BurningWish Lotus Petal Volcanic Island


When talking to newer players about the deck, they seem to fear, “what if” too much. “What if our opponent has a turn one discard spell?” or “what if our opponent has a Force of Will?” when you play combo, you know what you signed up for when you sat down — storm is a lot of numbers and calculations. Some lists don’t even play one mana discard spells and the ones that do, only run two. Pair this with the four copies of Force of Will and your opponent is around 44%. A statement you will see in a lot of my articles and/or videos is that if you walked into a casino and could play a 56% game, you would play it every time — this is no different.


Hand 3: (on the play)

Chrome Mox Chrome Mox Ponder Duress Swamp Rite Of Flame BurningWish


Something to ask yourself is “what does this hand do effectively?” when evaluating opening hands, if the answer is nothing, it’s probably a mulligan. While I’m a big believer in “hands with potential”, those hands are typically only a card or so off from being playable and the goal is obvious. With a hand such as this, I would expect that you’re three cards off from anything that isn’t exactly Lion’s Eye Diamond.


Hand 4: (on the draw)

Rite Of Flame Lions Eye Diamond Empty The Warrens Polluted Delta Underground Sea Lotus Petal


This is a pretty good six card hand that has the potential to do something meaningful on the first turn. I would definitely keep this. The reason this hand is in the article is to showcase the difference between Grixis Control now and 4c Control during the Deathrite Shaman era. I am fine with hands that make six to eight Goblins as Grixis Control has very few creatures that block effectively against Goblin tokens. On top of that, during the Deathrite Shaman era is was common for these decks to play a singleton Toxic Deluge which as vanished from the commonly played lists — which means that they most likely aren’t being mass-destroyed in game one.


Hand 5: (on the play)

BurningWish Infernal Tutor Infernal Tutor Duress Thoughtseize Thoughtseize Polluted Delta


This hand is sort of an obvious trap, but newer storm pilots get blinded by having redundant discard spells and business spells. This hand doesn’t actually do anything well, I think the only way this hand is playable is if you manage to draw Lion’s Eye Diamond, then a second Lion’s Eye Diamond or a Dark Ritual, and after this you would most likely need a second land.



Website recommendation for sideboarding


Hand 6: (on the draw)

Tendrils Of Agony Past In Flames BurningWish Badlands Scalding Tarn Swamp Bloodstained Mire


Two sideboard cards is pretty great, but they need things to pair with them. Burning Wish can really only get either Empty the Warrens or Dark Petition. I would personally ship this hand as I think your average six card hand will have more play to it, but I can see why people would want to keep this.


Hand 7: (on the play)

Lions Eye Diamond Lions Eye Diamond Duress Thoughtseize Chrome Mox Polluted Delta Bloodstained Mire


One of the big differences between ANT and TES is the threat density of your relevant spells. I am absolutely fine keeping hands that do not contain “action spells”. In discard based match-ups, I really like to sit with artifact mana in play and then wait to draw a “tutor effect”, what makes this strategy even better here is you have two discard spells to clear the way of any countermagic. Another thing is to consider is that some Grixis Control pilots side out Kolaghan’s Command, while there is no guarantee, I’ve found it to be the norm.


Hand 8: (on the draw)

Empty The Warrens Duress Thoughtseize DarkRitual Badlands Volcanic Island Rite Of Flame


While your Grixis opponent may have two sweepers in their deck now, you still should’ve be afraid to jam Goblins on the table. Especially when served up next to a pair of discard spells. Your opponent could have more one mana interaction than before or even have Hymn to Tourach come online turn two. That said, don’t live by “what-ifs”, take what you have and make the best of it. These seven cards will win more post-board games in this match-up than they will lose.


Hand 9: (on the play)

Chrome Mox Lotus Petal DarkRitual Duress Thoughtseize Rite Of Flame


Players hate to mulligan against discard strategies, myself included. That said, I don’t believe this hand does anything well. I would rather take my changes on five cards that might do something rather than six cards that do absolutely nothing. If you were to keep this you could Chrome Mox (Imprint: Thoughtseize) and Duress? Outside of drawing the one Ad Nauseam, you’re several cards away and by then the opponent likely has what they need to stop you. An important thing to consider when evaluating opening hands is, “how will this game play out?”


Hand 10: (on the draw)

Ad Nauseam Rite Of Flame Rite Of Flame Lions Eye Diamond Chrome Mox Duress Lotus Petal

Stay tuned for the next article!

I’ll provide my answer in the next article, but for now, make sure to post your thoughts!