Grixis Lurrus Control Deck Guide: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Titan
Who am I?
My name is Mark Gabriele, and I am an SCG Tour Grinder and avid Arena player. My absolute favorite decks in Standard are all flavors of mono-colored aggro decks. I currently have an 82% win rate with Grixis Lurrus in Mythic. If you have any questions about the deck, feel free to email me at email@example.com or message me on Twitter at @gabriele_mark!
What is Grixis Lurrus?
Grixis Lurrus is a midrange deck built around the interactions between Lazav, the Multifarious, Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger, and Lurrus of the Dream-Den. The deck tries to grind the opponent into dust with efficient removal, hand disruption, and counterspells before taking over the game by sticking a Kroxa or Lurrus.
Terence sent me the following list, which all4non used to finish 162nd at the Redbull event:
After playing a few matches with this list, three things became apparent:
- This deck is very cool, and INCREDIBLY fun to play;
- This deck is doing something very powerful;
- A few of the card choices might be a bit off.
So I decided to do a bit of surgery on a grape. Here are the main issues that came up in my test matches that I wanted to fix:
- A 2/2 Split of Omen of the Sea and Discovery//Dispersal. Ordinarily, 2/2 splits between cards with similar effects indicate that each one is situationally better than the other, and it’s no different here. Omen is better when you want to leave up counterspells and dig further; Discovery is better for filling your graveyard and dealing with a problematic, expensive permanent in grindy games. However, the graveyard synergies provided by Discovery//Dispersal were far more important to me than the extra upsides provided by Omen, so I decided to go 4/0 rather than 2/2.
- Of the 50 most commonly played creatures in Standard, Tyrant’s Scorn is better than Heartless Act against Flourishing Fox, Knight of Autumn, and Dreadhorde Butcher. Heartless Act isn’t that much worse against those creatures, and is far better than Scorn against a lot of other creatures, so I’m much more excited to have an extra Heartless Act than the first Tyrant’s Scorn.
- The one Sprite Dragon had not impressed me. The deck doesn’t really have the tools to play a tempo game, and doesn’t play enough creatures to overload removal i.e. present more targets they’re priced into removing than they have removal spells. The only time I’ve been happy to draw it has been to pressure planeswalkers which I can’t otherwise remove, which speaks more to a weakness of the deck’s removal suite than to the power of the Dragon.
- One Fae of Wishes is a bit of a strange number. It’s a card that comes with significant costs if you want to take full advantage of it, which this deck seems neither willing nor capable of paying. It’s also four mana, which is a ton when you aren’t cheating with Fires of Invention. This leads to a lot of situations where you have to spend a turn Granting (Granteding? Grantizing? Ulysses S. Granting?) for an answer, and essentially telegraphing your next turn to your opponent. Between the heavy mana investment and not really being able/wanting to contort your sideboard as much as you would need to to maximise the card’s potential, I decided that it wasn’t worth it.
- The two Soul-Guide Lanterns in the maindeck are a bit too clunky. The idea behind these is solid: they are fine against Zenith Flare, Uro, and RB Sacrifice, and are a cheap draw engine with Lurrus. However, I’ve found that against most decks in the meta right now, they’re just an expensive cantrip, and this deck’s mana is heavily taxed trying to not die in the early turns. In addition, while it is a draw engine with Lurrus, Lurrus will die almost immediately in every matchup. If it doesn’t, you’re going to win regardless of what you are bringing back with it. Because of this, I decided to cut them. As Huey Jensen put it while he was playing Cycling, “I would choose to put Soul-Guide Lantern in my opponent’s hand every game if I could.”
- The deck had 14 Black Sources, 17 Blue Sources, and only 10 Red Sources which is awfully low if you ever want to Escape a Kroxa. It only had 23 Lands, which I think is at least one short, and would help alleviate the source count problem. Castle Lochthwain has been awful for me, often coming into play tapped and never getting activated, as your mana and life total are both heavily taxed.
- Not having Aether Gust anywhere in the list had hurt a lot; green aggro decks are starting to run rampant, and Mono Red Obosh never left.
- Thought Distortion was much weaker than I expected. It just never lined up the way I wanted it to, and by the time I cast it, I was often too far behind on board because I had it stuck in my hand for so long.
- Planeswalkers generate enough immediate advantage right now that it’s rare that The Elderspell is even good against them. For example, Elderspelling a Lukka that has already gotten an Agent of Treachery is not a great way to win matches of Magic!
- I haven’t played against an Uro deck in over a week, and that’s really the main reason to play Unmoored Ego; the card just isn’t particularly good, as you kinda need to get lucky to even be at card parity when you cast it. Because of this, I replaced them with a couple of Agonizing Remorse, which also exile Uro but have more play in other matchups.
After making these changes, it led me to this list, which I’ve been absolutely crushing with:
Not only is this deck very well positioned right now, but it is the only deck that I have truly LOVED to play so far this standard season. It’s an absolute blast; there’s tons of play to it, with plenty of cool and intricate lines available.
3 Bedevil – This is a very good card whose playability in Standard recently has been overshadowed by Murderous Rider, but finally found its home here because of Lurrus restrictions. I try to save these for Planeswalkers if at all possible, as those are troublesome for our removal suite and we don’t have great tools for attacking them down. Against decks like Cycling or Rakdos Sacrifice, you’re fine firing it off, as they don’t play many Planeswalkers that you’re terribly worried about. Destroying artifacts doesn’t come up often, but when it does you’ll be delighted to have the option (Witch’s Oven, Grafdigger’s Cage, The Great Henge).
4 Discovery // Dispersal – Having some card selection is nice, even at two mana. I’ve been surprised how often I use this as a Thought Scour to turbo out a Kroxa. Remembering that you can cast Discovery without paying blue mana is really important, because this deck has a lot of divergent mana costs, and it can be difficult to tap your mana to leave up everything you could potentially draw. Because your deck is really good at emptying your opponent’s hand, by the time you reach five mana, the Dispersal half is often just straight removal for their best permanent.
2 Drown in the Loch – This card has been fantastic starting around turn four; before that, you’re lucky to get much value out of it, which is why we only play two copies. Drown is really great in slower matchups where you can save it until it’s a hard counter, but the matchup it’s best against is Cycling. In order for their cards to do anything, the Cycling deck has to fill its graveyard early and often, which makes Drown function as a Terminate/Counterspell split card. Having the option to stop their pressure on turn three is great, and being able to counter a lethal Zenith Flare on turn ten is often gamewinning. Because counterspells are so bad against Cycling until they start firing off Zenith Flares, I like to board in relatively few counters and try to save my Drowns for the late game.
1 Eat to Extinction – Four mana is a lot, which is why we only play one. This is one of your only clean answers to Stonecoil Serpent, and exiling can be very important with all the Lurruses and Uros running around, which is the main reason for this card’s inclusion in the first place. The extra Surveil (I know the card doesn’t say Surveil on it, but it’s Surveil) is nice as well; when in doubt, I lean towards putting cards in my graveyard with it.
2 Extinction Event – This card has been absolutely awesome. It’s usually a one-hit KO against Obosh decks and, even against non-Obosh aggro decks, you can usually sculpt a pretty good Extinction Event by using your other removal to kill creatures with dissenting mana costs. If you have an Event in hand, try to pace your own creatures with it in mind; for example, don’t run a Lazav out onto a board with a Stonecoil Serpent on it, because there’s a good chance that your opponent slams a Questing on turn four. The surprise factor is significant upside; this is not a commonly played card in maindecks, so your opponents will play into it a lot.
3 Heartless Act – Heartless Act is awesome, and I think that the fact that it hasn’t seen much play so far is more indicative of systemic problems with Standard than it is of the power level of the card. Over the past five years or so, the best creatures in Standard have increasingly interacted positively with removal, e.g. by giving you value upon entering the battlefield, being cheap, having haste, or just being unkillable. A brief glance at the ten most played cards in Standard demonstrates this point quite nicely:
- Yorion, Sky Nomad – Provides value upon entering the battlefield.
- Agent of Treachery – Provides value upon entering the battlefield.
- Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath – Provides value upon entering the battlefield and is unkillable.
- Bonecrusher Giant – Provides value before entering the battlefield and has a trigger that punishes removal.
- Brazen Borrower – Provides value before entering the battlefield.
- Lurrus of the Dream-Den – Provides value upon entering the battlefield.
- Legion Warboss – Pseudo-haste, and provides value if not killed the turn you play it.
- Dream Trawler – Unkillable.
- Kenrith, the Returned King – Haste and provides immediate value with enough mana open, especially with Fires of Invention.
- Cavalier of Flame – Provides value upon entering the battlefield, has haste with enough mana open.
With only these sorts of creatures seeing significant play, removal has to be excellent to warrant inclusion at all, and I think Heartless Act is that good in the context of this deck. It trades up on mana against most of the threats it’s killing, which is one of the few ways to trade with these creatures with some semblance of parity. The point of all this is to lead into the next card we’ll discuss: Kroxa.
4 Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger – This card is MESSED up. I refer to the list as Grixis Lurrus because Lurrus is the card that informs most of the card choices, but this deck is a Kroxa deck through and through. It’s great on its own, and just happens to work extremely well with both Lurrus and Lazav. Kroxa is the card that’s on clean up duty for all of the lost incidental value from using kill spells on busted creatures. It dodges or interacts well with a lot of the ways people are using to remove creatures right now: Elspeth Conquers Death misses it. Deafening Clarion doesn’t do enough damage. Bonecrusher Giant isn’t even close. Teferi and Brazen Borrower? Sure, I’ll recast it and bring it back. Shatter the Sky is so bad against it that I’m not sure it even counts as a removal spell. Even if they steal it with Agent of Treachery, you can just kill it and bring it back. All in all, Kroxa provides an end game that most decks will have a very difficult time keeping up with, while still being a perfectly serviceable card early on.
3 Lazav, the Multifarious – This card is in the deck entirely because Kroxa has a converted mana cost of two in the graveyard, so it’s a way to get a Kroxa on the battlefield rapidly via installment payments. It’s important to note that Lazav keeps its name while copying other things, so you can have a Lazav copying Kroxa and an escaped Kroxa on the battlefield at the same time, getting around the Legend rule. Lavaz can also be activated at instant speed, so you can respond to, say, a Soul-Guide Lantern being sacrificed by activating it, and you can leave your mana open and activate him if they don’t play into your counterspells.
1 Mire’s Grasp – A cute kill spell against small creature deck, that’s repeatable in conjunction with Lurrus . Grasp has been juuuuust good enough to stay in the maindeck for me. With that being said, I certainly wouldn’t criticize anyone for moving it to the sideboard for another Opt, especially if they’re expecting a lot of Jeskai Lukka.
3 Mystical Dispute – This card is to tag planeswalkers, specifically Narset and Teferi. You’re afforded the option to play it in the maindeck because it has some amount of text in every matchup. The prevalence of Fires of Invention, and Teferi itself, make maindeck counterspells a rarity right now, which means that your counterspells are likely to work in game one. Having Disputes in the main is also nice because it’s an easy card to cut in any non-blue matchup, so it makes sideboarding a lot easier.
4 Neutralize – Like Mystical Dispute, Neutralize’s inclusion is tacit acknowledgment that resolved planeswalkers can give you a lot of trouble. The cycling bit of this card is a bit weird because it’s rare that you want a different card than a hard counter, but it certainly can come up, especially in a format with this many Teferis. Against decks with a low curve, like Mono Red Obosh, feel free to cut these.
2 Opt – Two opts is an odd number, as it’s usually an effect that you either want or don’t. In this list, Opt is a card that kind of does a lot of stuff you want: you want card selection, and Opt is a minor amount of card selection. You want to fill your graveyard, and Opt adds one card to your graveyard. You want things you can cast at instant speed so you can leave up a counterspell, and Opt is an instant. However, leaving up a Neutralize and casting an Opt instead represents two mana wasted (You really just don’t want to be cycling Neutralize if you can avoid it). This all leads Opt to being a perfectly fine card, but not one I’m particularly excited to draw, especially in a deck whose mana is this taxed. The biggest thing Opt has going for it is that this deck is stocked to the gills with two drops, so it allows you to double spell on turn three. I imagine more refined versions of the deck will play four or zero, but two has been fine so far.
4 Thought Erasure – Thought Erasure has been left in the dust these past few months, but it’s still a very powerful card. Being able to preemptively snag the problematic threats your opponents bring to the table, while putting an extra card in your graveyard, makes this the exact kind of effect the deck is looking for. This is one of the few cards that I don’t board out in any matchup.
3 Agonizing Remorse – Unmoored Ego and Soul Guide Lantern, the best answers the list had to Uro, were both terrible for me. I replaced them with Agonizing Remorses, which aren’t quite as good at answering Uro, but are significantly better in other matchups. Remember that you can snag key cards like Cauldron Familiar in their graveyard, as well.
3 Cry of the Carnarium – Obliterates small creature decks like Mono Red Obosh and BR Sacrifice. It’s important to remember that this card exiles creatures that have entered graveyards previously in the turn as well, so sacrificing a Cauldron Familiar to a Witch’s Oven in response won’t save it from being exiled. Because of this, BR Sac opponents probably should sacrifice their Cauldron Familiars to Ovens on their main phase postboard against you, but nobody does.
2 Enter the God-Eternals – Fantastic at catching you up against creature decks. You almost always want to target yourself with your mill unless you can mess up an opponent’s scry. ETGE has two targets, so even if your opponent prevents the lifegain by killing their own creature in response, you still Amass 4. If you’re fortunate enough to draw two of these and have killed all your opponents’ creatures, you can target your own zombie token to put four +1/+1 counters on it, mill four cards, and gain four life.
1 Extinction Event – The only real way to lose against creature decks is to get run over since your late game is so much better than theirs. Postboard, we just max out on hammers like Extinction Event to try to ensure that that doesn’t happen.
1 Lurrus of the Dream Den – You don’t really play enough creatures to ever expect Lurrus to survive a full turn cycle, so you should always wait to play it until you can return something with it immediately. Playing it with counterspell backup is nice, but your deck isn’t built to protect creatures and really doesn’t want to care about kill spells. Try to avoid having to waste counters on Shock.
3 Negate – The best part about Negate is that it hits Narset and Teferi on the draw. Threats right now are so powerful that losing a counter battle can lose you a game on the spot but thankfully, your opponent has to pay mana for the threat, so you start the counter war at a mana advantage, and Negate helps to press that advantage.
2 Aether Gust – With the sudden popularity of green aggro decks, adding Aether Gust seemed like a necessity. I only really bring Gust in when it hits a significant portion of the opponent’s cards that I actually care about (12+). This means I don’t bring it in against Jeskai Luuka, Boros Cycling, or most builds of RB Sacrifice.
As always, thank you so much for reading!