Standard Grixis Control Deck Guide: The Best Deck for a Hinata Metagame
After Jan Merkel won the last Mythic Championship with Jeskai Hinata, this archetype skyrocketed in popularity. Ironically, Jan was the only player with a 4-3 Standard record to reach the top 8. Even if this archetype didn’t show amazing results during the 7 rounds of Standard, Jan got a very good 4-0 (8-4) result during the top 8 brackets, proving to everyone the strength of this archetype.
A few days later, almost every tournament was filled with Hinata decks. In my case, I was playing Hinata during the last weeks in a few competitive tournaments with very good results (10th and 18th place in 130+ people tournaments), and the deck feels like tier 0 most of the time.
Many of the best cards in the format lead to no bad matchups, powerful turns that could seal almost any game, and good matchups against many of the best decks in the current Standard. This even prompted former World Champion PVDDR to write a Premium article on how to counter it:
Hinata, Dawn-Crowned decks are so predominant and powerful that even tuning the build against the mirror match started becoming a thing…
Well, what does all this have to do with Grixis? Let me explain further.
In theory, the Grixis Vampires/Midrange pairing is one of the most complicated ones for a Hinata player, but n my experience, as the previous image shows, it was the deck I wanted to face all day long.
However, two Latin-American players made this change with a new approach to this tri-colored combination. Graciasportanto (Mauro Sasso from Argentina) and Cabezadebolo (Alessandro Carvallo from Bolivia) had amazing results just a few days ago with an extremely similar list with just one card change between sideboards.
That’s not all! Alessandro got another 5-0 in a MTGO Standard League on June 27th. Three incredible results for a new brew that makes almost anything in the meta look like a walk in the park. The differences between this Grixis Control deck and its Vampire/Midrange variant are clear.
As I mentioned before, both players’ decks are almost identical. The only difference is how Mauro plays one more The Meathook Massacre in his sideboard instead of one Duress. After working with this list, I share the opinion our Content Manager Bob shared during his last Metagame Snapshot: “…to become better in any matchup, you have to give up equity elsewhere.” This doesn’t mean that this deck had a bad matchup against Boros Aggro or any other iteration of an aggressive strategy, nevertheless, an extra The Meathook Massacre makes everything feel better while facing this type of deck.
This deck is extremely effective against the current metagame because of how well its card choices are made:
- During my last tournaments playing Hinata I always feared Hullbreaker Horror. There’s virtually no answer against this creature for the Hinata player. Playing two copies on the main deck is the final nail in the coffin most of the time.
- Wandering Mind is a card I mentioned before as one of the more underrated uncommon cards in the current Standard. Many Izzet decks playing this creature had amazing results in the last months. In combination with Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, we are going to have answers for almost any threat our opponents can throw at us. Also, a 2/1 flyer helps us exert pressure when needed in the company of the goblin token Fable leaves behind, something that forces our opponent to answer, giving us the upper hand in the tempo game.
- The two Soul Shatter and Check for Traps in our main deck are incredibly efficient tools against Hinata, Dawn-Crowned, and also very good against a wide variety of other slower decks in the meta.
The rest of the cards are URx staples. However, the quantities and splits between the main deck and the sideboard are very well tweaked for optimal results.
Now, before we move further, it’s important to highlight a list that probably was the first iteration of this archetype in the last weeks.
Making top 8 in a 236 player tournament is not a small achievement. Clearly, as almost any competitive Japanese player, Hironori had some notable, innovative choices.
- Kotose, the Silent Spider is probably the one that shines the most. Just imagine a scenario where a Hinata player discards Magma Opus early in the game for making a treasure. Kotose can mean that the best play a Hinata deck could make is no longer possible. Also, having the possibility of casting our own Magma Opus is extremely powerful. In an open-list tournament environment, having 1 single copy of Kotose could make any Hinata player think twice before doing any play.
Hironori plays other staples that the “Latino Grixis” list doesn’t. Goldspan Dragon, Lier, Disciple of the Drowned, Fading Hope, or Infernal Grasp are good examples of great cards this last list plays that could have a place in any Grixis Control build. However, as I said before, Alessandro’s list is extremely well-tuned for a specific metagame, and this is the reason behind its success. Until the rotation happens next September, this is without a doubt the way to go.
Finally, let me show you my version. After studying the evolution of the metagame and playing in competitive tournaments the last week, I made some small changes to Alessandro’s variant, giving the deck a better and more solid approach against aggressive strategies without leaving behind our strengths. Likewise, a few tweaks were made to give us some tools we didn’t have before against already good matchups, diversifying our threats, and leaving our opponents without answers sooner or later.
I’ve played a lot of URx control variants lately, and having two Reckoner Bankbuster feels like the right number. Most of the time you’re not going to tap your lands during the early game, trying to play the draw-go game against slower decks and having our counter-magic up. Drawing one during the mid-game is just enough. I removed one copy of this vehicle and put one Kotose, the Silent Spider in its place. For the rest, the main deck remains the same.
The sideboard is another story. I cut the single copies of Duress and Prismari Command plus one Disdainful Stroke and one Siphon Insight. This gives me some room for one more The Meathook Massacre (just like Mauro), two Flame-Blessed Bolt, and the second copy of Kotose, the Silent Spider.
Duress is good in many situations, but we have a very good and solid plan against control and combo decks so 3 copies of Check for Traps feels like enough. Prismari Command could get rid of opposing Reckoner Bankbuster letting us fix our hand in the process, however, we have many other ways to do this. There’s not many Esika's Chariot around out there either which makes Command less important.
With two Disdainful Stroke in the main deck, one more in the sideboard is just enough. I played 3 in my 75 during the last weeks with very good results. 4 seems like too many, especially if we have many other good tools against the decks where Disdainful Stroke is good against.
As far as Siphon Insight goes, it’s more or less what I stated before. Diversifying our tools against control and high payoff decks makes our opponents stumble thanks to how they have to play around more cards and the second copy of Kotose, the Silent Spider feels pretty good in the same games when we want to draw Siphon Insight.
Our extra The Meathook Massacre and the two Flame-Blessed Bolt make us show more respect to aggro decks. Having these two cards makes games against Boros Aggro or similar decks less worrying. What’s more, Flame-Blessed Bolt does wonders against Tenacious Underdog and Kami of Transience.
Table of Contents
Potential Inclusions / Notable Exclusions
- Hive of the Eye Tyrant and Takenuma, Abandoned Mire are good black sources. Our configuration makes it so that almost every single land in our deck that can produce black mana can also produce blue or red at the same time.
- Goldspan Dragon is an almost auto-include card in any UR deck. However, here it’s something that would give a very different approach to our strategy.
- Same goes for Lier, Disciple of the Drowned. These last two creatures were the heart of UR Control a few weeks ago.
- Dragon's Fire is something we leave behind thanks to our lack of Goldspan Dragon.
- Fading Hope is extremely good with Hullbreaker Horror on the battlefield.
- Infernal Grasp and Power Word Kill could be good options for spot removal.
- One single copy of Shatterskull Smashing could solve many bad scenarios.
- I played 2 copies of Memory Deluge in many URx Control variants during the last weeks. Very good in attrition matches.
- The Celestus is something I think could be in this kind of deck.
- If we didn’t have a full set of Soul Shatter, Heated Debate could be definitely on our sideboard.
Matchups and Sideboard Guide
|+1 Check for Traps||-1 Burn Down the House|
|+1 Disdainful Stroke||-1 Prismari Command|
|+1 Negate||-2 Voltage Surge|
|+2 Siphon Insight||-1 Expressive Iteration|
|+2 Soul Shatter||-1 Fable of the Mirror-Breaker|
|+1 Kotose, the Silent Spider||-2 Wandering Mind|
After many games in the current Standard playing Expressive Iteration, we learned that even if it’s one of the best cards printed in the last years, siding out 1 copy (just as we do with Fable of the Mirror-Breaker) is correct in many situations.
Here, we side in a lot of instants, so our plan of going playing the draw-go strategy intensifies. The typical turn 3 Expressive Iteration with two lands that finds our third land drop is something that we are not aiming to do most of the time. Same goes for a turn three Fable.
We kept two Voltage Surge because dealing 4 damage by having a Treasure token is not that hard. Just have this in mind while you make a treasure with one of our three remaining Fable of the Mirror-Breaker. Using a Reckoner Bankbuster is also an option (a desperate one, but having one more card that could deal with Hinata, Dawn-Crowned, Goldspan Dragon or our opponents Fable and its goblin token is always useful).
Note: Ray of Enfeeblement could kill Hinata for two mana, but it does nothing against Goldspan Dragon, the goblin token or Fable… So, we’re ok without it. That’s why we have four Soul Shatter and Disdainful Stroke.
|+2 Flame-Blessed Bolt||-1 Expressive Iteration|
|+2 Ray of Enfeeblement||-1 Fable of the Mirror-Breaker|
|+1 Negate||-2 Wandering Mind|
|+2 Soul Shatter||-2 Disdainful Stroke|
|+1 Burn Down the House||-1 Prismari Command|
|-1 Kotose, the Silent Spider|
The most succesful Esper variant is the one with 16 creatures. It’s obviously not an aggro deck, but 1 Legion Angel, 4 Luminarch Aspirant, 2-4 Obscura Interceptor, 4 Raffine, Scheming Seer and 4 Tenacious Underdog justify how we side in a good amount of removal.
Here we do use Ray of Enfeeblement because besides killing Raffine for just two mana (just like it does with Hinata), it also can get rid of many other targets for just one mana. Flame-Blessed Bolt kills virtually all their creatures except for Raffine, and keeps Tenacious Underdog out of the way.
Soul Shatter is useful because of how the match tends to be played. This card is very good against Raffine, Scheming Seer, The Wandering Emperor, and even Kaito Shizuki.
The extra Burn Down the House could feel like “too much”, but besides their 16 creatures, they also put more tokens thanks to the aforementioned planeswalkers and Wedding Announcement. Getting all the tokens, creatures, and the planeswalkers out at the same time in one swing is something that gives us the game most of the time.
|+1 Negate||-2 Disdainful Stroke|
|+1 Burn Down the House||-1 Wandering Mind|
|+2 Soul Shatter||-1 Kotose, the Silent Spider|
We like our second Burn Down the House for the same reason as the match against Esper. The Vampire variant plays 14 creatures plus 3-5 planeswalkers that also leave tokens behind. Having a card that can deal will multiple threats is extremely valuable, especially when we can kill high toughness creatures like Evelyn, the Covetous (or Raffine in case of Esper). These high toughness creatures are the reason we don’t use The Meathook Massacre.
This variant of Grixis tends to play just 1 or 2 Tenacious Underdog, and the midrange one is playing none lately, so Flame-Blessed Bolt is not needed.
In this match, prioritizing playing our Reckoner Bankbuster when we have a safe turn is very important. The matchup is full of trading, and recovering resources is something highly valuable.
|+2 Flame-Blessed Bolt||-2 Check for Traps|
|+2 Ray of Enfeeblement||-2 Reckoner Bankbuster|
|+2 Soul Shatter||-1 Expressive Iteration|
|+1 Burn Down the House||-2 Disdainful Stroke|
|+2 The Meathook Massacre||-2 Negate|
All our removal in. With our little changes to the Grixis Control list, we have a very good game 2 and 3 against Boros. 4 board wipes and 12 spot removal feels like more than enough. We keep Kotose, the Silent Spider because it’s a good way to stabilize the game after killing early creatures, a 4/4 body that can give us another body is a game-changer.
We don’t have any time for Reckoner Bankbuster or a full set of Expressive Iteration. Negate, and Disdainful Stroke have almost no targets. The game is simple. With all our removal, surviving the early game is not a big deal. If you cast Hullbreaker Horror, you are in a position where is almost impossible to lose the game most of the time.
Tips And Tricks
- Don’t underestimate Wandering Mind. It looks at our top six cards and that’s a lot of cards! That means that you could probably find the answer you need for almost any situation.
- Copying Wandering Mind with Fable of the Mirror-Breaker gives high amounts of card advantage.
- Don’t forget that two Reflection of Kiki-Jiki can mean a 2/2 for each mana available. Just wait until the end of your opponent’s turn. Copy one Reflection with the other one, and start doing the same for each mana you have at your disposal. This can mean a big army of goblins that could seal the game during the next combat phase.
- Kotose, the Silent Spider can exile any card besides lands. This means that this ninja can put a second body on the battlefield, give us a counter to work with, etc.
- We have 4 Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and 2 Reckoner Bankbuster. Use our treasure tokens carefully. Having the possibility of dealing 4 damage with Voltage Surge can be a game-changer.
- In this same topic, Prismari Command can also make a treasure token.
- Remembering that the devil tokens from Burn Down the House have haste could mean the difference between a victory or a defeat (same goes for Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance).
- Check for Traps exiles the card you choose. It’s not a discard effect per say. This is very good against Tenacious Underdog, Kami of Transience, etc.
- Our main play style is draw-go. This means that you want to play a land and most of the time pass the turn, even without having counter-magic. Always have in mind how powerful an untapped blue source is.
- Usual pathway advice. Save this land for later instances of the game whenever possible. Choosing the wrong color during the early stages of the game could make us stumble during the mid/late game.
Two months and a half till Dominaria United. I’m going to miss this Standard. Until then, I’m going to keep enjoying the format, playing its many fun and enjoyable archetypes. Hinata started like a very powerful option when Kamigawa was released, then it fell a little bit in popularity. Now it’s once again a force to be reckoned with, and this led to the creation of this Grixis Control, a pure and hard draw-go style of deck that could make almost any other archetype fear this pairing.
There’s an ever-evolving format, that’s healthy, and has a lot of viable strategies. I had a lot of fun working with this variant of Grixis. It’s very fulfilling and satisfying working with a strategy that was born at the hands of two Latin-American players. From here, greetings and all my respect to Alessandro Carvallo from Bolivia (Cabezadebolo) and Mauro Sasso from Argentina (Graciasportanto), who are responsible for putting this archetype in the spotlight once again.
Until the next time, dear readers. Thank you for reading this far. Let me know your opinions in my social media (links below) and don’t forget to smile when your day starts; it surely makes the difference. ♥
Enjoy our content? Wish to support our work? Join our Premium community, get access to exclusive content, remove all advertisements, and more!