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Greasefang, Okiba Boss art by Victor Adame Minguez

Explorer Mardu Greasefang Deck Guide: The Best Combo Deck in Explorer

Now that Winota is gone, many think they're safe from dying on turn 3, but Greasefang has other plans! Find out the best build of Greasefang and how to deftly navigate each of Explorer's matchups like the masterful darthjacen!

Since the printing of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, we saw a new archetype in Greasefang, Okiba Boss. With several flavors, such as Abzan, Esper (which we covered early on in the format), and Mardu Greasefang, they all leverage slightly different plans to rush out a Parhelion II and virtually end the game on turn three.

Mardu Greasefang has long since been my preferred form of Greasefang with Esper situationally standing out as the better controlling version of Greasefang. Mardu leverages the powerful blood cards from red and black to enable a strong midrange backup plan in case your main plan isn’t effective.

The white cards in Mardu are more of a splash to enable Greasefang, Okiba Boss along with a pair of reanimation spells to ensure you have better game against interactive decks like Rakdos Midrange. Rakdos has proven to be one of the top color combinations in Explorer and adding in an additional dimension through the graveyard can punish less interactive decks and force your opponent to delay their game plan to respect yours.

So, let’s breakdown this midrange-combo deck that has dominated best of one and now finds a home in best of three.

Deck Breakdown

Mardu Greasefang BO3
by darthjacen
Buy on TCGplayer $754.17
Explorer
best of 3
2 mythic
46 rare
8 uncommon
4 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (2)
Creatures (12)
Instants (7)
4
Fatal Push
$15.96
3
Deadly Dispute
$8.37
Sorceries (6)
4
Thoughtseize
$87.96
Artifacts (6)
4
Parhelion II
$7.96
Enchantments (4)
Lands (23)
1
Mountain
$0.25
3
Sacred Foundry
$65.97
2
Godless Shrine
$31.98
4
Blood Crypt
$79.96
60 Cards
$542.1
Sideboard
3
Abrade
$0.75
3
Vanishing Verse
$8.37
3
Go Blank
$5.97
15 Cards
$56.95

Creatures

Let’s start with the namesake of the deck, Greasefang, Okiba Boss. If you have been playing Pioneer or Explorer in the last few months, you’ve seen what this three-mana rat ninja can do. With a vehicle in the graveyard, Greasefang, Okiba Boss can bring it back to the battlefield, give it haste, and as a four-power creature – generally crew all the top vehicles in Explorer.

This card brought life into a new style of archetype and when you get a turn three Parhelion II attack in – leaving behind two 4/4 angels which makes it very tough for opponents to claw their way back into the game.

The other creatures in the deck serve to help bolster your main Greasefang, Okiba Boss game plan while also making it tough for aggressive decks to run you over. Bloodtithe Harvester has become a format defining staple as it can trade off with most early creatures, acts as a late game removal option – especially when paired with Reflections of Kiki-Jiki (other side of Fable of the Mirror-Breaker), and can use its blood token to discard Parhelion II at instant speed to blindside your opponent.

Similarly, Stitcher's Supplier helps fuel your graveyard, can chump-block large creatures or trade off with small creatures, and is a good value card to pair with some of your spells like Deadly Dispute. While not as effective a creature on its own, it is one of the few dedicated graveyard synergy cards you can easily sideboard out against cards like Rest in Peace.

Vehicles

While only making up six slots main and an optional two slots in the sideboard, the vehicles act as the payoff for your Greasefang, Okiba Boss. Parhelion II is one of the most expensive vehicles in Magic and delivers nearly unmatched power if you manage to cast and crew it.

Well, in this deck, you don’t need to cast it, just reanimate it with a Greasefang, Okiba Boss. Even if they answer Greasefang, Okiba Boss, crew 4 isn’t too hard to achieve with Bloodtithe Harvester around along with either a Stitcher's Supplier or a 2/2 token from Fable of the Mirror-Breaker.

Parhelion II also manages to create eight flying vigilant power left over, so you aren’t just using this combo as a burst of damage, it threatens lethal by itself after attacking for 13 and then eight on the following turn. Uncontested, Parhelion II is one of the strongest cards in Explorer and this deck leverages it better than any other deck to date.

While not as pivotal to the combo as Parhelion II, Skysovereign, Consul Flagship gives additional removal, and a six-power flier can quickly clear opposing Planeswalkers or kill your opponent. Especially against graveyard hate heavy decks, you can pivot to using Skysovereign, Consul Flagship as your main threat post-board since five-mana is much more castable through traditional means.

Plus, if you reanimate Skysovereign, Consul Flagship and then attack, that’s six damage to a Planeswalker or two three-damage shots at opposing creatures or Planeswalkers to clean up the board on top of the 6 damage you deal to the opponent.

While not as powerful as Parhelion II, having access to six total vehicles makes your deck more consistent and better into potential graveyard hate.

Spells

Let’s start by looking at the spells that are more specific to Greasefang decks as opposed to your traditional Rakdos Midrange style cards. Can't Stay Away and Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord serve as multiple potential reanimation spells to recur your Greasefang, Okiba Boss, making it harder to interact enough times to prevent you from ever getting an attack in with Parhelion II. Sorin has the benefit of also giving all your creatures lifelink, giving you better midgame ability against aggressive decks.

Can’t Stay Away plays especially well with cards like Stitcher’s Supplier that can put it into the graveyard for free, enabling you to get additional value from incidental self-mill or discard.

The other unique card to this style of deck as opposed to more traditional midrange decks is Deadly Dispute. Dispute gives you an easy way to refill your hand, potentially ramp into casting a Parhelion II the fair way and can help fix your mana.

While you don’t have a ton of great sacrifice targets, the blood tokens, treasure tokens, and creatures targeted by removal all prove a great resource to sacrifice in exchange for more cards.

Looking now at the Rakdos Midrange cards, we have Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Thoughtseize, and Fatal Push. Thoughtseize and Fatal Push serve their usual roles as hand disruption and interaction to stop you from dying early in the game.

Thoughtseize also helps to protect your combo, especially on turn four when you can take their removal spell and then play the Greasefang, Okiba Boss and ensure victory. Fable of the Mirror-Breaker is a multiformat all-star that can also help discard your Parhelion II and give you additional resources in the late game through treasure tokens and Reflection of Kiki-Jiki enabling repeated Bloodtithe Harvester sacrifices.

None of these cards sever the main combo element of the deck, but are a big part of why Mardu has become the default Greasefang, Okiba Boss deck instead of Esper or Abzan since your backup plan is powerful and already proven to work in the format at large.

Best of One

Mardu Greasefang BO1
by darthjacen
Buy on TCGplayer $574.33
Explorer
best of 1
1 mythic
41 rare
10 uncommon
8 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Instants (8)
4
Fatal Push
$15.96
1
Lightning Axe
$0.25
3
Deadly Dispute
$8.37
Sorceries (2)
Artifacts (5)
4
Parhelion II
$7.96
Enchantments (4)
60 Cards
$420.94

Mardu Greasefang is one of the premier best of one decks and can easily get you Play-In points along with being a frontrunner for the best of one portion. While I prefer best of three at this point in Explorer, it is difficult to plan for the openness of the format and guarantee turn three interaction for a card like Greasefang, Okiba Boss.

It does a reasonable Winota, Joiner of Forces impression, especially in best of one where you can develop your backup game plan until your opponent feels compelled to go shields down, at which point you can just win with your combo.

Whether you plan to play Greasefang in best of one or not, it is one of the decks you need to have a full understanding of if you want to win in best of one.

Matchups and Sideboard Guide

Parhelion II Art by Adam Paquette
Parhelion II Art by Adam Paquette

Rakdos Midrange

InOut
+3 Go Blank-4 Thoughtseize
+2 Unlicensed Hearse -1 Fatal Push

I like to play this matchup like a mirror, but where we can punish tapping out. Especially in these style of Midrange matchups, being able to maximize your mana puts the opponent at a disadvantage. If you tap out for Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, the opponent can’t do the same since you can threaten comboing by discarding your Parhelion II and playing a Greasefang, Okiba Boss. Post board though, it can be difficult to ever push through Greasefang, given the glut of removal. Do your best to leverage your value cards and your reanimation spells to grind through the midgame.

Having an additional threat in Unlicensed Hearse that is difficult to answer and can threaten to grow out of control and prevent cards like Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger or Kolaghan's Command from getting value against you. Rakdos Midrange has a lot of tools to attack your main game plan, but you can work to fight the same way as them and then have reserve pressure for the late game once you’ve traded off all your resources.

Mono Blue Spirits

InOut
+3 Abrade-4 Thoughtseize
+3 Vanishing Verse-2 Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord
+3 Go Blank-2 Can't Stay Away
-1 Parhelion II

Against Mono Blue Spirits, you want to fully become the Rakdos Midrange deck that has a slight combo element. Rakdos Midrange is one of the hardest matchups for Mono Blue Spirits and we have access to many of the same tools. The cheap creatures get in below the counterspells of Mono Blue and can double as removal for key spirits.

Make sure to kill Shacklegeist on sight, as it can lock down your Parhelion II and make it very difficult to kill your opponent. Use your removal often, but ensure you have interaction for Curious Obsession since it can recoup cards and keep them ahead on tempo.

Their only form of interaction is counterspells (and the occasional Brazen Borrower), so if you can run them out of cards or force them to counter your removal spells, you can set up turns to play Greasefang, Okiba Boss and a single attack with Parhelion II takes over the air with your angels.

Mono Red Aggro

InOut
+3 Abrade-4 Thoughtseize
+3 Vanishing Verse-1 Fable of the Mirror-Breaker
+2 Reidane, God of the Worthy-2 Can't Stay Away
-1 Parhelion II

Once again, you become a more midrange deck that leverages the lack of three-damage instant speed interaction from Mono Red to close the door after taking control of the battlefield. Mono Red also ends up having to deploy Planeswalkers in the midgame and that’s your chance to combo out.

Prioritize interaction and understand that your removal, creatures, and Planeswalkers can all stall out red long enough for you to take over the game.

Rakdos Sacrifice

InOut
+3 Abrade-3 Thoughtseize

Rakdos Sacrifice will have a few cards to interact with your Greasefang plan, but you should be able to eventually force through a Parhelion II attack thanks to your recursion. Also, Rakdos Sacrifice wants to leverage clogging up the ground and your main way to win is with fliers which makes the combo particularly potent against them. If you can’t deploy value creatures early or cards like Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, it becomes difficult to force them to tap out, so leverage your early game spells to set up an eventual combo.

Plus, Rakdos Sacrifice doesn’t play a lot of graveyard interaction, so leverage cards like Can't Stay Away and Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord to grind through their removal.

Azorius Control

InOut
+3 Go Blank-2 Stitcher's Supplier
+3 Vanishing Verse-4 Fatal Push

This is a tough matchup, especially post-board since they can run Rest in Peace, which is one of the hardest cards for Mardu Greasefang to beat. While you get to switch out your Fatal Push for Vanishing Verse for The Wandering Emperor, Rest in Peace, and Shark Typhoon, it doesn’t deal with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, which is the tougher threat to answer. With Dovin's Veto and other counterspells, this is one of the harder matchups that you can face.

While I like Mardu Greasefang into most of the current Explorer metagame, if Azorius Control picks up in play, it becomes difficult to win. Leverage your early spells to pressure the opponent and then try to combo on turns where they need to wrath or deal with on-board threats like Bloodtithe Harvester or Fable of the Mirror-Breaker.

Mirror

InOut
+3 Abrade-4 Thoughtseize
+2 Ray of Enfeeblement-3 Fatal Push
+2 Unlicensed Hearse

You get to upgrade your Fatal Push into a removal spell that can always kill Greasefang, Okiba Boss along with Abrade and Unlicensed Hearse to effectively keep Parhelion II in check.

Once you have your protection against the combo, focus on playing the matchup like a Rakdos Midrange mirror, prioritizing Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Deadly Dispute, and Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord to grind them out.

While the mirror can feel a little bit lottery-based, adding in Unlicensed Hearse as an additional way to limit the opponent and threaten to kill gives you a much better plan in the mirror compared to other lists.

Tips and Tricks

Wrapping Up

With the banning of Winota, Joiner of Forces, Greasefang, Okiba Boss has become the best early turn combo deck in Explorer. While players have gotten more used to this style of deck the longer it has existed, it still does a great job of playing fairly when needed and can leverage the combo when appropriate. Much like other midrange combo decks, you get to dictate the pace of the game and that’s a powerful tool when playing games on the ladder.

As you become more comfortable with the deck and when to go for your combo versus when to play the value game, you’ll find that opponents continually get pincered by your dual plans and you will easily defeat less experienced players. This is a great deck for quickly climbing in best of one or best of three and I think it will make some waves in the qualifier weekends upcoming.

Thanks for reading and hopefully this guide helps you reanimate your way into Mythic this month!

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darthjacen
darthjacen

darthjacen has been playing Magic since Dark Ascension and plays Standard, Modern, Pioneer, and Limited. With a Grand Prix win in 2015 and an SCG Team Top 4 in 2019, he continues to pursue competitive Magic at every turn. You can follow him on Twitch and YouTube.

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