Standard Grixis Apparatus Deck Guide: Mindsplicing Over The Top
In the current Standard environment, Grixis midrange is rocking the top tables and has been doing so for a long time. However, we can still try to take the existing shell and make some parts of it better. What I want to do in a meta where I keep encountering Grixis and Mono White midrange is to go bigger than them. I want to keep the core idea, but make my top-end nigh-unbeatable for other grindy strategies.
Thanks to adding the Mindsplice Apparatus angle to the shell, the mid-to-late game is easily dominated by us as our cheap spells are even cheaper and expensive spells are more easily castable. This type of shell is going to shine in grindy metagames but can be adapted to aggressive decks, which I have also done in the board. Overall, you cannot really go wrong with such a strong core which includes literally the best cards in the entire format.
Table of Contents
This shell is relatively threat-light, so the ones we have are that much more important. Let’s take a look at what they do and why they play a key role.
If you’ve been reading my articles, you know I am high on Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim. This opinion has not only remained unchanged, but I am also getting slowly convinced that this card is actually just busted in Blue shells. What makes it worth so much endorsement?
Teferi combines a lot of elements that I want to have access to as an interactive blue deck. Without losing loyalty, it provides a steady stream of cards as if it were my personal Howling Mine. Once it’s on the table, I get to draw two cards per turn, which already puts me ahead by a mile.
However, what is particularly strong about it is the fact that it is a threat that can actually close the game – those Spirit tokens are game-warping. They demand an immediate answer as they grow out of control very fast, can be copied with Reflection of Kiki-Jiki, and vigilance allows them to be both offensive and defensive. In most games, I tend to just keep minusing Teferi for as long as I can to just keep making those tokens.
On top of that, Teferi passively gets loyalty counters which allows you not to have to worry about it dying. All your draw effects make Spirits bigger but also Teferi himself so you get even more value out of those spells.
I have used the ultimate only once ever and that’s because I once cast Silver Scrutiny, sinking a ton of mana into it. Realistically though, you won’t need to try to go for the ultimate. It’s usually better to keep presenting the opponent with ever-growing Spirit tokens.
I am surprised that more decks don’t play Ledger Shredder. This card has been excellent for me in this deck for numerous reasons. The main benefit this Bird brings is card selection. I love being able to ditch redundant copies of Mindsplice Apparatus or dead removal and get a fresh card out of it, all while making Ledger bigger. It also puts tangible pressure on opponents where they feel heavily discouraged to play multiple spells in a single turn.
The fact that it flies allows you to pressure Planeswalkers pretty easily. Evasion is still super powerful in 2023.
Last but not least, it blocks. It becomes a 2/4 very soon, at which point it can block multiple creatures in combat.
I have to say that I feel compelled to increase the number of Birds, rather than decrease it.
While Fable of the Mirror-Breaker is a multi-purpose card, in this deck it very much acts as a key part of the threat base. Both Goblin Shaman and Reflection of Kiki-Jiki are must-kills, as if they are not, they can spiral out of control. The Shaman token will generate Treasures, allowing us to multi-spell and thus get play more cards than the opponent would. Reflection will allows us to double the initial number of Shamans which will slowly but surely bring us closer to the win.
There is one key interaction that happens often enough that it warrants its space in this section rather than Tips and Tricks, and it pertains to having two Reflections, with at least one without summoning sickness. For each mana you have available, you can make that many tapped Reflection tokens. Step by step it would look like this:
- Pay one mana and use the Reflection without summoning sickness to make a token of the other Reflection.
- Pay one mana and use that token to make another token
- Rinse repeat
The outcome is that you have got n tapped Reflections, where n is the amount of mana you’ve put in. Crucially, you may ask how useful it is to have even a million yet *tapped* creatures. This is where the second part of the trick comes in – you should do it on the opponent’s end step. This way, they will untap on your turn and you will be able to attack the opponent for a ton of damage, usually ending the game there and then.
In addition to its threatening nature, the rummage effect is very relevant. As with all the interactive decks, you may encounter the wrong-half problem, wherein you draw removal against noncreature decks or expensive spells against aggro. Cashing in those otherwise dead spells for new fresh cards can be game-saving.
The interaction suite is quite extensive in this deck and each effect has its role. However, depending on the current metagame trends or maybe what people play at your LGS, you may need to re-adapt by playing less or more of any given effect.
This is our best early removal. Its key feature is being able to get rid of any creature played on turn one or two. It does come in handy later in the game as well e.g. to address Reflection of Kiki-Jiki. If you expect a ton of Soldiers, do get the number of copies up to 4 and maybe even add more one-mana interaction.
Standard-legal Doom Blade that deals with Sheoldred, the Apocalypse. It covers the vast majority of threats played currently such as all the Soldiers, Tolarian Terror, Third Path Iconoclast, or Ledger Shredder. I play a full four, as there are very rare cases where I don’t want to have it in hand.
In the original iteration of the deck, there weren’t any
I see Abrade as a split card between killing 1-3 drops or Reckoner Bankbuster. It does have its moments, but by and large it’s not good often enough to warrant more copies. Admittedly, it does show its claws when opponents present you with some prototype card, where you can always unconditionally kill it for just two mana.
Standard’s Mana Leak has been very good for me. It’s utility comes when you can answer Fable of the Mirror-Breaker on turn three on the draw very cleanly. If Fable resovles, it takes two removal spells and the opponent still gets to rummage. If you counter it on the stack, you get a 1-for-1, without any downside. Make Disappear also shines against Sheoldred, the Apocalypse or Invoke Despair. In grindy metas, players have a ton of expensive top end spells and making them disappear off the stack can swing the game around.
On top of that, you can use casualty 1 and it does come in handy frequently. While it would stink to have to sac Teferi’s Spirit token, the option is there. The creature you can feel most liberal to throw away is easily Goblin Shaman.
I was looking for a sweeper effect to sometimes come back when I am behind, especially against tokens e.g. out of Skrelv's Hive decks. I’ve found Temporal Firestorm tried it out, and fell in love. The fact that you can kill off opposing walkers means it truly is a reset button. The kicker is not irrelevant as you can save your own Teferi or Reflection from dying.
I am on one copy now but I keep switching between one and two. I wouldn’t fault anyone to increase the number of them.
Let’s take a look at the card that makes this shell actually unique. Mindsplice Apparatus is a card that you cast on the opponent’s end step and every turn it discounts your spells increasingly. What does it do in practice?
Scroll back the article to the interaction section and imagine all of those cards cost a single coloured mana. Just a single black for Go for the Throat or single blue for Make Disappear. After just one upkeep trigger of Mindsplice, you get a permanent discount to all the spells. This is the first huge spike of mana advantage which already makes it worth playing the card. It increases the relative power of all the interaction in the deck substantially.
After you’ve got a single oil counter, each subsequent isn’t that significant and they just seem to pile up, and pile up they do until you cast Silver Scrutiny.
When you have a spell with X in its cost and a reduction effect it works a bit counterintuitively. When you have, say, five oil counters, you can pay UU for Scrutiny and you will indeed draw five cards. as the reduction is sort of pre-paying for the X. The consequence of how the rules work is that late in the game, you can cast Scrutiny truly for a ton of mana as it is not uncommon to draw 10+ cards.
In most games, I will cash it in for x=2 or x=3 early so that I use it on instant speed and pull a tad ahead. Then, I will hold onto Scrutiny until I’ve got Mindsplice Apparatus going. One more thing you can do is just pay UU and draw the number of cards equal to the oil counters, holding all the other mana open. Consequently, you will be able to spend all the open mana on cards you will have drawn off Scrutiny.
Overall, Apparatus and Scrutiny area a deadly combination in grindy games.
This is a flex-ish slot, but I have liked Consider. It lets you hit your land drops, triggers Ledger Shredder easily, the draw grows Teferi and his token, and provides some general card selection. The disappointing part is that it does not get discounted later with Apparatus so you’re losing equity there. I’ve tried Experimental Augury as it both gets discounted and can proliferate oil counters, but the two-mana slot is already clogged.
Best of One
In the Best of One list I want to max out on Ledger Shredder to provide the filtering so that you can ditch whatever is dead in a given matchup.
It was challenging to build this deck on a budget. The mana base is the biggest counter-benefactor of those changes. There are some rares that are necessary to be kept in and they are Mindsplice Apparatus, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, and Silver Scrutiny. They are too integral to the plan. If you were to have more wildcards, I’d add Teferi, Temporal Pilgrimnext, and later focus solely on the mana base.
Matchups and Sideboard Guide
|+2 Sheoldred, the Apocalypse||-1 Temporal Firestorm|
|+1 Bladecoil Serpent||-3 Cut Down|
|+2 Negate||-2 Consider|
|+1 Memory Deluge|
We don’t play many creatures so their removal is going to be mostly blanked. While Ledger Shredder is seemingly vulnerable, a single connive can put it out of range of Abrade or Cut Down.
The overall plan is going over the top of them. The main deck already is well configured for the matchup, but I want to add even more elements to boost that plan. The general strategy is to counter their payoffs, but make sure ours resolve. Silver Scrutiny instant speed is going to be great in that plan.
If you see that they kept multiple Abrades post-board, trim or cut Mindsplice Apparatus.
Mono White Midrange
|+2 Sheoldred, the Apocalypse||-3 Cut Down|
|+2 Brotherhood's End||-2 Sheoldred's Edict|
|+2 Disdainful Stroke||-2 Abrade|
|+1 Memory Deluge||-1 Consider|
|+1 Bladecoil Serpent|
We want to grind them out in theory, however, after multiple games against it, I have found that aggression does its job really well. While they want to spend some time setting up, we can already be deploying Ledger Shredder, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, and top it off with Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim at the right moment. I have won numerous games just by applying pressure and making them have to react rather than sit behind their Spirited Companion.
I side in a few copies of mass removal, but I don’t go all the way as Brotherhood's End does have its limitations and is effective in the early game, but rarely late.
|+4 Brotherhood's End||-3 Mindsplice Apparatus|
|+2 Sheoldred, the Apocalypse||-2 Silver Scrutiny|
|+1 Abrade||-2 Sheoldred's Edict|
As is evident from the ‘in’ section of sideboarding, we want to overload on removal. We are going to be a full-on control deck. It is going to be tough for them to grind through 5 mass removal spells and god knows how many single point removal spells. In such matchups, I like trimming cards that don’t affect the board so Mindsplice Apparatus unfortunately has to go. However, we need to keep some Silver Scrutiny in so that we are able to pull ahead at some point.
Mono Blue Tempo
|+2 Negate||-2 Abrade|
|+2 Duress||-3 Cut Down|
|+1 Memory Deluge||-1 Temporal Firestorm|
|+1 Sheoldred, the Apocalypse|
I love seeing this match up. The biggest issue for them is that their threats die very easily thanks to Go for the Throat and Sheoldred's Edict, but our threats stay on the field. While Mono Blue’s biggest advantage is holding up countermagic, we can make the timing more awkward for them by also playing instant speed in their upkeep or end step with Silver Scrutiny, Mindsplice Apparatus, or casting removal.
Grixis Apparatus Mirror
|+2 Disdainful Stroke||-3 Cut Down|
|+2 Negate||-4 Go for the Throat|
|+2 Duress||-2 Abrade|
|+1 Memory Deluge||-1 Temporal Firestorm|
|+2 Sheoldred, the Apocalypse|
|+1 Bladecoil Serpent|
The mirror is a control mirror essentially. Small differences between lists may make a huge difference, for instance if the opponent plays full four Ledger Shredder, you will be forced to keep some removal in. Pay attention to what’s happening and whether their plan differs from yours. They may also play less countermagic, at which point you can slam your big threats more freely.
Tips and Tricks
- When you have flipped Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim token, you can put a stop on the upkeep and copy the token then so that it gets the counter from your draw step.
- If you have a damage-based mass removal spell like Temporal Firestorm or Brotherhood's End, you might need to discard a nonland to Ledger Shredder which you otherwise might not be willing to so that you increase its toughness and allow it to survive the sweeper.
- Depending on the context, sometimes I like holding onto Consider instead of casting it right away. The two main scenarios are when I have Ledger Shredder and want to set up conniving or when there is a possibility to grow Teferi’s Spirit token.
- When faced with Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, you may want to kill it on your own upkeep so that you don’t lose life in the draw step even if you may be tempted to see the draw first.
- You can make a token with Fable instant speed and then sacrifice that token to casualty 1 on Make Disappear.
- Keep in mind that you can generate white for Temporal Firestorm off of Treasure tokens.
- When you want to kill an artifact creature which has 3 toughness or less, it’s still always correct to use Abrade‘s mode of ‘destroy target artifact’, as you are dodging a potential pump spell.
- Fable’s second chapter triggers Teferi and his token, so look to do a full loot here.
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