Standard Four-Color Greasefang Control Deck Guide: Who Says Greasefang Is an Eternal Format Card?
If you played Explorer in the past few months, you are indeed aware of what Greasefang, Okiba Boss can do in combination with Parhelion II. This is undoubtedly one of the stronger decks in that format, capable of attacking for 13 damage as early as turn three, which is likely to be enough to close the game very fast.
In Standard, the history of Greasefang has been a little different. Since its release, it has been here and there. Many variants were created. Abzan and Esper are the more popular iterations of this archetype, but there were even people playing Greasefang on Jund (and I don’t blame anyone for going Red with Fable of the Mirror-Breaker around). However, the more successful variant has been Esper. In the end, many Esper Greasefang lists around there are more or less the classic Esper Raffine, Scheming Seer decks with a Green splash for Esika's Chariot.
Let me show you an example:
2nd place in a 25-player tournament is, in my opinion, enough proof to consider this as a valid variant for Esper Raffine classic approaches. We see here many of the staples of the archetype like: Ledger Shredder, Raffine, Scheming Seer, Kaito Shizuki, and The Meathook Massacre. However, in the current state of the metagame, there’s just a small number of people playing aggro right now, midrange is the preferred style of the vast majority of the decks.
This means that, if we go for a midrange style like this, we are going to win against aggro most of the time, but we are going to struggle against pure control decks like the very popular Jeskai Hinata or Izzet Control/Dragons.
Adaptation is key for survivability. Yuta Chiba, a Japanese player had a very good run in Hareruya with his 4c Control variant of Greasefang. A list that can play many of its matches as a control deck, while being able to focus more on a combo style if he plays against midrange or a classic midrange Esper style if he plays against aggro, something that makes this list shine above other options.
We don’t have to look at the list too much to spot many interesting cards that give this variant all the tools it needs.
First of all, the discard engine. Tainted Indulgence is a card that is also in Greasefang Explorer variants. Without a doubt, it’s one of the best draw and discard spells printed in the last few years. The two other cards are less popular options for Standard, but this deck makes both feel like some of the strongest in the format.
Fleeting Spirit serves as a multi-purpose card. It can exert pressure against slower decks and defend itself while filling our graveyard at the same time. Against aggro, it can block very well, with first strike or blinking itself when needed. Being able to cover all these functions at the same time, makes this card great in this core.
Otherworldly Gaze is a key part of this deck, enabling a lot of plays on its own. Throwing a vehicle like Esika's Chariot or Surgehacker Mech to the graveyard is always a good idea; however, imagine throwing a Greasefang, Okiba Boss and returning it with Obscura Charm, throwing away lands in case you already have enough, or just digging deeper in case you need an immediate answer against a threat. An amazing card for this deck that will also let us make Tainted Indulgence better during the late game, thanks to how easy is to put 5 different cost cards in our graveyard.
Besides the classic spot removal like Infernal Grasp, Ray of Enfeeblement, or Vanishing Verse, this deck plays three cards that give this iteration of Greasefang a more control style over other lists.
It’s clear that there are not many aggro decks around competitive events, however, not being prepared against Boros Aggro or having at least some interaction against them could make anyone lose as soon as turn 4. Here is where Doomskar becomes extremely valuable. Also, it not only helps against aggro but against creatures with ward like Raffine, Scheming Seer, and the many many planeswalkers and cards that leave tokens behind like Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, The Wandering Emperor, etc.
Make Disappear and Obscura Charm let us play the draw-go play style when needed. This blue counter keeps rising in popularity and the more I play with it the more I like it. Seeing Mana Leak again in Standard is very unlikey, until then, playing Make Disappear while it’s legal is without a doubt a good choice. Obscura Charm is just a singleton in our deck, nevertheless, it works when needed thanks to its three modes.
Playing as a control deck depending on the situation with a draw-go style could make any opponent think twice before playing any single spell, giving us the time we need for assembling our plan.
Probably one of the best cards in the decks is Touch the Spirit Realm. I’m saying this not only because of its pseudo-Oblivion Ring effect, but how its channel ability makes our Greasefang, Okiba Boss vehicle interaction stronger.
Let me explain further. If we reanimate a vehicle with Greasefang, we have to return it to our hand at the beginning of our next end step, unless we use Touch the Spirit Realm channel ability, exiling the vehicle, which allows us to return it to our battlefield at the beginning of the next end step, keeping the vehicle without having to return it to our hand.
This also generates high amounts of value thanks to the ETBs (ETB: Enter the Battle Field) effects of Esika's Chariot and Surgehacker Mech triggering twice in the same turn.
With all this in mind and after working with the list I made some adjustments that, without a doubt make me feel more comfortable with the deck and that solidify the general plan of a more slow-paced Greasefang deck.
The changes are more or less minimal, but noticeable enough during game play to justify them. I take out 1 Unlicensed Hearse, 1 Pithing Needle, and 1 Kaya the Inexorable for 2 Reckoner Bankbuster and 1 more land.
Unlicensed Hearse is a great card overall, good enough to see play even in Eternal formats like Modern. There are cards that this vehicle could remove from our opponent’s graveyard like Tenacious Underdog or all the instants and sorceries of an Izzet Lier, Disciple of the Drowned deck. However, after playing a lot of Standard in the past few months, this vehicle works better on our sideboard.
The same goes for Pithing Needle. Facing Ob Nixilis, the Adversary is very hard for a control deck. Drawing the Needle in that instance for locking Ob Nixilis is amazingly good, but against certain decks, this card could be a dead draw in game one.
On the other hand, Kaya the Inexorable has a very good -3 ability. Exiling any non-land permanent could solve many problems, but, for a 3-4 colored deck with just 22 lands, a 5 mana planeswalker could be a very awkward draw sometimes.
That’s why I add 1 Raffine's Tower. Yes, all our cards cost 3 or less, and our 4 mana vehicles could be cheated into the battlefield thanks to Greasefang, Okiba Boss, but 22 lands feel a bit low at times. Paying 4 mana is doable with 22 lands, but with 23, we are going to have 4 lands by turn 4 67.7% of the time (this without counting extra drawings of our spells). This makes our deck feel more consistent in accomplishing our game plan, thanks to how we can play fair-Magic more consistently if needed.
Table of Contents
Potential Inclusions and Notable Exclusions
- Ledger Shredder could be a very good choice instead of Fleeting Spirit. Its two spells per turn style makes me think that it’s not what we want in this shell. We prefer a creature that lets us discard when needed and also lets us play the draw-go style better.
- Raffine's Informant and Raffine, Scheming Seer are also part of the midrange variant of this archetype. In our control-shaped list, these cards are not what we want
- Consider is a card that starts to see play even in Pioneer and Explorer. Here it could be a very good option. However, Otherworldly Gaze goes more with our plan of going combo-style when needed, also making Tainted Indulgence better in the process.
- Dread Fugue was here and there during the last weeks. Many players are preferring this discard spell over Duress. Having just 23 lands makes me think that paying its cleave cost is going to be harder for us than for other midrange decks.
- I was toying around with Ingenious Smith for some time. It lets us find our Vehicles very fast and it can grow a lot. However, in my opinion, we don’t play enough artifacts to make this creature shine like it deserves (Portable Hole could be a good example).
- The same goes for Legion Angel. This creature does wonders in almost any type of deck you put it in. Its 4 power also lets us crew any of our vehicles. However, its cost is something I don’t like to deal with in a 4-color 23 land deck (The Wandering Emperor is a big exception). Also, we use the full 15 slots for cards we need for specific matches is preferred here.
Matchups and Sideboard Guide
|+2 Duress||-2 Surgehacker Mech|
|+1 Disdainful Stroke||-1 Vanishing Verse|
|+1 Negate||-2 Ray of Enfeeblement|
|+2 Void Rend||-2 Doomskar|
|+2 The Wandering Emperor||-2 Touch the Spirit Realm|
|+1 Kotose, the Silent Spider|
We have many cards on our sideboard that help us shape our deck in a more draw-go style, letting us play the same game that Jeskai Hinata wants to play, but better.
Having access to Black lets us play Duress, Void Rend, and Kotose, the Silent Spider. These let us interact with our opponents, disrupting their hand, gives a clear answer to Goldspan Dragon or
The Wandering Emperor and our counter-magic let us play more like a control deck, passing with our lands open more often, something that also gives us all the time we need to start being proactive with Greasefang, Okiba Boss, and Esika's Chariot.
|+2 Bloodchief's Thirst||-1 Vanishing Verse|
|+2 Duress||-2 Ray of Enfeeblement|
|+1 Negate||-2 Doomskar|
|+1 Kaito Shizuki||-2 Touch the Spirit Realm|
|+2 Void Rend||-1 Surgehacker Mech|
|+2 The Wandering Emperor||-1 Obscura Charm|
|-1 Otherworldly Gaze|
Even if Esper Raffine is not an aggro deck, both this and Orzhov Midrange are now playing between 14 and 16 creatures most of the time. Many of them are susceptible to Bloodchief's Thirst, and when they aren’t, we could also have a 4 mana removal that could get any creature or one of their many planeswalkers out.
Duress can take any of the aforementioned planeswalkers out before they touch the battlefield. Taking Wedding Announcement or any of the interactive spells they play is also good. Also, playing with the information of their hand helps us a lot to shape our plays in the most efficient sequence available.
Kaito Shizuki and The Wandering Emperor help us establish a more solid battlefield while giving us more resources to work with at the same time, something that is highly appreciated in these attrition matches.
We keep all our Vanishing Verse because, unlike against Jeskai or Esper, against Orzhov this removal can check 100% of their threats.
The main difference between our sideboard plan against other slow decks is how we now want to draw Unlicensed Hearse. If any cards have made pure Orzhov resurge and become in some situations preferred over Esper it’s Extraction Specialist + Acquisitions Expert synergy. Having a clear graveyard stops any Extraction Specialist shenanigans.
Disdainful Stroke has many good targets here. Lolth, Spider Queen, The Wandering Emperor, Henrika Domnathi, and especially Legion Angel, a card that if not countered gives a lot of value. Answering all that 4/4 flyers turn after turn can become very hard and resource-consuming.
|+2 Bloodchief's Thirst||-2 Reckoner Bankbuster|
|+2 Void Rend||-2 Make Disappear|
|+2 The Wandering Emperor||-1 Tainted Indulgence|
|-1 Otherworldly Gaze|
This is when adaptability becomes more useful. We take out all our slower cards, putting in their place good removal options that let us answer practically any of their threats.
With all our removal it’s not hard to establish a good board position with a lot of cat tokens thanks to Esika's Chariot and Surgehacker Mech‘s 5/5 body can stop almost any attacker without a problem. Just be careful and take care of our creatures because piloting with Greasefang, Okiba Boss or cat tokens is our only choice for that job most of the time.
Tips And Tricks
- Fleeting Spirit has many things you have to remember. First strike is extremely relevant in certain matches like against Boros Aggro. One Otherworldly Gaze can enable that ability immediately. If you discard a card, this spirit is going to return under your control during the next end step, so, if your opponent tries to kill it during their end step and you save it, you’re not going to have it during your turn, and it is going to come back during your turn end step.
- Greasefang, Okiba Boss can crew any of our vehicles.
- Probably one of the best tricks this deck can make is blinking any of the vehicles Greasefang returns to the battlefield with Touch the Spirit Realm. This lets us keep the vehicle without returning it to our hand at the end of our turn.
- Foretelling Doomskar is mandatory most of the time.
- Otherworldly Gaze can fill your graveyard very fast thanks to its flashback ability. If you’re holding a Greasefang, Okiba Boss in your hand and you’re not under pressure, going all in with Otherworldly Gaze is a good choice.
- Ray of Enfeeblement can kill
Hinata, Dawn Crowned, and Raffine, Scheming Seer for just two mana.
- Speaking of Raffine, Void Rend ignores ward.
- If you have Obscura Charm, don’t hesitate in playing Greasefang, Okiba Boss. One of its modes (and the probably least popular) lets us return any multicolored permanent with 3 or less mana value, like Greasefang or Kaito Shizuki.
- We didn’t mention Pithing Needle in our sideboard guide. Even if it’s good against a wide variety of cards, you are going to play it almost only against any Ob Nixilis, the Adversary deck. It could seem strange thanks to the fact that Ob Nixilis can help us discard cards, but the way it pressures our life total is something we don’t want to fight against.
- Don’t forget our single copy of Mech Hangar. The fact that it could let us animate any of our vehicles could be a game changer in many situations.
When a new card becomes popular in any Eternal format, finding a way to play it in Standard is something that leads us to success most of the time. We don’t have Parhelion II or Skysovereign, Consul Flagship in Standard, but until the rotation happens in September, we still have Esika's Chariot with us.
For one reason or another, Esika's Chariot fell in popularity during these last months of Standard, however, most of us know how strong it can be. The fact that this deck could cheat this vehicle or Surgehacker Mech as early as turn three is amazing when both have very good ETBs. Even if the card goes back to our hand, recasting these vehicles can give us more value as the game goes on.
I had a great time working with this archetype. Dominaria and the next sets are going to have many good artifacts, that’s for sure, so I hope we can get 1 or 2 good vehicles to keep drifting Standard with Greasefang, Okiba Boss with style.
Let me know what do you think about this deck on my social media (links below) and until the next time, stretch when your day begins! That also makes a difference.
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