Grixis Improbable Alliance – Standard Deck Guide

Hey everyone. Today we’re playing a deck that combines two relatively popular archetypes: Izzet Draw-2 and Dimir Discard. We’re playing Grixis Improbable Alliance!

Grixis Improbable Alliance Deck Overview

Dimir discard is a control deck that relies on running the opponent totally out of resources and having counterspells to neutralize their topdecks for the rest of the game. It typically achieves this by using cards like Thought Erasure and Disinformation Campaign. Grixis Alliance is no different, except that it takes double-advantage of the Disinformation Campaign by using it to trigger Improbable Alliance and start filling the board with 1/1 fliers in the mean time. This helps us slow down aggro decks and eventually grind out games and use Alliance as a win condition.

The Engine

Grixis Alliance is a deck that focuses almost entirely on sheer, unadulterated card advantage. It uses a three-part engine: Discard, Improbable Alliance and surveil. The discard robs our opponent of their options, Improbable Alliance generates incremental value over the course of the game and the surveil makes sure we can re-use the first two parts of the engine while smoothing out the early game draws. This combination grinds our opponent into miserable nothingness while also making sure we continue to have options.

The Discard

The discard comes in the form of a playset of Thought Erasure and a playset of Disinformation Campaign. Thought Erasure is an all star at making sure the opponent doesn’t have any good options. This deck is more than happy to trade 1-for-1 because we’re very likely to have more card draw than the opponent throughout the game. Further, Thought Erasure provides an instance of surveil. This lets us smooth our draws over in the early game while also returning any of our Disinformation Campaigns to our hand a little bit later, ensuring that it’s unlikely to be a dead draw even in the late game.

Disinformation Campaign is the main component of the engine. Playing Campaign even one time nets us card advantage by replacing itself but forcing the opponent to discard something. The first couple of discards are usually just lands or late game cards that can’t yet be played, but before too long the opponent will be forced to discard their best cards and go into topdeck mode while we still have 4 or 5 cards in hand.

The Surveil

Thought Erasure pulls double-duty in this deck as an instance of surveil, letting us bounce the Campaign back over and over as well as taking cards away from the opponent, but we also run a playset of Sinister Sabotage. Sabotage functions ins very much the same was as Thought Erasure. On its face, Sabotage is a simple 1-for-1 that trades itself for whatever threat the opponent is trying to resolve at the moment but it gets additional value for every Disinformation Campaign we happen to have on the battlefield. Sinister Sabotage is a key part of the strategy and is often the final nail in the coffin. Having one or two Disinformation Campaign on the field means that if we’re holding a Sabotage the opponent has to play whatever they draw and if they keep any cards in hand you can play the Campaign to force them to use it or lose it. It creates a devastating lock on the opponent.

Finally we have 2 copies of Discovery//Dispersal in the deck. These are just to shore up the early-game draws a bit more and to trigger Improbable Alliance and our Campaigns at the same time. Dispersal is rarely used but is often times basically just removal because the opponent has no cards in hand.

Improbable Alliance

The deck’s namesake card and primary win condition comes in the form of 4 copies of Improbable Alliance. This card is deceptively innocent at first, but it turns our Disinformation Campaigns into even nastier value engines that slowly chip away at our opponent’s life total and sanity.

The main thing that Improbable Alliance does for us is it counteracts some of the tempo disadvantage that we incur by playing Disinformation Campaign. I’ve talked about the advantages of Campaign a lot so far but a major disadvantage of the card is that you’re spending 3 mana and not affecting the board. Improbable Alliance changes all of that. Basically, that little 1/1 Faerie becomes whatever we need it to be. Against aggro we can trade the faeries for card advantage by blocking X/1’s, or we can trade them for life by blocking larger creatures. Against other control decks they become threats that when added up absolutely have to be answered. A single 1/1 might not look too imposing but once we have three or four of them on the field our opponent simply must draw an answer or die in a couple of turns. We get all of this for the low price of 2 mana and a splash of red, turning our Dimir into Grixis.

The Control

So we’ve established how the deck wins the game, but obviously the opponent is playing cards too. We can’t cause them to discard literally everything before anything hits the board, so we’re going to have to have some answers to threats as well. Fortunately, because the deck focuses so hard on discard we don’t have to run too many, but we’ll go over the control suite here.

First we’ve got 4 slots dedicated to board wipes. These can be whatever black or red wipes are in style at the moment but the ones I’ve chosen are 2 copies of Witch’s Vengeance and 2 copies of Ritual of Soot. I picked these because they’re both quite strong against the Knight decks that are in-meta at the moment and Witch’s Vengeance misses our Faeries most of the time, which is a nice plus. You could swap a couple of copies for Cry of the Carnarium, but I’d advise against it because of our next card choice.

A playset of Drown in the Loch finds itself in the list as well. Drown is a total monster in this deck and might as well read “Counter Target Spell or Destroy Target Creature” at any time after turn 3. This deck is incredible at putting cards in the opponent’s graveyard as early as turn 2. Every discard, every board wipe, and every faerie that trades with an opponent’s creature builds up the opponent’s graveyard and once there’s 6 or 7 cards in it, this card turns on in earnest. Two mana to blow up any spell or creature is just bonkers and we’re usually happy to have this card in hand.

One place that Drown in the Loch fails us is when a planeswalker manages to hit the battlefield without being countered. For those cases, and the cases of creatures that are a bit too large for a board wipe we use one of our 3 copies of Murderous Rider. Rider is obviously good, and is a Standard staple for a reason: It kills, it blocks, it lifelinks. What more do I have to say?

The Rest of the Deck

There are 7 non-land slots left in the deck that are occupied by a little card draw and some cute creature choices. First we have 2 copies of Rankle, Master of Pranks. This card fits our theme beautifully and gives us a little bit of synergy in basically every way we want it. He’s a flying 3/3 and advances our win condition of attacking in the air beautifully. He can force discards which help us fill the opponent’s graveyard and empty their hands. He can sacrifice creatures, often allowing us to trade a 1/1 faerie for something more valuable of our opponent’s and finally he can draw cards, triggering our Improbable Alliance. He’s not the best at any of these tasks since all of his effects are symmetrical, but as is often the case with symmetrical effects, this deck is built to get the better end of any and all of these options.

4 copies of Chemister’s Insight take up the bulk of our flex slots. Insight is an obvious control staple, allowing us to draw cards at Instant speed while holding up counterspells. It’s our only efficient way of triggering Improbable Alliance on the opponent’s turn and it lets us ditch useless cards for useful ones. Most blue control decks want Chemister’s Insight and this deck is no different.

Finally we have a single copy of Lochmere Serpent. The serpent is our last-resort win condition against decks that manage to answer our enchantments. We draw so many cards that we’re bound to find it and it’s just a big ol’ recurring threat that we can make unblockable to quickly deal a few more points of damage to any deck that’s weathered the discard storm. Lochmere Serpent does eat up the cards from the opponent’s graveyard so take care not to make any copies of Drown in the Loch you might have in hand into dead cards, but besides that just go crazy!

The Lands

Unlike many control decks, this deck only really wants 24 lands. It’s occasionally tempting to add one or two more, but the sheer amount of surveil and card draw in the deck will typically smooth out any land-light draws and also ditch lands in the case of flooding. This lets us dedicate more slots to discard and card draw and gives us an interesting, tiny edge over opposing control decks.

Deck Strategy

Mulligans

Because of the low land count (relative to other control decks) mulligans can be a little touchy with this deck. The best hands have at least 3 lands with each of our colors, and a Thought Erasure. If you have a good Dimir-only hand that is missing both red mana and Improbable Alliance, that’s totally okay because we have more red sources than red cards so the odds are in your favor to have the red mana before you need it. More than one mulligan can be brutal with this deck since the idea is that we want to run the opponent out of cards but still have some of our own, so if you have even a marginally keepable 6 it’s probably better than any given 5.

Who’s the Beatdown?

Against aggro decks we’re obviously the control rather than the beatdown, but this deck is in a really weird place when it comes to being beatdown or control against other control decks. Because we have a ton of card advantage and discard we tend to be a little more controlling than other control decks, but we sometimes end up in a situation where we know they’re going to have a win condition that we won’t have a good answer for, like Chandra, Awakened Inferno. In these cases we need to aggressively find Improbable Alliance and get it onto the field fast enough to start pumping out faeries and winning. Deciding what to toss and what to keep while surveiling in matchups like these is probably the most skill-intensive part of playing this deck.

Conclusion

So that’s Grixis Improbable Alliance! It’s a brutal, grindy deck that just makes the game miserable for your opponent, which is why it’s so fun! This deck was brewed up at the request of a viewer on my Youtube channel and I ended up falling in love with it almost instantly.

If discard isn’t your thing, check out MTGAZone’s Deck Guides page for more articles.

Decklist

Deck
4 Chemister's Insight (GRN) 32
4 Sinister Sabotage (GRN) 54
2 Ritual of Soot (GRN) 84
4 Disinformation Campaign (GRN) 167
4 Thought Erasure (GRN) 206
2 Discovery // Dispersal (GRN) 223
4 Steam Vents (GRN) 257
4 Watery Grave (GRN) 259
4 Island (GRN) 261
3 Swamp (GRN) 262
1 Mountain (GRN) 263
4 Blood Crypt (RNA) 245
3 Murderous Rider (ELD) 97
2 Rankle, Master of Pranks (ELD) 101
2 Witch's Vengeance (ELD) 111
4 Drown in the Loch (ELD) 188
4 Improbable Alliance (ELD) 193
1 Lochmere Serpent (ELD) 195
2 Castle Locthwain (ELD) 241
2 Fabled Passage (ELD) 244

About the Author

My name is Mike and I’m a content creator, primarily making videos for my Youtube channel: youtube.com/c/pileofcards

You can follow me on twitter: Twitter.com/PileOfCards

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shamanix
shamanix
7 months ago

WTF? Thought Erasure and Murderous Rider are not Standard Shakeup legal…

Sébastien Tournier
Sébastien Tournier
6 months ago

Thanks, it’s a great articles, is it possible to add a sideboard guide? 🙂 thanks a lot