Turbo Grixis

turbo grixis

by Charles Trottier

Hey, I’m Charles.  I’m from Montreal and am mostly renowned around here for spicy brews and strategy.  For this first article, I won’t focus on competitive play, but on a list that will perform and impress your local FNM.  I’ll let you enter into my thought process for building this sweet original decklist.

As usual, all started with a conversation regarding what could have potential in Standard.   One card came out: Havengul LichHavengul Lich is one of those cards that has those desired shenanigans going.  Oh!  Didn’t I tell you?  I love finding shenanigans and messing up with the group of players I play with to find some sweet interaction they need explanations to.  That said, I know I wanted to build something around a graveyard-based recursion of some sort.  One interaction that came across my mind was the Heartless Summoning and Priest of Urabrask combo.  With Heartless in play, Priest’s mana cost basically becomes one Red mana. Also with the -1/-1 he dies as he enters the battlefield. You cast him for R, he dies giving you RRR and you then use RR with the Lich to bring him back giving you RRR as many times as you want for “infinite mana”.

Of course, checking out the Gatherer database, I realized that Priest is currently out of Standard. I had to find something else, but remembered this interaction as it will become useful.  As a matter of fact, Heartless Summoning would bring somewhat of a much needed mana acceleration aspect to the desired shenanigan.

The idea was implanted.

What was the best deck and angle I could build involving around Lich and Heartless combo.  The first aspect I thought of was the mana.  Often you will see that manabase is the key to a deck being viable or not. Mana curves and tempo are too important to ignore.  Still speaking of the deck, Rooftop Storm came to mind.  The idea was simple: what if we can just recreate a Melira Pod kind of layout in Standard?

  Melira, Sylvok Outcast    Birthing Pod

Some old Modern T3ch !

If we could just use a triggered ability of some sort to make creatures enter the battlefield and deal damage somehow to the opponent.  For this idea, Rooftop Storm seemed perfect, it was enabling a combo. By putting Havengul on play, activating it and bringing a bunch of Zombies back from the grave without paying their mana cost.

I brainstormed some more and here was the result :


6 Island
1 Alchemist’s Refuge
5 Swamp
1 Woodland Cemetery
1 Isolated Chapel
1 Hinterland Harbor
1 Glacial Fortress
4 Drowned Catacomb
4 Cavern of Souls


4 Gravecrawler
1 Diregraf Captain
3 Armored Skaab
2 Grimgrin, Corpse-Born
4 Havengul Lich
1 Geralf’s Mindcrusher

Other Spells

3 Chromatic Lantern
4 Heartless Summoning
4 Forbidden Alchemy
2 Jarad’s Orders
2 Increasing Ambition
2 Unburial Rites
4 Rooftop Storm

Havengul Lich

To use Havengul Lich at maximum capacity, we needed to find a way to fill the graveyard. 

The main colors also had to be Blue and Black for the deck to work.  Diregraf Captain was our way to deal that needed damage and we could bring back any zombies sacking them into Grimgrin for damage.   Geralf’s Mindcrusher also brought us an alternate win condition by milling our opponents.  Unburial Rites as first color splash, being easy with the incredible manabase brought by this set would make the self-milling strategy more efficient. Also to back the Lich up, as Jarad’s Orders would be the perfect tutor.  Armored Skaab seemed to be one of the stronger card of this archetype, just like Gravecrawler.  The first, self-milled 4 for U, which is what seemed to be needed for the deck, but most of all allowed to bring a milled Gravecrawler back into play.  Gravecrawler had the advantage of not needing any sacc outlet with a Heartless on the table.  Remember this, because eventhough this first take created a fun deck, this was only the first step towards a bigger picture.

As expected, Rooftop Storm was too highly costed and running multiple copies just felt like a hand cycler such as Faithless Looting was required.  Jarad’s tutor seemed pretty good, but it was also highly costed. In a game with 3 copies of Rooftop Storm and Heartless Summoning each made me see the inevitable truth that lies in this combo deck:

red mana

I had to go red.

The idea of Faithless Looting brought us our second angle on this deck take.

    Faithless Looting

Both drawings are cool, but I still prefer the original.

Here is what the brewing gave place to :

2 Island
1 Cavern of Souls
2 Dragonskull Summit
4 Drowned Catacomb
2 Glacial Fortress
4 Blood Crypt
2 Isolated Chapel
4 Steam Vents
2 Sulfur Falls
2 Swamp


4 Havengul Lich
4 Gravecrawler
4 Armored Skaab
2 Grimgrin, Corpse-Born

Flayer of the Hatebound

Other Spells

4 Pillar of Flame
4 Faithless Looting
4 Heartless Summoning
1 Burning Vengeance
3 Forbidden Alchemy
1 Increasing Ambition
2 Unburial Rites
1 Rooftop Storm

Jarad's Orders

Jarad’s Green requirement  proved to be too much.

Cutting it allowed to also cut the Chromatic Lantern for some much more needed pieces, although Increasing Ambition seemed to be a good replacement.

Seeing as Rooftop Storm was expensive, but still insane when in play, the number of copies went down to one. More card draw was included as well.  The basic zombie entering the battlefield layout remained but Diregraf Captain was replaced by Flayer of the Hatebound and Burning Vengeance.

One was better at getting brought back by the Lich, and the other easier on the casting cost.  Althought, the best thing to come out of this list was the : ‘Machine Gun”. Burning Vengeance  paired with Heartless Summoning (which is not a natural expected pairing) just proved to be much broken with Gravecrawler.  Basically, with a zombie on board, you play it similar to the Priest combo.  You just cast your Crawler from the grave using its own ability then Burning Vengeance will deal 2 to any creature or player.Then Crawler will enter with 0 toughness and be sent right back to the graveyard for you to shoot some more targets.

        Gravecrawler Burning Vengeance Heartless Summoning

This was just way too good. 

The next angle had to be based around that combo.  But, what was the best way to use both Burning Vengeance and Heartless Summoning ?
Grixis Machinegun/Turbo Grixis

A while ago, in Scars of Mirodin Standard, there was some decks trying to base themselves on Burning Vengeance and flashback draw spells.  Filling the graveyard, cycling spells and Machine gun comboing was the way to make it all happen.  Althought, what would Heartless Summoning be used for?  Well, Gravecrawler needed some friends to get the combo going. the Lich was still good, but the remember that Armored Skaab ?  Filling the grave for 1 Blue mana (with Heartless in play)  and enabling the combo seems to be the perfect fit.

Armored Skaab

Also, he becomes a great target to simply block and be brought back with Havenghul Lich. 

This is my final take on the deck:

Machinegun Grixis

by Chuck Trottz


2 Swamp
1 Island
4 Dragonskull Summit
4 Sulfur Falls
4 Steam Vents
4 Drowned Catacomb
4 Blood Crypt
1 Mountain


4 Gravecrawler
4 Armored Skaab
2 Havengul Lich

Other Spells

4 Faithless Looting
2 Pillar of Flame
4 Heartless Summoning
3 Desperate Ravings
3 Think Twice
2 Izzet Charm
2 Syncopate
4 Burning Vengeance
2 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage


3 Vampire Nighthawk
2 Olivia Voldaren
4 Bloodgift Demon
3 Sphinx of Uthuun
1 Pillar of Flame
1 Syncopate
1 Izzet Charm

In essence, your main plan is to self-mill, get the combo going and do some damage by flashing back spells on the way.  It is a Burning Vengeance deck, with the “Machinegun” combo. Izzet Charm can also protect your combo with the help of Syncopate and can also act like a 5th – 6th Looting or even as Pillar of Flame number 3-4.  Tamiyo, is simply there to deal with threats by buying you some time. She can also become an alternate win condition: her ultimate with Pillar of Flame being quite ridiculous.

Post-side, you have responses to the graveyard hate.  As a matter of fact, you just transform the deck into a full-on Heartless Summoning deck, gaining  acces to cantrips and also bigger and better threats that don’t rely on your graveyard.  Of course, you still o keep Havengul Lich in for value.

This is a deck with a lot of choices to be make, but mostly is an alternate way of playing the game.  If you are tired of doing UWRFlash/RB Aggro/GW mirror matches then you should definitely give this deck a try at your next local FNM.

Until next time, with more Shenanigans to come,
Chuck Trottz, Montreal’s own Rogue Deck Builder.

RB Aggro

by Steve ‘DDT’ Giannopoulos

The Standard metagame seems to be slowly stabilizing and fortunately for those of you who held onto your Zombie cards: You are
somewhat rewarded.

Gravecrawler Geralf's Messenger Falkenrath Aristocrat

At the recent Grand Prix San Antonio, Red/Black Zombies was the winning deck. It was triumphant in the Finals against the mirror.

A lot of people wrote off Red/Black aggressive decks due to the insane popularity of Thragtusk. How this creature only requires 1 green mana instead of 2 in its casting cost is beyond me!


Really? 1 Green? no color commitment at all?

Also, a lot of Green/White or Reanimator decks also tend to play cards like Centaur Healer which further impeded RB decks. The life gain added to a body that is hard to attack through without trading is rather frustrating.

The Standard default aggro creature type in Black has been Zombies and they are out in full force in this deck:
4 Blood Crypt
4 Cavern of Souls
4 Dragonskull Summit
1 Mountain
4 Rakdos Guildgate
7 Swamp

24 lands

4 Diregraf Ghoul
4 Falkenrath Aristocrat
4 Geralf’s Messenger
4 Gravecrawler
3 Hellrider
4 Knight of Infamy
3 Thundermaw Hellkite

26 creatures

4 Pillar of Flame

4 Searing Spear
2 Victim of Night

10 other spells


2 Appetite for Brains
3 Bonfire of the Damned
2 Cremate
2 Underworld Connections
4 Vampire Nighthawk
2 Zealous Conscripts

15 sideboard cards
It’s somewaht odd from what we are accustomed to,but Red provides the ‘fatter’ creatures. Hasty fellows like Thundermaw Hellkite, Falkenrath Aristocrats and Hellrider. Each able to almost single-handedly end the game on their own (especially Hellrider). Two of which have evasion, one of which taps down all opposing would-be blockers.

The MVP?

Well, remember Black Knight?

Black Knight

Think of this little guy as a Black Knight v 2.0.

Knight of Infamy

He is very much improved in the sense that he can render a somewhat harmless 2/1 or 2/2 into a 3/1 or 3/2 and have him crashing into your opponent’s 3 toughness or less defenses.

Barring that, he can simply attack himself past annoying creatures, which aside from Thragtusk are usually white. The other good news is that he does indeed block things like Silverblade Paladin and one of my personal favorite creatures (Loxodon Smiter) pretty well (barring Rancors, of course) . He’s also immune to everybody’s 2 favorite Angels as of late: Serenity and Restoration.

You have your Shocks and Lightning Bolts in the shape of Pillar of Flame and Searing Spear.

Pillar of Flame   Searing Spear
Spear, despite being a strict downgrade to cards like Lighting Bolt and Incinerate is still the best Instant burn option available for its cost.

You’ll note that Brimstone Volley is absent from this deck. That’s how tight it is! We need to be casting Geralf’s Messenger on turn 3 or laying down a Rakdos Guildgate in anticipation for a Turn 4 Hellrider or Aristocrat.

While the decisions this deck needs to make may seem obvious to most, they are at times anything but. Also, we notice a certain resurgence of Victim of Night as the ‘heir apparent’ to Doom Blade.

Victim of Night  Doom Blade
Somewhere DoombladeGuy is doing a little dance!

It seems bad in the mirror but it his the bigger dudes just fine. The concerned creature types being Dragon and Devil last time I verified.

Normally I would not be half excited about a deck such as this. It does seem to bring about change and that is almost certainly a good thing. The Thragtusk dominance was becoming somewhat worrisome. Yes, there is that Blue and white flash deck, but that thing is basically another Delver deck.

The manabase seems super stable. The deck plays 12 ‘dual’ lands as well as a singleton Mountain. The 4 Caverns are very nice. They allow us to cover our bases for when we need the red mana for Hellriders or Thundermaws. By default however, they are usually set to the creature type most commonly referred to in the Walking Dead…

For those of you who don’t watch the show or read the comic, that creature type is Zombie.

Yep! Those guys.

Featuring 8 aggressive 1-drops almost guarantees us this deck won’t be blocking much (ie: almost never). I Also think that Zombies has finally found their 2-drop of choice. Another thing I didn’t mention earlier about the Knight,but he does also attack profitably through Augur of Bolas. A fact that cannot go unnoticed versus more controlling decks. Augur is rather annoying to a lot of the aggro decks that attack with 2-power creatures early on, this being one of them. Knight of Infamy circumvents that and allows your deck to keep moving forward.

The ‘burn’ itself is intensified via Falkenrath Aristocrat. If you ever need to do that extra damage you can sacrifice Geralf’s Messenger into it. Those 2 creatures also provide this deck with great resilience to sweepers such as Supreme Verdict. Will this force more copies of Terminus in control decks?
Only time will tell…

A small little on the side note:

You can indeed attack with Falkenrath Aristocrat on its own to get the benefit of Knight of Infamy‘s Exalted trigger then sacrifice the Knight to the Vampire. He’s only human after all! This is sometimes a key play to factor in if it seems that you would come up short to close out a game.

Sideboard Options

The deck’s sideboard is somewhat not what we are accustomed to.

Vampire Nighthawk?

Vampire Nighthawk

Well … it seems to be more of a control card than an aggressive one.

However, he does not die to opposing Pillars and does gain us enough life to race the other aggro decks. It is after all a 4-point life swing. He can also finish off some troublesome planeswalkers if nee be. But that’s almost never really our primary concern.

Appetite for Brains?

Appetite for Brains

Finally a deck that plays it!

I personally have always wanted to play this card for a while now. I envisioned it being in a kind of blue-black zombie-based aggressive deck  that would allow you to flash it back with Snapcaster Mage of course. Not sure if that deck is ever going to see the light of day though.

Underworld Connections ?

Underworld Connections

Underworld Connections is a fun one.

It allows us to simply build up our hands up as control decks remain more passive. The loss of life on this could not be any more inconsequential. You can drop more creatures than need be (ie: overcommit) and still be able to refuel later on.



Cremate is a cool little card here.

Decent in the Mirror and pretty nice versus reanimator decks. They don’t ‘need’ to reanimate, we don’t ‘need’ to remove guys from the graveayrd. It’s just an upside. Something will end up hitting a gaveyard. We’ll just draw off of it. Seems fine!

Bonfire of the damned is back?

Bonfire of the Damned

Really? Why didn’t I get the memo?

I know this card has gone somewhat unnoticed up until recently. It’s still one of the best ways to ‘blowout’ your opponent’s side of the board. It remains great versus the GW aggressive decks or human builds and heck, even versus mono red. It’s also probably the only miracle you would expect to see in this kind of deck. Although, personally I could never get used to performing top deck Miracle checks in black-based decks. (Black being the color of despair and thus why they can never really Miracle).

Zealous Conscripts

Zealous Conscripts

Because, well, why not?

Use it to grab a reanimated fatty for the final points of lethal or even an Angel of Serenity  to attack with and sacrifice  into your Falkenrath Aristocrat (depending what’s removed from the game under it). It gets even better when used on opposing Thragtusks as you will get that beat token if he dies.

In Conclusion …

Sure this list is not 100% perfect but it was the right call for that anticipated metagame. You can get turns such as:

Turn 1 : Gravecrawler
Turn 2:  Swing, 2 x Diregraph Ghoul
Turn 3: Swing,cast Geralf’s Messenger
Turn 4 :Hellrider, swing, multiple Hellrider triggers and win!

Good times! For you, at least.

I prefer this to a monored build since the creature quality is really improved and the burn is often times utility than burn to the face. Overall the deck is more ‘resilient’ to a lot of hate and has that extra reach in that it can win out of seemingly nowhere.

The instant speed removal is nice against annoyances such as Sublime Archangel, which can sometimes allow the GW decks to race us. The Angel being another reason we may want to side in Vampire Nighthawk or Zealous Conscripts against, but it’s usually taken care of by Searing Spear of Victim of Night.

It’s also amazing how Thudermaw Hellkite was ill-received in the beginning since it had a 30$+ price tag attached to it. Now it seems to have legitimately reached those heights once again. Your opponent thinks he stabilized with a few Lingering Souls tokens?

Think again! here comes mini-Hurricane Dragon to clear the way!

If you have grown tired of seeing the same old cards being cast for about 1-2 months now, I recommend you give this deck a try. You will be pleasantly surprised.

Be good and don’t forget your triggers!