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By: olaw, Oliver Law
May 14 2019 12:00pm
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Hello!

Welcome to another Becoming A Modern Man!

In this article, we are looking at a deck known as Grishoalbrand.  With the London mulligan testing on MTGO last month it seemed like a good time to test out a deck that could benefit from the new rule.

DECK TECH

The name is a portmanteau of the cards Griselbrand and Nourishing Shoal which are two of the key cards of the deck.  Here is the decklist I have been working with:

 

The Combo

The main combo for the deck is to cheat a Griselbrand into play with either Goryo's Vengeance or Through the Breach and to then use Nourishing Shoal, exiling Worldspine Wurm to gain 11 life, to allow you additional activations of Griselbrand so you can draw most of your deck.  From there the finisher is Borborygmos Enraged who you reanimate with Goryo's Vengeance, using mana generated from Simian Spirit Guide and Manamorphose, or Through the Breach into play with Desperate Ritual and then use his ability to pitch lands to kill the opponent.

The secondary method of killing the opponent is to put Worldspine Wurm into play with Through the Breach.  You can then attack for 15 trampling damage and when the Wurm dies at the end of turn you will get three 5/5 trampling Wurm tokens to finish the opponent off with.

The Cards

Creatures

Griselbrand
Griselbrand
Griselbrand is our primary reanimation target which we can achieve as early as Turn 2.  Once in  play we can then proceed to draw 7 cards at a time with each Nourishing Shoal and Worldspine Wurm combination netting us the life to draw 7 more cards.  We can then easily draw most, if not all, of our deck which should give us the tools to win the game.

Worldspine Wurm
Worldspine Wurm
Worldspine Wurm plays a dual role in this deck.  The primary role in our combo is as a card to pitch to Nourishing Shoal which lets us gain 11 life.  Doing this twice gives us 22 life which is enough for three activations of Griselbrand, which should be enough to enact our endgame.

Alternatively, Worldspine Wurm is a heavy hitter in itself and a potential Goryo's Vengeance or Through the Breach target.  Wurm is best used with Through the Breach as you sacrifice it at the end of the turn and get the three 5/5 trampling Wurms which are usually enough to kill the opponent across two turns.

Borborygmos Enraged
Borborygmos Enraged
Bizarre as it may seem this is actually our primary win condition.  Once we go off we can reanimate or Through the Breach, Borborygmos onto the battlefield and throw our hand full of lands at our opponent.  Borborygmos is also an eight-mana green card for pitching to Nourishing Shoal if we fail to find a Worldspine Wurm while comboing and we can rely on the second copy for the win, that's one of the reasons it is in the deck over Lightning Storm.

Simian Spirit Guide
Simian Spirit Guide
Spirit Guide is a key part of our combo as once we have drawn most of our deck it produces the mana we need to get Borborygmos Enraged onto the battlefield.  It can also assist us in casting a faster Through the Breach or otherwise putting our combo together more rapidly.

Spells

Through the Breach
Through the Breach
Through the Breach is our alternative way of cheating a creature on the battlefield.  It doesn't use the graveyard which means its our best answer to graveyard hate.  Through the Breach is also the best way to put Worldspine Wurm onto the battlefield as you sacrifice the Wurm at the end of the turn and generate the three 5/5 trampling Wurm tokens, meaning you can get in the last points of damage necessary.

Breach may be slow to cast at 5-mana but it's important to note that you can gain a discount using its Splice cost, when you cast an Arcane spell.  This is very relevant in this deck as Nourishing Shoal is an Arcane spell that we can cast for 0-mana allowing us to cast a discounted Through the Breach, while also keeping the original in hand for an extra use.  This is also a good way to handle countermagic as if they counter the Shoal you still have Through the Breach in hand.

Goryo's Vengeance
Goryo's Vengeance

Goryo's Vengeance is probably the best reanimation spell in Modern and certainly the fastest.  Vengeance can reanimate a creature for just two-mana until the end of the turn.  That is why this deck aims to win the game in just one turn.  Griselbrand can draw you an insane amount of cards during the turn it survives and can attack for gain you 7 more life to keep going if you happen to whiff on the combo.

Discovery // Dispersal
Discovery/Dispersal
Discovery is really the card we are looking here as we have no way of casting Dispersal.  Discovery puts cards into the graveyard while digging you deeper into your deck which is pretty much all you want from your cantrip.

Night's Whisper
Night's Whisper
Simple but effective draw spell and the best available for the mana in black.  Two-mana to dig us two cards deeper towards our combo.  The life loss can be a liability and you probably want to be sideboarding these out against very aggressive decks.

Collective Brutality
Collective Brutality
Collective Brutality is a one-of utility card.  It's another discard outlet for creatures we want to reanimate while also having general utility as a discard, removal or lifegain card.  By no means essential but a nice card to have around that can answer a myriad of problems.

Desperate Ritual
Desperate Ritual
Ritual can speed up our clock and is also an Arcane spell capable of splicing on or being spliced onto as required.  It's also the way we can get to five mana to cast a Through the Breach when going off as Simian Spirit Guide can only generate 4-mana at best.  If we splice Desperate Ritual onto Nourishing Shoal we can generate even more mana.

Manamorphose
Manamorphose
Manamorphose is the cheapest way to combo off once you are going off with Griselbrand, you can get to five mana to cast a Through the Breach but that requires you to draw a more specific amount of your deck.  Instead, you can put Borborygmos Enraged into the graveyard with a Faithless Looting or Lightning Axe and then use Manamorphose to make black mana from your Simian Spirit Guide mana which will allow you to cast Goryo's Vengeance on Borborygmos Enraged to finish things up. 

Faithless Looting
Faithless Looting
The dream enabler for the deck.  Looting is the enabler of the Turn 2 kills this deck can produce which is one of the strongest reasons to play the deck.  Looting does everything we could possibly want, pitching creatures to the graveyard for reanimation and digging us deeper to our combo pieces.

Lightning Axe
Lightning Axe
Lightning Axe is a removal spell but more importantly one that allows us to discard at instant speed.  This allows us various ways of comboing at instant speed and an additional discard outlet.

Lands

Temple of Malice
Temple of Malice
Temple tends to be a pretty big signal of what deck we are as Griselbrand decks are the only decks that tend to run Temple.  The Scry can be very valuable as it's very important we draw specific cards or cards that allow us to dig deeper.  So, although you may lose some tempo the Scry is very valuable to the deck.

SIDEBOARD

Pact of NegationBlood MoonChalice of the Void

  • Pact of Negation is an answer to Control decks or anything that is likely to try any deck that may look to counter our Goryo's Vengeance or Through the Breach.  We have to be confident that we are going to win that turn but that really is the deck's MO.
  • Shattering Spree is powerful artifact hate that can demolish an Affinity or Whir Prison deck if you can hit it.
  • Blood Moon provides non-basic land hate and with the help of Simian Spirit Guide or Desperate Ritual we can stick it early to really punish opponents.  Moon is a great way to slow down Tron, hurt Humans flimsy manabase or turn off the combo kills of Titanshift.
  • Bontu's Last Reckoning is a interesting choice but the 3-mana Wrath effect can be devastating even if it sets us back on mana the following turn.  This deck is really looking to buy time to hit its combos and wiping the board of an aggro deck is a very good way of doing that.
  • Chalice of the Void is quite an interesting option in this deck.  Like Blood Moon we can push this out earlier than most decks which can be devastating against the right deck.  The awkward part is that Chalice for 1 turns off Faithless Looting which makes our Goryo's Vengeance combo considerably worse as he reduce our discard outlets substantially.  That said we can cut them and become a slower deck looking to Through the Breach for the win.  Chalice is very powerful against Grixis Death's Shadow and Izzet Phoenix decks so it's an interesting metagame call.
  • Engineered Explosives is powerful removal and one of the few ways we have to answer hate cards like Grafdigger's Cage and Relic of Progenitus.  I think we could justify running more copies of Explosives in the sideboard for that reason.
  • Finally, Collective Brutality supplements the copies in our main deck as a utility tool that provides a variety of answers.  I have to say I wasn't overly impressed with it as a card for the deck as it feels a bit slow and cumbersome.

GAMEPLAY

So let's take the deck for a spin so you can see how it works:


Our first matchup is against Hardened Scales Affinity, which has increasingly been the Affinity deck of choice in the format.  This matchup is pretty interesting.  As with all Affinity decks they have the potential to be very fast, however, we can be faster with a good draw.  Nourishing Shoal can be very good against straight aggro decks because simply gaining 11 life can buy you enough time to find a way to win the game.


Our second matchup is against Scapeshift/TitanShift.  This matchup seems very favourable for our deck.  There combo is generally slower than ours and it isn't for them to interact with our combo in their colours.  You do need to watch our for Relic of Progenitus but Through the Breach is often still fast enough to obtain a win.  Blood Moon is a solid sideboard option to prevent the Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle combo which buys you some additional time to find a win.


Our third matchup is against Mardu Pyromancer.  This match was fairly straightforward but I'm not sure it's fully representative of how this matchup plays out.  They do have hand disruption that can slow us down but if it isn't backed up with big enough threats then we have the time to pick up the win.  Path to Exile can be a problem if we want to land an attack or use Worldspine Wurm but the combo can be completed at instant-speed so it's not the end of the world.


Our fourth matchup is against Shadow Zoo.  I don't think my opponent was running the fastest of lists but certainly the aggro aspect of the deck is scary for us.  We need to win as quickly as possible and stem the bleeding as much as we can.  Losing too much life before we get Griselbrand onto the battlefield limits its effectiveness as it means we get fewer activations and are much more likely to fizzle out.  This seems like a prime matchup for Chalice of the Void from the sideboard as Death's Shadow decks tend to be very 1-CMC spell orientated.


Our final matchup is a post-War release matchup against 12-Rack, featuring Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage.  This matchup is rough as we really want to sculpt our hand and 12-Rack does a good job of picking it apart.  Without graveyard hate though there is the chance that they help us out and bin a Griselbrand ready for a Goryo's Vengeance.  Post-board things get a little more tricky.  Chalice of the Void for 1 can help protect us but cards like Leyline of the Void continue to make life hard and our lack of creatures means we struggle to punish their planeswalkers.  This matchup seems pretty bad but if you do get Griselbrand into play drawing 7 cards is very effective against a deck looking to put you to 0.

CONCLUSIONS
Grishoalbrand is a powerful if inconsistent deck and one that is tricky to master.  The biggest reason to play the deck is the speedy combo wins.  Sometimes you can just kill your opponent on Turn 2 which is insane and very difficult to beat.  However, that is not a consistent occurrence which is why you don't see the deck putting up big numbers.  The lines of play and best way to win is not always clear with this deck and there is also the chance you fizzle on Griselbrand activations by drawing your cards in the wrong order, which can be very rough.  It feels like a tough deck to master and one that I would need to play a lot more to see all of the correct lines.  That said I did feel my knowledge grew the more reps I put in with the deck.

Pros:

  • Fast combo wins as early as Turn 2.
  • One of the closest things to Reanimator in Modern if you are a fan of those strategies.  Certainly getting to play with Griselbrand is tons of fun.
  • More resilient to hate that it may first appear thanks to Through the Breach.

Cons:

  • Inconsistency is the deck's key weakness.  Sometimes you win extremely quickly and sometimes you don't draw right and things go awry.
  • The deck has very little in the way defence and so it is vulnerable to any deck that can assemble a faster kill.

I had fun with the deck but it can be very swingy and frustrating when it doesn't play ball.  I didn't encounter too much disruption but graveyard hate is out there and that does make our life harder, though the Through the Breach plan does provide a healthy backup plan.

The London mulligan certainly helps the deck but it isn't really a deck that likes to mulligan too hard as this makes casting Through the Breach near impossible.  Bob Huang said a while back that the deck mulliganed badly.  That said the London mulligan definitely ups your chances of getting a killer opening hand.

I hope you enjoyed this look at Grishoalbrand in Modern with the London mulligan.  Any comments or thoughts about this article are much appreciated.

Thanks for reading,

Oliver Law (olaw on MTGO)
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