A Blue(ish) Moon on the Rise: Grixis Moon

At some point last year I was killing time between rounds and a friend of mine asked if I wanted to jam some Modern. I didn’t have a deck on me, but he had both Jund and Blue Moon. “Gimme that Jund deck. I’ma smash you.” He was really into Blue Moon, but the deck had a serious Tarmogoyf problem. I went something like 5-0 against him. Long story short, Blood Moon doesn’t win games on its own.

There is a long list of Modern decks that Blood Moon has game-changing power against, and while Blood Moon has long been a format staple, it has generally been a tool of fringe strategies. There’s a lot going on in Modern. Some decks are heavy on basic lands, some have game-winning threats that can come down before Blood Moon, and it’s generally true that drawing multiple copies is the same as mulligaining.

That said, I believe that Blood Moon will be a big winner with the changes to Modern happening this weekend. I’ve already mentioned my belief that Snapcaster Mage is in a great spot as well. And of course new-kid-on-the-block Fatal Push is likely deserving of the praise it has received everywhere. That’s right—I’m brewing up a Grixis Moon.

Setting the Stage

As we all know, the big news is that Golgari Grave-Troll and Gitaxian Probe are getting banned, and Fatal Push is entering the format. My working theory regarding these changes is that Dredge and the fastest aggressive decks will see a significant downswing, while Tron and the various three-color midrange strategies will be the biggest winners. This is a level-one assessment of immediate impact, and to my knowledge these are fairly common beliefs. Playing one of these decks is a fine choice as players figure out how to navigate post-Aether Revolt Modern. That said, there is plenty to be gained by being one step ahead of the field.

One of the decks that players are discussing as a big gainer with regard to Fatal Push is Faeries, though I personally don’t see that one. Yes, Fatal Push is a powerful one-mana removal spell. Yes, Faeries is a deck that struggles with early aggression. So in a strictly literal sense, Faeries got better by some margin. That said, it’s still a deck that hinges largely on having turn-two Bitterblossom, and Bitterblossom is still a card that’s on average less powerful than Lingering Souls.

Back to Blue Moon

Blue Moon is a deck that has more or less always been fringe, but definitely has games where it just hammers opponents. As I mentioned in the intro, the deck struggles a bit with early creatures. When last I had heard of anybody playing the deck, a black splash for Terminate was being employed to remedy this, and the inclusion of Fatal Push will solidly shore up this weakness.

If the field is projected to converge largely around three-color midrange, I definitely like being a Snapcaster Mage deck. I will contend time and again that Snapcaster Mage is the most powerful card currently legal for midrange mirrors. A question worth asking, though, is why I would play Grixis Moon over traditional Grixis Control. The answer is pretty similar to why I play Grixis Delver over Grixis Control: Modern isn’t a format that strictly rewards generic interaction. There’s too much going on that you need to answer, and actually winning games is paramount. Grixis Control has some powerful tools, but nothing that can close a game quickly.

While it is true that Blood Moon doesn’t technically end the game, in the sense of dealing lethal damage to the opponent, a turn-three Blood Moon will effectively be game over a considerable percentage of the time. The more Jund, Abzan, Grixis, Tron, and Eldrazi Temples there are in the format, the more this will be true. Furthermore, less Dredge will also reduce the frequency of games where Blood Moon is irrelevant!

Something that I really like about Blue Moon is that it both benefits from playing Fatal Push, and doesn’t care about opposing copies. If the card is anywhere near as popular as it’s projected to be, then blanking it is a great spot to be in. The manabase for Grixis Moon is going to be rougher than a straight blue-red build, but I’d much rather have some mana woes than get destroyed by Tarmogoyfs.

Grixis Moon, by Ryan Overturf

Creatures (7)
Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Snapcaster Mage
Vendilion Clique

Instants (23)
Electrolyze
Lightning Bolt
Mana Leak
Fatal Push
Terminate
Cryptic Command
Kolaghan’s Command
Remand
Spell Snare

Enchantments (4)
Blood Moon

Sorceries (4)
Serum Visions

Lands (22)
Island
Swamp
Mountain
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Bloodstained Mire
Steam Vents
Watery Grave
Blood Crypt
Sideboard (15)
Spreading Seas
Batterskull
Izzet Staticaster
Negate
Engineered Explosives
Anger of the Gods
Go for the Throat
Dispel
Keranos, God of Storms
Buy deck on Cardhoarder (MTGO)Buy deck on TCGPlayer (Paper)

Heavy on generic interaction, loaded with value, and featuring an auto-win button in the form of Blood Moon. Admittedly, this archetype is significantly different from the manner of Grixis that I usually play, so this shell probably merits some time spent to further refine it. It does look solid in terms of theory though, and I’m much happier pairing Fatal Push with Blood Moon than with Bitterblossom.

The RW Prison Comparison

There are, of course, other Blood Moon decks. The most successful one as of late has been RW Prison, as championed by Todd Stevens. So what can Grixis Moon do that RW Prison can’t?

RW Prison a fine deck that can absolutely win games, though it crutches on Simian Spirit Guide and is much more about cheesing decks quickly than effectively playing long games. Blue Moon has a ton of abstractly powerful spells that are great for navigating through the format, whereas Prison jams clunky planeswalkers and hopes they’re good enough backed up by a lock piece or two. There is also a matter of taste worth discussing here, and you’d have to pry the Snapcaster Mages out of my cold, dead hands.

RW Prison and Grixis Control are totally fine decks, and either could certainly win a Modern tournament. It is my belief, however, that Blue Moon is a solid hybrid of the two strategies that borrows the relative strengths of both decks while shoring up their weaknesses. It remains to be seen exactly how Modern shakes out with the upcoming major changes, though Blue Moon is definitely a deck to watch.

Et Tu, Delver?

Many of you are probably upset that I’m talking about a Blood Moon deck instead of a Delver deck. The truth is that Delver is way more my style, and I will continue to jam one-mana 1/1s until I’m convinced that I can’t win tournaments with them. I just feel that Delver requires very few updates as of now. Really we need to see what people are bringing to the table before messing with the flex slots too much.

From the most recent list I posted, the only change I would make is moving off the graveyard hate in the sideboard. The blue mirror-breaker, Cavern of Souls, and the Fulminator Mages to mess up the unexpectedly non-basic-heavy meta that I played before Dredge popped up, seem just fine to me. It’s also worth noting that the advantage of Jeskai Delver I wrote about a few weeks back will be largely disappearing with the bannings. Nothing fancy here, but this is the current Delver list I would play:

Grixis Delver, by Ryan Overturf

Creatures (12)
Delver of Secrets
Snapcaster Mage
Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Gurmag Angler

Instants (23)
Fatal Push
Kolaghan’s Command
Lightning Bolt
Mana Leak
Spell Snare
Terminate
Thought Scour

Sorceries (5)
Serum Visions
Collective Brutality

Lands (20)
Island
Mountain
Swamp
Spirebluff Canal
Blood Crypt
Bloodstained Mire
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Steam Vents
Watery Grave
Sideboard (15)
Engineered Explosives
Countersquall
Dispel
Magma Spray
Spell Pierce
Go for the Throat
Cavern of Souls
Fulminator Mage
Buy deck on Cardhoarder (MTGO)Buy deck on TCGPlayer (Paper)

It’s possible that we’re supposed to go back to Remand over Collective Brutality, which is an easy swap to make if your meta features a lot of Liliana of the Veils and Islands. I would also turn the second Kolaghan’s Command, and possibly the Fatal Push, into Elctrolyzes if Lingering Souls becomes especially popular.

A Send Off

Several years ago, I was a lowly PTQ grinder with not a lot else going on. At this stage in my life the content manager for Quiet Speculation, Tyler Tyssedal, approached me about writing for them. I jumped at the opportunity. It has been a pleasure to produce content for Quiet Speculation and Modern Nexus between then and now, though currently my life is considerably busier. In light of this, next week’s article will be my last regular piece for Modern Nexus, and the last article I write for at least the immediate future.

I would like to thank everybody who has taken the time to read my content, and I hope that it has had some positive impact on your life, however small that may be.

I have a pretty high response rate on Twitter, and will still be reachable there. If there is something particularly interesting you’d like my perspective on next week I would be delighted if you would say as much in the comments. I don’t intend to do a formal mailbag article or anything, but I do love answering well thought-out questions.

Thanks for reading.

-Ryan Overturf
@RyanOverdrive on Twitter

18 thoughts on “A Blue(ish) Moon on the Rise: Grixis Moon

    1. I wasn’t big on Thing, and am much more against it with the printing of Fatal Push. You are introducing a new weakness to this deck by adding a cheap creature. Think Twice is also just worse than all of the other spells in the deck by a lot.

  1. I really appreciate the content and I loved the rare stream I was able to fit into my schedule. I was desperately hoping you would be the author of the Grixis primer once modernnexus got to the primer section. I assume that’s too much to ask for your last article though. Jund always has the reputation for being the deck that has the 51% win rate against the field, and I would love to hear your case for how delver matches up overall. That being said, I just acquired tarn number 4 two weeks ago, and I’m a novice player to the deck.

  2. Other than Tarns and EEs, I think I can build both of these. It’s interesting seeing the difference in Delver style between you and Kevin Jones, always nice to be able to review 2 very good and different builds and see what works best for you.

    Your articles are always great and I definitely hope there will be more in the future. I’ll keep tabs through Twitter and I’m sure we will be seeing you on coverage again soon enough,

    1. I would recommend not playing Ancestral Vision, honestly. It’s only good in a small number of mtachups. I recommend getting busy killing in Modern, as the alternative is getting busy dying.

  3. I was wondering what your sideboard plan against the BGx decks is with Grixis Delver? I played against junk last week and he took out lingering souls and some lightning bolts in anticipation of me boarding out Delvers. I won by attacking with a flipped Delver due to lack of removal. He was surprised by my leaving delvers in. What seems correct?

    1. Lingering Souls is their best card in the matchup- Delvers or no, so they made a HUGE mistake siding them out. Against Jund I board out a couple Thought Scour for a Countersquall and Go for the Throat- I just don’t have enough cards to board Delver out for and the card is just fine in the matchup. Abzan is tougher, and depends a lot on their build. They could have Noble Hierarch and some little creatures or Lingering Souls and Siege Rhinos. Against the builds with few two-drops I board out Spell Snare for Engineered Explosives (kills Souls and Goyfs alike) and some Countersqualls to counter Liliana/Path to Exile/Souls. I can’t justify boarding Delver out against a deck with Path to Exile given that I can’t Snare that one and I can snare Terminate.

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